Is it Safe to Travel to India?

India – the place where you find hues that pop, flavors that zing, and scenery that takes your breath away. But amid its lively streets and diverse traditions, there's one big question on every traveler's mind: Is India safe? 

The bottom line: India doesn't rank very high on global safety rankings. The 2023 Global Peace Index ranks India 126th out of 163 countries, highlighting its complexities, from internal squabbles to its nuclear capabilities. Yet, Global Finance magazine plants it at 91st out of 134, with a rating system focusing on healthcare and financial strength. Meanwhile, the State Department throws in its two cents with a level-2 rating, advising travelers to "exercise increased caution." 

The rankings might lead you to believe that India isn't the first choice for globetrotters, but by carefully selecting your destinations and remaining vigilant, you'll uncover a country brimming with a profound history and genuine hospitality. Here’s everything you need to know about traveling to India safely.  

What are some safe travel practices in India?

AXA keeps your safety in the forefront. We know that embarking on a journey to a new destination like India can be both exhilarating and a tad nerve-wracking. These general safety tips will help you navigate your Indian adventure with confidence.  

  • Stay Informed: Before you jet off, take some time to research your destination. Familiarize yourself with the local customs, culture, and any potential safety concerns. 
  • Keep Copies of Important Documents: Make photocopies or digital scans of your passport, travel insurance, and other important documents. Store them securely and keep the originals separate from your copies. 
  • Stay Connected: Share your travel itinerary with a trusted friend or family member back home. Stay in touch regularly and let them know of any changes to your plans. 
  • Blend In: While it's natural to stand out as a foreigner in a new land, try to dress and behave in a way that respects local customs and traditions. Avoid flashy jewelry or clothing that may attract unwanted attention. 
  • Stay Aware of Your Surroundings: Be mindful of your surroundings at all times, especially in crowded or unfamiliar areas. Keep an eye on your belongings and stay vigilant against pickpockets or scam artists. 
  • Stay Safe with STEP: If you're an American gearing up for a trip overseas, think about hopping on board with STEP, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, brought to you by the U.S. Department of State. When you enroll, you'll receive key updates from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your destination about any possible hazards. And in case things take a turn while you're adventuring, STEP can assist the Embassy or Consulate in locating you and offering the necessary support to keep you out of harm's way. Sign up right here

What are the Necessary Vaccinations for Travel to India?

India doesn't require any specific vaccines, but the World Health Organization advises all travelers to have their routine vaccinations up to date when visiting. These vaccinations can differ depending on the individual, so it's wise to chat with your doctor at least 4–6 weeks before your India trip. This way, you'll have enough time to complete any necessary vaccinations. 

General Recommendations: Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel website for the latest updates on infectious diseases in your destination. Before heading to India, make sure you're current on your routine vaccinations. These include protection against diseases like chickenpox, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, flu, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, shingles, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, and malaria. 

COVID-19 Considerations: Travelers no longer need a COVID-19 vaccine or a negative test result to visit India. While it's not required to be fully vaccinated for travel, it's strongly advised for international trips. Additionally, filling out the Self Declaration Form for India is no longer mandatory, as it was during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Region-Specific Vaccines: Consider getting the cholera vaccine if you're heading to areas with active cholera transmission. For those venturing into rural areas, going hiking, or camping, it's wise to look into vaccines for Japanese encephalitis and rabies. 

What are the Dangers, Threats, and Alerts in India?

While India offers an array of cultural wonders, like any destination, it's not without its challenges. Understanding potential dangers can help travelers navigate their Indian adventure with confidence. 

  • Petty Crime: Petty crimes like pickpocketing are widespread, especially in cities and tourist spots. Stay alert in crowded areas, avoid carrying large amounts of cash, and keep your belongings secure, including passports. Public transportation and overnight trains are common targets for theft. Be cautious, keep your belongings close, and lock doors securely. While serious crimes against foreigners are less common, it's essential to remain vigilant at all times. 
  • Terrorism: Terrorism poses a threat in India, notably in Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Assam, and regions with active Naxalite groups. Naxalites primarily target government and security forces, occasionally affecting public transportation. While tourists aren't usually targets, vigilance is crucial, especially during elections, religious holidays, and national events. 
  • Fraud: Watch out for credit card and ATM fraud while traveling. Take care when using your debit or credit cards: be vigilant when others handle your cards, choose ATMs in well-lit areas or inside reputable establishments, avoid suspicious card readers, cover your PIN when entering it, and regularly check your account statements for any unauthorized transactions. 
  • Women’s Safety: Crimes against women are unfortunately common in India, and foreign women can be targets of unwanted attention. To stay safe, avoid traveling alone, especially at night, and be extra cautious on public transportation and in auto-rickshaws or taxis.  
  • Scams: Be cautious in popular tourist spots and airports where scammers often prey on visitors. Some may try to lure you into schemes involving expensive goods like jewels or carpets. Even if it sounds tempting, avoid any unsolicited offers, whether for cheap rides, accommodations, or guided tours. Stay alert and trust your instincts to avoid falling victim to these scams. 
  • Road Safety: Road conditions and safety pose significant concerns in India. Many roads, including main highways, are in bad shape, leading to traffic jams and potential hazards, especially during the rainy season. Additionally, drivers often disregard traffic rules, driving aggressively or recklessly. Beware of wandering animals like cows, which can create unexpected obstacles, even in city streets. 

What Places should I Avoid in India?

While India boasts several captivating destinations, there are a few areas travelers may want to exercise caution and consider avoiding. 

Jammu and Kashmir 

In the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, there's a risk of terrorist attacks and violent unrest. It's best to avoid all travel to this area, except for visits to the eastern Ladakh region and its capital, Leh. 

Northeastern States 

In the northeast, occasional violence by ethnic insurgent groups, including bombings, can happen. 

India-Pakistan Border 

Both India and Pakistan have strong military presence along their border. The only official crossing point for non-citizens is between Attari, India, and Wagah, Pakistan. Check the border status before traveling. 

Central and East India 

Maoist extremist groups, known as “Naxalites,” are active in rural areas across several states. They frequently target local authorities and government officials. 

While India is a beautiful and diverse country with much to offer, it's important to stay informed and cautious while traveling. By taking necessary precautions, staying aware of your surroundings, and respecting local customs, you can have a safe and memorable experience exploring the wonders of India. 

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