Kerala in southern India may not be one of the most popular tourist destinations for international visitors within the large country, but those who know of it are enchanted by its charms.
Around 17 million tourists visit Kerala each year, most of them visitors from other parts of India. Visitors have plenty to see and do in this southern state.
After all, Kerala is one of the lushest, greenest parts of India, and the best way to explore the countryside is by houseboat on a river. The biggest city in Kerala, Kochi, is a melting pot of cultures showcasing Jewish, Chinese, and Portuguese influences.
Get to know South Indian culture by attending a Kathakali performance, visiting the many temples, and enjoying the delicious food.
For tourists that venture off the beaten path in India, Kerala is full of rewards.
However, you may be wondering if any dangers are lurking on this path as well. But don’t worry — our travel experts will help you figure out if a trip to Kerala is right for you. Let us be your guide!
Is Kerala Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes. Kerala is a safe place to visit and, in fact, is one of the safest places in India. Kerala has one of the lowest crime rates in India and ranks highest in quality of living.
You should still be on your guard somewhat as the same problems you encounter elsewhere in India are present in Kerala, but to a much lesser degree.
Kerala is still in India, which means that many of the problems that you read about in travel advisories for all of India apply to Kerala as well.
After all, there is a reason that the United States issues a Level Two travel advisory for India and that the Canadian government advises citizens to exercise increased caution while in India.
Common problems travelers experience while traveling in India include:
- Bag snatching
- Sexual harassment
- Sexual assault
- Civil unrest
Crimes occur everywhere in India, including Kerala. However, the crime rate in this southern state is much lower than it is in other parts of the country.
In Kerala, you don’t have to worry about problems that you might encounter in other parts of India such as civil unrest, communitarian violence, and terrorism. The region is one of the most progressive states in all of India.
Kerala is very diverse and has rejected nationalist attempts to divide communities in the past, lowering the risk of communitarian violence and terrorism.
It is also one of the more economically equal states in India. Kerala routinely tops the list of states in India for quality of life indicators.
It has the highest literacy rate, highest life expectancy, some of the best results on gender equality, lowest corruption rates, and pioneering transgender rights policies.
In 2016, it was ranked the cleanest state in India (alongside Sikkim) by the National Sample Survey Office. These quality of life metrics are not just nice statistics. They address many social factors that lead to crime in India and in the rest of the world.
Since Kerala has less nationalism and less economic inequality, it makes sense that it has less crime than other parts of India as well.
These factors that make life better for locals also makes a visit more pleasant for foreigners. Kerala is a great place to start if it is your first time in India and you don’t want to get overwhelmed.
Crime in Kerala
A good indicator if an area is safe or not is the crime rate. Looking at the crime rate can tell you about your likelihood of being the victim of a crime if you visit and what the atmosphere of a city or country will be like.
Kerala has one of the highest crime rates in India. According to 2022 crime statistics, Kochi, Kerala’s biggest city, had the 3rd highest crime total in all of India.
The police recorded 1,603.7 criminal offenses per 100,000 people. The Kerala police offer a detailed breakdown of reported violations of the Indian Penal Code on their website.
The most common individual crime is hurt (or assault), which makes up 6.6% of total crimes committed. Cheating or fraud makes up 3.3% of individual crimes committed. Molestation makes up 2.2% of crimes committed.
Kerala does have one of the lowest rates of violent crime in India. According to national newspaper The Hindu, the Kerala homicide rate is 0.9 incidents per 100,000 people.
This is much lower than the national average for India, which is 2.20 incidents per 100,000 people. If Kerala is one of the safest places in India, then why does it have a high crime rate?
The answer shows the flaws with just looking at crime rate as a way to measure how safe a place is. Kerala has one of the highest rates of “charge sheeting,” which is an Indian term for formally charging people with a crime or offense.
The police have a charge rate of 94.90%, which is the second-highest rate in the country. Kerala police are far more likely to charge criminals when they break the law and to solve a crime when it is reported.
As a result, trust in the police is higher in Kerala than elsewhere in the country, making people more likely to go to the authorities if they have a problem.
The crime rate doesn’t necessarily prove that more crimes occur in Kerala than in other parts of India, just that they are reported more often.
Since the Kerala police respond with the full force of the law even for minor offenses, law enforcement officials say that this has deterred many criminals from more serious forms of crime.
A better indicator of safety than the overall crime rate is the breakdown of types of crime. Since most crimes in Kerala are petty in nature and the violent crime rate is low, you will see that it is one of the safest places in India.
Kerala may be one of the safest states in all of India, but it is still in India. That means a lot of the problems you may encounter elsewhere in India, such as petty theft, are also common in Kerala.
Common forms of petty theft you might encounter in Kerala include pickpocketing, bag snatching, and tourist scams. Crime is most prevalent in Kochi, which is Kerala’s biggest city.
However, you should also be on your guard in smaller towns and rural areas because you never know who you might encounter. Pickpockets and other thieves often operate in popular tourist destinations such as Fort Kochi.
Other common locations for theft are public transportation options and stations where lots of people congregate. Locals and tourists have been robbed on intercity buses before.
The precautions you should use to protect yourself in Kerala are the same as the precautions you would use anywhere. A little bit of common sense (and some luck) will be enough to fend off most thieves.
Opt for a secure bag to hold your valuables. Try a money belt or cross-body bag, not a tote bag that someone can easily snatch or reach into. Don’t flash your possessions such as expensive smartphones, jewelry, or lots of cash.
You will already stick out a lot as a foreigner, you don’t want to draw further attention to yourself. Some scams that you will encounter in other parts of India are present in Kerala as well.
Rickshaws and taxi drivers often try to scam foreigners by overcharging or by taking them to a different destination. There are pre-paid taxi hire desks around major tourist attractions, or you can ask your hotel to call a taxi for you.
Violence Against Women
Although Kerala has the highest gender equality rates in India, it is still a very patriarchal culture. Crimes against women are sadly common, ranging from sexual harassment to assault and rape.
Obviously, local women are the primary victims of these crimes. However, being a foreigner will not protect you from it completely. The worst that most foreign women experience is sexual harassment.
Verbal harassment in the form of catcalling is common throughout India, including Kerala. Groping, called “Eve-teasing” in Indian slang, is also common.
In 2020, Kerala police recorded 442 incidents of sexual harassment, or “insults to the modesty of women” as the crime is listed in the Indian Penal Code.
In non-pandemic years, the rate is far higher, and the rate of unreported sexual harassment is also much higher. Some tourists have experienced worse crimes such as sexual assault in Kerala.
Try to minimize your risk of this crime by taking precautions. Never take a taxi alone at night and always try to go with a trusted group when exploring after dark. Do your research and choose accommodation with good safety ratings.
Always lock your doors and never tell anyone you meet where you are staying. Many women go to Kerala to stay in ashrams and attend other spiritual tourism experiences, but leaders at these places often take advantage of participants.
There have been many sexual harassment allegations against prominent yogis in India. Do your research before booking your stay.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Most of Kerala is pretty safe, but there are some places that locals tell tourists to skip on their trip around the region. Kollam in Kerala is one place you want to avoid. This region has one of the highest crime rates in India.
It has a beautiful beach, but this beach was voted one of the deadliest beaches in India, so proceed with caution. In Kochi, avoid certain neighborhoods such as Nettoor and Maradu. Ask locals for advice on which places to avoid.
Things to Consider
Here are some other tips to help you plan a great getaway to Kerala:
- Although Kerala is more progressive than other parts of India, it is still conservative in some respects. Err on the side of dressing and acting modestly. Women and men should avoid shorts and be mindful of covering up when visiting religious buildings.
- Airport currency exchange bureaus are notorious for taking advantage of travelers, so try to change your money when you get into town. Withdraw rupees from the ATM instead if you can.
- Getting a local SIM card is helpful when navigating around Kerala. One of the most popular providers is Vodafone. Data usage per day is usually affordable.
- The tap water is unsafe in Kerala, like it is in most of India. Drink bottled water or buy a water bottle with filtration.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions other travelers to Kerala have asked before:
How safe is Kerala for tourists?
Kerala is very safe for tourists and is one of the safest regions in India. However, you should still take basic precautions to keep yourself safe.
Is it ok to visit Kerala now?
Yes, it is ok to visit Kerala now. There have been no major changes to the safety of the state. Plus, the region ended all COVID-19 related restrictions.
When should we not visit Kerala?
The worst time to visit Kerala is monsoon season. From June to August and mid-October to mid-November, Kerala experiences frequent rains. You also don’t want to visit Kerala between March and October as the temperatures are very hot.
Is Kerala safe to travel with family?
Kerala is probably one of the safest destinations you can visit in India if you are traveling with family. Crime is not as common as it is in other parts of India. Plus, Kerala is cleaner and less overwhelming for young children.
Which is better, Kerala or Goa?
Goa is a better choice if you want to check out the Portuguese influence on India or are looking for busy nightlife. Kerala is better if you want a quieter, more peaceful experience and are looking to get closer to nature and spirituality.
So, Is Kerala Safe to Visit?
If you are traveling to India, Kerala is one of the best places that you can go. Although the same problems, such as petty theft, that you will encounter elsewhere in India are also present here, you can have a great time as long as you take basic precautions. Happy travels!