It was as if I had walked into a brick wall. It startled me and I rocked back a couple of steps until I could get my feet underneath me again. The thick wall of heat and humidity that is India in August is real, and it will knock you on your ass.
I wondered if I could deal with a whole 2 weeks of this sweaty, thick heat as I stumbled back to the air conditioned bus after our tour of Qutub Minar. My niece and I had a heat scale we used, the hottest days were called ‘lip sweat’ days – yes, your upper lip would even form little beads of sweat in India in August. Luckily we only had a few of those ‘lip sweat’ days, or maybe it was that eventually we got used to it, or more likely we learned how to cope with it.
When you hear the term India Monsoon Season, you immediately think of rain, lots of rain. It actually only rained on us 2 of the 14 days we traveled around Rajasthan. However, rain isn’t the only card that Monsoon Season deals – it also comes with incredible heat and humidity when it isn’t raining. I understand why people cringe at the thought of traveling to India during Monsoon Season, however I think the challenging weather makes a place even that much more intriguing. It also means less tourists, and cheaper prices! In the end it was worth it to me as we had the chance to experience India without the throngs of tourists and see how the locals lived during Monsoon season.
The nation has four seasons: Winter (December, January and February), Summer (March, April and May), a Monsoon rainy season (June to September), and a Post-Monsoon period (October to November).
The Monsoon season is dominated by the humid southwest summer monsoon, which slowly sweeps across the country beginning in late May or early June. Monsoon rains begin to recede from North India at the beginning of October. South India typically receives more rainfall.
Be Prepared for India’s Monsoon Season
Like most extreme weather travel, it’s simply about packing correctly for the season. I was excited to take on India during monsoon season, and this Monsoon packing list helped me enjoy it. Some of these items are specific to dealing with the heat and rain during Monsoon season, and others are just great things in general to have on an India packing list.
India Packing List for Monsoon Season
Packing Monsoon Weather Gear
I used my colorful Marmot Eclipse Rain Jacket for heavy rain when we were in Udaipur. It’s the only jacket I brought for the trip and also used it for an extra layer on the plane when I got cold. It’s a versatile jacket that has kept me dry through many a downpour! Bring on the Monsoon rains – the Eclipse can handle it!
If you don’t want to invest in a rain jacket you can also simply bring a rain poncho. It’s a cheaper and lighter option to combat the rain. One benefit of a big poncho is that it also will cover your day pack, purse or camera if you are carrying one.
Or, forget all of the hot layers and simply bring a travel umbrella with you to stay dry.
An added benefit is that it can also protect you from the sun and provide some shade! I honestly used mine more for shade than rain and it was really great to have because ever little bit of shade helps!
Packing Bug Protection
With the rains, comes the bugs during Monsoon Season in India. Mosquitos aren’t simply annoying, they can also bring illness with them. BugsAway® apparel with InsectShield® technology is a revolutionary tool to aid you in the battle against insects that can carry insect-borne diseases. To combat against Malaria and Dengue Fever, we packed Bugs Away clothing from Exofficio. And the best part is there is no icky odor! We wore our BugsAway clothing (shown below) pretty much every day, but it was really useful for our Tiger Safari in Ranthambore National Park and our Camel Ride in Pushkar where there seemed to be lots of pesky bugs!
Clothing can’t cover every part of you, so for those little exposed areas that remained we used Ben’s Insect Repellent containing 30% DEET bug spray, and Natrapel wipes which is a natural repellent that is great for hands and face where you don’t want DEET.
And don’t forget sun protection and start with your head and bring a good sun hat! I travel with a number of different hats all the time as it’s so important for sun protection and bad hair days (which I had a lot of in India!). Besides my random baseball hats, I also brought a nice sun hat from Wallaroo Hats from Colorado. I traveled with the Naples Fedora sun hat with 50SPF to combat the intense rays as we toured palaces and forts with no shade in sight! And of course don’t forget the SPF suntan lotion!
Packing Health Oriented Gear for India
You absolutely can’t drink the water in India, which leaves most people to buy bottled water. Sadly you’ll watch the plastic bottles pile up pretty quickly going through 2 or 3 big bottles a day. I felt sick adding to India’s plastic problem so I decided to do something about it. I brought my own water purification solution so that I could drink from the tap in India and fill my reusable water bottle. The LifeSaver® Liberty™ is the worlds’ first and only portable water purifier which is a bottle with an inline pump combined. It’s small, and there’s no waiting; fill the Lifesaver, pump it, and drink right away. I used it for my entire trip and never had an issue!
No More Plastic!
Reusable water bottles are a must for any trip. It helps us cut down on plastic in the world – and who doesn’t want to do that. I like the S’well bottles as they are insulated and keep cold and hot drinks just the right temperature for hours!
First Aid and Over the Counter Meds
You’ll want to bring a standard Travel First Aid Kit to India with you. And you’ll want to make sure it’s stocked with Pepto Bismal, Immodium AD, and an antibiotic if possible. This should cover you on all of the typical tummy rumblings that India can cause.
And don’t forget a few travel bottles of Purell. Most days I felt like I wanted to shower in it – but keeping your hands clean is the main priority!
Packing Clothing for India
Clothing choices are important for India, especially if you are a female. I recommend light loose fitting clothing. You’ll definitely want to pack things that cover your knees and shoulders for the days when you visit temples. However, honestly I would recommend wearing things that cover your shoulders and knees all the time regardless. You’ll have enough eyes on you and you don’t need to add any more if you can help it. Modest clothing that is dri-fit, lightweight that you can wash out in the sink and dry overnight is ideal. I used flowy, long skirts, dri-fit hiking tshirts, leggings, and big tunics most of the time. Many of my items were from Exofficio since they make lightweight travel clothes that are perfect for this type of travel!
You’ll also want to bring a scarf/pashmina or plan on buying one there. It’s an essential item great for covering up at temples and simply keeping yourself covered in a light way simply walking around.
In an effort to pack light, I only took 2 pairs of shoes, my Oboz flipflops and a pair of running shoes. The Oboz provide good footbed support for the immense amount of walking we did, but were also cool for the hot temps. I also only took a couple of pairs of socks. I love the Point6 socks because they are wool, don’t hold odor, are super high quality, and they dry really fast.
Don’t forget your compression socks for your long flight – it may save your life.
Other Travel Gear for India
Suitcase vs. Backpack
Depending on the type of travel you are doing, you’ll want to have a small, nimble luggage choice. We moved practically every day to a new town and hotel which means that you are dragging your luggage/bags around a lot. I think a backpack solution like this one at Eagle Creek Global Companion is the best choice. This pack opens like a suitcase, but travels like a backpack – the best of both worlds. India isn’t the easiest place to roll luggage; the sidewalks are uneven (if there even are sidewalks!), and there are plenty of cows and stray dogs that you have to dodge. In addition, we often traveled in trains where you had to store your luggage above you and backpacks really are the easiest way to do that. However if you have to take a rolling suitcase like I did, then I suggest that you pack small and light since you will be likely moving it daily. I used my small eBags Hybrid Spinner carry-on suitcase and it worked really well on the trains because it was small enough to easily lift above my head.
We had long 24 hour flights to get to India including a bunch of layover time. In addition our Classic Rajasthan Tour had us on some long bus rides and train rides. All of this time riding transportation means you’ll want a neck pillow! I’ve tried a lot of neck pillows, but my favorites are ones that are neck pillows made of memory foam.
You’ll always want some emergency snacks with you for those long bus rides, stave off a ‘hangry’ episode, or simply when you get tired of curry in your food! And trust me – at some point during the trip you will want to take a break from Indian food so having a little snack supply is a lifesaver. We took fruit snacks, granola bars, and my favorite – Clif Bars.
If you are packing light, then expect to do a little sink laundry at some point. We did it a few times during our 15 day trip. Don’t forget some laundry soap – I love this highly concentrated camping soap; it’s small and powerful!
Most of the hotels we stayed in had one or maybe two plugs that worked. But of course we had multiple things we needed to plug in and charge! I recommend taking a travel power strip for India so that you know you can charge multiple devices at once.
Horns, dogs, horns, traffic, construction, and of course more horns; India is loud, really loud. If you are a light sleeper then don’t forget the earplugs. These silicon earplugs are my favorite. I find that they block out more noise than regular foam ones.
Last time I was in India I bought sim cards to try to stay connected and it was a giant pain as I moved through the states/provinces because carriers would change. This time in India I stayed connected with my Telecom Square device! That’s how I was able to upload images and updates to social media and grab email occasionally! It still had some trouble in some of the really rural areas, but overall it was much easier then getting a sim card!
With this India packing list and tips I feel confident that you are now you are all ready to take on India in Monsoon season!
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