Packing Tips For the India-Bound Yogi

The point here is to keep it simple. Who wants to lug around a bunch of stuff they are never going to use, or just use once or twice while away for a few (or several) months. And remember, there’s lots you can likely pick up inexpensively when you get there (pointers included below).

Here are some recommendations, acquired from nearly 15 years of travelling the planet, including several trips to Mother India. This is not a complete pack list, just tips to consider when you’re filling up your backpack. (Note: this list could be applied to travel to most developing countries.) Hope it helps!

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  • Travelling altar. Keep it simple – you can get incense and candles there.
  • Meditation cushion. Again, you can get this there, and perhaps donate it to a local or a yoga centre before you leave. Rolled up shawls also make great cushions!
  • Yoga mat. It’s the yoga capital of the world, so yes, you can get it there or if you must bring your special mat from home, do it. And put it in a case to keep it clean.
  • High quality earplugs. India has over a billion souls — it’s a loud country! Dogs barking, air-horns, loud traffic, blasting temple music, screaming children — you get my drift?
  • Instant sanitizer. Soap in bathrooms or at hand-washing sinks in restaurants is pretty much non-existent. Locally, the Himalaya brand makes a great eco brand that will fit in your purse.
  • Mini tissue packs. This will serve as portable toilet paper — non-existent in public washrooms in India. You can buy 10-pack re-fills there for just 10Rs.
  • Holistic medical kit: fast-acting diarrhea medication, Traumeel, grape seed extract, oil of oregano. (Plus the items you can get there inexpensively include: electrolytes, probiotics, vitamin c, arnica, tea tree oil, aloe vera gel, tiger balm.) Two more good Ayurvedic remedies you can get there: kanthika (for a sore throat), sitopaladi churna (for cold and congestion), and Boroplus – an all-purpose miracle cream for absolutely every kind of ailment to the skin. It’s magic!
  • Mini first aid kit. If you plan to go on some big hikes, it’s a very good idea to be prepared.
  • 1ltr stainless steel water bottle. A much more enviro-friendly way to go. Most ashrams and some established guesthouses have filtered drinkable water available. If you are staying in one place for a few weeks minimum, consider buying a 20ltr bottle that you can re-fill from (and recycle afterwards). 5ltr bottles are available widely. Bisleri is a good nation-wide brand you can trust.
  • Earphones. They come in handy while at internet cafes. As mentioned above, it can be a loud country. They’re also useful when taking local transport, as just having them in without being plugged into anything drowns out half the noise. (Tuk tuks are very loud!)
  • Laptop case. Invest in something protective, light-weight and reliable.
  • Plug adapter. Best to bring from home to ensure high quality — as well as the continued life of your electronic gadgets.
  • Sleeping sheet. I’m not a fan of the sheet sleeping bag, which can be stuffy – and prefer picking up a single, light-weight sheet when I get there. Typically I use a sarong for the bottom sheet.
  • Mosquito protection.
    • Odomos is a reliable local brand of mosquito repellent cream that is non-oily and not packed with chemicals.
    • Mosquito net or not. If you’re not going to spend long periods in the jungle, I recommend skipping the mosquito net – as it is not such an issue in the villages/towns/cities. “Witching hour” is dusk, and as long as you keep your door shut (and your windows have screens), you’ll be fine. If you decide you really need one, you can pick one up there inexpensively.
    • Electronic plug-in mosquito repellent. Readily available in most shops. WARNING: It does contain a chemical so you have to be ok with that.
  • Ant chalk. Very important in the south, and available at most shops. If you encounter an ant issue in your place – just draw lines across your front door, windows – and anywhere else those pesky ants may find their way in.
  • Portable hot water rod/heater. If you are not a fan of cold bucket baths or showers, pick up a hot water rod at any electrical shop. They run about $10CAD. Alternatively you can also wait to bathe in the late afternoon after the hot water tank has heated up front the peak sun of the day. I’ve seen some folks put a bucket of hot water out in the sun in the late morning, and shower in the late afternoon. Most northern guesthouses will have hot water due to seasonal cool mountain weather.
  • Mini hot-water heater/rod. Great for making a quick cup of tea in your hotel room. Just fill up a cup, clip the heater to the side of the cup, plug it in and wait two minutes.
  • 2 – 3 sarongs. They also make great quick-dry towels, sheets or even a light shawl. And they take up very little space, and you can easily pick a few up when you get there.
  • 1 light or mid-weight wool base layer full-sleeve top. Great for cool airplanes, and for when you are in the northern mountains.
  • Get your clothes there. They are generally inexpensive – and it’s a great excuse to go shopping, while supporting the local economy. Fab India is a great outlet that has 200 locations in the nation.
  • Don’t bring white. At times, India can be full of dust and carbon monoxide. So white gets dirty fast and it’s very hard to clean by hand (no prevalent washing machines people). Actually, on rare occasion you will find a guesthouse with a washing machine, but from my experience, Indian washing machines hack up your clothes and there’s no sense of separating colours, so be prepared for rainbow-coloured clothing!
  • Bring extra underwear. Sometimes you are on the road and it is full, and you just don’t have time to do laundry. But if you plan, you will always have clean underwear!
  • Zip lock bags. Besides being very handy for organizing like items (ie: electronics, toiletries, medicals, etc.), they stop spillage into your backpack.
  • Travel alarm clock (with glow in the dark function). Don’t miss your stop in the wee hours when you’re riding a night train!
  • Recording device. Excellent if you are taking courses.
  • Head lamp. Batteries are readily available at many shops.
  • Swiss knife. I mostly use my knife to cut up fruit /veg, etc. or spread peanut butter. The scissors are always handy too.
  • Combination lock. Great for security. Be the only one that can access your room.
  • Mini locks. When you’re out, keep your backpack locked with your extra cash, passport, travellers cheques and other valuables.
  • Passport and visa photocopies. Keep 5 copies with you. Some hotels and most guide agencies/travellers cheque agents/permit regulators, etc. will request copies. Keep one set in your backpack, separate from your day-to-day wallet, in the case that your wallet is unfortunately lost or stolen. Also keep one copy at home with a family member for the same reason (add your credit card and bank numbers to that copy.)
  • Money belt. For you passport/visa, large sums of cash, credit card, travellers cheques. I generally leave it locked in my backpack in my locked room, and just take some small cash that I will need for a specific outing. And it’s a good way to keep all your valuables in one easily accessible place.

Do you have something to add to this list? Let’s hear it! Please comment below. And happy travels!

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