Is India Safe to Visit?

Celebrants dancing during the color Holi Festival
Celebrants dancing during the color Holi Festival

India is a buzzing, vibrant country steeped in history and culture that is on most people’s bucket lists. However, its reputation in terms of safety and chaos often proceeds it! While there are some infamous scams and you’re bound to have some sense of culture shock when visiting India for the first time, you shouldn’t let fear stop you from exploring this magical country! Read on to discover more about safety in India, what scams and situations to avoid, and the best places to visit for your first Indian adventure…

Is India Safe To Visit?
This question assumes that everywhere in India is the same and that the country, on the whole, can be considered either safe or unsafe. In actual fact, your safety while travelling in India totally depends on where you visit, how much common sense you use while travelling and, to a certain extent, luck (or perhaps lack thereof).

On the whole, people in India are friendly, helpful and welcoming and want you to have a fantastic time in the country they call home.

It is possible that scams and security issues may happen wherever you are in the world, but as long as you keep your wits about you, you should have a thoroughly enjoyable trip! India is totally unique, so you’ll be in for a whole host of new experiences. Ensure you do plenty of research about the places you want to visit before travelling to India, so you know all about the customs, traditions, transport, and safety of the area.

Here are some points to help keep you (and your money) safe in India:

  • Don't walk around after dark, especially if you’re travelling solo or are staying near a quiet part of a beach.
  • Do your research about places you want to visit in advance, so you know the prices and protocols involved.
  • Ensure you are wearing appropriate clothing (especially if you are female) - knees and shoulders covered for churches and temples and bikinis and beachwear only at the beach.
  • As with anywhere in the world, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is – while prices for food and clothing are surprisingly low, you want to be careful with tours and taxis, ensuring you agree on a price before booking.

Is India Safe for Female Travellers?

While it’s likely you will be stared at (especially by men) when travelling as a female in India, it is not often that men will actually act on their curiosity. If you feel uncomfortable, try to remove yourself from the situation, stay in open, public places and use reputable transport links to get yourself back to your accommodation. If you are dressed in loose, appropriate clothing, particularly in a local style, you are less likely to receive unwanted attention while travelling solo in India. It can also be a good idea to wear a wedding ring as this may help to lessen unwelcome advances.

If you’re worried about travelling to India as a female solo traveller, you can easily join a group tour or stay in hostels to ensure you are surrounded by other travellers.

In Goa, the Goa Tourism Development Corporation has set up a Women’s Taxi Service that is run by women drivers, for women travellers to ensure everyone’s safety and comfort. This is a great initiative that will hopefully catch on elsewhere in the country and is one that you can use if you feel nervous.

Is Public Transport Safe in India?

On the whole, the public transport systems in India are fantastic, with buses, trains, boats, tuk-tuks, and taxis available across the country. Generally, public transport links are busy with locals who are just looking to get from A to B rather than doing anything untoward against travellers. Many locals, transport conductors, and even taxi drivers will help you get to the bus or train you are looking for without even asking for anything but a thank you!

Buses are mega cheap, give you a real slice of local life and let you watch the world go by, so if you feel comfortable catching a local bus you definitely should!

Finally, if you can, avoid taking transport that arrives at your destination during hours of darkness. If this is unavoidable try to have someone meet you at the station or airport such as a hotel representative, so you don’t have to worry about taxis, cash machines etc.

Will I Be Scammed in India?

This question kind of depends on what you class as being scammed. It is definitely likely that you will pay over the odds for tuk-tuks and souvenirs compared to the locals. It’s also likely you will have to pay if you take photos of adorned cows or elephants in the street, are offered a ‘free’ bracelet or take part in a holy ceremony. However, these ‘scams’ will only set you back a few cents, or at the most, a couple of dollars so aren’t the end of the world. Large-scale scams aren’t actually that common in India, but you should be a little warier when travelling in major cities like Mumbai and Delhi.

Unless you’re in a popular tourist spot like the beaches of Goa, it’s a good idea to have accommodation booked before you arrive. This avoids the age-old ‘taxi driver taking you to their family shop/hotel/travel agent scam.’ This scam usually starts with “your hotel has moved/been shut down” so take that as a warning sign! If you can have the address, phone number and an offline map handy you should be able to avoid this scam and arrive safely at your accommodation.

Other top tips to avoid scams are to carry low denomination notes to avoid the common “I have no change” scenario. Make sure you know what the hotel or restaurant you’re going to looks like to ensure the taxi driver takes you to the right place and remember to ask for a receipt whenever you pay for accommodation or tours so the operator can’t come back to you and say you never paid.

Unfortunately, due to a number of severe cases of violence against women in India, including some rapes against tourists, the country’s reputation and, by proxy, its people have been tarred with a negative brush that is very hard to dismantle. These violent actions are undertaken by a minority, and most people will visit India without any trouble, but it is sometimes hard to shake the fear-mongering stance of the media.

India is certainly chaotic, confusing and at some points stressful but at the same time, it oozes charm, warmth, colour, and beauty that will make any awkward stares or nervous moments worthwhile!

Related Questions

What is the safest state/city in India?

While you can find safety, security, and fun in all states, Goa is perhaps known to be the safest state in India. Some call Goa “India Light” as the culture shock is less, the people extremely friendly and the crime rate very low. With welcoming towns, laid-back beaches and less hustle and bustle than the main Indian cities, Goa is an excellent introduction into this vibrant country!

Other Indian states known for their safety include the relaxing backwaters of Kerala and Rishikesh in Uttarakhand.

Will I definitely get Delhi Belly when I visit India?

While many travellers get a case of “Delhi Belly” to a certain extent when they visit India, this isn’t guaranteed, and it can be avoided with some basic thought and prevention. Firstly, ensure you only drink packaged bottled water, filtered water (in hotels) or use your own filter bottle like a LifeStraw or similar. Secondly, try to make sure street food looks hygienic and recently cooked before purchasing. Thirdly, wash your hands regularly and use hand sanitiser. On the whole, restaurants will use fresh food, clean water, and filtered ice so you shouldn’t have a problem – but it’s always worth having some meds and rehydration sachets packed just in case!

When should I visit the Taj Mahal?

The Taj Mahal is a must-see for any trip, and while some seasons are better than others, it is worth a visit at whatever time of year you travel. For the best conditions, you should try to visit the Taj Mahal early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid crowds and to have the best light for photography. Many tour buses arrive from other cities throughout the morning, but the sooner you arrive, the fewer people will be around!

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