Sunday, February 22, 2004

India Survival Kit

Occurred to me as I researched this entry (starting over a month ago) that I was intending to reinvent the wheel. There are some fantastic sites out there already delaing with this topic, and the others I intend to deal with. So... brevity is the rule of the day from now on. Some good hints and excellent links to guide the way, and get you thinking in the right direction.

What kind of pack? Depending on whether you are travelling or staying in one centre, do you want a backpack (travel) or suitcase (stationary). Consider poly bags inside of the main bag, to prevent spillage.

For a travel checklist try here or the excellent advice at this site

For electronic gear that uses mains electricity, consider surge protectors and multiple power adaptors/universal plug (different areas have different power sockets). Also consider keeping equipment in a ziploc bag with silica gel sachets, given the humidity in India. Also, don't forget your torch for the power outages - seems to be a personal preference on whether to take a maglite v. headtorch - you decide!

Clothing - consider the suitability of clothes as regards heat and humidity, and also the amount of clothes you will need (especially in a country where made-to-measure clothes cost, well, buttons!). Women need to consider personal safety when deciding what kind of clothing to take. Also think about what constitutes suitable footwear. Finally, almost everyone recommendstaking your money in a money belt.

Travel security - remember to find out from the airline exactly what you must not to carry in hand luggage and what should be in cabin baggage. I have read that in all internal flights you will have the batteries for electronic devices confiscated if you try to take them onboard with you.

Other useful items - penknife, cup and immersion heater, keep books to a minimum, one max (too much to do, too many people to chat with), cleaning wipes, photocopies of important documents including traveller cheques, padlocks, writing materials, mosquito net.

Anyone got specific suggestions to add, drop me a line...

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a travel agent!

First, the ouch-factor - innoculations. Been avoiding them since I was old enough to realise that I didn't like getting a big thick needle stuck into my arm (or alternate body location) and here I am looking to ask my doctor, "please sir may I have another!" However, that seems a far better option than dying choking on my own vomit in the throes of Dengue Fever or Bilharzia (if indeed those afflictions induce vomiting).

So here is the CDC (Center for Disease Control) advice to travellers to the Indian Sub-Continent. Still fancy a trip to India, or would you prefer your chances sitting around in a pool of Smallpox for a couple of weeks? Notice that amongst the usual advice on tummy troubles and malaria, you'll find the plague mentioned! Hmmmm... ring-a-ring-a-roses...

To summarise, the CDC recommend vaccinations against hte following diseases:

"Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).
Hepatitis B, if you might be exposed to blood (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than 6 months, or be exposed through medical treatment.
Japanese encephalitis, only if you plan to visit rural areas for 4 weeks or more, except under special circumstances, such as a known outbreak of Japanese encephalitis.
Rabies, if you might be exposed to wild or domestic animals through your work or recreation.
Typhoid vaccination is particularly important because of the presence of S. typhi strains resistant to multiple antibiotics in this region. There have been recent reports of typhoid drug resistance in India and Nepal.
As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles, and a one-time dose of polio for adults.
Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11–12 years who did not receive the series as infants."

So, I count that as 9 or 10 - quite low on the porcupine scale, but remarkably more dangerous than a darts match down the local pub.

Malaria advice seems to revolve around taking preventive medicines before you leave, during your stay, and (for some drugs) after you return home. This, apparently, is because malaria comes from a parasite in your blood, and you need to keep killing it off once you return. There is a lot of differing advice reagarding the need to take anti-malarials and also which medicines to take. Whatever you choose (based on sound medical advice, I would advise), steps to ward off mosquitos in the first place seem a good idea - mosquito repellent containing DEET and light coloured clothing being the best things.

Tummy troubles - don't eat and you should be fine! Okay, seriously it seems quite obvious but drink bottled spring water, no ice of any sort, careful where you eat, good post-toilet hygiene (since you'll be eating with your right hand)
and peeling fruit seem to be the main advice.

Another good tip, make sure you've visited the dentist before your trip - anyone who fancies a trip to an Indian sentist should watch the Marathon Man again, then reconsider.

Here's some of the things recommended for your Travel First Aid Kit for India:

Aspirin/paracetomol (pain/fever)
Antihistamine (allergies, insect bites/stings, motion sickness)
Cold and Flu Medicine (well, um, for colds and flu - duh!)
Antibiotics (should be prescribed, and carry prescription with you)
Diahorrea Medicine (like Imodium, but should only be taken if it persists)
Anti-vomiting/nausea meds (okay, enough sarcasm for one post)
Rehydration Drinks (to stop you dying from Diahorrea)
Insect repellent
Eye drops
Calamine Lotion/Sting Relief Spray/Aloe Vera
Antifungal Cream/Powder (yuk!)
Bandages and Band-Aids
Water Purification tabs and/or Iodine
Sterile Needle Kit (well, you might just not want the "doc" to stick you with the same needle as he used on that goat!)
George Clooney (yeah, dream on!)

For more on general health advice check out the MD Travel health site or the WHO information site.

Good health!

Friday, February 13, 2004

Excellent Site!!!

Anyone interested in travel in India should check out the Indiamike Travel Site and Forum. A great forum there, and I fully intend to strip it of all it's great wisdom over time!

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Whaddya mean you're gonna deport me???

Yes, my friend, it is true - you need a visa to get into India in the first place. So best give it a bit of thought before going, make sure you get one in time. This will all depend on where you live, so best get local advice, and do remember to make sure that you have a passport valid for six months after you intend to leave India.

The Ministry of External Affairs site offers general advice and also has links on its Missions page to Embassies and Consuls around the world.

Now, perhaps it is only me that finds it strange but the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that there is no mention of any British Embassies or Consuls there! Fear not my fellow Brits, for here is the High Commission of London website on visas. Best course of action would seem to be to turn up in person (with all the required documentation) at the High Commission of India in London, or the Consulate General of India which has offices in Birmingham and Edinburgh. There are also a number of visa 'surgeries' held at various locations throughout the UK during the year, check the website for details.

Most people will be looking for a short-term tourist visa, but all the info can be found on the High Commission website re visa types, application procedures, fees and opening times so I won't duplicate here. From what I read they will usually give you a short-term tourist visa for 6 months from date of issue, so I'm not planning to apply until November this year. Looks like you can get your visa there and then, but I'll update once I have done this part and let you know how I got on.

Also found out about this passport scam, mostly aimed at NRI's (Non-Resident Indians) but I think everyone should be wary. Just remember, truth and honesty are not always a protection in India, the police and officials can often be corrupt and a little (or a lot of) baksheesh can be the best way out of a situation.

Another good point came from this post on the Indiamike site. In brief, it is not usually possible to extend a 6 month tourist visa, except in an emergency which might buiy you a couple of weeks. What you need to do is leave the country and apply again - Nepal is recommended for ease of travel, and even an overnight stay is sufficient.