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Everywhere in the world, there are dangers. The only place where there is no more danger is 6 feet underground or speaking of India, then there is no danger after the ashes are mixed with the Ganges. 

The nature of the danger varies from place to place. There are countries or regions where the risks are so high it is recommended not to visit. 

If you plan to travel to India and you are wondering if India is safe for foreigners, you should first understand a bit about India itself. Based on this understanding you can find out what is not dangerous in India and what can be dangerous.

This will certainly help you to enjoy your travel in India more ?. You can consider the following information as your India travel tips, or at least some of them.

An overview of India 

India is a vast sub-continent, home to ~1.3 billion people. It will soon overtake China and become the country with the world’s largest population. 

India is a religious country but not in the Western sense of the word. The term “religion” in the West is associated with impatience but in India, it is the opposite.  

India for tourists - photo from Varanasi, Ganges river

Religion in India was given the name Hinduism (by Westerns), and in fact, it is a system of beliefs in different gods.

When referring to Indian gods, there are tens of millions of gods, but in practice, there are three main gods and few other major gods, and most of the religious rituals take place around them. 

Within the vast population of India, there is a large Muslim minority of about 180 million people (~14% of the population). The history of India with Islam is very complex, specifically the recent history of the last 70-80 years. 

As a rule, Hinduism is very tolerant compared to Islam or Christianity. Compared to 200-300 years ago, Christianity is much more tolerant today. The clash of aggression and the expansion of Islam led to many conflicts that ended in 1947 with the fragmenting of territory that was the cradle of Indian culture, such as the Hindu Valley civilization. Today they are part of Pakistan and Bangladesh.

By the middle of the 19th century, India and China were responsible for half of the world’s GNP (Gross National Product).

overview of india
History of world GDP

The graph above published here by Barry L. Ritholtz. 

The British colonial rule and the disintegration of the Mughal (Islamic) regime have driven India to the lowest point economically, until it becomes 2-3% of the world’s GNP. 

But like China, India is booming, its economy is growing, its manpower reserves are endless, and it is likely that together with China and the US, these countries will soon be responsible for most of the world’s GNP.

Despite the economic boom, there is massive poverty in India. In 2014, 58% of the total population was living on less than $3.10 per day. In other words, India has a very long way to go in order to bring economic prosperity to a majority of the population. 

Indian perception about life

One of the most important terms in India is Samsara, a circle of birth, life, death, birth, life, and so forth.

When you are in the Samsara, Karma is part of your life, meaning there are results to your actions. The results come back to you in different ways. 

Karma - India for tourists

Karma, the results of your own actions 

If you want to reach the final destination of Nirvana (a state of enlightenment, parallel to heaven in other religions), you must break the magic circle of Samsara and Karma.   

Karma is the result of our actions, the result of our desires. The sadhu in India, those destitute, with very long hair, barely dressed, and wandering around India with a stick in hand and a small vessel, are saints who have decided to break the cycle of karma and samsara, that is, to stop life and reach nirvana.

Is India safe?
The Sadhu, out of Samsara cycle

By the abandonment of material life and material lust, they remove themselves from the endless cycle of Samsara and Karma.

Nirvana is heaven on earth when you are out of the Samsara. 

At this point, you must ask yourself how this philosophical explanation is relevant to your question about dangers in India. In my point of view, it’s extremely related.

This fundamental belief has a major effect on the way this population will treat their own life and other people and the following information will prove it.  

Behavior Towards Tourists

Based on my personal experience India is very welcoming for tourists. The Indians are very proud of their homeland and their culture and they are very happy to see tourists, to assist them, to take photos with them, and to speak with them. 

English is the second spoken language in India, after the Hindi language (~125 million people speak English), so it’s quite easy to communicate in India, especially in larger cities.

If you compare the ease of communication to China, the advantage of India is huge.

This is definitely something that reduces risk when traveling in India.

In all the cases I met Indians, in India or out of India, they have always been great people, gentle, and polite. I’m not saying that everyone in India is a good person, it’s ridiculous.

Bad people can be found everywhere and no country is immune, but the overall atmosphere and engagement with people, is very good.

Mobility within India

India is one of the largest countries in the world in terms of territory. It dominates 3.3 million square kilometers. 

Within this vast area, there are forests, mountains, deserts, plains, and jungles. There is everything. Transportation is carried out by planes, trains, buses, cars, rickshaws, bicycles, animals, you name it.

Is India safe for tourists
Transportation in India

In terms of road accidents, India is not the most dangerous country in the world. There are more dangerous countries with a higher percentage of traffic accidents. See the following table from Wikipedia:

India for tourists - accidents in India
Incredible India - accidents in India

In India, if you choose to take a car, it is best not to drive but to hire someone to do it for you. A local professional driver will save you a lot of headaches.

Besides driving in India, there are very dangerous roads in the mountains, especially in Himachal Pradesh. I spent a month
there with my family.

Is India safe for foreigners
Himachal Pradesh roads are very scary

There are abysses on the sides of the roads, and the ride can certainly be nerve-racking. The area is amazingly beautiful, but people who fear it probably shouldn’t go there. 

Crime in India  

There is no country in the world entirely without crime. As long as there are people, there will be people who endanger others. 

In general, India is definitely not the most dangerous country in the world. In this link, you can find crime statistics in many countries and you can see that there are Western countries that rated higher on the crime table.

However, for severe crimes like murders and rape, India is pretty high on the table. 

It’s clear that there is crime in India, just like in every country, but I don’t think that foreigners will really notice it, which is typical of India, Thailand, Burma, Taiwan, and Japan.

In terms of crime, India is far less dangerous than many other Western countries considered to be safe.

I wandered around Mumbai in the slums of the city center, day and night. I went around with my family in Delhi in many areas of the cities.

My wife traveled for 6 months, alone, or with her mom and her sister (without a man) and never felt threatened in India. There is a sense of security and the people we encountered were always very nice.

The borders of India  

India has a number of areas of tension. One area of tension with China is in the Doklam plateau.

Doklam Plateau

In 2018 the Chinese began to build a road in a territory that belongs to Bhutan. Bhutan called the Indian army for help (which doesn’t share a common border with China at that point) and the Indian army stopped the work. 

Friction and a number of physical confrontations in the area lasted several months but now things are calm there. 

Kashmir

Kashmir is the most known and the most dangerous conflict in India. The Pakistanis claim ownership of the territory under India’s control. The Indians reject their claims, and the Pakistanis maintain a dangerous conflict that is usually under control. 

The Pakistani army usually does not attack directly but uses terrorist organizations, which is a well-known practice in the Muslim world. 

The best way not to risk it is simply to not go to the area. 

India tour, Kahmir area

However, there are quite a few travelers who visit there. I don’t know of any events that have occured with tourists in recent years. Most of the time, the situation in Kashmir is quiet without any special events. Once in a while, there is an incident in the border area.

South China Sea 

In the South China Sea, there is general tension due to Chinese activities in international waters. The Chinese took over riffs in the area and built bases on them.

India tour - the tension with China in the South China Sea

Their general claims were that they wanted to guarantee freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and that the riffs are located in Chinese territory in the South Chinese Sea. Both claims were refuted. 

The claim of belonging was refuted in the International Court of Justice in The Hague in a trial held in 2016 following a lawsuit by the Philippines.

The second claim was refuted after satellite photographs proved that the Chinese bases in the South China Sea were of a military nature.

Through the South China Sea, China challenges India by sending submarines to the Indian Ocean or expanding its expansion into Sri Lanka through extensive economic activity there.

These tensions do not affect nor endanger tourists in India.

Border with China

China and India have a disputed area in Arunachal Pradesh. The conflict began with the delineation of borders made by the British more than seventy years ago. 

This area was the cause of one China-India war in the 1960s. This tension has no effect on tourist in India and there is no relevant danger.

East India 

There is a Maoist (Naxalite) underground in eastern India.

Due to determined action by the Indian government, the activity of the underground has considerably decreased although it is still active and for a certain period, they launched an attack on the Indian army. 

There is no mention of danger for tourists. From my past experience in Nepal, the Maoist underground that operated there for decades waged its war against the government and left the tourists alone. 

Only in certain areas of the Himalayas did they charge tourists. I myself met them, paid money, received a receipt, and continued on my way. 

So all in all, in this aspect, you can say that India is safe for tourists and foreigners.

Castes in India

Hindu society is divided into five different castes:

  • Brahmins – the most senior caste, priestly people
  • Kshatriyas – rulers, administrators and warriors
  • Vaishyas – artisans, merchants, tradesmen and farmers
  • Shudras – laboring classes and servants 
  • Dalith – untouchables 

The legacy of castes in India is very ancient and began more than 3,000 years ago.

Less than two thousand years ago, this structure was determined by a code of laws called Manu Smriti. 

With the establishment of India in 1947, the Indian government initiated a law against the discrimination of the two lower castes and adopted affirmative action in all government positions in their favor.

This structure still exists in India, especially in villages where everyone knows the other. This structure is one of the internal social problems of India but by no means a danger to tourists or foreigners. 

Indian Cuisine

Food in India does not always meet Western standards in terms of Hygiene.

If you eat in hotels or restaurants in the cities, there should be no problem. If you eat in the street, it can be dangerous and you should take precautions.

India cuisine
Indian cuisine – the best!

I will set an example of the rules of caution that I adopted when I was traveling in India:

  • No animal products, no meat, no eggs, no milk, no cheese
  • Drink water only from closed bottles
  • Disinfecting hands before and after eating
  • When entering a restaurant, do not be too “sophisticated” and order complex dishes. It is better to eat popular dishes that are sold a lot in the restaurant. So the chances of the food being spoiled are very small.

I ate with my children and my family everywhere, in roadside restaurants, local restaurants, and home-style restaurants. We managed to survive 🙂

Drugs

Very dangerous. Do not mess with drugs at all.

Although in some places it looks common and even acceptable by the police and you may see plenty of people smoking weed, do not be tempted.

India can be unpredictable in this regard and you probably don’t want to find this out by yourself.

Dress code

India is a conservative society. Indian dress is traditionally non-revealing, so it is not recommended for women to walk around provocatively.

India tour, what not to do in India

Lying on the beach in Goa is one thing, but in general, one must remember that Indian society is a conservative society.

To summarize:

India is a huge country in its territory and in the size of its population, so it has the same dangers as any other country. There are dangers that exist in Western countries but not in India and there are dangers that exist in India but not in other countries.

India is a safe country for tourists and foreigners. It is possible to travel safely in India while maintaining normal precautions.

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