1- Stepping out of pre-concepts
Traveling in India is already a big adventure to start with. But traveling while pregnant?
When I announced to my friends and family our project to spend 3 months in India, we were showered with worries and pre-concepts like:
- But what are you going to eat?
- What about the water?
- Aren’t you afraid of diseases?
- Don’t you think it’s better to worry about the baby first?
- It’s time to be responsible now… you should settle down!
I understand that all these statements came from a genuine good intention of protection. For some reason, when you are pregnant there’s a tendency to think that all the world around you represents a fatal danger to you and your child. Traveling to India seemed like an irresponsible bad parenting decision for most people.
Detaching from fear projections that don’t belong to you is one of the most important steps to take to travel in peace during your pregnancy
For the well-being of your growing baby, what’s really important is that you are doing what you love.
2- Drinking Water Safely
This is a genuine concern you should have when you think about traveling to a tropical country.
For me, the idea of spending three months buying bottled water terrified me from an ecological point of view. If you buy at least 1L per person every day, by the end of 3 months we would have used 182 disposable plastic bottles!
The solution… Water to go!
This is an amazing system that uses nano-filters that are able to purify the water even from a river! This bottle was my life savior!
Also, often when you travel in the countryside in India you don’t find shops all the time to buy water, so you can go to any tap, refill your bottle and drink immediately!
I definitely recommend traveling with a water to go bottle, no matter where you go.
3- What to eat
This is one of the biggest concerns people have when traveling to India, being pregnant or not.
The advice I will give you is from my own personal experience, in any case, just follow your intuition.
- Choose local food, from local restaurants – this is very important. If you ask directions to a restaurant you are most likely gonna be guided to a touristic place that has a menu of 20 pages serving Indian, Chinese, Italian and much more. They will do anything to please you and make business. Be very specific with your demand, if you’re asking a rickshaw driver, for example, ask where he would go for breakfast or lunch. Try to find an Indian restaurant for Indian people that has only a few dishes on the menu and you are sure to be in a good place.
South India, a healthy food paradise:
Our first destination was the state of Kerala. This type of Indian food is not common to be found in foreign countries. Usually, most Indian restaurants you find in Europe, for example, serve north Indian food. So if you’re traveling to the south of India for the first time, get ready to be amazed!
- What to order: Most food is based on rice and coconut. You will find a lot of steamed rice flour preparations with delicious fresh coconut milk sauces and vegetables. Here is a list of my favorite healthy, yummy pregnancy safe dishes:
- Idli– steamed rice flour balls served with coconut milk and sambar (vegetables cooked with spices) You may also find some Idli variations with ragi flour (very nourishing and healthy for pregnancy according to Ayurveda- traditional Indian medicine)
- Upma– Rice flour mixed with fresh coconut, spices, and seasonal vegetables
- Kichadi– Rice cooked with lentils and spices
- Puttu– cylinder shaped steamed ground rice flour and grated coconut
- Idiyappam – rice noodles served with sweetened coconut milk
- Thali- best option for lunch, you can’t go wrong with thali no matter where you are in India! It’s basically a mixed dish with rice, lentils dal, chapati and all the local variations of cooked vegetables, pickles, yogurt curd and much more! In most restaurants, it’s all you can eat service. If you order a thali they will just keep adding food to your plate until you can’t eat anymore!
- curiosity: very useful word to use in Kerala: Madi – means ”I had enough” in Malayalam. They will be delighted to hear you speak their language and they will stop trying to feed you until you burst!
- Fruits and fresh juices- because they are not cooked, there’s a tendency to be scared about eating fresh fruits or drinking freshly pressed juices. Here’s the trick: buy your own fruits in the market, and peel them well before eating. Avoid ordering fruits in a restaurant because you don’t know their kitchen. When it comes to juices, always ask with no water, no ice and no sugar! You don’t know about the quality of the water, and that’s the same for sure they used to make their ice. About the sugar it’s more a personal choice, in my opinion, they tend to exaggerate. Other than that, go for it! It’s better for your immunity to be exposed to the local bacteria than to none at all! Another wonderful thing that you can drink is fresh coconut water, it is cooling, nourishing and so delicious.
- curiosity: the locals taught me that pineapple and papaya are abortive fruits, they never give it to their pregnant ladies. The election fruit for pregnancy is pomegranate!
North India, heavy fried food:
As soon as I landed in the north I missed the south, mainly for the food. Although you can also find delicious food in the north, most of it is extremely fat.
I chose to go with a local Thali most of the times, or a simple biryani rice. Followed by tons of fresh fruits I would buy on a daily basis.
4- Public transport
- Train- by far my favorite for long distance travel. I always chose sleeper class instead of air condition wagon. In the AC wagon, you can’t open the windows and you can’t see much of the landscape either because the windows are made of thick acrylic that’s old and scratched. On sleeper class you can catch fresh air from the window, take a look outside or even stand by the open door in the moving train, I found this lovely. In terms of safety, the difference is that in the AC wagon you can’t ride without a ticket and on the sleeper wagon there’s less control so it might be a bit more crowded. But hey, you’re in India! Traveling on sleeper class train was one of my best social experiences with locals. Still, obviously be cautious, sleep well covered and with your partner near you. If you’re traveling alone, chose the women wagon.
- Bus- if you have to make a long distance ride (6h or more) and your only option is the bus, be aware of the sleeper option. The most terrible moment of our trip was being 12h stuck in an AC sleeper bus between Hampi and Puna. Because it was mainly highway, we thought it would be fine but not at all. Again, all the AC options of transportation don’t allow you to open the windows and if you start to be motion sick this is torture. So try to choose non-AC sleeper bus (and don’t be afraid to invest a bit in a more expensive ticket, the quality of the bus will make a huge difference), or chose semi-sleeper where you are not totally lying down but in a very comfortable chair. When doing short distance bus, it depends on the road but sometimes it’s just too much. We took a bus to reach Munnar, it was a mountain road with curves and holes in a bus from the 60’s. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fancy traveler and I love every bit of adventure, but if you’re pregnant, this might be a dangerous ride. When planning the road, choose a taxi if your intuition says so.
- Rickshaw- tell them you’re pregnant! If your belly didn’t pop out much yet, point at it and make sign language, whatever it takes for them to understand the main message: drive slowly! If you’re not feeling well with the way they’re driving just tell them to stop! Although most of the times they will be careful. Every rickshaw is a micro-cosmos of India, a unique personalized experience is guaranteed!
- Boat: If you’re traveling in Kerala, often you can find governmental boats. A famous route is between Alleppey and Amritapuri (Amma’s Ashram). You can enjoy a few hours ride on the lovely landscape of the backwaters for a very low price while moving to your next destination at the same time.
Coming soon: Ashrams and Nature retreats in India