Number of times of India being life-changing for celebrities? Lots. Well, there’s The Beatles, and Alanis Morissette, but I’m sure there’s more. India is one of those places that I’m both fascinated and intimidated by. And while I’ve heard time and again how incredible India is to visit, I find just thinking about it kind of exhausting. That’s why I’m so pleased that Kaamna Bhojwani-Dhawan is sharing this enlightening piece with Have Baby Will Travel on India For Kids…
Take my kids to India? Your first response would likely be: why would I do that? For most people in the developing world, India is a maze of pollution, crime and chaos, as portrayed in Hollywood blockbuster Slumdog Millionnaire. And it is. But it is also a country that is rich in culture, history and one of the most dynamic places in the world today. Only in India will you find 1000 year old temples on the same block as avant-garde nightclubs, and it is polarities such as these that make India one of the most intriguing places on Earth to visit.
I am certainly biased – I was born and raised in India and visit now at least once a year. But I am a mother and practical enough to admit that it is not the easiest place to navigate with a child. Still, it has and can be done, and as mentioned above, the rewards are plentiful.
The first thing to know about India is that it is in the middle of an economic explosion. Most international brands have raced to establish their Indian presences as a result of which, if you are in the major cities, you will have easy access to malls and familiar, or at least comparable baby supplies. Everything from diaper brands such as Huggies and Pampers, to Avent bottles and Neutrogena sunscreen are easily available. If you are able to locate a Mothercare, you will be treated to a one-stop baby shopping experience but for your everyday needs, the local convenience stores will do as well.
When you are seeking accommodation, I would recommend staying in no less than a three star hotel with your family. You want to make sure you are in a densely populated, ideally centrally located area, with basic amenities like running water. A concierge service would be great too, to guide you and translate into the local language as needed. You will find that most people in the urban parts of India speak some amount of English, especially when it comes to commercial transactions.
If you are a thrill-seeker, you will enjoy driving in India. For the rest of us, it’s the closest you come to to experiencing a heart attack. Know first off that car seats are not mandatory and are actually rarely used. It is only now that in higher socio-economic circles that car seats are gaining popularity and watching a family of five roll by on a scooter will certainly give you some perspective. You won’t find car seats in taxis either, so if you are bent on having one, bring your own and hire a car with a driver. You can get one for the day for between USD 20 and 40. Completely worth the expense so you don’t have to battle the traffic or risk losing your way.
Food for kids in India is actually easier than you would imagine. Rice is a staple in most parts of the country and combined with yogurt is a safe meal for everyone, particularly for sensitive or unsettled stomachs. Kids also love naans and plain dosas (a crepe-like South Indian breakfast food) and of course, all manner of sweets available at every corner store. For the more adventurous kids, the curries and tandoori delicacies are a must-try, just make sure you tell them to tone down the spices (“mir-chee kum”). And if you just want a taste of home, McDonalds, Domino’s and other well-known fast food chains are always an option.
If you are visiting India with your children, there are a few health precautions you can take to ease your mind and prevent illnesses:
- Have your children vaccinated. The Center for Disease Control recommends up-to-date routine shots such as MMR (measles/mumps/rubella), DPT (diptheria/pertussis/tetanus) as well as malaria prevention.
- Always drink bottled water, and it’s even better if it is boiled. Make sure the seal on your bottle is untouched before you drink.
- Try to avoid street foods but opt for more established, local eateries with reasonable hygiene standards to sample local fare. If you do decide to eat at a local hawker, avoid uncooked or cold foods like raw vegetables and chutneys – stick to the cooked stuff.
It’s important to remember when visiting a place like India that your attitude as a parent will severely impact your children’s view of the country. If you are open to the differences in the culture and lifestyle and not fixated on diseases and other things that can go wrong, your children will enjoy an unbiased view, free of fear and disdain of a fascinating country and you will not regret taking them there. I guarantee it.
Kaamna Bhojwani-Dhawan is the founder of Momaboard.com an online community dedicated to parents traveling with young children. Like us at facebook.com/momaboard and follow us on Twitter @momaboard for everything you need to know about international family vacations.