Travel Health Concerns
Many travellers to India, especially first-time visitors, have many questions about health issues. Firstly, we would like to stress that we at Tushita are not doctors or medical experts.
As we run courses with large numbers of people resident here, student health is of great concern to us and we will provide information and assistance when and where we can; for example, we have a first aid kit and a few medical supplies here.
This means that students must take responsibility for their own health and welfare as much as possible, particularly making sure that you are in good health and have made necessary arrangements and taken sensible precautions before you arrive here.
Medical preparations before your course
If you have been feeling unwell, please consult a medical professional before you arrive at Tushita, particularly if you have been having stomach problems or have been experiencing flu-like symptoms. Specifically, if you have been suffering from diarrhoea, please have a stool test done so that you can get an accurate diagnosis (we discourage self-diagnosis, such conditions often have the same symptoms but require different medication) and begin treatment before the course begins. Otherwise your condition may linger and affect your general health, ability to participate fully in the course and may endanger the health of others at the centre. For this reason, please do not join the course if you are feeling unwell but have not yet consulted a doctor about it.
So, we're not doctors, but we can offer some general, practical advice based on our experience of living in India:
Water purification options...
You would also be a very smart traveller if you purify your own water; boiling your drinking water first is an excellent means of purification, so travelling with a small kettle or heating coil is a great idea (good for tea on the go too!). If you’re only in Asia for a short time, water purification tablets are an option (these are generally not recommended for use over long periods of time), while for longer trips, consider bringing your own water purifier with you, an example being the Steripen. While these can be expensive, they are a good long-term investment. Just think, you won’t have to constantly spend rupee after rupee on bottled water, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that you can always have safe water wherever you are, and most importantly, you won’t be contributing to the ever-increasing pollution of Asia’s environment!
But if something does go wrong...
While having surgery here in Dharamsala is not generally recommended, there are good surgical facilities available in Chandigarh and Delhi. There are also local doctors and pharmacies offering Tibetan, Auyrvedic, and Homeopathic medicine.
We strongly discourage use of the anti-malaria medication Larium (Mefloquine). Among the common side effects of listed by the Center for Disease Control are: "anxiety, vivid dreams, and visual disturbances. Mefloquine has rarely been reported to cause serious side effects, such as seizures, depression, and psychosis." It is our experience at Tushita that meditating while taking Larium may increase the likelihood and/or severity of these side effects and therefore we discourage students from taking Larium while meditating or participating in our courses.
Personal Safety in India
Personal safety is a common concern for travellers. Our general advice is this:
India is an amazing country and most Indian people are very hospitable and helpful. The vast majority of travellers have no safety problems while travelling in India. Be careful and apply the same common sense in India that you would use at home; watch your bags and secure your room when going out. Always carry your passport and valuables in a money belt on your body and inside your clothing. Be especially watchful in airports, train stations and on public transport. But also relax and enjoy!
Crime and violence in McLeod Ganj and Dharamsala are relatively rare. However, there have been occasional robberies (sadly these are often perpetrated by fellow travellers) so watch your bags and secure your room. There have also been a small number of acts of violence against women, so we encourage women to be vigilant and not to walk alone in isolated areas at night. This may be especially important to remember when choosing the location of your guesthouse. Walking around the town of McLeod Ganj itself is usually quite safe, even in the evening.
For more information on personal safety in India, read the safety section of your guidebook and talk to other travellers about their experiences and advice. You may also find online travel sites such as the the India Mike website useful in obtaining information, and even in organising travel partners ("India Travel Partners" forum), obviously using discretion & wisdom about who you choose to travel with!
Current Travel Safety in North India
India is a relatively peaceful country with few travel prohibitions, but to be sure please contact your embassy for their latest advice on travel in India.
We wish you safe, healthy & happy travels!