I was recovering from a very tiring first trimester and feeling more energetic than I had in months. “We should travel,” I told my husband.
“Sure, where to?”
“Uhm, I don’t know…”
“It’ll be fine,” I said, “Let’s see how much the tickets are.” We researched online for the cheapest fare. February is a good month to travel to India. It is off-season (December prices are exhorbitant) and flights not as crowded. I was 5 months pregnant with my first baby when we went on a vacation to India. I knew the flight was long, 20 hours from Los Angeles to New Delhi – not counting the 4 hours lay-over in Dubai.
I was not rash about the decision to travel however. The decision to go on a vacation was made quickly, but we prepared for the vacation with care. I was 34 at the time, had no medical complications – yet wanted to take no chances. I made sure to get the green flag from my doctor. He said it was fine to travel with precautions in the second trimester, after checking out ok medically. Here’s a few things I was to keep in mind:
– Always drink lots of water (even though it meant frequent trips to the bathroom)
– Stretch and walk every hour on the flight to avoid clotting
– Eat well and rest as much as you can. Avoid street food.
Here’s some more tips to the pregnant traveller in India:
– Avoid ice at all cost
– Drink bottled water from well-known brands, and make sure the cap is not tampered with
– Avoid fresh vegetables (such as salad), and make sure the fruit you eat is washed thoroughly and peeled
– Eat mostly well-cooked vegetarian food (Indian cuisine has wonderful vegetarian choices), and if you have to delve into chicken or goat dishes(such as kebabs or kormas), please dine at reputable, well-known restaurants. In Delhi, the choice is sky-high for excellent restaurants that fits all kinds of budgets. I’ll have a list of the places I dined at in a subsequent post.
– Avoid street food – leave it to the locals who have a more resistant immune system than you.
– Make sure your hotel/home stay is not located near a river or a water canal to avoid mosquitoes. Our home is in Green Park, which is at least 15 miles away from the Yamuna river and its tributaries – this meant no mosquitoes bothering us at night. Carry an insect repellant, just in case.
– Always make sure to carry the following items in your purse at all times: anti-bacterial gel to clean hands (use frequently when travelling), anti-bacterial wipes, toilet-paper (most public bathrooms have no toilet paper), protein bar or a bag of trail mix, and bottled water.
Indian roads can be dangerous for pedestrians because traffic is quite chaotic. Watch where you are going and avoid crossing major streets (use underpasses or pedestrian bridges where you can). Shop at safe pedestrian places. Sidewalks are either non-existent or broken, and piled with random debris. Watch your step carefully. I shopped at bazaars where bargains could be found, were safe to walk about, and had great eating joints. The bazaars also had good public bathrooms (these can be used for a small fee – carry change). Here are a few of my favorite shopping and eating spots:
1) Greater Kailash Market – Part 1 (both M and N blocks) – my favorite spots for shopping and eating.
2) South Extension Market – Part 1 and 2 (Bengali Sweets shop has yummy vegetarian food and snacks)
3) Lajpat Nagar Market (try the Haldirams snack shop here – excellent vegetarian munchies)
4) Cottage Emporiums – Connaught Place (Rajasthan Cottage Emporium is very good – great to pick up gifts
5) Janpath (watch your step on the broken side-walk, and prepare to bargain like mad)
6) Dilli Haat – good handicrafts from each of the 28 states, please bargain (down to half of what they quote). Bathrooms are good. Do Not Eat here. My husband did – and fell sick.
7) Khan Market – very chic. Love ‘Anokhi’ shop for cotton kurtas and scarves. The roof-top coffee shops and restaurants are so much fun. Good book-shops. We picked up some maps and historical books of Delhi from one of the book-shops.
New Delhi malls offer brand names – but since I can find these in the US, I wasn’t very interested. I did visit the Sky Walk Mall in Saket though – it had wonderful restaurant choices. The mall also had an Indian T-shirt shop called Tantra (very funny prints) – where my husband picked up twenty t-shirts, mostly for gifts. Well-made t-shirts at affordable prices. I think for us we had to buy bigger sizes because as Americans we are bigger than average Indians. 🙂
Do take time to indulge in a daily (yes, I said daily) manicure, pedicure, facials, hair-oil massage and shampoo at good, affordable prices. Plus, I enjoy the Indian service and hospitality. Do one of each every day (I recommend face-packs and/or scalp massage for everyday). Best bazaar for this: Green Park market. Also has vegetarian Evergreen restaurant – worth a try. The Indo-Chinese restaurant – ‘Drums of Heaven’ is one of my personal favorites.
Do not over-tire yourself. Do only one or two things per day. Go at a leisurely pace and try some self-indulgence. Be in bed early (I was asleep at 8 pm everyday, mostly on relatives’ sofa while waiting for dinner). If you are invited to people’s homes, remember that dinner is served around 9 pm. It got very tiring for me sometimes – so I would nap a bit before dinner. No one minded.
Local coffee shops such as Barista, Coffee Cafe Day are clean and good. I was allowed a cup of coffee a day, and I made the most of it. Several cups of chai at friends’ and families’ homes notwithstanding (avoiding my husband’s censorious glances) – but those tiny cups of chai are so refreshing after a day in Delhi, I simply couldn’t refuse.
I avoided travelling about in Delhi on auto-rickshaws while pregnant. Though they are zippy and fast, the shaky movement can be dangerous to the baby. We opted for the safer car-taxis, which can be hired for the day with the driver. The car-taxis are good options if you are going to be trapezing all over town. We used to hire ours from the taxi-stand in Green Park market every morning. We soon settled on our favorite driver. He was calm and middle-aged, and a seasoned driver. He did not blast the horn every minute like the others. Delhi traffic is obnoxius because most people do not drive their own cars, but hire village boys to do the driving for a pittance. The village boys, who till yesterday were sitting askew on a camel, are now barrelling down in their owner’s car – it’s beyond their sugar-cane dreams. This is why Indian traffic is so horrendous. It is being driven about by village boys who view driving as a thrilling arcade game, the louder the better – viewing other cars and pedestrians as monster-attackers from Mars – fair game to be subdued and cut-off to save face and country. Eeesh.
I do want to say that we made the choice of travelling India in order to visit family and friends, and I am comfortable being there. Make the choice of ‘pregnant’ travelling to a place that you feel comfortable in – this is not the time to add the extra stress of visiting a country that is entirely unknown to you.
In case you are wondering, we did do sight-seeing. We made a list of all the monuments and gardens to go to. And we went to only one each day to avoid exhaustion (some we didn’t make it to in the end, but we’ll do those on another trip). More on that later…