Safety and Security
India continues to experience terrorist and insurgent activities which may affect U.S. citizens directly or indirectly. Anti-Western terrorist groups, some on the U.S. government's list of foreign terrorist organizations, are active in India, including Islamist extremist groups such as Harkat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami, Harakat ul-Mujahidin, Indian Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Lashkar-e Tayyiba. The U.S. government occasionally receives information regarding possible terrorist attacks that could take place in India, monitors such information to determine credibility, and advises U.S. citizens accordingly. Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive messages from the Embassy automatically.
Past attacks have targeted public places, including some frequented by Westerners, such as luxury and other hotels, trains, train stations, markets, cinemas, mosques, and restaurants in large urban areas. Attacks have taken place during the busy evening hours in markets and other crowded places, but could occur at any time. Recent incidents include a series of explosions at the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya on July 7, 2013 that caused damage to the temple complex; an explosion on April 17, 2013 in Bangalore in which sixteen people were reported to have been injured;twin bombings near a bus stop and commercial area in Hyderabad on February 21, 2013, that killed 17 and injured 119 bystanders; the February 13, 2012 bombing of an Israeli diplomatic vehicle near the diplomatic enclave in New Delhi that injured four persons; the September 7, 2011 bomb blast at New Delhi’s High Court that killed 12 people; and the July 13, 2011 bombings in crowded areas in Mumbai, where three separate explosions killed 21 people and injured more than 100. The Maoists (also known as “Naxalites”) are the most active insurgent group in India. The Naxalites typically attack Indian government officials, but have also derailed trains, targeted other government buildings such as police stations, and kidnapped foreigners. They operate mostly in the more remote areas of the country.
U.S. citizens should always practice good security. Be aware of your surroundings and keep a low profile. Monitor local news reports, vary your routes and times in carrying out daily activities, and consider the level of security present when you visit public places, including religious sites, or choosing hotels, restaurants, and entertainment and recreation venues.
Beyond the threat from terrorism and insurgencies, demonstrations and general strikes, or “bandh,” often cause major inconvenience. These strikes can result in the stoppage of all transportation and tourist related services, at times for 24 hours or more. U.S. citizens caught in such a strike may find they are unable to make flight and rail connections, as local transportation can be severely limited. Local media generally give an idea of the length and extent of the strike. Large religious gatherings that attract hundreds of thousands of people can result in dangerous and often life-threatening stampedes. Local demonstrations can begin spontaneously and escalate with little warning, disrupting transportation systems and city services and posing risks to travelers. In response to such events, Indian authorities occasionally impose curfews and/or restrict travel. You are urged to obey such curfews and travel restrictions and to avoid demonstrations and rallies as they have the potential for violence, especially immediately preceding and following elections and religious festivals (particularly when Hindu and Muslim festivals coincide). Tensions between castes and religious groups can also result in disruptions and violence. In some cases, demonstrators specifically block roads near popular tourist sites and disrupt train operations in order to gain the attention of Indian authorities; occasionally vehicles transporting tourists are attacked in these incidents. India generally goes on “High Alert” status prior to major holidays or events. You should monitor local television, print media, Mission India’s American Citizens Services Facebook page, and enroll with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program for further information about the current situation in areas where you will travel.
The U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulates General in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai will no longer send out security messages regarding routine demonstrations taking place in India. Instead, information about routine demonstrations will be posted on the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulates General websites, under the heading “Demonstration Notices.” Please monitor our websites regularly for information about protest activities in the country. Please note that the Embassy and Consulates General will continue to issue emergency/security messages for other purposes, as necessary.
Religious violence occasionally occurs in India, especially when tensions between different religious communities are purposefully exacerbated by groups pushing religiously chauvinistic agendas. There are active "anti-conversion" laws in some Indian states, and acts of conversion sometimes elicit violent reactions from Hindu extremists. Foreigners suspected of proselytizing Hindus have been attacked and killed in conservative, rural areas in India in the past.
Swimming in India: You should exercise caution if you intend to swim in open waters along the Indian coastline, particularly during the monsoon season. Every year, several people in Goa, Mumbai, Puri (Odisha), off the Eastern Coast in the Bay of Bengal, and other areas drown due to strong undertows. It is important to heed warnings posted at beaches and to avoid swimming in the ocean during the monsoon season. Trained lifeguards are very rare along beaches.
If you visit the Andaman Islands, be aware that there have been 24 reports of salt-water crocodile attacks in the past 25 years in the islands. Four have resulted in fatalities, including a U.S. citizen tourist in April 2010. Ask local residents about dangerous sea life before swimming and keep a safe distance from animals at all times.
Wildlife safaris: India offers opportunities for observation of wildlife in its natural habitat and many tour operators and lodges advertise structured, safe excursions into parks and other wildlife viewing areas for close observation of flora and fauna. However, safety standards and training vary, and it is a good idea to ascertain whether operators are trained and licensed. Even animals marketed as “tame” should be respected as wild and extremely dangerous. Keep a safe distance from animals at all times, remaining in vehicles or other protected enclosures when venturing into game parks.
Trekking in India: Trekking expeditions should be limited to routes identified for this purpose by local authorities. Use only registered trekking agencies, porters, and guides, suspend trekking after dark, camp at designated camping places, and travel in groups rather than individually or with one or two companions. Altitudes in popular trekking spots can be as high as 25,170 feet (7,672 m); please make sure that you have had a recent medical checkup to ensure that you are fit to trek at these altitudes and carry sufficient medical insurance that includes medical evacuation coverage.
Areas of Instability:
Jammu & Kashmir: The Department of State strongly recommends that you avoid travel to the state of Jammu & Kashmir (with the exception of visits to the eastern Ladakh region and its capital, Leh) because of the potential for terrorist incidents, as well as violent public unrest. U.S. government employees are prohibited from traveling to Jammu & Kashmir (except for Ladakh) without permission, which is only granted by the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi in exceptional circumstances. A number of terrorist groups operate in the state, targeting security forces in the region, particularly along the Line of Control (LOC) separating Indian and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, and those stationed in primary tourist destinations in the Kashmir Valley: Srinagar, Gulmarg, and Pahalgam. Since 1989, as many as 60,000 people (terrorists, security forces, and civilians) have been killed in the Kashmir conflict. Foreigners are particularly visible, vulnerable, and at risk. In the past, serious communal violence left the state mostly paralyzed due to massive strikes and business shut downs, and U.S. citizens have had to be evacuated by local police. The Indian government prohibits foreign tourists from visiting certain areas along the LOC (see the section on Restricted Areas, below).
India-Pakistan Border: The Department of State recommends that you avoid travel to areas within ten kilometers of the border between India and Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan maintain a strong military presence on both sides of the border. The only official India-Pakistan border crossing point for persons who are not citizens of India or Pakistan is in the state of Punjab between Atari, India, and Wagah, Pakistan. The border crossing is usually open, but you are advised to confirm the current status of the border crossing prior to commencing travel. A Pakistani visa is required to enter Pakistan. Only U.S. citizens residing in India may apply for a Pakistani visa in India. Otherwise you should apply for a Pakistani visa in your country of residence before traveling to India. The Pakistani government requires that U.S. citizen residents of India must first come to the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi to sign an affidavit of intent to apply for the Pakistani visa before submitting their application.
Both India and Pakistan claim an area of the Karakoram mountain range that includes the Siachen glacier. Travel or mountain climbing in this area is highly dangerous. The disputed area includes the following peaks: Rimo Peak; Apsarasas I, II, and III; Tegam Kangri I, II and III; Suingri Kangri; Ghiant I and II; Indira Col; and Sia Kangri. Check with the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi for information on current conditions. (Please see the section on Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)/Embassy Location above.)
Northeastern states: Incidents of violence by ethnic insurgent groups, including bombings of buses, trains, rail lines, and markets, occur with some frequency in the northeast. While U.S. citizens have not been specifically targeted, it is possible that you could be affected as a bystander. If you travel to the northeast, you should avoid travel by train at night, travel outside major cities at night, and crowds. Security laws are in force in the region, in recognition that these areas have a higher level of instability, and the central government has deployed security personnel. U.S. government employees are prohibited from traveling to the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Manipur without permission from the U.S. Consulate General in Kolkata. Restricted Area Permits are required for foreigners to visit certain Northeastern states (see the section on Restricted Areas, below.) Contact the U.S. Consulate General in Kolkata for information on current conditions. (Please see the section on Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)/Embassy Location, above.)
East Central and Southern India: Maoist extremist groups, or “Naxalites,” are active in East Central India primarily in rural areas. The Naxalites have a long history of conflict with state and national authorities, including frequent terrorist attacks on local police, paramilitary forces, and government officials, and are responsible for more attacks in the country than any other organization through an ongoing campaign of violence and intimidation. In February 2012, four officers of the Border Security Force (BSF) were killed in an ambush by Communist Party of India-Maoist rebels in the Malkangiri district of Odisha. In March 2012 Naxalite guerrillas abducted four persons including two Italian nationals from a remote area of southern Odisha. In May 2013, the Naxalites ambushed a convoy of political leaders in the Bastar region and killed 28 people, including the President of the state Congress Party and the founder of a government paramilitary group. Naxalites have not specifically targeted U.S. citizens but have attacked symbolic targets that have included Western companies and rail lines. While Naxalite violence does not normally occur in places frequented by foreigners, there is a risk that visitors could become victims of violence.
Naxalites are active in a large swath of India from eastern Maharashtra and northern Andhra Pradesh through western West Bengal, particularly in rural parts of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand and on the borders of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, and Odisha. Due to the fluid nature of the threat, all U.S. government travelers to states with Naxalite activity must receive prior authorization from the Regional Security Officer responsible for the area to be visited. U.S. officials traveling only to the capital cities in these states do not need prior authorization from the Regional Security Officer.
Civil unrest continues in the south-central Indian state of Andhra Pradesh over the contentious issue of creating a separate state called Telangana within Andhra Pradesh. Until the issue is resolved definitively, there may continue to be tension throughout Andhra Pradesh, including the Telangana area, which includes the city of Hyderabad and the districts of Rangareddi, Warangal, Medak, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Adilabad, Khammam, Nalgonda, and Mahbubnagar. You should avoid political rallies, demonstrations, and large crowds of any kind. The campus of Osmania University in Hyderabad has been the site of recurring civil disturbances regarding the Telangana statehood issue. Also, organized demonstrations are often held at Indira Park, located on Lower Tank Bund Road, and adjacent areas surrounding Hussain Sagar Lake. Other locations where protests have occurred include the State Legislative Assembly, Gun Park, and Nizam College in Bashir Bagh. Use caution when visiting or driving through these sites, and avoid them altogether during periods of unrest or demonstrations.
Restricted/Protected areas: Certain parts of India are designated as "restricted areas" by the Indian government and require special advance permission to visit. These areas include:
The state of Arunachal Pradesh
Portions of the state of Sikkim
Portions of the state of Himachal Pradesh near the Chinese border
Portions of the state of Uttarakhand (Uttaranchal) near the Chinese border
Portions of the state of Rajasthan near the Pakistani border
Portions of the state of Jammu & Kashmir near the Line of Control with Pakistan and certain portions of Ladakh
The Andaman & Nicobar Islands
The Union Territory of the Laccadives Islands (Lakshadweep)
The Tibetan colony in Mundgod, Karnataka
More information about travel to/in restricted/protected areas can be found at India’s Bureau of Immigration. “Restricted Area Permits" are available outside India at Indian embassies and consulates abroad, or in India from the Ministry of Home Affairs (Foreigners Division) at Jaisalmer House, 26 Man Singh Road, New Delhi. The states of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim maintain official guesthouses in New Delhi, which can also issue Restricted Area Permits for their respective states for certain travelers. You should exercise caution while visiting Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) in Tamil Nadu as the Indira Gandhi Atomic Research Center, Kalpakkam, is located just south of the site and is not clearly marked as a restricted and dangerous area.