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I have an upcoming business trip to Gurugram (Gurgaon), a suburb of Delhi which holds the dubious distinction of being the most polluted city in the world.

As a traveller, what measures can I take to minimize the impact of pollution? Open to any practical options (portable devices, rental, hotels with reliable filtration systems), with a particular focus on my hotel and office, which I can control to some extent. Some caveats:

  • I'll be holding talks, meeting customers etc during the day, so wearing masks is not feasible.
  • I'm interested specifically in reducing particulate matter (PM2.5 etc), and would also like a way to measure their actual current concentration in hotel/office so I can judge both risk and effectiveness.
  • I'm open to portable air purifiers, which are widely available on eBay, Aliexpress etc, but would want some independent proof that they actually work.
  • "Portable" means fits comfortably in carry-on baggage, so lugging along a full-size purifier is not an option.
  • I'm not open to pseudoscientific junk like negative ions, ozone generators, UV lights, etc.

And yes, I'm aware that a few days are unlikely to kill me (I don't have asthma etc), but if there are sensible measures I can take, why not?

For calibration purposes, I've been to Beijing & Xi'an last year in summer (not too bad) and Delhi/Gurgaon in the winter about 10 years ago. Gurgaon was terrible back then (see own photo below) and apparently it's much worse now....

Gurgaon skyline, c. 2007

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    You could probably wear a mask when not conducting business. Eg when in transit or walking around. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Mar 10 at 0:02
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    Wear a mask when you're outdoors. That said, a few days in Beijing usually won't have many adverse effects. – xuq01 Mar 10 at 0:39
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    While not a duplicate, look at this answer in which I identified the N-95 mask that does remove 95% of fine particles, and which are readily available on Amazon (Australia, correct?) – Giorgio Mar 10 at 1:59
  • Is asking management to send you someplace else an option? – JonathanReez Mar 11 at 1:48
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    Winters are generally worse in terms of smog due to weather, wind and stubble burning. March should be better than the photo you have posted (though not too better) – RedBaron Mar 11 at 4:13
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I visit this area twice a year. Assuming you can't change your time of the year to visit - some months are better than others - unfortunately the only thing you can do is to physically limit the time you are present there. Such as flying in in the morning, having your meetings, and flying out as soon as they finish. Or hope the storm comes through right before your tip.

Masks don't help as pollution particles are too small. Neither does hotel air filtration systems. The mobile apps such as Air Quality would show the air quality index. But it's quite depressing to look at those numbers, and at those levels you see pollution levels with your eyes anyway.

Make sure you pack the headache pills, it really hurts after some time. Pack sleeping pills if you intend to stay overnight, as you'd have hard time getting asleep.

Regarding the dates, generally mid-September to late December are the worst times while spring is the best time. This is mostly due to weather patterns such as wind, and reduce in certain activities such as burning.

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    Can you add which months are better than others? – Stephan Kolassa Mar 10 at 7:07
  • The article linked by the OP mentioned that "the city had received highest annual concentration of PM 2.5". There are masks that can filter that out. But I won't claim that all masks that advertise that level of filtration actually perform at that level. – Peter M Mar 10 at 13:10
  • @PeterM N95 respirators are certified to filter up to 0.3 micrometer. PM2.5 means lower than 2.5 micrometers, so it should definitely help. – gstorto Mar 10 at 18:31
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Living in Chengdu, China for a pair of years, the only thing that bothered me on especially polluted days was how it affected my eyes. If it is really thick it can be a little uncomfortable, so you would be good to carry around some eye drops to help clear your vision / head.

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We traveled there in January, and here are some things that helped:

  1. Travel in a closed, air-conditioned car. This means that if you're using Uber or similar, splurge for the nicer cars. Make sure to ask the driver to close all windows and turn on air-recirculate. It makes a huge difference.

  2. Avoid traveling during the morning and evening rush hours.

  3. If you don't have a face mask, keep a small towel with you at all times. A towel, specially a damp one works well in a pinch

  4. I can not claim scientific evidence but it appeared to help a lot with coughing, sleep quality etc to use an (full size) air purifier. Perhaps you can ask the company or hotel to provide one, or buy one for the trip and leave/sell it at the end. I would not suggest carrying small portable ones in your luggage. Amazon India sells many of them, look for ones with good reviews.

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