Institute for Rural Health Studies

Practical Information

If you have any questions that are not answered here or queries about what is written, please contact us. For issues that relate to India in general, guidebooks such as 'Lonely Planet' or 'Rough Guide' provide reasonably up to date and accurate information.

In the village
The working week at the clinic is from 8 am Monday morning until Friday after lunch. Volunteers may take a train to the village on Monday mornings at 8 am and return on Friday afternoon by bus. Most of the time volunteers travel to and from the villages by train or by bus. Saturday morning is chance for volunteers to coordinate with city staff, go over referral cases and review the week at the clinic. Some teaching is also appreciated by the city-based counsellors.

In Hyderabad
Volunteers based in the city work 9 to 5 Monday to Friday and Saturday morning.

Visas are obtained from the Indian High Commission in the capital city of your country. You should state that you are coming as a tourist. Foreigners are not permitted to work for pay in India. A visa is valid for 6 months and begins the date the visa is issued. Getting a visa extended is difficult.

If the High Commission ask for a contact in India you can use the name and personal address of the director of the IRHS (Dr Pat Bidinger, 703 Mount Kailash, Road 4, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad 500 034). Otherwise, use the IRHS post office box as an address (PO Box 50, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad 500 034, India).

Getting to Hyderabad
Hyderabad, the capital of Telangana, has good road, rail and air links to India's major cities. It has many international flights.

We recommend that volunteers fly directly to Hyderabad so that the Institute and its staff can cushion their introduction to the country. The first time visitor to India can be put off balance by the abject poverty and enormous cultural difference from their home country.

Travelling to Hyderabad by rail offers a way of seeing some of the country en route and the chance to visit some interesting places on the way. Mumbai (Bombay) to Hyderabad takes 15 hours. This way of getting to Hyderabad can be fun but it may feel like hard work for the newcomer.

It is possible to organise air travel direct to Hyderabad. The options for air travel from outside the country are very changeable so shopping around is the best way to get what you want. There are many domestic flights within India so it is easy to fly to Hyderabad from India's main cities.

Getting Away
After completing their time with the IRHS, many volunteers take the opportunity to travel in India before returning home. Our director is happy to offer travel tips, as she has a wealth of experience of travelling in India.

You may feel comfortable obtaining your own health and travel insurance. Theft is uncommon here. Medical care in Hyderabad can be comparable to that in a Western country for all but the most complex conditions. We cover short-term health care expenses (but not pre-existing ones).

For British nationals, we recommend that you visit the Indian High Commision website which provides full details on how to obtain a Tourist visa via mail; !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Check with your doctor or travel clinic regarding vaccinations for India. We recommend all the usual ones taken by Western children for travel in India. Update your tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis vaccinations. Rabies vaccination is not essential. Volunteers are at low risk for malaria.

Money and subsistence
We have very little money, but we do provide housing and funds for travel to the village, and food at the weekends for medical volunteers. At the village food is provided "at home". Volunteers based in Hyderabad are given funds to buy all their food. Volunteers are only asked to pay their own airfare and ground transportation to Hyderabad and meet their personal expenses.

The currency of India is the Rupee. Whenever you change money take your time, count all the money and do not accept notes that are utterly disintegrated or dirty as they may be difficult to exchange. Try to keep a supply of smaller denominations as traders often do not have a lot of change. Any major credit card with a 'pin' can be used to obtain cash from local ATMs. Some local ATM's charge foreign credit cards for cash withdrawals; however by law they have to inform you before you can take your money. So be careful and read all the information before you accept your cash!

In the village volunteers have their own small house with a western toilet and shower.

In Hyderabad, our office is in a flat located in a residential area of Banjara Hills. Volunteers have their own room with an attached bathroom, and use of the flat's kitchen. The front hall resembles any normal sitting room, and the actual office area is tucked away behind a furniture divide.

Living and working in India requires a degree of cultural sensitivity. Wearing shorts and a t-shirt will have a negative impact on local people and the way they react to you, and this is important. Generally, if you dress in a fairly conservative manner you will be respected more than if your appearance is very casual. One or two "smart" outfits should be brought for visits to hospitals and fancier dinners in Hyderabad. Throughout the year the temperature is warm so cotton clothing is more comfortable than polyester.

Our staff and virtually all Indians are extremely well groomed and appreciate it if our volunteers are too. This means that men should have hair neatly trimmed and shave daily unless they have a beard. Men may wear western style trousers and shirts while working in the village clinics or in Hyderabad. After work more casual dress can be worn including a lungi which is similar to a sarong.

In the village women will be most comfortable in a salwar kameez, a loose tunic top over draw-string trousers. In the city a blouse and skirt or jeans can be worn. Salwar kameez can be easily bought on arrival in Hyderabad at reasonable cost.

What to bring, essential items

  • insect repellent
  • sleeping bag liner / sheet sleeping bag
  • sun screen and lip balm
  • Maglight and / or head torch

Other useful items

  • small backpack
  • Swiss army knife
  • sun hat and sun glasses
  • water bottle
  • universal sink plug (if travelling)
  • comfortable walking sandals (e.g. Teva)

Toiletries and tampons (OB) are readily available but you may not be able to find particular brands. A modest first aid kit is only necessary if you are travelling within India before or after your stay. The clinics have most common medicines (about 80). Local pharmacies have nearly everything one would find in the West - all available without a prescription and at very inexpensive prices.

Within walking distance of the IRHS office and living quarters there are numerous grocery stores. Fruit shops abound with an array of tasty seasonal fruits: grapes, oranges, papaya, mangos, guavas, bananas.

Eating out
There is a great variety of restaurants in Hyderabad offering a vast range of food. Volunteers can also order takeaways (called 'parcels') from many restaurants. It is very easy to find restaurants and order takeaways using any of the modern apps or websites such as Zomato, Swiggy, Tiny Owl and Tinmen. Some good examples of restaurants close to IRHS are; Rock Castle, Lamma Khan (mainly for lunches and snacks), Hyderabad Goes Green (local and organic cuisine) and Four Seasons.

Local Transport
Three-wheelers or auto rickshaws provide cheap transport and are readily available, the minimum fare is Rs.20 and after the first 1.6km it is Rs.11 per km. If you don't want to barter with auto drivers you can easily book a taxi with Ola or Uber (Rs.9 per km) if you download one of the apps. However, the cheapest way to travel is by bus. There is a regular and very cheap bus service in Hyderabad and you can check the times online or by using Google maps.