Give me your advice for a business trip to India!
February 16, 2023 2:06 AM   Subscribe

In a couple of weeks time I'll be going on a business trip to Chennai and Hyderabad. I've done business trips before, but my trips have always been in Europe. This means I've no experience of either India or working somewhere that hot (35C/95F). What advice would you give me?

I'm going with people who have done the trip before and know the area, hotels, office and people well. I've already been advised to avoid ice in drinks, drink only bottled water and be vegetarian.
posted by mr_silver to Travel & Transportation around India (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds like a great trip! On a similar trip I followed all the advice in this article (including a Pepto-Bismol with every meal, which sounded crazy but worked) and I had an amazing time.
posted by heavenknows at 2:37 AM on February 16, 2023

Even if you stick to bottled water and vegetarian food there is a good chance that your digestive system will go through a period of adjustment. That doesn't necessarily mean you've eaten things you shouldn't. It just means your system is not used to both the sheer volume and variety of spices used in the local cuisine and the local bacteria. If that happens stay hydrated and you'll probably adjust quickly. And on preview - Pepto-Bismol may help reduce/prevent that.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:48 AM on February 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

Enjoy yourself, of course. I think it's good to remember that when a lot of advice can sound a little heavy. For instance: prepare yourself to be confronted with extremes, especially on the poverty-wealth and clean-dirty spectrums. You're going to find a lot of tips on how to do this, and depending on your comfort level I would encourage you to take into account more recommendations from, like, altruistic philosophy rather than travel bloggers (e.g. see if you can work with or donate to community organizations you admire in the areas you'll be—in the recent past I've worked with and given to a charity that spays and neuters "community animals" and a sanctuary that purchases draft animals who are too old and frail to do the work they're tasked with). And, of course, bring masks. You're likely going to have the experience of having less personal space than you're used to and some very densely crowded situations, and flying/traveling while sick is not going to make the heat any more bearable.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 3:19 AM on February 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

One thing I'll quickly note is that you won't actually be exposed to that level of heat for very long. You'll probably be picked up in an air-conditioned car, go to an air-conditioned hotel then to an air-conditioned office etc. I would dress as you would normally dress (assuming something like business casual or formal) since the temperatures should be similar to normal office temperatures in the West in the offices.
posted by peacheater at 7:04 AM on February 16, 2023 [2 favorites]

I got back from a business trip to Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad 10 days ago. It is not too hot at this time of year and the hotels are cool and air conditioned. I ate food in the hotels, and the food and drink provided in the business meetings, and I was fine. The food is less spicy than in a typical restaurant in the UK. I am female and I wore loose linen trousers with T-shirts that cover my upper arms and this felt comfortable and culturally appropriate. Also long linen tunics with narrow cotton trousers. The challenge for me is that I am lactose intolerant and a lot of food has milk or ghee in it. I recommend a visit to a heritage site in Chennai if you get the chance, it is a lovely city. I recommend carrying 100-500 rupee notes for tipping - not mandatory however.
posted by communicator at 7:52 AM on February 16, 2023

I ate food in the hotels

When last I was in India, the people who got the sickest had eaten at a fancy hotel restaurant. Be very careful in hotels, especially with anything raw; lower turnover on the food, can't see how it's prepped, etc. My rule of thumb is to stick to very busy restaurants; your work colleagues who've spent time there or are from there will have great recommendations.
posted by msbrauer at 8:29 AM on February 16, 2023

+1 to comments above on the heat - regular business (or business casual) attire and prevalent AC. Think trip to Houston in May or September.

Lots of people get a bit sick on their first trip to India. The vast majority of the food and drink you have will no problem, but it just takes one ... prepare for it, don't be unduly afraid of it if you don't have co-morbidities. Imodium, Pepto-Bismol, ibuprofen you'll knock it out in 36 hours. Load up your iPad with movies and shows. Your hosts will understand if you have to check out from a day's set of meetings and events in person.
posted by MattD at 8:54 AM on February 16, 2023

Dairy - I find is also important to be aware of when travelling (you already have advice on bottled water, plus - brush your teeth with bottled water).

But - most people think nothing of putting some milk or cream into their tea or coffee when travelling - but the bacterial cultures are different enough from region to region, that can take some time adjusting. (Which also means if food you are eating contains dairy, then that may also have an effect).
posted by rozcakj at 9:15 AM on February 16, 2023

You're in a region with a wonderful and fully cooked food item called biryani. Tell people you want to try it, they'll love to introduce you. But don't have it for lunch! It's so heavy you may call asleep.

There's a great surf school about twenty minutes south of Chennai if you have some spare time. If you have a weekend, Pondicherry is a few hours south, beautiful to walk through and enjoy.

And it's so hot! Yet people wear button down shirts and slacks in the offices!

But that's ok, you can have a customer shirt made for about $30.

posted by jander03 at 11:51 AM on February 16, 2023

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