A few points should be kept in mind while packing for India. Firstly, check out the temperatures of the areas on your itinerary. Even in winter, coastal areas and south India are warm, so cotton is the most comfortable material. Loose fitting cotton clothes are the best safeguard against prickly heat and fungal infections resulting from perspiration in the heat. However, pack light! Apart from international brands, locally made cotton garments to suit all tastes are readily available, that too at very reasonable prices, so do try out some traditional Indian outfits! Moreover, you could buy ready made clothes of synthetic material and woolens if required. One light, one heavy sweater and a jacket would be required for the northern winter, which can be extreme, with snowfall in the Himalayan foothills. It is advisable to avoid mini skirts and short, revealing tops or dresses, to avoid unnecessary attention in traditional rural areas. Of course, remember the comfortable footwear and a hat or scarf.
There is no shortage of medical or other items in big cities, but regular personal medication should be carried for smaller towns and off beat destinations. However, one can always buy supplies before setting out from any city, where cosmetics and toiletry of any brand are readily available. Do not miss out on the opportunity to try out some reputed traditional items like hand made soaps and essential oils, since organic and herbal products are popular in India. Finally, carry a sunscreen, which is advisable even on a cloudy day.
If you are planning on seeing India’s rich wildlife on a jungle safari, carry “forest friendly” colors-green, olive, khaki or brown, as well as medication if you are allergic to insects/plants/animal fur. Full sleeves will also guard against the latter. A pair of light binoculars is handy for viewing wild animals and birds.
It is advisable to carry spare batteries for the torch and camera, as some remote areas in the hills and jungles may be without power for stretches of time, and prevent you from recharging them. One can use up batteries rapidly on a holiday, so it adds to the expense, unless you get rechargeable ones.
Though wildlife resorts are modern and comfortable, some essential items for a medical kit should be carried for trips to remote areas. It is useful to carry a mosquito repellent cream/lotion, a cream for insect bites, anti-diarrhea tablets, oral salts for dehydration and medicines for altitude sickness. Watch out for bugs which abound in rainy areas with dense vegetation. Anti- diarrhea tablets could be required to counteract any ill effects of the typically rich, spicy cuisine of some states, while altitude sickness can occur in the higher regions of north India. Check with your physician to see if he recommends anti-malarial tablets.
You might want to carry a guide book, but if it is too bulky, just make copies of the relevant pages. Alternately, check out online resources (like the ones listed below) and take print outs, enjoying the option of discarding extra weight as you finish with a destination! Moreover, it is easy to pick up relevant and cheap guide books in each place. If you are a wildlife enthusiast, a handy guide to the flora and fauna will help you identify species on the spot. It is also handy to carry a list of common phrases/words in the local languages of the states you intend to visit. This is especially useful for the smaller places, where English may not be easily understood.
Finally, if you have forgotten to pack something, do not get stressed, as everything is available in India! So pack light, and enjoy the trip!
India: Lonely planet
India: Discovery guide