III What to Bring

Do Not Bring Anything to India that is Irreplaceable

As you contemplate what to bring, keep in mind the drawbacks of carrying valuable items. You will always need to keep close track of cameras, watches, radios, binoculars, etc. As in many places in the world, theft can be a problem in India.  Don’t take items that would devastate you (financially or emotionally) if you lost them.  Check to see if the items you do bring are covered by homeowners insurance.



Do bring some clothes that you enjoy wearing and feel comfortable and confident in.

Temperatures we encounter will range from 0º to 40º C  (32º – 104ºF), but most often it will be between 60 and 85° F. Light colored clothes are coolest when you are in the sun yet dark or patterned clothes are less likely to show dirt. Throughout the program, laundry will be done by hand so fast-drying fabrics are highly recommended. The program will begin during the late monsoon season in Dharamsala, when it will be rainy and warm.

Note that you will be able to buy clothes or have clothes made for you throughout our trip. Clothing is cheap and good in India, with a variety of lightweight fabrics that work well in the heat and humidity. When you are packing, keep this in mind. Also, you should be able to buy almost anything you want in India at a reasonable price (no more expensive than in the U.S.).

We will all need one nice outfit for special occasions, and we will get a nice Tibetan outfit in our early days in Dharamsala, so you do not need to bring another unless you want to. It’s useful to bring at least a week of underwear and something to sleep in.

Jeans can be hot to wear in India (until November), and they are also heavy to pack & slow to dry. That said, young educated Indian and Tibetan women and men definitely wear jeans these days.

It will be useful to have a fleece or sweater for chilly evenings. It will get down into the 40s quite possibly by the end of the program when we’re still in McLeod, but you may not want to carry many warm clothes around that you won’t wear much, and there is again plenty to buy in McLeod.

You will most probably want an umbrella and / or a raincoat within your first days of arrival. You can buy an umbrella in India for under $5, but you will need to get the money and then the umbrella and for that price it might not be very good quality, so if you have a lightweight packable umbrella it could be a good idea to bring.  A modest bathing suit is a good idea, and women in particular may not find one they want in India.

Clothing conveys a number of messages that vary by context. I believe people deserve respectful treatment no matter what they wear, but it is useful to be thoughtful about what messages your choices convey in each context. India is a quite modest culture, particularly for women. Women wearing saris may expose their midriffs, but otherwise rarely do. Shoulders, knees, and cleavage are usually covered, and most clothes are loose fitting and rarely are sheer. Torn and stained clothing, on men and women, is usually considered impolite. You will see young women wearing tight and revealing clothing, but as a foreigner, if you wear such items they will convey a different meaning than it would for an Indian woman, and they may elicit unwanted attention. If your clothing would be considered inappropriate for our context, the leaders will let you know.  You then make your own choice about what to wear, remembering that your choices have implications for the groups of which you are a member, including on Indians and Tibetans of your gender. There will be a few places that people will not be able to enter with exposed knees or shoulders or head. A large scarf (plentiful in India) can be helpful in those situations.


Electronic devices

You will be best served by having the electronic device that helped you be most successful on Earlham’s campus, whether that is a laptop or a tablet device. We will be typing papers, so a device with a word processor will be useful, as will the opportunity to use email, Skype, and other applications. WIFI networks at Sarah College are not as convenient as at Earlham, but the program will make sure that WIFI is available regularly (weather and power cooperating). You are not required to bring a computer; Sarah College has a wired and networked computer lab that you will have access to during daytime and evening hours, and there is a lab right outside your classroom area in McLeod. The Emory program has left us a terabyte drive that creates a local network in the classroom that you can log into to access pdfs and videos, so having your computer will be useful for that.

If you do bring a laptop or tablet, check to see whether your power cable is compatible with India’s 220-240 volt electricity. If so, you only need an adaptor for the plug. If not, I recommend that you buy the AC converter that also works in Indian outlets. It can also be useful to have a converter/adaptor for other electronic devices.


Cell Phones

Getting SIM cards for your phones as foreign students is not as convenient as it once was, because of Indian regulations regarding cell phone use in connection with terrorist activity. The program will provide you with working cell phones, and we’ll start organizing this early, but it may take a week or two before we have them set up. One thing you can do is check with your service provider for your current phone and look into package texting deals, so this way you can at least text anyone when you are in a WIFI zone. You definitely want to make sure you turn off cellular data / data roaming before you get on the plane and leave it off, or you’ll discover high charges should you accidentally get connected to a 3g or 4G network in India. Many of us now use our phones for cameras, and that might be a reason you’d want your phone from home.


What else will I need?

A small travel backpack for our weekend trips. (can be purchased in India)

A few of the pens you particularly like to use.

An inexpensive watch

Small towel and washcloth (a PacTowel could be good)

A quart (or so) water bottle

Sun block; sun will be intense since we’re nearer the equator and often at high altitude

Insect repellent (30-35% DEET works) (Any type of DEET can be harmful to optics.)


Extra amounts of any prescription medicines you take in original containers

         If you wear glasses, bring an extra pair AND your prescription. If you wear contact lenses, it is a good idea to bring enough contact lens solution for the entire trip.

You may wish to carry some toilet paper and hand wipes / hand sanitizer with you, along with plastic bags to carry used wipes in.

You can buy toiletries in India, and some very nice options not available in the US, so you do not need to bring enough toiletries for the entire program. I have found that it can be hard to find contact solution and tampons.


First aid kit with medications that you use regularly at home, which may include:

  • Antibacterial cream (e.g. Bacitracin, Neosporin)
  • Fungicide for athlete’s foot (e.g. Desenex or Tinactin)
  • Pepto-Bismol for initial treatment of travelers’ diarrhea
  • Peristalsis-stopping drugs such as Lomotil or Immodium as a second level of treatment for minor diarrhea (I do recommend avoiding this when possible)
  • Consider asking your physician for a prescription of Cipro to treat diarrhea caused by bacterial agents. (but we will be able to get antibiotics if necessary, and this is not for all types of diarrhea)
  • Laxatives (if you are prone to constipation)
  • Aspirin, Tylenol, etc.
  • Bandaids
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Your favorite cold remedy

Pictures from home to share with friends and homestay families: bring photos of your family, farms in the U.S., seasons of the year, pictures of Earlham, etc. – anything that will help others understand more about you and your life at home. A small map of the United States is also handy for showing people where you live.

Bring something that feels like a comforting treat for you. For example, if you eagerly anticipate a Butterfinger at Halloween, bring a couple for when you want to be reminded of home; or if you love the smell of evergreen trees, bring a sachet or scented candle.


Gifts for host families, roommates and friends

            Bring a small (all women) or medium (a couple of the men should bring mediums) Earlham t-shirt to give to your roommate. I try to avoid shirts made in China. It is nice to give gifts to homestay families when you arrive at their home. You may also wish to do this in appreciation for the generosity that your family shows you during the program. You can always pick up a thoughtful gift on-site for your host families.  And being a good host son or daughter will be the very best gift.

Small, inexpensive, practical items with Earlham or hometown insignias are best.  Local (to your home) candy is also good.

Also consult http://www.pacforkids.com/ for thoughtful gifts for children we will meet at the Tibetan Children’s Village. It’s great to bring one or two special toys or soccer balls or stuffed animals to give when we visit TCV as a group.


There are a number of good bookstores in McLeod if you’re someone who just likes to read a book for casual reading. They have English language novels and many Buddhist texts in translation.

You do not need a sleeping bag.

Bring the book we read over the summer, Echoes from Dharamsala by Keila Diehl (U of California P1998), either in paperback (ISBN 9780520230446) or an ebook edition from U of California Press (http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520230446).

Money for Expenses

The program will pay for your accommodation, food, and logistical expenses during the academic parts of the program. You will be responsible for personal expenses such as clothes, snacks, toiletries, and gifts. You will be responsible for all of your expenses — food, shelter, transportation, etc. — during independent travel periods.  Students who have been to India on other programs suggest $1000 as a reasonable amount for independent travel plus personal items and gifts. You can spend less if you are careful with your travel plans, and if you refrain from buying many gift items. You will spend more if you buy many gifts or stop over in Europe. Europe is very expensive, so plan accordingly.  It is very difficult to receive money from home while in India, so it is better to have a bit extra than not enough.  The program carries money for emergencies.

We recommend that you take a credit card with you.  It’s important to have more than one source of money.  Make sure you have a pin number if you want to use your card to get cash.  You should also let your bank and credit card company know that you will be abroad so that they will not issue a fraud alert and cancel your card, and check with them to ensure that your card is set to function abroad, and. Cards vary immensely on what they charge for foreign transactions, from nothing to 3% or more. You will have access to ATMs, which will take credit and debit cards; however, they may charge a fee.

It is a good idea to at least carry a little of your money ($200) as cash – in denominations of 10s, 20s, and/or 50s.



Passport and Photocopies     

Bring your passport with the Indian visa!

Leave a copy of your passport (front page with photo and number, and page with visa for India) in IPO, give a copy to the program leader, and leave another at home. You should also take a photocopy with you, and keep it in a location that is separate from your passport. This is very helpful in replacing a passport if it is lost or stolen. I now also carry a photo of my passport in my phone.

Also photocopy all credit cards and identification you bring with you and your flight itinerary and leave one set of copies at home and keep one separate in your luggage.

Bring 6-8 passport photos. We’ll need these in Dharamsala.


International Student ID Card (ISIC), Chartis Card and Official Letter from Earlham.

During Orientation, you will receive an International Student ID Card (ISIC), to be carried for basic travel insurance, as well as reduced rates on some travel and cultural activities. The STA Travel booklet given to you during the fall provides further details on the benefits of this card. If your card is lost or stolen, please inform IPO and supply an additional photo for the replacement card.

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