“What do I pack when I travel?” We hope to help answer this frequently asked question with the information below. Here is our suggested packing list for India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan:
Generally speaking, this is a conservative region. We recommend not wearing clothing that is too short, tight, or revealing. Unless you are traveling to a village or rural area, shorts, skirts and dresses are acceptable. A light jacket or layering is best to sustain the varying temperatures. Also consider purchasing local clothing. Besides being affordable, the fabrics are beautiful and generally made to accommodate the local weather.
Shoes – Comfortable for walking, with good traction. Sandals (preferably closed-toe) are a good option, but they still need to support your feet with good rubber soles for extensive walking on uneven surfaces.
Scarf/Shawl - A head cover may be required for women and men at certain sacred sites and places of worship.
Hat or Cap – Protection from the sun is essential in the region!
Toiletries and Personal Items
Medicine and Vitamins – If possible, keep medicine in original containers with legible labels.
Digestive Relief - Tums, Pepto Bismal, etc. Grapefruit seed extract is also a natural defense to unfamiliar bacteria, available at most natural food stores and vitamin shops.
Hand Sanitizer – Many public restrooms do not have soap available.
Flushable Wipes – For the public restrooms without toilet paper.
Tissues – Have a small pack available in your purse or daypack.
Travel Alarm/Watch – If your phone or watch doesn’t have a built-in alarm, pack a small travel alarm clock.
Plastic Bags – Bring a variety of sizes. The small sealable bags are good for carry-on liquids and items that become wet. Larger bags can hold laundry or be used as liners in your luggage.
Washcloth or Hand Towel – For public restrooms without paper towels or drying facilities. You can also use these to freshen up on long flights and overnight trains, or for minor spills.
Glasses/Contacts – Don’t forget your contact solution!
Sunscreen / Mosquito Repellent – You can also purchase this at a local shop.
Convertor and Adapter – 220 – 240 volts, 50 Hz.
Personal Hygiene – There is a limited selection of tampons and maxi pads. The cost is also at a premium.
Money and Travel Documents
You can exchange currency at hotels, banks, airports, and local operators. Airports and hotels do not always offer the best exchange rates. Your guide or representative can assist in finding a reputable money exchanger. Depending on your destination, you may elect to visit an authorized local currency operator. The rates are usually better and you will receive a higher exchange value. Please be advised of the international fee your credit cards and ATM cards will charge if used abroad. Prior to departure, we recommend contacting your bank and credit card companies to determine the fees. To avoid declined transactions on the assumption of credit card theft, we also suggest informing your card company of your international travel plans. Most travelers prefer to bring travelers checks as opposed to cash, both for the added protection and to eliminate any ATM fees. We also recommend:
Daypack – A small, lightweight bag is useful to carry sweaters, shawls, snacks, water bottles, guidebooks, cameras, etc. Make sure it has a zipper and/or a small lock.
Money Belt – If you do not plan to carry a daypack, consider a zippered pouch tucked under your clothes. The money belt can hold passports, cash, credit cards, and travel documents, without the risk of pickpockets.
Addresses – If you plan to send postcards, don’t forget a list of addresses!
Photocopies of Travel Documents – Remember to make copies of your passport and visa and keep them secure in a separate bag from where the original is stored. If the bag is lost or stolen, you will have a secondary copy available.
Snacks – Pack your favorite items for snacking on the go. We recommend granola bars, goldfish, trail mix, dried fruit, etc. Also, if you have a dietary restriction (Gluten Free, No-Dairy) be sure to pack essential items.
Portable Water Purifier – For easy packing, bring a travel-sized device like the Steripen UV Water Purifier.
Batteries – If your electronic devices require specialty batteries, bring an extra set.
Gifts – If you will be the guest of local hosts, small gifts or souvenirs from your hometown are well received. If you choose to bring items to distribute to the kids, we recommend candy (non-melting), pens, paper, stickers, puzzles and coloring books. Some of our clients have even bought the children ice cream cones or snacks.
Hair Dryer – Most hotels 3* and above provide hair dryers, but consider packing it for homestays, ashrams, and other budget accommodations.
Technically this is not something you pack, but it does protect what you pack. Travel Insurance also protects your trip investment, your family, and yourself. Sodha Travel offers a variety of plans, including reimbursement for trip cancellation, flight delay/cancellation, baggage delay/loss, and medical expenses overseas. Please visit our Travel Insurance page for more information.
**Please note: If your itinerary includes adventure activities (rafting, trekking, etc) a supplemental packing list will be provided.
If you are considering traveling abroad for a medical procedure, or just curious about the buzz on medical tourism, check out my recent article on Travelhoppers titled Medical Tourism: A Destination Operation. In the past few years, I have seen many clients reserve custom tour packages to India after completing an overseas medical procedure – and the numbers are growing. During a time when healthcare is a hot-button topic, medical tourism is skyrocketing with figures exceeding $80 billion annually. Industry professionals state the pros and cons, but the idea of merging an operation and a vacation is appealing to many. Janet Caldwell, a client who has traveled to India and Nepal several times in the past five years, had cosmetic surgery in Bangalore in 2011. She says, “The doctors, nurses and staff were excellent. My recovery accommodations were like a luxury hotel, and it was all showered with the unrivaled Indian hospitality and service. It was a destination operation, and well worth it.”
Tell us, would you travel overseas for a medical procedure?
In May of 2005, while staying at the InterContinental in Goa, I was introduced to Forest Essentials bath and body products. It has since become my absolute favorite line of skin care and I wanted to share more about this company that has changed the course of beauty.
The Forest Essentials products were developed after years of research with Ayurvedic physicians. According to the Forest Essentials website, the company uses “age-old Ayurvedic formulations from scholars who practice an austere code and devotion to their incredible font of knowledge. They supply us with many of our herb ingredients, oil formulas, and Vedic treatments. This is then interspersed with the understanding of a modern biochemist’s point of view to create, with our team, products that have their basis in India’s oldest science but presented in an easy-to-use manner.” Also, Forest Essentials own spring water is used in each product, with therapeutic properties that have been certified as being rich in mineral deposits.
A few of my favorite Forest Essentials products are the Mashobra Honey and Vanilla Bath and Shower Oil, Rose and Cardamom Butter Soap, Kashmiri Walnut Gel Facial Scrub, Jasmine Madurai Diffuser Oil, and Cane Sugar and Tamarind Body Polisher. Of course, this is just a condensed list – there are so many wonderful items. I also love how the products are not mass produced in industrial factories. Instead, the company employs local labor in the villages of Uttaranchal. Forest Essentials is available in many luxury hotels throughout India and also at select retail stores.
I recently came across an interesting article in Little India by Lovejeet Alexander that explores how a small village in India has the highest number of twins compared to anywhere in the world. The village, Mohammadpur Umri, is located near Allahabad at the confluence of the sacred Ganges and Yamuna Rivers. Of the 300 households, there are 54 pairs of twins. As Alexander writes, “… in India there is a 1 chance in 80 for a mother to deliver twins and 1 in 300 for delivering identical twins. In Umri, however, one of ten deliveries result in identical twins… The village boasts a twin monozygotic (MZ) or identical twin birth rate that is 300 times the national average and perhaps the highest in the world.”
Scientists, doctors, and the villagers have differing opinions about why there are an unusually high number of twins in a concentrated area. The phenomenon started about 40 years ago at around the same time that an Air Force Base was set near the village. Some believe the station’s experimentation machinery causes the twinning. Others believe there is something in the soil and water, or that it is “God’s Gift.” Perhaps even more fascinating is that Umri also has twin cows and buffaloes, as well as hens that lay eggs with double yolks.
For more on the Umri community, check out the article in its entirety at Little India.
One of the most common questions we receive is regarding vaccinations and/or medications to the Indian Subcontinent. Immunizations are not required to visit India. (Exception: If you are traveling from an area infected with Yellow Fever, you must have a certificate.) We do encourage all travelers to be current on routine immunizations. Sodha Travel also strongly recommends the Hepatitis A vaccine, where exposure occurs through contaminated food and water in developing countries.
The vaccine decision is truly a personal one and the opinions vary among travel clinics, doctors, and travelers. The Center for Disease Control offers an updated list of outbreaks and recommended immunizations, based on the region of travel. Here is their current list of vaccine-preventable diseases in India:
|Vaccination or Disease||Recommendations or Requirements for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases|
|Routine||Recommended if you are not up-to-date with routine shots such as, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) vaccine, poliovirus vaccine, etc.|
|Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG)||Recommended for all unvaccinated people traveling to or working in countries with an intermediate or high level of hepatitis A virus infection (see map) where exposure might occur through food or water. Cases of travel-related hepatitis A can also occur in travelers to developing countries with “standard” tourist itineraries, accommodations, and food consumption behaviors.|
|Hepatitis B||Recommended for all unvaccinated persons traveling to or working in countries with intermediate to high levels of endemic HBV transmission (see map), especially those who might be exposed to blood or body fluids, have sexual contact with the local population, or be exposed through medical treatment (e.g., for an accident).|
|Typhoid||Recommended for all unvaccinated people traveling to or working in South Asia, especially if staying with friends or relatives or visiting smaller cities, villages, or rural areas where exposure might occur through food or water.|
|Polio||Recommended for adult travelers who have received a primary series with either inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) or oral polio vaccine (OPV). They should receive another dose of IPV before departure. For adults, available data do not indicate the need for more than a single lifetime booster dose with IPV.|
|Japanese encephalitis||Recommended if you plan to visit rural farming areas and under special circumstances, such as a known outbreak of Japanese encephalitis, see country-specific information.|
|Rabies||Recommended for travelers spending a lot of time outdoors, especially in rural areas, involved in activities such as bicycling, camping, or hiking. Also recommended for travelers with significant occupational risks (such as veterinarians), for long-term travelers and expatriates living in areas with a significant risk of exposure, and for travelers involved in any activities that might bring them into direct contact with bats, carnivores, and other mammals. Children are considered at higher risk because they tend to play with animals, may receive more severe bites, or may not report bites.|
There is also the debate about malaria medications. Although it is recommended for certain regions, many people have an adverse reaction to malaria meds – myself included. Side effects can include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and hallucinations. There are antimalarial alternatives, including spraying repellent on exposed skin and taking vitamin A and zinc supplements. Adventure travelers are usually more at risk, due to the nature of their activities and the remote locations.
Depending on the season and region of travel, Sodha Travel will recommend preventative measures. Please consult with your health care professional to decide the best medical plan.