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Latest travel advice for India including safety and security, entry requirements, travel warnings and health

2015-07-28T14:41:55+01:00: Latest update: Terrorism section - on 27 July, terrorists attacked a police station in Dinanagar, Gurdaspur district of Punjab causing several fatalities

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel in the immediate vicinity of the border with Pakistan, other than at Wagah.

The FCO advise against all travel to Manipur and against all but essential travel to Imphal, the state capital of Manipur. See Local travel

The FCO advise against all travel to Jammu and Kashmir with the exception of (i) travel within the cities of Jammu and Srinagar, (ii) travel by air to the cities of Jammu and Srinagar, (iii) travel between these two cities on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway, and (iv) travel within the region of Ladakh. The tourist destinations of Phalgam, Gulmarg and Sonamarg fall within the areas to which the FCO advise against all travel. See Local travel and Terrorism. and Terrorism.

Over 800,000 British nationals visit India every year. Most visits are trouble-free.

Tropical cyclones are common, particularly off the east coast. You should monitor the progress of approaching storms and follow the advice of the local authorities, including any evacuation orders. See Natural disasters

There is a high threat from terrorism throughout India. Recent attacks have targeted public places including those visited by foreigners. See Terrorism

The Indian government has relaxed the rules on re-entering the country while on a tourist visa. See Entry requirements

Before you travel, take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance and read the India specific health information and advice published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre.

Safety and security

Crime

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. 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 use pre-paid taxis at airports. 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 are the victim of abuse call 100 for police assistance (112 from mobile phones).

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.

Local Travel

Jammu & Kashmir

The FCO advise against all travel to Jammu and Kashmir with the exception of (i) travel within the cities of Jammu and Srinagar, (ii) travel by air to the cities of Jammu and Srinagar, (iii) travel between these two cities on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway, and (iv) travel within the region of Ladakh. Please note that the tourist destinations of Phalgam, Gulmarg and Sonamarg fall within the areas to which the FCO advise against all travel.

There has been an overall decline in violence in the state in recent years and an increase in the numbers of Indian and western tourists. There have been no recent reported attacks on visitors in the cities of Srinagar or Jammu.

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 explosion caused multiple fatalities on the Pakistan side of the Wagah border crossing after the flag lowering ceremony.

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. 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 and have limited resources to do so. Make sure your insurance policy covers you for altitudes over 2,400 metres and mountain rescue and helicopterd 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 8 July 2015, following clashes between the police and students an indefinite curfew has been imposed in greater Imphal (east and west). One person was reported dead and 30 injured following the incident.

On 4 June 2015, there was an attack on an army convoy in the Chandel district of Manipur. 18 soldiers were killed in the attack. The NSCN-K terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Strikes are called by local political parties in Darjeeling and the surrounding hills in North Bengal. Strike action may affect the roads to Sikum that run through the Darjeeling Hills. If you visit the region contact your local tour operator before travelling.

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 recent incidents of violence in Assam including grenade explosions in Lakhimpur, Karbi Anglong and Guwahati resulting in 2 deaths. Review your security arrangements carefully, seek advice from the local authorities and avoid large crowds.

There have been several recent incidents of violence in Assam including grenade explosions in Lakhimpur, Karbi Anglong and Guwahati which resulted in the deaths of 2 people. The Indian Home department has put Assam state on high alert. The Guwahati area is generally thought to be a ‘natural target’.

Violent extremist groups are active in the rural areas of Chhattisgarh, Jharkand, Odisha, 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 areas inhabited by tribes people.

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.

Western Region

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.

In Mumbai, the international and domestic airport terminals are a large distance apart and it is not possible to walk from one to the other. If you are transiting between international and domestic flights you can use the free shuttle services if you have an onward connection on your ticket. You will not be able to use the service once you exit the terminal building. Both terminals also have pre-paid taxi facilities.

In Mumbai, there’s a risk of armed robbers holding up taxis along the main road from the airport to the city in the early hours of the morning. There have also been reports of scams at both airport terminals: unofficial taxi drivers may demand exorbitant sums of money once you’re inside a cab. You should arrange an airport pick-up in advance through a reputable provider (eg your hotel sponsor), or use pre-paid taxi facilities available at both terminals. Make enquiries about these facilities before you exit the terminal building, as they’re usually accessible only from inside the terminal.

After you clear customs and immigration at Mumbai airport, be wary of approaches by thieves posing as Government officials.

Goa

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 since the beginning of 2012. 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 has been a series of high-profile incidents in Goa of alleged rape against foreign nationals, including Britons. Avoid beaches after dark. There is a risk of being attacked by packs of stray dogs, robbed or sexually assaulted. Female travellers should observe and respect local dress and customs.

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.

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.

Road travel

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.

Sea travel

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.

Swimming

There are strong currents off many coasts. Most beaches don’t have warning signs, flags or life-saving equipment. Drownings are common.

Rail travel

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.

Air travel

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 situation

Political rallies and demonstrations are occur frequently throughout the country and can turn violent, particularly around elections. Transport and public services may be disrupted at short notice.

Terrorism

There is a high threat from terrorism. Terrorist attacks are carried out by a number of terrorist and insurgent groups including Lashkar-e Tayyiba, Jaish-e Mohammed and the Indian Mujahideen.

While the main focus of attacks are against Indian interests, terrorists have previously targeted places visited by westerners including public places like restaurants, hotels, railway stations, markets, places of worship and sporting venues. Be vigilant, especially in public places. Always monitor local media before planning your travel for any local travel warnings. If you see unattended baggage, report it promptly. Security has been strengthened, notably at major hotels and transport hubs (airports, railway and metro stations). Take particular care in the lead up to and on days of national significance, like Republic Day (26 January), Independence Day (15 August), Eid (19 July 2015) and Diwali (11 November 2015).

In some areas terrorist incidents are frequent, especially Jammu and Kashmir (excluding Ladakh) and less frequently in parts of the north east.

On 27 July 2015, terrorists attacked a police station in Dinanagar in the Gurdaspur district of Punjab causing several fatalities.

On 2 November 2014, there was an explosion that caused multiple fatalities on the Pakistan side of the Wagah border crossing after the flag lowering ceremony.

On 2 May 2014, alleged militants shot civilians in two separate incidents in Kokrajhar, Assam. Eleven civilians are reported to have been killed. There are no reports of foreigners being involved.

On 1 May 2014, there were 2 explosions at Chennai central railway station. No foreigners are reported to have been involved.

On 12 April 2014, Maoist rebels carried out 2 separate attacks in the state of Chhattisgarh. Seven election officials and 5 policemen were killed in the attacks. No foreigners are reported to have been involved.

On 11 March 2014, a Police patrol was ambushed by Maoist rebels in the Tongpal area of Sukma in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh. 16 policemen were killed and 25 injured in the attack. No foreigners were involved.

In November 2008 terrorists attacked a number of sites in Mumbai, including luxury hotels, a railway station and a restaurant. Over 160 people were killed and more than 300 were injured. British nationals were among the casualties.

A number of insurgent groups are active in Assam and there are random incidents of violence and killings. Violent extremist groups are also active in the rural areas of Jharkand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and in parts of Bihar and West Bengal.

On 27 October 2013 multiple bomb explosions in Patna killed 6 people and injured at least 80. No British nationals are reported to have been involved.

On 28 December 2014 there was a blast in central Bangalore Church Street which killed one person and injured another. No British nationals are reported to have been involved.

Two Italian tourists were abducted by a group of Maoists from the Daringbadi area of Kandhamal district in Orissa on 14 March 2012. They were subsequently released after prolonged negotiations. Foreign visitors had not previously been targeted by Maoists. The Odisha government has recently imposed severe restrictions on the movement of tourists, especially foreign tourists, inside areas inhabited by tribes-people.

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Local laws and customs

Drugs are illegal in India. There is a minimum sentence of 6 months for possession of small amounts deemed for personal consumption only. A 10-year sentence for possession of other amounts applies. The judicial process is slow and pre-trial detention lasting several years is normal.

During elections bans on the sale of alcohol are often imposed.

On 11 December 2013, the Indian Supreme Court set aside a 2009 ruling of the Delhi High Court that decriminalised homosexuality. Although prosecutions of gay people are rare, conviction for engaging in a homosexual act could lead to a prison sentence. See our advice page for LGBT travellers.

British nationals have been arrested for bringing satellite phones into India without prior permission from the Indian authorities. More information on the use of satellite phones can be found on the Department of Telecommunications’ website.

You may need prior permission from the Indian authorities to bring equipment like listening or recording devices, radio transmitters, powerful cameras or binoculars into India. Seek advice from the Indian High Commission in London.

There may be very serious penalties for breaking a law which might seem trivial to you, or for doing something which may not be illegal in the UK. Hobbies involving cameras and binoculars, like bird-watching or plane spotting, may be misunderstood particularly near military sites, government buildings, airports and railway stations.

The penalties for paedophile offences are severe.

Indian family law is very different from UK law and particular caution is needed when, for example, child custody becomes an issue.

Entry requirements

Visas

You must get a visa before travelling to India. You can find further information about how to apply on the Indian High Commission website.

Make sure you get the right visa for your travel. In 2009, a large number of foreign nationals living in India were found to be employed on business visas instead of employment visas. Business visas can’t be extended while in India.

To transit through India you will need a transit visa.

The Indian government has relaxed the rules on re-entering the country while on a tourist visa. The previous rule of no re-entry on the same visa for 2 months after leaving India no longer applies to foreign nationals coming to India except in case of nationals of Afghanistan, China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan, Bangladesh, foreigners of Pakistan and Bangladesh origins and stateless persons.

Foreign nationals arriving in India on long term multiple entry visas must register with the nearest Foreigners Regional Registration Officer within 14 days of arrival.

If you overstay your visa you must report in person to the FRRO or Superintendant of Police you registered with to get permission to exit the country. You will be fined and may be prosecuted or detained and later deported. If you have overstayed your visa but did not need to register you must report to the nearest FRRO or Senior Superintendant of Police. See the Indian Immigration Bureau website for more information.

Applicants of Pakistani origin

All applicants of Pakistani origin who hold dual British-Pakistan nationality must apply for an Indian visa on their Pakistan passport. Those who have either renounced Pakistani nationality or cancelled their Pakistani passport would need to submit documentary proof of this.

Processing time for visa applications received from persons of Pakistani origin will be 7-8 weeks or more.

Processing time for applications from those holding dual British-Pakistan nationality will be substantially longer.

For further details see the Indian High Commission website.

Passport validity

Your passport must have 2 blank pages for your visa and must be valid for a minimum of 180 days at the time of your visa application.

The guidelines regarding passport validity on arrival in India are unclear. To avoid possible problems at immigration, make sure your passport is valid for a minimum of 180 days at the time of entry into India.

The Indian authorities have confirmed they will accept British passports extended by 12 months by British Embassies and Consulates under additional measures put in place in mid-2014.

Airport tax

User Development Fees (UDF) apply at many airports. The fees are around Rs. 1,000 per international passenger and Rs.150 to 260 per domestic passenger. This should already be included in the cost of airline tickets. If for any reason the fee is not included in your ticket it will be collected at the airport check-in counter in Indian rupees.

Polio vaccination

From 14 February onwards, if you travel to India from Pakistan, Israel, Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Afghanistan or Somalia you will be required to hold a valid polio vaccination certificate. Please contact your nearest Indian Embassy or High Commission for further information.

Yellow fever

Yellow Fever vaccination is required for travellers arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission.

Medication

You can take medicines into India as long as you carry the prescription with you. Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic substances are prohibited. For further information, contact the High Commission of India in London.

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs)

UK ETDs are valid for entry to or exit from India with the relevant Indian visa. They are also valid for airside transit. However, a holder of an ETD will not be able to both enter and exit India using the same ETD.

Health

Contact your GP around 8 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and useful information about healthcare abroad, including a country-by-country guide of reciprocal health care agreements with the UK, is available from NHS Choices.

If you’re travelling to India for organ transplant surgery, check in advance with the hospital to find out what proof they require of your circumstances in the UK. You may need to submit evidence of your marriage and birth of your children before the operation can take place. You can get copies of marriage and birth certificates from the General Register Office in the UK. You may wish to consider having them legalised by the FCO Legalisation office before travelling. The British High Commission can’t provide guarantees and certificates on your behalf.

Local medical facilities are not comparable to those in the UK, especially in more remote areas. In major cities private medical care is available, but expensive. A list of the most commonly used hospitals can be found on the British High Commission website.

There has been a reported increase in the number of cases of seasonal flu in 2015 - including H1N1 (swine flu). For information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) and consult your GP before travel.

For psychiatric illness, specialised treatment may not be available outside major cities.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 102 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Natural disasters

Monsoons

Travel in rural areas during the monsoon season can be hazardous. Monsoon rains cause flooding and landslides that can cut off some towns and villages for days. Check access routes before setting off and take extra care.

Cyclones and Tropical storms

Cyclones and tropical storms are common, particularly off the east coast of India. You should monitor local and international weather updates from the Indian Meteorological Department and follow the advice of local authorities and tour operators. See our Tropical cyclones page for advice on what to do if you are caught up in a storm.

Earthquakes

Several parts of India lie on highly active fault zones. Three areas are considered high-risk: Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Earth tremors are common in these regions and can cause landslides in hilly and mountainous areas. Limited emergency response vehicles, equipment, and medical facilities could increase the impact that an earthquake could have in these areas. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.

Contact FCO Travel Advice Team

This email service only offers information and advice for British nationals planning to travel abroad.

If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the consular assistance team on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

If you’re abroad and need emergency help, please contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

If you have a question about this travel advice, you can email us at TravelAdvicePublicEnquiries@fco.gov.uk

Before you send an email, make sure you have read the travel advice for the country you’re travelling to, and the guidance on how the FCO puts travel advice together.

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    Latest update: Safety and Security section - visitors in remote mountainous areas should ...

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