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Country Reports

India Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Due to India's immense size and population (population 1.28 billion), travelers face a wide array of risks that can vary greatly by region. Uncertain public health conditions, a significant risk of natural disasters, multiple restive regions, frequent ethnic violence, permanent social unrest, regular acts of terrorism, and, finally, a tense domestic political climate combine to make India a complex travel destination as of the second half of 2017. Travelers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with issues they could face while in India - the world's largest democracy and the second-most populous country on the planet - before visiting.

TERRORISM

The country is regularly stricken by dramatic terrorist attacks in cities across its immense territory (e.g. in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Srinagar, Mumbai, the capital New Delhi, Hyderabad, Varanasi, and Pune). India experienced its own "9/11" in November 2008 when a half dozen simultaneous attacks were launched against symbolic targets (luxury hotels, a train station, a hospital, a place of worship, a famous bar and restaurant) in Mumbai, leaving 172 people dead. Mumbai is the capital of Maharashtra state and India's second largest city, with 21 million inhabitants.

In July 2008, 16 coordinated attacks killed 45 people in Ahmedabad (Gujarat state). Seven coordinated attacks in Jaipur (Rajasthan's capital) in May 2008 left 63 people dead. Finally, on September 7, 2011, a bombing in New Delhi resulted in seven deaths.

POLITICS

Since November 2014, India has been governed by Narendra Modi's nationalist Hindu government, dominated by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Modi's political agenda focuses on making India a preeminent regional and global power, thereby increasing tensions with some regional neighbors (such as China and Pakistan).

The next legislative elections are set to take place in the spring of 2019. In March 2017, BJP candidates made significant gains in several notable regional elections (e.g., Uttar Pradesh with its 200 million inhabitants), further consolidating the Modi administration's political influence two years ahead of the next scheduled national election. In 2018, legislative elections will be organized in eight states, namely Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, and Meghalaya.

Security conditions have deteriorated since summer 2016 in Jammu and Kashmir - an Indian-administered state also claimed by Pakistan - where tensions have intensified amid numerous general strikes organized by various separatist movements. Violent protests and acts of repression by security forces led to scores of deaths. The situation had resulted in a worsening relationship between the countries, prompting the expulsion of Indian and Pakistani diplomats from their host countries and an increase in clashes between armed forces at the border. As of autumn 2017, tensions remain high amid strikes and near-daily protests in the Kashmir Valley.

SECURITY

India is also home to a significant Maoist rebellion (the "Naxalites"), which is considered the most critical threat to the security of the state; 6000 people have died in the conflict over the past 20 years. The Naxalites are active in some 20 states, including Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, and Andhra Pradesh. Over the last five years there has been a crackdown on rebel groups, leading to an increased number of incidents between the groups and security forces. In March 2012, a local Maoist guerilla group kidnapped two Italian citizens who were visiting remote areas in Odisha - the first incident of its kind in the country.

As of the second half of 2017, this highly organized guerilla group continues to challenge the state government and security forces by targeting them in ambushes or attacks on checkpoints (nearly 3000 killed since 2010). An attack in March 2017 in Chhattisgarh state claimed the lives of a dozen soldiers. One month later, an attack carried out by the group targeting a police convoy left 25 dead in Chhattisgarh.

Various regions in the country should be avoided: Kashmir Valley and the Jammu region in the north (with the exception of Ladakh), which are troubled by separatist movements, as well as the state of West Bengal (Darjeeling region), which was paralyzed in summer 2017 by a bandh (general strike) fueled by the demand for the creation of a state of Gorkhaland.

The "seven sisters" states (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura), located in the northeast of the country, should also be avoided due to the presence of various separatist movements.

Recent years have seen a rise in cases of sexual assault against foreigners, particularly in New Delhi, Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), and the seaside state of Goa (west coast).

SOCIOECONOMIC RISKS

Social movements, strikes, and political demonstrations (e.g. anti-corruption, anti-rape) are frequent and often very large, and thus have the potential to disrupt the comfort and security of visitors.

NATURAL RISKS

As mentioned above, India is vulnerable to a number of natural risks. Monsoon season in the west and southwest lasts from June to September. West Bengal and Odisha states are particularly vulnerable to devastating cyclones (10,000 dead in 1999). Torrential rains can, among other things, disrupt transportation and cause significant flooding (e.g. 200 killed in Gujarat state in early August 2017; several hundred killed in Jammu and Kashmir in September 2014; 1.5 million people displaced and several hundred dead in October 2009 in Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh states).

India is also situated in a highly active and potentially devastating seismic zone (a 7.6-magnitude earthquake hit Bhuj, Gujarat, in January 2001, leaving 15,000 dead and 160,000 wounded). The December 2004 tsunami that hit the eastern coast of the country left 30,000 dead or missing.

HEALTH

In large urban areas, medical facilities generally offer high quality care; however, this is not usually the case in rural areas.

Cases of the mosquito-borne virus chikungunya have been reported in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Odisha states, as well as in the city of Pondicherry. Dengue fever is prevalent in India.

Rabies is also prevalent in the country, with the World Health Organization (WHO) reporting that one third of annual global cases are in India.

Air pollution levels in large cities (e.g. New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai) are generally very high and potentially dangerous, particularly for travelers who suffer from respiratory or cardiac illnesses. Between 10,000 and 30,000 people reportedly die every year in the capital due to the worsening air pollution.

Travelers should also note that the very high elevation of the Himalayan region Ladakh can aggravate health issues; travel through this area is only advisable for those in a very good state of physical health.

TRANSPORTATION

Roads in India tend to be in disrepair, aging, and often very congested, although modernization work is planned. The rail system, while cheap and extensive, is not always reliable or safe (accidents, frequent robberies, regular delays). Regarding air travel, it should be noted that on May 22, 2010, an Air India flight from Dubai to Mangalore crashed while approaching Mangalore, leaving 166 dead.

Visas are needed before travel, for any purpose, to India. Arriving without a visa or with an incorrect one may result in detention on arrival, deportation, or being blacklisted. Planned accommodations should be licensed with Indian government authorities. Length of stay for e-visas have been increased from 30 to 60 days as of April 1, 2017. Business visas cannot be extended inside India.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Power shortages are common, such as the massive outage of July 30, 2012, that affected many states and left nearly 700 million Indians (one-tenth of the world's population) without electricity for several hours. Electricity production in the country is insufficient for its massive population and therefore rotating blackouts, which could pose an inconvenience for foreign travelers, are common.

Climate

In the north of the country (Ganges River Valley), summers begin in April, with temperatures reaching oppressive levels beginning in May. The monsoon arrives in June and stays until the end of September, during which period torrential rains are common. The climate is hot and dry from November until March. In mountainous regions, winters are harsh and summers are mild.

The center of the country is arid. Winters (November to March) are mild and dry. Sweltering heat arrives in April and monsoon season lasts from June until September. Outside of this period, rain is relatively rare and irregular.

In the south, the climate is hot and temperatures remain relatively constant throughout the year, rising as you approach the southern tip of the country. The western coast experiences a long rainy season (5-6 months) with heavy precipitation. In the southeast and the extreme south, the monsoon period lasts until November, or even December. The eastern coast is sometimes hit with cyclones (Bay of Bengal).

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +91 Police: 100 Fire Dept.: 100 Ambulance: 100

Electricity

Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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