Alliance-India students will be permitted only one checked bag and one carry-on. After the Delhi orientation we will be flying on to Varanasi. It is important to note that many Indian airlines have weight allowances lower than that of U.S. airlines, some of which are 15kg/33lbs, so pack accordingly.
We also strongly recommend that your one checked bag be a big backpack. Sidewalks are rare in India, and with train and bus travel as well, backpacks are much more manageable than large rolling suitcases.
Please plan on dressing modestly during your time in India. As a foreigner you will want to minimize the kind of unwanted attention you might receive and wearing local dress (salwar kameez) is not only comfortable, attractive, and inexpensive, it is also practical. The salwar kameez is not only appropriate for the culture in which you’ll be immersed but also for the local climate. It is easy and fun to buy local clothing, or even better, have outfits tailor-made! To this end it is a good idea not to bring too many Western clothes with you. Two or three Western outfits are enough. During our Delhi orientation we will go shopping for clothes and you will have ample opportunity to buy more and have clothes tailor-made while in Varanasi.
The clothes you do bring should follow a few basic rules of thumb: shoulders should be covered, pants and skirts ankle-length, necklines not too low, tops should be hip length, and all clothes fairly loose (though generally fitted is fine). The fabrics should be opaque. Layering is always a good idea: having tank tops, camisoles, and slips under fabrics that might be translucent, T-shirts are not appropriate, except in the yoga class where a loose-fitted top is acceptable.
Jeans are generally too hot to wear in the Varanasi climate, but if you really want to bring your jeans, you’ll probably only want to wear them in the cooler months between late-November and mid-February, and then paired with a kurta (hip-length top)
Men may have things a bit easier when it comes to clothing, but there are a few things to keep in mind as you’re packing. Most traditional men in India wear lightweight, collared shirts with cotton pants. Male students and young men in general around Varanasi generally wear western clothing, but you should always err on the side of more conservative. T-shirts or ripped jeans may not be worn to class. As noted in the women’s section, jeans are generally too hot to wear in the Varanasi climate and more suited for only November to February, which are cooler months. Sleeveless tops and shorts are also not appropriate. As with the women, remember that your experience in India will be enhanced if you dress appropriately for the local context.
Women’s and Men’s Clothing
Underwear: Bring plenty of underwear! It is common in many parts of India for laundry to be hung in public areas to dry, so try to bring modest cuts and solid colors as not to draw attention. Cotton underwear is typically best for the hot climate.
Shorts: Shorts are not commonly worn in India and are not appropriate.
Sweater/Outerwear: You will want a fleece/sweatshirt or two for the cooler period (November-December during fall semester and January-February during spring semester). A lightweight shell may also be useful, particularly in the evenings and during the trip to the Himalayas
Dress clothes: Chances are good that you will be invited to at least one Indian wedding or other celebration while you are in India, so you'll want at least one nice outfit to wear. Women, this could be your opportunity to buy your first sari, but if you do also want to bring something from home, keep in mind the above guidelines here, too.
Flip-flops or sandals: In India people commonly slip off their shoes before entering homes, temples, and even some classrooms and places of business, so you’ll want at least one pair of flip-flops or sandals that you can take off easily. They’re also easier to deal with during monsoon.
Athletic shoes/sturdy walking sandal：We will be in the mountainous areas of Kurseong and Darjeeling during our independent travel week where a solid shoe is recommended.
For practical classes, the students should come equipped with yoga mat (simple ones are available for purchase in Varanasi) and modest, loose clothing (no shorts, tank tops, or tight fitted tops).
Please be sure to bring a full semester’s supply of any prescription medication you require. Most medications are available in Varanasi but certain brand names may not be available or there might be slight variations, so bring as much of any required medication as you will need for the duration of your stay.
Most everyday toiletries are available in Varanasi, but you may want to start out with a basic supply (a few weeks' worth). Other items to bring:
- Mosquito repellent
- Basic self-medication needs (aspirin, Band-Aids, digital thermometer, antibacterial cream, pepto bismol, anti-allergy medicine, etc.)
- Anti-bacterial waterless hand cleaner
- Contact lens solution
- Earplugs (Varanasi can be noisy. Earplugs can be a useful sleep aid during festival season)
- Feminine products (though you might want to consider the Keeper, www.thekeeper.com or the Diva www.divacup.com which is latex free)
- Laptop computer (see "Staying Connected" for more information)
- Camera and charger
- Adapter/converter for electronics
- Small flashlight (for power cuts)
- Sturdy water bottle with screw top
- Money belt
- 10 extra passport pictures (These are important to bring with you because they will be immediately used upon arrival in Varanasi for local registration as well as purchase of phone SIM cards and internet sticks.)
- Spare pair of glasses (Varanasi is dusty and students often find it is easier and less irritating to the eyes to wear glasses rather than contact lenses)
- Travel alarm clock
- Ziploc bags (you have no idea how many uses you find for these!)
- Towel (you will not be provided with a towel by your host family)
- While electrolyte mixes are easily available in Varanasi you might prefer the taste of Gatorade powder
- Locks for luggage or cabinets (master combination locks are good for locking hotel doors during your independent travel period)
- Socks (even if you are wearing flip flops outside in the cooler months, the floors in your home and in the program house are stone and you may want to wear socks to keep yourself warm and healthy)
- Swiss Army knife (be sure to pack in your checked baggage)
- USB "flash" drive
- Sun hat/sunglasses: The Indian sun is strong, so be sure to bring adequate protection.
- Small photo album with pictures of family, friends, home, and college to share with your host family
- Any favorite small games (Frisbee, cards, chess, etc.)
- Musical instrument if you play one (this would be permitted as a second carry-on)
- Gifts for your host families (something from your college/university or unique to your hometown/ region is usually a good idea)
- Umbrella (Fall semester students only - monsoon weather)
It is a good idea to travel light, if possible. Bringing little means you will also have more space in your bag to bring home gifts and souvenirs you have purchased during your semester. These days it is very expensive to mail packages to the US.