Is India a safe place to travel, is a question many people ask. What many people don’t understand is that India can’t be generalized.
Being the largest democracy and seventh-largest country in the world, it hosts a multitude of people, emotions and diversity.
If safety had been an issue, then the no. of travelers would not have been on the rise in India.
Tourist arrivals in India increased to 721015 in June 2019 from 610590 of May 2019.
FTA (Foreign Tourist Arrival) in India saw Bangladesh, USA, and the UK as the top three countries for traveling in India.
However, catching flights to India and traveling here is more of a calculative task. You need to be wary of multiple facts affecting your travel.
Let’s take a tour of your safety travel-
Crime Factors: Petty crimes happen in almost all countries. And India is no exception. You may mostly witness that in public transportations. But, that does rarely happen with tourists or travelers. Violent crime against foreigners is unheard of and people are generally respectful.
- Be cautious and do not display a large amount of cash in public
- Use your credit cards etc. at reputable establishments like ATMs and other such kiosks
- Do not trust with sharing your sensitive bank or card credentials
- Do not travel near disputed areas in a city
- Don’t try to get into a brawl between people or groups
Restricted Areas and States: With a mélange of travelers, India has a lot to offer in terms of its geography. But not every place gives you the liberty to travel that easily.
For some of the states, you require a special permit. Even if you fly to India with all the preparations, you need to put extra effort here.
And to get access you need to get a special Protected Area Permit or an Inner Line Permit for Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim of the North-Eastern states (the seven sisters of the North-East).
Elaborately speaking, it also includes Andaman and Nicobar Islands, some parts of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh, Sikkim, Rajasthan.
You can apply for these permits while applying for a Tourist Visa.
- Get yourself registered at Foreigner Registration Office (District Superintendent of Police) for the same.
- *OCI cardholders are classified as foreigners and must obtain a permit for the same.
- *Persons of Indian Origin completed Indian passport renunciation formalities do not need to carry the certificate of the same while traveling to India.
Unstable Areas to avoid: Mainly the border areas of India lying in close proximity to Pakistan. However, you can enjoy going to the Attari Border displaying the ceremony.
- You need to avoid the 10km area zone of the border in North India.
- Avoid traveling the Karakoram Range of the Himalayas and the border areas of Jaisalmer.
- Do not roam or travel the North-East without a guide or expert.
- Avoid going near the protest areas or state under curfew etc.
A perfect flight for India starts with marking the red-line areas on the map and noting them down.
Societal Factors: Try to assimilate into the local culture of the state you are traveling to.
- Keep your valuables safe and do not keep everything in the same bag.
- Save your cards and money in a strapped money bag.
- Be aware of people staring at your belongings.
- Do not wear revealing clothes while visiting religious shrines, spots etc.
- Make sure that you are aware of the local customs while roaming in the city.
- Learn the language phrases of the particular state you are traveling in.
In a nutshell, political instability is one of the reasons for civil unrest in some states. Also, the threat of terrorist attacks is mainly against the interests of the India government. Therefore, take extra precaution on Republic Day, Independence Day, Diwali, and Eid. Always listen to your tour guide if he warns about a particular place or timing when traveling.
Nature in India: India offers a lot of natural landscapes and scenic views. Distributed equally as diverse geographical marvels, India is a heaven for travelers.
In monsoons, it has a new look altogether in most parts of the country.
In summers avoiding the hot cities of the southern part of the country is advised. The same goes for North India in winters because of the chances of getting stuck in the snow.
However, it doesn’t mean to totally avoid these areas in particular seasons but to travel wisely.
Always check the local weather while planning to visit your preferred place of travel.
Despite having a tropical climate India has a lot for everyone in every season.
- Do not travel in rural areas much in the monsoon. The main reason is to avoid getting stuck on the road as transportation might be a real issue.
- Steer clear of highly active fault zones where rains bring floods and cyclones. These areas are- West Bengal’s sea beaches, Mangrove forests (Sunderbans), Bihar, Odisha, and Uttar Pradesh.
- Choose to go to places where the temperature is perfect for spending a vacation in summers.
- Winter Destinations for snow lie mainly in the North of India. You can opt for West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Himachal, Jammu and Kashmir for the same.
Health Factors to take care of: Getting inoculated prior to visiting India is mandatory. It is advisable that your vaccinations are in check. It is required because of the change in temperature and climate.
- Get a travel medical insurance
- Avoid traveling to places where dengue or other such diseases are rampant
- Carry mosquito repellants and sunscreen with you at all times
- Avoid traveling in the afternoon in summers
- Get state-specific information on their climate
Train travel: It is generally safe to travel in India. Nevertheless, you might read news about accidents, onboard fire, ageing infrastructure, overcrowding, and waterlogging. If you can withstand this with clever planning, India is best traveled in trains.
- Do not travel in local trains as the chances of pickpocket can happen
- Try to book your seats and get reservations when you want to travel via train. Make that a mandatory practice to follow.
- Do not eat food offered by strangers or tasting the food you know nothing about. It may cause an upset stomach. Always ask or do your simple research before eating.
Swimming in India: Though India is home to a lot of beaches, it is advisable that you don’t try to get adventurous during monsoons. It is applicable especially for Bay of Bengal, Mumbai, and Goa.
- Follow all the safety measures which you follow home while swimming on the beaches or in rivers.
Scams to be wary of: Yes, you could be scammed and here’s a list of some of them-
- You driver may pretend not to know about your hotel. Tell your driver to take to your hotel and not to any alternative hotel.
- Importing Gemstones scam: You may be approached by ‘gemstone dealers’ who would try to persuade you to buy ‘rare gems’ on the pretext of selling them abroad through you. Steer clear of all such cunning selling tactics.
- Fast or Broken meter: Remember that driving with such meters is not allowed and do not fall prey to this at all by any of the drivers.
- Fake train ticket: Do not buy train tickets apart from the counter or via online.
- Unofficial road fee asked by a police officer: If you are challaned by a cop only then pay the fine and get a receipt for it. There is no ‘driving fee’ or road fee for you to drive in India.
- Unofficial SIM card: Check your SIM card in front of the operator or shop owner you are getting it from. This way you can avoid getting an inactive SIM card.
- Fake souvenirs sold as antiques: Okay, this happens in India as well. Do not trust all such people and do your research if you are visiting a historical place that sells souvenirs.
For a better understanding of the cities/states, here’s the list of the safe cities in terms of different parameters-
List of some safe cities to travel in India
List of top safest cities in India
List of best places for solo female travelers
- Kovalam, Kerala
- Rishikesh, Uttarakhand
- Jaipur, Rajasthan
- Kasol, Himachal Pradesh
- Khajjiar, Himachal Pradesh
- Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
- Hampi, Karnataka
- Leh Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir
- Gokarna, Karnataka
- Shillong, Meghalaya
Having listed a handful of states doesn’t mean that other cities are not safe. It’s just that you need to be extra careful while traveling to other cities of tourist repute.
When you are LGBTQ+ and traveling in India
- Be prepared and do your homework: Have copies of your documents that have information about people to reach out for. For example, your family, lawyer who has a copy of your itinerary.
- Try to be discreet: Don’t flaunt your sexuality (via flashy accessories or clothes) and avoid PDA. It could land you in embarrassing or unwanted situations.
- Know your rights: Cross check the kind of LGBT rights exercised by the country. These days it is mostly friendly as anti-LGBT laws have been struck down. Still, do take proper caution while traveling or going to a party. Report to the nearest US Consulate in the area in case of an emergency or problem. You could also enrol in STEP for combating unwanted situations.
- Opt for LGBT friendly business: There are a number of owners whose service you can opt for. As India is turning more LGBT -friendly and open, there is no dearth of hotels and agencies catering to the LGBT community in general.
- Avoid blind dates: Try to meet in a public place first and then proceed for anything else you desire.
Following these simple and basic steps ensures you travel safe and secure in India.
General Things (travel warning and so on) to take care of-
India is fairly safe when it comes to travel. You should follow a few common-sense precautions though. They are-
- Stash your money in a safe place apart from your purse or wallet.
- Do not skip carrying your phone with you. Also, do not flaunt pricey phones in crowded places. Instead, carry low-cost, good battery-life with a torch cell phone to travel worry-free.
- Always know your destination in details. This includes the transportation fare (public and private both), kind of food you would get and the security quotient. Getting flight tickets to India is just the beginning.
- Try to have a hard copy map apart from following Google Maps.
- Keep a copy of your passport and important documents in your e-mail account. This helps to get to them quickly if you lose them.
- Try to avoid giving money to beggars. Instead, help them out with food if they persist.
- Always remain updated with major news of the place you are traveling in. Trust us, this helps a real lot.
- Don’t give the impression that you are lost. This makes you vulnerable even when you don’t want to be.
- Don’t walk around with fancy stuff. It could be your earphones, cellphone, or your camera. That attracts a lot of unwanted attention.
- Don’t take photographs of restricted places and buildings. It is not legal to do so. You don’t want to have a tiff with the cops over some clicks.
- Avoid flashy and fancy stuff. It includes carrying a fanny pack as well.
- Carry mosquito repellants with you at all times.
- Get your address written in the local language as well. This helps people read your stuff and in turn help you with it.
- Always avoid peak travel hours while roaming in a city. Early morning and late afternoons are perfect to satiate your wanderlust.
- Book your hotel, and transportation at all times. Ola, Uber or metered taxis are perfect for small distance travel. Also, you can opt for government-owned stalls/kiosks to book fixed-rate taxis and/or auto-rickshaws.
- Don’t allow any unknown touts or agents to help you with roaming.
- Keep a list of cab-company nos. with you, in case you don’t get a cab.
- Ask for a tariff rate card and not the meter reading while traveling in auto-vehicles. This way you can pay the exact fare and not what the driver wants you to pay.
- Carry your purse/bag etc. by slinging it across your torso and not on one side of your shoulder. This way you can prevent yourself from being robbed in crowded areas.
- Be vigilant when you are driving yourself. People in India do not obey traffic rules much.
- Avoid entering religious places/shrines in shorts and lowers. This is generally frowned upon and some places may even require you to cover your head or wear clothes that cover your knees and beyond.
- Do not try to be adventurous and travel in Naxalite areas alone. These areas have poorer security and not even trains are allowed to pass through such areas at night.
- Try to opt for air transport if you have to travel to such areas. Please note that foreigners are not targeted but it’s always to be safe than never.
- Try not to have Goa feeling in other parts of the country. And if you are a woman, then you would be ogled at without harm. In most of the cases, people would want to have a selfie with you. Make sure you act smart in such instances.
- Local custom means customs of a particular pace, city, or state. Do not generalize the customs as Indian customs vary from state to state and from city to city. Always try to respect them and not be disrespectful of things you don’t know or don’t understand.
- Go to a police station if your stuff gets stolen. Do not wait for a very long time. Consult your country’s embassy if need be and get an FIR (First Information Report) done to have quick action for it.
With all said and instructed, traveling in India is one hell of a crazy roller-coaster ride.
Hop on and join in the fun. After all, you don’t come to such places all the time. Book cheap India flights today and get the ball rolling for India.
Happy and safe traveling!