India stays in the lime-light for all the wrong reasons when it comes to solo female travel in India. The issue of women safety on the Indian streets is in the news quite frequently these days. Women be it Indian or foreign faces many threats on the roads of India like staring, groping, stalking, and even rape sometimes.All this makes people wonder is India worth all these hassles? Why not skip it entirely for less troublesome nations on Earth?
Well, let me tell you honestly no other country will fascinate or frustrate you more…
However I feel it’s impossible to stereotype a nation of one billion people, and bad experiences there will naturally be impossible to avoid. The challenge lies in refusing to accept such occurrences as the status quo, while still choosing to focus on the positive. This might sound naïve, but it’s a choice that India demands of you.
I personally believe after travelling to both the developed and third world countries, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, if you keep your wits about you, make sensible decisions for your personal safety, and are lucky to not be in the wrong place at the wrong time, then you can travel wherever you like and be ok.
What to expect as solo female traveler in India
The most common things are constant starring, provocative comments, lewd gestures, cat calls, physical advances and sometimes groping.
Having said all of the above, there is no need to be panic. It’s not like all Indian men are waiting for you to pounce on you the moment you put your feet on Indian soil. On the opposite side most Indians are friendly and will go out of their way to help you.
The important thing is to be aware of the surroundings and to trust your intuition. Although there is no fool-proof way to save yourself from sexual harassment, there definitely are certain things you can do to minimize the bad experiences…
Don’t think about the possible dangers
There are a million things that can go wrong, no matter how you are travelling and where you are travelling. In fact, there are a million things that can go wrong in your life just by stepping out of home. But, that doesn’t stop you from getting on with your life right? Well don’t do the same when you are thinking of travelling solo.
Be Alert, Come Prepared
Prepare yourself for your ‘Indian’ journey, especially as a solo female traveler. Prior to your trip do your homework and read about India and try to understand the Indian culture, traditions, customs and Indian way of life. Come with your eyes wide open and keep in mind that what awaits you here may be very different from what you are used to in your home country. Have some research on the body language and culture. Some gestures like eye contact, hugs, smiling too often and too loud can be taken as open invitation for intimacy.
This goes without saying but India is still a conservative country except the few places like Goa, Mumbai, New Delhi; where you can wear all you want at whatever time you want. The idea is to dress modestly by covering your shoulders, legs and cleavage. You can easily buy the inexpensive “kurta” or Indian tunic or salwar- kameez suit (something similar to pant and loose top) from the local market for around Rs. 500. That’s around 12$. The point is to take the idea of how local women dress. You can reduce the unwanted male attention if you can avoid wearing plunging necklines, shorts, miniskirts and body hugging clothes. The idea is to get blend in the local culture so that you don’t look too much touristy who is lost and confused on the crowded streets of New Delhi.
Sad to say but India lacks the beach culture except places like Goa. It’s hard to find Indian women wearing bikini on the public beaches. Again learn from the locals and its best to crush your desire to swim in a bikini on an isolated beach. If you really wish to test the waters, find a place where you can see other tourists swimming or go in a group. Still don’t be surprised if you find people taking your photos on their mobile phones secretly. That’s because a blond woman in 2 piece bikini is a celebrity for them.
The golden rule here is simply to avoid travelling without reservation in trains especially on over-night journey. The three-tier AC (3AC) compartment is much safer and easy to travel than the general non AC un-reserved compartment which is very slightly cheaper than air-conditioned one. Also while booking train tickets, try to get the upper berths as it will give you more privacy away from the eyes of potential stalker.
For the bus, simply avoid the night journey and NEVER ever take the double sleeper bus tickets as they have very narrow sleeper berths without any separation in between and you will end up being very uncomfortable if you have to share it with a man.
Most train stations and airports have pre-paid taxi services or you can dial the number and call a radio cab in big cities. Make sure the driver is not bringing his friend along with him during late night drives.
Get Advantage Of Being A WOMAN
Metro rail has a women compartment where only women can travel. Similar is the case with ladies waiting rooms in railway stations where you can sit and wait for your train in case its delayed which is very common in India. At the ticket counters on railway station there is almost always “Ladies Queue” while booking. So take the advantage and go safer.
Find A Company
You can easily find another female solo traveler in hotels or tourist attractions, so team up and travel together as far as you both can go. If you are travelling with foreign man, you will be looked upon as couple and this will keep you safe from most unwanted situations and potential threats.
Don’t Be Over-Confident
Confidence is good but just don’t show how bold you are by roaming around alone at night in the dark streets. Stay cautious with men who appear too-friendly to you in a short time and avoid eating any food they offer whether packed or unpacked. Same goes with mineral water bottles, cold drinks, alcohol, cigarettes. You never know what’s mixed in the bottle before they offer you.
Learn To Ignore
Indian men can be persistent. Best to ignore and avoid staring back at people who constantly stare at you as it could be considered as a sign of interest you seem to be showing in them.
Indian people in general can be very clingy. In case of any annoyance don’t encourage it. State clearly that you are not interested and walk away or shift your attention to something else.
Some more tips :
- While finding a room in the hotel always check out the room beforehand and see that the hotel has other foreign guests or families staying there at the same time as you.
- Avoid smoking just outside the temple or in rural villages as this will immediately attract all sorts of unwanted attention.
- If you are sick or have some gynecological problem try to visit a female doctor unless it’s very urgent.
- Keep conversations with strangers short, to the point and lust-free. Don’t encourage unwanted conversations as this might be taken as a sign of sexual interest.
- Always carry a book with you or an i-pod. This could help in avoiding chit-chat with unwanted people.
- Create a scene: most men will back off when they know you can raise your voice and put him to shame.
- Ask for help: Indian people are generally very helpful. If you are lost or you cannot reach a place, always ask for help or directions.
Finally… don’t be afraid!
India is an amazing country full of surprises. Warding off sexual attention is a matter of common sense. So get ready to discover this magnificent land and don’t let anything stop you! We have no doubt that your journey will be nothing less than Incredible if you follow The Practical Tips For Women On Solo Trip To India.
If you’re a woman and have traveled solo in India (or elsewhere in the world), I’d love to hear from you. What has your experience been? What helps you connect and keep safe on the road?