The Teacher's Packing Guide for India

by Carter Brown

With any large country, climate can vary greatly and India is no exception. The sheer geographic diversity can have many scratching their heads when pondering an empty suitcase. Packing is more than the weather, it's the the local customs and traditions, and sometimes the law. When planning and packing for a teaching placement on the subcontinent a host of questions may run through a teacher’s mind. It's better to be over prepared than under, but with a little research and cultural sensitivity volunteers will be greeted with a namaste in no time. 

A Hike Away from the City
A Hike Away from the City. Photo by Lauren Bhujangasana


This may be stating the obvious, but don't forget to pack a camera! Every teacher will inevitably want to share their experience with family and friends back home, and local pupils will love having their photo taken.

Hand Sanitizer:

Indians are infamous for eating with their right hand. Avoid the dreaded Delhi Belly and other gastrointestinal bugs by practicing good hygiene. A little bottle of hand sanitizer goes a long way. Whether indulging in finger food or not, this is something every traveler should consider throwing in a carry on.


Like English is to America, sandals are to India. From health care workers in hospitals to those harvesting in the rice fields, sandals are the most common type of footwear. Consider investing in a durable pair of sandals. Harder soles are much safer as rubbish is commonly strewn throughout the country. Flip-flops are a wise alternative. Take 'em and leave 'em! It's a nice way to free up luggage space for souvenirs when homeward bound.

Paper and Pen:

Having a place to take notes is useful. Sometimes an Indian might not understand a particular pronunciation. . .so write it! Consider jotting down a few Hindi words and phrases. Where is the bathroom? Vegetarian? No Ice, please. How much?

Light Rain Jacket:

Consider a light rain jacket. It can fold and squeeze into virtually any space compared to its umbrella counterpart, and it is always handy when notorious short-lived sprinkles appear.

Money Holder:

Not all clothes have pockets. Easy fix! Bring along a small purse or satchel that can be kept close to your body. Masculine men need not worry, it’s common and completely acceptable for men to wear shoulder bags across Asia.

For Women:


India is an incredibly conservative country - conservative in nearly every sense of the word. Tank tops can be worn but often attract unwanted attention. What to do? Pack a few scarves. This is a quick and easy fix to cover the shoulders and chest. The less skin showing the better. It's worthwhile to find out if the prospective placement has a dress code as well, perhaps you’ll need to be dressed-up in a particular manner.


Woman in India do not show any skin from the knees and above. The lower the coverage, the better. Spare any embarrassment and dress conservatively.

A Special Tip

Really looking to impress? Buy jasmine flowers. These sweet scented flowers are worn in the hair by most women.

Last, but not least, Salwar Kameez:

This traditional and popular dress can be purchased upon arrival. Fully immerse in the culture by dressing like a local! Indians often are flattered by foreigners attempting to look the part. This affordable option is said to be quite cool and comfortable too.