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India is a glorious country with myriad wonderful sights and sounds. However, some travelers end up having bad experiences there and it’s an inside joke among them that the country’s name is an acronym for “I’ll Never Do It Again.”
The most important aspect to having a good journey is staying safe and healthy, and that’s especially important in India. Here are the top five ways to do it.
5 Get a Safe Hotel
India might be the place to splurge on a fancy hotel because it’s likely to be less expensive than comparable accommodations back in the States. If you’re traveling alone, this might be especially important for you. Always trust your gut when it comes to your hotels: if something about the hotel makes you uneasy or uncomfortable, check out and find someplace that sits better with you.
4 Don’t Touch the Animals
Monkeys that lurk in temples, cows that roam down the streets, wild dogs… there’s a lot of wildlife even in the most urban of neighborhoods in India. Admire them from afar, take as many photos as you can and enjoy the show, but don’t touch the animals, even if someone claims that they are tame. Rabies is an ongoing problem in Southeast Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, and it has claimed the lives of travelers in the past. It’s a horrible way to die. If you are inadvertently touched, licked, scratched or bitten by a stray animal, wash out the wound as best you can and get to a hospital immediately for anti-rabies injections. If you’re going to be outside urban areas or trekking through Southeast Asia for a while, consider getting the rabies vaccine before you go.
3 Anticipate the Heat
It would be an understatement to say that India is hot. We’re talking 100 degrees in December. We’re talking humidity so thick that it’s impossible to move. We’re talking sweat all day and all night. The Captain Obvious caveats apply here. Drink lots of water. Wear hats, use sunblock and cover up. Don’t embark on that hike or 10-mile jog at high noon. It’s a lot easier to remain in good spirits when you’re hydrated and you’re not suffering from heat stroke. If you have asthma or another respiratory condition, you might find that the heat and smog exacerbate your symptoms, particularly in the larger cities, so make sure that you have more than enough medicine to get through your trip.
2 Take Malaria Precautions
Malaria is endemic on the Indian Subcontinent, and you really, really don’t want to go home with it. Your anti-malaria regime is going to be a multi-tiered attack. First, you’re going to need to start taking malaria prophylaxis pills – probably doxycycline or Lariam – before you get to India. They need some time to kick in. Your doctor or the local travel clinic can prescribe them for you. You’re also going to want to bring and use insect repellent. If you visit an Indian home, you might notice bug repellent lights or mosquito nets near the beds. It’s not a bad idea for you, either.
1 Don’t Drink the Water
The old cliché has a lot of merit. Indian households typically use bottled water or filter it if they can; you want to follow suit. Don’t even brush your teeth with the stuff from the tap. Also avoid ice and snow cones, unless you know that they’ve been made from a clean water supply. The safest tactic is to drink only bottled water from sealed, single use bottles. Crush and recycle the containers when you’re finished. Bisleri is widely considered to be the most popular and reputable brand of bottled water; Kinley and Aquafina are others. Some hotels, particularly upscale ones, filter their water. While it might be safe for toothbrushes, you still might want to stick with bottled water for drinking. You can also boil your water if you have access to a stove or kettle. In an absolute emergency, filtration tablets can make the local water potable.
There’s a lot to do and see in India. Get to it and stay safe!