Monday, August 31, 2009

India: Food!!

As we say goodbye to India this month we thought what better way is there to say Alavidha ("goodbye in Hindi")than with a meal? Here are some traditional Indian dishes that are sure to make your mouth water.

For an appetizer let's start with a Samosa. These tasty treats are savory, deep - fried pastries that are filled with spiced potato and pea mixture, or minced lamb. Can be served hot or cold with lemon wedges. Great to get your appetite going for the main course!

Speaking of the main course, how about a flavor-filled Chicken Tikka Masala? This is one of my favorite dishes! Chicken tikka masala consists of chunks of chicken marinated in spices and yogurt then baked in a tandoor oven, in a masala ("mixture of spices") sauce. There is no standard recipe for chicken tikka masala; a survey found that of 48 different recipes the only common ingredient was chicken. The sauce usually includes tomato and either cream or coconut cream and various spices. The sauce or chicken pieces (or both) are often colored orange or red with food dyes or natural coloring such as turmeric powder mixed with tomato puree. Chicken Tikka Masala is usually served with hefty amounts of rice and naan bread, but don't fill up because you have to save room for dessert!

For dessert I think a little Gulab Jamun is just the thing for you (at least it is for me!) Gulab Jamun is among India's most popular desserts! This delicious dessert consists of dumplings traditionally made of thickened or reduced milk, soaked in rose flavored sugar syrup. It gets its name from two words: Gulab which means rose (for the rose flavored syrup) and Jamun which is a kind of deep purple colored Indian berry (the cooked dumplings are dark brown in color). Serve Gulab Jamun warm or at room temperature; by itself or topped with ice cream!

Now that your appetite is stimulated, share with us your favorite Indian dish!

We hope you enjoyed learning about India as much as we did. Stay tuned because tomorrow we start a new month and a new COUNTRY OF THE MONTH!!!!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

India: How to get around

The methods of getting around in India are similar to those in most countries; travel by train, bus, car, taxi and boat. Of course, there are differences among each method and tips you need to know!

The train video below amazes me and I cant stop watching it!! Wow that's fast!

Train: Traveling by train in India is the best way to travel. The rail system in India is legendary and unlike any other sort of travel. It is an integral part of the Indian travel experience. You can register for a ticket online which will be sent to your specified location or you can go and buy a ticket at the station. INDRAIL is another rail option. Be aware that tickets are sold 15 days in advance of a trip; however, you should look into the famous quota- tourist and emergency quota. These tickets can be booked a day before the train leaves. Go early to book your ticket because this is a popular method of purchasing tickets, especially to popular tourist destinations such as Mumbai and Goa. Tickets sell out quickly!
Also note that most hotels and guesthouses will send someone for a small fee to buy the train tickets for you. This might be your best bet as they will know best how to navigate the craziness that is the rail system in India!

Bus: Taking the bus is an inexpensive way to travel in India. There are buses for every type of trip you might be taking for example, short trips, long trips, government state-run buses and private buses. Be prepared if you decide to take the bus, they are usually crowded, cramped, loud, slow and uncomfortable. Don’t expect to get a seat.

Boat: India has ships, boats and ferries. The ferries serve as a bus on water. They are especially used as a form of transportation in southern Calcutta where the Sunderban in the Delta region are only accessible by ferry

Car/taxi: A few years ago Indian roads were the most dangerous roads to travel in the world. The Central government has worked hard to improve the roads and upgrade the highways. The ambitious project is known as the Golden Quadrilateral. Today, the roads almost reach international standards.
It is not recommended to rent a car in India. The roads are dangerous, the signs are hard to read and the traffic is crazy. Don’t expect road regulations to be obeyed. The traffic is heavy and undisciplined. The Indian people drive on the left hand side of the road. Many tourists take a taxi or hire a driver. Pedestrians, cyclists and cows wander in the middle of the road as if you don’t even exist! Accident rates are high, as you can imagine. The meters in most taxis to not work so decide on a price before you get in!

Are there any other ways to travel in India? Let us know the methods you choose when you traveled to India! Did the crazy amounts of traffic and sporadic driving patterns make it difficult to get around?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

India: Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is one of India's most well known points of interest. Take a look at this video to learn more about the scandal of love, greed and sorrow behind this magnificent building's conception.

Behind every work of art, there is usually a GREAT story. What's your favorite monument, painting, place of interest etc. and tell us the story behind it!!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

India: drive at your own risk!

Just a short post today about driving in India. Some may see it as a confusing "free for all" but I am very impressed that there were no accidents and only slightly more horn honking than I hear on my 20 minute commute through downtown Baltimore!
Check out this video

Driving in India is kind of like a cooperative group dance: Fun to watch, but perhaps not always fun for everyone to participate if you are not so good at dancing. It's probably a good idea to stick with public transportation or rely on your own 2 feet if possible to get you where you need to go

Tell us your craziest driving story!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

India- Food

We’ve got a new take on food straight from our Indian friend Mayur. Here is some information regarding etiquette with food in India. Traditional Indian dishes to follow in another post!

1. GET BOTTLED WATER. Treat India like Mexico – don’t drink the water. You will absolutely be violently stomach sick for a few days if you drink Indian tap water. You can boil water to get the bacteria and viruses out and then drink it. This is really important – it’s easy to slip up and chug some water after you sit down somewhere since it’s usually so hot. Make sure you always have water on you. Eating in a restaurant is fine since the bacteria is cooked off with boiling the water– but if you have a cold dish, ask your waiter/waitress/host if boiled water was used – don’t feel ashamed, this is really important.

2. You will be asked OVER AND OVER AGAIN if you would like more food. It is important to stay patient (Indians are very non-confrontational and getting frustrated looks really bad) and politely refuse – to make sure you are not asked to eat more, leave a little bit of food on your plate, that usually stops people from asking if you want more food.

3. Generally you eat with your right hand and right hand only – try it, it’s fun, don’t be weird about this, it shows a lack of respect for the culture/religion…but if you are having trouble, politely ask for a spoon or fork, and nobody will be angry about it – even if using utensils, use only your right hand

4. Hindus don’t eat beef, lots are vegetarians…Muslims don’t eat pork or drink alcohol…Sikhs don’t eat beef.

5. Meat dishes are usually chicken, fish, or lamb (mutton), there’s almost always rice involved.

6. Indian food is notoriously spicy – I think black pepper was invented in India or something. But, there is a huge, huge variety of foods, from very spicy to incredibly sweet and buttery.

7. There is not a lot of coffee, but there is a ton of tea – a spicy mix called “Chai” – people have this all day, everyday, it’s pretty much equivalent to the coffee craze in the US (morning, afternoon, evening, before meals, after meals…seriously, whenever).

8. Breakfasts are generally light, lunches and dinners are big, full-on meals – Indians usually start their days pretty late to American standards, even in business people don’t get into the office until 9 or 10. Lunch is late and dinners are generally after 8 or 9 pm.

Keep these important tips in mind when traveling to India, they will help you respect the culture, embody the culture and increase your knowledge of Indian culture. Again, a special thank you to Mayur Aras for all of his tips. Who better to offer advise than someone from the culture about which you are trying learn?

What are some good restaurants in India that we can include in our next post about Indian food? Your tips can help other fellow travelers!

Monday, August 24, 2009

India- Trivia

Test your knowledge of India with this challenging trivia. (answers below)

1. In which Indian State would you be if you were holidaying on "Calangute" beach?

2. Which famous monument was built to commemorate the end of plague in Hyderabad in the year 1591?

3. In which State of India is the Wular Lake located?

4. Which India city is also called the "pink city"?

5. Which of these is the official residence of the President of India?

6. In which State in India would you find lions?

7. In which sea are the Lakshadweep islands located?

8. Which of the following national parks would you visit if you were in Gujarat?

9. Which faith is the famous Lotus Temple of New Delhi dedicated to?

10. Which city was once known as the "Manchester of India"?

11. What animal would you especially expect to see at the Kaziranga National Park?

12. Where is the port of Kandla located?

1- The Calangute" beach is in Goa.
2- Charminar is the monument built to commemorate the end of plague in Hyderabad. It has 4 minars and therefore the name.
3- Wular Lake is located in Jammu & Kashmir.
4- Jaipur is also called the "pink city".
5- The Rashtrapati Bhavan is the official residence of the President of India.
6- Lions can be found in Gujarat.
7- The Lakshadweep islands is located in the Arabian Sea.
8- The Gir is a well known national park of Gujarat.
9- The Lotus Temple of New Delhi is dedicated to the Bahai faith.
10- Surat was once known as the "Manchester of India".
11- The Kaziranga National Park is home to the Indian rhinoceros.
12- The port of Kandla is located in Gujarat.

Thanks for the awesome trivia!!

Friday, August 21, 2009

India: Hindi Music Top 10 songs

Thanks to, we have the top ten list of Hindi songs for 2009.

Check them out! Listen here!

1. Aahun Aahun
Movie Name : Love Aaj Kal (2009)
Singer : Neeraj Shridhar

2. Dhan Te Nan
Movie Name : Kaminey (2009)
Singer : Sukhwinder Singh, Vishal Dadlani

3. Hai Junoon
Movie Name : New York (2009)
Singer : KK

4. Lakh Lakh
Movie Name : Kambakkht Ishq (2009)
Singer : Neeraj Shridhar

5. Luck Aazma
Movie Name : Luck (2009)
Singer : Satya Hinduja, Sukhvinder Singh

6. Nazrein Karam
Movie Name : Jashnn (2009)
Singer : Kay Kay, Shreya Ghoshal

7. Kuke Kuke
Movie Name : Life Partner (2009)
Singer : Antara Mitra, Debojeet Daata, Shaan

8. Jai Ho
Movie Name : Slumdog Millionaire (2009)
Singer : Mahalakshmi Iyer, Rahman A R, Sukhwinder Singh, Tanvi Shah

9. Delhi 6
Movie Name : Delhi 6 (2009)
Singer : Benny Dayal, Blaaze, Claire, Tanvi Shah, Vivinenne Pocha

10. Pardesi
Movie Name : Dev D (2009)
Singer : Toshi

What do you think about Hindi Music? Have you heard it before? How is it similar or different from your favorite music?

Oh and check out this video!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

India: Know when to go!

One of the first things you should do, especially before your plane ticket is booked, is to research the weather and events in India so you know when to go!

The best time to visit India for tourists is the winter season. The season lasts from October to February. It is a pleasure to visit India during these cooler months, when the heat of summer is no more. Around this time, the usually wet areas of Northeast also become dry, making it easier to travel there. Even the hot South India is blessed with cool weather and rain on beaches in this peak season for India.

Another reason to visit India in these months is that they coincide with the celebration mood in India. This is the time when maximum well-known festivals of India are celebrated. In October - November falls Dussehra, Durga Puja and Diwali. Also in November is the Pushkar Fair (in Rajasthan), the largest cattle fair in India. In January is the Republic Day of India and Lohri - the festival of Punjabis. In March falls Holi, the festival of colors. Then there is Id, Easter, Christmas and a number of another festivals, each celebrated in totally Indian fashion. You can experience true India, in all its richness, by attending these festivals.

The summer months of March to May are very hot and humid. If you are planning to visit India during summers, then the best thing is to go to the hills and enjoy the scenic beauty. If you are interested in trekking or mountain climbing, then, the Himalayas are for you. Months of March to May, September and November are ideal for trekking in the Himalayas.

Is there a great holiday celebration or tradition in your culture? Tell us about it!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

India: Hotels and Hostels

Let’s be honest up front, after all the sightseeing you know you’ll be doing in India, you’re going to want a comfortable bed and the luxury of air conditioning to come home to. We know where you can find that for everyone’s budget limits!

New Delhi:
Taj Palace Hotel- A hotel that earned every one of its 5 stars, this luxury home away from home offers wireless internet, portable printers for hire, a 9-hole putting green, car service, babysitting, laundry service, hair salon/spa and translators! A car service is available for airport transportation and a doctor is on call 24 hours a day. Three restaurants on-site for convenient dining and arrangements can be made at tennis and golf courses nearby. Just 10 minutes from the airport… luxury waits for a reasonable price!
Emperor Palms Hotel- Named the best budget hotel, this hotel has a lot to offer for little price! Its great location, laundry service, free airport pick up, internet service and 24 hour room service make this hotel live up to its name. The hotel also offers restaurants on site.
Home Away from Home Hostel- Focused on single women travelers, this hostel came highly recommended by those who stayed here. The hostel is clean, inexpensive, offers airport service, is located near excellent restaurants, has a friendly staff and offers breakfast. The hostel also offers cable TV, a library, a mini supermarket, 24 hour security, internet access and air conditioning. Home Away from Home is just that, although, it can be difficult to find. Keep the phone number of the hostel close by as the staff members are friendly and helpful in offering directions to the cab driver!

Hotel Sea Princess- Sea views, spas, rooftop pool, health club, and flat screen TVs in every room aren’t the only thing this award winning hotel has to offer. It also offers internet access, hosts 5 different restaurants on site, located near the shopping and business district, is priced fairly reasonably and is only a 20 minute drive from the airport. Winner of the 24th International Award for the Tourist, Hotel and Catering Industry at Madrid, Spain and winner of the International Gold Star Award for quality and excellence at Geneva, Switzerland, all this hotel is missing is you!
Sun & Sand Hotel- This hotel has views of the Arabian Sea; it is close to the night life, airports and the center city and even comes with a smaller price tag! The rooms offer international direct dial (IDD), internet, LCD/satellite TV, a mini bar and a welcome fruit basket. Located on a main beach, how can you resist?
West End Hostel- Staying here will make you forget you are staying in a hostel! Restaurants on location that offer various cuisines such as continental, Tandoori and Moghlai are just one major element that separates this hostel from any others worldwide. Just a stone’s throw from the shopping and entertainment district it has the prime location. The staff is rated as friendly, the rooms clean and the hostel very secure. All the rooms are large, private baths are available, a little bar is also on location and internet service is provided.

The Peerless Inn- This nice little four star hotel has great amenities which include a welcome drink upon arrival, a welcome kit in the room upon arrival, friendly service, clean rooms, a buffet breakfast, and gym facilities. The Peerless Inn also offers a variety of in house restaurants, bars and lounges. The location is the cherry on top of a wonderful Inn.

The Howard Park Plaza- In the city of the Taj, this hotel is the essence of India. Centrally located just 2km from the famous Taj Mahal, the Howard Park Plaza offers internet access, TVs in every room, bar, lounge and a variety of on site restaurants with a variety of cuisines, a pool and a gym facility. It is priced reasonably well considering its location to the Taj.

No matter the budget, no matter the city, Passport Health has all the travel information you could need!

We hear from a lot of our clients traveling to Calcutta that it is very expensive and you often need to be sponsored to stay in a reasonably priced hotel. What are your thoughts regarding this? Has this ever happened during your travels?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

India: Etiquette

The etiquette in India differs quite a bit from etiquette in the United States. The Indian culture is much more humble and modest. Read below to check out some of the important tips you should know before traveling to India. These tips were provided by a good friend, Mayur Aras, who has frequented India and has been kind enough to share his experiences and his culture with all of us:

Keep in mind that India is a huge country; both in population and area, so many cultural customs change from region to region or state to state. Since the country is so diverse, the religion, education, and social class all influence the etiquette and food in the country.


When meeting new people:
  • Indians respect their elders, so greeting the eldest or most senior person first is encouraged.
  • Shaking hands: this is hit or miss. Some traditional Indians still don’t shake hands, and will clasp both of their own hands together in a praying motion in front of them and greet you with “Namaste,” with a slight bow of the head – this has religious meaning in Hinduism, but in some areas, this greeting is used for everyone and not just Hindus.
  • If people are shaking hands, usually men shake hands with other men and women shake hands with other women; but rarely do men and women shake hands – again, this is religious in nature.
  • The theme with shaking hands might be to usually wait for the person you are meeting to offer a greeting, whether it’s an extension of their hand or the “Namaste” and then just replicate that.
  • When leaving a group of people, the common practice is to say goodbye to everyone individually and not just a quick goodbye to the group – make sure you take enough time to say goodbye – you will be offered more food or an opportunity to make further plans continuously.

More etiquette:

  • Take off your shoes before entering a home – most people will wash their hands and their feet (yes, feet) upon entering a home – it’s a country that’s highly polluted and has a lot of poverty/animals on the streets.
  • Dress conservatively; the culture is very non-skin showing. This is really tough to do considering it is very, very hot. Drink lots of water (Bottled water or properly filtered/bioled water ONLY) and look for places with air conditioning.
  • As a guest, you should be punctual – but don’t expect the hosts to be, Indians are notoriously late.
  • If you are invited to a home for a meal, you can bring a gift, but it isn’t necessary. People don’t usually open gifts right away. In Hinduism, cows are highly regarded – don’t give them gifts that have leather. Don’t give Muslim gifts of alcohol – they don’t drink.
  • Only eat with your right hand. The left hand is considered unsanitary. (Toilet paper is not often offered in public rest rooms… in this case the left hand is generally used. The sewer system is not equipped to handle excessive paper products. This does not mean that all restrooms do not offer toilet paper but it still might be a good idea to keep spare napkins or tissues on hand.)

Thank you, Mayur, for your excellent advice!

Did we miss something regarding India’s etiquette? Let us know, first hand travel advice is especially helpful!

Friday, August 14, 2009

India: Long Term Stay

In 2006, India launched the “Overseas Citizens of India” (OCI) program, which by many has been mischaracterized as a dual nationality program, as it does not grant Indian citizenship.

An American who obtains an OCI card is not a citizen of India and remains a citizen of the United States. An OCI card is similar to a U.S. “green card” in that a holder can travel to and from India indefinitely, work in India, study in India, and own property in India (except for certain agricultural and plantation properties). An OCI holder does not receive an Indian passport, cannot vote in Indian elections and is not eligible for Indian government employment.

The OCI program is similar to the Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) card introduced by the Indian government several years ago, except that PIO holders must still register with Indian immigration authorities, and PIO cards are not issued for an indefinite period. American citizens of Indian descent can apply for PIO or OCI cards at the Indian Embassy in Washington, or at the Indian Consulates in Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Houston. Inside India, American citizens can apply at the nearest FRRO office. For more information on the OCI program, please see

If a foreign citizen overstays his or her Indian visa, or otherwise violates Indian visa regulations, the traveler may require a clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs in order to leave the country. Such travelers generally must pay a fine, and in some cases, may be jailed until their deportation can be arranged.

It is always good to know certain restrictions on how long you stay, because if you don’t, you may find yourself in trouble. Would you ever want to live in India? Would you want to live on the coast lines, mountains, or in between?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

India: Languages

The following list depicts some of the many languages present in India and the percentages of people who speak them.

Hindi 41%,
Bengali 8.1%,
Telugu 7.2%,
Marathi 7%,
Tamil 5.9%,
Urdu 5%,
Gujarati 4.5%,
Kannada 3.7%,
Malayalam 3.2%,
Oriya 3.2%,
Punjabi 2.8%,
Assamese 1.3%,
Maithili 1.2%,
other 5.9%.

English in India

The official language of India is Hindi. For English speaking travel, you may notice that there is no English language listed.

English has the associate status of India; however is the most important language for national, political, and commercial communication.

English rises in India

In 2008, The Washington Post published an article called, “In India, Dreams Unfold in English- Boom is Driving Language Classes” which was by Rama Lakshmi.

She states that since the India economy has been booming, there have been more and more Indians trying to learn English.

“Bhopal, a provincial city of more than 1.5 million, is now thick with storefront schools that promise English proficiency.”

With the economic boom in India, do you think that it is a good idea that all people in India should be taught English to become even more globalized?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

India: Best Places to Visit

Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur

The palace serves as the best place to enjoy the sunset. An antique jhoola (swing) sway in the middle of the room. Udai Prakash with a huge terrace and Kamal Mahal with exquisite glass inlay in designs of lotus and leaf patterns, are other places in the Palace.

The Madurai City

Certainly one of the supreme masterpieces of Indian architecture is the Meenakshi temple in Madurai also measured as the most beautiful of all temples. The Meenakshi temple epitomizes the culture and civilization of south India; is also the largest temple complex in India, which greets about 10,000 visitor’s everyday. The Madurai city revolves around the temple, the core is much older than the city itself. The magnificence captures the complete worldly admiration for many centuries.

Guided Jeep safari/Elephant safari

India safaris are a great way to see tigers, Asiatic lions, Elephants, Rhinoceros & leopards. Itinerary of tours: View Website

Fishing in India
Mighty Mahseer: Corbett Tiger Reserve

In North, India, the presence of rivers like Ramganga, Chambal, Kali, Saryu, Tons, Sarda, Mandal and snowfeds like Alaknanda, Bhagirathi, Yamuna, Beas and the Sutlej offer great angling opportunities. Chase the Yellowfin Mahseer at the foothills of the Himalayas, fight with the Giant Catfish or bag the various species of trout.

These are just a few things to do when traveling to India. What would you like to do in India?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

India: Ghandi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869 in Porbandar in Gujarat. When he went to college, he decided to study law in England. In South Africa, he learned how racist the government, officials, and people were. He decided that non-violent protests were the best way to go. For twenty years in South Africa; while building a peace force of protesters and boycotters, Gandhi faced violence, persecution, and evil people; all of whom he never violently fought back.

In India, he led a series of fasting strikes, each which would test his willpower. He soon became the leader of the movement to civil rights in India.

Influence on Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King quotes about Gandhi- "Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity. In a real sense, Mahatma Gandhi embodied in his life certain universal principles that are inherent in the moral structure of the universe, and these principles are as inescapable as the law of gravitation."

Often Gandhi asked his listeners to remove the foreign clothing they wore. With spiritualistic passion they took off the garments and piled them at Gandhi's feet. Gandhi would light a match to the mound and, as they burned, tell the people not to buy new foreign clothes but rather to spin and weave and make their own, as he did. By September, 1921, he had adopted as his permanent costume the simple loincloth worn by most of India's peasants.

If you want to hear more on the story, please visit this link to find out about a very powerful man, who knew that violence was never the answer. He knew that peace and self control was the best weapon in fighting tyranny.

Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to physically fight back? Sometimes it is good just to be peaceful about conflicts in your life, even if it is hard to do so.

Monday, August 10, 2009

India- what to pack

Simply put: NOTHING!

Okay, well not nothing, but limited amounts of clothing will need to be packed. Almost everyone who commented on packing for a trip to India has recommended packing only the essentials. The price of clothing is very inexpensive in India. You can find the same clothes you would purchase in the U.S. over in India for a fraction of the price! We haven’t even told you the best news yet; all the clothes can be tailored to your specific needs by experienced tailors. Even the tailoring of clothing is less expensive than in the US! A souvenir, light traveling (at least one way) and an excuse to go shopping? What more could you really ask for!

Don’t worry, you will need to bring some clothing and we have everything you’ll need to know before you go:

Prepare for the heat and dust by packing comfortable clothing made of breathable fabrics such as cotton and linen. Additionally, make sure the clothing you are packing is on the conservative side; longer shorts and pants for men and skirts for women below the knee. It is inappropriate for women to wear shorts, short skirts, tank tops or revealing shirts.

Clothing should not be flashy as the Indian culture is not a showy society. Evening wear can be dressy, but keep it casual. The Indian culture is a humble one and regardless of where you come from, as a tourist you need to respect this.

Lastly, wear rubber-soled sandals as canvas and nylon shoes will absorb the dust.

Traditional Indian clothing, worn by the Indians:

Women: SARI or SAREE- a long strip of colorful, multi-patterned cloth that is wrapped around the body. It can be draped in many different ways and is usually worn with a blouse known as a ravika. This is the traditional dress of Indian women and often what we think of when we picture a traditional Indian dress.

Men: KURTA- a long, loose shirt reaching to the knees.
PAJAMA- lightweight, drawstring trouser.
DHOTI- an unstitched cloth that is wrapped around the legs and waist. It is knotted at the waist.
SHERWANI- A long coat buttoned up to the collar. It is supposed to add to the charm and grace of a man. Taller men especially like wearing this coat. It is often worn by men on their wedding day.

Additional items to be packed include:
- plenty of sunscreen
- sun hat or other covering (head scarf for women)
- sunglasses
- eye drops (it can get very dusty)
- comfortable walking shoes
- a water bottle (staying hydrated is important on your trip)
- universal plug (make sure your electronics are compatible)
- insect repellents
- TISSUES- most bathrooms DO NOT provide toilet paper for you.
- hand sanitizer
- traveler guides/ maps
- a camera

… And don’t forget stop at your Passport Health location to pick up your prescription for preventive malaria medication, a malaria kit which includes appropriate repellents containing DEET, as well as a kit for traveler’s diarrhea including antibiotics and re-hydration powders.

What is the one travel essential (clothing) that you never forget to take with you?

Friday, August 7, 2009

India: Stay Healthy on Vacation

Getting ready for any trip takes months and weeks of research, planning and packing. While preparing all the activities, transportation, documentation and securing loose ends while you’re are away, don’t forget to prepare your health for the visit too! It is important to make the most of your trip by participating in all pre-planned activities rather than experiencing India from the hotel bathroom or a local medical center; so be safe, vaccinate!

Planning to stay healthy while you travel is the MOST important part of planning for your trip.

The best ways to ensure a safe and healthy trip are to be educated about the health risks in India and get vaccinated.

For travel to India, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends the following vaccinations:
Hepatitis A and B
Varicella (Chicken Pox)
Yellow Fever- if coming from a country where yellow fever is present
• PPD Test
Japanese Encephalitis

Please make sure you get properly vaccinated as there are many diseases throughout India that can seriously affect your health. It is especially important to make sure you get anti-malarial medication and use the proper repellents containing the appropriate amount of DEET as Malaria and Japanese Encephalitis are both mosquito borne illnesses.

Also, take precautions against drinking the water and make sure your food is thoroughly cooked. Hepatitis B, Measles, Meningitis, Polio, Rabies and Typhoid Fever are all prevalent diseases in India. Being properly vaccinated before you go can only protect you to an extent, knowing the diseases and how to prevent them when you are there is another way to stay safe.

Most of these vaccinations are routine for citizens of the USA and you have more than likely been adequately vaccinated for some, but it is important to see a travel medicine specialist to be sure you are prepared with the proper vaccinations and information to stay healthy in India.

Now that you know about all the diseases and viruses that have preventive vaccines, you are free to take other preventive measures for the rest of the "icky" things that can affect your trip.
  • Insect-Borne Diseases(Dengue Fever, Malaria): use appropriate repellents containing DEET, and prescribed Malaria medication.
  • Travelers' Diarrhea: use antibiotics and re hydration powders (diarrhea kit available at Passport Health)
  • Intestinal Infections: Swim only in properly chlorinated or salt water, wear shoes at all times (even on the beach), follow food and water precautions given by an expert.
  • Jet-Lag, Motion sickness, Altitude sickness: several different medications available
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis: Remain properly hydrated during flight, get up frequently to stretch your legs to maintain circulation, consider wearing pressure gradient Travel Socks
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation: Obtain appropriate Travel and Evacuation Insurance

Don't let the possibility of getting sick in India deter you from going. The best way to ensure safety and good health is to know the risks and take the right precautions against them.

Thank you to the CDC and our Travel Medicine Specialists for their contribution to this post.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

India: Documents Needed for Entry

According to the U.S. Dept. of State, Americans living or traveling in India are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site. And obtain updated information on travel and security in India. Americans without Internet access may register in person with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

Entry/Exit Requirements:
U.S. citizens require a valid passport and valid India visa to enter and exit India for any purpose. Visitors, including those on official government business, must obtain visas at an Indian Embassy or Consulate abroad prior to entering the country, as there are no provisions for visas upon arrival. Those arriving without a valid passport and valid visa are subject to immediate deportation. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India are unable to assist when U.S. citizens arrive without proper documentation. Each visitor should carry photocopies of the bio-data page of the traveler's U.S. passport and the page containing the Indian visa in order to facilitate obtaining an exit visa from the Indian government in the event of theft or loss of the passport. Replacing a lost visa to exit the country takes up to three business days.

India Visa

Correct types of Visas:
Americans wishing to visit India are responsible for requesting the correct type of visa from the Indian Embassy or Consulate, as there generally are no provisions for changing one's immigration category (e.g., from tourist to work visa) once admitted. Visitors whose primary purpose of travel is to participate in religious activities should obtain a missionary visa rather than a tourist visa. Indian immigration authorities have deported American citizens who entered India with a tourist visa and conducted religious activities.

As of October 1, 2007, the Indian Embassy and Consulates in the U.S. outsourced the visa application process to Travisa Visa Outsourcing. Travisa Outsourcing handles all the India visa requests from inside the United States as a private contractor to the Indian Embassy and Consulates.

Have you ever experienced a problem traveling to India from the United States or any other country?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

India: Ancient India

Celebrating Holi

The Hindu festival of colors, where friends will gather during the day for ‘Holi parties’ and throw colored powder and water over each other. Traditionally associated with the coming of spring, friends gather during the day for 'Holi parties'. The throwing of powder has a hidden significance as the colors were originally made of 'neem' and 'haldi' (tumeric), which are believed to contain properties that help stave off illnesses that come with the changing weather.

Golden Temple of Amritsar in Northern India

It is said that 750 kg of pure gold went into building this dome, which represents a lotus leaf. This was meant to symbolize the goal of leading a life of purity, which is a main belief of the Sikh religion.

Taj Mahal

In 1631, Shan Jahan, emperor during the Mughal Empire’s period of greatest prosperity, was brokenhearted when his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died during the birth of her fourteenth child. Building began around 1632 and was completed around 1653, and employed thousands of artisans and craftsmen. Polluting traffic is not allowed near the complex and tourists must walk from parking lots or catch an electric bus.

Tanjore Temple

The highest building in India when it was dedicated in 1010, the Great Temple of Tanjore, in Tamil Nadu, is a World Heritage Site today, but still a living temple. The beautiful architecture is surrounded by astonishing carvings.

Meenakshi Temple

The Meenakshi Temple is 150 ft high and inside has some awe-inspiring art. It is located in the 2500 year old city of Madurai. The whole complex is around 45 acres, and the temple is surrounded by 12 more towers.

The buildings and temples of India are absolutely incredible.

How do you think they build these incredible buildings without the modern technology of today?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Welcome to India

Welcome to India. Here are some facts to start your journey.

Facts about India

Population: 1,166,079,217

Capital City: New Delhi

Government: Federal Republic

Taj Mahal

Elevation Extremes: lowest point: Indian Ocean
highest point: Kanchenjunga 8,598 m

Major Infectious Diseases:
Degree of risk: high

Food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A and E, and typhoid fever
Food and waterborne diseases are expected to be in dirty conditions. Just because a food looks o.k., it doesn’t mean that it is safe to eat. In travel, to stay safe, means to be informed. Be sure to talk to a travel health specialist about these diseases.

Water contact disease: leptospirosis
Symptoms include high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches, and vomiting, and may include jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or a rash. It is always wise to stay out of fresh water areas, and stick to salt water or pool areas because the bacteria can be killed by salt or chlorine.

Man of Note-

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

We will be talking more about Gandhi, but for now lets say that he influenced India a great deal.

India has the second highest population in the world and is only slightly larger than a third size of the United States.

Have you ever lived in a crowded situation?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Did we make the grade?

So before we jump straight into a new country of the month, (which will be India) We wanted to take a deep breath and evaluate where we are and how we are doing. So this is where you come in!

Please tell us what you think of our blog posts. We know you are reading them, but we haven't heard many comments from you. Please tell us:

What you love
What you hate (cant fix a mistake unless we know what it is right?)
How often do you read our posts?
Is a new post everyday annoying, or does it satiate your hunger for travel?
What could we do better?
Is the information useful and interesting?
Would you share it with a friend?

Ok, that's enough questions! We'd really appreciate some comments below about how we are doing!

Thanks for sharing!

And tomorrow...INDIA!!!