Having just returned from a trip to India, the question I’ve been asked most isn’t “did you see a tiger?” or “what was the weather like?” No, it’s actually “did you get sick?!” Well dear readers, no I didn’t.
An upset tummy – affectionately termed ‘Delhi Belly’ – is a very real danger in India. Travellers aren’t used to eating rich and spicy foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, and unfortunately hygiene and food preparation standards aren’t always as high as they are back home. For that reason, stomach upsets are very common and can completely wipe out days of sightseeing.
In this post I share my tips for avoiding Delhi Belly and what to do if you’re struck down with it.
How to avoid Delhi Belly
Despite the number of people who get struck down with the bug, it is possible to avoid. Here are the precautions I took, and take it from me, they work!
- Practise good personal hygiene. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom and before meals. If there’s no soap available, bring hand sanitiser from home and use it! Also try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth without washing your hands first.
- Send that dirty plate back. If you’re handed dirty cutlery or crockery in restaurants, ask for a cleaner set. They won’t mind!
- Only drink bottled water. The water in India is totally unsafe to drink, so don’t do it! Bottled water is readily available in shops, restaurants and hotels so keep a good stash of it in your bag. You should also use this water to brush your teeth.
- Hold the ice. You can never guarantee that ice in your drink is made from purified water, so it’s best not to have it. Drinks are usually kept delightfully cold in restaurant fridges anyway, so you don’t even need ice.
- Avoid salad. Similarly, restaurants might wash their salad in contaminated water so don’t bother eating it. If you must eat fruit from markets, wash it first in your own drinking water or eat peelable fruit like oranges or bananas. Better yet, bring your own peeler from home for apples and pears!
- Make sure food is piping hot. Buffets are ridiculously popular in India, as they can keep lots of tourist groups happy throughout lunch and dinner service. Unfortunately, the food is usually less than hot, making it more risky to eat. My advice is to wait for the fresh stuff, or order a la carte.
- Eat at reputable restaurants. If you have a tour guide, they’ll usually be able to recommend ‘safe’ restaurants with good standards of hygiene. If not, check TripAdvisor to see whether other travellers have had a bad experience at that restaurant you’ve got your eye on.
- Try not to eat street food. Yes, those pakoras from the little old man on the street might look delicious, but are they really worth ruining the rest of your trip for?
- Be picky with what you eat. If you’re not a vegetarian already, consider becoming one in India. With 31% of the population being vegetarian, the meat free food in the country is very special and less likely to give you food poisoning. *whisper* you also HAVE TO try a MaccyD’s McSpicy Paneer. I’m salivating at the thought of it…!
How to treat Delhi Belly
Don’t panic if you’ve already got Delhi Belly – it can be treated quite easily with a few home remedies and by looking after yourself.
- Stay hydrated. This is the most important thing you can do, especially in hot countries! Keep drinking bottled water and consider taking electrolyte to replace all the water you’ve lost during your sickness.
- Take digestion medicines. There are hundreds of medicines out there to treat upset stomachs. Remember to bring some from home as pharmacies can be quite hard to find in India. Follow the instructions, and you’ll be feeling better in no time.
- Take some time out. It’s worth taking a day out of sightseeing to stay in your room and make sure you get much better. Plus, how much fun can it be staring at another beautiful building when all you want is a toilet?
- Get plenty of rest. I don’t know about you, but I feel so much better once I’ve had a good night’s sleep. Make sure your room is dark, get yourself comfortable and try to sleep it off.
What are your tips for avoiding Delhi belly? Share your advice in the comments below!