From the infamous Holi and the International Yoga Festival, to the elephant pageant Chinakkathoor Pooram and bright Temple Festivals of Kerala, it’s easy to see why March is high season for travel to India.
The country is now one of the top 10 destinations for Australian tourists, with a 200 per cent increase in travel there over the past decade.
But the hotspot renowned for its bright colours and rich culture is not without its challenges, warns Claudio Saita, Deputy CEO and Executive Director of World2Cover travel insurance.
“Figures show India was the 10th most risky destination for Aussies in 2016 for serious injury, illness or hospitalisation incidents abroad, including some surprising issues,” he says.
“For example, while traveller’s diarrhoea affects up to 70 per cent of visitors, many are unaware that March is also chickenpox season, which can severely affect unvaccinated adults and people with weakened immune systems.
“India is also a land of contrasts, with the quality of medical care varying greatly between hospitals.”
Doing your destination homework and planning ahead is definitely important to help avoid unwanted travel surprises and chances of being out of pocket.
Whether you’re visiting as part of a South-East Asia expedition or simply planning to experience these festivals, the team at World2Cover has provided these top 10 tips to help visitors to ‘Hindustan’ have the best time.
Rabies is present in almost every country on earth, but most human cases occur in South Asia. Monkeys are the second most common animal bite risk to travellers in India next to dogs, so take care not to pet or engage with any wildlife or stray animals and seek medical attention immediately if bitten.
One of the most common complaints of first time visitors is travel fatigue. India is vast, beautiful and addictive, so make sure you are realistic about how much you can fit into your trip. Take the time to wisely plan and organise transport and your route of travel.
Many of Australia’s top ten tourist destinations, including Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Fiji and India, are dengue endemic countries, and 10 per cent of recorded global malaria incidents also occur in South East Asia. Both of these illnesses are transmitted through mozzie bites so be sure to wear long, loose fitting clothes and top up with DEET-heavy spray and plug-ins for your room.
At the moment, there is a nationwide cash shortage and withdrawals from ATMs are subject to a daily limit of 10,000 rupees ($200), although some ATMs run out within hours. Paying via bank or credit card wherever possible is advised, and ensure you take ample currency with you.
With numerous languages spoken and a lack of literacy across the country, it is often difficult to ask for directions. Download and utilise apps such as Google translate which can give you oral translations in languages such as Hindi, Bengali, Tamil and Kannada.
Always take your shoes off before entering a place of worship and as tempting as it is to wear shorts in the hot weather, it’s crucial to keep your shoulders and lower part of your body covered when visiting a place of religious importance.
Petty theft is common in crowded areas as well as on public transport and even rickshaws. Thieves on motorcycles commonly snatch shoulder bags and jewellery so limit the items you are bringing and keep your valuables securely stored and out of sight.
Hands & Feet
Hinduism beliefs involve a hierarchy of body parts. Feet are considered dirty, so always take your shoes off before stepping into someone’s house. The left hand is customarily used for cleaning oneself, so never pass on anything in your left hand or use it to eat food.
Road accidents are commonplace in India and the number of traffic deaths is high. Buses and trains are also often poorly maintained and pose fire risks, so consider booking a driver through your hotel or reputable agent where possible.
Make sure you’re not just covered for the festival period, but for the full duration of your trip which includes the days you leave and return to your home address. Also ensure you’re covered for any of additional activities you may wish to participate in, like motorcycle riding, during your holiday. There are often exclusions or special conditions for activities with heightened risk so always read your policy to check the limits and terms and conditions.
Upcoming Indian festivals include:
March 1-7 – International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh
March 11 – Chinakkathoor Pooram elephant pageant in Kerala Mar 13 – Holi Festival of Colour, nationwide
March 20-30 – Myoko festival of the Apatani Tribe in Arunachal Pradesh
March 24 – Malanada Kettukazcha temple festival, Kerala