How To Dress In India: A Quick Guide For Tourists
What To Wear In India
Unless you come from a similar background, it can be difficult to figure out what to wear, especially for females. When packing for your trip, it’s important to keep in mind that India is a religious country and therefore expect both men and women to dress modestly.
Stick to shirts with sleeves, pants, leggings, and similar ‘covered’ clothing items. It’s not very cold in India, even during the winter, so make sure to wear light and breezy fabrics so you don’t get too warm. If you’re walking around, bring a sturdy pair of walking shoes, flats, or sandals. Also, pack a hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from the hot Indian sun.
Of course, there are exceptions. If you’re going to the beach, then you can definitely wear shorts and swimsuits. Plus, some areas of India are actually quite flexible, so you may be able to get away with sleeveless tops or knee-length bottoms as long as you’re not visiting a religious place. Just carry a scarf around in case you need to cover up.
Most importantly, you must be comfortable! That’s just tourist 101.
What NOT To Wear In India
Both women and men need to be careful about baring too much skin while in India. While it is hot, especially for tourists who aren’t used to warm weather, a lot of Western ‘summer clothes’ are much too revealing for the conservative country.
Women, stay away from tank tops, spaghetti straps, crop tops, and anything that shows off your cleavage or back too much. Avoid skirts that show off your knees or thighs. Too-tight clothing is also frowned upon, so use this as an opportunity to wear loose-fitting ensembles instead.
Men have a bit more leeway, but it is still relatively unacceptable to wear tank tops or short shorts. When in doubt, a sleeved shirt and jeans are a safe go-to outfit.\
What Do People Wear In India? Clothing Suggestions
Also known as genie pants, cotton harem pants, or simply ‘baggy pants’, this is perhaps the most comfortable and safe option for both men and women.
Scarves are the ultimate Indian fashion accessory. Not only does it add to your overall look, but it’s also a great way to keep warm or cover your shoulders and head (as is required in most temples and religious places).
For women, skirts are the most common clothing item you see on the street. They’re breezy, light, fashionable, and work well with almost any top.
You can wear sarees for any reason, including no reason at all. But just make sure that the saree you’re wearing isn’t a ‘special occasion’ saree, or else you might look a tad overdressed or out of place. There are more than 80 ways to wear a saree, so ask a friendly local to help you out!
Other Cultural Norms You Should Follow
- If you’re a woman visiting India, try not to travel alone. This isn’t so much a cultural norm as a safety measure – travel with a friend or significant other, even better if it’s a member of the opposite sex. Unfortunately, sexual harassment is common on the streets of India.
- Never ever eat or pass items with your left hand. The left hand is considered ‘unclean’ in Indian culture because it’s the hand that’s used to clean your body, remove your shoes, etc.
- Feet are also unclean, so don’t point your soles at anyone or touch someone else with your feet. Apologise if you do it accidentally!
- Remove your shoes before entering a place of worship. Some places are even stricter and don’t allow leather goods or women who are menstruating into the temple.
- Avoid any kind of PDA, including kissing and hugging. This is considered much too intimate for public display.
- The hand gesture for ‘hello’ in Western cultures may be interpreted as ‘go away’ in India. You should also avoid pointing at anything because it’s rude.
- Be respectful of the fact that English is not the first language of most Indian locals. Don’t demand that they speak English well, and be patient with them during conversation.
Whether you’re on a business trip or travelling for pleasure, it’s important to dress appropriately while you’re in India. This is just a basic guide, so do some more research before packing!
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