Traveling Luck for India

India is located in Southern Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Burma and Pakistan.

India has borders with Bangladesh for 4053km, Bhutan for 605km, China for 3380km, Myanmar for 1463km, Nepal for 1690km and Pakistan for 2912km.

Land in India is upland plain (Deccan Plateau) in south, flat to rolling plain along the Ganges, deserts in west, Himalayas in north.

Indian land covers an area of 3287590 square kilometers which is slightly more than one-third the size of the US

As for the Indian climate; varies from tropical monsoon in south to temperate in north.

Indian(s) speak English enjoys associate status but is the most important language for national, political, and commercial communication; Hindi is the national language and primary tongue of 30% of the people; there are 14 other official languages: Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada, Oriya, Punjabi, Assamese, Kashmiri, Sindhi, and Sanskrit; Hindustani is a popular variant of Hindi/Urdu spoken widely throughout northern India but is not an official language.

Indian National Map

Indian Map

Regions of India

The Indus Valley civilization, one of the oldest in the world, dates back at least 5,000 years. Aryan tribes from the northwest infiltrated onto Indian lands about 1500 B.C.; their merger with the earlier Dravidian inhabitants created the classical Indian culture. Arab incursions starting in the 8th century and Turkish in the 12th were followed by those of European traders, beginning in the late 15th century. By the 19th century, Britain had assumed political control of virtually all Indian lands. Indian armed forces in the British army played a vital role in both World Wars. Nonviolent resistance to British colonialism led by Mohandas GANDHI and Jawaharlal NEHRU brought independence in 1947. The subcontinent was divided into the secular state of India and the smaller Muslim state of Pakistan. A third war between the two countries in 1971 resulted in East Pakistan becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh. Despite impressive gains in economic investment and output, India faces pressing problems such as the ongoing dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir, massive overpopulation, environmental degradation, extensive poverty, and ethnic and religious strife.


India Country Profile

India's diverse economy encompasses traditional village farming, modern agriculture, handicrafts, a wide range of modern industries, and a multitude of services. Services are the major source of economic growth, accounting for half of India's output with less than one quarter of its labor force. About three-fifths of the work-force is in agriculture, leading the UPA government to articulate an economic reform program that includes developing basic infrastructure to improve the lives of the rural poor and boost economic performance. Government controls on foreign trade and investment have been reduced in some areas, but high tariffs (averaging 20% on non-agricultural items in 2004) and limits on foreign direct investment are still in place. The government in 2005 liberalized investment in the civil aviation, telecom, and construction sectors. Privatization of government-owned industries essentially came to a halt in 2005, and continues to generate political debate; continued social, political, and economic rigidities hold back needed initiatives. The economy has posted an average growth rate of more than 7% in the decade since 1994, reducing poverty by about 10 percentage points. India achieved 7.6% GDP growth in 2005, significantly expanding manufacturing. India is capitalizing on its large numbers of well-educated people skilled in the English language to become a major exporter of software services and software workers. Despite strong growth, the World Bank and others worry about the combined state and federal budget deficit, running at approximately 9% of GDP; government borrowing has kept interest rates high. Economic deregulation would help attract additional foreign capital and lower interest rates. The huge and growing population is the fundamental social, economic, and environmental problem.

Indian natural resources include coal (fourth-largest reserves in the world), iron ore, manganese, mica, bauxite, titanium ore, chromite, natural gas, diamonds, petroleum, limestone, arable land

dominates South Asian subcontinent; near important Indian Ocean trade routes; Kanchenjunga, third tallest mountain in the world, lies on the border with Nepal

Indian religion is Hindu 80.5%, Muslim 13.4%, Christian 2.3%, Sikh 1.9%, other 1.8%, unspecified 0.1% (2001 census).

Natural hazards in India include droughts; flash floods, as well as widespread and destructive flooding from monsoonal rains; severe thunderstorms; earthquakes.

Travel Advice on India

India

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Summary and Local Travel, South India section.  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

SUMMARY

  • We advise against all travel to the Kashmir Valley, and all areas of Jammu other than Jammu City.  There is a high level of conflict and terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir (excluding Ladakh).  Jammu City is somewhat safer but attacks still occur.

  • We advise against all but essential travel to Imphal (by air) and against all travel in the rest of Manipur and Tripura. Kidnapping, banditry and insurgency are rife throughout the north eastern region, particularly in Assam.

  • There is a high threat of terrorism throughout India, including Jammu and Kashmir and areas frequented by tourists.  There have been terrorist attacks in major cities including Mumbai and New Delhi.  You should be vigilant in all parts of India. (See Terrorism/Security Section and Local Travel Regional).

  • There is an increased security presence in Goa, particularly in areas frequented by tourists and at the airport.  The authorities are taking precautionary measures by deploying extra police in tourist areas and at the airport.  We are keeping the situation under close review.

  • A general strike has been called in the State of Karnataka for Monday 12 February 2007.  There will be wide-spread disruption, particularly in Bangalore and other major cities and towns in the Karnataka.  Public transport and taxis are unlikely to be operating.  Travellers to Karnataka in general and Bangalore in particular are advised to avoid crowds.

  • Penalties for trafficking, dealing and using illegal drugs are severe.

  • Over 600,000 British tourists visit India every year.  Most of these visits are trouble-free.  The majority of problems encountered by British tourists in India relate to lost/stolen passports (see "Crime" and "General"), medical cases (see "Health") and drugs offences. (see "Local Laws and Customs").

  • You must have a valid Indian visa before travelling.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see: Travel Insurance.


SAFETY AND SECURITY

Terrorism/Security

There is a high threat from terrorism.  There have been terrorist attacks in major cities including Mumbai and New Delhi.  You should be vigilant in all parts of India.  (See Local Travel Regional).
On the evening of 11 July 2006, there were a series of explosions on commuter trains in western Mumbai. Over 180 people died and many hundreds were injured.  Indian alert levels were subsequently raised across the country. Transport services in Mumbai have now returned to normal.

In some areas there are terrorist incidents virtually on a daily basis.  The areas most affected are Jammu and Kashmir (excluding Ladakh) and the north east. Since 2006, there have been a number of bombings across the north eastern state of Assam, including in the state capital, Guwahati (See Local Travel East and North East India).

Violent left-wing extremist groups are active in the rural areas of Bihar, Jharkland, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Orissa.  See below under “Local Travel (Regional)” for details.

Throughout 2005 and 2006 there have been a number of bombings across India killing and injuring a large number of civilians. See below under “Local Travel (Regional)” for details.

You should exercise particular caution when in the vicinity of key government installations and tourist sites, attending public events (including religious events) around India, and in all public places including hotels, airports, shopping malls, and on public transport.

You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners.  Please read Security and General Tips and the Risk of Terrorism when Travelling Overseas pages for further information and advice.

Crime

Beware of the risk of street crime and take personal security measures including:

Taking particular care to safeguard your passport and credit/ATM cards, particularly when travelling by bus and train.  There has been an increase in handbag snatching in Delhi.

A photocopy of your passport, Indian visa and flight ticket should be kept separately from the originals when travelling.

Be aware of what you are eating and drinking.  There have been reports of travellers being drugged and robbed on trains.

Be wary of confidence tricksters, particularly in Agra and Jaipur.  They promise a substantial cash reward for delivery of jewellery abroad but only in return for an initial deposit.  The jewellery is invariably worthless and the deposit, often amounting to thousands of pounds, is lost.

Avoid walking alone in isolated spots in the popular tourist areas after dark.  There have been incidents of sexual offences against women in Delhi and Goa.  Female travellers are advised to observe and respect local dress and customs and to take particular care.

Political Situation

India Country Profile.

Local Travel (General)
Travel in the rural areas during the Monsoon season can be hazardous and care should be taken.  Monsoon rains cause flooding and landslides that can cut off some towns and villages for days at a time.  It is best to check access routes before setting off on a journey.

Local Travel (Regional)

Jammu & Kashmir

We advise against all travel to the Kashmir Valley, and all areas of Jammu other than Jammu City.  There continues to be a high level of conflict and terrorist violence in Kashmir, including car bombs, grenade attacks, bombs on roads and shootings.  There have been a number of car bombings in Srinagar (see below).  Jammu City and its immediate environs are somewhat safer but attacks still occur, including in public places.

Much of the violence is between militants and the security forces in the countryside and around the Line of Control, although there have also been attacks in towns.  Whilst such incidents are not normally directed against tourists, a hotel (in Pahalgam) was the target of an attack in June 2004.  Since 1 May 2006, there have been a series of attacks on tourist buses in and around Srinagar (see below).

Recent significant incidents include:
  • On 28 November 2006, ten people including six tourists from the southern state of Kerala were injured in a grenade attack on their vehicle at Tangmarg on the Srinagar-Gulmarg route.
  • On 14 November 2006, 10 civilians and 20 security forces personnel were injured in a coordinated grenade attack and car bomb explosion in central Srinagar.
  • On 10 November 2006, six civilians, including five children, were killed and 50 others injured in a grenade attack on a village mosque in Pulwama district of Indian-administrated Kashmir.
  • On 11 July 2006, eight people including six tourists were killed and forty injured in a series of grenade attacks in central Srinagar.
  • On 1 June 2006, 26 tourists were injured in two grenade attacks against their buses near Dal Lake, Srinagar.
  • On 25 May 2006, four tourists were killed and seven others injured in a grenade attack on a tourist bus in Srinagar.
  • On 22 May 2006, two people were killed in an attack on a tourist coach on the outskirts of Srinagar. Three grenade attacks in Srinagar on the same day injured over 40 people.
  • On 21 May 2006, six persons were killed and 35 others injured when militants attacked a political rally in central Srinagar.
  • On 1 May 2006, 35 civilians were kidnapped and murdered by militants in Doda district in Indian-administered Kashmir.
There is a danger of landmines in some border areas.  There is also a risk of kidnapping.  Militants took five foreign nationals hostage, including two Britons, in July 1995:  one is known to have been murdered and the others are believed dead.
There have been a number of cases of extortion from foreign tourists in Kashmir.  This often results in detention and removal of passport until the perpetrator receives payment.

On 8 October 2005, a large earthquake hit north west India, northern Pakistan and Afghanistan, with the epicentre near Muzaffarabad (Pakistani-administered Kashmir).  The earthquake caused widespread damage and extensive disruption to transport services in the region.  The main areas affected in Indian-administered Kashmir are Uri and Kupwara.

You should beware of travel agents who will try to convince you that it is safe to travel to Jammu or Kashmir.  Despite increased official promotion of Kashmir as a tourist centre and improved relations between India and Pakistan, tensions remain high in Kashmir.

Other Northern States

Security in New Delhi and other Indian cities has been increased.  In view of recent terrorist attacks (e.g.  bomb blasts on trains in Mumbai) you should remain especially vigilant, particularly in crowded areas.

High security alerts at airports and railway stations in Delhi could lead to delays in your journey.

We advise against all travel in the immediate vicinity of the border with Pakistan other than travel across the international border at Wagah.  The border between India and Pakistan in Gujarat and Rajasthan is unmarked in some areas (primarily because of the local geography).  Approaching the border away from an official crossing point could be dangerous, and where it is unmarked it could lead to a visitor straying into the other country illegally.

On 14 April 2006, two small bombs went off inside the Jama Masjid Mosque in New Delhi.  Around 15 people were injured.

On 7 March 2006, there were three bomb explosions in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.  20 people were killed and over 100 injured.  It is not yet clear who is behind these attacks.

Trekking:  In 2000, there were several attacks, including murder, in the mountain areas of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh.  We recommend that trekkers travel in groups and engage local guides.

East and North East India

We advise against all but essential travel to Imphal (by air) and against all travel in the rest of Manipur and Tripura.  On 16 August 2006, a grenade attack occurred at the Iskcon temple in Imphal.  Four people were killed and 68 were injured, including some US and French nationals.  There is a risk from insurgent groups, mainly in rural areas of these and other states in the east and north east, (particularly Manipur and Tripura).  Although foreigners have not been the deliberate targets of violence, attacks can be indiscriminate.  Kidnapping, banditry and insurgency are rife throughout the region.

Between 5-7 January 2007 over 60 people were shot and killed in a number of attacks on local workers in the extreme north east of Assam.

During 2006, there has been an increase in the number of bombings across the north eastern state of Assam, including in the state capital, Guwahati.  On 23 November 2006 a bomb exploded in a crowded area at the Guwahati train station in Assam. At least three people were killed and several people were seriously injured.  On 5 November 2006 twelve people were killed and 15 injured in two separate explosions in Guwahati.  On 14 August 2006 a bomb attack in Assam killed four people.  On 9 June 2006 an explosion in Guwahati's central Machkhowa market killed at least four people.  On 8 June 2006 one person was killed and 30 others injured in four separate explosions in the areas of Nowgaon, Golakganj, Dhubri and Mongoldoi.

In 2006 Maoist rebels carried out several attacks in Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Bihar resulting in fatalities.

You should be aware of the risk of violent crime in the rural areas of Bihar and Jharkhand.  There have also been occasional skirmishes on the India/Bangladesh border and civilians have been killed in the crossfire.  If you intend to travel to the north east you should check for updates to Travel Advice and keep yourself up to date on developments in the region.

Indian Government permits are required for travel to Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.  Applications for travel should be made well in advance.  In India, they should be made at the liaison offices of the state requiring permits or Foreigners Regional Registration Offices.  Permits for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands can be issued on arrival in Port Blair but this is not the case for other states.

The British Deputy High Commission in Kolkata offers a full passport service (via New Delhi) and passports will take approximately three weeks to be issued.  Emergency travel documents valid for direct travel to the UK are available.

South India

A general strike has been called in the State of Karnataka for Monday 12 February 2007.  The impact will be wide-spread, particularly in Bangalore and other major cities and towns in the Karnataka.  Most private and public sector organisations will either be closed or operate with minimum staff.  Public transport and taxis are unlikely to be operating. Travellers to Karnataka in general and Bangalore in particular are advised to avoid crowds.
There have been bomb or land mine explosions in Andhra Pradesh, mainly directed at local government officials.  You should remain vigilant.

Western Region

On the evening of 11 July 2006, there were a series of explosions on commuter trains in western Mumbai.  Over 180 people died and many hundreds were injured.  Indian alert levels have been raised across the country.  Transport services in Mumbai have returned to normal, however, increased security at airports and railway stations in Mumbai could lead to delays in your journey

Since troubles in February 2002, there continues to be some intercommunal tension in Gujarat, which can lead to isolated incidents of violence.

On 2 May 2006, rioting broke out in the western city of Vadodara.  Two factories and several cars were burnt by a mob in the Sardar industrial area.  Six people were reported killed.

On 19 February 2006, there was an explosion at a railway station in the city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, injuring at least 14 people.  Whilst attacks have not been directed against tourists, there is still the risk that you could be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  You should be cautious if travelling by public transport as buses, trains and railway stations have been targeted.

In Mumbai, there is a risk of armed robbers holding up taxis travelling along the main highway from the airport to the city in the early hours of the morning (0200–0600) when there is little traffic on the roads.  If you are using the route during these times, you should, where possible, arrange to travel by coach or seek advice at the airport on arrival.

After you have cleared customs and immigration at Mumbai airport you should be wary of approaches by thieves posing as Government officials.

Goa

There is an increased security presence in Goa, particularly in areas frequented by tourists and at the airport.  The authorities are taking precautionary measures by deploying extra police in tourist areas and at the airport.  We are keeping the situation under close review.

Whilst Goa is generally a trouble-free destination for tourists there have been incidents of sexual offences against women.  Female travellers are advised to observe and respect local dress and customs and not to walk alone on the beaches or village lanes at night.

The Government of Goa has strict rules governing the purchase of property in the state by non-Indian nationals.  Please ensure that you are familiar with the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act 1999 and the most recent instructions issued by the Reserve Bank of India before entering into any property purchase agreement.  If the purchase is judged to violate local laws, you are likely to lose all the money you have put in to the purchase.  It is wise to engage a reputable local lawyer for advice before approaching estate agents or private vendors.

The penalties for trafficking, dealing and using drugs and for paedophile offences are severe.

Road safety

Driving on Indian roads can be hazardous, particularly at night in rural areas.  Inadequately lit buses and lorries, poor driving and badly maintained vehicles are the main causes of accidents.

Sea safety

Several drownings have highlighted the lack of warning signs or flags and life-saving equipment on most of India's beaches.  Strong undercurrents are a particular hazard.  Tourist boats and other small crafts very rarely carry life saving equipment.  The poor infrastructure can make the provision of consular assistance difficult, particularly in remote areas.

Piracy/armed robbery against ships has occurred in and around India’s waters.  Mariners are advised to be vigilant.

Rail safety

Do not accept food from strangers.  There have been reports of travellers being drugged and robbed on trains.  Take particular care of your passport and valuables when boarding and whilst on the train.

Avoid individuals at railway stations offering tickets and tours, mainly to Kashmir and Rajasthan.


LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

You should not become involved with drugs of any kind.  Penalties for possession of narcotic substances can be severe.  There is a minimum sentence of six months for possession of small amounts for personal consumption only.  However, a 10 year sentence for possession of other amounts applies.  The slow judicial process means that lengthy pre-trial detention, usually of several years, is the norm.
Indian family law is very different from UK law and particular caution is needed when, for example, child custody becomes an issue.  Please see the child abduction page on the FCO website.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

You must obtain a visa before travelling to India.  If you arrive without a visa, you will be refused entry.  Foreign nationals arriving in India on long term multiple entry visas are required to register with the nearest Foreigners Regional Registration Officer within 14 days of arrival.  Overstayers will be fined and may be prosecuted or detained and later deported.  They may also need to appear in person at the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi.  The High Commission/Deputy High Commission may not be able to intervene in these cases.  Always keep a copy of your passport and your Indian visa separate from your passport, in case of loss.  For further information on entry requirements, visitors are advised to check with the Indian representation in the UK.  A list of Indian diplomatic missions overseas can be found at:  Indian Diplomatic Missions.


HEALTH

We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see:  Travel Insurance.

Local medical facilities are not comparable to those in the UK, especially in more remote areas.  However, in the major cities private medical care is available, but is expensive.  In the case of psychiatric illness, specialised treatment may not be available outside major cities.  The treatment of such illnesses may require long-term hospitalisation, which may incur large expenditure and in many of these cases, insurance companies are reluctant to cover the cost.

There are many endemic diseases in India.  You should ensure that immunisations against common infections are up to date before travelling.  You should take care with your water and food hygiene.

Malaria is a risk in India.  More than three-quarters of British travellers who contracted malaria in 2005 did not take preventive measures, such as malaria prevention tablets. However, malaria can occur despite appropriate prevention, and therefore you should promptly seek medical care in the event of a fever or flu-like illness in country or in the first year following your return from travelling to a malaria risk country.  Before travelling you should seek medical advice about the malaria risk in India.

Since late December 2006, eight cases of Plasmodium falciparum malaria associated with travel to north Goa in India have been reported in European travellers.  For more information and advice click on this link:  Malaria, Goa

As of 16 October 2006, an outbreak of dengue fever, affecting several states throughout the country, has been reported by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.  Some deaths have also been reported.  Dengue fever is endemic to India.  There is no vaccine to protect against dengue fever and you should therefore use mosquito repellent regularly and cover up with suitable clothing to avoid being bitten.  Symptoms of dengue fever usually begin 7 to 10 days after being bitten and include high fever with aching joints and bones and a headache. If you develop these symptoms you should consult a doctor.

An outbreak of Chikungunya virus has also been reported in Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Pondicherry, and Tamil Nadu.  Like dengue fever, chikungunya virus is also transmitted by mosquitoes and therefore it is important to protect yourself from mosquito bites.

You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.  For further health advice for travellers, check the Department of Health’s website at www.dh.gov.uk.
Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

On 29 March 2006, the Government of India announced that the H5N1 avian influenza virus was found in domestic poultry in Ichhapur village in the Burhanpur district of Madhya Pradesh.  This is close to the Jalgoan region of Maharastra where the first outbreak of flu in India (in Navapur, 400 kms from Mumbai) was reported on 18 February 2006.  On 25 February 2006, tests confirmed that the virus was present in domestic poultry in Surat, Gujarat, a few kilometres away from Navapur.  No human infections or deaths have been confirmed.

The risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low.  As a precaution you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.

You should read this advice in conjunction with Avian and Pandemic Influenza Factsheet, which gives more detailed advice and information.


GENERAL

If things go wrong when overseas, please see:  What We Can Do To Help

If your travel document is lost or stolen you should notify the police immediately and obtain a police report.  A replacement passport can be applied for at New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.  Straightforward applications are normally issued within 10 working days.  Temporary passports, with a one year validity may also be applied for at Kolkata.

When local or national elections are taking place, there can be violence either at political rallies or at the polls.  It is a good idea to check whether elections are taking place in the area you are visiting, and avoid political rallies.  Details can be found at:  Election Commission of India.

Between the months of December and April, flights leaving India become very full.  Passengers may find themselves 'bumped off' flights even if they have confirmed seats.  All international departures must therefore be re-confirmed at least 72 hours before departure.

We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance.  See FCO Travel Insurance web page for further guidance.  It is advisable to have cover for unexpected losses such as cancelled flights etc.

There have been media reports about the activities of some cults and religious movements in India.  For further information please contact the charity Information Network Focus on Religious Movements (INFORM), which aims to help people by providing them with accurate, balanced, up-to-date information about new and/or alternative religious or spiritual movements.  The website offers guidance and information about seminars and events: http://www.inform.ac

If you are resident or visiting India for three months or more, we advise you to register with the British High Commission or the relevant Deputy High Commission in India.  Check Contact Details below to see which office has responsibility for the various Indian States.  On-line registration and downloadable registration forms are available at: UK in India

You are advised to seek legal advice before investing in immovable property or businesses in India.  There have been several cases where verbal agreements were reneged on and loopholes in agreements exploited to their disadvantage.