India for First Timers. Safety & Healthcare
India is a country of rich history, spectacular landscapes and unique experiences. If you are planning to take a trip to India it is important that you prepare fully so you can plan carefully and limit potential hazards.
Here is some important information you need to know to make your trip more comfortable and importantly, safer, so you can enjoy everything that India has to offer you.
Like many other parts of the world, there are a number of medical related precautions you should take before, and during a trip to India. Here are those you need to know.
There are a number of pre-travel vaccinations that are strongly recommended before a visit to India. These include vaccinations against Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid, Cholera, Yellow Fever, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies and Polio. It is also recommended that you have had the routine vaccinations for Measles Mumps & Rubella, Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis, Chickenpox, Shingles, Pneumonia, Influenza and Meningitis.
Please visit the British Foreign Office advice page for excellent information on vaccinations recommended for travel to India.
Travel Health Checklist
Familiar with the term Delhi Belly? It is a nickname given to those who suffer with an upset tummy whilst in India. Any change in diet can cause tummy upset, with it happening to a large number of people who visit India, so it is best to prepare for that possibility.
With that in mind, here is a list of items we recommend you take with you to help upset stomachs and other possible difficult situations:
- Diarrhoea tablets
- Antiseptic cream/wipes
- Pain Killers
- Medication for Pre-Existing Medical Conditions should you have any
- Rehydration sachets
- Anti-Malaria Medication
India Basic Kit
As well as the items mentioned above, the following are also highly recommended to help make your trip more comfortable:
- Hand Sanitizer
- Insect Repellent
- Sun Screen
- Bandage and Plasters
- Scissors and Tweezers
- Sterile Dressings
- Water Sterilising Tablets
Careful With What You Eat
Indian food is vastly different to what is often served in our home Indian Restaurants and takeaways, and it is amazing! As we have mentioned, a change in diet can cause a stomach upset, but there is a higher chance of this in India. It has also been recommended that eating a vegetarian diet can reduce the chances of diarrhoea. This doesn’t mean to say that you can’t enjoy the fantastic street food, just have a look at basic hygiene before you try.
Careful With the Water
Some say this is the main cause of Delhi belly; the water in India is not safe to drink. We strongly recommend that you only drink from sealed, bottled water and use this water to brush your teeth also. Often ice cubes are made from tap water, so do not have these in your drink. Salad is also often washed in tap water, as is fruit. For this reason, we recommend that you only eat cooked food in India, and that you peel fruit you eat to remove dirt on the skin.
Wear Sensible Shoes
A lot of India has dirty roads and uneven paths. Be sure to have some sturdy footwear to avoid getting cuts.
Avoid Being Bitten by Mosquitos
Mosquitos in India can carry infection, as with many other places in the world, so try and protect yourself from them at all times. Use a good repellent on your skin and clothes, and wear longer clothing with more skin coverage where possible.
Much of the beauty of India can be found up in its mountains. If you are travelling to high altitudes, be prepared for altitude sickness. Drink lots of water, take painkillers if needed, take a break from travelling higher for at least 24 – 48 hours. Also do not drink alcohol or smoke during this time.
Extreme Weather Conditions
India is a huge country and the weather can differ a great deal between regions. Do lots of research on the areas you are intending to visit and be prepared for each eventuality.
As you may have gathered from the length of this article, it is quite easy to get sick in India. The healthcare in India is very good within the cities, although it can be very expensive. However, the health system in India in rural areas can be quite poor. Overseas health insurance for India is important, but more on that later. Local pharmacies are good for minor sickness and ailments, but do not hesitate in going straight to the hospital if you are not feeling well.
Here are a number of tips you must be aware of and keep in your mind when travelling in India:
- Stay alert: Some will offer help, but they will likely expect payment. Do not give your belongings to anyone else unless it is a worker at your hotel. Whilst violent muggings are not common in India, keep your items close to you, and be wary of strangers coming up and talking to you, particularly near tourist attractions and transportation centres.
- Mind your body language: Gestures may not mean the same in India, plus you do not want to attract unwanted attention.
- No displays of affection
- Respect religions and culture
- Careful with vehicles and cows. Many will not stop for you and you run the risk of being injured.
- Risk to women travelling alone: As with many countries, women travelling alone can receive unwanted attention. Dressing conservatively in long, loose fitting clothing is recommended. Covering up with a shawl is a good way to cover shoulders and chest. Trains on the Delhi metro have women-only compartments.
- Avoid asking leading questions. The response may be that they want to take you to their shops or travel somewhere with you.
- Research your next destination: Due to its size, there is lots to see in India, but also, long distances to travel.
- Cover up if required and dress conveniently. Particularly for the weather (it can be both very hot and very cold) and respecting local cultures.
- Take off your shoes in temples
- Programme your transport: Research how you can move around in advance to avoid dangerous situations or travelling alone at night.
- Plan your accommodation in advance: By doing research you can book your accommodation in good, safe areas.
- Giving gratuities and gifts: Tipping 10% of your bill or more at a hotel and restaurant is seen as a very large tip. 5% - 7% is sufficient. It is recommended that you do not give anything to beggars in India, be it money or other small items.
- Interacting with locals: Many Indian locals are lovely, welcoming and want you to have a lovely time in India. Although have your wits about you as, like most places in the world, not everyone is going to be so welcoming.
Best Travel Insurance India
It is of the utmost importance that you take out a comprehensive travel insurance in India, as health insurance in India is a must! The risk of theft is high, as are the costs for medical bills. Medical insurance in India through a travel insurance policy will make sure that, should you need medical treatment when you travel in India, you will have financial support for these high costs. You must also obtain a police report should you have anything stolen.