Trip Coach: January 16, 2007
Diane Mehta, former editor of Fodor's India, answered your questions about India.
Diane Mehta: Hi Everyone,
Thanks for joining me today. I'm ready to answer your questions.
with Fodor's India
Miami, FL: We have been to Northern India, but have hesitated to visit Southern India due to the hot and rainy weather. What is the best time to visit Southern India in order to avoid the heat and rain?
Diane Mehta: Hi, and thanks for joining me. Like the North, South India is perfectly reasonable in winter, from late November to early February. (India's monsoon takes place during our summer, around July and August---and leading up to that time, and after it, it's also very sticky.)
Except for the Himalayas, which is ideal to visit in spring or fall, the rest of India is best seen during winter time. And if you go up into the hills, say in Coorg or Munnar, in the South, the temperature will be very mild---cold enough for a thick sweater or jacket at night.
Hollis, NH: We are planning a first trip to India next December going to the most important sites. We will also be going south to Kerala and Cochin. What shots and Medicines should we take before we leave
Diane Mehta: The safest way to decide is to check the Center for Disease Control website, and schedule an appointment at a travel clinic more than a month in advance. (cdc.gov/travel) Anti-malaria medicine and bug spray is a must. At any clinic, they'll want to know which region you're visiting at what time of year, so they can give you shots necessary for diseases that are prevalent in that climate. It also depends on how up to date you are with your vaccinations. For example, on my last trip, in winter, I visited Bombay, Rajasthan, Goa, and Kerala, and got a full round of shots for Tetanus, Typhoid, Polio (adult), and Hepatitis A. I would also recommend asking your doctor for antibiotics you can bring with you in case of diarrhea, Pepto Bismol, and anything else you might need for pain or inflammation, like Calamine lotion (though toothpaste works great for bug bites).
Georgetown, DE: Can you recommend any sites or activities in India for elementary school children?
Diane Mehta: I think a tiger or jungle safari would be your best bet. The bigger cities don't have a lot of open space---a park or two, perhaps---and the smaller cities are great for sightseeing and temples. Most kids would be excited to see elephants, tigers, and other animals, however! In this forum I've already mentioned the Dubare Elephant Camp and Jungle Lodges in Karnataka, and Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan for tigers, but there is also the Green Magic Nature Resort in Northern Kerala (tree houses 5 hours north of Kochi, or Cochin), and the eco-based Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary in Southern Kerala, south of Trivandrum. Both are excellent, and a lot of fun.
Austin, TX: Is solo travel in India safe? Are their particular locations to be avoided? What about do's and don't for single travlers? I am in my sixties and very active. Finding a travel companion is not easy and in most cases the single "surcharge" is enough to discourage most single travelers; so I thought if I go it alone you could provide some guidance.
Diane Mehta: I traveled extensively through India, twice, by myself. One thing you may want to do is wear a wedding ring, so men won't harass you as much. Also, if you're alone it's advisable to stay in better hotels, which are safer and cleaner---so if something goes wrong or you get sick you're in good hands.
Also, you might consider joining a tour for part of the trip, or at least taking day tours where you'll meet other people. India can be exhausting and frustrating for anyone, and that gets multiplied when you're solo. So the more things you have set up in advance, the better. I would not recommend taking local buses anywhere alone, though a tour bus for a day trip will be fine. Trains are okay, but make sure you go first-class, as it will be safer, more comfortable, and much cleaner. I also wouldn't go to the less-traveled regions, like Sikkim, or along the east coast, since that's harder to get to, and the more rural, the less safe.
Knoxville, TN: Is it difficult for a single woman to travel in India?
Diane Mehta: Not at all! I did it twice, each time for a month, and people were friendly and helpful wherever I went. Please see my responses to another woman in this forum, who asked the same question.