Look Like a Local: What to Wear in India

by Published

India is an incredibly diverse and vibrant country that is continuously changing and growing as the years go by. From the Himalayan mountains to the Indian ocean’s coastline, the weather and the climate vary from region to region. No matter if you’re planning on studying, interning, working, or adventuring abroad in India, it is important to be aware of the local dress code and what to wear in India.

Look Like A Local: What to Wear in India

What visitors in India are expected to wear differs depending on the location, but Indian culture values modesty. If you travel to a large city, you may be able to get away with slight variations on how to dress in India. However, it’s best to always err on the side of caution (and research), so take a look at the following advice on what to wear in India:

1. Cover Yourself

Parts of India, especially small or religious towns, feel that showing skin is provocative. Both men and women travelers should have pants and avoid tank tops as clothes to wear in India. In India, attire for women (if you really want to look like a local) includes long skirts that go down to the ankle instead of pants. While T-shirts are acceptable, always err on the side of modesty. Pack plenty of long-sleeved shirts; not only will you be showing respect, but you’ll also be protecting yourself from the sun and those pesky mosquitoes.

Woman in traditional Indian dance costume with her hands painted in henna
Dressing modestly (and colorfully) is in India’s dresscode!

2. Pack Light

Since the temperatures can soar during the summer months in India, be sure to pack light-weight cotton shirts and trousers. Just because it’s recommended you wear pants and long sleeves doesn’t mean you need to be uncomfortable. Speaking of packing light, India is one country that you shouldn’t overpack for. Laundry and clothes are cheap, so plan on washing and re-wearing your duds often and you’ll be able to buy new clothes if what you packed isn’t acceptable for what to wear in India. 

Traveler in front of a temple in New Delhi, India
Pack lightly to save some room for clothes you’ll buy on your adventure in India!

3. Traditional Can Be Good

Yes, you are trying to look like a local, but this doesn’t always mean wearing traditional clothing in your country of choice. However, in India, buying and wearing traditional pieces is a good idea, especially if you plan on visiting temples and other religious sites. For women, saris, churidars, and kurtas are all good options. A sari is unstitched cloth that is wrapped around your body. Unless you’re living with a host family that can teach you how this works, you might be better off purchasing a kurta and churidar. A kurta is a long tunic that can be worn with churidar, or leggings that bunch at the ankle. For men, light-weight shirts and trousers can be found at a bargain in most cities.

Colorful, traditional saris in India
Traditional is colorful in India

4. Loosen Up

When in India, you shouldn’t only aim to cover your skin, but you should also be sure that your clothes aren’t clinging to your skin. Dressing modestly means not showing all of your curves or muscles. To be respectful and ward off any unwanted attention, pack loose-fitting clothes. This doesn’t mean you need to travel in a shirt twice your size; just leave the skin-tight stuff at home.

Procession in the streets in India
Loose-fitting clothes are the norm here!

5. Heads up on Religious Sites

This tip is an important one in regards to how to dress in India. Some religious sites have specific requirements on what visitors can wear upon entering. For example, in Sikh temples, it is disrespectful to enter with an uncovered head. Luckily, many sites have scarves for visitors to borrow, but you can bring your own if you have one. In some Hindu temples, leather is prohibited. This includes belts, so do your research ahead of time and prepare accordingly. All religious sites require shoes to be left outside and knees and shoulders to be covered.

Taj Mahal in Agra, India
Incredible sites like the Taj Mahal are not to be missed – Make sure you’re prepared!

Suggested Meaningful Travel Programs in India

If you’re looking into how to dress in India because you want to gain some meaningful travel insight, consider jumping into one of these programs and making your dream adventure come true: 

  • AIFS - Study abroad in the modern city of Hyderabad and dive right into life in India. While earning up to 16 credits for school, participants also get to go on excursions to incredible cultural locations including Delhi, Agra, and Mumbai.
  • Volunteering Solutions - Volunteer in Delhi, India, and really get immersed in the local culture. With this program, participants work at a children’s orphanage where they exchange cultural views and offer love, support, compassion, and education.
  • Profile Ultimate - Intern in entrepreneurship throughout different sectors in India. With the rising GDP, India is a great place to intern, and this program provides the opportunity for participants to get a good feel for the business field while exploring a new country.

Be “In” With India

Like with any new country, it is important to research and know the ins and the outs ahead of time, so that you’re fully prepared to immerse yourself in the new culture (and so you know what to wear in India). As long as you remember that modesty is the hottest key to success when figuring out how to dress in India, you’re golden. Pack these clothes to wear in India in your carry-on and adventure to the Burj Khalifa and beyond!

Now you know what to wear in India, so find programs with MyGoAbroad!