Staying Healthy While Backpacking Across India
India is a phenomenal country that’s still relatively unspoiled by the tourist industry. Flights to India are relatively cheap, but accommodation can be pricey. However, the savvy traveller can easily find cheap accommodation by forgoing the expensive resorts and choosing backpacking. Backpacking in India is a truly unforgettable experience and although the country is generally quite safe if you don’t keep your wits about you there are a few pitfalls you can topple into.
Untreated water is the biggest cause of illness for backpackers in India, but it is freely used by Indians themselves. Be very careful about drinking water in the country, or using anything washed in water. Only drink from hard-plastic sealed bottles of water, insist that waiters bring unopened bottles of water to your table and try to stick to brands you recognise. Do not assume every bottle of water is sealed as Indian people regularly refill empty water bottles with tap water and ensure the bottle doesn’t have any holes or dents. Examine every bottle of water carefully for debris or bugs and if you are ever handed a bottle of water that has an odour when opened, do not drink it. When eating at a restaurant, wipe down glasses and cutlery with a clean cloth – kitchen staff may try to be helpful by rinsing these down for you before they are brought to the table, but even a drop of Indian tap water can contain harmful bacteria.
Malaria is present all through the year in most parts of India, so ensure you are vaccinated before you leave and take necessary precautions, such as using mosquito nets at night. All of your vaccinations should be up to date before you leave, but ensure you are vaccinated against Polio and Typhoid. Always wash your hands before and after eating to avoid cross contamination.
When eating out in India, ensure all food you eat is piping hot and avoid buffet restaurants where food may have been lying out unprotected from disease carrying insects or dirt. It’s not recommended that Westerners eat dairy products in India as these are not pasteurised, but if you eat small amounts of yogurt when you first arrive you may find your system adapts. All fruit and vegetables should be washed with bottled water and peeled before consumption. Do not buy from street food vendors, as the food may not have been prepared in sanitary conditions. Avoid meat altogether if possible as you are more likely to get sick from spoiled meat than rotten vegetables.
By remembering where you are and applying additional caution staying healthy and safe while in India is a cinch.