What to Wear in India

The issue of what to wear as a woman travelling to India was something that I struggled to find a lot of information on before my trip. Most websites and guide books I read had conflicting accounts of what to wear – some saying that most western clothes were fine everywhere and others saying the opposite. I had no idea what to wear!
WHAT TO WEAR IN INDIAAlthough I never did so, I definitely wouldn’t recommend showing any cleavage or too much leg in India (unless you’re on the beach in Goa, for example). One woman on my Golden Triangle Tour did both of these almost every single day and got some seriously disapproving looks from locals. I think they found it very disrespectful in such a conservative and religious country.

To avoid being like that woman here’s my take on what to wear (and what not to wear!) in India.


The majority of India is hot and very often humid so you need clothes that will keep you modestly covered while also keeping you cool. I bought a few pairs of lightweight trousers in different colours specially for India and found they came in really handy. High street shops are full of these types of trousers. Buy them in a few different colours and you’ll be looking stylish while keeping cool.

I teamed my lightweight trousers with simple t-shirts in a few different colours. T-shirts are perfect for India as they keep you covered but are also cotton which is perfect for wearing in the heat. They’re also cheap and easy to find in pretty much any high street shop!

I also felt comfortable wearing leggings and a dress or long tunic. This was also perfect for keeping cool – I’m not used to such crazy heat coming from Scotland!


I also carried a thin scarf with me during most of my days in India. I’d recommend carrying one if you want to enter any religious sites where you may need to cover your shoulders or head.

I fully intended to use my scarf to cover myself during my visit to Jama Masjid mosque in Delhi however, upon arrival they dressed all women in what can only be described as an extremely flowery over-sized dressing gown. Sexy.


This is my unimpressed face…can you tell?

One thing you should definitely take with you for a trip to India is mosquito repellent (it is technically something you wear!). I wore a mosquito repellent band around my wrist for the duration of my trip and wasn’t bitten once, while other members of my tour group were definitely suffering.


My mum and I’s Indian outfits of choice

My biggest piece of advice on what to wear in India is to use your common sense. If you think your top is showing a little too much boob or your skirt is too short then it probably is. Bear in mind that this is a very conservative country and you should respect that at all times. Nobody wants to be that one ignorant traveller who sticks out like a culturally unaware sore thumb!

Do you have any other tips on what to wear in India? 

9 Responses to What to Wear in India

  1. Linda

    This is a really useful article. I’m going to India next year and this has helped me know what to pack. Looks like I need to buy a few new things too. Good excuse to go shopping ;)

    • Emma Gray

      I’m glad you found it helpful, Linda. Hope you have an incredible trip to India!!

  2. Valerie

    I found your article very helpful. I need to go shopping! What about the evenings, did you wear a dress for dinner?

    • Emma Gray

      Hey Valerie, I’ve just replied to your email. Hope that helps!

  3. Elaine

    Going on an organized tour and staying in four and five star hotels. Dress up for dinner? What about shoes – do your feet get terribly dirty in flip flops? I am in my sixties so not too worried that I will be the object of men’s leering – but I see your Mum was with you – what advice would she have for a woman of my age. Thanks!

    • Emma Gray

      Hey Elaine,
      We were the same and didn’t dress up too much for dinner. Nice trousers and a top are definitely sufficient but you also wouldn’t feel out of place in a modest dress.
      Your feet do get a bit dirty in flip flops but you’re never wading through dirt or anything. Plus, you’ll find your whole body gets a bit dirty anyway due to the dust, heat and everything else.
      My mum didn’t have a problem with men leering but she was always dressed modestly and kept her chest and legs covered.
      Hope that helps and I hope you have a fabulous trip to India!

  4. Rosie

    This is the most helpful info I have found on what to wear in India. The pictures with the info together really help! I am leaving in a few days and have been worrying about what exactly to wear. I am feeling much at ease now. Best of luck on your future travels!!

    • Emma Gray

      I’m glad you found it useful, Rosie! Hope you’re having a fabulous time in India :)

  5. runawaybrit

    I moved to India in July and was worried about what to wear. Everybody told me not to wear anything tight, strappy tops, or anything that revealed cleavage. I decided to wait until I got here and buy things in India. The problem is when I got to Mumbai the shops are full of tight strappy tops! I think it might be specific to the area of Mumbai I live in (all the Bollywood stars live here), but it amused me.

    Thankfully, I have now found some more modest clothing!

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