A question I often see on social media is, “is it safe for me to travel around India by myself?” It’s a controversial topic and there are many people who have had bad experiences, but I wouldn’t say you should skip an entire country based on someone else’s experience. I am going to be honest, India is not a smooth country to travel around but it is the most rewarding and can offer you something that other countries simply cannot.
For 6 weeks, I set myself the challenge of exploring India, from Delhi to Mumbai via train (and one bus) as a solo female. I got a lot of questions asking me what I was thinking, and people telling me horrific stories. The general vibe of me going to India was a negative one. Friends and family were worried, and rightly so because of what they had read in the media. I encourage every woman to not be scared and make your own experiences BUT I do recommend you follow the following tips to ensure you stay safe and have the best trip ever. For me, backpacking India was a life-changing experience and I am sure India has this effect on most travellers! So much so, I went back the following year and probably will continue to find myself there in the years to come. India has that effect on you. So, moving on here are my 6 tips for solo females wanting to travel in India.
Don’t go out in the dark
Quite simple. If you are travelling by yourself in a foreign country I don’t recommend (anywhere in the world) you should walk in the dark by yourself. It’s dangerous and to be frank, stupid. I wouldn’t even do it in my own town so why would I do it in a foreign country? Please make sure you are back before it gets dark or surround yourself with other people if you do want to go out to party or go look at some night markets. Travelling solo does have its limitations but this doesn’t have to compromised because if you follow my next step you can go still do it, safely.
Stay in hostels
When I first arrived in India I booked to stay in hotels for the first part of my trip because they are cheaper than hostels, but that was a big mistake. After my stalking experience in the first hotel I opted to stay in hostels so I could surround myself with people and be able to go out with a group of people for dinner as it got dark at about 6pm in Delhi at that time. It was the best decision I made! Throughout the trip, I made loads of friends whom I went to dinner with and got to experience the cities together, which made a huge difference! Not only did this positively affect my confidence but it brightened my entire trip because I got to do things I wouldn’t have been able to do as a solo female in India.
Staying in a hostel in Delhi I met one backpacker who I genuinely felt scared for. She was hugely confident in herself (you go girl!) but what was worrying was the situations she thought was funny (like ending up in a tourism office, handed ‘unknown alcohol’, smoking drugs and basically convinced to buy a ridiculous tour). Not only that but she was dressing disrespectfully to the culture. The number one bit of advice would be this: Research the culture and customs, every country is different. Apart from the resorts and beach towns it’s not respectful to wear short shorts and a tight little top, simple as that. Some people take offense this and say I should be able to wear what I want. Unfortunately, it’s not the case. Do your research and find out what’s appropriate and what’s not because I saw it time and time again during my travels in India and it’s just not cool – sometimes you have to please others before you, and in this case it meant respecting others’ views. When dressing appropriately, people will respect you and they will be happy to help you.
The key to not getting ripped off and looking like a complete mug is confidence! Act confident but don’t flaunt yourself. As a solo female, there may be times where you may be looked down upon. Just keep your head high, keep calm and act with confidence.
Staying connected with family and friends and letting them know when you arrive in a new location is another way you can keep yourself safe. Message a family member or friend and give them your hostel’s name and address, and give them a rough itinerary so if they don’t hear from you they will know exactly where you could be if something goes wrong. If you can, grab yourself a sim card when arriving to India. It can be a bit of a rat race trying to get one but if you ask a local nicely or hostel owner they should be able to help you. Their data packs are super cheap to buy but just be warned that you may have to grab a few different sim cards if you are travelling throughout the country as your network might not work in another region.
Trust your gut feeling
Along my travels in India the most important thing to me was listening to my intuition. They say women have an extremely strong intuition. I have had that ‘feeling’ a few times in my life and a couple of those times were in India. The first was when the hotel manager stalked me within a few hours of me arriving in India and when I decided to catch a bus instead of a train and got inappropriately touched by the man sitting next to me. Both these times my gut feeling was telling me something is not right. If you feel like a situation or environment feels bad then get out of that situation right then and there, don’t question it.
Most of all, have fun! India is an incredible country with a rich culture. It’s a place of smiles, colours, and chaos so make sure you enjoy the experience and ride the wave, because it will be a damn tidal wave sometimes. When girls ask me whether they should travel to India or not my automatic response is yes! Please don’t let fear stop you from travelling to India. Just make sure you follow the steps above so you hopefully avoid getting into those awful situations.
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