Top 10 Things to do Before Departing for India

After making 7 trips to India over the past 6 years, here is my list of the top 10 things to do before getting on the plane headed for India. This list is geared primarily for treckers, and not all will apply for those traveling on business…

1. Call your bank and let them know where you are headed. You don’t want to have your bank cancel your ATM card because of suspected fraud! Make sure you do this with all ATM and credit cards you plan on using during your trip. My recommendation is to bring at least two cards (ATM card and a credit card) because you never know when one will get demagnetized!

2. Get the proper immunizations. You can find the recommended immunizations from the Center of Disease Control. You really don’t want to get Typhus….

3. Stock up on Imodium and Dramamine. The local pharmacists don’t carry these medicines and will instead give you a general antibiotic to treat diarrhea and motion sickness… this is a very bad thing. Rule of thumb, do a web search on the medication that a local pharmacist gives you BEFORE you take it. Once I took an unfamiliar medication for a few days (the pharmacist told me it was for diarrhea) only to find out that it is only used in America to treat anthrax exposure!

4. Get a few days worth of cash. One of the craziest things that happened to me was when I showed up in Delhi without any cash, only to find that the ATM network was not working in the airport! After searching the airport for over an hour, I finally found an ATM that worked and disaster was averted. Always bring a few days worth of cash with you. The airport has higher money changing fees, but the price you pay is worth the security of knowing you will be okay for a few days.

5. Look at travel blogs and be aware of tipping rates as well as local scams. Being from San Francisco, I tip 20% almost all the time, but in India, the standard for tipping is totally different! Check the Lonely Planet for standard tipping rates for waiters, hotel staff, and cad drivers… Also, check the website for common scams in a particular area. For example, there are some well known Delhi scams that cab drivers will try to pull on wide-eyed foreigners, such as pretending not to know where your hotel is in order to get you to stay at another hotel they get a commission from. This is beyond annoying and can be quite scary if you are caught unaware.

6. Print out hotel address. How do you know if you will be scammed by a cab driver… You Don’t! Because of this, I find it very important to have hotel information on paper so that can it can be handed to the cab driver if he claims to be unaware of your hotel location.

7. Take critical items in your carry on. You never know when your bags might get mishandled! Once, while flying British Airways through London, my backpack with all of my clothes, toiletries, computer, and hotel information paperwork got mishandled, and because I was on a tight travel itinerary, I didn’t get any of my stuff back until a month later when my trip in India was over! True story. I had to buy replacement EVERYTHING! It was an interesting trip, but I learned a few valuable lessons… Most important is that I ALWAYS bring my essentials as carry on now.

8. Get travel insurance. Travel insurance is cheap, and hopefully you will never need it… but you don’t want to be liable for the cost of helicopter medical evacuation when you are in a remote village that is a 12 hour drive from the closest hospital. Enough said.

9. Bring Passport photos. In order to get a local SIM card for your cell phone you will need passport photos. Other travel permits often require these photos too. Save yourself the hassle, and get them made while you are still at home.

10. Baby Wipes. If you go to India for adventure travel, you will most likely be staying in places with squatty’s and “hot bucket” showers. Since it takes a while to get used to using a squatty potty, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND bringing a pack of Baby Wipes for personal sanitation. I’ve taken more than my fair share of “baby wipe baths”… My advice is to get a scent you like.

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