Hello travellers! We are getting so excited to meet you all so soon! We hope you’re as thrilled as we are!
We wanted to write this yak so that you have this information before making large purchases that might not be useful for this trip. We realise you have a packing list in the Course Preparation Manual (CPM) that you received in the mail but some of that information is outdated, so if you get conflicting information, go with what is in this yak.
Clothes in Varanasi:
Varanasi, where we will be spending a large portion of the program is a rather conservative city. It is also an extremely populous and popular city amongst Indians and foreigners alike. You will see many foreigners and Indians dressed in all manner of clothing. However, as we are trying to integrate into the local community we want to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Wearing Indian clothes will not only help with this, but it will also be very comfortable in the hotter weeks!
There will be plenty of time during the first few days of our time in Varanasi to go to shops and purchase these clothes. Therefore, our advice is to bring fewer Western clothes than you imagine you will need for three months.
Shorts and sleeveless shirts for both men and women should be left at home. However, if you would like to sleep in shorts you should bring a pair. But please note that these are to be worn only in your own room and cannot be worn outside your rooms or, for example, in your homestay family’s living room.
Other clothing & footwear information:
Please bring COTTON underwear. India gets HOT. And it is really uncomfortable and unhygienic to be wearing non-breathable undies! You can plan to bring a couple of pairs for our time in the mountains though.
You might also want to bring some more cotton socks – maybe 4 pairs instead of the 2 suggested in the CPM.
Bring sandals that easily slip off! These will be so useful for our stay, especially in Varanasi. It is customary to take off footwear before entering homes and the program house and you won’t want to keep unstrapping difficult sandals or untying your shoelaces.
There is no need to bring rain pants. It is hard to predict the weather but it can rain both in Varanasi and up in the mountains, and it is good to keep a raincoat handy as an additional layer even if it doesn’t end up raining.
Bring 4-5 t-shirts for our time in Ladakh. Even though you’ll have ample opportunity to hand wash your clothes, you’ll want more than the 2 suggested in the CPM.
Leave your sleeping pad at home! When we are trekking in Ladakh we can easily hire these.
Please bring a 0 degree sleeping bag! You don’t need a brand new one- ask family and friends if you can borrow one. It gets very very cold at some points on our trek and you will want something to snuggle up in and keep you warm under the Milky Way in Ladakh! You will likely end up using your sleeping bag during the week that we are trekking and possibly as an additional layer during the rest of our time in Ladakh. It is cold there in April and while bedding is provided in the guest houses and homestays where we will stay, some students prefer to have their sleeping bag for additional warmth.
As the CPM says, it is important to be able to carry your backpack, with all of your things in it, on your own. That being said, if you feel that your homestay gifts, or extra snacks that you might be bringing with you will take up space in your backpack and you want an extra, small duffel bag, feel free to bring one. Although please keep in mind that you will a) gather more things along the way – this is especially true for women as we buy new Indian clothing to wear day-to-day in Varanasi and b) Indian snacks are amongst the best in the world. 🙂
The CPM says to leave the Lonely Planet at home, but some students in the past have wished they had their copies. So if you would like, please feel free to bring your copy if you want to reference them. You could also rip out the pages that are useful for the places we will be travelling so you don’t have to bring the entire book.
ProTip from past students and instructors:
Definitely bring a few pairs of earplugs. Some nights are very noisy in Varanasi! Your ears will thank you!
We realise this is a lot of information all at once, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to any of us to clarify any questions or concerns you might have! Please use the Yak board to post questions that you have – chances are if you have a question, someone else has it too.
We can’t wait to see you all soon!
Your Instructor Team