The answer to this question doesn’t seem very difficult. But nevertheless, before the trip we also looked for information about what to take along and about stuff you can easily get by without.
It is not the post for those going to resorts, on the contrary it’s simple in that case. The information is for those planning to move a lot, stopping not only in the cities.
What to choose: a suitcase or a backpack?
If you’re not going trekking in the mountains for a couple of days, and do not plan to walk great distances and sleep away from the gifts of civilization, then, sure, you can consider suitcase. But it’s worth mentioning that streets in India aren’t particularly clean and you wouldn’t want to smear your bag rolling it on the wheels. And always carrying it on your shoulder or in your hand will be tiresome and uncomfortable. Although suitcase has its advantages: in case of one or two nights stays – you won’t have to rummage in it trying to find necessary thing.
As for us, we stand for the backpack! A big, qualitative, trekking backpack of 50-60 liters of volume. Modern trekking backpacks have a construction, which allows to carry even a relatively heavy load without getting tired, as it parts the weight evenly to your entire upper body. Also a big plus is free hands for carrying camera, your telephone, guidebook or a bundle of bananas. ☺
In our case there were two big backpacks of 60 and 70 liters, one medium backpack for precious things (documents, FUJI mirrorless camera, laptop, guidebook, essential charging devices). A DSLR (a BIG one ☺) camera CANON with two lenses were packed into a separate case.
Naturally, men had the privilege of carrying big backpacks, while a smaller one was allotted to the dame☺
What to pack?
It’s not accidentally that I put sleeping bag at the top of the list. This is truly essential and you’ll come to find that it is the case on your very first night in India. At least we came to find. The notion of cleanness of hotel rooms in India does differ considerably from the one of an average European everyman. The linen in the rooms aren’t always fresh and requests to change it for new don’t necessarily end with success. You may be offered the same linen – moist, grey and with marks of years gone. The humidity in India is very high, hence the problem of drying anything to the state of complete dryness.
Blankets in Indian hotels are often without cotton cases or additional sheets. The decision’s on you – whether you will or will not cover yourself with a blanket directly used by other guests.
Sleeping bag will be utterly irreplaceable at the destinations cast far away from the civilization (where the possibilities of overnight stays are poor) and any signs of comfort.
During our trip we didn’t have to sleep in our “moveable beds” only while staying in the five-star «Pullman» where we spent 2 nights before flying home, and during our week-long stay at «Jimmy’s Home Stay»,in Leh, where everything was cozy and homey.
2. Clothes and footwear
Here everyone will guide themselves with their own preferences, trip’s destinations and its climatic features.
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Our approximate list per person consisted of 2 pairs of shorts, 3 T-shirts, a long-sleeve shirt, comfortable sandals, a set of underwear.
For colder regions of India’s north, we had packed trekking pants, comfortable closed shoes, fleece garments, light waterproof wind-jackets and hats.
I do earnestly recommend having a set of clothes “for home” – something you’ll be comfortable wearing after shower, something that’ll do the role of pajamas. I’ll repeat myself, saying that the humidity doesn’t allow to dry washed or soaked in the rain things fast, so it’s good to have clothing to feel in dry and comfortable. And, naturally, don’t wear these clothes outside.
Step-ins will be very useful to take a shower too.
As the only girl on our trip I allowed myself to pack one long simple dress, which doesn’t need ironing. Along with a shirt, which covered the shoulders, I could enter shrines in this dress. Also it proved useful in the five-star hotel, where it looked elegant combined with the Indian shawl.
When planning your wardrobe, you should hold in mind that overly short shorts and skirts, showing the knees, and also tops, showing shoulders and breasts, will attract a lot of attention from male population. Needless to say, that white man alone is quite an attraction in India…
Jeans aren’t recommended to take along. It’ll be hot in them for sure and when wet they become heavy and will dry long.
Don’t take a lot of clothes, which are easy to substitute. Simple T-shirts can be bought in India; clothes aren’t expensive (although don’t serve long) and are made from natural fabrics. Also it’s a chance to buy something ethnic and try to mix with the crowd. ☺
Don’t forget sunglasses and a headwear to be protected from the sun.
At the beginning you’ll get by with little pieces of soap used in treks, shampoo and disposable toiletries from the supermarket. It is a common knowledge that India has good cosmetics. We were convinced it’s true. Even in the most unpresentable hotels we were given enjoyable shampoos, body lotions and soaps of local manufacture, which were predestined to travel with us further. A brand store “Himalaya” in Leh became a place of my favorite pilgrimage, where one can buy anything – shampoos, lotions, gels, balsams, Ayurveda ointments, soaps, tooth pastes and other fine cosmetic products.
You’ll need sunscreen with high-level UV protection in the mountains. Sun is very active and even when it’s weather-wise comfortable to wear short-sleeve – you can get a burn. It’s possible to try out some Indian suntan lotions, think for yourself.
Toilet paper and hygienic paper tissues (wet and dry) – it’s better to always have some of that with yourself, you never know what kind of bathroom will you use next.
Pack a small towel per person. Towels are of questionable cleanness in the hotels, then your own will come to the rescue.
When compiling traveling medicine chest, you should first of all take into consideration personal characteristics. Medicines taken regularly and prescribed by doctor are to be taken along without question. It’s good to take painkillers and antipyretic medicaments, digestives, anti-allergic remedies and some basics to cure scratches, wounds or bruises.
In our case, I packed sorbents, antihistamines, stomach upset pills and constipation remedies, antipyretic medicaments and ferments for pancreas, having read a lot of horror stories about food poisonings. Fortunately, we almost didn’t need anything from the aforementioned. Some digestives were used (to help our stomachs get over Indian food) and antipyretic remedy (when adapting to high altitudes). Heartburn medicine lacked as Indian food is very aggressive for stomach’s mucous membrane (so if you’re inclined towards gastritis, better take something that’ll reduce your possible discomfort).
Anyways, you don’t have to bring loads of medicines. If needed everything can be bought at the pharmacies in India. Prices are very pleasant. Else, you don’t really know what you might need. For example, we all got a cold acclimatizing to India’s climate. Therefore, we bought various drops, syrups and lollipops already there.
It’s known that one can become sick with malaria in India. Its carrier are the mosquitoes. So you should take care of repellants driving them away. I repeatedly saw travelers’ recommendations to buy these repellants directly in the places used – this way they will be adapted precisely for the kinds of insects, living in the region. We bought such remedies in Delhi, they looked like circular Band-Aids, which are to be stuck to your clothes or linen, and emitted poignant smell. There was also a cream, which you could apply to the open areas of the body. Both remedies were organic with great quantity of essential oils. The advantage is that it’s non-harmful, disadvantage is that you have to apply it more often. During our entire trip, there were no mosquito attacks. But still, it’s an issue that better be solved.
5. Traveling trivia
Maybe one will need an umbrella or a raincoat (we didn’t have either). A medium-sized pocket knife – to open or peel something, cut up the fruit (better be stored somewhere deep in the backpack – otherwise authorities might withdraw it from your possession at a metro gate, for example). A flashlight. Power bank for charging your telephone. A guidebook. Little locks for the flaps on the backpacks, which might open voluntarily while transported.
6. Money and documents
Last but not least… Money and documents are always to be carried with yourself. For cash transactions, have a small amount of money in the easily-reachable place – a wallet or a pocket of your pants. The bigger part of money is to be stored separately in the place difficult to reach.
Do not leave money and documents in the backpacks, do not carry them in the rear pockets, do not hide in the hotel rooms – these are the basic rules, that’ll allow you to keep save your belongings. Waist pack is a good choice, otherwise (if doesn’t aesthetically satisfy you) there are special wide belts with secret compartments.
As an option, we sewed in inner pockets into our shorts, where we carried the divided substantial amount of money. Anyway, the most important thing here is constant vigilance!
One more advice – make a few copies of your documents and store them into a plastic bag in your rucksack.
What isn’t worth bringing?
- Books to read in leisure time. You’ll get your portion of emotions during the day and won’t have time to read after all. If needed – download a book into your telephone or a laptop, it’ll definitely be lighter there.
- Dictionaries and phrasebooks. Indian English isn’t the English of a Frenchman or a Russian, because it is spoken by the Indian, and it’s worse, a lot worse. Be ready to use all your communication skills and facial expressions.
- Decorative cosmetics. In the Indian conditions of high humidity, it’s better to forget about lipstick, rouge and mascara. Reduce it to the minimum if not possible to omit altogether.
- Alcoholic beverages. Well, a bottle of spirit will do nicely as an antidepressant and a stomach disinfection. But on the other hand, even closed in a plastic bag bottle of whiskey bought in DUTY FREE caused us some problems. It was encroached on in metro – it’s not allowed to carry alcohol in public transport. When boarding the train, we were also afraid they’d take it away, even though we poured the liquid from a nice “Jack Daniel’s” glass to a “Coca-Cola” bottle. So, if you’re not good at convincing Indian soldiers of your rightness or simply don’t wanna spend time at this – better don’t bring alcohol.
To sum up, following the aforementioned recommendations we managed to pack all necessary things and took nothing redundant. Absolutely everything, that we bothered to carry for 3 weeks on our backs proved useful during the trip.