If you’ve never experienced the monsoon before, you’re in for a treat. The warm rains in India are manna for rural and urban dwellers alike. There’s nothing like a good thunderstorm to fully appreciate the season, especially on the coast. In fact, monsoon tourism is a real thing!
From June through September, there’s a respite from the extremes of being baked or frozen alive; the tourists are fewer; the temperature is just right; and the rains are super romantic. They’re also just plain fun – especially when you’re inside looking out (less so while wading through calf-high muck).
Either way, before you pull a Gene Kelly and start skipping around, here’s a guide to the less romantic aspect of the rains.
What to expect on the ground
The weather is hot and moist which makes it an ideal breeding ground for all kinds of diseases. Most cities have terrible infrastructure and bad drainage, so traffic grinds to a halt. Flooding is common, and can be devastating in certain cases. The flooding in Uttarakhand in North India in 2013 is a prime example of Mother Nature's fury in the monsoons.
Trains and Planes can also get affected if there’s flooding, as can the seemingly simple task of just walking down the street. Make sure to schedule enough time to get around and make backup plans with alternate forms of transportation, if possible.
What you can catch in the Monsoons
Oh, any water-borne disease, like typhoid, jaundice, dysentry, Amoebiasis and gastroenteritis. But, stagnant water in puddles also means malaria, dengue, chikungunya, encephalitis, and leptospirosis.
How to prepare for Monsoon travelfighting mosquito bites in India. Definitely consult your doctor about precautions you can take as far as vaccines as well as prophylactic treament you can take against malaria. Vaccinating yourself and taking medications while traveling in India is a hotly debatic topic on India Mike. Ultimately, this is a personal decision you need to make after consulting with health care professionals.
Definitely pack your raingear – jacket, umbrella, extra socks, waterproof shoes (gumboots, anyone?) Bring clothes made of thinner fabrics (polyester!) that dry faster. Jeans take forever to dry and while you’ll find washing machines aplenty, dryers are scarce. Have a read of this article on India Mike that gives you a more detailed list of items you should carry with you while traveling during the Monsoons.
Also, plan your trip to places that are known to be good in the monsoon: Goa, Kerala, Leh, tea and coffee plantations are all good. The northeast and the mountains are, however, not ideal places to visit during the monsoon. Landslides and floods are not infrequent.
Precautions to take when you’re here
Stay dry and stay clean. Wash your hands frequently. If you step in puddles, wash and dry your feet as often as you can. Leptospirosis spreads through infected water entering any open wounds or cuts. Damp feet can lead to fungal infections.
Avoid drinking unfiltered water and ice – typhoid and jaundice multiply in the monsoon, as does gastro, so avoid raw foods and garnishes. You don’t know what kind of water they were rinsed in.
When traveling by cabs or even planes, expect delays, but also empathy. This happens every year.
There are more tips from IM-ers on this forum: Monsoon diseases - Prevention is Better than Cure.
Stay on top of things and you should be fine. Just know that there will be delays, there will be missed connections, and that nature will have her way.