What to wear on a backpacking trip in India

India is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular destinations in the world, and everybody should backpack the world's largest democracy at least once in their lifetime. India is a land of contradictions: it is at once full of cramped dirty streets but also expansive landscapes, it is the land of mountains but also desert, and it is home to people of many faiths who all live together harmoniously.

Before you actually make it to India, there are numerous things to take into consideration, such as the vaccinations you need, how to apply for a visa, and vitally, what you should pack. On a backpacking trip, you will have a limited supply of clothing apparel, so this is what you should and shouldn't put into your backpack.

Forget white. That floaty white dress you have might seem like a great idea in the heat of the midday Indian sun, but after wearing it once and finding brown splodges and stains all over it, you will regret the decision. First of all, eating curry with your hands for the first time can be a challenge, and you are likely to get some on your clothes. Secondly, in many parts of the country such as the big cities (Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata), and states such as Rajasthan, dust flies around and will attack your clothes when you are just taking a stroll on the street.

Layers of thin clothing. On a trip to India, you will most likely find yourself in blisteringly hot destinations such as Goa or Rajasthan. Unless you are planning on spending a lot of time in the north, in places like Dharamshala and Kashmir, leave your winter clothing. You might end up in a chilly hill station a few times, but then it's better to put layers of clothing on instead of carrying around the fancy wool apparel you have from home. If you really need a sweater, you can buy a cheap one wherever you are in India, and donate it once you leave.

Cover up. When you know that you are going to a hot country such as India, it can be tempting to just pack shorts and vests, but if you are planning on visiting any temples, mosques, or other religious sites, it's extremely important that you have some clothing that covers you. Upon entering a place of worship, you should at least wear something that falls below the knees and below the elbows – otherwise you could cause offence or be refused entry.