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Healthcare and Medical Treatment

India - Healthcare and Medical Treatment

People living below the poverty line in India can access public healthcare free of charge. Improvement of public health was a duty set out in the Indian Constitution.

In practice, the majority of patients who receive free healthcare are women and the elderly, as these are the individuals most likely to be living in desperate poverty.

Unfortunately, public healthcare is funded well below the levels of investment it needs. Rural areas in particular lack adequate facilities and equipment, which makes well-educated medical staff reluctant to work there. Furthermore, different states approach the funding and management of their public healthcare services differently, which leads to a huge variation in the services provided to patients.

As a result, families try to access private healthcare wherever they can, and many drive themselves into unaffordable debt trying to cover the costs.

Meanwhile, the government is attempting to increase the quality and quantity of provision throughout the country, but much of this growth actually occurs in the private healthcare system.

As an expat, you will almost certainly use private healthcare services should you need them. The public healthcare facilities and equipment will not match the level of resources you take for granted back home.

Private Healthcare In India

In major cities, healthcare provision in the private sector is generally modern and well-resourced. Some doctors have spent time in the UK and US, or may even have trained there, meaning they have high standards of knowledge and skill.

Well-educated medical staff in India will be fluent in English, meaning that communication with your doctor and other hospital professionals will be simple.

Some of the services on offer are of a high enough standard to attract patients from overseas. As ExpatFocus reported in the article ‘Moving To Bangalore? Learn What Makes It Such A Great Expat Destination’:

“There are some hospitals in Bangalore that have begun to offer specialised treatments for conditions such as heart disease and spinal problems, which draw many patients from overseas.”

The Indian government issues medical visas to facilitate these services.

If you live in a rural area, you may need to transfer to a city centre service to get the treatment you need.

Unfortunately, no regulatory body ensures that all public and private doctors are appropriately qualified and competent. This means that seeking recommendations is important. You may find that the higher the costs, the more you can rely on getting the best care from the best qualified staff, but the situation is far from ideal.

The Cost Of Private Healthcare In India

Whilst the cost of living in India is generally lower than in Western countries, complex medical services are expensive. In addition to the costs of accessing highly skilled professionals and well-equipped treatment facilities, you must cover the costs of expensive medicines as well as the accommodation and catering costs of a private room.

If you have ongoing issues, the costs may eat into your savings. Even if you are financially secure right now, a car accident or sudden stroke can change your household finances overnight.

Therefore, a private medical healthcare insurance plan is a good investment. Read the terms and conditions carefully to ensure your policy covers all the aspects of care and treatment you may need. Exclusions will help keep annual policy costs down but do make sure you consider the implications carefully rather than just chasing a cheap quote.

Look After Your Health In Hot Weather

In the Climate and Weather section of this country guide we discuss the varied climates and seasons across India’s vast and diverse terrain.

In summer, temperatures across much of the country soar. Even local people find it difficult to cope with this heat. Every family who can afford it will install air conditioning, especially to get a good night’s sleep.

At this time of year, it is important to stay hydrated. That means drinking a lot of clean, bottled water. Check that the seal has not be tampered with to avoid drinking from an empty water bottle that has been topped up with cheap water. Also, learn the signs of dehydration so you take appropriate action before developing heat exhaustion, which can become fatal.

Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and plenty of sunscreen will also keep your skin protected if you are outside. Fair skin will burn quickly and easily under the Indian sun.

Floods are a frequent calamity for Indian communities, washing away roads, homes, crops and agricultural animals. Unfortunately, these waters also spread sewerage and disease. Obtaining clean drinking water and hot, uncontaminated food is essential at all times but becomes critical under these conditions. Be aware that people walking in and out of the infected areas will pick up disease on their shoes, clothing and hands for several days, if not weeks.

Poisonous Snakes In India

India is home to 270 species of snake, 60 of which have venomous bites that cause a reaction, long-term disability or even death.

According to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, roughly 46,000 Indian residents die from snakebite each year. This means almost half of the world’s deaths from snakebite occur in India.

Four particular snake species cause the majority of snakebite-related deaths. They have come to be known as the ‘Big Four’.

● The various species of cobra enjoy hunting around the edge of villages and in nearby fields.

● There are 12 species and five sub-species of the deadly krait. Although kraits prefer to live in the jungle, they kill more people than any other type of snake on earth.

● The Russell’s viper is only four feet long, and its brownish grey body can be difficult to spot on the ground.

● The saw-scaled viper can only reach two feet in length, but its aggressive nature and inconspicuous burrowing habits make it deadly.

If you are bitten and then given prompt anti-venom treatment, your chances of recovery are good. Unfortunately, poor training and a lack of anti-venom treatments means many snakebite victims in India are not so lucky. Problems with inefficient ambulance services often prevent patients being transferred to units which can help them in time.

Other Deadly Creatures In India

Scorpion bites in India are painful and can be dangerous. The Red Indian Scorpion joins a host of other scorpion species which can kill. Shake out your shoe or boot before you put it on and keep the dark corners of your home well swept.

There was a report in 2012 that a village in Assam was attacked by deadly spiders which killed two people. Investigators were unable to find any evidence supporting these rumours. Whilst there are venomous spiders in India whose bite causes a reaction, there are no confirmed deaths recorded.

Bengal tigers sometimes attack humans for food, and wild elephants kill people who get in their way. Both species are under pressure as their territory shrinks due to human development. More than four hundred people are killed by a tiger or an elephant in an average year in India.

Rabies In India

India suffers from a rabid dog problem. Bites kill thousands of people each year, because rabies has a 100% death rate for people who do not get an injection before the first symptoms appear. If any dog or animal bites you, seek medical attention without delay.

Check Your Vaccinations

In many Western countries, vaccinations are a useful way to protect yourself against the small risk that you come into contact with someone carrying a deadly infectious disease.

In India, your chances of coming into the proximity of someone suffering from a disease that can make you ill, or even cause death, are high. It only takes one cough from a passing TB sufferer for you to breathe an infected droplet into your lungs. Measles is so contagious you will almost certainly catch it if you have any contact at all with an infected person, unless you have received both parts of the measles vaccination.

In addition, the country is home to more than 400 species of mosquitoes. The female Aedes mosquito is responsible for spreading a range of serious illness to humans including malaria, Dengue fever, Chikungunya fever virus and the Zika virus.

This means that making sure you have had all necessary vaccinations is vitally important for your continued good health.

About eight weeks before you are travelling to India, make an appointment with your family doctor to have a health check and receive any vaccinations that need to be done.

Read more about this country

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

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Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.