3,287,263 sq km (1,269,219 sq miles).
1.2 billion (2014).
376.1 per sq km.
Head of state:
President Pranab Mukherjee since 2012.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi since 2014.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs have either two or three round pins.
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.
Last updated: 19 October 2015
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. 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 are occur frequently throughout the country and can turn violent, particularly around elections. Transport and public services may be disrupted at short notice.