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« Conservative conference news | Main | Yes, the BBC was biased! »

Countdown to Bangalore

Together with several people whose names will be familiar to readers of this blog, I have been asked to speak at the 2010 Global Tobacco Networking Forum, "the greatest interactive tobacco talk-show on Earth", in Bangalore next month.

When I was invited a few months ago I was genuinely excited. I've always wanted to visit India, partly because my father was born in Calcutta (in 1930). Anyway, with less than five weeks to go before we fly out it's getting a bit complicated.

First, GTNF is the same week as the Conservative conference in Birmingham where Forest and The Free Society are hosting two events including a Save The Great British Pub party that finishes a few hours before my flight departs from Heathrow.

Second, I need a business visa. To get one I need a letter of invitation "from the host organisation in India". (To the best of my knowledge, however, the host organisation is based in America.) I then have to arrange an appointment with an agency in London who will do the rest of the paperwork for me (for a fee).

Third - and this is the bit I am really not looking forward to - I have to be inoculated against various diseases.

Yes, it's just like attending the Labour party conference!

Reader Comments (8)

I travelled to India about 18 months ago and had terrible trouble finding out exactly what was required and what wasn’t. The lists from the Indian Embassy website, travel websites, and the NHS websites all varied a lot, and even my own doctor’s surgery couldn’t come up with a definitive “must have” list. And like you, I had conflicting advice even from more-travelled friends and colleagues. In the end, after a consultation with the nurse at my surgery we opted for: Typhoid & Hepatitis A (which seem to be a combined jab), a separate Hep A one, and a combined Diphtheria/Tetanus/Polio vax. We also discussed anti-malaria tablets, but as we were travelling in January the nurse felt that just a good insect repellent spray would be sufficient – might be different this time of year and worth checking. I think, like you, that we’d left it a bit late for some of the jabs in any case, but the nurse wasn’t particularly worried. And we’re still here!

The most important thing to remember is not to drink the water at all – use bottled even for brushing your teeth, don’t have ice in drinks, or watery-type sweets like sorbets - which are often home-made - and avoid salads, too, as, just like here, they are washed under the tap before serving. Water which has been boiled for coffee or tea or "chah" (an Indian drink like very weak, milky tea) etc is fine. If you buy any bottled water make sure that it's sealed before you try it. Lots of hotels also greet you with little plastic cups of water when you arrive, which are fine, again, if they are sealed, but best politely refused if they come in an open glass. The likelihood of picking up something dreadful like Cholera from local water – provided you’re staying in a large city – is actually pretty remote, although not impossible, but the likelihood of getting the dreaded “Delhi belly” is very high even if you imbibe just a tiny quantity. And "the belly" is a far cry from the kind of 48-hour tummy bugs most of us have had here - it's a whole different animal, believe me! The locals, of course, can drink it with impunity straight from the tap, but their immune systems are thoroughly used to it whereas ours aren’t. When we travelled, ironically, the only one of our party who got “the belly” was our Indian friend who’d taken us out there for a family wedding, who, having been living in the UK for a number of years had lost his immunity, but thought that he still had it - whoops! - whereas all of us palefaces were positively paranoid about any unbottled/unsealed water passing our lips and were fine!

Enjoy your trip. India is F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C. I'm sure you'll love it!

September 2, 2010 at 21:06 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

I've been to India on business - Mumbai and Pune - quite a few times recently and my doctor said it was okay without injections. But then Bangalore and all those delegates might be lethal!

As for a visa, it's pretty simple. The first time I went, I made a trip to the consulate in Birmingham. I don't recommend it! Next time I got a two-year visa by applying on line. And yes you have to have a letter inviting you. It wasn't vey fast online - but fairly instant after a long queue at the consulate - so I'd get to work on it right now.

India is great; one of the best places I've visited. But I did find it hard to buy cigars there, not that you smoke. The smoking ban there seems to be up to the establishment. All the hotels I stayed in required you to go outside. It's not really a hardship when it's thirty-nine centigrade!!!

You'll love it!

September 2, 2010 at 21:13 | Unregistered CommenterChris Oakham

Thanks for the advice!

September 2, 2010 at 22:04 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Clark

I would ditch the Conservative Party conference, you'll get no more joy out of them than you will out of the Liberals or Labour. Seems a waste of time going to lobby a lost cause. The only parties who have any sympathy for personal freedoms and the plight of the smoker are UKIP and the BNP. Wouldn't time be better spent advancing their cause? At least there is some return in it. By paying for events at the Tory conference you are effectively subsidising the enemy.

September 2, 2010 at 22:21 | Unregistered CommenterJames Trent

Well Simon your some brave man to go to India and have all those injections, it would put me right off ...

September 3, 2010 at 10:55 | Unregistered Commenterann

Don't go to places where you can't drink the tap water.

September 3, 2010 at 12:29 | Unregistered Commenterjon

If you don't have to go to India avoid it like the plague. I spent three unpleasnt days in Mumbai a few years ago - never again!!

September 3, 2010 at 15:30 | Unregistered CommenterBill

Simon, I envy you - India is fantastic & you will be looked after so well! Our best pal has just returned from 3 yrs living & working in Bangalore - he says not the MOST enjoyable city in India but, well, it's still India! TB is the only thing I'd really worry about, it's rife in that part of the world - but common sense should preclude those other nasties, & in particular avoid eating salads or ANYthing uncooked. Don't listen to Ann, Jon and Bill - you're more adventurous than that - have fun, and thanks for representing us!

September 17, 2010 at 11:49 | Unregistered CommenterLinora

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