When You Visit Me...
A few people who have made plans (or are thinking about making plans) to visit India during my stay here have asked about how to prepare and what to bring and so on. So here's a basic overview of the most necessary information for travellers that I can think of; if you don't see what you want here, ask about it!
- Naturally, your health is the most important thing, so get some good advisory about travel medicine and follow the advice. The CDC has a pretty comprehensive advisory about Indian travel at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/indianrg.htm. Recommended vaccinations and boosters for most tourists seem to be Hep A, typhoid, tetanus/diphtheria, measles, and polio. Plenty of people come to India without some or all of the recommended vaccinations and do just fine, of course, but why take unnecessary risks?
Your doctor may also recommend an antimalarial prophylaxis (an antibiotic or chloroquine or some other meds). The most important basic remedies to have with you are pain/fever reducer such as Advil or Tylenol and an anti-diarrhea medicine like Imodium. Some doctors will prescribe a "just-in-case" antibiotic like Cipro if you run into a worse bug. Water purifier tablets and some insect repellent and sun screen are good to have.
- As on all trips, pack as light as you can. Here are some things that it's well worth loading up your luggage with: + A lightweight sheet sack, or even just a sheet, if you're expecting or allowing for overnight travel in trains (often useful in less-than-world-class hotel rooms, too). + A small pack towel such as campers use. + A one-liter Nalgene water bottle. + An inside-the-clothing money belt for cash, passport, etc. (Outside-the-clothing waist packs are said to attract hustlers and crooks because they make you look so like a tourist. For women, a good sturdy purse is much less conspicuous and not significantly less secure.) + A lock for your luggage zipper. + Earplugs and/or sleep mask. + Sunglasses and a protective hat (if you don't mind looking like a dorky videshi) or folding umbrella (if you want to blend in a little better). The umbrella is strictly for parasol purposes; there will not be any rain till July or so. + A small flashlight.
- Dress for the weather. A website such as http://www.joy-travels.com/weather.asp can give you a good idea of what the weather's likely to be like (in Jaipur around now it's ranging between about the low 50's and the high 70's). Remember that indoors is not going to be more than about 10--15 degrees different from outdoors as a rule, so don't count on heating or air conditioning for your comfort!
- Loose, easily washable, modest clothing is best. For guys, khakis and an untucked straight-bottom button shirt will make you pretty much indistinguishable from an Indian as far as clothing goes. For women, comfortable pants and mid- to long-sleeved tops are the best bet; skimpy or tight clothing says "Hi! I'm either clueless or indifferent about Indian mores, or else (if you're lucky) sexually available! Or maybe I just hang with a hip crowd that likes rather extreme westernized fashions, but you won't know for sure unless you make a move." No above-the-ankle hemlines on either gender, please.
- Comfortable shoes for standing and sightseeing are a must; check temperatures to know whether you will be desperately uncomfortable with (or without) socks. Shoes that you can kick off easily at the entrance to no-shoes-allowed locations are a plus.
- Electric appliances are probably going to be more trouble than they're worth; if you do bring one, make sure it has the necessary adapter/converter attachments for the Indian power system.
- Ordinary expenses are not particularly high. A quite nice hotel will be $20--25 per night; a taxi from the airport is about $5--10; a meal at a good restaurant is about $8. Staying with me in Jaipur can be done quite comfortably on about $7/day, including transportation and other daily expenses.
- India is the land of textiles, so you might want to think about having some clothes made, if you're going to be in one location for five days or more. If you want something that isn't extremely basic, though, it's a good idea to bring along a garment to serve as a pattern. (This applies more to women's clothing than to men's; the requirements of tailoring Western-style men's clothes are widely understood since so many men here wear them.)
That's about all I can think of for crucial advance information; you don't need all the usual helpful guidebook tips about where to find a taxi and how to buy toilet paper and what's safe to eat and so forth, since you're going to be with me and I can tell you.
—— Kim Plofker
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