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Going to India

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Places to Go > Going to India



Traveling in India with 12-year-old

Feb 2006

My husband wants our family to go to India over spring break. He is an architect and very eager to see something besides the usual European sites, which he has been to on many work-related trips. I have not traveled much and tend to be a worrier and timid. Our 12-year-old daughter has diabetes and wears an insulin pump. Managing her diabetes could be tricky with the time change, food differences, and potential for illness. On the other hand, it could be a great opportunity for personal growth, increased social awareness, and a trip of a life time. So, my questions are, should we consider it, and if so, what precautions should we take and where should we go? timid traveler


My two bits is you should go. My grandmother took my cousin to India when he was 12. Ten years later he still vividly remembers the trip. He missed about a week of school for the trip. His parents were totally okay with that because his mother went to Brazil when she was around 12 and 40+ years later she still remembers it. Taking 12 year olds to far away places is a good thing.

For where to go, here is essentially the itinerary for the India trip: http://www.firstcabin.com/indianepal_itin.html


I think you should take this opportunity! I would recommend, however, that you try to extend the trip a bit longer than a week. It is VERY far away, and a very different place, and could take you a little while to adjust. That said, there is no ONE India; where in India you are going?

I don't know anything about the restirctions that an insulin pump imposes, or about a diabetic diet. If you need special foods, or a particularly familiar diet, or proximity to decent medical attention, I would say that you should stay in one of the more ''cosmopolitan'' areas, i.e. a city like Delhi or Bombay. There are probably resources available to help you with this... check travel book stores for info about travelling there with special needs.

If you have a bit more freedom, (and want to see a really different, amazing place), try Rajastan, the desert area in the northwest, land of camels and maharajis and incredible palaces; or Varanasi, in the northeast, where the maze of 5-ft. wide streets, filled with people and animals of all sorts (yes, you'll probably need to squeeze between the horns of an ox and the wall in order to pass), in the old city leads down to the burning ghats on the sacred river where pilgims come to die; or a southern state like Kerala (on the west coast, and you can stay near the water), take a trip on a boat through the backwaters up to Cochin. So many amazing possibilities! The people everywhere I travelled in India were incredibly friendly. The further you go from cities and tourist places, the more ''curious' the people are about you, and the fewer who speak English, but they are still helpful and friendly.

I would LOVE to be able to bring my kids there some day!! I can't imagine regretting such a memorable experience, as a child or as an adult. Take the leap! anon


India is beautiful and definitely worth a trip. There are so many places to visit you should try to prioritize what you want to see and do (and check weather forecasts for the places you want to visit). I've been to India 4 times now with my husband (who is Indian). We recently went for a month with our 10-month old daughter. A few things I can tell you: most people speak English and almost everything you need to read is in English, so there is no real language barrier. Food options range from the very high end restaurants where you would have no worries about picking up a bug to street food. A good guide book should help you. My trick is to chew some Pepto Bismol tablets before a questionable meal and that has helped me avoid most travelers' digestive issues. A visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra is probably a must do. You could probably arrange for a driver and car in Delhi to do it in one day (it's a few hours from Delhi mostly because the road cannot handle high speed traffic). Agra itself is dirty and poor. Delhi is worth a few days. One other tip - I've found that air travel through Europe is easier than over the Pacific. Lufthansa offers flights from SFO to Frankfurt nonstop, and then Frankfurt to India non-stop. The flights seem more manageable this way. You can also fly via Singapore and spend a day there. Heather
I am actually writing this from India - where we have travelled to for a month holiday with family.

We are having a lovely time with my kids (5 and 2).

Having read your note I would discourage you from travelling to India at this time.

1) It will be VERY VERY HOT during spring break time. This makes seeing things difficult and tiring - right now in early March we see the temps rising every day

2) India is not for the timid. I would recommend you go somewhere else as a starter trip that would be less intense, easier to get to, but maybe off the standard European tour (Greece, Mexico?). Street life in India is very fascinating but can be overwhelming. I have been to India 3 times now, and am a relatively experienced traveller and I find it tricky AND I am rarely out on my own - I usually have family with me. To do this on your own is tricky.

3) Illness risk is high - especially if you are not staying in homes. There are a lot of immunizations to take.

All this said please know India is a wonderful destination. Go during November/December, find a good travel agent who can plan as much as possible to make it streamline.

I hope you do find a good adventure for your family. Margaret


Extra week in India after business trip

Feb 2005

I am going to India on a business trip in mid March. The business trip will end in Mumbai (Bombay) I will have about a week to travel with my business associate. Any suggestions on where I should go? I would be willing to travel by air to get to some place that is great.

First, even though it is a business trip I am not a businessman, I am there to teach a tutorial. I am interested in seeing the culture, the people and the landscape or cityscape. I like ramblin' around market places, temples and just seeing the sites. I don't like hanging around with other tourists but if a place is great and others go there what can you do?

So any suggestions? I was hoping that there would be a city that I could fly to that would be a good central location for day trips by car or whatever.

Any words of wisdom for travel in India? Precautions? Must haves?

Thanks in advance for your help


For travel in India--I just returned from two weeks in the state of Kerala--it was extremely pretty, and none of the crowds or swarms of beggars I'd heard so much about. We were in Kochi (also spelled Cochin), really green and gorgeous. Highlight was two days in Thekkady, the nature preserve. Drove up into the mountains for that, through tea fields a green I didn't know existed. Simply the most beautiful place of anywhere I've seen, and that's lots of seeing. Hotels up there were modestly priced, excellent food, no commercial tourists though there were a few devoted travellers from all around, just interested in seeing the reserve, animals, etc. Good villages for walking and shopping all around there. Have fun. Lissa
Hi, I used to organize adventure travel tours to India. I would not recommend renting a car in India and driving yourself unless you have nerves of steel. I always hired a car and driver for about the same price as renting a car most places. It really depends on what you like to do, but for your first visit, if you can glom onto a good guide, you could probably work with him for the full time. Near Bombay are the Ajanta and Ellora caves with Hindu carvings that are supposed to be quite spectacular. You generally go thru Aurangabad to get there. I would recommend looking at Insight Guides India. I always enjoy reading Travellers Tales India before going there or while on the road. Have fun and be open to new things. kl
I lived in Bombay till I was 18- its a very colourful city - there are many temples, churches and mosques you can visit there- The Bandra church, the Mumba devi temple, the Haji Ali mosque, the Parsi Agiari are just a few.

Bombays a very cosmopolitan city- a little like NY city, so you can definitely get a sense of India, but an urban, Western India. If you have time, you should go into interior India to get a sense of the local culture, which by the way, has different flavours depending on the region you visit. Goa has Portugese-influenced culture while Pondicherry has a distinctly French flavour. The rest of India was a British colony so the architecture of a lot of old buildings in Bombay harks to one seen in old buildings in London. Check out the Prince of Wales museum, Flora Fountain area, Marine Drive...

Ill be happy to talk to you about the near by places you can visit. Feel free to email me. an ex-bombayite


I don't know about travel to India -- but the best place to get TONS of information on travel anywhere is the Lonely Planet's website. Check out their Thorn Tree Forum -- you can search the archives and post questions like this one and get dozens of messages back. I have used it for travel many times and always get the best suggestions and recommendations...And all kinds of specific detailed information on everything. another traveler
I am originally from North India, but we have had several family vacations in Kerala, most recently in Dec 2004. It might be just what you are looking for. It is so green, and beautiful and quiet. It is closer to Mumbai than Delhi/Agra area, and well-connected by Indian Airlines, Jet Airways, other budget airlines and superfast trains. You can choose any of the three major cities as your central location: Cochin (Kochi), Calicut (Kozhikode) or Trivandrum (Thiruananthapuram). There are many temples, ayurvedic resorts, national parks, mountains, beaches - everything within 2-3 hours driving distance of each. Or better still, sign up for a boat cruise in the Kerala backwaters up and down the state. It is very relaxing and you get to see a variety of places and things.

Last year, we had Calicut as our base. Surprisingly, Calicut is not mentioned in the official India tourism site. There is good info on the other places at this site. http://www.tourismofindia.com/sts/stkerala.htm

Calicut is a big city, with lots of history - world famous spice-trading port, riverside resorts, and nice beaches. We stayed at the beautiful Kadavu resort hotel (http://www.kadavuresorts.com/). Their Ayurvedic center is excellent! If you don't have time for a full program, at least get the rejuvination massage. Visit the spice research center/museum, the only one of its kind in the world. Tour the Beypore boat-building yard. If you are interested, it is a great place to buy spices, silks, and local crafts souveniers. There are lots of temples in the area, e.g., Vadakara, Thali and Guruvayoor. Trekking in Tushargiri is great. You get to see exotic birds, elephants, waterfalls and nice views all around. March is a good time to go there. You will be fine in regular cotton clothes. Carry your basic medicines and brands of sunscreen and insect repellant, which don't bother your skin. For some strange reason, I couln't find any antacid over there. Yogurt and coconut water helps ease heartburn.

Wherever you choose to go, I am sure you will have a good time as travel and services over there have become much improved and affordable. Enjoy!


Good travel books for India?

Sept 2004

Would anybody recommend a good travel to India book, please? Thanks. Simona


I love the Travelers Tales series and they have a good on India (with some stories by local authors). I also like the Insight guide series. Beautiful pictures but sometimes a little heavy to carry on the actual trip. Have fun! India is great! kl
It's the obvious choice, but I'd recommend Lonely Planet. I used it there and it was quite good.

My general guidelines is that if you're going to a large country or several countries, you should go with Lonely Planet. They have a better coverture than other books (i.e. include more places).

If you're going to a small country, go with the Rough Guides, as they have more information on each site.

If you're going to a small region of a country, go with the Moon Guides.

So for India, it's Lonely Planet :) anon


India with 1-year-old

May 2004

My best friend is getting married in Calcutta this December. I am considering going with my 1-year-old daughter, but my mother is worried about the health risk. Has anyone had experience taking an infant to India? I should note that we would be staying with family so we should be able to control food safety better than most tourists. On the other hand, my own mother took me when I was 2 and I got very sick, which is why she is concerned. Thanks!


When our firstborn was about a year old, we spent a week in Delhi while my wife attended a conference, and overall it was a delightful trip. Becaue of the heat and hubub of the city I was not comfortable taking the baby out and about too much, so we spent most of our time at the hotel (fortunately it had a pool and grounds large enough for strolling). None of us got sick, and the reception we received from hotel staff and other people we encountered was unbelievably warm and friendly. Sometimes a bit too friendly, in fact -- everyone wanted to touch and hold our son, and at times the attention was too much for him, so we often had to politely ask people to give him some space. Lots of hand-washing is in order (we carried alcohol-based disinfectant gel in the diaper bag), but clean food and water are easy to get, and quality health care is available in the major cities. I think traffic accidents are probably the biggest risk you'll face -- there's no way to strap a car seat into a typical Indian taxi, and you need to be very attentive any time you're crossing streets or even standing beside the road. morris
I would not bring a one-year old to India, unless you and/or she is Indian and know the ropes. I think the chance of you enjoying your trip and the very exciting and beautiful Indian wedding experience will be extremely compromised by having to care for your small daughter. You may hear many divergent opinions on this. I've taken my daughter to Calcutta four times (first time she was 18 months.) Here are a few thoughts:

1. India is a very child-centric country; your child will be coddled and handled and adored--and touched--by everyone you meet (which is very nice most of the time!)

2. As you may know, Indian weddings are exquisite and (IMHO) arduous affairs--with ton of ritual. There is smoke everywhere from the homma fires and incense of the wedding and the extraordinary amount of cooking going on. Children (and adults) are free to chat and walk about during the ceremonies--but I found them hard work (I can't imagine being an Indian bride with the amount she has to sit and look pretty). There are at least three days of ritual, where you're traveling from one house to a hall to another house. Sometimes you're up very, very late--in some traditions--all night with the wedding party. You should be prepared to have a trusted relative/friend stay home with your daughter or skip some of these events.

3. Calcutta is extremely polluted, particularly in the winter. I could not breathe well most of the time I was there--and forget wearing contact lenses. (I actually developed asthma, which I'd never had before). While it is the cool season, it can still be in the high 80's--with great humidity.

4. Calcutta is extraordinarily--and wonderfully--chaotic. If you travel by private car (families of means have cars and personal drivers), you're better off than travel by taxi and certainly by bus. There is absolutely no way to ensure safety in an Indian taxi. None of them have seatbelts (most windows don't even work); a carseat is out of the question). I was convinced that we would die every time we went swirling and dodging through traffic with cows, children, laborers dashing in front of our cabs at consistently random moments. Disney would make millions on such a terrifying ride...

3. I haven't been to India in 5 years and much has changed with the opening up of more free trade. When we were there, you couldn't easily buy disposable diapers and there was absolutely no where to deposit them (they don't have garbage collection like we do; it's a man with a wheelbarrel who won't take soiled diapers--at any price). You should most definately either: a)bring a suitcase of disposable diapers (not recommended except for travel days;

2. Use cloth diapers (my strong recommendation). While visiting relatives, it will be hard to figure out how to dispose/clean diapers. Bring lots of plastic bags when you travel.

4. Malaria is real (most of my husband's relatives have gotten it several times). You will need to check with a travel medicine physician (reliable ones are tricky to find: here today, gone tomorrow) to determine if and how to handle travel meds. The CDC has a website, but I don't think it talks about how young children can handle the drugs. I think a one year old is too young for much of the immunizations we took. At one point, we had a pharmacy on Telegraph (can't remember the name), crush malaria tablets into capsules, which we poured into chocolate syrup for our toddler to take every day.

If I remember correctly, we took typhoid, Hep A (which needs a six month booster), malaria. You didn't have to worry about cholera in Calcutta, only in the North. Tetanus is critical to have before you go. Check with your doctor (who probably won't advise, but will refer you to a travel clinic; Kaiser has a good travel medicine department if you have Kaiser).

5. Mosquitos, mosquitos, mosquitos. I don't know the conditions under which you are staying, but our upper middle class home (my in-laws) did not have window screens. We all slept under mosquito nets, but my 18 month was nevertheless covered in bites all the time. You should bring safe bug spray, and most importantly--topical and systemmic antihistimines and have them ready (ask your pediatrician about doseage.) Don't assume that you can get the same meds there as you can here; bring a pharmacy of things you might need.

6. Milk. Are you breastfeeding? If not, I would bring boxes of milk (I could only find them at Andronicos at the time). They don't require refigeration and you can bring them with you when you visit relatives. Milk used to be rationed in India until fairly recently--though it's now in plentifle supply. The problem is keeping it cool while traveling.

7. Relatives: If you're connected to the bride and are staying in a family, you will be visiting tons and tons of relatives. You can't always ensure that the water they offer is boiled properly (do not be afraid to ask). Also, don't trust the bottled orange/coke/etc. drinks; they are sometimes ''fake''. Bring bottles of water for yourself and your daughter that you boil at ''home''. Don't trust restaurant water either, unless they are fancy and cater to westerners.

5. Calcutta is extremely dirty; you can't imagine the streets. I brought antibiotic soap that didn't require water and kept it in my purse at all times. Strollers are fairly useless in the streets because there are virtually no sidewalks. We did find an (umbrella) stroller essential moving through all the airports to get to India. Crossing streets is testing the fates, believe me.

6. People staying in high-end hotels that cater to Westerners do not have the full picture of the kind of experience you most likely will have (upper end hotels are extremely gracious and easy to be in, but you get very little reality of Calcutta) This all having been said, Calcutta is an extraordinary place that I fell in love with. You will be lavished with attention and affection and great and surprising delights (and some shocks---like the fact that most homes don't use toilet paper; bring your own)

But I would take care in bringing a one-year old if you have a choice. You will want all your senses focused on the ravishing astonishments around you, rather than running after your baby, trying to keep her safe and healthy. Good luck!

P.S. Full disclosure: I am a worry wart
A cautious lover of Calcutta


Hi, I haven't been in Calcutta but we have been living in Dhaka, Bangladesh for 1.5 years now. Calcutta however is the closest major city to us and has many things in common with Dhaka as it used to be part of the same city-state. Travelling to a wedding with a 1-year will be a lot of work depending on your child's personality. We attend lots of weddings here but try to leave the children at home. However, your situation is different due to the travel distance. You could however ask the relatives if they had a trusted nanny to help with your child during your stay. This is quite common and inexpensive (a few dollars/day). Calcutta is a bit easier than Bangladesh as most consumer products are available though may be different brands or quality than you are used to. I would recommend disposable diapers. You can give them to the staff at the house/hotel you are staying at and they will dispose of them for you. You would probably use powdered milk ''Nido'' is widely available and safe. Of course, you need to be stringent about water but bottled water is safe and widely available. Bring plastic spoons for the baby as silverware is not always provided (people eat with their right hand). Also, any medicines you think you may need and a tropical insect repellent. You can even buy repellent that you wash with the baby clothes and it is mosquito repellent. Unfortunately, there is the risk of malaria but the baby is too young to take medication; you need to prevent through clothes cover and repellent. Unfortunately, mosquitoes are a part of life in these areas and the kids usually get a bit swollen so also bring some sort of lotion; I use antisan (I get it in the UK). Also, make sure you are under a mosquito net at night. The other thing to be aware of is that India is incredibly dirty. Bring wipes and tissues. Toilet paper you can ''borrow'' from the hotels or buy by the roll very cheaply. Also, be careful of people touching the baby due to scabies (we have gotten that 3 x already - uncomfortable but harmless). In India, people are incredibly friendly with children and will literally pick them up as you turn your head. They are being friendly but can get tedious by the time the 200th person has pinched their cheeks... I arrived here with a 4.5 year old and 18 month old so we have been through it already. It would be a fabulous experience but trying with a 1-year old. I would just make sure you are ready for a true adventure and of course make sure all of your vacinations are up-to- date. We saw the Travel Doctor in Berkeley. Bring a camera and lots of film because the sights you see, especially at the wedding will astound you for years to come.... Keep an open mind and a sense of humor and don't compare anything to home.... Good Luck!!! Advice from Dhaka

Precautions for trip to India with kids?

Nov 2003

Hey All world travelers - I am takng a 2 y.o. on a trip to India, and I have garnered many useful tips to make the trip and plane ride easier. What I am hoping now to gather is some recommendations for ''essential western meds'' to pack in your medicine bag as a precaution - Mosquito repellant, mosquito bite soother, runny tummy stuff and ANYTHING else you feel is ''a good thing to have'', for both little ones and their parents. 2) Have any of you taken a particular brand / kind of converter that you feel is reliable to plug a laptop into? Or any other advice for taking a laptop with you? Packing my bags 3 months in advance... Shahana


The most important thing I can think of is iodine in a leak- proof container, and possibly an extra leak-proof container for good measure. I've found Indian pharmacies decently well stocked with the basic medications you would expect (though you may not be comfortable with them; everything there takes a bit of getting used to). Of course you can buy bottled water, but there are times when it is either not available or the water shouldn't be trusted (sometimes bottles are refilled with tap water) and drinking untreated water is absolutely sure to make you very ill. You can buy iodine at any pharmacy but the bottles it comes in are guaranteed to spill in your luggage. In fact, you can't really buy containers of any kind there that travel well. For ''delhi belly,'' you should carry rehydration salts for both you and your child, but you can buy them there for much cheaper than here, and they work fine (I've used them many times). Other than that, mosquito repellent is a good idea, as well as a net to sleep under (depending on where you're going). I can't remember if the band-aids were decent; you might bring some of those as well. Unrelated, but a must: definitely bring several small locks for your luggage. Have a wonderful trip! Well-wisher
I missed the original posting but am happy to give a rundown of all the precautions I took when I travelled with my daughter to India.

I took my daughter to Bombay first when she was 8 months old (in the summer) and then when she was 4.5 years old (in the winter). In the summer there are more chances of getting sick, being bitten by mosquitoes etc.

Delhi, in the winter, is cold. My experience is with Bombay, where winters are mild and pleasant. So I would say, be prepared for it to be cold and unless you are staying at a hotel, don't expect any central heating.

As far as eating out goes, I had the advantage of a home base in Bombay so I did not eat out at all. My mom personally boiled all the water for my daughter (even her bath water, my daughter used to lick the water that ran down her face when I washed her hair) and cooked all her food when she went as a 4.5 year old. I do not trust bottled water in India. And used it just once when we ran out of water and were away from home. When my daughter was 8 months old I visited for 3 weeks and carried enough baby food and bottles of juice and water for her from here, all tucked in between my clothes. I also carried her diapers, diaper rash cream.

Ofcourse, take all the shots recommended, drink well boiled water (you and the baby), eat only thoroughly cooked food, try to have food cooked at someones home (if possible) for you. When food is cooked for large groups by cooks, the chances of contamination go up. Never eat raw food, salad etc. outside. Carry and constantly use a deet based insect repellant especially on your baby, and if in Delhi, use mosquito nets at night. If you eat fruit, wash it in boiled water, rinse your knife in boiled water and cut the fruit yourself. Take disposable plates from here to make life easier for you, won't have to worry about the cleanliness of the plates.

I carried all my daughters usual cold, fever, etc. other general medicines that I use here. Also tylenol etc. for me. Diarrhoea medicine (I think Bactrim?) for me. On the most recent trip she and I were both taking malaria meds (hers I gave followed by her favorite sweets, it tastes awful), when she was 8 months old, I was still nursing her so I took the malaria meds and her doc said that was enough of a dose for her.

I know I sound like I'm going overboard with this but I can happily say that with all my self-imposed restrictions I have managed to take my daughter to India twice and have brought her back with no more than a sore throat the second time, not even a sneeze the first time.

Sorry this got so lengthy. If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me. Have a nice trip. richa


Taking a 2-year-old to India

Nov 1999

I'm wondering if anyone has been to India, specifically Dharamsala, with a toddler. There is a possibility we might go in the spring with our two year old and stay for a few months. Any advice re: health & travel safely would be appreciated. I'd love to hear people's stories. Also, any recommendations on books to read and/or web sites with travel advice for parents w/ small children.


In my opinion this would be a very difficult undertaking. A number of years ago I spent 7 months in New Delhi and the director of our program had her two-year-old along. (After my initial stay, I returned two more times. My stays there add up to 10 months.) They hired a nanny (called an "ayeyah" in India) from Europe to watch their son. At the time I wasn't a parent but I thought as I watched him that they were wise to have hired the nanny. This age kid is fast and into everything, as I recall (it's been a while since my daughter was two!) Because of hygiene and sanitation issues, a small child needs much more watching in India than here. I haven't ever been to Dharamsala, so can't comment about that area. If you are going to have a community of connections there who can help with medical concerns if needed that would be helpful. There are illnesses one can get there that don't exist here. For yourself and your child, you need to be much more vigilant about health issues in India. I personally wouldn't take a child that young to India; I think the risks are too many. As for books: I would recommend the Lonely Planet guide.
We went to India with our son when he was 3 months old for a couple of months. Again when he was 1.5 years for 2 months. We travelled around the western areas. No problems, our pediatrician really did not want to give him the BCG vaccination which all Indian kids take. We were careful about the water and made sure we boiled it and all his bottles and nipples. Everywhere we went we boiled the milk too and let it cool before we gave it to him.
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