What makes India a unique country to travel to?
India, the world's largest democracy, has a very diverse population, geography, and climate. India is the world's second most populous country, as well as the seventh largest in area. Tourist facilities offer varying degrees of comfort. Amenities are widely available in large cities and tourist areas.
Petty crime, especially theft of personal property (including U.S. passports), is common, particularly on trains or buses, at airports, and in major tourist areas. Pickpockets can be very adept and women have reported having their bags snatched, purse straps cut, or the bottom of their purses slit without their knowledge. If you are traveling by train, lock your sleeping compartments and take your valuables with you when leaving your berth. If you travel by air, be careful with your bags in the arrival and departure areas outside airports. Violent crime, especially directed against foreigners, has traditionally been uncommon, although in recent years there has been a modest increase. Be cautious about displaying cash or expensive items to reduce the chance of being a target for robbery or other crimes, and be aware of your surroundings when you use ATMs. ATM card scams have been used to clone credit card details to withdraw money. Gangs and criminal elements operate in major cities and have sometimes targeted unsuspecting business travelers and their family members for kidnapping or extortion.
Sexual Assault: Travelers should be aware that there have been reported cases of sexual assault, including rape, of U.S. citizens traveling throughout India. U.S. citizens, particularly women, are cautioned not to travel alone in India. Western women, especially those of African descent, continue to report incidents of verbal and physical harassment by groups of men. Known locally as “Eve-teasing,” these incidents of sexual harassment can be quite frightening. Sexual harassment can occur anytime or anywhere, but most frequently has happened in crowded areas such as in marketplaces, train stations, buses, and public streets. The harassment can range from sexually suggestive or lewd comments to catcalls to outright groping. If you are a woman traveling in India, you are advised to respect local dress and customs. While reported incidences of sexual assault have been isolated, Indian authorities report rape as one of the fastest-growing crimes in India. Among large cities, Delhi experienced the highest number of crimes against women. Although most victims have been local residents, recent sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas underline the fact that foreign women are at risk and should exercise vigilance.
Women should observe stringent security precautions, including avoiding the use of public transport after dark without the company of known and trustworthy companions, restricting evening entertainment to well-known venues, and avoiding isolated areas when alone at any time of day. If you are a woman traveling in India, you are advised to respect conservative local dress and customs. Keep your hotel room number confidential and make sure hotel room doors have chains, deadlocks, and spy holes. In addition, only hire reliable cars and drivers and avoid traveling alone in hired taxis, especially at night. Use taxis from hotels and pre-paid taxis at airports rather than hailing them on the street. If you encounter threatening situations, call “100” for police assistance (“112” from mobile phones).
Scams: Major airports, train stations, popular restaurants, and tourist sites are often used by scam artists looking to prey on visitors, often by creating a distraction. Beware of taxi drivers and others, including train porters, who solicit travelers with "come-on" offers of cheap transportation and/or hotels. Travelers accepting such offers have frequently found themselves the victims of scams, including offers to assist with "necessary" transfers to the domestic airport, disproportionately expensive hotel rooms, unwanted "tours," unwelcome "purchases," extended cab rides, substandard hotel rooms at overly expensive rates and even threats when the tourists decline to pay. There have been reports of tourists being lured, held hostage, and extorted for money in the face of threats of violence against the traveler and his/her family members.
You should exercise care when hiring transportation and/or guides and use only well-known travel agents to book trips. Some scam artists have lured travelers by displaying their names on a sign when they leave the airport. Another popular scam is to drop money or to squirt something on the clothing of an unsuspecting traveler and use the distraction to rob them of their valuables. Tourists have also been given drugged drinks or tainted food to make them more vulnerable to theft, particularly at train stations. Even food or drink purchased in front of the traveler from a canteen or vendor could be tainted.
Some vendors sell carpets, jewelry, gemstones, or other expensive items that may not be of the quality promised. Deal only with reputable businesses and do not hand over your credit cards or money unless you are certain that the goods being shipped are the goods you purchased. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it is best avoided. Most Indian states have official tourism bureaus set up to handle complaints.
There have been a number of other scams perpetrated against foreign travelers, particularly in Goa, Jaipur, and Agra that target younger travelers and involve suggestions that money can be made by privately transporting gems or gold (both of which can result in arrest) or by taking delivery abroad of expensive carpets, supposedly while avoiding customs duties. The scam artists describe profits that can be made upon delivery of the goods and require the traveler to pay a "deposit" as part of the transaction.
Cybercrime is on the rise in India. Over 1,200 phishing attacks every month makes India the fifth most targeted country. The city of Bangalore alone has recorded a significant statistical increase in the past four years.
U.S. citizens have had problems with business partners, usually involving property investments. You may wish to seek professional legal advice in reviewing any contracts for business or services offered in India. A list of attorneys is available on the Embassy and Consulates General websites.
In another common scam, family members in the United States, particularly older people, are approached for funds to help callers claiming to be grandchildren or relatives who have been arrested or are without money to return home. Do not send money without contacting the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General to confirm the caller’s situation. You can also call our Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 888-407-4747 (from overseas: 202-501-4444). Review our information on Emergency Assistance to Americans Abroad.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, but if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
While you are traveling in another country, you are subject to its laws even though you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. In some places, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places, driving under the influence of alcohol could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. If you do something illegal in your host country, your U.S. passport won’t help. It is very important to know what is legal and what is not where you are going. It is also important to note that there are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. For example, you can be prosecuted in the United States if you buy pirated goods, engage in sexual conduct with children, or use or disseminate child pornography in a foreign country even if those activities are not illegal in that country.
Each of India’s states has independent regulations concerning alcohol purchase and consumption. Legal drinking ages range from 18 to 25 and can vary by beverage type. Some states permit alcohol use for medicinal purposes only, others require you to hold a permit to buy, transport, or consume alcohol. Penalties for violation can be harsh, so travelers are advised to check with Indian authorities in the states they plan to visit.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
There are at least 300 known languages in India, 24 of which have one million or more speakers. Besides Hindi and English, there are 14 other official languages, including Bengali, Urdu, Punjabi, and Sanskrit. At least 30 percent of the population speaks Hindi. English is important for business and government and is the language of national communication. Hindustani, a blend of Hindu and Urdu, is spoken widely in northern India.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
The quality of medical care in India varies considerably. Medical care in the major population centers approaches and occasionally meets Western standards, but adequate medical care is usually very limited or unavailable in rural areas.
If you are arriving in India from Sub-Saharan Africa or other yellow-fever areas, Indian health regulations require that you present evidence of vaccination against yellow fever. If you do not have such proof, you could be subjected to immediate deportation or a six-day detention in the yellow-fever quarantine center. If you transit through any part of sub-Saharan Africa, even for one day, you are advised to carry proof of yellow fever immunization.
Good information on vaccinations and other health precautions are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or by calling the hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747). Some vaccines such as Typhoid, Influenza, and Hepatitis A are recommended for all travelers, and other vaccines such as Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis, and Rabies are recommended for high-risk travelers.
A high risk of rabies transmission exists in most of India with dogs and bats posing the most common threat. Vaccination is recommended for all prolonged stays with a priority for young children and travelers in rural areas. It is also recommended for shorter stays that involve occupational exposure; locations more than 24 hours' travel from a reliable source of human rabies immune globulin and rabies vaccine for post-exposure treatment; adventure travelers, hikers, cave explorers, and backpackers. Monkeys also can transmit rabies and herpes B, among other diseases, to human victims. Avoid feeding monkeys. If bitten, you should immediately soak and scrub the bite for at least 15 minutes and seek urgent medical attention.
Influenza is transmitted from November to April in areas north of the Tropic of Cancer, and from June through November (the rainy season) in areas south of the Tropic of Cancer, with a smaller peak from February through April; off-season transmission can also occur. All travelers are at increased risk. The influenza vaccine is recommended for all travelers during the flu season.
Outbreaks of Avian Influenza (H5N1 virus) occur intermittently in eastern India, including West Bengal, Manipur, Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh, and Assam. For further information on avian influenza (bird flu), please refer to the Department of State's Avian Influenza Fact Sheet.
Malaria prophylaxis depends on the time of year and area the traveler is visiting. Please consult the CDC website for more information. Dengue fever presents a significant risk in urban and rural areas. The highest number of cases is reported from July to December, with cases peaking from September to October. Daytime insect precautions are recommended.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information. These websites provide useful information, such as suggested vaccinations for visitors to India, safe food and water precautions, appropriate measures to avoid contraction of mosquito-borne diseases (such as malaria and Japanese B encephalitis), suggestions to avoid altitude sickness, etc. Further, these sites provide information on disease outbreaks that may arise from time to time. Outbreaks of mosquito-borne viral diseases such as dengue fever and chikungunya occur in various parts of India each year. You should check these sites shortly before traveling to India. Further health information for travelers is available from the WHO.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in India. For further information, please consult the CDC’s Travel Notice on TB.
For emergency services, dial 112 from a cell phone; from a landline, dial 100 for police, 102 for an ambulance (108 in parts of South India), and 101 for fire. Ambulances are not equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment, and traffic does not yield to emergency vehicles. Injured or seriously ill travelers may prefer to take a taxi or private vehicle to the nearest major hospital rather than wait for an ambulance. Most hospitals require advance payment or confirmation of insurance prior to treatment. Payment practices vary and credit cards are not routinely accepted for medical care.
Medical tourism is a rapidly growing industry. Companies offering vacation packages bundled with medical consultations and financing options provide direct-to-consumer advertising over the internet. Such medical packages often claim to provide high-quality care, but the quality of health care in India is highly variable. People seeking health care in India should understand that medical systems operate differently from those in the United States and are not subject to the same rules and regulations. Anyone interested in traveling for medical purposes should consult with their local physician before traveling and refer to the information from the CDC. Persons traveling to India for medical purposes require the proper “medical” visa. Please check with the nearest Indian Embassy or consulate for more information.
Despite reports of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in hospitals, travelers should generally not delay or avoid treatment for urgent or emergent medical situations. However, health tourists and other travelers who may be contemplating elective procedures in this country should carefully research individual hospital infection control practices.
Rh-negative blood may be difficult to obtain as it is not common in Asia.
Commercial surrogacy, a growing industry in India, remains unregulated, operating solely under non-binding government guidelines. There are concerns that the interests and rights of commissioning parents, surrogates, egg donors, and the resulting children may not always be adequately protected.
In order for a child born of surrogacy to acquire U.S. citizenship and obtain a U.S. passport, sufficient proof must be submitted showing a genetic relationship between the newborn child and a U.S.-citizen parent. This is best accomplished through DNA testing. Newborns found not to have acquired U.S. citizenship at birth risk being stateless persons unable to obtain travel documents as Indian law prohibits the issuance of Indian passports to children born of surrogacy. With no right to other citizenship, infants may find themselves stranded in India.
If you are considering traveling to India for assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures, please contact the Embassy or one of the Consulates General well in advance and review the available information to learn if your child born from ART could be documented as a U.S. citizen.
After the birth of your child, you should count on staying in India for at least two weeks to complete the Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a U.S. Citizen (CRBA) and passport application and to obtain an Indian exit visa.
The U.S. Embassy and Consulates General in India maintain lists of local doctors and hospitals, all of which are published on their respective websites under "U.S. Citizen Services." We cannot endorse or recommend any specific medical provider or clinic.
Safety and Security
India continues to experience terrorist and insurgent activities that 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 - and 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.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
Traveling by road in India is dangerous. India leads the world in traffic-related deaths and a number of U.S. citizens have suffered fatal traffic accidents in recent years. You should exercise extreme caution when crossing streets, even in marked pedestrian areas, and try to use only cars that have seatbelts. Seat belts are not common in taxis. Helmets should always be worn on motorcycles and bicycles.
Travel at night is particularly hazardous. Buses, patronized by hundreds of millions of Indians, are convenient in that they serve almost every city of any size. However, they are usually driven fast, recklessly, and without consideration for the rules of the road. Accidents are quite common. Trains are safer than buses, but train accidents still occur more frequently than in other countries.
In order to drive in India, you must have either a valid Indian driver’s license or a valid international driver’s license. Because of difficult road and traffic conditions, you may wish to consider hiring a local driver.
On Indian roads, the safest driving policy is to always assume that other drivers will not respond to a traffic situation in the same way you would in the United States. Buses and trucks often run red lights and merge directly into traffic at yield points and traffic circles. Cars, auto-rickshaws, bicycles, and pedestrians behave only slightly more cautiously. Use your horn or flash your headlights frequently to announce your presence. It is both customary and wise.
Inside and outside major cities, roads are often poorly maintained and congested. Even main roads frequently have only two lanes, with poor visibility and inadequate warning markers. On the few divided highways, one can expect to meet local transportation traveling in the wrong direction, often without lights. Heavy traffic is the norm and includes (but is not limited to) overloaded trucks and buses, scooters, pedestrians, bullock and camel carts, horse or elephant riders en route to weddings, bicycles, and free-roaming livestock. Traffic in India moves on the left. It is important to be alert while crossing streets and intersections, especially after dark as traffic is coming in the "wrong" direction. Travelers should remember to use seatbelts in both rear and front seats where available and to ask their drivers to maintain a safe speed.
If a driver hits a pedestrian or a cow, the vehicle and its occupants are at risk of being attacked by passersby. Such attacks pose a significant risk of injury or death to the vehicle's occupants or risk of incineration of the vehicle. It could be unsafe to remain at the scene of an accident of this nature, and drivers may instead wish to seek out the nearest police station.
Protestors often use road blockage as a means of publicizing their grievances, causing severe inconvenience to travelers. Visitors should monitor local news reports for any reports of road disturbances.
Emergency Numbers: The following emergency numbers work in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata:
Fire Brigade 101