What to wear for business travel to India as a Woman
The first time I was asked to travel to India, I was not sure what to pack. I read several blogs trying to understand what clothing to wear. You don’t want to stick out by wearing anything that may be disrespectful to the culture. So you try to find clothes that are similar to the ones the locals wear. Now I have been traveling to India several times (Blog post about my travel). Below are some useful tips on clothing for business travel to India.
Traditional Indian clothing or western style?
Many other blogs I read, when i was preparing for my first trip to India, suggest that women wear the traditional sari or Punjabi suit. But if you are travelling for business it is fine to wear western-style business clothes. Also many Indian colleagues do not wear the traditional wear to the office daily. I experienced that they sometimes wear traditional wear and other days western-style clothing.
Clothing depends on industry and rank in India
What is important is to dress modestly. People will notice you anyways so you do not want to give them a reason to stare because of a short skirt or too much cleavage. Pant suits or dress suits are preferred as they cover the legs. If you want to wear a dress or skirt make sure that it covers the knees and shoulders.
At high-level business or diplomatic meetings you may want to dress very formally. In the Tech area or Automotive you do not have to dress that formally. Here it is fine to dress business casual. It depends a bit on the industry you are working in. As I work in the tech area I always dressed business casual. Your Indian colleagues won’t dress any different so it is best not to show up too dressy. Dressing similar to the way they do also keeps the burden low.
Some examples of outfits I wore in India
- Light colored dress pants with a blouse and blazer
- Dark dress pants with a white blouse and scarf
- Black jeans with a blouse or T-shirt tucked in and blazer over it.
- As said you can also wear a dress but make sure it goes over the knees
Clothing outside the office
When doing Sightseeing or eating at the hotel you can dress casually. I would still advise you to wear long pants or long dresses. You barely see any Indian women showing their knees and you will feel more comfortable if you don’t either. I mostly wore T-Shirt and thinner Jeans and a pair of Sneakers. The streets outside can be quite dirty. When walking outdoors I felt safer wearing closed shoes so that my feet stayed clean.
Also I always carried a scarf with me as it can be used for so many different things. It can provide extra coverage when needed. Or can serve as a head covering in busy areas, mosques and temples. It can also be used as a mask to shield yourself from street pollution when you are in an Auto rickshaw. And most important: office buildings and meeting rooms are often freezing cold! So here an additional layer can also be comforting and prevent you from any unwanted colds. At the malls or local markets many places sell scarves. If you do not have a fitting scarf at home or would like to purchase an additional one, India is the place! They have so many beautiful scarves made of different fabrics and colors for little money. It could also be a nice gift to bring back home for friends or a gift to yourself as a memory of your time in India.
Clothing for Indian temperatures
When thinking of India you probably think of high temperatures. So you think of packing light, loose clothes. This does only apply when you are walking outside or doing sightseeing. However, in my experience you are barely outside when travelling for business. In the morning you are in the hotel which has air conditioning. After that you get into a cab (which is cooled down) to go to the office building (which is air-conditioned). The office is not really left during the day besides maybe a short walk after lunch hour. In the evening you will get into a cab again and go to a dinner place which is also most likely indoors or back to the hotel. So you actually won’t be much outdoors during a regular working day. In most offices and meeting rooms the temperatures are very low. I would suggest to pack a blazer or cardigan in your handbag that you can put on when needed.