08 Jan What to consider when traveling to India for the first time!
It has been one week in beautiful Goa, India – amazing! I have been coming here for the last 5 years, so arriving here has become incredibly easy. This time, I actually felt like I had never left.
India is completely rich in culture – actually being one of the most ancient cultures on the planet. It is rich in traditions, diversity of religions, lifestyles, and people.
However, of course, it is still one of the poorest countries in the world with massive developmental issues when it comes to garbage and waste management.
It is also one of the most densely populated countries in the world – with 1.9 Billion, India has a whole lot of inhabitants.
The contrast between rich and poor is quite cross. And while the Indian economy is booming, this contrast doesn’t seem to grow smaller.
When you are aware of these setting and circumstances, then you can easily understand the different kinds of experiences that you may encounter when you first arrive in this bountiful country.
Hygiene and Sanitation
So number 1, of course, it is to be expected that the whole system and infrastructures of sanitation look quite different to the west.
Traditionally you have Standing toilets. Over which you have to hover as a woman.
Luckily, in more developed areas like Goa, you can find also more and more Western toilets.
When it comes to how to clean yourself after using the toilet, most often water is used. There will be either a bucket or a spray.
Rarely, you will find toilet paper.
When it comes to bathrooms, there will be showers that are integrated into the room. So there will not be a separate basin for the shower, instead, the water is drained directly in the floor.
If you are not in the city, water supplies can be limited. You will have a water tank on the roof, which is either connected to a well or filled regularly by a track that will supply you with water.
In our house, we need to activate the pump from the well ourselves, in order to refill the water tanks.
When it comes to the water itself, of course, you will not want to drink any tap water. The cultures of bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites etc that are present in a foreign country like India are entirely different from the ones that we have in the West.
In addition, of course, sanitation is entirely different as mentioned above.
While it is ok to shower with the water, it is up to you whether you want to brush your teeth with it.
I have never had any bad experience with it, but depending on your immune system, you might do – so using filtered or bottled water is the save bet!
The good thing about bottled water is that it is often ozonated. This means, that it has been treated with ozone gas ( oxygen which has been split into ozone with a machine).
The effect of ozone is that it actually completely eliminates any bacteria as well as chemicals. Which is what makes the water super save to drink as well as to use to wash your vegetables with.
Side Note: Ozone is also often used in colonics or enemas and can work wonders here. When I came to Goa for the first time, I became REALLY ill.
It was just a 7h thing, but it started at 3:30 in the morning and by 8:30 I was literally crawling out of my flat, screaming for the neighbor and asking them to bring me to the hospital (in tears).
Luckily, my other neighbor was a Detox retreat. And there I got the Ozone treatment which within minutes completely sorted me out!
When it comes to salads and raw vegetables there are many recommendations online to avoid them altogether.
I would be very careful and have a look at the kitchen if you are eating salads and raw fruit or vegetables outside.
However, if you are preparing your food at home you can do a few things:
- Use ozonated water to clean the vegetables
- Use Produce wash to clean your vegetables
- Or if neither is available: add some vinegar to your filtered water, soak your vegetables for about 2-3minutes. Then rinse again with filtered water.
When I came to Goa the first time, I was on a 90% raw food diet. Once a week I would have a cooked vegetable meal (which was exactly what made me ill at that time (!)).
However, I was never ill from eating raw fruit or vegetables there.
Hot Climates and Remote Areas
Depending on the area of India that you are
However, no matter where you are – whether there is a very hot climate, or whether you are in very remote areas: In both you are highly likely to encounter bacteria, parasites or viruses that your body is not familiar to tolerate.
When I traveled to Hampi a few years back, EVERYONE there was ill. Everyone I met. All the people with whom I came. It was THE topic of conversation. Somehow I was incredibly lucky, and this time was the only person in my group who was not affected.
So even though there was lots of tourism, that didn’t mean that all the precautions were taken by restaurants.
So be aware that it is really up to you to take care of your health.
Hydration + Heat Strokes
Ok, I have to confess: This is exactly the area that I lack the most in my self-care and health discipline.
I had SO many heat strokes while being in India – I can’t even count them. A doctor explained to me, that when you had heatstroke once, then the thermostat in your brain breaks, and from then on you will always be very sensitive to heat and likely to have more heat strokes.
In addition, living a busy and active life, I might also often have forgotten about drinking enough water. And this is so important – and really easy to take care of.
Some things to consider:
Heat Stroke is not Sun Stroke. It doesn’t matter whether you are in the sun or in a room or in the shade. It doesn’t even matter if there is air flow or wind.
All it takes is heat. Your body and nervous system to overheat.
Hydration is essential to prevent Heatstroke and to help cool your body down.
Even better: Drink Electrolyte Drinks. That can be Coconut Water or Electrolytes from the pharmacy.
In this way, you can replenish your body with the minerals and nutrients and salts that it needs but sweats out in the heat.
If you are very hot – have a shower. Wet your hair. Put wet clothes on your body.
Cooling down your wrists, head/ neck and feet is the most effective.
I have experienced many times when it was already too late. I might have collapsed. Dizzy. My head exploding. My whole body shaking. Lying on the floor to cool down on the tiles.
It’s not fun.
So be sure to remember to drink during the day. Maybe have a shower in between. Go to the sea.
Rest and sleep.
Some Good Remedies and Things to Pack
- Charcoal Tablets: Always good for an upset stomach
- Probiotics: Support your gut with beneficial bacteria from the start. Then it can often withstand other bacteria much more easily.
- Turmeric: No need to pack – it really exists in abundance here: But if you are ill: Take a spoon full of the powder in water. Add some black pepper. This will help clean out your digestive tracks.
- Neem: Do the same like with Turmeric (also exists in abundance here in India) – Neem will help clean out your blood.
- First Aid Kits:
- Because of humidity and the whole different environment in India, wounds can take much longer to heal than in drier climates.
- Hence it is extra important to keep them clean and care for wounds.
- You don’t want flies sitting on your wounds and laying eggs in there, would you? 🤪
A note on Traffic and Accidents
Traffic is simply hectic in India. If you are not used to it, it can be overwhelming. Think of those video games like Mario Cart? It’s a bit like that.
Cow coming from the left. Dog barking at you in the night and trying to grab your leg. A man coming from nowhere.
Yup, it is quite different. And busy. So prepare yourself.
Ideally, wear a helmet if you drive a scooter or bike. Don’t drink and drive. Drive at a safe speed. Seems obvious. But it can make all the difference.
Also, the roads are not perfect, and other people might drive particularly wild. So good to be aware of all of this.
When it comes to accidents, I have seen quite a few with different degrees of gravity since I came the first time.
You can prepare like this:
- Always carry your phone with you, charged
- Have an emergency card: Emergency Phone Numbers: A trusted Taxi Driver + A Friend, + Your Fully Name and Phone Number
- Carry Identification even if it is just a copy of your passport
- Carry a First Aid Kit
- There might be a group of people forming around you when you have an accident. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that anyone will help. Often people don’t want to get involved. Also, it doesn’t mean that anyone who wants to help know the correct steps. It is most important to stay calm and relaxed yourself and ask someone to call your emergency contact.
- Check yourself for injuries. As much as you can. It really depends on the severity of the injury
- Get your driver or a driver who is available around you to bring you to the nearest or good hospital. Usually waiting for an ambulance will take too long. In some areas, there might only be one ambulance.
- If you are in Goa: Galaxy or Vision Hospital, both in Mapusa, are the best places for you to go to.
Luckily, when you are in Goa, there are usually also Western people around. And you can find help more quickly.
But still, it can be tricky. Especially when no-one speaks your language well, or doesn’t want to get involved.
Hence, the best thing that you can do is to stay calm and relaxed. And assess clearly what is going on in your body.
If you know how to help yourself, you also know how to help others
If you are involved in the accident yourself, you will be in shock. You might not be aware of all injuries or pains. So speak with someone as quickly as possible for support.
And even if you yourself are not part of an accident, but you arrive at one where others are injured, it is so important to remain calm and to follow the steps above to help the injured person as swiftly as possible. In this case, you can also call your own driver to ensure the swift transport of the injured person to the hospital.
In addition, if you know how to act in this situation this will be extremely supportive of the person in the accident, it will calm them down and give them the feeling that they are in good hands and being taken care of.
One last word on Dogs:
There are tons of stray or freely running dogs in the streets of India. During the day, they will mostly sleep and not bother anyone.
However, they will be active at night. This means a few things:
Be sure to carry earplugs with you so you can get some sleep even if dogs are hauling.
AND: If you are on the bike or scooter at night, don’t be surprised if a dog might starts barking and chasing you.
There are a few tricks that you can do:
It might seem counter-intuitive – but instead of driving away from them, stopping abruptly can really surprise them and make them go away. The key is to be confident. You can speak to them.
Sometimes a bold shout or laughter in their face can intimate them.
Carry a bottle of water with you. If you have it at hand, you can spray the water in their face.
OR blind them with the scooter lights or a torch. (That’s the same trick I applied when a shark came towards me in the Maldives a few years ago during a night dive). You can’t get what you can’t see.
And sometimes, you can just drive away.
And sometimes, it might come to it that you need to kick them (not wearing sandals).
Also, the dogs like to hang out on the beach at night as well. I prefer not to walk on the beach at night when it is dark (depending on the area).
And even early morning, people often walk with sticks in their hands so they can protect themselves if needed.
It’s an Adventure
India is wild and beautiful. And yes as you can see, it is really quite wild. Even in Goa – which is really a soft and light version of this magical country.
It usually throws things at you so that you can learn and grow. And it does a fantastic job to completely surprise you with the unexpected. Often you need to adjust and adapt, respond.
At the same time, if you relax and trust the process, it is such a truly healing and soothing place. Much different to Europe or the US.
I always feel my mind operating so differently as soon as I arrive. It is lovely.
It really is up to you to embrace the adventure. Also, if you have friends where you are going, and know other people and people to contact – it will be so much more easeful. They already know the drill and where to go, how to be. It is like with everything!
Then you can really enjoy the beauty of this country, the amazing culture, nature, foods, and wonders that it has to offer.
Are you traveling to India?
Give me a Shout Out if you have any questions! I am so happy to help!
Also, what are the strategies and tricks that you have found to work when