Focus: India and China
Travel to India and China offers some of the most interesting experiences of culture and business opportunities. Unfortunately, we are hearing more often that travelers are losing productivity due to food intolerance or local hygiene practices, acquiring temporary illness and discomfort that can often be prevented. We spoke with a number of our global clients and have consolidated the following general precautions to assist your travelers before and during their upcoming international travel. Although many corporate travel programs include third party health provider support abroad, which is an excellent business practice, it is TI’s hope that we can reduce the need for your travelers falling ill with these practical awareness tips. Steps we suggest should be taken to ensure a positive and productive experience.
Preparing for Your Trip
Hotel Selection: There are many areas for consideration when choosing a hotel abroad. Most important is that the property has a high standard for excellence in food preparation and provides the comfort to secure a good night sleep. For North American business travelers, we recommend the following areas for consideration:
- Consider a 4- or 5-star property throughout China and India. We understand the need to be cost conscious, but we also find the standards for health and well-being are higher at these levels of quality accommodation, reducing health risks by way of food preparation and increasing the likelihood for restful sleep.
- Choose a ‘western’ hotel property from either Marriott, Hilton, or Hyatt brands. All have a strong presence in the major cities and provide the modern conveniences you expect, while providing a solid flavor of the local culture.
- For the more adventurous traveler, it is always preferred to have property recommendations made by your local/ regional employees. They know the quality, have previously hosted business colleagues, and often provide the best suggestions.
Immunizations (4-6 weeks before your trip): Routine vaccines should be up to date. Most travelers will also need Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Typhoid (both China and India). These diseases are acquired through contaminated food or water, especially if you are visiting smaller cities or rural areas, or if you are an adventurous eater. You will need to pay particular attention to the specific location within the country you are traveling to, as additional vaccines may be necessary or recommended. For detailed information check Travel.state.gov, select International Travel, enter the country you are visiting, and then click on Health for a link to the vaccinations recommended by the CDC, or go directly to the site at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list.
Medications and incidentals to include: No matter what precautions you take, the possibility of having some intestinal challenges is more than likely to occur. Do your very best to stay well rested and well hydrated. To prepare, consider including the following remedies, as some may not be available at your destination: probiotics, hand sanitizer, rehydration salts, charcoal tablets, and over-the-counter stomach medicine such as Imodium. Have available personal hygiene products, including toilet paper, as there are no guarantees of the quality or availability in public restrooms.
Pack a facemask (China): China’s air quality is extremely poor and will cause respiratory sufferers to struggle. According to Travel.state.gov, air pollution is a significant problem in many locations in China. In the Chinese capital of Beijing, the average air quality score in 2017 hovered in the unhealthy range of 155 AQI (Air Quality Index). In comparison, the Los Angeles area stays within 50-100 moderate range. An average score of 155 indicates everyone (not just the susceptible), will experience health effects and should avoid prolonged outdoor activity.
Food and Beverage Selection
Eat small quantities: It is recommended to start out eating small quantities during each meal so that your body adjusts to the new cuisine. Drink only bottled water: Unless tap water has been boiled (such as for tea), it should be avoided. India does not regulate or control water purification systems, and very few cities in China have potable water systems available. It is recommended to never drink the tap water or even use it for brushing your teeth. If the seal is broken on the bottle, request a new one. Some restaurants and vendors will refill old bottles with tap water. If you are drinking from a glass, which is not recommended, skip the ice. If you will be traveling to smaller cities, consider purchasing a handheld UV water purifier as bottled water may not be readily available.
Skip the fruit, fresh juice, and vegetable salads: Fruits and vegetables will often be washed in tap water or peeled with unsanitary knives. Preferably, use your own knife to peel fruits yourself.
Be wary of street food: While experiencing street vendors can be a fun and adventurous aspect of traveling, street food can pose a high risk of intestinal illness. If you are tempted to visit a street vendor, follow these simple recommendations:
- Do so only after your system has become adjusted to the local cuisine.
- Be aware of the surroundings, the larger the crowd and more local people at the specific vendor, the more likely the food is fresh.
- Only eat food that is cooked directly in front of you and is fully cooked or steamed.
Never eat uncooked meat, raw eggs, or unpasteurized dairy.
- Discuss preventable measures with your doctor.
- Clean your hands often. Wherever you visit, you may pick up germs from touching any surface throughout the day, so use that hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes to kill germs.
- Avoid contact with animals.
Travel to either China or India is a formidable expense to your budget. For a 17-20 hour flight, many companies offer a business class option which will cost anywhere from $4,000 to as much as $10,000. To ensure a healthy and productive trip, TI suggests you include these tips and post them on your Travel Hub. We are confident your business travelers will appreciate it