• clothing to pack for moving to india

Moving to India Packing List Part 3: Clothing

With so many people wanting to move to India (seriously, I get a couple e-mails a week), I’ve been adding a couple more posts about what to pack and know before you come here. In the first two segments I focused on Americans moving to India as the beauty and hair products and random things like candles, some are very American-specific- but clothes are pretty much international, right?

Check out the first two installments:

American Moving to India Packing List Part 1: Beauty & Hair

American Moving to India Packing List Part 2: Everything Else

Plus an extra two that you might find helpful.

luggage expats need to bring abroad

Where I shop for my cute travel clothes

Moving to India Packing List: Clothes

I guess most emails I get are from girls, so this list will be more focused on that. Let’s be real; guys have it so easy. Jeans, t-shirts, button-up shirt, jacket, done. Girls have it a little harder. I mean India is the yoga capital but can we wear yoga pants? We want to rock climb, but Indian politicians say we must wear long skirts and dress? None of it makes sense. Here’s some tips.

1. Just to get it out of the way: bring ALL YOUR FAVORITE PIECES of clothing. Yes, even if they are revealing. First of all, you’re moving to India but will be traveling more places. You’ll want these things. You can wear anything you want in Goa and really the clubs in Bombay and Delhi. My leather skirt from Express? Wear it all the time!

moving to india packing list

2. Beach things if you’re moving to Goa. Basically, shopping in Goa is hell. There are great designers here that are quite expensive and great for a splurge but there’s no mall. The markets are full of touristy clothes. You need to bring beach, summer, cute clothes. In Goa anything goes. Don’t over-think it.

Pack like you’re on your way to California- so don’t forget jean shorts and crop tops. Some will say that’s bad and going against Indian culture, but I’ve been here years and am telling you, for Indians and Westerners anything goes, in fact, most of my most fashionable and scantily dressed friends are Indian, and particularly Goan.

moving to india packing listGoa’s beach style

My favorite jean shorts are from Urban, recycled Levis.

My favorite layered top of all time

My favorite dress, but really every dress from Free People is perfect.

3. Appropriate clothes. Whether you’ll be in strict Delhi or even Goa, you’ll travel to places that you need clothes that cover you. That can be maxi skirts, maxi dresses, loose pants, jeans, even skinny jeans, t shirts, tank tops can be ok with a scarf, loose long sleeve shirts. Here’s a list of how to dress and how not to dress in India so you get an idea of what’s appropriate.

BELOW IS FOR TROUSERS, not whole outfits.

moving to india packing listok not the bra top on the far left- this photo is to show you the TROUSERS that are ok as stated above – check at ASOS, Forever 21, H&M. The crops are okay, but take a scarf if you’re in public.

what to wear in indiaThese are great for India! They don’t show anymore than a saree does. As mentioned take a scarf to cover shoulders.

4. Winter clothes. Delhi gets cold in the winter! Even Goa in December is cold on a bike. Don’t forget a nice leather jacket ( I wear mine every night in Goa). Also, pack some boots. In Goa, combat boots are in rather than knee high trendy boots in the US. I have the cutest pair from Lucky Brand. Here’s a packing list for Finland which you can see for the best cold weather stuff and think of what might work from that list.

I wouldn’t bother bringing more than one pair of “trendy” boots unless you think you’ll be traveling to Europe a lot. Bombay style is a lot like Goa (or NYC), but Delhi girls are more like L.A. girls so you can wear your trendy boots there. Well you can do anything you want, but I’m just tryin’ to help a girl out!

5. Heels. Sadly, no one in Goa wears them except some Europeans on vacay and Indian girls in clubs in Calangute and Baga. Seriously, it’s rare to see an expat in heels. I wear them more than most people I know; sometimes just to dinner. For a night out in Bombay, I wore them and I was the only girl at Blue Frog in heels! In Delhi, it’s more common. Take your favorites anyways because you’ll travel.

best five star hotel in south goa alila diwaThese are my favorite heels for India because they are so simple and don’t stand out

6. Layers. I think my most important thing to pack are items to layer over inappropriate things. For example a baggy cape over a little black dress, or a fringe kimono over a skirt and crop top. That way while in transit you are covered and look damn cute, but at the club or restaurant you can take off the top layer. I have a few kimonos from ASOS, some baggy grungey button-ups, my leather jacket which I sometimes tie around my waist, and a few sweaters.

best five star hotel in south goa alila diwaLove this sweater from Urban Outfitters, and FYI this skirt is only okay in Goa.

In conclusion, if you aren’t a shopoholic like me you probably can bring basically all your clothes from home and find use for them. I had SO many clothes back in Ohio, I really had to make sacrifices (ok, not sacrifices, but it was hard).

When I go home, I tell myself “stock up on Delhi appropriate clothes” and buy a couple maxi dresses (that AREN’T tight) but then go right back to shopping for things I love and don’t worry about where I’ll wear it.

Scarfs are a lifesaver because women in India are supposed to pretend like they don’t have boobs. Yes, that’s what the dupatta is for (the scarf looking cloth worn backwards); draped over the boobs to hide them. Absolute nonsense but if you show cleavage you’ll get trouble! I’m lucky that I have none so I can wear tank tops without worry. If you’re a C or bigger, I wouldn’t try it.

fara boutique goatypical for Goa, not me pictured, photo from FARA.

If you’re coming to India, don’t over think it.

Worst case if you wear jeans, a t-shirt, and a scarf, you’ll be fine. If you don’t feel fine, head to Fab India and pick something up. Some women don’t feel safe in India unless they are dressed in Indian garb, and that’s okay too.

I think the longer I stay here the more lax I get about what I wear in Goa ONLY.

When in big cities and when outside Goa, I have to really put aside my personal thoughts of freedom to dress how I like and follow their tradition. I’m a guest in India and dress India appropriate while I travel because it is the right thing to do- do I dress perfect all the time? No, I mean, I live in India ALL year long, I’m bound to make mistakes, under pack, and end up with only yoga pants and a t shirt to go to the Kerala airport. Shit happens, but at least you should try to blend in. I would say 90% of the time I do a good job, and the other 10% I either forgot to pack enough or had an “I don’t give a fuck attitude” while out with friends in Bombay during the day.

If you dress in Indian garb will you have NO problems? Umm no. Will you have less? Maybe! Probably! I can’t recall where I saw these, but one foreign blogger in India writes about how her mother in law won’t let her take off her duppatta even at home so her father in law won’t look at her in the kitchen, and another was masterbated over in public while dressed in Indian garb ( I know, yuck, but many bloggers who came to India have written that this has happened).

So, even if you cover up it may not be enough to stop stares. Actually, I know it’s not enough to stop stares as I get stared at a lot in other parts of India while fully covered in baggy pants, tops, and scarves. If wearing Fab India (popular appropriate Indian garb) and waiting to buy it in India, or picking up baggy “ali baba” tourist pants makes you feel safe, do it, but don’t think it’s a shield against unwanted stares AND if you’re staying in India long term (moving here) you’re going to want to dress how YOU want to dress instead of baggy pants with elephant prints or an outfit that’s foreign to you.

I must wrap up this blog post because I can tell I’m rambling ;) Just remember some Indian people are very chilled about what you have on and other more traditional people are not cool with even jeans… in fact, even if you wore a snow suit there could be someone you offend ;) Just try to dress modest and cute, except for hedonistic Goa (jk, kinda). Oh man, this post is probably gonna get me mean comments! AHH! I will risk it because this is meant to be for girls to read who are thinking about moving to India… and you guys are worth it.

Remember, most foreigners choose to live in Goa because they LOVE India, but need some freedom like their past lives. That’s why we all say, “It’s better in Goa!” .

dadablui goaDadablui’s pillows with Goa catchphrase


About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Werkenntwen, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Werkenntwen has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. LeAnna July 28, 2015 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    I am absolutely the WORST when it comes to style. That may have something to do w/ the fact that I am cheap.as.hell. :( Wish I had your fashion sense!
    You always hear about India being scorching hot, but we were there in November (Goa) and February (Further North) and it was COLD. So, I would say layers, but not because it’s a cute fashion statement (remember, I have none of that) but instead because I was FREEZING! However, layers were perfect for the cold mornings and nights but great to peel away as it warmed up slightly in the afternoons.

    • Rachel Jones July 29, 2015 at 6:00 am - Reply

      hahah! well, I am pretty cheap too lol but also a shopaholic, I guess just good at sales ;) you’re right Goa gets cold, i wear my leather jacket and ankle boots in season time at night- especially on the bike!

  2. christine wilhelm July 29, 2015 at 2:06 am - Reply

    Forty years ago, I worried more about packing enough Tampax than clothing before I moved to Central Asia. I stuffed half a steamer trunk with a two-years supply of Tampax! I knew clothes could be custom tailored in any bazaar, but Tampax would be found no closer than 2,421 miles away in Bangkok. Perspective!


    • Rachel Jones July 29, 2015 at 6:03 am - Reply

      lol!! that’s hilarious about packing the tampax……

      in regards to the article very very sad & actually I have seen that article some time ago. this fact is startling “India accounts for 27 percent of the world’s cervical cancer deaths, according to World Health Organization data.” it’s sad they use things like ash instead of proper care!

  3. liz August 4, 2015 at 9:55 pm - Reply

    Can i ask you a question about the police in goa. Is it true that they plant drugs and then ask for money? And that you can go to jail for 10 years just because you wont Pay the “fine” for the drugs they “found”.
    I AM gong to india. But som friends told me stories about the police thats scares me a bit. Should i fear the police or should i not give it Any thoughts at All?

    • Rachel Jones August 6, 2015 at 5:15 pm - Reply

      I’ve never heard of it happening in Goa, but I suppose it could.

  4. Michelle Kennedy August 5, 2015 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    This is a great post! I am moving to India for a month in September and I was really having a trouble deciding what kind of clothes I should bring with me. Thank you for the tips! Greetings!

  5. Drew April 15, 2016 at 10:32 pm - Reply

    This is a great list but should you only be bringing clothes with you? You are moving to a new country so I would think there are more necessary items to bring. It’s something to think about for sure.

    • Rachel Jones April 16, 2016 at 10:51 am - Reply

      …. this is part 3: clothes. There are other parts…

  6. Kelly Yearby June 4, 2016 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    Impressive article posted.. Appreciated!

  7. larissa August 10, 2016 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    Wow, your tips are awesome! I love the pictures of your outfits, they are so adorable! Your list has a bunch of really great information and I cannot wait to see more pictures of your great outfits! Thanks so much for sharing, I really appreciate your post!

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