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11 top tips for dealing with monkeys while travelling in Asia and beyond

I’ve always been a big fan of monkeys and I’ve even worked with them, but travelling in South Asia really tested that love at times!

While in South Asia I encountered moments of aggression or harassment in Nepal, India and Sri Lanka and it’s important to know how to deal with it. It’s primarily the fault of humans as monkeys act differently when they encounter us.

It doesn’t happen all the time by any means, but it can be a pain when it does, which is why I’ve written this article for you!

There are various reasons why monkeys like North India’s rhesus macaques can become a problem. Loss of habitat and being fed by tourists are big reasons, but the world’s biggest issue of regular human and monkey conflict is in India.

If you visit India, especially places like Agra where the Taj Mahal is located, then you need to know the correct etiquette for handling the hoards of macaques that live here.

Tourists have been attacked in India but the consequences of monkey attacks have been devastating for Indian people, so it’s worth being aware of them.

Bonnet macaque, Hampi, South India
Bonnet macaque, Hampi, South India

Here are eleven top tips to avoid getting bitten, mugged or harassed by monkeys while travelling:

1. Rabies

Monkeys carry rabies so you may need to get a jab if you’re going to be in regular contact with them.

Getting a rabies jab is expensive, you need three doses and it can be hard to find, but it’s so worth getting as it buys you more time to get to a hospital if you’re in a remote area.

Take your vaccination card with you (plus a digital copy) to show when you had your doses as this helps hospitals to get you prophylaxis treatment if you get bitten.

Don’t let monkeys get saliva on you if you have cuts, and avoid getting bitten or scratched by monkeys or cats, bats and dogs. There is currently no cure for rabies.

Check out my top tips for dealing with stray dogs here.

2. Monkey muggers

Don’t walk past monkeys while carrying food, as they may block your path to get it. Unfortunately, this means there are obese monkeys in India as they love soft drinks! It’s better to hand your food over and avoid getting attacked.

Obese macaque at Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens, Bangalore
Obese macaque at Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens, Bangalore

3. Don’t put your hands in your pockets or bag

Monkeys think that you’re getting food for them if you do that. Get your stuff out before entering a monkey area or get someone to cover you while you do.

Carry as few things as possible in a monkey area as they will steal anything including glasses or phones. You may not get them back if they drop them somewhere inconvenient.

4. Put your bag on your front

Monkeys jump on backpacks as they can open them easily to find food while you can’t see them. If you feel them jump on you then stand still until they leave. They’re unlikely to steal from a bag if you have your eyes on it.

5. Don’t smile

Smiling is a sign of aggression in the primate world so keep a neutral expression to avoid conflict. Avoid showing your teeth as this is a prime way to demonstrate aggression.

6. Don’t get too close

Monkeys will feel threatened if you get too close and they may feel the need to tell you to ‘back off’. If you do get too close, then back away slowly without turning your back to them.

7. Don’t feed them

Feeding monkeys encourages them to interact with humans and they become reliant on us for food. Some of the food they’re given isn’t suitable for them and causes health problems for them. It also keeps sick animals alive which isn’t a great thing in the animal kingdom as they will infect other creatures.

They have a keen sense of smell so sometimes it’s better to eat your food before going somewhere with monkeys!

Bonnet macaques in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Bonnet macaques in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

8. Drop anything they try to take

Monkeys are like children so they’ll probably drop it or get bored if it isn’t food. Avoid having valuables out as they can really damage them sometimes!

9. Don’t move if they jump on you

Again, they’ll get bored of sitting on you and will probably move on if you’re not doing anything and you don’t have food. Sometimes monkeys are just curious.

10. Don’t turn your back on them

If a monkey is giving off aggressive signals like grunting or bearing teeth, then back away while facing them as they are more likely to attack from behind. Monkeys can sense fear by body language so they think you’re weak if you turn away.

They’re always less likely to do things to you like stealing if they know you can see them.

11. Avoid monkey reflections

Monkeys can get aggressive at the sight of other monkeys so make sure that they can’t see your screen if you’re taking pictures.

Ultimately, the best way to avoid conflict with monkeys is to ignore them, don’t show them food and avoid them.

They’re much more fun to watch from a distance as their behaviour is fascinating and this makes them less likely to seek human contact for food in the future.

Here are 60 monkey facts that show how incredible they are!

Have you experienced monkey harassment in South Asia or beyond? Let me know in the comments below.

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11 top tips for dealing with monkeys while travelling in Asia and beyond
11 top tips for dealing with monkeys while travelling in Asia and beyond


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