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How to Blend In While Travelling in India & Pakistan

When I’m travelling alone in India or Pakistan, I don’t want to be that foreigner trying to lug around a big suitcase on the streets, and I don’t want to be sticking out like a sore thumb because of what I’m wearing. It just attracts unwanted attention.

How I blend in while travelling in India and Pakistan.

If I’m in Pakistan and I stumble into a protest, I want to pass through it as quietly as I can. While I was in Islamabad there were anti-France protests in neighbouring Rawalpindi and Islamabad was locked closed with shipping contains. Or it’s something as simple as I don’t want people staring at me and saying to their friend, “Hey Gora, Gora” (“Hey there’s a foreigner”).

Or if I’m in India, it just cuts down on touts and scammers approaching me. Because they either confuse me for a local or they assume that I have a lot of experience with India because of what I’m wearing. So here’s how I blend in to avoid as much attention as possible.

Blending in at Nankana Sahib, Punjab, Pakistan.

Blending In

Blending in means you don’t stand out and look like a complete newbie who can be taken advantage of. Touts and scammers can smell a foreigner a mile away because of their clothing. It’s the same for Indians who live overseas, touts can easily identify them.

Blending in sends the signal that you’re not an easy target, that you’re a more experienced traveller – even if you’re not – and it simply means people on the street will hassle and haggle you less.

So when I was in Pakistan travelling alone, every day I wore a simple plain kurta that I bought in India. It’s similar to what the locals wear and it helped me avoid attention. And actually, when I did get attention it was comments from genuine locals saying how much they liked what I was wearing. So it actually attracted good attention.

My Wife, Manisha Malik, and sister-in-law in baggy Kashmiri phirans.

This tip is especially important for solo female travellers. In Pakistan and India, it’s a good idea to stay covered and avoid tight clothing. These are generally conservative countries. You do have areas of Delhi or Islamabad where mini-dresses and all are worn, but it’s not common. You of course should be able to wear whatever you want, I would never tell you what to wear, but, unfortunately, I’ve experienced creeps first-hand.

You have to be mindful of the colour and design of the Indian clothes you wear too. Red, maroon, or bright colours as worn in Indian cities will make you stand out. Plain white, blue, black, brown, and green colours are more subtle on the street.

Here’s my guide to getting a Indian or Pakistani suit stitched.

Where to buy local clothes in India & Pakistan

In a village in Pakistan. I bought this Salwar Kameez for Rs. 3500 PKR.

When you land, if you want to go and find some modern stylish Indian fashion, I’d recommend FabIndia stores in India or J. Junaid Jamshed in Pakistan. They’re found in all major cities and even at some airports. A Salwar Kameez will cost you roughly ₹2000 Indian rupees or Rs. 3500 Pakistani rupees.

So by wearing clothes more fashionable in India, you can more easily blend in with the locals and avoid unwanted attention. Enjoy your time in India and Pakistan!

In Mirpur with friends wearing a rounded neck Salwar Kameez.

If you want to see more examples of me in Indian fashion, head over to my Instagram feed.

My guide to buying shoes in Pakistan (Khussa vs. Chappal vs. Kaptaan)

Have any questions? Comment them below.

By Karl Rock

Karl Rock, is a Hindi speaking Kiwi ex-pat who take viewers behind the scenes of incredible India and its neighbours. He has visited every state and union territory in India, and its culturally similar neighbours – Pakistan and Bangladesh, and aims to make others fall in love with India and the subcontinent.

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