I have friends who say alcohol is only thing they need to ward off illness in India. For the rest of us, precautions are not a bad idea. When I visit India I make sure everything, including vaccinations is up to date: Cholera, hepatitis A, malaria preventative antibiotics, Japanese Encephalitis.
Better to be safe
than sorry, right?
I’ve travelled with people who have got very sick. There’s nothing worse than being laid low, or searching for a toilet every five minutes, when you’re trying to have a good time. Throwing up in the bus will make you the most unpopular passenger on the tour. Toilets in India are in short supply. About 70 per cent of the population just squats in the fields. I wish India would spend more money on sanitation and less on building bombs. It’s such a weird inequity, I don’t know how successive Indian governments get away with it. It would seem to be one of the world’s top health priorities.
Some basic tips for
travel health in India:
- Drink only boiled or bottled water. Check the seal before buying the water to make sure that it is intact.
- In this hot climate, it’s important to stay hydrated. Always have a bottle of water with you.
- Never eat cut fruit sold by street vendors. Always eat fruits you can peel.
- Mosquito repellent will become your best friend in the wet season.
- A pack of antiseptic hand wipes is really useful. They double up as loo paper if you get caught short.
- Always carry a kit of basic emergency medicines you might need. Band-aids, antiseptic ointment, medicines for vomiting, dysentery, fever etc. A course of general antibiotics wouldn’t go astray.
- Avoid fountain drinks and ice cubes.
- Avoid eating cooked food from roadside vendors. Or make sure that the food is freshly cooked and is served piping hot. Don’t eat anything lukewarm.
- I eat vegetarian food only. I have no idea if that helps me stay healthy, but I’ve never been sick in India, so maybe that’s worth something!
- In the monsoon season, the rain and water lying around makes it easy for mosquitoes to breed and increases the risk of mosquito-transmitted infections, including malaria and dengue fever.
- Wearing light coloured clothing, long sleeved and long pants, wards off mozzies attracted to bare skin and bright colours.
- Salwar kameez – long shirt and baggy pants – is perfect.
- Indian cotton is light and very cool to wear. Clothing is cheap to buy. You will look exotic and beautiful.
- Wear closed shoes, to protect your feet from the possibility of fungal infections.
- At the Taj Mahal where shoes are removed before you can enter, sockettes are provided.
Women’s tips for
Much has been written, since this post was originally published, about women’s safety in India. Widely publicised and shocking cases of rape have polarised opinions about whether it’s safe for women travelling there. Here are three posts on the blog which look at this important subject:
- Is it safe for women travelling alone in India?
- Tips from an Indian man about travelling safely
- Ariane travels solo through Rajasthan