| |

How to prepare for Holi in India: What to wear and what you’ll need

Are you heading to India for one of its most vibrant festivals? Then you’ll probably be keen to find out how to prepare for Holi in India. Luckily, you’ve found this post because by reading the tips, you’re going to be SO much more prepared than I was – and at least one of us (not me) can make it out unstained.

Before we get into that, picture this: Vibrant powders are being peppered into the air and are swirling around you. You exchange “Happy Holi” greetings with strangers and add new splashes of colour to each other’s faces. You’re completely lost in a sea of people amongst the joyful chaos when an unexpected water balloon catches you off guard and bursts on your back. The beat of music echoes through an insanely large crowd of people dancing. That’s how I’d paint my experience of celebrating Holi in India – a festival that’s been on my bucket list for years.

Now, given how long I’d hoped for to experience Holi in India, you’d think I’d come prepared. Instead, my beige bra was turned bright green; my baby pink shellac nails sported a splattered design of Holi colours; and my ashy-blonde hair took on a sunny yellow hue. I became a canvas for the kaleidoscope of Holi colours beyond my expectations. Now that I’ve learned from my experience and realised firsthand how to be better prepared, I’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to help you prepare for the vibrant chaos of Holi in India.

What is Holi?

A woman placing green coloured powder on a man's cheek amidst a crowd covered in vibrant dust during Holi celebrations in India.
Photos of me taken by my friend, Oli.

Before I get into what to wear and what you’ll need to prepare for Holi in India, let me start with a quick background on the festival for those who might not yet be familiar. Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors, is a vibrant Hindu festival celebrated in India – as well as Nepal.

Holi marks the arrival of spring and the triumph of good over evil. It’s celebrated on the first full moon of the Hindu luni-solar calendar (which varies each year). People come together to play with coloured powders, flower petals, water balloons, and water guns. It’s a time for forgiveness, renewal and the spreading of love and happiness – a magical, joyous festival to experience.

What to wear to a Holi Festival


When you’re choosing what clothes to wear, light-coloured clothes are ideal, as they will showcase the vibrant hues of Holi colours. White is a very common colour for people to wear for this reason. BUT I’d recommend wearing clothing that you don’t mind getting ruined by colour.

If you’re travelling to India during Holi, you can either bring clothes that you don’t mind getting stained from home or head out to the local markets in India for something to wear once you’re there. Definitely don’t wear anything expensive or delicate!

Clothes made from synthetic materials such as polyester or nylon seemed to be easier to clean and less likely to absorb colour stains, compared to natural fabrics like cotton.

Many people opted for long, loose fitting pants and long-sleeve tops to minimise the direct contact with colours and their skin. (Just a heads up that the colour may still manage to get in places you didn’t want it.)


I wish I’d know this before, but the same goes for underwear – wear something you don’t mind getting ruined by colour or opt for dark underwear because as I mentioned the colour can get EVERYWHERE! It’s also been quite difficult to remove the colour from lighter garments.


Sunglasses were a lifesaver – although, on occasion the colours would get behind them. You’ll want to have some sort of shield for your eyes from coloured powder and water balloons – whether that be sunglasses, googles or other protective eyewear. This will also help prevent irritation and potential damage to your eyes.

Crowds of people covered in a variety of coloured dust (pink, yellow, orange, red, blue) during vibrant Holi celebrations in India.

Face Mask or bandana

For added protection from the Holi colours, use a face mask or bandana to cover your mouth. Holi colours can cause irritation and discomfort if they are inhaled.

Hair scarf or hat

Aside from wearing your hair up in a bun, a hair scarf or hat are additional options for helping to keep colour out of your hair. I even saw one person wearing a shower cap.


Wear closed-toe shoes or waterproof sandals to protect your feet from colour powder and debris. Some areas during Holi get extremely crowded and you may end up like a sardine in a tin can – there were so many lost shoes on the floor so ideally wear something that’s not going to slip off your foot. And many times there was no way you’d be able to bend down to pick it up because you’d be putting yourself in a situation to be stepped on. Avoid wearing expensive or delicate shoes that you wouldn’t want to get stained, damaged or lost among the sea of other lost shoes.

In summary, you’ll need:

  • Top (that you don’t mind getting stained)
  • Bottoms (that you don’t mind getting stained)
  • Underwear (that you also don’t mind getting stained)
  • Sunglasses or other protective eyewear
  • Face mask/ bandana (optional to help keep colour out of your nose and mouth)
  • Hat/ hair scarf (optional to help keep colour out of your hair/ off your scalp)
First image: A woman covered in colourful dust shaking green powder out of a packet during Holi festivities in India. Second image: A woman placing green coloured powder on a man's cheek amidst a crowd covered in vibrant dust during Holi celebrations in India.
Photos of me taken by my friend, Oli.

Preparing your skin, hair and nails for Holi


This is an important one: GET COCONUT OIL, PUT IT EVERYWHERE AND PUT A LOT ON. Don’t forget your face and all the places where your clothes cover you. Not only will it make it easier to wash the colours off later, but it’s crucial to protect your skin from any potential chemicals present in some synthetic colours people may use.

I’d also suggest a waterproof sunscreen with a high SPF. A lot of the celebrations are outdoors and alongside coloured power, we were hit with water balloons, buckets of water and water guns so you’ll want a hardy sunscreen.


COCONUT OIL! To shield your hair from damage and absorbing colour, apply a generous amount of coconut oil beforehand. This will create a protective barrier and make it easier to wash out the colours later. (I wish I’d put more in my hair. Even though my hair still held onto the yellow tones, those who didn’t use the oil still had multicoloured hair when we left India almost a week later.)

Along with the oil, tying your hair up in a bun or platting it into braids can prevent tangling and too much colour getting into your hair. You can also wear a hat, scarf or bandana to protect your scalp and hairline.

Keep in mind that blonde hair (especially dyed blonde hair) will likely absorb more colour than undyed hair, while colours will just be less prominent in darker hair. My dyed blonde hair seemed to absorb the yellow tones more than anything else, which possibly could’ve been fixed by some purple shampoo.


The colours get absolutely everywhere, including nails. To prevent colour from seeping into your nails and causing stubborn stains, apply a coat of nail polish (clear or coloured) before playing Holi. This will create a protective barrier and make it easier to clean your nails afterward.

If you’re a Shellac nail polish girlie like me, I found out that the polish seems to absorb colour. I had a light pink colour on my toes and clear on my hands, which both retained colour from Holi. If this is a concern for you, I’d recommend opting for a darker colour shellac. And coconut oil up those cuticles! *

*If you can’t use coconut oil or other oils, I would suggest looking into another sort of lotion that will act as a barrier.

A woman surrounded by people placing colorful powder on her head during joyful Holi celebrations in India. You can see here why is is important to know how to prepare for Holi in India.
Photos of me taken by my friend, Oli.

Other things to prepare for Holi celebrations:


If you want to get photos during Holi, you’ll want to make sure your phone is protected from the colours and water. A waterproof case or pouch to protect your mobile phone from water damage during Holi celebrations is highly recommended – a few of the group members on my tour said they saw these sold in the markets but didn’t grab one before Holi. Alternatively, if you don’t have a waterproof them, a zip-lock bag will provide some protection from water and colours.

Wet wipes

Pack some wet wipes or baby wipes in your bag to quickly and easily remove colour from your skin and face during Holi celebrations.


Holi celebrations can be energetic and you’ll probably be outdoors in the heat, so it’s really important to stay hydrated and drink water when you can. If you’re getting water while you’re out during festivities, opt for bottled water or sealed beverages to avoid consuming contaminated water during the festivities.

A bustling street scene with numerous people on motorbikes, covered in colorful dust from playing Holi, during festive celebrations in India.

Getting the Holi colours off

A woman covered in colourful dust shaking green powder out of a packet during Holi festivities in India.
Photos of me taken by my friend, Oli.
Shower in cold to lukewarm water

If you’ve used coconut oil, you’ll likely find most of the colour will come off after a cold to lukewarm shower. However, you may find stubborn residual colour remains in areas where coconut oil wasn’t used.

Use cleanser or make-up remover

I found my make-up remover helped with gently removing some of the stubborn colour on my face.

If all else fails… sweat it off.

(and see next section haha)

Post-Holi after care

Now that we’ve covered how to prepare for Holi in India, there’s also a few post-Holi tips that you’ll want to know:

Residual colour

If you have colour on your skin after showering, keep in mind that it will sweat off. So any clothes and accessories that you wear while colour is still on your body might get stained. I opted for black or darker clothes until the colour finally came off within a few days.

Condition & moisturise

My skin and hair were very dry after Holi so leave-in conditioners for your hair and a good body moisturiser are a good idea to have for after care. You can easily find body moisturiser there and I always travel with Olaplex No.6, which is a leave-in hair moisturiser and strengthener.  

Is there something I missed about the tour?

Please leave any questions on how to prepare for Holi in India in the comments below and I will do my best to answer your queries. Or send me a message via my contact page.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.