Drinking water is such a routine task that most of us take it for granted and often underestimate the seriousness of keeping ourselves sufficiently hydrated. It is even more critical in a country like India where the summers can get searing hot in some regions. For instance in Varanasi, where I come from, the mercury can hit as high as 49°C. It therefore becomes of critical importance to stay hydrated. The importance of drinking water while travelling in India can’t be emphasised enough. So read on.
It’s the 7th of May today (of 2015), and the temperatures in the Indo-gangetic plains of the Indian subcontinent are soaring up in the 40s. It gets so hot in this part of the world, it is practically unimaginable. You’ve got to feel it (quite literally) to believe it.
But if you must let your imagination run wild, then picture this: It is 6 am. Outside temperature is 30°C. Humidity is 79%. You want to get ready for the day, so you finish your morning business and take a shower. You are sweating, but you hope to soon feel fresh and energised. So you turn the shower on. The temperature of water showering upon you is somewhere a lot more than your body temperature, but below boiling point. A few seconds and dozens of litres of water later it cools down a bit and you start feeling good. You spend the next few minutes feeling great. Then the time comes when you must turn the shower off. Because, one, you’ve got to get going with the day, and two, long showers are not really environmentally friendly. So you turn the shower knob off and begin to reach out for your towel. Congratulations! You are covered in sweat again.
Drink Plenty of Water, Stay Sufficiently Hydrated
If it is your first time in India, or any hot country for that matter, while planning your trip you might not have reckoned that you might not even want to step out of your air-conditioned room once you’re there. All those vibrant markets, the temples, monuments? The street life and the street food? There is so much to see and do! Nah, you would rather pass and just stay back, perhaps desperately hoping to find some respite from the fan in your hostel room if you were brave enough to not book one with AC.
But of course that is not what you came to India for, so eventually you force yourself into the world outside to experience the vibrant life the country has to offer. And for that case there is only one good tip we can give you: Drink plenty of water. It sounds like something obvious, something we should not even have to write a blog post about. But believe me, you will forget about it, and you will suffer from the consequences faster and greater than you think.
How Much Water?
Under normal circumstances humans are advised to drink about 2 litres of water a day. That is with atmospheric temperatures of around 25ºC. Now imagine the needs of your body when temperatures go up into the high 40s and you find yourself sweating incessantly. You might not feel it immediately, but the effects of dehydration will creep up on you and can make you feel really miserable. Severe headaches, dizziness and being low on energy are common. But also more ‘serious’ signs like high fever are consequences if you do not pay attention to your water consumption. In fact, dehydration is the most common reason why people start feeling sick when travelling in India – more than any infection or disease.
Europeans know all too well how everyone panics and companies start distributing free drinking water in public places as soon as the temperature starts to go up in the range of 30°C. And that’s the daytime peak. Now imagine a nighttime low of around 35°C in your bedroom with a humidity of, let’s say, around 100%. Oh yea, and the windspeed of around 0 km/h, might you think that stepping outdoors would bring any relief 😬
Simple Tips to Stay Hydrated While Travelling
So what can you do to stay sufficiently hydrated? It’s rather simple, actually.
- Make sure to drink at least 3-5 litres of clean water every day. Foreigners unfamiliar with the Indian culture might not know it, but most Indians practice drinking at least a big glass or two (about half a litre) of water the first thing in the morning. As you have probably determined from the shower scenario above, you have already lost a lot of your body water levels within minutes of waking up.
- If you’re travelling with friends or as a family, remind each other to drink more water. Perhaps make a refillable water bottle an essential part of your travel accessories. Most hostels and even hotels would be more than happy to refill it for you (with filtered water, duh). However, be sure to check that the water is indeed filtered. You do not want an episode of diarrhoea now, do you?
- Eating juicy fruits like watermelon or mango helps in keeping your system hydrated, and is a delicious & healthy way of doing so.
- No, that bottle of cola isn’t a replacement for water. It is okay to consume ‘cold drinks’ as a refreshment, but don’t imagine them to become your water replacement. Water consumption is non-negotiable, said nature.
- Last but not the least, don’t force yourself to do more in a day than you feel like doing. Stretch out your visit to a place over a few days instead of trying to cram a busy schedule into a day or two. For Varanasi, for instance, I always recommend a stay of at least 3 nights in favourable circumstances. You might want to stretch that out to 5 nights so that you can still experience the city substantially whilst taking shorter day outings. It is perfectly okay to skip a few activities and instead get some rest at a shady (not that kind of shady, haha) street side restaurant. Treat yourself to a lemonade or enjoy a fresh fruit shake or a portion of lassi, and just take a moment to witness life. Just do it. Prost!
By the way, at my hostel in Varanasi, we offer unlimited free purified drinking water to all of our guests. So go ahead and book your stay.
What do you think of these staying-hydrated tips? Have you suffered severe summertime dehydration while travelling? What do you do to remain sufficiently hydrated? Leave a comment!