| Blondes and Red Heads take note!
In India, if you have a fair complexion and have blonde or red
hair, you will be an object of great curiosity regardless of
what you wear (especially if you travel outside of the major
cities where tourists are a more familiar sight). Simply ignore
the stares and go about your business. Also travel as lightly
as possible--both clothing and laundry service are very inexpensive
Teresa, Annapolis, USA
| Culturally Correct Clothing
I have found the Kurta or Salwarkameez -- a pair of baggy pants
and a long top to be the best dress for women traveling in India.
It's cool, it's comfortable to wear, and fits with Indian standards
of modesty and western ideas of modern design. You can buy them
ready made, or have them custom designed. Next to the Hotel
Imperial in Delhi there is a shop to get you started, or try
along the tourist streets and markets.
As an aside, if you have a favorite dress at home, Indian
materials are beautiful, their tailors superb and inexpensive.
Bring your dress along, and see how many ways you can adapt
your favorite pattern!
Dr. Antonia Neubauer, Myths and Mountains
| Travel Light
The first I thing I did when I got to India was to get a long
sleeved baggy shirt made for me. It cost about US$5 and I alternated
it with a big t-shirt until it was too disgusting to even think
about anymore. I had two pairs of loose trousers, a pair of
boots and a pair of sandals i.e.only one change. I washed my
clothes in a bucket at night. Travelling so light meant I often
was putting on not-so-clean clothes, but you get so sweaty &
filthy five minutes after putting on the freshest, sweetest
things, that I learnt not to worry too much about it. Anyway,
you can always buy more clothes there. I felt most comfortable
covered from wrist to ankle - I couldn't understand women wearing
shorts or leggings or tank tops - they are really giving out
the wrong signals.
Dani, Melbourne, Australia
Men Don't Bother (as much) Women
I spent 4 weeks in India last winter. I knew it was important
to dress very conservatively, especially avoiding bare legs
and shoulders, but I got mixed advice from other women travelers
on whether it was appropriate to adopt Indian clothing while
in the country. Some felt it was offensive to mimic the Indian
For the first 3 weeks I wore ankle length skirts and long
sleeve shirts everyday, yet I still felt as if the locals
looked at me as if I were naked -- or at least inappropriately
dressed. Eventually, to avoid the stress of having to constantly
ward off the groping hands of the other men in line, I left
things like standing in crowded lines for train tickets up
to my fiancee.
My last week there I finally decided to buy a Salwar (the
dress and pants combination worn by many Indian women). The
difference in the way I was treated was immediately obvious.
I got a lot less hassle, and not only from lewd men. Even
the rickshaw drivers and street vendors were more reasonable
with the prices they asked. For the first time, Indian women
ventured to smile at me as we passed in the street and a few
times women even stopped me to praise me on my clothing. When
a few days later, I tried wearing a Sari, the difference in
how I was treated was even more astounding -- and pleasant.
So go ahead and give the local costume a try in India. But
whatever you do, please do not go out wearing shorts, tank
tops and other revealing clothing. I was lucky to have some
Indian acquaintances over there -- you have no idea how offensive
the Indians find the "half-dressed" look to be. Save it for
your next trip to Hawaii.
Molly, San Francisco, USA
| He Asks Questions in India
Indians are very curious by nature and will ask personal questions.
So, don't be offended. I had men ask me things like: "Are you
married?", "How much money do you make?" and "Do you sleep with
your boyfriend?" They meant no harm.
Mei Yin Tao, Journalist,
| Practical Stuff for Travellers to
As warm as it might be outside in India, I found the air-conditioning
inside, extra cold. Pack a slightly heavier shawl so you can
wrap it around you in air-conditioned restaurants or tour buses.
If you're prone to respiratory infections, the pollution
in the cities will definitely get to you. You might want to
bring along a face mask. However, unlike in Japan where many
people use these protective masks, in India, nobody does.
So, be prepared to be stared at!
On our tour bus, we pooled all the small samples of soap
and shampoo we got at the hotels and then recycled them. We
gave them to the young beggar children.
Marilyn Lightstone, Toronto, Canada
| When Nature Calls
In India, clean, appropriate facilities for women are few and
far between. Take every opportunity you can, in hotels and restaurants,
to make a pit stop. You'll be glad you did!
| Don't Go Out in Your Underwear
Women are encouraged to cover their heads with a scarf when
visiting a Sihk temple. Slip-on shoes and sandles are handy
when visiting religious sites. But, take note! Indian style
skirts, available in plenty of ethnic shops, are actually sari
petticoats. So, wearing one in India is akin to going out in
your underwear in the West.
Lee Ronald, Tiger Travel,
| When Children Beg
In India, you will encounter countless young beggar children.
Any money you give them will be used by their families who send
them out to beg. If you want to give something to the children
only, you might want to carry pencils and small lolly pops.
These can be enjoyed completely by the youngsters as the adults
generally will not be interested in them.
Conference Travel, Toronto