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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for India

India - Consular Information Sheet
June 14, 2000

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: India is an economically developing democratic republic. Tourist facilities varying in degree of comfort and amenities are widely available in the major population centers and main tourist areas.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required for entry into and exit from India for tourism or business. All visitors, including those on official U.S. Government business, must obtain visas at an Indian embassy or consulate abroad prior to entering the country. There are no provisions for visas upon arrival. Those arriving in India without visas bearing the correct validity dates and number of entries are subject to immediate deportation. The U.S Embassy and consulates in India are unable to assist when U.S. citizens arrive without visas.

When a U.S. citizen is issued a replacement passport in India after a passport has been lost or stolen, he/she must take the replacement passport to the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) to receive an exit visa. This exit visa allows the traveler a specified period of time (usually a few days) in which to leave the country legally. Depending on the circumstances and the duration of the stay requested, various fees may be charged. There is a 500 rupee departure tax for all travelers.

For further entry/exit information, contact the Embassy of India at 2536 Massachusetts Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 939-9849 or 939-9806 or the Indian consulates in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Houston. The Internet address of the Embassy of India is http://www.indianembassy.org. Outside the United States, inquiries should be made at the nearest Embassy or Consulate of India.



Terrorism: In July 1995, several Western tourists, including two Americans, were kidnapped by terrorists in Kashmir. One hostage was brutally murdered and one, an American, escaped. The remaining hostages, including one American, have not been released and their whereabouts are unknown. In 1996-1997 New Delhi was the site of numerous terrorist bombing attacks, although recently bombings in New Delhi and elsewhere have dropped to only a few a year. Such bomb blasts have occurred in public places, as well as on public transportation (common carriers), such as trains and buses. While no U.S. citizens were among the victims, other foreign visitors were reported injured. There is no pattern that has emerged in these attacks, nor is there any indication that they are directed against foreigners in general or Americans in particular. Nevertheless, U.S. citizens should be alert to suspicious packages in public places, and avoid crowds, political demonstrations, and other manifestations of civil unrest.

Civil Disturbances: Major civil disturbances pose risks to a traveler’s personal safety and can disrupt transportation systems and city services. In response to such violence, Indian authorities may occasionally impose curfews and/or restrict travel. Political rallies and demonstrations in India have the potential for violence, especially during periods immediately preceding and following elections. In addition, the potential exists for religious and inter-caste violence. While such violence has not usually specifically targeted foreigners, mobs have attacked Christian workers, including foreigners. Missionary activity has aroused strong reactions in some areas, and an Australian missionary and his two sons were murdered by a mob in the eastern state of Orissa in January 1999. Nevertheless, the principal risk for foreigners appears to be that of becoming inadvertent victims. U.S. citizens should contact the U.S. Embassy or the nearest U.S. Consulate for further information about the current situation in areas where they wish to travel.

Areas of Instability: Kashmir - The Department of State strongly urges private U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to the Kashmir Valley and Doda District of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. American and other Western tourists were taken hostage (and at least one murdered) in Kashmir by terrorists in 1995. In 1999 the terrorist organization Harakat-Ul-Mujahideen issued a ban on Americans, including tourists, visiting Kashmir. Within the state, the Leh District of the Ladakh region has been largely unaffected by terrorist violence. Srinagar, the Kashmir valley, and the Doda District of Jammu remain very dangerous places, where terrorist activities and violent civil disturbances continue. An American tourist was fatally shot in Srinagar in 1994; in October 1999 a French tourist was shot and wounded in Srinagar; and in May 2000 a Czech tourist also was shot and wounded. Srinagar also has been the site of a number of car bombings, market bombings, and landmine deaths to date in 2000. In May 2000 a Minister for the state of Jammu and Kashmir was killed in a landmine explosion south of Srinagar. Also in May 2000, rocket propelled grenades were fired at a government building in Srinagar, killing a government employee and wounding others. U.S. government employees are prohibited from traveling to the state of Jammu and Kashmir without permission from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.

Areas of Instability: Northeast States - Sporadic incidents of violence by ethnic insurgent groups, including the bombing of buses and trains, are reported from parts of Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, and Meghalaya. While U.S. citizens have not been specifically targeted, visitors are cautioned not to travel outside major cities at night. Security laws are in force, and the central government has deployed security personnel to several northeast states. Travelers may check with the U.S. Consulate in Calcutta for information on current conditions. (Please see address below.)

Areas of Instability: India-Pakistan border - Tensions run high between India and Pakistan, particularly over Kashmir. The only official India-Pakistan border crossing point is between Atari, India, and Wagah, Pakistan. A Pakistani visa is required for entry to Pakistan.

Both India and Pakistan claim an area of the Karakoram Mountain range that includes the Siachen Glacier. The two countries have military outposts in the region, and armed clashes have occurred. Because of this situation, U.S. citizens traveling to or climbing peaks anywhere in the disputed areas face significant risk of injury and death. The disputed area includes the following peaks: Rimo Peak; Apsarasas I, II and III; Tegam Kangri I, II and III; Suingri Kangri; Ghiant I and II; Indira Col; and Sia Kangri.

Restricted Areas: Permission from the Indian government (from Indian diplomatic missions abroad or in some cases from the Ministry of Home Affairs) is required to visit the states of Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, parts of Kulu District and Spiti District of Himachal Pradesh, border areas of Jammu and Kashmir, some areas of Uttar Pradesh, the area west of National Highway no. 15 running from Ganganagar to Sanchar in Rajasthan, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and the Union Territory of the Laccadive Islands.

CRIME INFORMATION: Petty crime, especially theft of personal property, is common. While violent crime is uncommon, some Westerners, including Americans, have been the subject of robberies and violent attacks that resulted in serious injuries, and in one recent case, death. The common thread for more serious attacks on travelers has been that the individuals were on their own. Travelers are strongly advised not to travel alone in India.

The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State’s pamphlets A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to South Asia for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlets are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C. 20420; via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or from the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Adequate medical care is available in the major population centers, but it is limited in the rural areas of the country.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation and adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Internet home page or by autofax at 202-647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s international traveler’s hotline at telephone 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX(1-888-232-3299), or via CDC’s Internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning traffic safety and road conditions in India is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Condition/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Condition/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Traffic moves on the left in India. Travel by road is dangerous. Outside major cities, main roads and other roads are poorly maintained and always congested. Even main roads often have only two lanes, with poor visibility and inadequate warning markers. Heavy traffic, including overloaded trucks and buses, scooters, pedestrians, and livestock, is the norm. Travel at night is particularly hazardous. In March 1996, a tour bus crashed at night near the city of Agra, claiming the lives of five Americans. A number of other Americans have suffered fatal accidents in recent times.

For specific information concerning Indian driver’s permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Indian National Tourist Organization Offices via the Internet at http://www.tourisminindia.com

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of India’s Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of India’s air carrier operations.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873 or visit the FAA’s Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at 1-618-229-4801.

CUSTOMS CONSIDERATIONS: Indian customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from India of items such as firearms, antiquities, electronic equipment, currency, ivory and other prohibited materials, and gold and gold objects. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of India in Washington or one of India’s consulates in the U.S. for specific information on customs requirements.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Indian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession of, use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in India are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

CONSULAR ACCESS: U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available. Under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, Indian Authorities are required to notify the U.S. Embassy without delay of the arrest or detention of a U.S. citizen. Significant delays in notification have occurred in India, however. U.S. citizens should be prepared to insist on consular access if the Embassy is not notified of their arrest/detention in a timely manner.

U.S. GOVERNMENT ECONOMIC SANCTIONS AGAINST INDIA: Following the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests in May 1998, sanctions were imposed on India and Pakistan under the Glenn Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA). For additional information, consult the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Export Administration (BXA), home page on the Internet at http://www.bxa.doc.gov/entities/.

CHILDREN’S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, refer to the Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: Americans living in or visiting India are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi or at one of the U.S. consulates in India. They may also obtain updated information on travel and security in India and request a copy of the booklet "Guidelines for American Travelers in India."

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