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Travel to India: Essential Tips for a Safe and Enjoyable Trip

American tourist in India

Traveling to India can be an incredible experience, but you have to be well-prepared to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. With its rich culture, deep history, and stunning natural beauty, India offers numerous fascinating tourist attractions and incredible vacation destinations. However, there are also potential pitfalls and dangers if you don’t prepare and plan effectively.

India is a remarkable travel destination, brimming with ancient sites, awe-inspiring architecture, and modern marvels. The country’s diverse population, varied geography, and wide-ranging climate add to its unique appeal.

As the world’s second most populous country and the seventh largest by land area, India offers a vast array of sights and activities. Such a large destination requires careful consideration. Thorough planning is essential to make the most of your visit and to navigate the complexities of this diverse and vibrant nation.

Table of Contents

India Travel Document Requirements

Foreign visitors are required to have both a valid passport and a travel visa when visiting India.

A valid passport with at least 6 months of validity and at least 2 blank pages is one of the required travel documents to enter India. Regulations change occasionally so it is always best to verify the newest updates before your trip. Be sure to check out our complete guide to India’s passport requirements.

A travel visa is also required documentation when traveling to India. For a complete list of requirements and step-by-step instructions for obtaining a visa to India, please refer to our India Visa Guide.

In a hurry? Apply online for expedited visa service.

Currency in India

a pile of Indian rupee paper currency

India’s currency is the rupee (INR). Before traveling, you can obtain rupees from most banks, travel agencies, and even AAA. Upon arrival in India, ATMs, which are abundant in most populated areas, typically offer favorable exchange rates. While Indian banks, hotels, and travel services are also options for obtaining rupees, their rates are often higher than ATM fees and the conversion rates charged by American banks. To avoid having your card frozen, be sure to inform your bank about your travel plans.

If you are traveling with U.S. currency, be aware that any amount over $5,000 must be declared. For large amounts of currency, it’s advisable to contact the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Additionally, India allows up to 25,000 rupees to be brought into or out of the country without any formal declaration. Any amount exceeding this limit must be declared.

Indian Customs Regulations

When traveling to India, it’s crucial to be aware of the country’s customs regulations to avoid any legal issues. Indian customs strictly prohibit the import or export of certain items. Familiarizing yourself with these regulations can help ensure a smooth and trouble-free entry into the country.

Indian customs regulations prohibit the import or export of the following items:

  • Illegal drugs
  • Counterfeit money and goods
  • Firearms and ammunition (prior permission required)
  • Knives and deadly weapons
  • Pets and other live animals (prior permission required)
  • Birds and bird products (e.g., eggs and feathers)
  • Pigs and pig meat products
  • Endangered plants of any kind
  • Plants and plant products (prior permission required)
  • Radio transmitters
  • Satellite phones
  • Culturally important or valuable antiques
  • Pornographic or obscene material

It is essential not to attempt to enter India with any of these items mentioned above in your possession—on your person or in your luggage. The Indian authorities take these regulations very seriously, and violations can result in fines, arrests, or deportation.

Crime in India

Traveling in India requires caution, especially when venturing away from main tourist centers. 

Women, in particular, need to be vigilant, as cases of sexual harassment and assault have increased significantly in recent years, posing a serious threat to female travelers.

To stay well-informed and better prepared for visiting India, please refer to the most up-to-date travel advisories

That said, with the proper precautions taken, India can be a safe place to visit. While staying in India, follow these security measures:

  • Travel with a group.
  • Enroll in the Safe Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
  • Keep friends and family informed about your travel itinerary and whereabouts.
  • Stick to tourist-friendly locations instead of exploring off-the-grid areas.
  • Always carry a charged, GPS-enabled cell phone.
  • Dress modestly; travelers in India are advised to respect local customs and dress codes, as Indian men and women typically wear conservative clothing in their daily lives.
  • Keep valuables and travel documents secure or locked in a hotel safe.
  • Do not accept free rides, food, or drinks from strangers.

Consulate Access in India

India hosts four U.S. consulates, each serving travelers visiting different regions within the country:

1. U.S. Consulate General Mumbai

  • The Consulate General in Mumbai serves travelers visiting the states of Goa, Gujarat, Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Diu and Daman, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Mumbai.
  • Website: U.S. Consulate General Mumbai (Bombay)
  • Address:
    C-49, G-Block
    Bandra Kurla Complex
    Bandra East, Mumbai 400051
  • Telephone: +(91) (22) 2672-4000
  • Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(91) (22) 2672-4000
    (NOTE: If you are calling from within India, but outside Mumbai, you must first dial 022.)
  • Fax: 91-(0)22-2672-4786
  • Email: mumbaiacs@state.gov 

2. U.S. Consulate General in Chennai

  • The Consulate General in Chennai serves travelers visiting the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and the Union Territories of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Pondicherry, and Lakshwadeep Islands.
  • Website: U.S. Consulate General Chennai (Madras)
  • Address:
    220 Anna Salai at Gemini Circle
    Chennai, India 600006
  • Telephone: +(91) (44) 2857-4000 American Citizen Services.
    (NOTE: Within India, but outside Chennai, first dial 044. From the United States, first dial 011-(91) (44) )
  • Fax: +(91) (044) 2811-202
  • Email: chennaics@state.gov 

3. U.S. Consulate General in Hyderabad

  • The Consulate General in Hyderabad serves travelers visiting the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Odisha.
  • Website: U.S. Consulate General Hyderabad
  • Address:
    Paigah Palace
    1-8-323, Chiran Fort Lane
    Begumpet, Secunderabad 500 003
    Hyderabad, India
  • Telephone: +(91) (40) 4033-8300
    Emergency After-Hours Telephone: 4033-8300 and ask for American Citizen Services.
    (NOTE: If calling from within India, but outside Hyderabad, first dial 040. From the United States, first dial 011-(91) (40) .)
  • Fax: 4033-8306
  • Email: hydacs@state.gov 

4. U.S. Consulate General in Kolkata

  • The United States Consulate General in Kolkata serves travelers visiting the states of Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Tripura, and Assam.
  • Website: U.S. Consulate General Kolkata (Calcutta)
  • Address: 5/1 Ho Chi Minh Sarani
  • Kolkata – 700 071,
    West Bengal, India
  • Telephone: +(91) (33) 3984-2400
  • Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(91) 99030 42956 or +(91) (33) 3984-2400, then dial “0”
  • Fax: +(91) (33) 2282-2335
  • Email: kolkataACS@state.gov

These consulates play a crucial role in promoting U.S.-India relations and assisting U.S. citizens while in India. If you need any specific information or assistance, feel free to reach out to them.

Restricted Areas in India

Certain regions in India are designated as “restricted areas” by the Indian Government and require special advance permission to visit. These areas include:

  • The state of Mizoram
  • The state of Manipur
  • The state of Arunachal Pradesh
  • The state of Nagaland
  • The state of Sikkim
  • Portions of Himachal Pradesh near the Chinese border
  • Portions of Uttarakhand (Uttaranchal) near the Chinese border
  • Portions of Rajasthan near the Pakistani border
  • Portions of Jammu & Kashmir near the Line of Control with Pakistan
  • The Andaman & Nicobar Islands
  • The Union Territory of the Laccadives Islands (Lakshadweep)
  • The Tibetan colony in Mundgod, Karnataka

Travelers planning to visit these areas must obtain the necessary permissions in advance.

Understanding Dual Nationality and the Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) Program

India does not recognize dual nationality. Instead, the country offers the Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) program. Although it doesn’t grant Indian citizenship, the OCI card functions similarly to a U.S. green card. It allows properly credentialed U.S. citizens to travel to and from India indefinitely, work, study, and own property in India (with exceptions for certain agricultural and plantation lands).

While U.S. citizens with an OCI card enjoy many of the same privileges as Indian citizens regarding work and residence, they retain their U.S. citizenship. This program provides a valuable opportunity for U.S. citizens to engage with India on a long-term basis without renouncing their original nationality.

Health and Medical Issues When Traveling to India

Before traveling to India, ensure you have adequate medical insurance coverage, as your American policy may not cover you abroad.

Updating your vaccinations before traveling is also recommended. The most essential vaccines include:

  • Rabies
  • Influenza
  • Tuberculosis
  • Malaria

To minimize the risk of illness while in India, avoid eating street food and drinking tap water.

Timing your travel is also important. Dengue fever, a mosquito-borne illness, is a persistent risk across India. The highest transmission period is from July to December, with September and October being the worst months. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and using mosquito repellent are critical precautions.

Medical tourism is a growing trend in India, attracting people from around the world seeking exceptional care from leading doctors at affordable rates. According to the U.S. Department of State, “Medical care in major population centers approaches and occasionally meets Western standards.” However, please be advised that the quality of medical care varies greatly due to factors such as geography—rural areas often lack adequate medical access—and the type of treatment required.

India’s Geography

India features three major geographical regions, making it an ideal destination for those seeking environmental diversity.

Those regions are:

  1. Himalayas: This rugged, mountainous region in the north is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and challenging terrain.
    The Great Himalayas protect India from the chilling winds of China. This mountain range offers spectacular scenic views and some of the most challenging climbs and hikes for outdoor adventurers.
  2. Indo-Gangetic Plain: Located in the northern part of the country, this region is the heart of India’s large-scale agriculture.
    The vast plains of central India are nourished by some of the world’s most prominent rivers. The Ganges River flows across the country, providing essential irrigation and food resources to nearly the entire nation. For visitors, the Ganges also offers legendary white water rafting challenges.
  3. Peninsula Region: Found in the southern and central portions of India.
    The Deccan Plateau in the south, along with the Indian Ocean coastline, covers over 160,000 square miles and accounts for 43% of India’s total landmass. This region adds to India’s rich geographical diversity, offering unique landscapes and experiences for travelers.

Top Areas of Interest in India

India is home to countless unique wonders that cannot be experienced anywhere else in the world. Historically, India is one of the richest countries in the world. The Indus Valley, dating back to nearly 3000 BC, was home to the oldest civilization in history.

Religious Temples

Lotus Temple in New Delhi, India

India is the birthplace of several of the world’s largest religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism. As a result, the country is dotted with numerous awe-inspiring shrines, monuments, and temples. While some sites are partially or entirely restricted to tourists, many breathtaking spiritual sites are open to the public.

When visiting these sites, be sure to respect local customs and follow dress codes to avoid offending.

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal in twilight

The Taj Mahal, an embodiment of love, was built by the Mughal ruler Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Recognized as one of the seven wonders of the modern world, it is open to visitors from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes before sunset, and also from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on the night of the full moon. Tickets must be purchased from the Ministry of Culture website.

Expert travelers recommend visiting the Taj Mahal between November and February to avoid the rainy season and extreme heat.


View of Delhi skyline from above during the daytime

Delhi, the political capital of India, is also one of its most historic cities. The bustling streets offer local bazaars, exciting festivals, exceptional restaurants, and astounding architectural marvels. However, visitors should be prepared for litter and signs of poverty, which are common in the capital.

One of Delhi’s most significant historical destinations is the Red Fort, built by the same architect as the Taj Mahal when Mughal emperor Shah Jahan moved the capital to Delhi in 1638.

As the capital, Delhi is a crucial hub for transportation, education, and the Indian economy. The city hosts important government buildings, business headquarters, and prestigious universities. If you have business in India, you will likely find yourself in Delhi at some point.

Mumbai (Formerly Bombay)

Mumbai skyline during the day

If Delhi is India’s political capital, then Mumbai is its business capital. Home to Dalal Street, India’s equivalent of Wall Street, Mumbai is a witness to the country’s economic fluctuations. It is also a popular destination for some of the best eateries and nightlife in India.

Culturally, Mumbai is more diverse than other parts of India, hosting a constant blend of various religions and nationalities. The city features magnificent temples, palaces, and monuments, some from British colonial rule and others significant to India’s diverse religions.

Mumbai is also home to Bollywood, the Indian film industry. Tours of Film City in the western suburb of Goregaon are available, offering a glimpse into this vibrant aspect of Indian culture.

Hotels in India

Fairmont Hotel, Jaipur, India

With India being such a major tourist destination, finding a hotel is usually not a problem. However, every tourist, whether local or foreign, should plan their trip well in advance to find a hotel that best suits their needs.

Key Considerations for Choosing a Hotel in India

Before selecting a hotel for your trip to India, consider the following questions:

  • What are your individual interests and needs?
  • Are you seeking relaxation, adventure, or both?
  • Are creature comforts essential, or do you prefer the seclusion of a log cabin in the woods?
  • Would you prefer five-star luxury or old-world charm?
  • What is your budget? Are you prepared to spend a premium, or are you looking to experience India on a shoestring?

The answers to these questions will help narrow down your search for the best accommodations to suit your preferences and needs.

Location Matters

When planning your trip to India, consider the optimal location for your hotel. For instance, if you have a specific interest, such as visiting a wildlife reserve, it makes sense to stay as close to it as possible rather than booking a hotel that requires lengthy commuting.

Diverse Hotel Options in India

The hotel options in India are as diverse as the country itself. Depending on your needs and preferences, there are multiple options to consider:

  • Five-Star Hotels
    Often owned by prestigious names in the Indian hotel industry, such as Taj or Oberoi, these hotels offer the ultimate in comfort and excellence in service. While most of these chains have hotels in major Indian destinations, this level of hospitality comes at a price.
  • Heritage Hotels
    Originally former palaces or mansions belonging to India’s erstwhile princes or nobility, these have been converted into hotels. For a price, tourists can experience the history and romance of India’s former royalty. Heritage hotels can be found in states like Jodhpur, Rajasthan, Mysore, and Hyderabad.
  • Eco-Friendly Hotels
    These hotels offer a close communion with nature during your stay. Most are located in scenic areas such as forest reserves, hill stations, or ecologically sensitive zones. While many are committed to preserving natural resources, others may use eco-friendly language and labels as a marketing gimmick.
  • Wellness Centers and Spas
    India is home to the holistic science of Ayurveda, and there are dedicated Ayurveda hotels that provide massages, detoxification, and fitness routines to rejuvenate the body and soul. Kerala, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Rishikesh, and Rajasthan are popular locations for medical tourism in India.
  • Budget Hotels
    While many budget hotels offer decent accommodation and excellent food, the quality can vary significantly. Some have pleasant surroundings in prime locales, while others may be no better than congested motels or hostels.

By carefully considering your preferences and planning ahead, you can find the perfect accommodation to enhance your travel experience in India.

India’s Festivals and Holidays

fireworks display over city in India

To fully immerse yourself in India’s rich culture, consider visiting during Diwali, an amazing festival and national holiday that lasts from mid-October to mid-November. Keep in mind that popular tourist destinations will be more crowded, but you’ll experience vibrant celebrations and unique sights. If you prefer a less crowded vacation, visit at another time of year.

India is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, with numerous religions practiced within its borders, including Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. This diversity results in a long list of observed religious holidays.

Certain regions of India have a dominant religion, so it’s helpful to research your destination to know what holidays to expect. India has three official national holidays observed nationwide, as well as several religious holidays that are also nationally recognized. Note that no alcohol is sold on these days.

National Holidays

  • Republic Day (January 26): This day marks the adoption of the Constitution of India in 1950, replacing the Government of India Act. The largest celebration takes place in New Delhi, in front of the President of India at the Rajpath.
  • Independence Day (August 15): This day commemorates India’s independence from Britain in 1947. The main celebrations occur in New Delhi, where the Prime Minister hoists the national flag at the Red Fort. Across the country, flags are raised, parades are held, and the national colors are proudly worn.
  • Gandhi Jayanti (October 2): Celebrated as Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, Gandhi Jayanti is also observed internationally as the Day of Non-Violence. Tributes and prayer services are held throughout India, especially at Gandhi’s memorial, Rajghat, in New Delhi.

Nationally Observed Religious Holidays

Below is a list of national religious holidays and festivals celebrated in India:

  • Nag Panchami (Hindu): Hindu married women visit their premarital family home to celebrate the well-being of their family as part of their worship of cobras.
  • Dussehra (Hindu): A festival dedicated to worshiping Durga, a Hindu deity.
  • Diwali (Hindu): One of the most iconic Hindu festivals, also known as the Festival of Lights. Clay lamps filled with oil are lit to symbolize good over evil, and firecrackers are set off. Families gather to share snacks and sweets.
  • Christmas Day (Christian): The commemoration of the birth of Jesus.
  • Day of Ashura (Islamic): The climax of the mourning of Muharram marks the anniversary of the death of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson in the Battle of Karbala.
  • Mawlid (Islamic): Celebrates the birthday of Prophet Muhammad.
  • Eid ul-Fitr (Islamic): Marks the end of the Ramadan fast, also known as the Sweet Festival.
  • Eid al-Adha (Islamic): Honors Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son on God’s command, as well as his son’s willingness to be sacrificed. This holiday is also referred to as the Feast of the Sacrifice.

It is important to be aware of the different holidays in India so you can plan your trip appropriately, whether you want to participate in the various activities and festivals or avoid the hustle and bustle altogether.

Have a Great Trip to India!

India offers a diverse and enriching travel experience, filled with historical significance, cultural depth, and natural beauty. By planning ahead and staying informed about the country’s customs, regulations, and health considerations, you can ensure a safe and memorable trip. Whether you’re exploring ancient temples, enjoying vibrant festivals, or navigating bustling cities, India promises an adventure like no other.

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About the Author: For over 20 years, the U.S. Passport Service Guide team has helped hundreds of thousands of travelers with their travel document questions and shared advice about how to make traveling abroad simpler, safer, and more enjoyable.

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