Grey skies, heavy downpours, heat relief, spicy food, slippery streets, jam-packed transport and endless opportunities for romance, friendship and travel – monsoon season in India is the stuff that poems and songs are written about. And you can experience this when you intern in India.
After days of sweltering heat, the rains are a refreshing change. And for some, a blessing. Monsoon season in India marks the beginning of crop yielding. Every year, farmers await their first kiss with the rain. Like all other seasons, monsoons also give us sweet memories of being stuck in traffic, catching up with friends and family for a cup of hot tea and some pakoras. Or even of dancing in the rain like no one’s watching. However, the season also brings with it some challenges.
Challenges of the monsoon season in India
The main monsoon season in India runs from June to September and can be quite tricky to navigate. Especially if you are visiting the country for the very first time. Whether you are a tourist or an intern or on a business trip, here are a few tips on surviving the monsoon season in India to make your stay comfortable:
1. Avoid the travel bug
Food in India can be quite savoured and tempting. However, the monsoon season is probably the worst time to experiment with your stomach. Street food is a complete ‘no-no’ and vendors selling cut fruits and vegetables must be avoided. Delhi belly is real!
So as much as possible, try sticking to home-cooked meals or eat at enclosed cafes and restaurants that are trustworthy. Eat food that is piping hot, not lukewarm. Never drink tap water, even if it isn’t the monsoon season!
Water in India should only be consumed if filtered or bought from brands such as Bisleri, Kingfisher, Aquafina and the likes. It is also extremely essential for you to keep hydrated as the monsoon heat can suck the energy out of you. The last thing you want while travelling in India is to fall sick and not be able to enjoy the monsoon.
2. Stick to public transport
Commuting in India is time-consuming and requires immense patience. The narrow, bumpy streets could be quite a hassle to manoeuvre, especially in the rainy season. Heavy rain often causes minor flooding and broken traffic lights, resulting in heavily-jammed roads.
Using public transport like the metro and auto-rickshaw can be quite the time-saver. Metros are usually more packed on rainy days and to avoid standing in long queues, one must buy a prepaid metro card. Auto-rickshaws are basically three-wheeler tuk-tuks and can easily cut through traffic by avoiding the main roads.
If using your own vehicle, make sure the tank is full to manage the long traffic jams.
3. Wear the right kind of clothing
Although the temperature during the monsoon is known to drop relatively, it can still be very humid and sticky. Avoid wearing anything other than cotton-based fabrics. Always carry a light scarf and a hat to protect your head from the sun. If you are interning or volunteering in India, the chances are that your work would require you to be outdoors, in the field.
Hence, whenever stepping out, carry an umbrella and wear rubber shoes or gumboots for long walks on muddy roads with puddles (crocs can be a good option since they are comfortable and clean easily).
Mosquitoes and insects breed heavily in the rainy season, and so it is very important to cover your body to avoid mosquito bites and other diseases such as Malaria.
4. Get pre-vaccinated
The first thing you should do after you decide on travelling to India, is to make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic. Getting your vaccinations done at least four to six weeks prior to your travel date is highly recommended.
Consider the hot and sticky weather in India, and the diseases that come attached. One must get a flu shot and vaccinated for Malaria. There are also a few malaria tablets you can buy while in India, but it is always safer to have medicines that you are used to from your home country.
Buy a mosquito repellent spray for the house or hotel you are going to be living in, and apply an anti-mosquito cream on your arms and legs every time you step out after sunset.
5. Avoid sudden switching between ‘hot’ and ‘cold’
This will probably come as a surprise to people living in cold countries or in countries with moderate temperatures, such as South Africa. In places such as the middle east or India, most offices, houses, malls, public transport, etc. are air-conditioned. However, the outside temperature can be boiling.
The temperatures during the Indian monsoon could be as high as 45 degrees Celsius. The extreme variance between the outside and inside temperatures could have an adverse effect on the body. This effect is even more so if one is not used to it.
The best way to avoid falling sick by the so-called ‘sard-garam’ in India, is by always transitioning slowly into the other extreme of the temperature. Before stepping out of your home or hotel or office, switch off the air-conditioning at least five minutes prior. When you do step out, make sure you cover your head with a cap or scarf. This will avoid the change in temperature from hitting your head.
Likewise, when entering a mall or metro train, stand in the shade or under a fan for a while and then only get into the air-conditioned space. We know this could sound silly, but take our word for it – it is the easiest way to fall ill in India.
6. Be responsible for your own safety
Monsoon in India could be the best way to experience the beauty of India. However, one must always look into the safety aspects before indulging in any sort of activity outdoors. Women, for example, must avoid stepping out alone after sunset during rainy days.
Although there are major traffic jams on the main streets, some of the inner streets, where most houses and offices are situated, could be dark and dingy due to power-cuts. In such cases, it is best to call an Uber or Ola cab to pick you or drop you at your doorstep. Another important safety measure is to avoid sheltering under trees while it’s raining, as sometimes the lightning gets quite heavy and could cause electric shocks.
7. Carry your bare essentials
Monsoon calls for humidity and humidity mostly means sweat. Imagine taking shower and getting ready to step out for work or for a couple of drinks, arriving at your destination only to feel like you haven’t showered at all. That feeling is so true in India during the monsoon months.
Carrying a pack of wet-wipes at all times comes in quite handy in such cases. Other essentials one is recommended to carry, are headache tablets, a water bottle, hand sanitizer, a scarf, a mini hand-fan if possible and any other items that could help keep you cool.
8. Be plastic-ready
Yes, you read that correct! Rain in India comes unexpected and keeping a plastic bag in your handbag could save your valuables from getting damaged. For instance, your wallet or expensive camera or even your phone can easily get destroyed if rainwater seeps into your bag. Hence wrapping it in plastic is the only way you can protect your belongings.
These tips might make it sound like travelling to India during the monsoon could be an absolute nightmare. But don’t be so disheartened. If you take all the necessary precautions, you could have the most wonderful time.
You’ll enjoy seeing all of India soaking-wet and being constantly showered by the rain gods. And if you do face discomfort during your stay, consider yourself lucky. Because essentially, the true beauty lies in seeing India just the way it is!
Watch the trailer for the 2014 Oscar-nominated, short film called “MONSOON”. It’s a beautiful depiction of what to expect.