A few months back I wrote a post about packing for india. I have subsequently been to India, and so I thought I'd provide some insight into what I ended up finding useful during my journey.
My first piece of advice would be to pack as lightly as possible. Take a backpack that you can sling over your shoulder and be on your way. You never know when you'll be on a bus or a rickshaw and luggage really just gets in the way. I had a small backpack (by backpack standards, around 30 litres) and even that got in the way a bit. Having said that let me say make sure you have enough room in your pack for everything. My pack was literally busting at the seams - which was also pretty frustrating.
My recommendations on what to pack:
Shoes that you can slip easily on and off (as in some places you need to remove your shoes before entering).
A spare pair of walking shoes that have grip, especially if you head up north, where there are lots of hills. And socks!
A smart phone. Or at least an MP3 player. My iPhone basically saved my life. I had a few episodes of my fav TV series (Frasier) which became invaluably helpful during looong train/bus/car trips. Pack an iPod or an iPhone. You won't regret it. Loads of hotels and restuarants have free wifi too - so you can tap into that resource as an added bonus.
Gastrolite and Gastro-stop (enough said).
A jumper. This might sound strange as it's hot in India right? Well, if you head up north to Dharumsala it gets quite chilly at night - and you'll need something to keep you warm. Even just a pair of long socks will help ease the cold.
International power point adaptor - for India. India has different electricity plugs/sockets.
A spare ATM card, mine didn't work over there. Luckily my cousin-Ji's ATM did work so we pooled funds and I transferred money to her when we got home.
If you're a woman, take:
Tampons, you can't get them in India.
A long skirt or long pants (loose) - to make sure your legs are covered when you visit temples and the like. As a general note, it's not offensive in India to stare, and if your legs are showing, chances are you'll get stared at. If you're not okay with that, cover up as much as possible.
A light weight scarf or 3. I used one to sleep on, one to go around my neck if I felt a bit vulnerable (to cover up any cleavage/decolletage), and one to cover my pillow at night. I picked really light weight ones, so they took up no space, and they were so handy.
My tips for the journey in general:
Don't worry about taking laundry paraphernalia . Most hotels have laundry services, and if they don't there'll be a service nearby. Usually laundry costs next to nothing, maybe 100 rupees (which is around $2AUS).
To save on battery life on your iPhone/iPod/iPad, switch off all your cellular data, and turn on airport mode, and turn down your screen brightness as low as you can manage. It'll prolong your battery life in ways which will amaze you.
Learn a few words in Hindi. The locals will LOVE you for it. "Hi" = "Namaste" "Thank you" = "Dhanyavaad" "My name is Mary" = "Meraa naam Mary hai" To address someone politely add a "Ji" after their name, eg say "Dhanyavaad Madam Ji" to thank someone really politely.
Check the tops of water bottles to make sure your cap is sealed and you're getting purified water.
Get into the head wiggle. It's addictive.
Change and small notes are hard to come by, so don't give away your small notes/coins if you don't have to!
Keep a few coins in a pocket or a place easily accessible and away from your other money. In the event you come accross someone who asks for money and you feel compelled to do so, it's much easier doing that than fishing around in your wallet stacked with 1000 rupee notes, to find change (and much less embarrassing).
Be prepared to see some pretty horrific stuff. But you'll also see some pretty amazing stuff, so as long as you're prepared, you should be fine.
Never admit to anyone that it's your first time in India! Pretend you know what you're doing even if you don't.
When someone quotes you a price for something - if you're in the mood to haggle - halve it then halve it again and that's closer to what you should be paying. If they quote you 200 rupees, you should only pay closer to 50 rupees. Having said that sometimes you'll be too tired to haggle. And sometimes you won't care.
Despite the above it is polite to tip waiters, drivers, hotel staff, anyone that provides you a service.
Questions you will be asked when travelling in India:
Where are you from?
Where are you going?
Is this your first time in India? [Always say no!]
Are you married?
How educated are you?
Can I take you to a hotel? [Just say no.]
Are you looking to go shopping? [Just say no. Then if you do want to go shopping find your own way there.]
Don't take offence to any of these questions! It's just their custom.
What did you find handy on your travels in India? I'd love to hear about them. Or do you have any hot tips?