Given its immense size and diversity, the general level of safety in India varies. Expats are most likely to come across issues related to petty crime, road safety and sanitation.
There are ongoing issues related to sectarian violence and terrorism, but foreigners are not often directly affected – although there have been occasions when areas known to be frequented by Westerners have been targeted.
Crime in India
Petty crime is rampant in India, and foreigners will more likely be exposed to this than violent crime. Expats tend to stick out in a crowd and are often easy targets for pickpocketing, overcharging and small-scale scams.
There have also been reports of foreigners being robbed or assaulted while riding in taxis or rickshaws. It’s best to take prepaid taxis and avoid taxis that are already carrying passengers.
Unfortunately, women should be particularly cautious about travelling alone (especially at night) and dress modestly to avoid unwanted attention. Sexual assaults on foreign women have been reported across the country, including Goa, Delhi and Rajasthan. Crimes of a sexual nature could happen anywhere, and we recommend expats contact the authorities in the event of this, including the police and their home country's embassy in India.
Begging is common on the streets of Indian towns and cities. Expats wanting to make a difference should rather contribute to a reputable charity.
Terrorism in India
The threat of terrorism in India remains a concern, especially in major cities such as Delhi and Mumbai – terrorists have especially targeted areas that are popular with foreigners before. Security has been stepped up in major cities as a result.
Certain parts of India are frequently plagued with sectarian violence that has little to do with foreigners. The northern regions of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are the most notable examples. Violence is unpredictable, but there is a risk of bombings, shootings and kidnappings.
There are other areas that major foreign offices advise against travelling to, including the border with Pakistan and the state of Manipur. We recommend that expats check with their embassies regarding which areas to avoid in India.
It's important to be vigilant around the time of public holidays and days of religious significance. By keeping up to date with the news and following government travel warnings, expats should be able to avoid any problems.
Protests in India
Protests related to political and socio-economic issues are common in India and often affect service delivery and transport. Large gatherings are especially common in India's northeastern regions. Violence at such gatherings is not uncommon. Indian security forces are quite used to dealing with these situations and are swift to react, but this does not guarantee one's safety during a protest.
We advise expats to steer clear of all protest action and abide by any state and national regulations imposed.
Transport safety in India
Road safety is a major concern in India. Reckless taxi and motorcycle drivers account for many accidents, while bus and train accidents are also fairly common. Pickpockets also target passengers on public transport, so expats should keep a close eye on their belongings.
Sea travel also poses safety concerns, given that tourist boats in India often fail to carry life-saving equipment such as lifejackets. It's best to check the safety regulations provided by tour operators and travel companies.
Food safety in India
Poor hygiene standards and disease are also concerns for expats in India. A common affliction for newly arrived expats and travellers is something called 'Delhi belly', relating to stomach problems resulting from food-borne parasites. To avoid digestive issues, expats should be cautious about consuming food from roadside vendors and avoid drinking tap water, especially in smaller towns and rural areas.