India is a beautiful and bamboozling place, an endlessly fascinating country that is often challenging and always surprising.
Stretched between the golden beaches of the Indian Ocean and the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayan mountains lies an incredible tapestry of natural and man-made wonders – astounding temples, mystical monasteries, frenetic cities, pristine national parks, lavish palaces, lost kingdoms, mesmerising markets and some of the world’s most iconic monuments.
Visiting India is an assault on the senses. Sights, sounds, smells and sensations are all experienced at maximum intensity. On day one, it can feel intimidating, but by the end of the first week, the noise and chaos will seem like an ordinary part of life. The sensory stimulation becomes strangely addictive.
India is one of the world’s great melting pots, where an incredible diversity of cultures, religions and ethnicities live in surprising harmony. Presided over by an extraordinary array of gods and deities, one-sixth of the planet’s population can be found here, living in anything from high-rise apartments and inner city shantytowns, to simple huts in remote villages where life has hardly changed in centuries.
You could spend a lifetime exploring the relics left behind by ancient empires and the country’s dramatic landscapes, which range from tiger-filled jungles to frozen Himalayan deserts. On the first trip, almost everyone finds time for the so-called Golden Triangle, zipping from the colonial capital, Delhi, to the Taj Mahal at Agra, then on to Jaipur, the colourful capital of Rajasthan. With more time to spare, you can discover 32 UNESCO-listed sights, from creaking mountain railways and ancient fortresses to mangrove forests and temples overflowing with multi-armed deities.
Don’t expect to absorb all India has to offer in one visit; the country is best appreciated like a buffet table, with repeat visits to sample the next tantalising platter. And with India’s legendary cuisine, rest assured that on every trip, you’ll eat like a Maharaja.
3,287,263 sq km (1,269,219 sq miles).
1,326,801,576 (UN estimate 2016).
380.8 per sq km.
President Pranab Mukherjee since 2012.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi since 2014.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs have either two or three round pins.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Women should use caution when travelling in India. Reported cases of sexual assault against women and young girls are increasing; recent sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas and cities show that foreign women are also at risk. British women have been the victims of sexual assault in Goa, Delhi, Bangalore and Rajasthan and women travellers often receive unwanted attention in the form of verbal and physical harassment by individuals or groups of men. Serious sexual attacks involving Polish, German and Danish women travellers were reported in 2014. In January 2015, a Japanese woman was kidnapped and sexually assaulted close to Bodh Gaya and a Russian woman was seriously assaulted by an auto-rickshaw driver in the Vasant Kunj area of New Delhi. In July 2016 an Israeli national was sexually assaulted by a number of men while travelling in Manali. Women travellers should exercise caution when travelling in India even if travelling in a group.
If you are a woman travelling in India you should respect local dress codes and customs and avoid isolated areas, including beaches, when alone at any time of day. See these travel tips for women travellers.
Avoid travelling alone on public transport, or in taxis or auto-rickshaws, especially at night. If you have to use a taxi get them from hotel taxi ranks and exercise caution when using pre-paid taxis at airports as there have been instances of British tourists becoming the victims of a scam by taxi drivers and others who offer cheap transportation and/or hotels, unwanted tours and extended taxi rides. Travellers who accept these offers have reported being threatened with violence when they have declined to pay.
Try to avoid hailing taxis on the street. If you’re being collected at the airport by a hotel driver make sure they have properly identified themselves before you set off. If you book a taxi online, there’s a facility whereby you can let your friends/families know the details of your journey in case of an emergency. You can send your details to pre-selected contacts who can then pinpoint your exact location. If you’re the victim of abuse call 100 for police assistance or 1091 or 1096 if you’re the victim of sexual harassment.
If you are the victim of a sex crime see Rape and Sexual Assault Abroad.
Take care of your passport and bank cards, particularly when travelling by bus and train. Do not leave your luggage unattended on trains at all. There has been an increase in handbag snatching in Delhi.
Keep a photocopy of your passport, Indian visa and flight ticket separately from the originals when travelling. If your passport is lost or stolen notify the police immediately and obtain a police report.
Be wary of confidence tricksters, particularly in Goa, Agra and Jaipur, who promise large amounts of cash for delivery of jewellery abroad in return for an initial deposit. The jewellery is worthless and the deposit, often amounting to thousands of pounds, is lost.
Jammu & Kashmir
The FCO advise against all travel to Jammu and Kashmir with the exception of (i) travel within the city Jammu, (ii) travel by air to the city of Jammu, (iii) travel within the region of Ladakh. The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the city of Srinagar and travel between the cities of Jammu and Srinagar on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway. The tourist destinations of Phalgam, Gulmarg and Sonamarg fall within the areas to which the FCO advise against all travel.
On 3 October 2016, the Jammu and Kashmir government confirmed foreign nationals travelling to the Nubra valley in Leh no longer require a protected area permit to visit the area.
In the early hours of 18 September 2016, an Indian army base in Uri, close to the Line of Control in Indian-administered Kashmir was attacked by terrorists. You should remain vigilant and monitor local media and follow the advice of the local authorities and your travel company.
Since the death of Hizbul Mujahadeen commander Burhan Wani on 8 July, there have been widespread violent protests in the Kashmir Valley which have resulted in a number of deaths and serious casualties. As a result, curfews are imposed and lifted on an almost daily basis.
Foreigners remain vulnerable in rural districts and outside the main population centres and tourist areas. There is a risk of unpredictable violence, including bombings, grenade attacks, shootings and kidnapping. The long-standing policy of the British Government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The level of consular assistance that the British High Commission can provide in Jammu & Kashmir is extremely limited.
In July 2012, there was a grenade attack on a minibus carrying tourists at Bijbehara. Three people were killed, including 2 British nationals, and four were injured.
Other Northern States
The FCO advise against all travel in the immediate vicinity of the border with Pakistan other than travel across the international border at Wagah. Rocket attacks launched from Pakistani territory landed near Attari, on the Indian side, in 2009. On 2 November 2014, an attack caused multiple fatalities on the Pakistan side of the Wagah border crossing after the flag lowering ceremony.
The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs has warned of the possibility of violence or terrorist attacks in Punjab in the run up to state elections on 4 February 2017. Exercise extra caution, monitor local media and/or seek local advice before travelling.
The border between India and Pakistan in Rajasthan is unmarked in some areas. Approaching the border away from an official crossing point could be dangerous, and where unmarked could lead to a visitor straying into Pakistan.
Never trek alone. Trekkers should travel in groups and engage local guides. Leave a message at your accommodation about where you are going and when you expect to return. It is extremely unlikely to get any phone signal in the mountains so please register your whereabouts using the online C form. The following hazards exist throughout the year, especially above 3000m: sudden weather changes, avalanches and snow drifts, landslides and flooding, rock falls and thunderstorms. For the more intrepid climbers you will need special permits.
There are no commercial mountain rescue services operating above 3,000 metres. In some border areas only the Indian Air Force is permitted to carry out air rescues. However, they are under no obligation to perform air rescues; have limited resources to do so and can only get clearance to carry out rescues during working hours. Make sure your insurance policy covers you for altitudes over 2,400 metres and mountain rescue and helicopter costs.
East and North East India
The FCO advise against all travel to Manipur and against all but essential travel to Imphal, the state capital of Manipur. If you plan to travel to Imphal then do so only by air after checking the latest security conditions. There is a risk from insurgent groups, mainly in rural areas. Although foreigners have not been targeted, attacks can be indiscriminate.
On 18 December 2016 widespread violence erupted in and around Manipur’s capital Imphal as protesters burnt public and private vehicles. A curfew was imposed in some parts of Manipur but was later lifted.
On 8 July 2015, following clashes between the police and students a curfew was imposed in greater Imphal (east and west). The curfew was lifted on 4 August 2015. One person was reported dead and 30 injured in the clashes.
On 4 June 2015, there was an attack on an army convoy in the Chandel district of Manipur. Eighteen soldiers were killed in the attack. The NSCN-K terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack.
Although the overall security situation in the north-east of India is improving, some areas within the north-eastern states, especially in Manipur and Assam, still experience sudden and random outbreaks of violence. There have been several incidents of violence in Assam including a shooting in Kokrajhar on 5 August 2016 resulting in 14 deaths, and grenade explosions in Lakhimpur, Karbi Anglong and Guwahati. Review your security arrangements carefully, seek advice from the local authorities and avoid large crowds.
Violent Maoist extremist groups (Naxalites) are active in the rural areas of Chhattisgarh, Jharkand, Odisha, along the border with Andra Pradesh and in remote parts of Bihar and West Bengal. There is a risk of violent crime in the rural areas of Bihar and Jharkhand. There have been skirmishes on the India/Bangladesh border. The Odisha government has imposed severe restrictions on the movement of tourists, especially foreign tourists, inside certain rural areas. Follow the advice of the local authorities if you plan to visit the rural areas of these states as it could potentially cause major disruption to your travel plans.
Indian government permits are required for travel to Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. You should apply well in advance (at least 3 months). In India, you should apply at the liaison office of the state for which you require a permit or the Foreigners Regional Registration Office. Permits for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands can be issued on arrival in Port Blair but this is not the case for the other states. Permit regulations can change at any time. Contact the respective state liaison office or the Bureau of Immigration – India for the latest guidance.
The FCO advise against all travel in the immediate vicinity of the border with Pakistan, except for travel across the international border at Wagah.
The India/Pakistan border in Gujarat is unmarked in some areas. Approaching it away from an official crossing point could be dangerous and where unmarked could lead to you straying into Pakistan illegally.
There continues to be some inter communal tension in Gujarat which can lead to isolated incidents of violence.
If you’re travelling into Mumbai International Airport (known formally as Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport) and transiting between International Terminal 2 and the Domestic Terminal 1A and 1B, you should be aware that the shuttle service between them can be inconsistent. You should allow sufficient time for any transit between flights. At any of these terminals please be alert to unofficial taxi drivers who may charge high fares. Official pre-paid taxi services are available and many hotels offer airport transfer facilities.
If you’re staying in a hotel on the smaller roads in the Candolim-Calangute belt, take particular care when walking to or from the main road. There have been reports of bag-snatchings on these roads. The thieves are usually on motorbikes, with headlights on full-beam to blind their victims.
There have been reports of drinks being spiked and travellers, including British nationals, subsequently being robbed, sexually assaulted or dying. There have also been reports of locals posing as police officers or government officials in order to extort money, so be alert if approached. Avoid beaches after dark. Travellers should observe and respect local dress and customs.
You should follow warnings posted at beaches and instructions issued by lifeguards. Every year several people drown due to the strong currents in the sea. Emergency service standards may differ from those in the UK.
Road traffic accidents are common and many fatal accidents occur each year. Wear a good quality helmet if renting a motorcycle or scooter.
The possession or consumption of drugs is illegal and conviction for either offence may lead to a very long prison sentence. A number of British nationals in Goa die each year due to drug or alcohol abuse.
Car and motorbike accidents are one of the biggest causes of injury and death overseas. Several British nationals die each year on Indian roads. If possible, avoid travelling at night. Always travel in a well-maintained vehicle with seatbelts. If you travel by motorbike, wear a helmet and proper footwear.
Tourist boats and other small crafts rarely carry life-saving equipment.
Although piracy has not so far affected India’s territorial waters, it poses a significant threat in parts of the Indian Ocean, especially for shipping/mariners that don’t take appropriate precautions or follow agreed shipping industry best practice guidelines. Mariners should be vigilant.
There are strong currents off many coasts. Most beaches don’t have warning signs, flags or life-saving equipment. Drownings are common.
Don’t accept food or drinks from strangers. There have been reports of travellers being drugged and robbed on trains often on overnight journeys. Take particular care of your passport and valuables when boarding and while on the train. Avoid individuals at railway stations offering tickets and tours.
In December 2014 SpiceJet, India’s fourth biggest airline, cancelled over 400 flights and grounded their planes. Although SpiceJet have resumed operations there may be further disruptions and cancellations. Check the SpiceJet website for updates.
Political rallies and demonstrations occur frequently throughout the country and can turn violent, particularly around elections. Transport and public services may be disrupted at short notice.
Elections are scheduled for Goa (4 February), Punjab (4 February), Uttarakhand (15 February), Manipur (4 & 8 March), and Uttar Pradesh (11, 15, 19, 23, 27 February & 4, 8 March).
Since June 2016, Delhi police have placed a ban on large gatherings in southwest, northwest and southeast Delhi. If you’re travelling in or through these areas you should remain vigilant, avoid protests, demonstrations or large gatherings, monitor the local media and follow the advice of the local authorities and your travel company.