Fulbright to India Guide – 2021-2022

Health and Safety

Well before your departure, inform yourself about health issues and precautionary measures, as some immunizations require a series of doses over several months.  Visit the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention website.

We also recommend that you read the travel advisories available at the U.S. Department of State-Bureau of Consular Affairs.

The quality of medical care in India varies considerably.  Medical care in the major population centers approaches and occasionally meets Western standards, but adequate medical care is usually very limited or unavailable in rural areas.

USIEF does not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas. 

Air pollution is a significant problem in several major cities in India, and you should consult your doctor prior to travel and consider the impact seasonal smog and heavy particulate pollution may have on you.  The air quality in India varies considerably and fluctuates with the seasons.   It is typically at its worst in the winter. Anyone who travels where pollution levels are high is at risk.  People at the greatest risk from particle pollution exposure include:

  • Infants, children, and teens
  • People over 65 years of age
  • People with lung disease such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema;
  • People with heart disease or diabetes
  • People who work or are active outdoors

Current air quality data can be found on the Embassy’s Air Quality page.  The data on this site are updated hourly.

Some preventive measures that former Fulbrighters have suggested are:

“Wearing protective masks like N95 (full seal around mouth and nose).  Respro ultralight mask can also be purchased in the US. View link for various mask types: https://aqicn.org/mask/

Air Purifiers at home- Available both online (amazon, flipkart etc.) or at stores. Some well-known brands though costly are Blueair, Philips, Aeroguard. An economical option is Xiaomi and Smart Air Filters.

It is generally advised that one should avoid outdoor activities in early mornings and going out late nights.”

All persons traveling in India, even for a brief visit, are at some risk from the mosquito borne illnesses, such as malaria, dengue fever, and Japanese encephalitis.  Consult with a doctor for medications.  Dengue fever tends to be seasonal, coinciding with the wet warm weather.  There is no medication for dengue; avoiding mosquito bites is the best prevention.

Monsoon season (from June/July until end of September) is when mosquito related diseases like Malaria, Dengue, Chikungunya are prevalent. Dengue and Chikungunya season is still prevalent till mid to end October. Some useful tips for prevention by alumni:

  • Wear full-sleeved shirts and pants both indoors and outdoors
  • Apply mosquito repellent ointment (eg: Odomos) on body
  • Mosquito repellent plug ins should be used at home. Eg-Goodnight
  • Make sure there is no stagnant water inside your house and in balcony and surrounding areas around your house
  • If you have high fever and does not subside for 24-48 hours immediately consult a doctor
  • Use mosquito nets.
  • Put screens on windows
  • Bring some “Ultrathon”. It comes in a 12hr cream and a spray that you can put on your clothes (or bedding) and it works for 6 weeks. It doesn’t smell particularly bad and is very easy to manage

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), studies show that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at keeping people from getting COVID-19.  Experts also think that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may help keeping individuals from getting seriously ill if they do get COVID-19.   The CDC believes that “The COVID-19 vaccination is an important tool to help us get back to normal.” 

If you are arriving in India from Sub-Saharan Africa or other yellow-fever areas, Indian health regulations require that you present evidence of vaccination against yellow fever.  If you do not have such proof, you could be subjected to immediate deportation or a six-day detention in the yellow-fever quarantine center.  If you transit through any part of sub-Saharan Africa, even for one day, you are advised to carry proof of yellow fever immunization.

Dogs and bats create a high risk of rabies transmission in most of India.  Vaccination is recommended for all prolonged stays, especially for young children and travelers in rural areas.  It is also recommended for shorter stays that involve occupational exposure, locations more than 24 hours from a reliable source of human rabies immune globulin and rabies vaccine for post-exposure treatment, adventure travelers, hikers, cave explorers, and backpackers.  Monkeys also can transmit rabies and herpes B, among other diseases, to human victims.  Avoid feeding monkeys.  If bitten, you should immediately soak and scrub the bite for at least 15 minutes and seek urgent medical attention.

Influenza is transmitted from November to April in areas north of the Tropic of Cancer (north India), and from June through November (the rainy season) in areas south of the Tropic of Cancer (south India), with a smaller peak from February through April; off-season transmission can also occur.  All H5N1 Fact Sheet travelers are at risk. Influenza vaccine is recommended for all travelers during the flu season.

Outbreaks of avian influenza (H5N1 virus) occur intermittently in eastern India, including West Bengal, Manipur, Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Assam. For further information on pandemic influenza, please refer to the Department of State’s 2009-H1N1, Pandemic Influenza, and .

Malaria prophylaxis depends on time of year and area the traveler is visiting.  Please consult the CDC website for more information. Dengue fever presents significant risk in urban and rural areas. The highest number of cases is reported from July to December, with cases peaking from September to October. Daytime insect precautions such as wearing long-sleeved shirts and mosquito repellent are recommended by the CDC.

Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in India. For further information, please consult the CDC’s Travel Notice on TB.

Vaccinations are not covered under the ASPE health card. For procuring vaccines while being in India, one can try a local community pharmacy or even consulting one’s doctor here in India. It will be much cheaper than the travel clinics (Passport Health, for e.g.).  The local pharmacist can also prescribe and give travel vaccinations now.

Please visit the Traveler’s Health page on the CDC website.

Visitors to India are at a high risk for gastrointestinal illnesses, especially “Delhi belly”.  Careful attention to your choices of food and beverage can help reduce the risks, as does hand-washing prior to meals.  Dairy products should come from a package that shows they have been pasteurized.  Boiling water for 1 minute makes it safe, so coffee and tea may be presumed safe.  Carbonated beverages, beer, and wine are also safe.  Bottled water, with the cap sealed is usually safe.  The Indian brand Catch, Kinley (Coke), and Aquafina (Pepsi) bottled waters are certified safe by the NSF organization or U.S. Military.  Bottled waters from other high profile companies are usually safe.  Iodine tablets for water purification should not be used for more than a few weeks. 

Water Purifiers (RO, UV, UF): Having a water purifier at your home is important (Kent, Aquaguard, Eureka Forbes are some popular brands). While looking for housing accommodation do check if a water purifier is fitted and have it serviced before you move in.

ICE: forget about it unless you make it yourself from safe water, no matter how fancy the venue.  Likewise, forget about popsicles.  Ice cream from a closed package, from a major dairy, is most likely pasteurized and therefore safe.  By getting it in a closed package (e.g. on a stick) you will decrease the possibility of contamination during scooping, and you will better be able to confirm by texture that it has not previously melted.  As for the yummy lassi, it may contain ice (just say no).

Most diarrheal episodes, even those resulting from bacteria, resolve within 3-5 days.  Most diarrheal illness is viral, so it is best to let it run its course, for the first 24 hours.  However, if you have meetings, flights, or long drives ahead of you, you may want to take Imodium.  The sooner you start on Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS), the better.  Go slowly; one sip every few minutes works best.  If you are unable to keep down fluids, have a high fever, dizziness, or diarrhea that has persisted for more than a couple of days, contact a doctor immediately.

Road Conditions and Safety: Travel by road in India is dangerous.  India leads the world in traffic-related deaths and a number of U.S. citizens have suffered fatal traffic accidents in recent years.  You should exercise extreme caution when crossing streets, even in marked pedestrian areas, and try to use only cars that have seatbelts.  Seatbelts are not common in three-wheel taxis (autos) and in taxis’ back seats.  Helmets should always be worn on motorcycles and bicycles. Travel at night is particularly hazardous.

On Indian roads, the safest driving policy is always to assume that other drivers will not respond to a traffic situation in the same way you would in the United States.  Buses and trucks often run red lights and merge directly into traffic at yield points and traffic circles.  Cars, autos, bicycles, and pedestrians behave only slightly more cautiously.  Use your horn or flash your headlights frequently to announce your presence.  It is both customary and wise.

Inside and outside major cities, roads are often poorly maintained and congested.  Even main roads frequently have only two lanes, with poor visibility and inadequate warning markers.  On the few divided highways one can expect to meet local transportation traveling in the wrong direction, often without lights.  Heavy traffic is the norm and includes (but is not limited to) overloaded trucks and buses, scooters, pedestrians, bullock and camel carts, horse or elephant riders en route to weddings, bicycles, and free-roaming livestock.

Public Transportation: Buses, patronized by hundreds of millions of Indians, are convenient in that they serve almost every city of any size.  However, they are often driven fast, recklessly, and without consideration for the rules of the road. Accidents are quite common.

Traffic Laws: Traffic in India moves on the left.  It is important to be alert while crossing streets and intersections, especially after dark as traffic is coming in the “wrong” direction.  Travelers should remember to use seatbelts in both rear and front seats where available, and to ask their drivers to maintain a safe speed.

In order to drive in India, you must have either a valid Indian driver’s license or a valid international driver’s license.  Because of difficult road and traffic conditions, you may wish to consider hiring a local driver.

If a driver hits a pedestrian or a cow, the vehicle and its occupants are at risk of being attacked by passersby. Such attacks pose significant risk of injury or death to the vehicle’s occupants or risk of incineration of the vehicle.  It could be unsafe to remain at the scene of an accident of this nature, and drivers may instead wish to seek out the nearest police station. Protestors often use road blockage as a means of publicizing their grievances, causing severe inconvenience to travelers. Visitors should monitor local news reports for any reports of road disturbances.

Please go to the section on Driving in India for more details about driving and licensing in India.

A Few Safety Tips From Alumni

When possible, try to use a taxi driver or car service that has a good reputation among the expat community.  Many taxi drivers will give you their personal mobile phone number and you can call them to pick you up, though they may charge you for the mileage from the taxi stand to your house.  Always get a taxi from a taxi stand.  Never hail one on the street.

Even when using a known driver, there are a few safety rules:

Always use a registered taxi and record the taxi number.  In Delhi, registered taxis will have a DL 1T plate.  The subsequent four numbers are the taxi ID number.  Record that number and ask the driver’s name and repeat it back to him.  Even if he gives you a fake name, it lets the driver know that you will remember him. 

Familiarize yourself with your travel route BEFORE getting into the cab.  Nothing screams tourist (and potential target) like an unfolded map!  Study your map in a safe place.  Many taxi drivers may not be familiar with your destination and it is not uncommon for them to run up the meter before hopping out to ask directions.  Knowing the route, you intend to travel can not only help you stay safe but save you money as well.

Lock your doors and roll up your windows.  Also, keep your bags and parcels away from the doors and windows.  They create an attractive target for the many skilled thieves in our fair city who have even stolen bags from moving vehicles.  Most importantly, use the buddy system!  Most taxi related crimes happen to people traveling alone and at night.  Women are particularly vulnerable and have been victims of robberies and sexual assaults.  Keep a wingman or wing woman handy!  If you have to travel alone, take out your mobile phone and make a call.  Tell the person on the other line where you are and where you are going.  If you feel threatened, give the person on the other end your taxi number (that you remembered to memorize before getting in the taxi) and your route of travel.

Always make a note of the taxi number before boarding the taxi and keep it handy so that you can call and inform a friend in case of any emergency. 

Autos offer little protection in an accident.  Even small accidents can cause severe injuries.  Aside from collisions, these vehicles are also known to topple rather easily when off balance leaving its passengers face down on the pavement. No safety restraints.  Being thrown from a vehicle is the number one cause of death in vehicle accidents.  Remaining in the vehicle is your best chance of survival. No doors or windows.  There are known cases of children/adults that have slid out of the vehicle on an abrupt turn. Autos are open-air exposing you to the harmful exhaust fumes of the surrounding vehicles. Motorcycle thieves view auto passengers as easy targets for purse snatching.  Keep a close hold on your possessions or you may find yourself a victim to this increasingly common crime.  Sometimes unreliable, autos are prone to break downs that can leave you stranded in an unfamiliar area.

Contact us

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Tel.: +91-11-4209-0909/2332-8944