Traveling to India with a baby or toddler.
India gives you the chance to experience a bit of luxury and actually get a vacation in – instead of settling for a trip simply because you have children. The affordable hotels, dining, fantastic service, family-friendly culture and easy access to quality childcare make India a really great destination choice with babies and toddlers.
That said, it can be challenging compared to other countries to get around with a baby or toddler in tow. I moved to India when my twins were 10 months old so I’ve done both the baby and toddler phases here in India. I’ve also traveled throughout the country so my perspective isn’t based on just one location.
When I travel I usually stay in nicer hotels and resorts so I can’t really speak to backpacking or hostels. I personally wouldn’t recommend that route with small children in India anyway. Still, regardless of where you’ll be staying, or how you choose to travel, most of this information should be helpful.
You have to take the good with the bad here. In a lot of ways, things are much easier, but in other ways, it can be much more challenging logistically. Here are a few tips to getting around India smoothly with your little one.
Car seats in India are rare. Be sure to bring your own. If you feel your car-seat will be too heavy to carry over, you can consider purchasing an affordable lightweight one specifically for travel. [If your car seat was purchased in the US or Canada you will need a locking clip, European ones have them built in] I recommend hiring a car and driver for your entire stay in each city. Don’t try to drive on your first (or 3rd) trip here – there’s a reason most tourists AND locals hire a professional. When planning your trip, plan to fly between cities instead of driving. The roads can be rough and rest stops far between.
I don’t take the metros on a day to day basis. Metro stations vary from dingy and overwhelmingly crowded to beautiful, modern, clean, and moderately crowded. If you want to take a train, book the first class tickets and do it in advance. For long trips, sleeper cabins are available. Really, my preference with small kids is to fly or hire a driver with our own car seats but I would love to do a train with older kids!
Sidewalks can be damaged, uneven or non-existent. I’ve managed to walk around old Delhi with my all-terrain stroller but for sure leave that umbrella stroller at home – or just plan to use it indoors or certain sites. For tourist sites, check online to see if it’s stroller friendly before you head out. Most of the time an all-terrain stroller is perfect. If you’re not outnumbered by tiny humans like I often am, a baby carrier is the best way to go. I use this one most of the time because it’s very comfortable and could be used from 7lbs and up without a hot, bulky insert. When I travel, however, this is my go-to carrier because it folds up so compactly.
Yes! India has amazon – with one and two-day deliveries so if you forgot something or need to buy diapers, baby food, snacks or formula they can deliver to your hotel. You can also call the hotel concierge and ask if they can send someone to the pharmacy to pick something up for you.
Best diapers in India
Babies use pull-ups here as soon as they’re out of the infancy stage so that’s all you’ll find. At first, I couldn’t figure out how they changed dirty diapers without a huge mess but then I realized you’re supposed to tear the side when removing the diaper.
The best diapers in India (I’ve tried them all) are Pampers Premium. I actually prefer them to diapers in the US now. You’ll need to know your babies weight in kilos to know which size to buy. For wipes I like Huggies brand, they are the same formulation as in the U.S. They are scented but it’s mild and non-irritating.
For baby shampoo, lotion, etc. there is a natural brand here called Mama Earth, they make a great travel pack for all the baby essentials.
Changing tables aren’t really a thing here. You won’t find one anywhere in the country unless you’re in a play cafe, high-end mall or another very family friendly venue. I’m not entirely sure how other moms do things but I’ll tell you what I do. I find a private corner recline the stroller seat all the way, pull down the sunshade and change my baby in the stroller seat. If you are in a very public area, you can ask a security guard if there is somewhere private to change them, sometimes you’ll get lucky and they’ll let you in a restricted area for a few minutes. Once my toddlers were around 18 months, I would take them in the restroom with me and change them standing up.
Whenever I travel anywhere with my potty trained toddler I bring this foldable seat cover. It works on most toilets that I’ve tried in India but not all because some are shaped just a bit differently.
If you find yourself somewhere a hygienic restroom is just not going to happen with a potty trained toddler, well, it can be challenging. I actually carry diapers around for mine and in the event of an “I can’t hold it” and there are only disgusting bathrooms around type emergency, I slip it on, have them go in the diaper and then take it off immediately after. I’ve only done this a few times but it sure beats any alternatives I could think of. They make travel potty training seats, but I feel the diaper is often more discrete.
Baby Formula in India
If you need to buy baby formula in India, Enfamil is available at just about every pharmacy or you can order it online to your hotel.
Baby food while traveling in India
You can buy baby food in India online or in stores. In hotels and restaurants, they will usually accommodate special requests such as mashing fruits and vegetables.
Snacks for toddlers in India
Of course, I recommend bringing your little one’s favorite snacks from home because that’s what they know and love. There are several great local options as well. My kids love Happy Tummy’s Snack bars, Mummum Co. Melties, and Indian Kishmish raisins.
Hotels in India
Hotels in India go SO far above and beyond for guests. If you leave your laundry all over the room, they will pick up and fold it all. They will also send housekeeping to clean up after your toddler eats their third snack of the day and leaves crumbs all over the room. When I first moved to India, I was in a hotel for 2 months. I called housekeeping 2ce a day to clean up after our meals – my babies were very messy eaters at that time but they were very happy to help. You can also ask hotels to reserve a table in the corner for you each morning at breakfast so fewer people pass by your table if your kids are feeling inundated with extra attention. Trust me, the breakfast buffets in India are not to missed!
Many higher-end hotels these days actually have tap water that you can drink. I personally don’t trust it for everyday drinking (which is fine because the also provide unlimited free bottled water) but it’s a really nice to have if your baby is in the swallowing bath water phase. If your hotel does not have potable water and you are worried about your baby ingesting the water, a quick shower is a better option.
Use bottled water to wash all of your baby bottles, pacifiers, etc. I don’t like the baby dish soap here so I brought my own from the US. I also brought a travel bottle cleaning set along but you could easily pick something up here as well. Many hotels will actually wash and/or sterilize bottles for you – some even have sterilization machines. I tried the washing service (I don’t sterilize bottles) but they kept missing the air valves so I preferred to wash them myself. I generally start washing with tap water but do the final rinse with filtered or bottled water. That’s just for bottles and sippy cups where I tend to be extra cautious. For plates, bowls, etc tap water is fine to wash with – just be sure it is completely dry before using again.
Cribs in Indian Hotels
Some hotels have older style cribs – you know the ones they don’t sell anymore in other countries with the wide bars for the baby heads to get stuck in? Email your hotel beforehand and ask them to send you an image of the crib so you know if you need to bring your own pack and play or not.
Childcare in India
Babysitting is very affordable in India, most hotels provide babysitting services on-site. I have had so many great experiences with babysitting in Indian hotels. I also had one really bad experience so it’s very important to vet the sitter before leaving your child – click here to see questions to ask the hotel and sitter before heading out.
Nannies in India
You can find a temporary full or part-time nanny during your stay. I recommend asking in an expat group on Facebook if they know of anyone between jobs. Nannies can also act as your translator should the need for one arise.
Food safety while traveling
Food safety is a concern especially for children under the age of 6. I recommend you read this post before your trip but if your short on time at least remember to stick with well-reviewed restaurants where you can eat pretty much anything. Pro tip: Download an app called Zomato stick to restaurants rated 4.0 or higher that have hygiene ratings or very good or excellent. Otherwise, you can stick to only well-cooked foods or fresh fruits and veggies that you wash, cut and peel yourself. In general, you have to be more careful in north India than south.
Breastfeeding in India
Breastfeeding is fairly well accepted in India but not as wide as in the west and most women do prefer to nurse in a private area. Although India has very progressive maternity leave laws that relate to breastfeeding, there is not any legal protection for public nursing. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t nurse your baby in public I’ve personally done it. It’s just not legally protected which means if a restaurant owner asks you to cover up you can pitch a fit, tell them it’s ridiculous, etc. but then you’d either need to comply or leave the premises. I’ve never actually heard of this happening but I know it must happen here because it still happens in the US where it IS legally protected. I’ve seen local women breastfeed openly with and without covers when out and about. A few weeks ago I saw a woman breastfeeding on the back of a moped – not all superheroes wear capes am I right? In malls, hospitals and other large public venues, there is almost always a baby care lounge with comfy chairs for you to privately nurse your baby, I think it’s because of that convenience that I’ve never seen anyone breastfeed in a mall before.
Ok, play cafes are amazing and at least where I live in the nation’s capital of New Delhi, they are very popular. The mall closest to my house has 3! Play cafes are half restaurant, half play area. Most are geared towards younger kids (around ages 1-6). They’re even staffed – the idea is that you can eat in peace, chat with friends or get some work done while your kids run around, play dress up or play with developmentally appropriate toys. I have no idea why this hasn’t caught on in the west and I have half a mind to open one up myself. Make sure you visit one during your trip to India. Click play on the video below to see a few different play cafes around town.
Safety can be a concern at historical sites. Most sites have been preserved as they were built so that means no railings have been added to stairwells or plexiglass added to gaping holes in the walls three stories up. It is up to you and only you to keep your little one safe. I used to use these on occasion when I was out in more dangerous sites with my kids so they didn’t accidentally run out a doorway and fall three stories.
Stray dogs and wild monkeys
We have a rule in our family that you can look but not touch any animal without first being invited by an adult. My kids love to say “Hi” to the local animals who usually ignore them entirely in return. Both monkeys and stray dogs can carry diseases and can be aggressive if provoked, startled or if you’re holding food, so use caution. Animals here are pretty used to the presence of humans though and most often choose to do their own thing.
All the extra attention
Indian people, in general, LOVE kids. Kids here get extra attention and touching (pats on the head, cheek, etc) If your kid would stand out in a crowd here you might get a bit more attention ….. sometimes you might get a LOT more attention, particularly at tourist sites. The good news is that there is not a huge language barrier here so communicating that your baby isn’t liking it or saying “please no touching” is a pretty simple thing to do.
This can be challenging because, on the one hand, you want to respect the culture you’re in and on the other, your baby or toddler may not respond well to unwanted touching. You also might want to prevent strangers from touching your baby since their immune systems are still developing. In general, Indians are very respectful and will back right off without being offended after you ask them to stop. If you need to address a handsy stranger further, stay friendly, repeat that they don’t like touching and put your whole body between them and your child. If there seems to be a language barrier put your hand up like you’re telling someone to stop. Sometimes, locals will want to take selfies with your child. Unlike many other countries that I have visited, in India, they almost always ask your permission first. I often tell people “not right now” because it sounds nicer than no, but it’s pretty unlikely that they’re going to see you again later. Other times we take the selfie, it just depends on what we have going on, if my toddler is ok with it, etc. If you’re really lucky, someone might ask you to hold THEIR baby to take a photo with.
Staring in India
Part of getting extra attention is getting stared at. If you have older kids I would explain to them that they are staring because they are different and find them interesting. I often find myself staring at the 20 people crammed into one tuk-tuk. It’s not that I mean any harm by it. I just can’t believe they all fit in there! It’s amazing. For babies going through the stranger danger phase, it can be really traumatic for them. My son would shut down, tuck his chin to his chest and just start crying. It was a horrible thing to watch keeping him in a baby carrier, sitting ion corners of restaurants and notifying waiters (who were very often the ones staring) of his “shyness” helped a lot. On the other hand, my daughter loved all the extra attention so we went with it. You’ll find what works for you.
If they are getting a lot of unwanted attention, It might help to have your kids wear hats at tourist sites. Not just blonde kids, all kids. Locals largely prefer to come and discuss my brunette daughters “silky hair” over my son’s blonde hair. In general, you will get a lot more attention at tourist sites and in rural areas. Everyday living, walking around big cities – that’s a completely different story. While I get more stares here in malls I get stoped in the US way more (every 4th person wants to know if my kids are twins) so for us, it was an easier transition.
If you ever feel uncomfortable because the staring has become more of creepy leering, feel free to give a dirty look back, ask a guard for help or just be blunt and tell them to stop. I mean, some people will never know that they are being inappropriate unless someone lets them know. Use your instincts and protective emotions (fear, anger, etc.) that come with those instincts to do what you’re comfortable with.
I had one man staring at me in a very creepy way while I was out and about with my kids. I tried staring back, dirty looks and even putting my hands up as if to say “what?!?” but nothing stopped this man from staring. I was waiting for my driver so this went on for more than 10 minutes. My instincts told me something was off and not to approach even though normally I have no issue confronting people. I took out my phone and as obviously as possible took a photo of him. I then made a phone call to my driver to see how close he was. The man thought I was calling the police and finally walked away. That was the worst experience I have had to date. After 2 years of living here. So hopefully, if you’re on a short trip it doesn’t happen to you at all.
Vaccines needed to travel to India
Never accept a bloggers advice when it comes to which specific vaccines are required for travel. Most of us aren’t doctors and vaccine information can change. Check here for information on vaccines needed before visiting India and then speak with your child’s pediatrician. Be sure to tell them which specific areas you will be visiting because that most likely will mean fewer vaccines are required.
Keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer on you at all times. Just be sure it completely drys before your little one touches their face … or sucks on their fingers.
Mosquitos in India
Mosquitos here can do more than give you an itchy bump, they carry and transmit dengue and other diseases. They are also out all day long too, not just after dusk. I normally love natural remedies but that is assuming some level of effectiveness. When it comes to tropical, disease-carrying mosquitos, Deet is your best friend. It is safe for babies 2 months and up. On the other hand, natural repellents containing oils such as eucalyptus or lemon oil are only safe once your child is three years old. I’ve also tried several natural brands of lotions, sprays, and stickers myself and the mosquitoes were not phased at all.
There is one brand here in India that contains Deet. You can buy it online but the sprayer is not very good, it leaks a ton and smells terrible. I import these from the US to use which contains 15% Deet. I tried a brand containing 7% but found it to be ineffective here. Be sure you know how to correctly apply Deet based bug spray. I always give a bath after an evening outside to wash off all the residue before bed.
What to wear in India
In general, dress for your comfort and for the weather. Shopping local is always a great idea because the fabrics sold here are designed for the climate. To read my full guide on how to dress in India, click HERE.
Pollution in India
I was so afraid of the pollution levels in India before moving here and, it’s true it does get bad – really bad. However, it’s not an issue year-round and air-purifiers are amazing at removing toxins from the air. Anti-Pollution face masks are great for outdoor activities. Vog Masks are the local expat’s brand of choice and they do make them in child sizes. I bought the child size and tightened the ear straps to fit my toddlers. Face masks are not recommended for young babies, check with your pediatrician before using on an older baby or toddler.
The best thing to do is to plan your visit when air pollution is not a major issue or stay in the south. Kerala, for example, does not struggle with the same air quality issues that the rest of the country does.
The best time of year to visit India
It’s important to plan your visit at the right times, especially when traveling with kids because you need to avoid pollution and extreme heat if you want to enjoy the outdoors. The best time to visit India is February-April and August-October. Most people say September-October but I love August here. It’s still monsoon season so you get clear skies and clean air. It’s still very warm and humid but not as hot as the other summer months.
November is the absolute worst time of year to visit because the air pollution is horrible, if you can help it, do not bring your little one to visit unless you’re heading to South India. Summers are also hard because it is unbearably hot. Babies cannot regulate their body temperatures the way adults can so you really wouldn’t be able to see the sights with them without risking heat stroke.
Shopping in India
Be sure to make the time to shop in India particularly for clothing early on in your trip. My favorite brands for Indian kids clothing are Fab India and Anokhi. They have (adorable) lightweight, breathable pieces of cotton that are perfect for Indian weather. There are also several markets where you are able to buy directly from local vendors. For tips in Haggling in India click here. Your baby or toddler will be able to wear what you buy here back home too!
Did I miss anything? If you have any burning questions about traveling in India with a baby or toddler feel free to ask in comments below!
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