*this post contains affiliate links.
So, you've booked a Bhavana Experiences group tour of India!
Congratulations and welcome :) We are so happy to have you here on this journey together.
If you've never been backpacking or on a tour before, you may be wondering what to bring, what to wear whilst in India, and what items may come in handy during your trip.
To help you feel prepared for this trip, we have created a helpful list of things that you might want to bring with you.
For one of our 11 - 14 day tours, here's a handy packing list to guide you:
1) Main bag - Bring a large backpack (70litres max) or a medium suitcase (67cm x 45cm x 26cm approx.) Travelling with a backpack is super convenient when taking trains as they are smaller and easier to carry. But, if you don’t want to use a backpack, that is totally fine!
*Please do not bring a large suitcase as it will be difficult to fit into the bus and to store on the train. For the northern India trains, luggage will be stored in overhead compartments. For Rajasthan and Southern India, our luggage will be placed on the floor underneath our berths.
2) Small backpack – To keep valuables in when travelling by train and useful for day-to-day use.
! Please make sure you only bring two bags; one big and one small. At railway stations, carrying lots of small bags is inconvenient, and in my opinion, the juggling act could distract you and put you at risk of being pickpocketed when you are walking through train stations.
Indian train stations are busy with staff, commuters and even homeless people (particularly in the early hours). For this reason, it’s very important that you have a close eye on your belongings. I do like backpacks to ensure safety in the train stations, as your luggage will be strapped to your body and your hands will be free. However, we can usually get porters to help carry luggage if you want :)
3) A money belt to keep your money & phone close to your body is good. In your handbag or day pack, you can then just have your water bottle/sunglasses/suncream (less valuable items).
4) A tote bag (material bag) – they fold up nice and small and are good for day-to-day use.
5) Earplugs – especially useful for overnight trains! Can be useful in some hotels too, in case of any barking dogs or traffic sounds outside.
6) Neck pillow and eye mask - good for the flight and for trains
7) Travel adapter - two pins like in Europe (220v – if you’re coming from the UK you don’t need a voltage converter, but if you’re coming from the USA you’ll need a voltage converter as well as an adapter)
Water to Go costs less than £20. It filters 99.9% of viruses, bacteria, chlorine, fluoride and heavy metals such as lead. One filter is included with the bottle which will last about two months. Water To Go comes in a 500ml or 750ml bottle.
Another option is a Life Straw bottle. I have switched from Water to Go to this now as I prefer the drinking straw, but it is twice the price at around £38.
In my previous tours, a few people bought a Water to Go filter bottle but still bought bottled water as well. If you are scared to put your trust in this bottle, please don’t buy one and save your money instead :)
In my opinion:
- Convenient as I never have to go to the shop to buy water, I just fill up in hotel bathrooms, any sink I can find, river, lake, you name it
- I also never run out of water because I can always fill it up
- Saves money
- Saves plastic waste so looks after the environment
- You can keep this bottle and use it on future holidays
- The flow of water is not as fast as drinking from a regular water bottle.
- My bottle leaks a little so I have to keep it upright
9) Money: ALL YOUR EXPENSES WILL BE IN CASH.
You can either bring cash which can be converted to Indian Rupees at the hotel in Delhi (they offer a better rate than at the airport) or, bring a credit/debit card and withdraw money at the airport when you land.
There are ATMs in arrival halls, after going through immigration and baggage collection. If you are using a card, I highly recommend that you withdraw cash at the airport rather than in Delhi. It's a safe environment! Sometimes you may find that the ATM doesn't work. Just try another one.
If withdrawing cash, I highly recommend using Starling, Revolut, or Monzo. These banks allow you to withdraw from an ATM abroad without paying any commission or exchange fees. You are given the market exchange rate at the time of withdrawal.
For Revolut and Monzo, there is a monthly limit of around 400 per month for ATM withdrawals, so if you think you'll spend more than that you may need to bring cash as well. Starling doesn't have a monthly withdrawal limit. If you use this link to open your Monzo account, you and I will both get a £5 reward!
ATMs in India are quite hit-and-miss. Your card might work at a machine one day but not the next. Being here long term, I find it better to have different bank accounts and cards that I can try as sometimes one card doesn't work at the machine but another one does. I use Revolut, Monzo, Starling, and a credit card!
10. How much money should I bring?
All accommodation, transport, entrance fees, guides and activities mentioned in the itinerary are included. Most meals are included but for some meals (usually, dinner) you will need to pay. For a meal, you can expect to pay anything from £1-5 depending on if it is a local or touristy restaurant.
Here is some approximate pricing to give you an idea:
- Rafting in Rishikesh – approx. £10
- Cooking class in Rishikesh – approx £20
- Massages in Rishikesh/Hampi/Pushkar – approx. £8-15
- Beer from a shop costs less than £1, but beer in hotel bars costs £2-3.
- Bottle of water 20p (likely more in hotels)
- Roll of toilet paper 50p
- Cup of tea in tourist cafes 50p
- Cup of tea on the train 10p
- Astrology reading approx. £25
- Pair of baggy trousers/elephant pants £3-4
- T-shirt £3-4
If you don’t plan to drink much alcohol or do much shopping then £150 to £200 spending money should be sufficient. If you will be drinking or/and shopping I think you will need upwards of £300. It's very hard to estimate as everyone’s eating, drinking and shopping habits differ!
11) A book or an e-reader (especially for train journeys)
13) Toiletries - Although you have luggage and are not restricted to 100ml bottles I highly recommend bringing small-sized toiletries – your bag will be lighter and you’ll have more space in case you want to buy some souvenirs.
14) Hand sanitising gel – most public toilets don’t have soap
15) Small packets of tissues or a roll of toilet paper (most public bathrooms don't provide toilet paper)
16) Sun hat, sun cream, sunglasses and maybe even an umbrella for shade - it's going to be hot!
17) Journal and pen - you'll want to remember this trip!
18) Sweetener for tea and coffee if you prefer this to sugar.
19) Tampons if you prefer them to pads which are not available in all the places we are visiting. Pads can be bought easily and cheaply.
20) Baby wipes – always useful!
21) A nail brush is really useful for giving dirty food a good scrub!
22) Warm clothes for air-conditioned trains – especially if you have an overnight train. The AC really varies, sometimes pleasant and sometimes freezing!
23) Electronic Fan - a great gadget to help you cool down. You can thank me later!
24) After bite zapper to reduce itching and scratching for irritating mosquito bites
25) Coffee lovers! Coffee culture is slowing gaining momentum in India, and good quality coffee is becoming available in cafés. However, in our hotels, they usually only serve instant coffee. For my coffee snob self, I travel with a small cafetière and my own coffee. Most, but not all, of the hotels we stay in have a kettle in the room so it's easy for me to make my own coffee!
Will I get Delhi belly?
Hopefully not, but I can't guarantee not I'm afraid. You must have heard of people getting sick or getting Delhi belly whilst in India. Some people, not everyone, will experience some degree of upset stomach whilst in India. Even when food is not hot and spicy, it is spicy (by this, I mean that it contains spice). The array of spices in the food can be an irritant for some people. With that being said, it really depends on how sensitive your stomach is.
The best thing you can do between now and your arrival in India is to start eating Indian food more often! Why not have a curry once a week? Start getting your stomach used to the spices.
My number one piece of advice to avoid any stomach upset once you arrive in India is to eat less. But I am hosting you, so I won't be the one to enforce this! I want you to eat all the deliciousness to your heart's content. But in my experience, if there's something my body doesn't like, the discomfort will pass more quickly if my stomach is not too full.
If we don’t have dinner plans, I invite you to have something light for dinners
like a cup of tea and biscuits, toast, and nuts - easy to digest and your body is already used to. These snacks can be bought easily in our hotels or shops close by, but if you have a favourite snack – bring it!
There are a few supplements that you can take to prevent getting
the dreaded Delhi belly:
Probiotics – Probiotics are thought to help restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut so they could be helpful in preventing an upset stomach. Usually, probiotic tablets need to be refrigerated but these ones don’t need to be.
If you decide to use probiotics, start taking them one week before departure (with a meal, preferably breakfast). Take them every day that we are away and continue for one week once you get home.
Another thing you might want to carry with you is rehydration sachets, such as Dioralyte. At the first hint of not feeling good, you can add a sachet to a glass of water to ensure that you are staying hydrated. And lastly, if you do get struck by the old Delhi belly, then you’ll want to have some Imodium handy!
Over-the-counter diarrhoea medication and rehydration sachets are easy to buy in India so just let us know if you need to stop at a pharmacy.
By late September for the Northern India tour, the weather will be hot (around 30 degrees). Into October for the Rajasthan tour, the weather will start cooling off to below 30. For both tours, it will be cooler at night but not cold!
In March, the days will be hot and sunny but the nights will be cool. In March, there is the possibility of summer showers so you may want to bring an umbrella/raincoat.
Dressing conservatively - simply put - the less skin that is revealed, the less attention you’ll receive. If you expose a lot of skin, do expect to attract a lot of attention from men and women alike. In many of the places we visit, there will be Indian tourists from all over India who have never seen foreigners before which brings lots of curious stares.
When visiting temples, shoulders and knees should be covered – for men and women!
The quantity of clothes for an 11 or 14-day trip depends on you! Consider whether you are comfortable re-wearing your clothes without washing them.
India is very dusty and clothing gets dirty easily. You’ll be able to have laundry done in most hotels, just ask at reception.
Anyway, here’s a rough guide:
- Underwear and socks x5 if you are happy to wash them by hand or x14 if you don’t!
- 1x outfit of exercise clothing which you can wear for yoga (if you chose to do the optional classes in Rishikesh) or for the optional hike in Rishikesh
- 3/4 pairs of loose, light-fitted breathable trousers or shorts – the less you bring the more you can buy here. Loose-fitted trousers can be bought easily and cheaply in India (around 300Rs).
- Approx. 5 tops which cover your shoulders OR vest tops with a scarf to cover your shoulders
- 1x jumper/fleece for the flight and air-conditioned trains which might be nice to wear at 4 am when we get up for the sunrise!
- Comfortable shoes or sandals for daily wear
- Trainers/walking shoes for hiking – if you plan to do the optional hiking in Rishikesh.
- Swimming costume
- Sarong /travel towel for swimming at the waterfalls in Rishikesh
- Lightweight waterproof jacket just in case of any late monsoon rains
India, and especially Rajasthan is dusty! For this reason, I advise you don't bring your favourite clothes. Be prepared for your clothes to get a bit dusty/dirty! If you are allergic to dust, you may also want to carry antihistamines and eye drops.
Try to leave a good amount of space in your bag if you like shopping! Rishikesh and Pushkar, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer have lots of opportunities for shopping.
As you can see this is a very minimal packing list! Less is more, but ultimately bring as much as you want to bring :)