Is Traveling In India Safe During the Pandemic?
It feels surreal. My first trip during Covid is the first time I leave the city since the lockdown was first announced almost one-and-a-half years ago. To finally be able to leave home, hop into public transportation, and travel to a neighbouring state. Is travelling in India safe during the pandemic?
Packing face masks before anything else has become the norm.
An acquired natural immunity through a recent Covid infection followed by two shots of the vaccine give me the confidence to finally leave the safety of my home and venture out of state.
The new normal for travelling during Covid means packing what I call the ‘pandemic kit’ first.
Face masks—both N-95 and those pretty, colourful printed ones that must match our outfits; hand sanitisers in small bottles in every bag, purse, and pocket; hand moisturizer; Vitamin C, which we’ve regularly been taking now; antibacterial wet wipes; and additional masks, just in case.
Oh, and paracetamol. There’s a joke circulating online that the brands Dolo 650 and Crocin have become India’s staple food. Even the makers of Dolo 650 are surprised by how the drug became the country’s favourite.
Is Traveling In India Safe During the Pandemic?
Well, it all depends on where you’re travelling to (some places may have a high number of cases than others), your mode of transportation (car is the safest), how worried you are about getting infected based on the number of antibodies circulating in your blood, your current health condition, and existing medical concerns. And how scared you still are of Covid.
“Oh, you got Covid?” I once heard someone speak on the phone, “Don’t worry about it. As long as your oxygen level is normal, you’re fine. You have a pulse oximeter, right? And take double doses of Vitamin C.”
Most people aren’t afraid of the virus anymore. Or perhaps we’re tired of being frightened? Besides, given how almost every other person has experienced getting infected at least once, we now feel as if we’re either an epidemiologist or a pulmonologist.
When we’re no longer anxious, we get careless.
First of all, India is a populous nation. Yet, not everyone wears a mask. Some of those who do wear them have their masks below their noses.
Second, physical distancing is almost impossible in public places and within public transportation simply because some people are careless.
But Are People Traveling?
Yes! Our overnight train to Vizag is fully occupied. The hotels are occupied. People are eating out at restaurants. The markets are busy. There are queues at the ticket counters at famous tourist spots. The beach is crowded.
Our group of 11 adults travel in the 3-tier airconditioned car of the Indian Railways. The lower beds are left for those with knee problems, the middle beds are assigned to the younger ones, and I choose the top-most berth on the train.
Please note that since the pandemic, the Indian Railways have momentarily stopped providing towels and beddings in the airconditioned cars. They’ve also removed all curtains.
Everyone wears a mask when the journey starts. A few hours later—having judged the other person’s health and wellbeing by discreetly checking how many times they’ve coughed or sneezed—we seem to have declared each other safe. By dinnertime, the masks come off. We put them back on after breakfast the next morning.
Sometime during the night, I have a coughing fit that wakes me up. Being allergic to dust and pollen has seriously become a nuisance during the pandemic. A sneeze could send people running in the opposite direction.
Here are some tips to make your train travel experience in India safe during the pandemic:
- Avoid travelling if you are sick or have been in contact with someone who was down with COVID-19 in the past 14 days.
- Travel in your car whenever possible. It’s the safest way to travel right now.
- If travelling by train, carry an e-ticket to remain contactless and safe.
- Indian railways are working to avoid crowding on a single train to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Therefore, it’s advisable to reserve your seat on the train instead of going for Tatkal bookings.
- Bring your own blanket and pillow if you’re travelling on an overnight train.
- Check Covid cases in the places you intend to visit and opt for low-risk areas or offbeat locales.
- Assure that the hotel you are going to stay in has sanitised the rooms before you arrive.
- Observe COVID-appropriate behaviour, including mask use and social distancing.
I bought this collapsable glass and found it to be so useful throughout the entire trip. There’s a trick to handle it when it’s filled with water: you need to hold it where you see the joint/lines. But I didn’t find it to be an issue. I’m more than happy to have my own glass to drink out of wherever I go.
It’s so tiny when collapsed, just like a compact powder container. I always have it in my bag, just in case. It’s stainless steel, not plastic, which makes this even better. I highly recommend this.
No negative RT-PCR report is required when travelling by train.
During the first two waves of Covid-19, Indian railways made it mandatory for all passengers to carry a negative RT-PCR report.
However, with the gradual decline in the number of cases across most parts of the country, it’s no longer compulsory to carry a negative RT-PCR report. I would still suggest saving your digital vaccination certificates while travelling, just in case.
Travel safely and responsibly.
Being stuck indoors for months have left us bored, stressed out, and frustrated. People would like to venture out for a change. I know I’ve missed travelling.
Now that we can finally make travel plans and leave our homes, it is every traveller’s responsibility to take the necessary precautions so that travelling is safe for everyone.
Have you made any travel plans? What places do you have in mind? Let me know in the comment section!
This is going to be the new norm for some time and I believe to maintain sanity levels and prevent episodes of mental breakdown, one has to travel. Having said this, we are looking forward to our Dubai trip in over 3 years this March. The one thing I am nervous about is the RT-PCR test as I feel my sensitive nose is not programmed to take in the big nasal swab without some pain…
Thank you for your comment, Behbood. Indeed, we need to get out and travel for our sanity’s sake. Never have most of us experienced being restricted in this manner, and it’s been mentally taxing for so many.
I suppose a trip to Dubai is worth bearing the pain and discomfort of the nasal swab. So many changes in that city in the last 3 years so I’m sure it’s going to be fun for you and your family. I pray you have a safe and comfortable trip.
This is good to know! My in-laws are all in India and I know they did travel out of state last year and had a good time. I’m still a little nervous to travel even here in the UK, we’ve just been visiting family and friends, but not ventured abroad or within the country just yet but maybe soon In Shaa Allah!
Thank you, Humaira! I understand your worry. We haven’t travelled abroad since the pandemic began. It feels such a hassle, especially the Covid tests and the quarantine/self-isolation rules. But yeah, In Shaa’Allah soon.