Travelling to India on business
Business travel to India as well as business travel in India requires some special tips and insights
- First of all, make sure that you obtain the right kind of visa prior well in advance of your trip. Americans are required to have visas and India’s Embassy has outsourced routine processing to a local company, Travisa. If you are going for work, obtain a business visa. Tourist visas have limitations on what you can do and how soon you can return to India. If you are going to be employed there, you need a work visa. (There are other special categories such as journalist and diplomat).
- Pack at least two bottles of mosquito repellent and always carry one on your person. You might find mosquitoes in an office restroom or on a tourist bus.
- Second, allow enough time at the start of your trip for your body to adjust to the extreme change in time zone. India is 10.5 hours ahead of New York in winter (and 9.5 hours ahead in summer due to American daylight saving time).
- Don’t overschedule yourself while you are there. You will suffer sensory overload and it is also likely that some parts of your travel will not go exactly as planned, Allow some cushion for unexpected business opportunities.
- Some of your best learning may happen outside of meetings rooms and your hotel. Allow time to absorb what makes India unique. If you have travelled there recently, watch and listen for nuances that you missed on your prior trips.
- India is a tropical country with lots of germs. Unless you are planning to build up immunity over a number of months, eat only hot cooked foods and drink only bottled water from sealed bottles. No ice. You will avoid Delhi Belly.
- If your budget allows it, use a car and driver for the day or week. English speaking chauffer driven cars are affordable in most cities
- If your budget permits it, fly business class and stay in upscale hotels. They can serve as refuges of calm during otherwise frenetic times. Most three-star and better hotels have clean comfortable beds, full backup power, 24-hour air-conditioning (although your room lights and a/c may automatically turn off when you leave the room), and Western-style toilets, where you don’t have to squat.
- Indians have a much more relaxed attitude toward punctuality. If you are 15 minutes late for a business appointment, people may scarcely notice. If you show up on time for a social engagement, you might be the first to arrive; even the host may appear at least half an hour late.
- Buildings in India are not generally designed to be wheelchair-friendly; neither are toilets. Sidewalks may be uneven, and crosswalks generally don’t have ramps. You might consider hiring a helper when you travel in India if you have a physical disability.
- When you are a pedestrian, remember that might is right in India, and the pedestrian is at the bottom of the pecking order. Cross streets carefully, watching not only for cars and trucks but also for bicycles, three-wheelers, and in some cities the occasional horse-drawn cart or stray cow. And watch for traffic to appear from the wrong direction, even from the sidewalk!
- Breakfast meetings are rare in India, and dinner is often eaten very late in the evening.
- At an Indian party, most socializing happens before dinner, and guests often leave immediately after dessert, which could be served as late as midnight.
- Buy a copy of the Lonely Planet Guide to India. Much of its advice is for tourists but there is plenty of information that business travelers will find helpful