1. You don’t have to wear harem pants
When I arrived in New Delhi in January, I saw that pretty much every other young Western woman had read the same travel blogs as me.
Harem pants, t-shirt and a scarf were the Millennial travellers’ uniform.
If you love harem pants, do not let me stop you. But I just hated them.
And they didn’t help me fit in either. Local women were either wearing traditional clothing or the same Western clothing you’d see at home.
My unloved pants got retired as soon as I got a chance to buy jeans.
2. Do wear bright colours
My monochrome west coast uniform was really not cutting it.
Before I left, I spent $20 on a light blue scarf. When I got to India, a merchant told that something as plain as my scarf was only good for cleaning your car. Hahaha. Noted!
I also was getting gently but consistently prodded to wear something colourful already by new friend from India. My long black maxi skirt got a big thumbs down too.
I got this large, bright scarf for $5 along with a few other things.
3. Don’t pack too much
It is very easy and cheap to have clothing made for you in one day. Some people in my group had traditional clothing made for them. Others brought dresses from home that they had copied using local fabrics.
I had fun picking out a short kurta at Fab India. It was expensive for India, but not compared to home.
My only regret on this trip is that I did not fill up a second suitcase full of cheap, colourful clothes and scarves.
4. You do want to dress modestly
Avoid sleeveless shirts, short skirts, anything skimpy. And this is one time leggings are definitely not pants. Depending on how snug your pants fit, you’ll want your top to be long enough to cover up your butt.
Here’s a quote from Lonely Planet:
Take time to observe local customs during your stay, and especially on your arrival: behaviour and clothing that mean one thing back home may mean something totally different in India, and you may unwittingly send the wrong messages.
Our group was delighted to get a chance to wear very nice traditional clothing one evening for dinner! Women in rural areas will be dressed similarly. It’s a good idea to match this level of modesty, if you are also travelling in rural areas or small villages.
5. Still not sure about sandals
I had a decent looking pair of sports sandals that were comfy for long walking days.
The downside to wearing those was that I didn’t always want the mysterious liquids puddling in the street … on my feet.
So I felt grateful to have my normal leather boots with me too, especially when it got cold!