Living life as a local is vastly different than living life as a tourist, there are a few other aspects you need to consider when packing. Especially if you are planning on visiting your in laws for an extended stay. They'll most likely be more than happy to accommodate your needs however items you are accustomed to using in your everyday life might not be readily available locally. This ultimately depends on your destination as more westernised cities will have more availability, however visiting the countryside you will find they live very simple lives. So it is a good idea to do your research before departing for India. Here is a guideline of what to pack based on my experiences living in India for two extended stays of 6 months. Unfortunately I can't give any guidance on what to pack if you are traveling with children.
THE ULTIMATE PACKING LIST
For Visiting Your In Laws In India
Cash & Back Up Cards
Bringing some rupees with you before you land is certainly a good idea, especially since the Indian government demonetized the 500 and 1000 rupees notes. This created chaos, ATM's everywhere were empty from the mad rush to withdraw money. Banks had limits as to how much could be withdrawn daily. And most retailers don't accept international bank cards, therefore if you visited during this time with no rupees then you would have had a difficult time. You can avoid such disasters by booking and paying for hotels or tours upfront online and bringing some rupees for spending money.
Even in everyday circumstances having rupees is a good idea especially visiting the countryside where it is difficult to even locate an ATM. Or in the event that banking systems are down such as Visa or Master and you cannot access your cash via your debit card. This is also a good reason to pack a back up card from another financier, just to be extra cautious. I tend to take two debit cards that access my everyday transactional account so if one is lost I can cancel it and use the spare. Then as an added safe guard have another card from another financier just for those emergencies.
The Indian way of life vastly differs to the western way of life and simple things like toilet paper in the bathroom is something you don't realise you've taken for granted. So you need to think of where you are going and what the conditions will be like. I always packed tissues in the event I needed to use a bathroom. Especially when visiting relatives as no one uses toilet paper. You can buy toilet paper in India however when you first arrive and need a bathroom it's best to be prepared.
Also consider hygiene isn't the best in India so antibacterial gel or wipes will help you prevent getting sick. For women who use tampons they are very difficult to buy in India and most likely only available in westernised destinations. So be sure to pack what you need for the length of your stay unless you don't mind using pads.
If you are the kind of person to send a postcard to friends and family then you will be disappointed that they are almost extinct in India except for major tourist destinations. If you want to send a quick note then pack a few envelopes and a note pad. I could not find a single stationary store that sold envelopes which was really surprising. Should you be packing appliances that don't fit Indian electrical power points then make sure you pack an adapter.
Pocket Packet Tissues
Antibacterial Wipes or Gel
Note Pad & Envelopes
Power Point Adapter
Batteries For Any Appliances
Intimate Products i.e. Lubricant etc
Products You Can't Live Without
Keep in mind products sold in India are targeted at the Indian customer therefore brands you are used to won't necessarily be the same. Particularly when it comes to face washes and creams, they all have added whitening agents given most Indian women wish to be fair. Or foundations will be darker shades and you most likely won't be able to purchase ivory shades.
Given most women have dark hair, blonde hair dyes and hair products simply aren't sold. Don't even consider going to a hair dresser to dye your blonde hair as they won't have the experience and you'll leave with brassy yellow locks. Buying hair conditioner was also frustrating as most women don't use it as they prefer using hair oils. So shampoo bottles will be sold in bulk sizes whilst conditioners are sold in miniature sizes. There was also a limited array of brands, with the most popular brand available being Dove.
Other items I found difficult to buy were makeup wipes and nail polish remover with acetone, these products just didn't exist. Obviously depending on where you are visiting will depend on the likelihood of being able to purchase products. Though if it's something you use on the regular, it's probably best to pack it.
If you are taking prescription medicine then you obviously need to pack enough to cover the length of your stay. Especially since not all medicines are readily available in India which I found out the hard way. Unfortunately I couldn't get a long enough script to pick up enough medicine to take with me when I visited. It was a nightmare to find a chemist who could dispense it for me in India, and when we did find one it cost a lot!
Medicines aren't regulated in India so some might be the real deal whilst others might not be of any use to you. So pack the medicines you know you will use such as Immodium as you are bound to get food poisoning or at least an upset tummy. Paracetamol or ibuprofen if you get regular headaches or body aches. Also a mini first aid kit will come in handy for any cuts, bites or minor injuries.
Mini First Aid Kit
Since I was living with my in laws I didn't need to pack much clothing other than the basics in my suitcase. Simply because I decided to wear the traditional attire to embrace my partner's culture. However western clothing is easy to buy online in India so you can order anything you may need there. You can read more about where to shop online in my post My Top 5 Shopping Apps To Use In India.
If you are visiting parts of India that experience extreme differences in weather such as Punjab you will need to consider both Winter and Summer clothing. I found it difficult to buy a nice quality trench coat in India since most women wore cardigans. I packed the one heavy trench coat that I could wear with every outfit and one duster coat for warmer weather.
Basics you may wish to consider packing are obviously your bra and underwear as if you aren't a typical Indian size they will be difficult to buy. Especially if you have a large bust as I noticed C cup was the largest sold where I lived. Stockings in your skin tone, or leggings to wear under clothing along with any shape wear are other basics to consider.
If you are lucky enough to travel to the beaches when visiting, then items such as swimwear and a hat are things to consider. Though be sure to check what is acceptable swimwear if you will be going with your family.
If you choose to pack your own clothes to wear when visiting then be sure to read my post on What To Wear As A Tourist In Punjab.
Stockings or Leggings
Items You May Need For Special Occasions
If you are getting married in India or are attending any special occasion for that matter, then think of items you might need. I absolutely love a high heel and was so disappointed when I couldn't buy a quality fashionable pair for my wedding. I wish I had packed at least one pair that was versatile for special occasions. At the time I hadn't discovered which online sites to shop with. I also hadn't considered that it would be difficult finding makeup for my wedding that suited me. Or that the only colour bobby pin was black and to wear a dupatta on your wedding day means a lot of hair pins.
Other items to consider could be any makeup, hair accessories, jewellery or anything that is important to you. Or even a nice duster coat to go with all your ethnic wear if you are going to be living like a local. I found most ladies wore mismatching cardigans with their wedding outfits at Winter Weddings, which detracted from their gorgeous outfit.
Activities To Keep Busy
If you do have a long stay planned then consider that there will be days where you stay at home with nothing to do. I made sure to pack a few hobbies I enjoy doing to fill moments like that. Especially if you enjoy keeping fit or drawing. I couldn't find acrylic paint for sale anywhere locally and eventually found it for sale on Amazon though it was expensive. However I packed other smaller things to keep me busy.
Gifts For Relatives
This one is optional however it's a nice way to show your appreciation by giving your in laws a gift. If you are looking for ideas then be sure to read my post on Buying Gifts For Your Indian In Laws.
What would you add to this list?
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