1.Traveling to India is unsafe.
In recent years, there have been several very high profile instances in which rape occurred in India that has caused several Western countries to issue travel advisories or discourage attempts to visit India, especially for women.[i] India is also associated with a high amount of crime, scams, and theft as well as being a country that is known for its child beggars, some of whom have suffered unnecessary injuries so that they might collect more money for the criminals forcing them to work.[ii] However, data shows that India is only listed as the 62nd most dangerous country in the world out of the 118 countries that are compared.[iii] This means that it is not even in the first half of most dangerous countries. Many other countries that are regarded as generally safe for tourists actually suffer a much higher rate of crime, including Thailand, Argentina, Ireland and Sweden.[iv] And it is likely that this mistaken impression of overblown danger is a result from the skewed media coverage of several isolated incidents. This means that generally speaking, there is very little to worry about traveling to India. It seems that you would be no more or less at risk of crime than any other vacation destination. With that in mind, it is still a good idea to practice safe traveling habits any time you are visiting another country.
- That India is poor.
Similar to crime, there is a perception that India is marked with rampant poverty across the nation and yet again that seems to be an overblown assumption based on selective media coverage. The Indian economy is actually quite strong, ranking as the seventh largest in the world. In addition to agriculture, industries such as information technology, business and software development are thriving and contributing to a very strong, diversified economy.[v] It is currently already home to the third-largest billionaire pool in the world with 111 billionaires residing in India. Furthermore, the long-term growth prospect for the country is positive likely due to its young population, low dependency rate, good savings and investment rates and its position in the global economy.[vi] While there is certainly poverty in India, it is not nearly as widespread as the general perception, and it is likely that there is no more or less poverty than you might encounter in any other country.
- That transportation is a challenge when moving around India.
There is a perception of India as an overcrowded population with non-existent or antiquated transportation infrastructure. However, there are many different transportation options available and they are, for the most part, easy to use. This includes a huge rail network that is the most heavily used in the world. Other options are: walking, rickshaw, carriage, bicycles, bus, taxi, and auto rickshaw.[vii] And while the image of the rickshaw certainly is antiquated, access to this type of transportation is limited to the city of Kolkata and likely exists solely to cater to the tourist population seeking that type of experience.[viii] Aside from this anomaly, most transportation options that are available to individuals are modern, convenient and affordable.
- That Hinduism is the only religion in India.
There is a strong correlation between the country of India and the Hindu religion. However, it is important to remember that the Indian subcontinent is actually the birthplace of four of the world’s major religions. In addition to Hinduism, these include Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.[ix] The country is actually characterized by a large diversity of religious beliefs and practices and religious tolerance is widespread. Religious freedom is considered a fundamental right for all citizens. And while Hinduism is still the predominant religion, it is certainly not the only one practiced. Other popular religions currently practiced in India include: Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism and Zoroastrianism. It is notable though that almost all Indian citizens do affiliate themselves with a religion, regardless of which one. Less than one percent of the population identifies with a religion that was not listed or no religion at all. Similar to this religious misconception is the belief that Hindi is the national language. In fact, there is no national language and Hindi is only one of many official languages of the country. There are approximately twenty other official languages, including English, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Assamese, Nepali, Odia, Malayalam, Kannada, Gujarati, Urdu and Punjabi.[x]
- That healthcare is poor in India.
There is a widespread perception that healthcare in this country is sub-par as a function of widespread poverty. However, like the myth of universal poverty, this belief in healthcare is also a myth. However, it is important to note that the quality of care varies greatly from rural to urban areas and is dependent upon the consumer’s ability to pay. Having said that, it is also worth noting that many of the major urban areas offer medical care that is similar to or exceeds the standards of the first-world.[xi] For this reason, medical tourism is growing rapidly in India. In, 2015 it’s estimated worth was $3 billion, but it is set to grow to $7-8 billion by 2020. Procedures in India are typically provided at one-tenth of the cost found in the United States. It is marked by its ability to provide some of the highest quality of care for the lowest cost in the world.[xii]
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