It was my first international flight. I was travelling to South Africa for a 10-day trip to the Kruger National Park and Johannesburg. After checking-in at the airport, sometime around 1am, my photographer and I took the escalator to the food court at T-3. We still had time, so I was saving the bathroom trip for the last second before boarding (plane loos aren’t the best). When I did finally make it to the washroom, I realised that I was on my period.
The travel was more than 20 hours—Delhi to Abu Dhabi to Johannesburg to Hoedspruit. When I finally reached the manor house I was staying at, my first thought was, ‘Oh, it wasn’t that bad.’
Sure, travelling on my period was uncomfortable, but I have discovered that many things in life are. After this, I have travelled on my period several times. I never delay the travel, or try to get out of a trip because of it. It’s a part of my life. Even if I can’t get into the swimming pool (not a fan of tampons), I can always read by the poolside. If I’m cramping badly, I can just rest it out in my hotel room.
Don’t take my word for it—try it. I’m writing down tips on how to travel on your period, personal experiences coupled with research, so you don’t have to navigate your trips according to your cycle.
Travelling On Your Period In India
On my recent trip to Ramgarh, Uttarakhand, a six-hour train journey re-established the fact that travelling in India needs to be more women-friendly. The train bathroom was unsanitary, but even the railway station AC class bathroom had no soap, no dustbin and no toilet paper.
Rule number one of train travel: Carry your own toilet paper and soap, especially if you’re on your period. Use the washroom just as you board the train, if not the one at the station. The bathroom is cleaned up sometime during the journey—make sure you ask the staff what the schedule is and use it immediately after.
Where do you throw the sanitary napkin or tampon on the train? You cannot chuck it in the pot. Please don’t choke it up. If there is no dustbin in sight, ask the attendant before you go in. Carry a plastic bag with you, wrap it up in toilet paper and keep it in your bag until you find a dustbin on the station. Or, you can start using a menstrual cup, which may keep until 12 hours. Empty it in the pot of the train and reuse. There is running water in the sink, but it’s smart to carry sanitiser too.
A few railway stations and trains in India have sanitary pad dispensers; more will soon. In a recent case, a man tweeted to the railway authority of India that someone travelling with him needed a pad and in a few hours, the woman was brought a pack. So, ask for help if you need it.
If you’re going on a road trip, petrol pumps have signs that denote whether they have a toilet on site. They won’t be the cleanest, but you can try your luck. I remember on a bus journey to Jaipur, we stopped at a dhaba that had hot water and squeaky clean washrooms. Remember that no hotel/motel can turn you out if you want to go to the washroom, so use their facilities without a second thought.
Travelling On Your Period Internationally
Airplanes have lavatories, so you should be okay on long-haul flights. Remember to walk on the plane and trade that glass of wine for a glass of water. If you’re cramping, talk to the air hostess and you may get Meftal (pain relievers), and lots of sympathy. If the economy washrooms are stinking, request them to use the business class toilet and most will not say no.
Stock up on your brand of tampons/pads when you’re travelling internationally. You will find chemists everywhere—at airports, local markets and even hotels will have these necessities. However, if you’re particular about a brand, it’s better to pack some extras.
Most importantly, always pack extra undergarments and keep one pair in your hand luggage.
You’ll find disposable bags in the washroom of most hotel rooms. When you run out, just ask for more. If you’re a guest at someone’s place, ask how they dispose off sanitary waste and follow their lead.
Women swim (in the pool and the ocean) with tampons on. I didn’t have much practice, so I skipped it in the Maldives and took a dip after it got over. It didn’t dampen my experience of the island one bit.
Although a tad inconvenient, periods are not the worst thing that can happen to you when you’re travelling. My top picks would be losing your luggage, missing your flight, and a volcanic eruption. Yep, I’ve faced all this, and travelled on my period, so I can be an impartial judge here. No preachy.
My advice: Accept it. You will have your period for four decades until menopause and you can’t be afraid of it. Menstruation is good. It is healthy. It is important. Don’t let it hold you back.
Have more tips on travelling on period? Leave comments below!