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India... I hear it's hot there.

Dr SanchezDr Sanchez Registered User regular
edited January 2012 in Help / Advice Forum
So I am a domesticated Brit who for several odd reasons is going to Tiruvannamalai in India later this month, (if you had of told me this a few months ago I would have called you crazy) except for being born in Australia and a 6 week stint in New York I have never left Europe. I have questions to anyone who has done India…

Vaccines, what do I get? Because the trip got cancelled, then un-cancelled I have only just realised that I am in fact going with no time to get shots for free from the NHS. I am going to a private clinic tomorrow who charge £20 ish a disease.

I am only going for 2 weeks, what do I take? We aren't sure where exactly we will be staying yet. Cheap short stay accommodation is likely. (What is good to look for in accommodation?)

I have been hearing all sorts of 'culture shock' stories, do I need to have my bowler hat and crumpets on hand in case of emergencies?

Anything else I should know? Thanks!

Dr Sanchez on


  • Shazkar ShadowstormShazkar Shadowstorm Registered User regular
    here's what they say for travelers from the US, i assume there is probably a similar webpage from the NHS, but the info should be the same:

  • kilroydoskilroydos Registered User regular
    We were told to avoid any non-bottled water. That includes using said bottles for brushing teeth, not opening eyes/mouth under running water in the shower, drinks with ice, or fresh fruits and vegetables since they likely would have been washed prior to eating. I did get very sick a day or so after getting home, but I ate locally for pretty much every meal while there except for once at McDonalds and once at KFC. Both of those were brought in by work colleagues. It was quite odd to see a McDonalds with no hamburgers for obvious reasons.

    I don't know much about the area you'll be in, we were about 3 hours away in Chennai and then a few days up north near Delhi. I'm sure it'll be warm (high 20s), but not stiflingly hot.

  • QuantumTurkQuantumTurk Registered User regular
    So I did north India, thus all this comes with a grain of salt.
    As far as culture shock, yes, it is going to be wildly different. Honestly though, its 2 weeks. You could stand on your head for two weeks if you really had to. People are still just people, keep a good sense of humor about being a stranger in a strange land. At least in Delhi, Agra, Miradabad most everyone was really nice.
    Auto-rickshaws, and rickshaws are the best way to get around, screw cars as they can't weave through the beautifully anarchic traffic.

    You will realize every merchant is trying to rip you off. Do haggle, but know you are not going to get a price as good as a local, assuming you do not look Indian/speak the local language. That said, things will still be cheap as hell if you actually do the conversion. I haggled a lot and declined deals on the principle of being ripped off, but honestly don't let that bother you.

    Find a pharmacy, pick up Cipro TZ. It's a powerful antibiotic, but you won't need a prescription because...well, it's just how it works there. If you get a stomach bug, use it, you only have 2 weeks, don't mess around with stomach bugs. Though that said, eat the food! Eat from carts! Just make them cook it fresh for you, most will do so happily, and I never found a cart vendor that wouldn't when offered a slightly higher price.

    As far as heat, I went in the middle of the summer, June July. It was hot, but that just meant a lot of people slept during the hottest hours and everyone came out at night for an extended period, it was fun.

    Also, check on the local scene, but at least in Delhi, you definitely don't wear shorts. It's kind of a fashion/social mistake as it's just seen as low class/poor, and you very obviously won't be, so you would cut a confusing figure.

    Have fun! I loved my 6 week stay, but some people on the trip definitely did not have as much fun. Just go with the flow and you will see cool things/ eat amazing food/ meet some friendly people who want to practice their English.

  • EggyToastEggyToast Jersey CityRegistered User regular
    I was in New Delhi and Agra a month ago. The current temperature was only a little hot when you were in the direct sun in the afternoon -- otherwise, it's quite comfortable in pants.

    In general, the only things you should put in your mouth will come from a bottle, can, or from a hot dish. That includes brushing your teeth, and almost all fruits & veggies will be rinsed with tap water. So, you can take a risk and have some fresh tomatoes and lettuce, or you can just eat hot indian food the entire time.

    It's not that bad, but do get some cipro, and plan to bring bug spray too if you're not planning on taking anti-malarials. If you are seeing a doctor, see if you can get some Doxycyline. If you're staying in cities, you shouldn't have to worry about malaria or yellow fever, but feeling a little crappy from pills while on the trip is better than getting malaria.

    || Flickr — || PSN: EggyToast
  • DiannaoChongDiannaoChong Registered User regular
    the only things you should put in your mouth will come from a bottle, can, or from a hot dish.

    My father after he retired did alot of over seas consulting. Every coworker told him this first thing. and "hot dish" means hot enough to kill whatever is in the dish.

  • Anarchy Rules!Anarchy Rules! Registered User regular
    I would argue against just picking up powerful antibiotics from pharmacies without a prescription. The formulations may be less concentrated than necessary, the course may not be long enough and it's entirely this attitude that has resulted in the horrendous levels of antibiotic resistance

  • QuantumTurkQuantumTurk Registered User regular
    Also, entirely anecdotal thing that kind of makes sense: I never got sick in my stay, and comparing to how my friends ate, it may be worth noting that I had yogurt pretty much every day, with most meals. In addition to being something to tame the hotter sauces, it is almost always freshly made there, and chock full of pro-biotics/helpful bacteria. So that is the anecdotal part.
    The science part is that having a well colonized gut helps prevent pathogens from taking hold because the areas they want are already happily occupied. So eat your yogurt!

    As far as fresh veggies etc. The fruit is too good to pass up. Just remember, if you peel it, you will probably be fine. Cut your own mangoes and bliss out for a while, just don't eat too many, or you will indeed think you got food poisoning (speaking from experience.) If you can't (say, you want to try the little purple jamun, or something), just wash them well in water that you trust. Skip the salad, obviously.

  • Blake TBlake T Do you have enemies then? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.Registered User regular
    Look, with culture shock, it's a different country. If you go in with the attitude that it is a different country and that it's ok, and you don't need your local food, you'll be fine. There is nothing more annoying when travelling than listening to the guy who is pointing out everything that is different and how he wishes it was like back home.

  • AldoAldo Hippo Hooray Registered User regular
    I was in Puducherry a while back, which is a separate state within Tamil Nadu. Some specific advice about the Tamil Nadu:

    1. No alcohol. "Special Tea" is your go-to alcoholic beverage.
    2. Speak Tamil. Most people who are not in big businesses will not speak Hindu, they'll be better at English. Common words: Good day=vannakam, thank you=nandri, bugger off=putah, no=ee-lay, yes=aama.

    It is still important you contact someone with the NHS or a private clinic about the following: malaria. Seriously, if there's malaria mosquitoes in your area you will be playing Russian roulette unless you take anti-malaria tablets with you.

    General advice:

    1. 2 weeks is nothing. That's just enough time to get used everyone around you being Indian.
    2. Don't ask directions to people on the streets. Everyone loves to help you, but they will send you in the wrong direction if they don't know the answer. Try and find a hotel and ask for help.
    3. You will be scammed, don't worry about it.
    4. South Indian food is very different from North Indian, your go-to meals are masala dosai, which just so happens to be Lord Ganesha's greatest gift to mankind.
    5. Monkeys are scary little balls of fur. Avoid!
    6. Everything with fur will have fleas.
    7. Don't take photos of bridges unless you have permission.
    8. Don't trust the police, unless you know an officer personally they probably can't be trusted like you would trust an English policeman.
    9. Traffic is crazy; deal with it.

    Required reading:

    The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.

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