Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What to Pack for Your Next Travel and Yoga Adventure to India

What to pack to practice yoga in India ashram

You have your tickets, you have your visa but now the biggest question of all, "What to pack for India?" Not an easy answer, so I decided to write this India packing list to give you an idea of what to pack to practice yoga in India, what to pack to stay at an ashram in India and even what to pack to stay fit and healthy while traveling in India.

I can't call myself an expert but I do have a few things to share, after all I have spent most of my last five years in India. But first here you have some related articles that I've written before. You might also find them helpful to prepare for your next yoga trip to India:

If you're looking for tips to travel light then I can't help you, my backpack is usually about 20Kgs, and it's not my only bag! But if you want to make sure that you have all your bases covered then I think this article will be very helpful.

To make it easy for you I've included links to Amazon.com. I did a small online research to find the best products on each category, or at least the best sellers in Amazon (minimum 4 stars). These are affiliates links. If you buy a product through these links you'll be supporting me to continue sharing my path, via a small commission, at no extra cost to you.

What You Need to Know Before Packing for India

  • When will you be in India (which season): during monsoon season or summer?
  • Which region will you be in India: South or North? Which state? Weather can change drastically from state to state.
  • For how long will you stay in India: A week? A month? three months? Six months or more?
  • What will you do in India: Will you be traveling all around India in a short period of time or will you stay for weeks or months wherever you go?

Your packing list will depend on the answers to these questions, and if you don't know the answers because you have no plans... then that's great, you are in my team! But that means that you'll probably need to pack just about everything as I do.

What Every Traveler Needs to Pack for India

Passport: I know, you are not going to forget your passport, but I do recommend to have a few passport and visa copies with you. Every guesthouse, hostel or hotel will request a copy of your documents to register. Most of the time they can do it themselves but having some copies with you can be helpful.

Backpack: Whatever your needs are I suggest a backpack that is big enough to leave a bit of empty space after packing. That will make it easy to pack every time you need to move, or just to add anything extra that you might get on your travels. I suggest anything between 50 and 70 liters.

I've been traveling with a 70 liters backpack and it's been all right but not necessarily the best size. Every time that I have to pack I wish it was bigger and every time that I have to carry it I wish I could through half of my things away (probably the best solution). I've been using since 2010 a Quechua backpack from Decathlon and it's as good as day one. Great price and great value.

Daypack: This is a small backpack, about 20 liters or less, that you can use as hand luggage to carry all your valuables and to use for short trips. The way I see it, if something happens I should be able to leave my big backpack behind and run with my daypack.

Travel Guidebook: Specially useful for your first trip to India or if you want to travel as much as you can all around India. The only problem is that they are bulky and heavy, but if you have a smartphone, a Kindle or a tablet then you can get the Kindle version of the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guides to read on your device. The maps don't look that great though, you better download a free sample first.

Ear plugs: Finding a quiet place in India is a real challenge. Even if you stay at a nice peaceful ashram there is always something happening to disturb your sleep. A Hindu festival, a temple with loudspeakers, a snoring neighbor or the alarm clock of the guy/girl in the next bed (if you stay in a dorm). Get at least a dozen of ear plugs. You'll need them for sure and they are very difficult to find in India.

Travel mosquito net: I've survived traveling around India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Cambodia for about five years without a mosquito net, so I guess they are not indispensable, but sometimes I wish I had one with me. Sometimes you don't need them at all and sometimes it seems just impossible to live without one.

In South India they can be really handy, specially if your blood is like mine, sweet nectar for mosquitos. Actually even in the North, during summer, mosquitos drive me nuts! Many ashrams and guesthouses have mosquito nets but not always. I've stayed in many places with no mosquito net so I've had to sleep with Odomos all over my body. These are the best options that I could find in Amazon.com:

Mosquito repellent: You might be able to survive in India without a mosquito net but not without a mosquito repellent. Fortunately you can find them anywhere in India. Just ask for Odomos in any shop. It has a nice smell and feels like body lotion. It comes in a tube like a tooth paste so be careful, I once applied toothpaste on my skin thinking that it was mosquito repellent! Lol.

Headlamp: With the frequent power cuts in India a head torch/headlamp is indispensable. They allow you to keep your hands free to do things like going to the toilet or looking for something inside your backpack. They are also good for night reading and handy if you are sleeping in a dormitory. You won't need to switch on the lights disturbing others.

I've used the Petzl Tikka Plus 2 and one of the Black Diamond Headlamps. They were both great. I specially like the Tikka Plus 2 because it also has a dimmed red light which allows you to be more discrete instead of using the strong led light. Worth of advice, don't forget to remove the batteries when you are not using them. Both of my headlamps got ruined because the batteries leaked inside!

Travel Sheet: I always travel with a travel sheet/liner. They are very handy when traveling by night train or when you have no choice but to sleep in one of those places where you wish you could levitate to avoid touching the bed. They are also great to use inside your sleeping bag. The travel sheet is much easier to clean.

I used the Cocoon Cotton Travel Sheet for about four years. It was perfect. Then I got the Cocoon Silk TravelSheet which I've been using for a year. I wanted to try the silk one because it's lighter, smaller and it's supposed to be more comfortable either in cold or warm weather. Unfortunately silk is very delicate and sometimes my fingernails, toenails or even my dry heels (oh yeah, you'll get them in India!) snag the sheet.

Sleeping Bag: If you are traveling in North India or anywhere where it can get pretty cold at night you'll most likely get some blankets to keep you warm. But if you care about cleanliness or if you suffer from allergies then you better travel with your own sleeping bag. I always travel with a sleeping bag and I've used it many times.

Walking Sandals/Flip Flops: In India you'll normally need to remove your shoes before entering a temple, a house or a room where others are barefoot. If you stay at an ashram you'll probably need to do this countless of times. So make sure you have comfortable walking sandals, flip flops or Crocs. You'll need them for sure, much easier to remove than shoes.

UVA Water Purifiers: You can find water bottles or filtered water pretty much everywhere in India, but if you don't trust the filters or if you don't want to contribute with the plastic pollution, which is a serious issue in India, then you can get a UVA Water Purifier. They kill 99.9999% of viruses and bacteria without removing the minerals from the water so you can just fill your bottle with tap water, use the purifier for a few seconds and then drink it. The best options:

Travel Umbrella or Raincoat: Unless I'm trekking in the mountains or driving a bike during monsoon season I always prefer an umbrella over a raincoat. It is usually very hot in India and if you wear a raincoat it gets really sweaty. I actually traveled with a raincoat for three years and I never used it, but it all depends on your needs. You can order online a good quality travel umbrella but you can also find cheap umbrellas anywhere in India.

International Drivers License: Please don't tell anybody but I did a motorcycle road trip in Cambodia and in India, and I drove a bike in Mysore for several months without having a drivers license with me. I'm sure my skin color helped, and I was always wearing a full head helmet. Don't follow my example, if you don't want troubles with the police I suggest you bring an international drivers license with you, specially if you can't pass by as a local.

Lock Chain: If you want to be able to sleep in your night train trip, specially if you travel in sleeper class, then you should get a lock chain. I used one for a little while but I don't care any more. My bag is so big and heavy that I don't think anybody would bother and I always keep my valuables with me in my daypack.

Adapters and Converters: Normally your smartphone, tablet or laptop won't need a converter, their power adapter already converts the country's voltage to the needs of the device. If you check your laptop's power adapter you'll notice that it says "input 100 - 240 V" (meaning dual voltage) which covers the voltages of all around the world.

You might need a plug adapter though to be able to fit the plug to the power socket in India (plug adapters don't convert voltage). You can find really cheap adapters even in the smallest town but you better get a good quality plug adapter with surcharge protection to protect your devices from the inconsistency in voltages and power cuts.

Other electronics like hair dryers, electronic razors, hair trimmers and so on might need a voltage converter if they are bought in countries such as US and Canada. You should check your device manual to know what is their supported voltage imput. Europe uses the same 230 voltage as in India so normally electronics bought in Europe won't need converters, but you should still check your manual.

Microfiber Travel Towel: I had a travel towel for a while and guess what, I hated it! They are supposed to dry quick but they don't and they can easily get mold. On top of that it felt horrible on the skin. My friend Dennis of SeeTheWorldInMyEyes recommended me to get a sarong instead. They feel great on the skin, they dry superfast and you can use them as a beach towel, or a skirt (not me).

Swiss Knife: There is not a day that goes by when I don't use my Swiss Knife, it was the best present ever. Thanks dad! I use the knife to cut fruits and the scissors to cut just about anything. I also use the can opener and to bottle opener. Of course, it has a few other tools that I have no idea how to use, or what they are for.

What Gadgets You Might Like to Pack for India

Smartphone: A camera, video camera, an iPod, an internet device, a phone and a lot more. If you ask me for a recommendation I would suggest a factory unlocked iPhone. I'm an Apple fan so no matter what others say I'll try to persuade you to get an iPhone. I couldn't imagine traveling India without my iPhone. To know how to use an iPhone in India you can read "How to stay connected with mobile internet while traveling in India."

Tablet: With a tablet you can do pretty much the same thing as with a smartphone (except phone calls) but with a more comfortable screen. If you want to do lots of reading, specially with pdf files then a tablet is a good choice. Which tablet? I would suggest the iPad of course and I would choose the 64 GB iPad Mini with Retina Display.

Kindle Paperwhite: I've read tons of books on my iPhone 5S and I can still see but my eyes do strain after a while. For reading books I think nothing beats the Kindle Paperwhite but I can't handle how the screen turns black every time you shift pages, so I'll stick to my iPhone.

Laptop: To write comfortably for longs periods of time, to do things that touch screen devices can't do and to manage media files that can't fit any longer in your smartphone or tablet. Which laptop? I use a MacBook Air 11 inch since August 2013 and I think it is a gem, best laptop ever. My iPhone and my MacBook Air are my best travel companions. I wouldn't recommend the new MacBook 12 inches yet, it's a bit too ahead of its time, but in a couple of years it will probably be my next laptop.

External Hard Drive: To store your music and pictures, and for the movies, documentaries, TV shows that you'll probably collect from the travelers that you'll meet on the way. I've been using a 1.5 TB Toshiba Canvio and so far I've had no problems. But I can tell you that no matter the brand eventually every external hard drive brakes, so make sure you have a back up of your back up.

Portable Speakers: For those moments where you just want to take a break and be normal again. They are great to use with your smartphone or your laptop to listen to music and to watch movies. I have an X-mini but it's quite old now. There are so many new models nowadays it's difficult to suggest one.

Portable Battery Charger/Juice Pack/Solar Charger: I've been traveling in Asia for about five years and although I use my iPhone all the time I've never missed a portable charger. But you know, I usually stay for long wherever I go. If you are going to be traveling a lot and don't want to miss a moment without your smartphone then you might consider getting one.

Choosing the right gadget might be a bit difficult so I wrote this other article to help you decide which gadget to bring to India:

What to Pack to Practice Yoga in India

Besides what I've mentioned above these are a few extra things you might need to pack to practice yoga in India with a local teacher or to stay at an Ashram for a complete spiritual experience.

Yoga Mat: Some ashrams have yoga mats for guests but they can be so dirty and smelly that you won't even feel like putting your feet on them. You could buy a sticky yoga mat in India but sometimes they are a bit hard to find so better to bring your own yoga mat from home.

I use a sticky yoga mat, no fancy brands, but I did try once the Jade Yoga Travel Mat - 1/8" (3mm) and I loved it. It was thinner and lighter than my sticky yoga mat but more firm and consistent so my joints and spine felt better supported. If I buy a branded yoga mat in the future this one will definitely be my first choice.

If you like to have more choices these are the most popular yoga mats brands. I'm purposely excluding the "travel" versions cause I think they suck. Way to thin so they don't provide enough support for your knees or back. I recommend something between 3mm and 5mm.

Yoga Mat Bags: You'll probably like to have a yoga bag to carry your yoga mat while you walk towards your next class in the streets of Rishikesh or Mysore. You can find cheap yoga bags in India but if you want something more authentic and of excellent quality you can visit:

Yoga Towel/Yoga Rug: For an intense practice like ashtanga vinyasa yoga you'll need a yoga towel to protect your mat from your sweat and to avoid slipping on it. Believe me, you don't want to slip while doing a jump through or hand stand. The most popular yoga towels:

In Mysore you can find yoga rugs at Rashinkar which are thicker and heavier than yoga towels. They are located in Gokulam, near the main shala or in the city center at #1640, Near Gandhi square Srivarampet.

Hand Towel: You'll also need a hand towel to dry your sweat, or for your teacher to use when he/she needs to adjust your postures.

Leggings: For the ladies only, I hope. You can normally use leggings for yoga classes with local teachers but ashrams tend to be more conservative and prefer loose clothing. You should check the dress code or just look what others are wearing. You can visit my friend Melissa Etsy store IlMioYogaShop to check her hand made leggings.

Meditation Cushion: If you are serious about meditation then you should probably travel with a meditation cushion. I know, it's not very practical, they take lots of space, but when your meditation time comes you'll be grateful to have a cushion with you. They are also useful for when you have to sit for lectures during a yoga teachers training course.

I haven't try them yet but the hand made meditation cushions by AhimsaOmCom on Etsy look great and the size is 10" (25 cm) x 6" (15 cm) x 3" (7.6 cm). One of the reviews says "Not much bigger than your standard kleenex box, but good quality." If I buy a new meditation cushion this will be my first choice.

The only other good option for traveling that I could find was the Mobile Meditator Inflatable Meditation Cushion.

Travel Notebook: Journaling is a great way to get to know ourselves, and traveling gives you a great opportunity to do just that, specially when we travel alone. And if you are on a spiritual journey then with even more reason, there will be lots of things that you'll need to write about.

I use a Moleskine and I really think this is the best notebook you can get. They are a bit expensive but if you believe your thoughts are worth it then you'll love to have a Moleskine with you.

Nowadays I use my Moleskine only for my yogic studies (I couldn't keep accumulating notebooks). For journaling I use an iOS and Mac app called Day One. The app is fantastic and I use it for everything: journaling, taking notes, writing quotes, writing my blog drafts, to record my dreams and a lot more. It also works as a blog.

Water Bottle: Every Indian ashram offers purified drinking water so it's a good idea to have a water bottle to refill and to carry with you around. In this way you can avoid using plastic bottles which contributes to plastic pollution. I suggest you look into the Camelbak All Clear Purifier Bottle which includes a UV water purifier.

Travel Mug/Thermos: Very handy during winter time in North India. It can get really cold and you probably won't feel like drinking cold water but you still need to keep yourself hydrated. Also nice to keep your chai (Indian milk tea) warm for a while. Check out the Zojirushi SM-Stainless Steel Travel Mug, 16-Ounce/0.48-Liter

Electric Water heater: Also practical when you are traveling during winter time in India and a good companion to your travel mug. You can find cheap water heaters in any local electrical shop, but don't leave them unattended, they can be very dangerous.

Passport Size Photos: I aways have a bunch of passport size photos with me. Sometimes you need them to register at an ashram or to register with a local yoga teacher. You will also need them to be able buy a sim card for your phone and you'll need them to apply for a visa for your next destination.

What to Pack to Stay Fit and Healthy in India

Protein Powder/Supplement: If you stay in India for a while sooner or later you will realize that the food that you are eating is not enough, specially if you stay at an Indian ashram where you'll be eating overcooked vegetables and hardly any greens or raws. I can tell you this by experience, you might progress on your spiritual practices but you'll lose your muscles, vitality and strength.

Bringing a good protein powder with you is a really good idea, specially if you want to focus on some intense yoga practices like ashtanga yoga. Finding good reliable supplements in India is not easy, and if you find good ones they are usually imported from the US, so they are very expensive. These are some of the most popular vegan protein supplements that you might consider buying:

Blender: A blender will make it very easy for you to make your protein shakes, smoothies, soups and other simple fresh meals. One of my flatmates in Mysore used to make a great Gazpacho. Hmmm, yummy! Believe me, this is not uncommon, I have several friends who travel with a blender, mostly hand blenders, but I've also seen countertop blenders.

The best for backpacking I think is a hand blender but it all depends on your needs. These are the top three blenders that I've found online. Beware that you might need a voltage converter to fit the 230 voltage in India. Any damage using a converter will be excluded from the warranty.

Foldable Steamer: A blender? A steamer? You must be thinking, "This guy wants me to bring my whole kitchen!" but I promise you, if you stay for at least three months in India you will miss your kitchen, specially if you stay for long time in one place like I always do. If you like steamed vegetables then a collapsible/foldable stainless steel vegetable steamer can be super handy. They are light and take not much space.

Running Shoes: Most likely you won't be able to find a good place for running (with no traffic and clean fresh air) while traveling in India, but if you like running then you have no choice. Better to carry your running shoes with you and not use them, than regret not having them for that rare opportunity.

Skipping Rope: Maybe you can't run but at least you can jump. A skipping rope is very practical and easy to pack. You can use them almost anywhere and they take little space. Another reason why to bring running/sport shoes.

Resistant Bands: Bringing dumbbells with you is not an option but you can certainly pack a resistant band. I know, they are not the same as dumbbells but I have found them indispensable to workout when traveling. One of my yoga teachers, a physiotherapist from US, recommended me the Perform Better Superbands.

Other Things You Might Like to Pack for India

Musical Instruments: I travel with a guitar and although it's pain to carry it I love to have it with me whenever I have the opportunity or whenever I am in the mood to play. Fortunately musical instruments are allowed in Indian ashrams, at least in the ashrams where I've been.

So far I've never had any problem when taking a flight. I have taken many local flights in India and international flights from India to Sri Lanka, Nepal, Cambodia, USA, Europe and I never had to check in my guitar or pay anything extra.

If you don't want to travel with a guitar but still want to take this opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument that it is easy to travel with then here are a few choices:
  • Harmonica: Best musical instrument to travel.
  • Ukelele: Super light and portable. You can find chords for any song online.
  • Indian Flute: Called Bansuri and made of bamboo.
  • Harmonium: Best instrument to learn in India but not easy to travel.

Medicine: You might consider bringing something for Delhi Belly (diarrhea), painkillers, fever, antibiotics and rehydration salts. Get some advice from your doc about what medication to bring and what immunization shots to take. I've never taken malaria medication. I've spent so much time in India and in nearby countries that it doesn't make sense to me to take malaria pills.

What I Pack to Travel in India

This is what I've been traveling with for the past five years. Like I said, if you want to travel light I can't help you but if you want to have an idea of every single item that you might need to pack then this is the place to be. My backpack weights about 20 Kg, the daypack probably 5 Kg, and my guitar... I have no idea.

Women have to be more mindful about clothing than men to respect the local culture. Try to keep your shoulders covered, wear loose clothing and no small skirts.

7 t-shirts. I don't like doing laundry everyday.
7 underwear
2 Shorts
1 Boardshort/swimming suit. You'll need them in Goa!
2 Trousers
5 pair of socks
1 fleece
1 sweater
2 Termic Underwear. I had to buy them to survive the winter in Rishikesh. It can reach 5 Celsius (41 F)!
1 winter cap
1 scarf
1 Large shawl. Perfect to meditate in winter time. You can find them anywhere in North India.
1 Sleeping bag
1 Cocoon Silk TravelSheet
1 Meditation Cushion
1 Towel

Gadgets and Electronics
1 Factory unlocked iPhone
1 MacBook Air 11 inches
1 1.5 TB Toshiba Canvio External Hard Drive
1 X mini Speaker
1 Joby GripTight GorillaPod Stand. A smartphone tripod
1 Petzl Tikka Plus 2. Need to get a new one.
1 Hair clipper.
1 Plug adapter with surcharge protection.

1 Pair of flipflops. For the beach
1 Pair of Sandals. To walk in the city.
1 Pair of Running Shoes.
1 Pair of Trekking Boots. I just love my trekking boots.

1 Pair of sunglasses
1 Umbrella
1 Yoga Mat
1 Yoga Mat Bag
1 Toiletry bag including tooth brush, tooth paste, razor and lots of other tiny stuff. You can find everything in India.
1 Banana Boat Sport Sunscreen
1 Lipbalm.
1 Acoustic Guitar.
2 Moleskine Notebooks
1 Passport, passport size photos and other personal documents.
1 Skipping rope
1 Elastic Band
1 Travel mug
1 Water bottle

I hope you've found this information useful to know what to pack for India, either if it is for holidays, for a yoga retreat or for an authentic ashram experience.

If you have any friends that are planning a trip to India to visit ashrams, or for a yoga retreat, then please don't hesitate to share this India packing list with them. I'm sure they will appreciate it. Thanks for your support!


  1. very informative ... I will make a checklist out of this...thank you...

  2. Hi Marco great list it has been really useful. I'm heading to india next week and spending a month in Mysore. Do you find 2 pairs of shorts enough for daily yoga practice? I practice ashtanga and find I go through yoga clothes so quickly. I'm trying to work out how many shorts/singlets I shuld take!

    1. Hey, I'm happy to hear that you find this list helpful. Yeah I think two pairs is more than enough, that's what I normally use, but of course underwares is another story. I usually use underneath my shorts one of those boxer swimming shorts so you can easily wash them everyday. They dry very quick. Some guys just practice in them but I prefer using shorts on top.

    2. Thanks Marco I might go out an by myself a fair of those swimmer shorts! Btw I too travel with a guitar. I recently bought a baby taylor. It's quite small and sounds surpringly good! ;)

  3. This is some of the best advice I've read. Your blog has been really helpful helping me decide what to do and where to go... abd of course what to take ;) cheers !

  4. Espectacular Guía orientativa! Muchas Gracias Marco!!!