This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional
Security Office at the U.S. Consulate General in Chennai. OSAC encourages
travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in southern
India. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s country-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact
information, some of which may be available only to private-sector
representatives with an OSAC password.
The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication
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.
Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the
Consular Travel Advisory System
The region covered by the U.S. Consulate General includes the
states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka, and the union territories of
Puducherry and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Overall Crime & Safety Situation
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Chennai as
being a MEDIUM-threat location for crime directed at or affecting
official U.S. government interests.
Chennai, the capital city of the State of Tamil Nadu, is
regarded as one of the safest cities in India. Violent crimes in Chennai,
especially ones directed against foreigners, have traditionally been
uncommon. The greater Chennai metropolitan area contains over 12 million
people, making it the fourth-largest urban area in India. Petty crime,
especially theft of personal property, is common, particularly on trains or
buses. Pickpockets can be very adept. Women have reported having their bags
snatched, purse straps cut, or the bottom of their purses slit without their
knowledge. Pickpocketing occurs routinely on public transport systems. Do not
carry large sums of money or display expensive jewelry or
electronics. Review OSAC’s report, All That You Should
Be self-aware and use good personal security practices to help
reduce your chance of becoming a target. For example, ensure all windows and
doors are locked at your residence, hotel room, and vehicle, and verify
valuables are secured and out of plain sight. Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels:
The Inns and Outs and
Police officials recommend that foreign travelers register with the
local police when traveling to their district. Observe stringent security
precautions, including avoiding using public transport after dark without the
company of known and trustworthy companions. Restrict evening entertainment to
well-known venues and avoiding walking in isolated areas alone at any time of day.
Carry a mobile phone with pre-programmed emergency contact numbers, and respect
local dress and custom, with an emphasis on dressing conservatively.
India has over 450 million monthly active internet
users. South India is a major hub of information technology (IT). The
large presence of IT companies and IT skilled workforce can create an
environment of increased cybersecurity risk. Cybercrimes such as theft of
financial information, identity theft, and ATM skimmers have become a
significant concern in India. Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for
Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile
Devices: Trends & Best Practices, The Overseas Traveler’s
Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud, Taking Credit, and Satellite Phones:
Critical or Contraband?
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Travel by road in India is dangerous. India leads the world in
traffic-related deaths, and a number of U.S. citizens have had fatal traffic
accidents in recent years. Drivers must have either a valid Indian
driver’s license or a valid international driver’s permit with a valid U.S. state’s
driver’s license. Because of difficult road and traffic conditions, consider
hiring a local driver. Most Indian cities lack marked pedestrian
crossings, at-grade crossings, and pavement on many roads. It is difficult to
cross certain roads because there are no traffic signals; motorists may
disregard traffic laws and signals.
Traffic in India travels on the left; it is therefore important to
exercise extreme caution when crossing streets and intersections, even in
marked pedestrian areas. Chennai reported 361 pedestrians
killed in road accidents in 2018. Helmets are required while riding on
motorcycles and bicycles. If a vehicle hits a pedestrian or a cow, it and its
occupants are at risk of being attacked by angry mobs. Such attacks pose
significant risk of injury or death to the vehicle's occupants, or at
least impounding of the vehicle. It is unsafe to remain at the scene. If
involved in such an accident, try to reach the nearest police station.
Driving under the influence of alcohol with a blood-alcohol level
that exceeds 30mg per 100ml as detected by a breath analyzer is punishable
under Indian law. Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best
Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety
Public Transportation Conditions
Public transportation, such as buses trains, and metro rail,
are in wide use and often crowded. When using public transportation,
always exercise caution with your bags and refrain from announcing the details
of your identity and travel plans.
Avoid using private unmarked buses/taxis, as many who have used
these as a means of transportation have fallen victim to crime. The safest form
of travel is ridesharing applications such as Uber, Ola, or auto rickshaw (tuk
tuk), all of which are widely available. Interstate trains are safer than
buses, but train accidents still occur more frequently than in other countries.
Protesters in India often use roadblocks to publicize their
grievances. Monitor local news for reports of road disturbances. Tamil
Nadu has a highly developed, dense, and modern transportation infrastructure,
encompassing both public and private transport. Chennai is well-connected by
land, sea, and air, and serves as a major hub for entry into South
India. Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit:
Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the
Government of India’s Civil Aviation Authority as compliant with International
Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of
India’s air carrier operations. Tamil Nadu’s major international airport,
Chennai International Airport (MAA), is the fourth-busiest in India by
passenger traffic and the country’s third-largest cargo hub. Other
international airports in the state are Coimbatore International Airport (CJB)
and Tiruchirapalli International Airport (TRZ). Madurai Airport (IXM) is a
customs airport with limited international flights. Salem Airport (SXV)
and Thoothukudi Airport (TCR) are domestic airports.
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Chennai as
being a HIGH-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting
official U.S. government interests. India continues to experience
terrorist and insurgent activities that can affect U.S. citizens directly or
indirectly. Terror attacks have targeted public places (e.g. hotels, trains,
train stations, markets, cinemas, mosques, and restaurants in large urban
areas) including some frequented by foreigners.
A number of terrorist groups operate in India. Many are seeking
political recognition, and their attacks are not aimed at killing people; as a
result, most terrorist attacks in India produce few casualties. Maoists
(“Naxalites”) are the most active insurgent group in India. The Naxalites
typically attack government officials/buildings, and destroy public
institutions (derailing rail lines). While they are responsible for more
terrorist attacks in India than any other organization, they have not
specifically targeted U.S. citizens or foreigners, but there is a risk that
visitors could become unintended victims of indiscriminate
targeting. There is Maoist presence in the “Tri-Junction” area, where
Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu states converge. Violent clashes with police
and security forces have occurred. Although the U.S. government does not place
this region off-limits, government personnel are strongly discouraged from
traveling to this area for non-essential purposes. All three states have
dedicated anti-Maoist police forces who track Maoist activities.
Anti-Western terrorist groups, including some on the U.S.
Government's list of foreign terrorist organizations, are active in India,
including Islamist extremist groups such as Harkat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami (HUJI),
Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM), Indian Mujahideen (IM), Jaish-e-Mohammed, and
Lashkar-e Tayyiba (LeT).
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Chennai as
being a MEDIUM-threat location for political violence directed at
or affecting official U.S. government interests.
There is moderate risk from civil unrest in Chennai. Political
violence is possible in any of the major cities of India. Beyond the threat
from terrorism and insurgencies, demonstrations and general strikes (bandh)
often cause inconvenience. In response, Indian authorities occasionally impose
curfews and/or restrict travel. Be mindful of curfews and travel restrictions.
Avoid demonstrations and rallies, as they can potentially turn
Chennai has a history of large demonstrations. The police handle
these professionally when they have advance notice and can plan adequately. The
city also experiences spontaneous demonstrations and incidents of violence that
can disrupt traffic flow and cause damage to property before the police are
able to respond. These protests usually occur with little or no warning, and
the police are quick to intervene. This intervention has, upon occasion,
resulted in violent clashes between police and protestors. Review OSAC’s
report, Surviving a Protest.
Religious violence occasionally occurs in India, especially when
different political/non-political groups purposefully aggravate tensions
between different religious communities. Large religious gatherings that
attract thousands of people can result in dangerous and even life-threatening
Vigilantes have attacked and killed foreigners accused of
proselytizing to Hindus in conservative, rural areas in the past. Bursts of
violence targeting U.S. facilities have occurred. Maintain respect and
sensitivity to others’ political and religious views. In times of instability,
seek guidance from the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate for appropriate
In September 2018, India’s Supreme Court ruled against a ban on
girls and women of “childbearing” age (between the ages of 10 and 50) from
entering Sabarimala temple, a prominent Hindu temple in southern Kerala state,
upholding their right to equality of worship. In early 2019, news that two women
below the age of 50 entered the temple triggered violent clashes, including
between supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the state’s ruling
Communist Party (CPM). Protests are unlikely to target U.S. citizens; however,
avoid areas with demonstrations and civil disturbances, keep a low profile, and
monitor local media for updates. Even the most peaceful demonstration can turn
violent without advance notice, which also includes the possibility of harsh
Natural disasters in India, many of them related to the climate,
occasionally cause massive loss of life and property. Droughts, flash floods,
cyclones, avalanches, and landslides brought on by torrential rains pose the
Tamil Nadu lies in the southern part of the Indian peninsula, with
more than 1,000 kilometers of coastline vulnerable to cyclones and floods. In
2015, floods resulted from heavy rainfall during the annual northeast monsoon,
which caused water release from local reservoirs that were threatening to
overflow. Tamil Nadu and the city of Chennai were hit particularly hard, and
more than 400 people died. In 2019, Chennai was hit with a severe drought.
All local water supplies dried up and limited amounts of water were
brought in from other parts of Southern India. As a result, local
authorities and businesses began working on ways to conserve and/or re-use
water supplies to prevent this from reoccurring.
Air pollution in India is a critical concern due to the burning of
wood and other biomass, fuel adulteration, vehicle emissions, and traffic
congestion. In autumn and winter months, large-scale crop burning in
agricultural fields is a major source of smoke, smog, and particulate
There are long-standing points of contention concerning India’s
record on the protection of intellectual property rights. Police generally view
these crimes as a low priority for enforcement; as a result, software and music
the Indian government determines withdrawal limits at banks
and ATMs, and these are subject to change.
Personal Identity Concerns
Females should avoid traveling alone. There are numerous reported
incidents from foreign women of verbal and physical harassment by groups of
men. South India is known for conservative and traditional social mores. Women
traveling in South India should respect local dress and customs and
dress modestly. Even wearing short pants in some areas can be viewed as provocative.
Indian government statistics in 2018 showed 33,356 rape cases, of
which 27 were reported by foreigners. Recent sexual attacks against females in
tourist areas underline that foreign women are also at risk and should exercise
vigilance. While India is generally safe for foreign visitors, rape continues
to be a growing crime. Review the State Department’s webpage on security
for female travelers.
In September 2018, the Supreme Court of India struck down a
colonial-era section of the Indian Penal Code, which had criminalized same-sex
relations. The LGBT community still faces discrimination and violence in many
sectors of society, particularly in rural regions. Tamil Nadu, while more
progressive (as the first state with a transgender welfare board), is still a
deeply conservative state. A significant amount of homophobia remains among the Indian
populace, with around half of Indians objecting to same-sex relationships.
Crimes against the LGBT community are frequent. Review the State
Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.
While in India, individuals with disabilities may find
accessibility and accommodation very different than in the United States.
Despite legislation that all public buildings and transport be accessible for
disabled people, accessibility remains limited. Review the State Department’s
webpage on security for travelers with
Those planning to engage in religious proselytizing must have a
"missionary" visa. Immigration authorities have determined that
certain activities, including speaking at religious meetings to which the
general public is invited, may violate immigration law without 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. Those intending to engage in missionary activity
should seek legal advice to determine whether the activities they intend to
pursue are permitted under Indian law. Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice, and the State Department’s webpage on security
for faith-based travelers.
There has been an increase in the amount of illegal drugs
transiting through India. Most of the drugs that are illegal in the U.S. are
also illegal in India. Some drug laws are stricter than those in the United
States. Indian officials conduct major anti-drug operations, especially at
transportation hubs. Undercover narcotics officers frequent clubs and hotels in
attempts to apprehend drug users and dealers. Several U.S. citizens have been
arrested at Indian airports for attempting to smuggle illegal drugs from
India. All claimed that they did not realize they were carrying
narcotics. Never transport or mail packages that do not belong to you,
and maintain direct control of your luggage at all times.
Tamil Nadu has air and sea ports in close proximity to Sri Lanka
and Southeast Asia. As a consequence, the state serves as a transit
point for narcotics smugglers moving their merchandise internationally.
Kidnapping of foreigners is rare, but travelers should remain
vigilant and maintain situational awareness at all times. Kidnappings of
children and women in the local community occur with some frequency; many
likely go unreported. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics
The Indian Government designates certain parts of the country as
"restricted areas" and requires special advance permission to visit.
The areas U.S. Consulate General in Chennai is responsible for include portions
of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and all areas of Lacadive, Minicoy,
and Amindivi Islands. Find more information on travel to restricted/protected
areas at India’s Bureau of Immigration website.
“Restricted Area Permits" are available outside India at Indian embassies
and consulates abroad, or in India from the Ministry of Home Affairs
(Foreigners Division) at Jaisalmer House, 26 Man Singh Road, New Delhi. The
states of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim maintain official guesthouses in New
Delhi, which can also issue “Restricted Area Permits” for their respective
states for certain travelers.
Exercise caution while visiting Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) in
Tamil Nadu; the Indira Gandhi Atomic Research Center, Kalpakkam, is located
just south of the site, and is not clearly marked as a restricted and dangerous
For emergency services, dial 112 from
a cell phone; from a land line, dial 100 for
police. The ratio of police officers to citizens is approximately one
officer per 632 citizens. While the numbers of reported incidents increase
every year, many more incidents go unreported. There is a common perception
among Indians that the police are corrupt and untrustworthy. In some
cases, police officers have been involved in crimes, while at other times police take bribes to
turn a blind eye. Many victims do not go to the police for fear of persecution
and harassment. Even those who witness crimes avoid getting involved in a
judicial process that is painfully slow, inconvenient, and ineffective. These practices
have eroded public confidence, as there is no certainty of punishment for
Police stations are located throughout Tamil Nadu and surrounding
cities in India. They are staffed by one or more police officers and are open
24/7. However, generally, the majority of police officers are often
ill-equipped and lack training.
If involved with local law enforcement for any reason, comply with
their requests but contact the U.S. Embassy or the nearest U.S. Consulate and
ask to speak to a representative from the American Citizens Services
(ACS) section by calling +91-44-2857-4000 or emailing email@example.com.
If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime, contact
the local police and the U.S. Embassy or nearest U.S. Consulate. Download
the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
For emergency services, dial 102 or 108 for ambulance, and 101 for fire. The emergency number for
ambulance service for Apollo Hospitals in Chennai is 1066. An English-speaking dispatcher may not be
available at all locations. Find contact information for available
medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Consulate website.
Foreign travelers in India should have medical evacuation (medevac)
insurance. Most care is available locally, although more comfortable care is
available in Bangkok and Singapore. For more information, refer
to OSAC’s report, Medical Evacuation: A
Primer. The U.S. Department of
State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before
traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance overseas.
Dogs and bats create a high risk of rabies transmission in most of
India. Vaccination is recommended for all prolonged stays, especially for young
children and travelers in rural areas. It is also recommended for shorter stays
that involve occupational exposure, locations more than 24 hours from a
reliable source of human rabies immune globulin and rabies vaccine for
post-exposure treatment, adventure travelers, hikers, cave explorers, and
backpackers. Monkeys also can transmit rabies and herpes B, among other
diseases, to human victims. Avoid feeding monkeys. If bitten, you should
immediately soak and scrub the bite for at least 15 minutes and seek urgent
Influenza is transmitted from November to April in areas north of
the Tropic of Cancer (north India), and from June through November (the rainy
season) in areas south of the Tropic of Cancer (south India), with a smaller
peak from February through April; off-season transmission can also occur. All
travelers are at risk. Influenza vaccine is recommended for all travelers
during the flu season.
Outbreaks of avian influenza (H5N1 virus) occur intermittently in
eastern India, including West Bengal, Manipur, Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh,
Telangana, and Assam.
Malaria prophylaxis depends on time of year and area the traveler
is visiting. Please consult the CDC website for more information. Dengue fever
presents significant risk in urban and rural areas. The highest number of cases
is reported from July to December, with cases peaking from September to
October. CDC recommends taking insect precautions such as
wearing long-sleeved shirts and mosquito repellent. Tuberculosis is an
increasingly serious health concern in India. The CDC offers additional
information on vaccines and health guidance for India.
OSAC Country Council Information
The Chennai Country Council currently
meets quarterly, and the Bangalore Country Council meets
monthly. Interested private-sector security managers should contact
OSAC’s South & Central Asia team with
U.S. Consulate Contact Information
Anna Salai, Gemini Circle, 600006
of Operation: 0800-1700; Monday-Friday, except U.S. and local holidays
Virtual Presence Post Bangalore
Other U.S. Diplomatic Posts in India
- Consulate Hyderabad, Paigah Palace 1-8-323, Chiran Fort
Lane, Begumpet, Secunderabad 500003. +91-40-4033-8300.
- Consulate Mumbai, C-49,
G-Block, Bandra Kurla Complex Bandra East, Mumbai
Before you travel, consider the following resources:
- India Country Information Sheet