Although the majority of travelers visit India without incident, there are some health and safety concerns you should be aware of before starting your trip.
- Always drink bottled water, preferably purchased from your hotel restaurant, and not a street hawker. Street hawkers are notorious for reselling bottles with tap water.
- Do not eat water-based street food. Period, If you must try out street food, eat only well cooked food. Anything that has not been cooked in front of your eyes should be off-limits.
- Use spray-on mosquito repellent liberally, and cover exposed skin areas outdoors.
- Never travel alone, especially if you are female. India is a family-based society, and anyone traveling alone somehow signals a lack of family, friends or community-support. You will be looked at with suspicious and mocking eyes.
- Dress modestly, always wear clothes that cover above your knees. Keep a scarf handy to wrap around if you’re wearing sleeveless or tight fitting tops
- Indians do not generally smile at strangers or even acquaintances. So if this is normal to do so in your culture (especially in the west coast in the US), be mindful of this… or you will come across as being flirty or promiscuous.
The most common ailment is the dreaded ‘Delhi Belly’. Eating contaminated foods and drinking unsafe water can lead to diarrhea and vomiting. Always drink only bottled water, purchased at brick-mortar shops (not street vendors), and to stick to eating food from your hotel and good restaurants.
Make sure you’ve had all the necessary vaccinations and shots before you travel to India. Malaria and dengue are spread by mosquitoes, so a strong repellent is a must.
Another common concern for female travelers to India is their safety. Most recently, a spate of gang rapes has sparked widespread outrage around the world. While these shocking incidents are by no means commonplace in India, it still pays to exercise caution. Respect local dress codes and customs, and avoid traveling alone if you can.
While there is no speculation on the fact that India has a colorful past, with deep roots in spirituality, traditions and sexual moiré. Just watch any bollywood song-and-dance scene to know what I’m talking about here. The kama sutra was written here many centuries ago. There is a reason why India has the second largest population in the world. Just be careful when talking with local men… most of them are harmless, but keep your guard up.
- Never casually flirt with anyone, that includes laughing and giggling… such behavior signals an acceptance to sexual advances.
- In the western world, especially in California where I live, it is common social practice to smile at people passing by on the street when on a walk etc. However, this behavior can get you into trouble. Females in traditional India avoid eye-contact, much less smile at men they do not know. This might have become muscle-memory now, so be mindful of keeping this in check.
- Indian culture and traditions mandate that women and men do not freely engage or socialize within one or two meetings, unless they are related. While that it may seem that this mindset is changing, the stigma is still there for any woman who comes across as “too forward”.
- All common safety precautions that you would apply in your home country apply here too – i.e., never leaving your drink unattended, coming and leaving a party with a friend etc.
- Traveling alone can be dangerous, for both men and women. It is highly advisable to travel in a group, or at least one other person.
- Keep a spare phone with you, it can be an unlocked old phone wasting in a drawer. If your phone gets lost or damaged, at-least you’ll have a spare. Almost all hotels, restaurants, and even cabs nowadays offer wifi options, so you will have the option to use skype, whatsapp and facetime.
Finally, terrorism is another problem travelers must take into consideration when visiting India. The disputed Kashmir region at the far north is notoriously unstable and should be avoided. Check travel advisories from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade before you visit India. You also want to make sure your insurance policy covers you for the areas you are visiting.
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