India is a pulsating mix of traditions, culture and spirituality and is a destination that offers remarkable diversity to travellers. Unfortunately, as India is a developing nation, poor sanitation means that many travellers tend to fall victim to the infamous ‘Delhi Belly’ or other ailments of the digestive system. Using your common sense and following these few precautions will help you stay healthy while travelling in India and helpy you get the most out of your trip.
15 Tips for Staying Healthy while Travelling in India
Before your trip:
1. Purchase comprehensive travel insurance
The most important thing you can do before your trip is to take out comprehensive travel insurance that includes full medical cover with a no excess policy. If you do happen to get sick, you want to know that all of your medical expenses will be covered.
2. Get vaccinated
You will need to be vaccinated against a number of diseases prior to travelling to India, including Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Cholera and Diphtheria. It’s important that you see your doctor at least six months before your trip to discuss which vaccinations you need. Some vaccinations require a course and need to be spread out over a few months, so get organised early with this.
3. Pack medication
Be prepared for getting and sick and pack a good medical kit to bring with you. It is a good idea to bring some antibiotics with you, malaria medication if you need it and over-the-counter products such as Imodium and rehydration salts. You will be very glad you packed these if you find that you need them!
During your trip:
4. Clean your hands often
It’s important to either wash your hands regularly or use disinfectant wipes or gel to kill germs you may have picked up from touching surfaces over the day. If you have picked up any germs on your hands, simply touching your face can be enough to make you sick. Clean your hands regularly to avoid this as much as possible and always remember to sanitize your hands before you eat.
5. Only drink bottled or purified water
It is not safe to drink the tap water in India. Only drink bottled or purified water. If you purchase bottled water from a store or kiosk, always make sure that the seal hasn’t been broken before you drink from it as people have been known re-use empty bottles filled with unclean tap water.
6. Say no to ice in your drink
You can’t be sure that purified water was used to make the ice in your drink so it’s best to avoid it altogether.
7. Don’t eat anything fresh that can’t be peeled
There’s a high chance that fresh fruit and vegetables have been washed in contaminated water. Only eat fresh, uncooked food that can be peeled.
8. Take probiotics
Taking probiotics regularly is one of the best ways to prepare your digestive system for travel to India. The good bacteria in probiotics helps to keep your stomach in tip-top shape and helps to fight bad bacteria. Take them daily in the months leading up to your trip and buy a traveller’s pack that doesn’t require refrigeration to take away with you.
9. Eat at busy restaurants
If a restaurant is busy, it’s for a good reason. Follow the crowds and eat at busy places. These restaurants have a better reputation and are more likely to be serving higher quality food.
10. Drink from a straw
Avoid putting your lips directly on the top of the bottle, which may be unclean and drink out of a straw instead.
11. Be careful with street food
Tucking into street food is one of the joys of travelling. Even though street food is often a lot cheaper than food in restaurants and hotels, be careful with it in India. Use your common sense and make a judgement as to whether you think the vendor’s food looks safe. Does the oil look clean? Are the pots and pans dirty? Are food scraps left out? Are there a lot of flies buzzing around? This should give you a pretty clear indication as to whether the food will be safe or not.
12. Don’t drink fresh juices or smoothies
You can’t be sure that the fruit in fresh juices and smoothies has been washed in purified water, or whether the ice is safe. It’s best to avoid these drinks altogether in India.
13. Use your hands
Provided that you have washed your hands carefully or have used a hand sanitizer before eating, you should have confidence that they are clean. Eating with your hands can be a great option if you have doubts about the cleanliness of utensils. Don’t worry – it’s common practice to eat with your right hand in India!
14. Don’t accept food from strangers
Even though strangers may appear friendly if they offer you food, politely decline. Firstly, the food may be unsafe to eat. Secondly, there have been unfortunate stories of strangers offering tourists poisoned food that causes them to fall asleep, making them easy targets for theft. Stick with your own food just to be sure.
15. When in doubt, eat vegetarian
Indians are the lowest consumers of meat in the entire world and, consequently, have perfected vegetarian cooking into an artform. The vegetarian food is absolutely delicious in India. Due to frequent power cuts and the effects on refrigeration that this has, meat is much more likely to be contaminated than vegetarian food. Staying clear of it may reduce your chances of falling ill.
But… trust your instincts
Don’t be paranoid about getting sick in India. Even if you follow all of these tips, there is still a chance that you will get sick — I did! Use your judgement and eat what you think looks good and what you believe is safe. Don’t let paranoia ruin your trip and most importantly, enjoy the journey!
Over to you: what are your tips for staying healthy when travelling?