Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The Greater Hyderabad metropolitan area contains approximately 7 million people, making it the fourth largest urban area in India. While much of the crime in Hyderabad is generally non-violent, Hyderabad does experience a full range of criminal activity. Petty crime is common, especially theft of personal property. Pickpockets can be very adept and have been known to cut women's purse-straps or slit the bottom of their purses without their knowledge. Westerners, including U.S. citizens, have occasionally been the victims of robberies, rapes, or other violent attacks. Maintaining situational awareness and practicing good personal security is important.
U.S. citizens, particularly women, are cautioned not to travel alone in India. Western women continue to report incidents of physical harassment by groups of men. Known as "Eve-teasing," these incidents can be quite frightening. While India is generally safe for foreign visitors, rape is the fastest growing crime in India according to the latest figures by Indian authorities. Although most victims have been local residents, recent sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas underscore the fact that foreign women are also at risk and should exercise vigilance.
Women should observe stringent security precautions, including:
· Avoid using public transport after dark without the company of known and trustworthy companions.
· Restricting evening entertainment to well-known venues.
· Avoiding walking in isolated areas alone at any time of day.
· Ensure hotel room numbers remain confidential and insist the doors of their hotel rooms have chains, deadlocks, and spy-holes.
· Hire reliable cars and drivers and avoid traveling alone in hired taxis, especially during the hours of darkness. It is preferable to obtain taxis from hotels rather than hailing them on the street.
· Call 100 for police assistance if facing threatening situations.
Travelers should use the same common sense traveling overseas that they would at home. Be especially cautious in areas where you are likely to be victimized. These include train stations, tourist sites, market places, festivals, and marginal areas of city. While walking, avoid short cuts, narrow alleys, poorly-lit streets, and traveling alone at night. Avoid public demonstrations and other civil disturbances. Generally keep a low profile and avoid loud conversations or arguments. Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers. Beware of strangers who approach you offering bargains or tour guide services. Wear the shoulder strap of your bag across your chest and walk with the bag away from the curb to avoid purse-snatchers. Try to seem purposeful when you move about. Even if you are lost, act as if you know where you are going. When possible, ask directions only from individuals in authority. If you are confronted by someone trying to rob you, give up your valuables.
Political Violence and Terrorism
There is a high threat from terrorism throughout India. Americans are urged to always practice good security, including maintaining a heightened situational awareness and a low profile. Coordinated terror attacks in Mumbai in late November 2008 targeting areas frequented by Westerners have raised the risk of Americans becoming intended or unintended victims of terrorism in India. The locations of the attacks have included hotels, trains, train stations, markets, cinemas, mosques, and restaurants in large urban areas. Due to these threats, it is becoming more difficult to modify one's behavior to lessen the growing risk.
The most common regional terrorist threat is from the Naxalite Maoist movement within India. The Naxalites have a long history of conflict with state and national authorities, including frequent attacks on local police, paramilitary forces, and government officials. The Naxalites have not specifically targeted U.S. citizens or other foreigners, but they have attacked symbolic targets that have included western companies and targeted civilians suspected of cooperating with police and government officials. The primary Naxalite group is represented by the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Within Andhra Pradesh, Naxalite violence is primarily concentrated in the rural areas bordering the states of Orissa and Chhattisgarh.
Recently, there has been an up-tick in violence from indigenous Islamic radical groups, most notably the Indian Mujahideen (IM). IM is believed to be a compilation of native Indians belonging to various groups such as the Student Islamic Movement of India and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT). IM has been implicated in the serial bombing attacks in Delhi in September 2008. On January 22, 2002, there was an attack against police in front of the American Center by a group of terrorists in which five policemen were gunned down and killed, while several others were wounded.
There have been multiple acts of international terrorism over recent years in various regions of India. Attacks have often occurred in public places without regard to collateral causalities and damage. International terrorist groups have claimed responsibility for large, wide-scale attacks in India such as the New Delhi Market blasts in October 2005, the Mumbai train bombings in July 2006, and the Mumbai attacks in November 2008 which resulted in massive casualties, including 30 foreign nationals, and extensive damage to commercial property.
Hyderabad has seen a number of terrorist attacks, including the bombings of the Mecca Masjid Mosque in May 2007, as well as the the Lumbini Amusement park and the Gokul Chat restaurant in August 2007. Areas generally targeted included crowded, public venues. While it is believed that U.S. citizens and foreigners, in general, were not specifically targeted in the Hyderabad attacks, do not be complacent and be watchful for any unusual or suspicious events.
Because of the number and diversity of terror attacks in India during the past two years, Americans in India should be vigilant about security at all times. They should monitor local news and consider the level of security when visiting public places, such as religious sites, hotels, restaurants, and recreation venues. U.S. citizens should keep a low profile, avoid crowds and demonstrations, and maintain valid travel documents. Travelers should plan on added transportation time to account for increased security, especially at hotels and airports. American citizens should exercise vigilance when in the vicinity of government installations, visiting tourist sites, or attending public events in Hyderabad. People should be aware of their surroundings and be alert for unattended bags or packages in these areas. Move away from and report any unattended bags to officials
Demonstrations can occur spontaneously and escalate rapidly, posing risks to travelers' personal safety and disrupting transportation systems and city services. In response to such events, Indian authorities occasionally impose curfews and/or restrict travel. Political rallies and demonstrations in India have the potential for violence, especially immediately preceding and following elections. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid demonstrations and rallies.
Americans are encouraged to heed U.S. travel advisories and avoid political demonstrations. While most political demonstrations have been peaceful and orderly, destruction and/or damage of public municipal transportation is common during bandhs, which usually call for the total shutdown of all services for some period of time (usually for a day) as a political protest.
India generally goes on “High Alert” status prior to major holidays. U.S. citizens should monitor local television and print media and 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.
In December 2009 and January 2010, sporadic civil unrest erupted in the south-central Indian state of Andhra Pradesh over the contentious issue of creating a separate state called Telangana within Andhra Pradesh. Until the issue is resolved definitively, there may continue to be tension, especially in the Telangana Region of Andhra Pradesh including the districts of Rangareddi, Warangal, Medak, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Adilabad, Khammam, Nalgonda, and Mahbubnagar. American citizens should avoid political rallies, demonstrations, and large crowds of any kind. The campus of Osmania University in Hyderabad has been the site of recurring civil disturbances regarding the Telangana statehood issue. U.S. citizens resident or traveling in Andhra Pradesh are reminded to monitor the situation via media sources, including TV, radio, and the Internet.
Roads in Hyderabad are in moderately good condition, but the city's infrastructure struggles to keep pace with its rapid growth. There is traffic congestion throughout Hyderabad. Accidents are common due to lack of traffic enforcement and general disregard by drivers for traffic laws. Traffic congestion generally limits the number of high speed traffic accidents/fatalities.
Post Specific Concerns
During the monsoon season from June-September, parts of Andhra Pradesh can receive heavy rainfall. In the 2009 monsoon season, heavy rains created flooding in the districts of Kurnool, Nalgonda, Krishna, Guntur, and Mahbubnagar, resulting in the death of at least 250 people and the displacement of approximately 750,000 people. Caution should be exercised traveling in these districts during the monsoon season. In Hyderabad, streets can see temporary low-level flash flooding that hampers travel and causes heavy traffic congestion and delays.
In 2009, local officials stated that the state of Andhra Pradesh had 1,509 reported cases of kidnapping. Within the Greater Hyderabad area (to include Cyberabad) in 2009, local officials indicated that 90 cases of kidnapping had been reported. In the past few years there have not been any reported cases of kidnapping involving Americans.
Drugs and Narco-terrorism
Most of the drugs that are illegal in the United States are also illegal in India. In fact, some Indian drug laws are stricter than those in the United States. Indian officials conduct major anti-drug operations, especially at transportation hubs such as airports and train stations. Plain-clothed Indian narcotics officers frequent clubs and hotels in attempts to apprehend drug users and dealers.
Travelers should be aware of a number of scams that have been perpetrated against foreign travelers. The scams generally target younger travelers and involve suggestions that money can be made by privately transporting gems or gold (both of which can result in arrest) or by taking delivery abroad of expensive carpets, supposedly while avoiding customs duties. Most such schemes require that the traveler first put up a "deposit" to either show "sincerity" or as a "down payment" or as the "wholesale cost." All travelers are strongly cautioned that the schemes invariably result in the traveler being fleeced. The "gems" or "gold" are nearly always counterfeit and if they were 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 another new acquaintance can "practice his English." Offers of cheap lodging 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 even physical coercion. Travelers should deal only with reputable businesses and should not give their credit cards or money unless they are certain that goods being shipped to them are the goods they purchased.
Police response in the city of Hyderabad is variable. The Hyderabad police do an effective job managing large scale protests and can be responsive to security requests. However, overall police assistance is mediocre by western standards, with a typical response time of 30 minutes or longer. Even when a suspect is arrested, the length of time it may take for a case to be heard in court is often several years.
American citizens needing immediate police assistance should call the Police Helpline by dialing 100 from any phone. An additional emergency number (112) can be accessed from mobile phones. Further information on the Hyderabad Police can be found at www.hyderabadpolice.gov.in.
In case of police detention or harassment, please contact U.S. Consulate General, Hyderabad at +91-40-4300-8300.
Emergency medical services in Hyderabad are available, but vary in quality. For medical emergencies, the number for ambulance service in Hyderabad is 102 (local) for a government ambulance or 108 for an ambulance from Emergency Management and Research Institute, a private company that works in conjunction with the local government. The fire services can be reached by calling 101. Note that ambulances in India are not equipped with state of the art medical equipment. Local traffic does not always yield to emergency vehicles. Emergency medicine/trauma care remain below western standards, although some institutions are taking steps to improve their capabilities.
How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
Know where you are going. Have ground transportation prearranged at your destination. Have the phone numbers of local friends and contacts readily available and/or saved to your mobile phone. If you schedule a meeting with a potential client, research the company and the individual with whom you are meeting. Meet in a public place, such as a restaurant. Prefer pre-paid taxi booths for hired transportation. Preplan your destination regarding your stay and tourism. Never take the advice of taxi drivers regarding your stay or tourism in Hyderabad. Do not attempt to drive in rural areas after dark.
Keep your hotel door locked at all times. Meet visitors in the lobby. Do not leave money and other valuables in your hotel room while you are out. Use the hotel safe. Let someone know when you expect to return if you are out late at night. Read the fire safety instructions in your hotel room. Know how to report a fire. Be sure you know where the nearest fire exits and alternate exits are located. Count the doors between your room and the nearest exit; this could be a lifesaver if you have to crawl through a smoke-filled corridor.
Buses and trams are overcrowded and poorly maintained. Crime is covert and involves pick-pocketing while patrons are using public buses. Travelers are strongly advised to use metered taxis or hotel vehicles for transportation in and around the city. If a metered taxi is not used, travelers should agree on the fare prior to embarking on the journey. Only take taxis clearly identified with official markings, and beware of unmarked cabs.
Theft aboard trains along popular tourists' routes has occurred. Do not accept food or drink from strangers. Criminals can drug food or drink offered to passengers. Where possible, lock your compartment. If you must sleep, position your luggage in manner so that you are awakened if someone attempts to tamper with the luggage. Do not be afraid to alert authorities if you feel threatened in any way. Extra police are often assigned to ride trains on routes where crime is a serious problem.
Visitors from the U.S. often have greater purchasing power compared to that of the general population in India. Travelers should always exercise modesty and caution in their financial dealings to reduce the chance of being a target for robbery or other serious crime. Do not flash large amounts of money when paying bills. Make sure your credit card is returned to you after each transaction. Deal only with authorized agents when you exchange money, buy airline tickets, or purchase souvenirs. Do not change money on the black market. If your possessions are lost or stolen, report the loss immediately to the local police. The consulate general can assist you with understanding local police procedures. Keep a copy of the police report for insurance claims.
Vehicle thefts are infrequent but proper security measures should be taken. Vehicles should be locked at all times. Also, it is recommended that travelers hire a professional driver when visiting the region. Driving in Hyderabad can be highly stressful and difficult for most foreigners to adjust to safely.
Burglaries tend to occur when there are security vulnerabilities. It is recommended that all American residents install window grilles and solid core doors with deadbolt locks on exterior doors. Proper perimeter walls and, if necessary, guards should be in place at residences.
Local Market and Tourist Sites
Criminal acts are not common, but can occur at local markets and tourist areas. Foreigners are favorable targets because they often carry a considerable amount of cash and are easily distracted by the sites.
Crime is not common at the airport due to the strong police presence. On leaving the airport building, passengers should take precautions because of the large crowds and chaotic atmosphere, which is ideal for pickpockets. Passengers are also cautioned when coming out of the airport to stay away from anyone offering cheap residential accommodation or transportation.
Refrain from taking pictures of Indian Government facilities, train stations, airports, power plants, or other key sites receiving protection from the Government of India.
U.S. Consulate General, Hyderabad, India
24-hour switchboard: +91-40-4033-8300
OSAC Country Council Information
Hyderabad has an active OSAC Country Council. For more information on the Council, please see http://hyderabad.osac.gov/.