Travelling through India I knew I should dress respectfully in line with local culture but my outfit also needed to be cool with the warm weather.
This is probably what I wore the most: comfy cotton trousers with vest tops/t-shirts and a scarf. I wore this travelling between cities in the car but as soon as I stepped out to visit a restaurant or a shop, I covered my shoulders with the scarf and wrapped it over the front of my chest.
I also took a lace cape with me that worked wonders when visiting markets – I felt much more comfortable covering the whole of my body in places where locals congregate. A scarf and/or capes will be your best friend as you’ll certainly need to cover up in temples and a few other tourist attractions.
I had henna applied in both Jaipur and Delhi. The photo above cost £25 and I had it applied just outside the City Palace in Jaipur the evening before Diwali. It went very, very dark and the next day so many locals stopped me, impressed with the colour of the henna stain. The only problem I had is that when it dried off from the palms of my hands, it flaked away dry skin and I’ve never experienced this before which was a little concerning. Nonetheless, I had it applied again at a market in Delhi and had no problems there.
I bought quite a few of these traditional Indian tunics from the market in Delhi (you’ll find them in most markets) for no more than a few pounds each. They were lightweight, quite loose fitting and would be perfect worn as a kaftan at the beach. To keep it more conservative I wore them with leggings during the day while playing tourist. They are cheap so don’t expect amazing quality but they’ll work perfectly for your time travelling through India.
I also wasn’t sure how local women would feel about me, or us westerners, wearing the local dress but those that approached me absolutely loved it.
I wore a bright hot pink kimono maxi dress to visit the Taj Mahal with an off-white lace scarf. The bold pink a striking contrast next to the white hues of the Taj Mahal made for lovely photos.
I always went for trousers but I noticed other female tourists often wore long skirts or dresses.
In terms of swimwear, I only really had the chance to sunbathe in two places, both of which had different dress requirements. At Lakshman Sagar we had our own private plunge pool so I wore a normal bikini and I believe you can do this at most of the more westernised hotels. However, at Neemrana Fort Palace Hotel I could only use the pool if I purchased one of their special swimsuits which was a chic little design consisting of a typical swimsuit, shorts and a skirt all in one. So take a bikini but also a swimsuit and look at what others are wearing, see if they have any specific rules on what you can or can’t wear.
I bought this gorgeous navy velvet and cream lehenga sari from a market in Delhi and wore it to dinner twice. I also found a bright yellow sari with sparkling silver sequins that has been added to my collection. It’s fun to dress up in a sari but unless you have someone there to drape it in the correct way, I’d go for a lehenga which comes with the skirt and blouse. Also, make sure you’re measured so that it fits right – you don’t want to come away with a blouse hanging loose at the back! Expect to £30+ for a lehenga (mine was £40 for the lehenga and £15 for the sari without a skirt).
On my first day in India I teamed a turban style summer hat with one of my new traditional Indian tunics and aviator sunglasses. The school girls at Humayun’s Tomb took so many photos while giggling, pointing and touching my turban and mirrored aviators. It was definitely an experience to have so many run up to me to shake my hand, all the time fascinated by my outfit.