It doesn’t matter how much you prepare, or how much you have traveled with others before, that first solo trip to India will be difficult unless you know how the game is played in India. There’s potential for sexual assault anywhere in the world; India being no different from any other country. However, taking precautions is your best defense against becoming a victim whether in India or in some other corner of the world. In my previous post I talked about The Secret To Solo Female Travel In India. Here are some more of the best tips for solo trip India that will make sure you have only good memories to take back home.
Keep a watch on yourself and your surroundings at all time. Spend time looking around you and taking note of what you see. Be present in every moment.
Trust your gut feeling
Your intuition knows best. If something doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it. Don’t freak out by imaginary monsters in your head, but surely pay attention to those little messages our animal instincts give us.
Walk with confidence
Behave confidently. Always walk assertively and confidently as if you have been there and done that before. If you do this potential attackers will leave you alone. They only prey on those who are vulnerable. Walk with your head held high, and confidently greet people and look them in the eye. Act as if you know exactly where you’re going and what you’re doing, even if you’re lost. At the same time, maintain a formal distance. In some cultures, being outgoing or friendly – or simply smiling or initiating a conversation – may be interpreted as flirting or a sexual invitation. If a man tries to talk to you, don’t feel pressured to respond. If someone makes you uncomfortable, keep your composure and remove yourself from the situation at once.
Let people know of your plans
Let people you know and trust that where you are going and when. With today’s communication portals this can involve something as quick as an email, facebook message, twitter update or Skype call.
Talk to people
Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers, to make new friends and to travel with those new friends. If you sense something going wrong, it’s always better to involve a group of people rather than facing it alone.
Always travel light, if possible, to protect yourself against loss or theft of money and valuables. You’ll be much less vulnerable and more independent if you’re not submerged with a lot of luggage.
The ideal handbag or day pack is easy to carry and has zippered inner compartments for added security, and a sturdy shoulder strap. The best way to carry your bag is in front of you, close to your body, where it’s out of reach of wandering hands. Carry only items that are lightweight and that you can afford to lose.
Try to have at least one hand free at all times. It may help to wear cargo pants or a vest with multiple pockets to store travel documents and gear. Be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out for bag-snatchers and pickpockets.
Look like a Beggar
Avoid displaying expensive-looking cameras, jewellery, and other showy accessories that may mark you as a wealthy tourist.
Beware of credit card fraud. Never leave your credit card out of sight. Always insist of swiping infront of you.
Conceal in a money belt or neck pouch any necessities that can’t be easily replaced and that are crucial to your travel arrangements: your passport, airline and train tickets, credit and debit cards, traveller’s cheques, cash, a copy of your insurance policy, medical prescriptions, and emergency contact information for your doctor or family.
Lost & Found
Keep copies of all important travel documents in your suitcase, in case the originals are stolen or lost.
Use a small wheeled suitcase or backpack for long trips, a small day pack for shorter excursions. Keep your luggage locked at all times. Carry two sets of keys.
Use luggage tags that hide your contact information from the inquiring eyes of thieves and con artists.
Always pack your own luggage and never let it out of your sight while travelling. Watch out for individuals who may try to plant items in your pockets or in your luggage. Never carry anything, even an envelope, across a border or through customs for anyone else.
Wine & Dine
Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be careful of accepting snacks, beverages, gum, or cigarettes from new friends. There’s always a risk of spiking, and drug-assisted rape is common worldwide. So-called “date-rape drugs” – usually prescription-strength sleeping aids – are tasteless and colorless and can leave you unconscious and defenseless. Alcohol alone is the drug most frequently used in sexual assault.
Ask and you shall receive
If you begin to feel strange, sick, or intoxicated for no obvious reason, ask a friend or someone you trust to take you to a safe place. If you’re alone, call the local police, a hospital, or the nearest government office abroad.
Games people play
Know the risks of ending up alone with strange men. Think twice before leaving a club or party with someone you’ve just met or accepting an invitation to go out with a man alone.
Be wary of anyone who invades your personal space, ignores your protests, or tries to make you feel ashamed if you resist his advances.
Raise your voice
If you feel threatened, don’t hesitate to draw attention to yourself by shouting and making a fuss.
It’s all in the Eyes
Avoid eye contact. In some cultures, meeting a man’s gaze may suggest that you want his company. A simple solution is to wear dark glasses in public places.
Do As Locals Do
Take your cue from the local women. If they don’t sit in cafés or parks alone or wear tank tops or miniskirts, neither should you. Avoid wearing form-fitting clothing that may be considered provocative. If you’re fair-haired in a country where most women are dark-haired, you may attract unwanted attention. Consider wearing a headscarf or hat.
Create Husband & Babies too…
Wear a (fake) wedding ring. Also carry a photo of your husband (or an imaginary one), which you can show to persistent suitors. Being seen as married will lower your profile and stave off uninvited advances.
Be watchful when travelling on public transport. Crowded buses and trains can be hot spots for molestation. Some men may exploit the opportunity to harass female passengers. If you’re targeted, make a fuss. Point at the offender and insult him in a loud voice. He’ll probably run away. To avoid such advances, consider choosing reserved seating or insist on sitting next to another woman.
Enjoy Celebrity Status
As a Westerner in India, you are automatically a celebrity. Your skin colour, your clothes, your blonde hair: all this Western strangeness is absolutely fascinating to a majority of Indians, especially those who live in areas which don’t have a huge influx of tourism. So you’ll have to get used to having your photo taken, whether you’ve given consent or not. Accept that many women will look at you and laugh; try to be gracious about it even though it feels as if you are an alien!
Actively posing for these photos, along with the various family members of the photographer, is also a great way to make momentary quick friendships. The bottom-line, is to only give the go ahead if there are women or children involved. When a gang of teenage boys ask for a photo and want to put their arms around you, it’s normally time to back off. And if they’re too insistent, and the atmosphere shifts from jokey to a bit threatening, don’t hesitate to make your feelings apparent.
Women – be smart, be sensible, be safe, but please do not stop going to India!
Any other tips you can suggest for safe solo trip India for a female coming first time ? Feel free to share your ideas on how to handle India alone…