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India

A Place of Connection in South Asia
Tourists walk around the Taj Mahal in India

Vanessa Lopez '19

GSS Country Snapshot

A brief overview of Harvard activities, safety & security, health, cultural, and outbound immigration considerations

India is a frequent destination for Harvard affiliates to study, research, and attend symposia, and it consistently ranks in the top 10 registered locations for Harvard travelers. It’s also home to The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute’s regional office in New Delhi, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s India Research Center in Mumbai, and Harvard Business School’s India Research Center in Mumbai, along with numerous other activities. Through our Harvard Global India entity, we’re able to provide international office administration, employment, and gift and grant administration to facilitate interdisciplinary research, programming, and scholarly and cultural exchange for Harvard affiliates.

At Harvard and in India, The Mittal Institute engages in interdisciplinary research to advance and deepen the understanding of critical issues in South Asia and its relationship with the world. The T.H. Chan School’s India Research Center supports the development of India’s health workforce through research, training, and communicating public health knowledge, and HBS’ India Research Center supports the development of case studies, research projects, executive education programs, and building intellectual capital on the region.

The information below is a high-level summary and is not all encompassing. Situations on the ground can change rapidly. We encourage you to review the additional resources and utilize your Harvard network to learn more. You can also schedule a consultation with us if you’d like to discuss the safety and security or operational matters unique to you and your travel or project. We’ll work with you to minimize risks and help you make informed decisions about your travel and activities.

Safety & Security

The Harvard GSS risk rating for India is watch list with several high-risk regions. Note that, per the student travel policies, College students are prohibited from traveling to high-risk regions, and graduate students are required to complete additional pre-departure measures.

Some of the factors that influence these ratings for Harvard affiliates include crime, protest activity, and violent conflict. For example, petty crime is a risk in crowded cities, transit hubs, and tourist areas. Reports of street harassment and sexual assault occur with some regularity. Homosexuality is legal, but same sex marriage is not. Corruption has been reported when conducting business in India, including in government offices. Demonstrations and political rallies are common and can escalate without warning. Ethnic and separatist conflicts occur in the regions rated as high risk, and tensions can escalate in border regions. As with any country, you need to research and consider all factors in the context of your identity, your activities in country, and your familiarity with the country and its culture. If a security incident occurs, contact International SOS through the Assistance App or by dialing +1-617-998-0000.

Weather-related incidents create a safety risk seasonally in India, disrupting travel and essential services. The monsoon season from June to September can lead to heavy flooding in many parts of the country, and the east coast is susceptible to cyclones. India also sits in an active seismic zone, making the region prone to earthquakes. Make sure you’re informed, prepared, and have a plan in case a natural disaster occurs. Download the International SOS app to receive push alerts about incidents in your area.

There are numerous international and domestic airports in India. Intercity air travel is the most efficient way to travel due to heavily congested roads, inadequate driving conditions, and disregard for rules of the road. Travelers are advised not to drive because conditions may vary from what you’re used to. The train network is extensive, and interstate bus service is also available, but travelers are encouraged to use prearranged, secure transportation or radio cabs obtained from hotels or trusted local partners. Review the road safety report for India (access code: Harvard1636) for more information on public transit, walking, biking, and driving.

The mobile phone network in India is expansive, although it drops off in rural areas. There are also internet cafes in metropolitan cities and in smaller towns. Be mindful of risks related to malware, phishing, and ATM card skimming. Know how to keep your data safe abroad.

Health

Make sure you’re up-to-date on any required and recommended vaccines for India. Health risks such as chikungunya, Covid-19, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, rabies, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and Zika may be present. High levels of smog and air pollution are present in major cities. If you're traveling with medication, check to see if your medications are legal and available in India; for example, certain antimalarial medications may not be legal. Many common U.S. medications and supplements are illegal abroad or require special authorization. Visit your doctor or a travel clinic (such as Harvard University Health Services) at least a month before your departure to discuss all health risks and your individual health with a professional, to receive any vaccines or medications you’ll need, and to learn how to reduce your risk of infection or transmission.

All travelers have a small risk of developing traveler’s diarrhea in any country, and it’s common in India. You’re advised to drink only bottled or boiled water, to avoid ice, and to eat only properly prepared food. Learn how to make safe food and drink choices.

If you need any medical or mental health assistance while on a Harvard-related trip in India, contact International SOS through the Assistance App or by dialing +1-617-998-0000. International SOS can direct you to appropriate inpatient or outpatient care and provide translation assistance, if needed. Treatment for serious medical conditions may require evacuation.

Culture

India is a federal parliamentary constitutional republic comprised of 28 states and eight union territories. It’s the world’s second most populous country with more than 1.3 billion people. Approximately 80% of the population adheres to Hinduism and 14% to Islam; Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism are also practiced.

Hindi and English are official languages used extensively in government, business, and education, although India is home to hundreds of native languages and dialects. Make sure you’re aware of and respect local customs and social etiquette, including those relating to religious sites, modest attire, and using your right hand to eat and accept or pass food.

Credit and debit card usage is growing, and they’re widely accepted in major cities. Cash is still a preferred payment option for many, and ATMs are widespread. Bargaining is common in many markets and shops.

When booking travel or scheduling meetings, be mindful of India’s holidays and observances. Businesses may be closed or have reduced hours, and security measures may be enhanced.

Visas & Travel Documents

Before traveling to India, make sure your passport is valid for at least 180 days and that you have two blank pages. Most travelers require a visa to enter the country, and your reason for travel, length of stay, and number of entries will determine which visa you’ll need to apply for. The visa application process can be time consuming, and requirements are subject to change, so always check your visa and travel document requirements well in advance.

Quick Facts

  • Currency: Rupee (₹)
  • Tipping: common unless a service charge is already applied to your bill
  • Voltage & plug type: 230 Volts; Types C, D, and M
  • Telephone code: +91
  • Emergency numbers: 100 (police), 101 (fire)
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