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Before You Go
Don’t travel without health insurance. Emergency evacuation is expensive. There are various factors to consider when choosing insurance. Read the small print.
- You may require extra cover for adventure activities such as motorcycling.
- In India, doctors usually require immediate payment in cash. Your insurance plan may make payments directly to providers or it will reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures.
- If you do have to claim later, make sure you keep all relevant documentation.
- Some policies ask that you telephone back (reverse charges) to a centre in your home country where an immediate assessment of your problem will be made.
The only vaccine required by international regulations is yellow fever. Proof of vaccination will only be required if you have visited a country in the yellow-fever zone within the six days prior to entering India. If you are travelling to India from Africa or South America, you should check to see if you require proof of vaccination.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the following vaccinations for travellers going to India (as well as being up to date with measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations), but specialised travel-medicine clinics are your best source of up-to-date information; they stock all available vaccines and can give specific recommendations for your trip. Most vaccines don’t give immunity until at least two weeks after they’re given, so visit a doctor well before departure. Ask your doctor for an International Certificate of Vaccination (sometimes known as the ‘yellow booklet’), which will list all the vaccinations you’ve received.
Adult diphtheria and tetanus Single booster recommended if none in the previous 10 years. Side effects include sore arm and fever.
Hepatitis A Provides almost 100% protection for up to a year; a booster after 12 months provides at least another 20 years’ protection. Mild side effects such as headache and sore arm occur in 5% to 10% of people.
Hepatitis B Now considered routine for most travellers. Given as three shots over six months. A rapid schedule is also available, as is a combined vaccination with hepatitis A. Side effects are mild and uncommon, usually headache and a sore arm. In 95% of people lifetime protection results.
Polio Only one booster is required as an adult for lifetime protection. Inactivated polio vaccine is safe during pregnancy.
Typhoid Recommended for all travellers to India, even those only visiting urban areas. The vaccine offers around 70% protection, lasts for two to three years and comes as a single shot. Tablets are also available, but the injection is usually recommended as it has fewer side effects. Sore arm and fever may occur.
Varicella If you haven’t had chickenpox, discuss this vaccination with your doctor.
These immunisations are recommended for long-term travellers (more than one month) or those at special risk (seek further advice from your doctor):
Japanese B encephalitis Three injections in all. Booster recommended after two years. Sore arm and headache are the most common side effects. In rare cases, an allergic reaction comprising hives and swelling can occur up to 10 days after any of the three doses.
Meningitis Single injection. There are two types of vaccination: the quadravalent vaccine gives two to three years’ protection; meningitis group C vaccine gives around 10 years’ protection. Recommended for long-term backpackers aged under 25.
Rabies Three injections in all. A booster after one year will then provide 10 years’ protection. Side effects are rare – occasionally headache and sore arm.
Tuberculosis (TB) A complex issue. Adult long-term travellers are usually recommended to have a TB skin test before and after travel, rather than vaccination. Only one vaccine given in a lifetime.
- Never drink tap water.
- Bottled water is safe.
- Avoid ice unless you know it has been made without tap water. Be careful of fresh juices served at street stalls in particular – they are likely to have been watered down with tap water or may be served in jugs/glasses that have been rinsed in tap water.
- Avoid fruit that you don't peel yourself, as it will likely have been rinsed in tap water. Alternatively, rinse fruit yourself in bottled water before you eat it.
- Boiling water is usually the most efficient method of purifying it.
- The best chemical purifier is iodine. It should not be used by pregnant women or those with thyroid problems.
- Water filters should also filter out most viruses. Ensure your filter has a chemical barrier such as iodine and a small pore size (less than four microns).
- Some guesthouses, cafes and restaurants use water filters; use your own judgement as to whether or not you think this will be safe to drink.