and Fitness in India
Here are some travel medical tips,
which will help make sure you're prepared for anything.
1) Blood Types
You should know your blood type and that of your friends/family
who you're traveling with. India doesn't have a blood bank,
so if you need blood, you need someone who's willing to donate
it for you. I had to do this once, when a friend of a friend
was admitted to hospital. Hopefully, this will never happen
to you, but if it does, you'll be prepared.
2) Travel Insurance
Yes, of course have travel insurance, you should never go
anywhere without it, but that goes doubly for India! However,
if you do need to get medical attention in India, it's not
the end of the world. At least in the major cities, the hospitals
are generally completely fine, though service in rural areas
is less comprehensive. If anything happens which could be
covered by your insurance, make sure you call your Insurance
company right away, and let them direct you. They will know
where you can get the best help.
A lot of the regular pharmaceuticals are available in India.
Actually, one of the benefits is you can buy such items generally
in individual units, rather than whole packets, so you can
just buy what you need. The tip though, is that you should
note down the names of the active ingredients of any pharmaceuticals
you regularly use, as they are usually sold by that name rather
than by brand names you might know. For example, if you had
a headache, you can just buy 2 paracetamol tablets if that's
what you need, as long as you know to ask for paracetamol
and not by the brand name.
4) Malaria Tablets
These are available in India at much cheaper rates than where
I live, something like 1/10 the price. So what I do is buy
only 1 week's worth of malaria tablets from my doctor at home
and then buy the rest when I get there. Again remember to
ask for the active ingredient, not the brand name. But don't
forget to buy them!
While we're talking about preventative medication, make sure
you check with your doctor for what immunization you will
need before you go. Please don't leave this until the last
minute, because some shots are a course of three, which you
have to have some time apart. Ideally, go to the doctor approximately
6-8 weeks out from your departure. Many of the immunizations
are valid for some years, so while it may cost a little for
your first trip, you may only need boosters of one or another
drug each time you go, depending how frequently.
There are some interesting diseases in India, none of which
you want to go home with. For instance, I know someone who
had to be sent home with Japanese Encephalitis, some years
ago, so I definitely get immunized for that. Also Hepatitis
shots are normal to get, but get the full recommendation from
This is a packing essential. Lavender is a calming herb, so
you can put a little daub on each temple if you have a headache
or are feeling stressed. It's also good for cuts and scratches
etc as it's antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral.
7) First Aid Kit
I usually travel with a very small first aid kit, just in
case. But here's the funny thing, I usually end up leaving
it in my backpack while I'm out and about, so frankly it's
not much use. If you're traveling on a tour, you can check
with your tour company whether they will have a first aid
kit with them. I usually only need small items like bandaids
for blisters or paracetamol for a headache, so I usually just
pick these up from a local pharmacy.
Drinking Water Tips
Use these drinking water tips to ensure neither you nor anyone
else gets sick from dodgy water.
a) Use your eyes and nose on Bottled
Make sure you carefully inspect your bottled water bottles.
If anything seems amiss, don't drink it. Just get rid of it
and buy another bottle somewhere else. I found no troubles
when buying from a regular store, even 'hole in the wall'
kind of small stores, but I did have one bottle that was very
suspect when I was last in Lucknow. I was very thirsty and
bought from the nearest vendor. Even though I inspected the
seal and both the hard plastic seal and the clear plastic
overwrap were intact, when I opened the bottle, it smelled
a bit funny, definitely more like dodgy tap water than spring
I found out later that Indian scam artists are as skilled
as any other artisans. I was told that there is a way to refill
the bottles through a small hole in the bottom, which is then
replugged with plastic... which brings me to my the next tip:
When you finish with a bottle of bottled water, crush it (I
think they even put directions on some of the bottles to ask
you to). This is to make sure that the bottle is not easily
refilled with tap water and sold on to the next unsuspecting
b) Check for Filtered Water in Restaurants
If you're in a mid-range type of restaurant, not a 5 star
but not a 'hole in the wall' on the street, you may be able
to drink the water they offer you. Just ask if they have filtered
water. Many places, which cater to foreigners, have learned
that we can't stomach the local tap water and supply filtered
water for you free.
However, if you suspect that the waiter may not have understood
you or is just saying Yes to whatever you ask (yes, this stereotype
does have some merit!), then it's probably not worth the risk
- buy a bottle.
Bottled Water in India (Mineral and
Staying hydrating while traveling India has never been easier.
Over the years, the proliferation of bottled water in stores
and roadside stalls has eased any worry or need to buy in
mass quantities at one time. In the 7 years of being a tourist
of India, I've gone from buying a case of water immediately
after arriving, to just purchasing a few bottles at a time.
You're never very far from a stall selling water, even in
some of the most remote places.
Do follow some general rules on water consumption while in
a) Avoid tap water, even
in hotels. Exception: Some 5 star hotels will place a notice
regarding their water filtration system. In this case the
property will specifically make note that the water is drinkable.
b) Never ever drink water
from roadside vendors selling well water. Regardless if it
is pumped in front of you, that water is not at all safe for
many reasons. Pesticides and other chemicals that are allowable
and/or uncontrolled in India have been proven to have contaminated
the ground water in many regions of the country.
c) When visiting restaurants,
cafes, and even hotel dining rooms, insist on bottled (mineral)
water. Nearly all eating establishments have bottled water
on hand. If they don't, in pure Indian style they will send
a staff member to pick up a bottle on the street without your
knowledge. Servers at many locations may attempt to open the
bottle and pour the first glass for the patrons. Kindly explain
you will do this for yourself as it gives an opportunity to
inspect the bottle.
d) Do not accept ice in
any drinks no matter what establishment you are visiting.
Years ago in Delhi I was dying for a mojito and later that
night it felt like I was physically going to die.
e) Ensure the seal of
the bottle is intact. Some vendors, in an effort to make more
money, will recycle bottles by refilling them with tap water
and replacing the cap. Also, see if there is anything floating
in it before buying. Recently I purchased two bottles in Chamba,
Himachal Pradesh without checking as I normally do. Back at
the hotel I discovered one cap had been tampered with. Fortunately
any issue of stomach problems was averted but unfortunately,
I was out Rs. 20.
f) You may also come across
water being sold in polythene bags. Don't drink it at all.
Even this water is not safe.
g) If possible, look for
Rohtang & Himalayan brand water. The taste difference
is noticeably better and as in the US, they state where the
water is sourced from meaning it's genuine mineral water.
Other brands such as Aquafina, Kinley, Bisleri and Kingfisher
are nothing more than purified drinking water.
h) Like many products
in India, bottled water is individually priced by the vendor
with a MRP (Maximum Retail Price). Most vendors will charge
as marked on the bottle with a few asking for less. The highest
I have seen and/or paid is Rs. 20 per bottle for Rohtang brand.
i) Hotels are legally
allowed to charge more than MRP. Get your exercise by running
to the nearest stall or market and save a significant amount
of money by purchasing your water there.
No vaccinations are required for entry into India for tourists,
however the following are recommended by the CDC and Indian
a) Routine: Recommended
if you are not up-to-date with routine shots such as, measles/mumps/rubella
(MMR) vaccine, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) vaccine,
poliovirus vaccine, etc.
b) Hepatitis A or immune globulin
(IG): Recommended for all unvaccinated people traveling
to or working in countries with an intermediate or high level
of hepatitis A virus infection where exposure might occur
through food or water. Cases of travel-related hepatitis A
can also occur in travelers to developing countries with "standard"
tourist itineraries, accommodations, and food consumption
c) Hepatitis B: Recommended
for all unvaccinated persons traveling to or working in countries
with intermediate to high levels of endemic HBV transmission,
especially those who might be exposed to blood or body fluids,
have sexual contact with the local population, or be exposed
through medical treatment (e.g., for an accident).
d) Typhoid: Recommended
for all unvaccinated people traveling to or working in South
Asia, especially if visiting smaller cities, villages, or
rural areas and staying with friends or relatives where exposure
might occur through food or water.
e) Rabies: Recommended
for travelers spending a lot of time outdoors, especially
in rural areas, involved in activities such as bicycling,
camping, or hiking. Also recommended for travelers with significant
occupational risks (such as veterinarians), for long-term
travelers and expatriates living in areas with a significant
risk of exposure, and for travelers involved in any activities
that might bring them into direct contact with bats, carnivores,
and other mammals. Children are considered at higher risk
because they tend to play with animals, may receive more severe
bites, or may not report bites.
f) Japanese encephalitis:
Recommended if you plan to visit rural farming areas and under
special circumstances, such as a known outbreak of Japanese
g) Polio: Recommended
for adult travelers who have received a primary series with
either inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) or oral polio
vaccine (OPV). They should receive another dose of IPV before
departure. For adults, available data do not indicate the
need for more than a single lifetime booster dose with IPV.
Complete information on health issues, vaccinations and more
can be found at CDC