Is it safe to travel alone in India? Is solo travel in India possible women? Most travelers have these questions in mind when they think of planning a trip to India. India is a country that is complex and culturally diverse, but attracts millions of travelers every year. This huge country with an equally huge population overwhelms its travelers giving a cultural shock and other things. But despite all these good things, solo female travelers usually have a cold foot to travel in this country.
Because in addition to the above, the fear of being threatened, or worse – raped or killed, lingers in the minds of the women traveling to India, especially solo women travelers, thanks to the incidents that occur and to the media that may or may not exaggerate them.
But beyond these, lies the beautiful country that beckons travelers from all over the world, giving a glimpse of its wonderful places, delicious food and centuries of history and deep-rooted culture. Before visiting India, In this post, we make an attempt to make your experience just that by serving you the first-hand, unheard tips. To prep yourself as a solo female traveler in India, here are some things you need to know before visiting India as a solo female traveler. With these tips, solo travel to India would be enjoyable and memorable for you!
India Solo Travel Tips for Women
1. India is really a big country, and hence things aren’t the same everywhere
India is a huge country, which makes it difficult to travel around. But the things that make India tough for a first-time traveler is its diversity in everything. From region to region, the culture isn’t the same, the weather is hot at one place and could be raining in the next place you land. The food at one city is not known in another town.
There are all classes of people. India is home to the poor and is also home to billionaires. You can find the swankiest of the structures as well as come across people living in unfortunate conditions. So be prepared to see the contrasts and the complex country that India is. And above all, as a traveler, absorb what you see, and understand the nation to embrace it as you explore.
2. Staring is almost a norm
It is the first thing you’ll probably notice once you arrive in India. No matter what you wear or where you go, you’ll find a section of men that stare at you all the time, making you uncomfortable. Most of the times it is just a curious stare, although it shouldn’t be. And no, it’s just some extra attention that you get if you are a foreign woman traveler, whether traveling alone or not. If you feel uncomfortable though, you must make it a point to tell the men politely.
Sadly, some men are cultured into this habit and think that it is absolutely fine to stare at women, so you can’t change the mindset of ALL of them as there are enough decent men as well. Indian women aren’t spared too, but they are better equipped to handle the situations. So some tips would be to ignore the stares, as most of the time they are harmless. A few men think that foreign women are easily available and any innocent conversation might make them think that you are making sexual advances. So don’t entertain men in any way.
3. Know how to interact with Indian men
Speaking of entertaining, there is actually a way to feel comfortable with Indian men. Understand that the men working outdoors in services, like restaurants, drivers, vendors, merchants or any labour are usually traditional and conservative. These section of men may include the ones that might create trouble in the form of staring, eve-teasing or any other act that might make you uncomfortable.
So you may have to act confident/distant according to the situations while conversing. They might take the advantage of your friendliness or just your smile (as they perceive these in a wrong way).
4. Eve teasing exists
Although not as predominant as staring, eve-teasing exists in part of the country. The best way to tackle is to just ignore, as most of the times it is just, well, teasing. Carry a pocket knife or pepper spray for your safety although you might not ever use them.
5. Don’t entertain any driver’s friend during your ride
It is common among Indian drivers (cab or tuk-tuks) to invite their friends while they are driving their customers around. In most of the cases, they are just helping their friends in dropping of them while on duty. But if you are a solo female traveler in India, you can refuse to let anyone hop on to the vehicle other than the driver to feel safe and comfortable. Just insist and let them know that you are going to get down if they do that.
6. Avoid couch surfing with a male host
On the whole, Couchsurfing is still a new phenomenon in India compared to other countries. Add to it the fact that some men misuse this platform to molest/rape women travelers and the result is that most women hesitate to try it. So it is better to opt for female hosts than men instead as you can still experience Couchsurfing and make friends.
7. It’s better to say that you have a husband/boyfriend
One of the tricks adopted by foreign solo female travelers in India is playing the I-am-married and I-have-a-boyfriend cards to avoid any romantic pursuits by men. You can also use this statement just to mask the fact that you are traveling alone in some cases. If you are willing to date or socialise, it’s a different thing but otherwise, it does take the attention off you to some extent and you’ll be saved from further intrusive/private questions.
Recommended read: Goa Travel Guide – All You Need to Know About India’s Party Capital
8. Being confident helps you a lot (even if you don’t feel it sometimes)
You might feel overwhelmed, chaotic and confused during your one or many trips in India, especially if you are a solo female traveler. It is quite natural, but being confident or at least coming off as a confident person will help you in easing your travels in many situations.
Recommended read: Top 6 Perks of Traveling Solo
Other things to keep in mind if you are a solo female traveler in India
9. Try to arrive at a destination during the day
As a rule of thumb, avoid traveling at night if you are traveling by yourself in India. It may be fine to travel at night in bigger cities/places like Delhi, Mumbai or Goa. Trains (AC coaches) and flights are fine, but taking public buses to smaller towns and cities at night might not be safe especially if a destination isn’t touristy and is off the beaten path. You can instead take the earliest/first bus of the day to make up for the journey time.
10. What to wear when traveling to India?
Be mindful of what you wear. The importance of dress code in India can’t be stressed enough for solo woman travelers. The country is on its way to being liberal and urbanised when it comes to attire and many other things, but India is huge with many people and it’s still a long way to go. This means, as a tourist, it is better to buy Indian wear like Kurta (long tops) with baggy pants/leggings. Jeans pants and T-shirts are fine as well, but anything skimpy, revealing or ones catching too many eyeballs may not help you in making comfortable or feel easy in India.
11. Accommodating too many places will leave you exhausted
As said at the beginning of this post, India is huge and cannot be rushed all at once. You either have to really limit the places or spend months to explore at least the surface of the country. On top of it, the transport doesn’t run on time, commuting might take longer than expected, tours may get delayed or just the weather might get unpredictable, which means you have to be patient and tolerant.
So if you try to fight against these and keep hopping around, not only will you enjoy your travel but would end up feeling exhausted both physically and mentally.
12. You’ll most likely get sick at least once while traveling in India
Most foreign travelers find it tough to get accustomed to India’s weather or just the way of life. In fact, it’s true for every country that one travels. But in India, it may be easier to fall in sick because of the water or the spicy local street food that you loved a lot or because of the dust or simply the weather itself.
So take all the precautions you can along with the medicines. But if they fail and you do fall sick, just accept it and get the medical care. Indian cities have very good medical facilities, so you’ll just be fine. But carry an insurance though!
13. Ask for a pickup to the hotel from the airport/train station/bus stand
First of all, know that booking online is the best way to go when it comes to accommodations especially if you have planned your trip in advance. Even if not, you can walk-in of course, but skip asking drivers or tourist agents for recommendations.
And most hotels/hostels have the facility of picking up their guests from where they arrive. So even if they don’t mention it explicitly during the booking or online, you can check with them prior your arrival or request them and they would easily pick you up. This saves you some money of course, but the most important thing is that you’ll avoid the touts and the drivers that line up to ask you where you are going.
14. The toilets can be good, bad, worse and worst
Depending on where you are travelling, the toilets can come in all the above conditions. Expect good hygienic facilities in bigger cities and towns, but be prepared to see the worst in some towns/villages. Carry the sanitation products that you think would help you feel better while dealing with the inevitable that you might have to encounter in any place.
15. Always have bottled water
Spare some money just to buy bottled water always while traveling in India. Please save yourself from falling sick and avoid tap water at any costs as you never know where that water might be coming from!
16. Know the helpline numbers and don’t hesitate to dial
In case you feel that you are in danger and need help, dial 100 for reaching the police stations in the country to get immediate help. For specific location and case, go to this website for the contact numbers.
If you feel intimidated by reading these things you should know before you travel, know that it isn’t the intention of this post. India is an awesome country, and much more than what the media portrays or the world perceives. It’s a country that many fall in love with, and keep coming back for more. Who knows, you might be the next one to experience India this way! Our tips are definitely enough to have a splendid trip in India as a solo female traveler!
Happy and safe travels!
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