My Two Cents: How to Travel in Style Through India

Eurocircle’s travel destination for 2014 has been announced, and once again, I am scrambling to get the travelers organized and the itinerary finalized. This is my fourth time leading Eurocircle on a global adventure, and from past experience, I have learned a thing or two about ensuring everyone has a good time.

These days, I spend less time worrying about the tour, the connections and the group budget. I have learned to count on the wisdom of travel professionals and trust my own experience when designing a comfortable, yet fun adventure that all members can enjoy. I have learned that a tight, carefully planned itinerary is a lifesaver when taking 16 people abroad, and that when it is well thought out, very little can go wrong. However, when things do go wrong, it is usually an illness or a mishap that a traveler wasn’t prepared for. When a traveler cannot enter a temple because of improper attire, or when he or she can’t scale a ruin due to impractical footwear, it takes away from their experience, and prevents them from enjoying the journey.

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Personally, I have always been annoyed by traditional travel clothing. Yes, I have traveled the whole world, and seen almost everything, but I really don’t enjoy looking like the proverbial rumpled, mismatched tourist you see everywhere these days. It seems that even those travelers hell bent on not looking like a tourist, loose all sense of dignity and style when going abroad. I understand the need for being practical, comfortable and well-packed. I always admired those people who can spend two weeks abroad, bringing only a tiny carry-on. But I don’t understand why we have to travel disheveled, and look like we just rolled out of a sleeping bag, when we sleep in fine hotels and travel like grown ups.

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This year, Eurocircle will Explore Incredible India. Twenty Eurocircle members will descend upon New Delhi on November 1, 2014, and embark on an 8 day adventure across Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Ranthanbore. The last stop is a tiger preserve, where we will spend time looking for the elusive Bengal tigers in their natural habitat. After that, travelers with more time will visit the Portugese town of Goa, located on the Arabian Sea, and continue to Mumbai. Knowing that the tour will take us across modern cities, dusty deserts, crowded bazaars, Hindu temples, mosques, seaside resorts, upscale night clubs, a tiger safari and a ride atop elephant back to Ambar Fort, in addition to experiencing daily temperature fluctuations from 50F to 85F, I have prepared a list of items that are a must for Eurocircle travelers.

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I have compiled two separate lists. The first is a list of items you will definitely need for all of the above mentioned situations, and the second is a simple style guide to make sure you are comfortable and appropriate at all times in India.

So here we go, my list of must haves:

Layers! 

November is the start of India’s winter, and you will see that most people will be bundled up in coats and scarves in an effort to stay warm during the mid-day 80F temperatures. Yes, Indians are cold, because normally temperatures are around 110F in the summer. You however, will wake up to a temperature of around 55/60F, have lunch at 85F, then diner in 49F. Be prepared.

What to bring:  Many wrinkle free t-shirts, light sweaters, light waterproof jacket. You will be putting on and taking off your ensemble throughout the day, so make sure everything is light and packable.

Comfortable shoes.

Though Delhi, Agra and Jaipur are cities, there is a lot of dust on the streets. Add a huge caravan of wild animals meandering through traffic (elephants, camels, cows, monkeys, cobras, ox), you are likely to step into something. Open toe shoes are not a good idea here. In addition, we will be entering mosques and temples, where you will be required to leave your shoes outside. American sneakers are very attractive to local kids, so please don’t bring shoes you can’t afford to lose.

What to bring: In these situations, I normally travel in ballet flats. They are versatile, and I can easily slip them into my purse, rather than leave them outside a temple. I also bring a pair of socks. Temple floors are made of marble, and early in the morning, they are absolutely frigid. It is acceptable to wear socks, so I always keep a pair in my purse.

Bottoms:

Indian fashion is fairly conservative, though locals are used to seeing westerners. Still, you will want to look modest and the less skin you expose, the better. Rather than shorts, consider cargo pants, leggings, and denim. A skirt that rests below the knee is also practical.

Bags:

Both men and women could use a practical bag to carry a camera, wallet, bottled water, socks, etc. Avoid leather bags, as you may be required to take off any leather items (belts, bracelets, handbags) in some religious institutions.

Scarf:

A large scarf would be practical for multiple reasons. It will be chilly and you will need one early morning and late at night. During the day, you may have to cover your shoulders or hair in religious institutions. In our case, the bigger and warmer the scarf, the better.

So this is my list of must haves for Eurocircle’s Tour of India 2014. Next I have a list of suggestions for packing minimally, practically and looking stylish.

My favorite strategy when packing for a trip is to choose one color and bring everything that matches that color. So, I select either brown or black, knowing that a handbag and two pairs of shoes would be the most bulky items in my suitcase. This way, my entire wardrobe, matches those accessories, and I need to bring much, much less.

This year, I will bring everything to match nude/beige/khaki, then accessorize with colorful jewelry or scarves. So my luggage will contain a nude pair of flats, a beige handbag, beige windbreaker, and a couple of neutral sweaters and blazers. I will bring some casual pants, 1 pair of jeans, and some neutral colored athletic shoes for our tiger safari. A couple of stretchy, wrinkle free, neutral colored dresses for nicer diners, and the rest I will buy in India.

I will leave 40% of my suitcase empty, because I want to bring home some new jamawar scarves, jewelry, and tunics. India has a lot of shopping, and trust me, you won’t be able to resist.

And finally, here is my list of things NOT to bring:

T-shirts with logos, faces or icons : They are offensive and not allowed inside religious buildings.

Tank tops, Shorts or mini skirts: Though Indians are used to seeing tourists, you will be stared at. In temples and mosques, you shouldn’t be showing your knees or shoulders, and you might be asked to wait outside or change your clothes.

 

 

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