Healthcare in India

The quality of healthcare available in India is mixed to say the least. Although the nation has developed a reputation as something of a medical tourism centre in recent years, offering top of the line treatments to foreign patients, these procedures take place at private hospitals – far beyond the reach of the average Indian citizen.

Roughly 25 percent of the entire population of India can afford Western medicine. Those who can’t must rely on traditional remedies/treatments such as Ayurvedic medicine.

As the sometimes extensive cost of Western medications and treatments must be covered by the individual it is imperative to take out comprehensive medical insurance before travelling to India.

While public hospitals are widely available across the nation, they should generally only be used in the case of very minor ailments. Routine medical care can be performed in public hospitals, but for any extensive or serious treatment you must go to a private clinic.

Although private clinics typically charge large amounts they are more hygienic, have up-to-date medical equipment and, usually, English speaking staff.

The Wockhardt Hospitals Group provides some of the best hospitals in India. The group, which is partnered with Harvard Medical International, has facilities in Bangalore and Mumbai which offer specialist care in orthopaedics, neurosciences, cardiology and childcare.

For many medical complaints/prescriptions you will need to see a general practitioner, so as soon as you arrive in India you should use recommendation and reputation to find a good local doctor. GP’s are typically based in medical centres rather than local surgeries.

It’s important to note that in some poorer rural areas it can take several hours for an ambulance to arrive in an emergency situation, and even then it is often underequipped.

The main emergency numbers in India are:

102 – Ambulance

101 – Fire Department

100 – Police

These numbers are free to phone but bear in mind the fact that not all operators may understand English.

In many cases it’s actually quicker to take a taxi to the hospital, although some private hospitals/clinics do have their own ambulances so you may want to ring them directly in emergency situations.

Also remember that before you travel to India you must go to your doctor for several vaccinations, some of which have to be given months in advance of your journey.

It is strongly recommended that you receive the following vaccinations before any trip to India:

  • Rabies
  • Diphtheria
  • Typhoid
  • Tetanus
  • Meningitis
  • Polio
  • Hepatitis A and B


You may also need to take a course of anti-malaria medication whilst overseas (athough malaria is more of an issue in some areas of India than others). If you appear to be developing symptoms of the disease (vomiting, fever, joint pain, convulsions and shivering) go to a hospital immediately.

If you need to get a course of medication in India make sure you take your prescription to an officially licensed pharmacy, and double check that you’ve been given the right medication/dosage before you use it.

As the majority of dangerous illnesses are mosquito-borne in India take serious steps to protect yourself, such as covering your bed with a mosquito net and using mosquito repellent on your skin.

Also be weary of stray dogs and monkeys as they can transfer rabies with a bite or scratch. Any bites or scratches should be checked out at the hospital.

Furthermore, take care with your water and food hygiene. Drink bottled/boiled water and refuse ice in drinks.

Although most large Indian cities will have hygienic private hospitals and good selections of medical supplies the same cannot be said for poorer, rural areas. If you are intending to travel into remote areas you might want to consider bringing medical supplies (medications, bandages, needles etc) with you. Such supplies can be bought from pharmacies in India’s larger cities.

As with medical care, dental and optical care in India is far better in the countries larger cities than in rural areas. Treatment is relatively inexpensive (in comparison with Western treatment) and some insurance policies will cover the cost so be sure to check.

Although the government is taking steps to improve rural health care progress is currently fairly slow.