This is an annual report produced in
conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Consulate in Kolkata,
The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this
report’s publication assesses most of India at Level 2, indicating travelers
should exercise increased caution due to crime and terrorism. Some areas have
increased risk: do not travel to the state of Jammu and Kashmir (except the
eastern Ladakh region and its capital, Leh) due to terrorism and civil unrest;
and do not travel to within ten kilometers of the border with Pakistan due to
the potential for armed conflict.
Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Consulate Kolkata in does not assume
responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or
firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS)
cannot recommend a particular individual or location, and assumes no
responsibility for the quality of service provided.
Review OSAC’s India-specific webpage for original OSAC
reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be
available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
There is moderate risk from crime in Kolkata. Crime
is relatively low for a major city with over 15 million inhabitants. Criminal
acts are not common, but can occur at local markets and tourist areas. Though
Kolkata does experience a full range of criminal activity, most of the crime is
generally non-violent. Petty crime (e.g. theft of personal property) is common
and occurs regularly in local markets, at tourist sites, and on public
transportation (e.g. buses, auto rickshaws). Exercise extra vigilance in major
tourist areas, on overnight trains, and at rail stations and airports.
Foreigners are favorable targets because they often carry a considerable amount
of cash and are easily distracted by the sites.
There are a number of scams that target foreign
travelers. The scams generally target younger travelers and involve suggestions
that money can be made by transporting gems or gold (both of which can result
in arrest) privately or by taking delivery abroad of expensive carpets,
supposedly avoiding customs duties. Most schemes require that the traveler put
up a deposit either to show sincerity or as a down payment or wholesale cost. These
schemes invariably result in the traveler losing all of their money. The
gem/gold is nearly always counterfeit; if it was real, the traveler could be
subject to arrest. Such schemes often pull the unsuspecting traveler in over
the course of several days, and begin with a new friend who offers to show the
traveler the sights, so that the friend or new acquaintance can practice his
English. Offers of cheap lodgings and meals also can place the traveler in the
physical custody of the scam artist, and can leave the traveler at the mercy of
threats or physical coercion. Travelers should deal only with reputable
businesses, and should not give their money unless they are certain that goods
being shipped to them are the goods they purchased.
Violent crime is rare. Women continue to report
incidents of verbal and physical harassment by groups of men. These incidents
can be quite frightening and can cross the line into criminal behavior.
Other Areas of Concern
The government designates certain parts of
India as "restricted areas," and requires special advance permission
to visit. These areas include the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur*, Mizoram*,
Nagaland*, and Sikkim.
*In 2011, the Ministry of Home Affairs
announced that U.S. citizens traveling as tourists would no longer need
Restricted Area Permits to visit Mizoram, Manipur, and Nagaland. The government
has not clarified implementing regulations, however, so travelers should seek
clarification before traveling to these areas.
You can find more information on travel to
restricted/protected areas at India’s Bureau of
You can obtain “Restricted Area Permits" at Indian embassies and
consulates abroad, or from the Ministry of Home Affairs (Foreigners Division)
at Jaisalmer House, 26 Man Singh Road, New Delhi. The states of Mizoram,
Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, and Sikkim all maintain official
guesthouses in New Delhi, each of which also can issue Restricted Area Permits
for their respective states for certain travelers. The Foreigner Registration
Office in Kolkata is located at 237 Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose Road, Kolkata
- 700 020.
Avoid trains, crowds, and travel outside major
cities in India's northeast states (Assam, Manipur, and Meghalaya) at night.
Limit trekking expeditions to routes identified
for this purpose by local authorities. Solicit assistance only from registered
trekking agencies, porters, and guides; suspend trekking after dark; camp at
designated camping places; and ideally travel in groups of 8-10 people.
Be wary of free Wi-Fi in Kolkata, and assume
monitoring of all electronic media communications. Secure electronics in a
hotel safe to prevent theft or loss of data.
For more information, review OSAC’s Report, Security in Transit:
Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Travel by road is dangerous. In Kolkata, road
direction changes twice a day to accommodate huge inflows and outflows of
vehicles during rush hours. Traveling at night is particularly hazardous. The
safest driving policy is to assume that other drivers will not respond to a
traffic situation in the same way you would in the U.S. Road rage is common. Use
caution use while driving. Traffic moves on the left. Buses and trucks often
run red lights and merge directly into traffic at yield points and traffic
circles. Cars, auto-rickshaws, bicycles, and pedestrians behave only slightly
more cautiously. Use your horn or flash your headlights frequently to announce
your presence; doing this is both customary and wise.
Driving in Kolkata can be highly stressful and
difficult for most foreigners to adjust to safely. To self-drive, you must have
either a valid Indian driver’s license or a valid international driver’s
license. Consider hiring a professional driver when visiting the region.
Driving defensively is the best course of action. Avoid driving in rural areas
after dark. For more information on self-driving, review OSAC’s report, Driving Overseas: Best
Remain alert while crossing streets and
intersections, especially after dark as traffic is coming in an unexpected
direction. Exercise extreme caution when crossing streets, even in marked
pedestrian areas. Always wear protective equipment on motorcycles and bicycles.
Outside major cities, roads are often subject
to poor maintenance and severe congestion. Even main roads frequently have only
two lanes, with poor visibility and inadequate warning markers. On the few
divided highways, expect to meet local transportation traveling in the wrong
direction, often without lights. Heavy traffic is the norm and includes (but is
not limited to) overloaded trucks/buses, scooters, pedestrians, animal carts,
bicycles, and free-roaming livestock.
Traffic accidents are a regular occurrence.
Emergency response capabilities are limited. If a driver hits a pedestrian or a
cow, the vehicle and its occupants are at risk of attack from angry mobs. Such
attacks pose significant risk of injury or death to the vehicle's occupants, or
at least of impounding of the vehicle. If it is unsafe to remain at the scene
of an accident, try to reach the nearest police station.
Protestors often use roadblocks as a means of
publicizing their grievances, causing severe inconvenience to travelers.
Visitors should monitor local news reports for any reports of road
Public Transportation Conditions
Buses and trams are overcrowded and poorly
maintained. Buses, patronized by millions of Indians, serve almost every city.
However, drivers are usually fast, reckless, and inconsiderate of the rules of
the road. Accidents are quite common. Crime is covert and involves
Another popular mode of transportation is the
train. Train accidents occur more frequently than in other countries,
especially at night. Theft aboard trains along popular tourist routes is
common. Criminals can drug food/drink offered to passengers. Where possible,
lock your compartment. If you must sleep, position your luggage so that you would
awaken if someone attempted to tamper with it. Alert authorities if you feel
threatened. Extra police often ride trains on routes where crime is a serious
Use metered taxis or hotel vehicles for
transportation. Try to use pre-paid taxi booths for hired transportation. If you
do not have access to a metered taxi, agree on a fare prior to embarking. Only
take taxis clearly identified with official markings, and beware of unmarked
cabs. It is preferable to obtain taxis from hotels rather than from on the
street. Seat belts are not common; if possible, select a vehicle with seat
belts and ask the driver to maintain a safe speed. Never take the advice of
taxi drivers regarding your stay or tourism in Kolkata.
For more information on self-driving, review
OSAC’s report, Travelers' Guide to Indian Transportation Security.
Use caution when taking public transportation
from the airport. Generally, reputable hotels will arrange for airport pickup
and delivery. Never accept rides from individuals claiming to be taxis. If you
must use public transportation, use a pre-paid taxi service from the authorized
taxi stand located just prior to exiting the airport near exit 4A and 4B.
On leaving the airport building, take
precautions; the large crowds and chaotic atmosphere is ideal for pickpockets. Avoid
anyone offering cheap residential accommodation/transportation.
Other Travel Conditions
India offers opportunities for observation of
wildlife in its natural habitat in Assam and West Bengal. Many tour operators
and lodges advertise structured, safe excursions into parks and other wildlife
viewing areas for close observation of flora and fauna. However, safety
standards and training vary. It is a good idea to ascertain whether operators
are trained and licensed.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism
There is considerable risk from terrorism in
Kolkata. Terror attacks are a serious threat to U.S. citizens. Always practice
good personal security, including maintaining a heightened situational
awareness and a low profile. Because the locations of attacks have included
luxury and other hotels, trains, train stations, markets, cinemas, mosques, and
restaurants in large urban areas, it is difficult to modify one's behavior to
lessen the risk. Attacks have taken place during all hours and in markets and
other crowded places. In 2008, several coordinated terrorist attacks occurred
in major cities, to include New Delhi, Mumbai, Patna, Kolkata, and Burdwan,
The U.S. government continues to receive
information that terrorist groups are planning attacks that could take place in
locations throughout the Kolkata consular district and India as a whole.
Incidents of violence (e.g. bombings of buses,
trains, markets) by ethnic insurgent groups are common in parts of Assam,
Manipur, and Meghalaya. While insurgents have not specifically targeted U.S.
citizens, there is a risk visitors could become unintended victims. Security
laws are in force, and the central government has deployed security personnel.
Coordinated attacks in Mumbai in November 2008
and July 2011 targeted areas frequented by Westerners. Anti-Western terrorist
groups and Islamist extremist groups (e.g. Harakat ul-Mujahidin,
Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e Tayyiba, and Harkat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami), some on the
U.S. government's list of foreign terrorist organizations, are active in the
Kolkata consular district.
Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
There is moderate risk from civil unrest in
Kolkata. Demonstrations can occur spontaneously and escalate rapidly, posing
risks to personal safety and disrupting transportation systems and city
services. Authorities occasionally impose curfews and/or restrict travel.
Political rallies and demonstrations have the potential for violence,
especially immediately preceding and following elections.
Avoid political demonstrations and rallies.
While most political demonstrations have been peaceful and orderly, destruction
and/or damage of public municipal transportation is common during bandhs (general strikes), which usually
call for the total shutdown of all services for some period (usually for a day)
as a political protest.
Tensions between castes and religious groups
can result in disruptions and violence. The Gorkhaland statehood movement in
the northernmost district of Darjeeling, West Bengal, is a political movement
for the creation of a new state primarily along ethnic lines. Road blockages
and disruptions to public transportation have been more frequent than in other
areas in the region, and there is a heightened potential for civil unrest that
affects travelers. Travelers should monitor local television, print media, and
U.S. Consulate social media tools for further information about unstable
Northeastern India is highly susceptible to
2016, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck Imphal, Manipur. At least 11 people died,
200 others injured, and numerous buildings damaged.
2015, an 8.1-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal and seriously affected northeast
India, specifically causing serious damage in Sikkim and Darjeeling.
2011, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit Manipur, and a 6.9-magnitude earthquake
struck Sikkim. These earthquakes were felt in Kolkata and continue to cause
serious concern for future events.
During the June-September monsoon season,
Kolkata receives heavy rainfall, overwhelming the underground sewage and
drainage system. There is a history of major flooding in Assam and West Bengal.
Exercise caution if you intend to swim in open waters along the coastline.
Trained lifeguards are rare along the beaches, and the surf can be turbulent.
Heed warnings posted or advised at beaches and avoid swimming in the ocean
during the monsoon season.
Respect animals marketed as “tame” as wild and
extremely dangerous. Keep a safe distance from animals, remaining in vehicles
or other protected enclosures when venturing into game parks. For more
information, review OSAC’s report, When Wildlife Attacks.
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
There have been occasional industrial accidents
India has long been in disagreement with other
industrialized nations over intellectual property rights. Police view these
crimes as a low priority, and there is an abundance of software and music
piracy. Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely
available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the U.S., you may be breaking
local law. Licensing policies favor the country’s generic drug
In 2016, the Indian government announced an
immediate ban on 500 INR and 1000 INR notes. The government required all
remaining 500 INR and 1,000 INR deposited in bank accounts before the end of
the year. In 2017, all old 500 INR and 1000 INR notes became worthless. Be
careful when receiving cash to make sure you do not receive any old notes. In
this largely cash economy, there are occasional shortages of cash, especially
in the countryside. The Indian government may institute withdrawal limits at
banks and ATMs, subject to change.
India’s Constitution does not guarantee a right
to privacy for foreigners or Indian citizens.
Personal Identity Concerns
Women have been subject to targeting of sexual
harassment and assaults in Kolkata. Women should be careful when traveling in/around
Kolkata, maintain heightened awareness, and maintain strong personal security
habits. Women should not travel alone. Women should observe stringent security
precautions (e.g. avoiding using public transport after dark without the
company of known and trustworthy companions, restricting evening entertainment
to well-known venues, and avoiding walking in isolated areas alone at any time
of day). Women should also ensure their hotel room numbers remain confidential,
and insist the doors of their hotel rooms have chains, deadlocks, and spy
holes. Women should hire reliable cars and drivers and avoid traveling alone in
hired taxis, especially during the hours of darkness. For more information,
review OSAC’s report, Female Personnel &
Traveler Security in India.
An 1861 colonial-era law, known as Section 377
of India’s penal code, makes same-sex sexual acts illegal in India, and a
December 2013 Indian Supreme Court ruling confirmed the law. Although
prosecution under Section 377 is rare, LGBTI visitors may wish to avoid drawing
If you plan to engage in religious proselytizing,
Indian law requires you to have a missionary visa. Immigration authorities have
determined that certain activities, including speaking at religious meetings to
which the public is invited, may violate immigration law if the traveler does
not hold a missionary visa. Foreigners with tourist visas who engage in
missionary activity are subject to deportation and possible criminal
prosecution. The states of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh,
Madhya Pradesh, and Arunachal Pradesh have legislation that regulates or places
restrictions on conversion from one religious faith to another. If you intend
to engage in missionary activity, seek legal advice to determine whether the
activities you intend to pursue are legal under Indian law.
While in India, individuals with disabilities
may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in
the United States. Despite legislation that all public buildings and transport
be accessible for disabled people, accessibility remains limited.
There has been an uptick in illegal drugs
transiting India. The use of "club drugs" is also on the rise. Most
of the drugs that are illegal in the U.S. are also illegal in India. Some Indian
drug laws are stricter than those in the U.S. Officials conduct major anti-drug
operations, especially at transportation hubs (e.g. airports, train stations).
Plain-clothed narcotics officers frequent clubs and hotels in attempts to
apprehend drug users and dealers.
Criminals have targeted tourists whose first
language is not English for express kidnappings, where they befriend travelers by
speaking their native language and then hold them for days while the emptying
the victim’s bank account. There are reports that express kidnappers held some
women for weeks and allegedly repeatedly raped them. For more information,
review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.
Overall, police assistance is fair for local
citizens, with a typical response time of 30+ minutes. It may take several
years for a case to be heard in court.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or
In case of police detention or harassment, contact
the U.S. Consulate General in Kolkata at +91-33-3984-2400 and ask for American
Citizen Services (ACS). Arrested U.S. travelers have a right to notify, or have
officials notify, the nearest U.S. Embassy/Consulate. Insist on this as a right,
since authorities often overlook it. Though the Embassy and Consulates may not
intervene in legal matters, they can provide information on lawyers and the
local justice system, visit you on a regular basis, and serve as a liaison with
parties approved by you.
Crime Victim Assistance
The emergency line in India is 100.
If you or someone you know becomes the victim
of a crime abroad, contact the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy/Consulate.
The nearest U.S. Consulate can help you replace a stolen passport. Immediately
report the theft/loss to the police where the theft occurred. The Indian
government requires a police report, called the First Information Report (FIR),
to obtain an exit visa. Although the Consulate is able to replace a stolen or
lost passport, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs and the Foreigners Regional
Registration Office (FRRO) are responsible for approving an exit visa. This
process can take three to four working days. If you are a victim of crime, you must
obtain a copy of the FIR from local police at the time of reporting the
incident. A copy of this report is helpful for insurance purposes in replacing
lost valuables. Local authorities generally are unable to take any meaningful
action without the filing of a police report.
The Kolkata Police Department and local police
throughout northeast India are professional; however, training and equipment
may not be up to the same standard as in the U.S. Police typically are limited
in their ability to respond to emergencies due to the lack of transportation
and communications systems. Calls for service often take 30 minutes at
For medical emergencies, the number for
ambulance service number in Kolkata is 102
(local), and the fire service number is 101.
Ambulances are not equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment. Local
traffic does not yield to emergency vehicles. It is often more timely to
proceed to the hospital using private transportation than to wait for an
The quality of medical care varies
considerably. Medical care that approaches and occasionally meets Western
standards is available in the major population centers, but adequate medical
care is usually very limited or unavailable in rural areas.
Medical tourism is a rapidly growing industry.
Companies offering vacation packages bundled with medical consultations and
financing options provide direct-to-consumer advertising over the Internet.
Such medical packages often claim to provide high quality care, but the quality
of health care is highly variable. People seeking health care should understand
that medical systems operate differently from those in the U.S. and are not
subject to the same rules and regulations. Anyone interested in traveling for
medical purposes should consult with their local physician before traveling and
refer to the information from CDC. For more information, review OSAC’s report, Medical Tourism Surging.
Contact Information for Available Medical
The U.S. Embassy and Consulates maintain lists
of local doctors and hospitals on their websites.
Available Air Ambulance Services
Two air ambulance companies operate in the
Kolkata consular district: International
SOS and Europ Assistance.
You cannot assume your insurance will go with
you when you travel. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctor
and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy does not go with you
when you travel, it is a very good idea to take out another one for your trip.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health
Altitudes in popular trekking spots can be higher
than 20,000 feet; make sure that you have had a recent medical checkup to
assure that you are fit to trek and cycle at these altitudes. For more information, refer to OSAC’s Report Traveling in High
The CDC offers
additional information on vaccines and health guidance for India.
Country Council Information
The Kolkata Country Council meets annually. Interested
private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s South
& Central Asia team with any questions.
Consulate Location and Contact Information
Consulate Address and Hours of Operation
5/1 Ho Chi Minh Sarani, Kolkata, 700071
Monday-Friday, 0800 to 1700.
Consulate Contact Numbers
Nearby Posts: Embassy New Delhi, Consulate Chennai,
Presence Post Bangalore
American citizens register in the State
Department’s Smart Traveler
(STEP) to receive information from the U.S. Consulate
in event of an emergency.
Additional Resource: India Country Information Sheet