10 Tips for Solo Female Travellers in India
Are you travelling alone to or within India for the first time? If yes, then you may be worried about various aspects of travel like personal safety. But as someone who is an Indian and also travels solo, I can assure you, travelling in India is not as unsafe as it may seem. I won't say that it is completely safe either, no place in the world is. But before you start, it may be wise asking yourself if you absolutely must travel alone. If you are someone who is starting off with travelling, it may help having company or joining travel groups to ease your way into travelling solo in future. But if travelling solo is what you wish for, then don't worry, here are some tips you can keep in mind for making your travels safer and convenient!
1. Trust Your Instincts and Use Common Sense!
If you're travelling solo, it isn't very different than say, taking a local/public transportation within your own city. The only difference is, that this time you are travelling to some place you are not familiar with. But where ever you go in the world, when it comes to safety, the same rules apply, that you would employ back at home. Don't stray away into secluded places like dark alleys, avoid suspicious places, don't accept drinks from strangers, don't get too drunk/don't get drunk at all, don't trust someone blindly, don't go to places that you're unsure of, don't venture out at odd hours, don't leave your bags unattended etc. The list is obviously endless. Make sure you're on your guard and use your heightened sense of instincts to your advantage to avoid situations like theft, eve-teasing, petty crimes or anything that can leave you with a sour travel experience.
Also, use your instincts. If they tell you that you need to avoid someone or some place, then it's best avoided.
2. Avoid reaching your destination at odd hours
If you are travelling to a new place that you are unfamiliar with, book your transportation in such a way, that you don't reach at odd hours or don't have to begin at odd hours. It will save you a lot of hassle that way. Sometimes when you are visiting a new place you just can't be sure, what facilities of further transportation (like cabs) or safety features (like regular police patrolling) are available. But if you absolutely have to travel during odd hours for some reason, reach the airport, bus stand or railway station early and wait in the waiting room.
3. Read about a place thoroughly/ Do your research
The best bet for safe-guarding yourself against any safety or travel scam is to stay informed and make good choices. Before making a travel plan, read blog posts, watch videos and familiarize yourself as much as possible with the place. This is helpful in finding out about the culture, what to wear, which part of the place to live in, which area is safe to book a place to stay in, places to visit, how to reach the place etc. Knowledge is your best friend as a solo traveller to keep yourself safe and truly enjoy a place. And frankly, with internet, it's so much easier to find information these days. When in doubt, you can always watch my travel videos. :P
4. Find local connections
If you are visiting a new place, it is usually helpful to find friends or friends of friends via facebook or other social media services, to get help locally. Even local knowledge, understanding or advice can go a long way to help make sense of new places and its culture. Ask Taxi drivers, auto drivers or hotel staff for places worth visiting or areas that might be unsafe. Sometimes even striking a conversation about where you intend to visit will help give a better local understanding of whether or not it's a good idea. The locals of any place are the best resource for digging deep and you never know, they may just tell you of amazing places that no blog will tell you of.
If you are lucky, you may even find someone who can show you around and help you find your way around. So never underestimate the potential of local help!
5. Dress like locals/Mimic the locals/other tourists
Dressing up in India is probably a grey area and it is usually difficult to decide what to wear. There are so many different parts of India where dressing in a certain way for tourists may be considered okay, while in others it is not. For places close to the beach, wearing a pair of shorts for women may be absolutely acceptable, but in some older parts of India, like Varanasi, that will attract too much attention. As absurd as this may sound, but as a solo female traveller in India, I feel most comfortable and "safe" wearing something that covers my legs and is less "showy" while travelling.
Whenever in doubt about what to wear, try and mimic locals, or take inspiration from what other travellers around you are wearing. The safest bet is to wear loose cotton pants with a tank top, cami or t-shirt. Additionally, you could carry a scarf at all times to cover your shoulders if needed.
6. Be Inconspicuous/less showy about valuable items
If you are travelling alone and like me, have to carry a lot of filming equipment, cameras, a laptop etc. avoid being too showy about what you're carrying. Do not open your bags in local transportation, or in places where you are vulnerable or could be a potential target for theft. Lock your bags and valuable items if possible and only carry as much as you really need. Keep your hotel room/homestay/hostel bed locked and valuable items stored away and pack as light as possible.
Never lose sight of your bags. I usually like to carry a backpack with essentials when I'm touring around a place and I sling the backpack to my front when I'm in crowded places. This is helpful in keeping my bag safe and also avoids the odd chance where someone may try to eve tease me in crowded locations.
Do not disclose how much cash you have on you, and if possible keep cash in more than one places as backup. Basically, be inconspicuous about what you're carrying when you have all your luggage with you.
Another useful tip is, don't ever travel without backup money for your safety in situations where you may be stuck.
7. Be Confident and Mindful of your Body Language
While I don't want to sound like it is absolutely unsafe to travel alone in India, but your body language and attitude can go a long way to help make you feel safer and confident. Sometimes when potential attackers or thiefs or miscreants are looking for a target, they do look for victims by looking at their body language. So always try to walk with a sense of purpose and look like you have a plan, even if you don't! Your confidence can be your biggest strength at times. Keep all the knowledge and wisdom handy when dealing with strangers or while interacting with new people. And if you are in need of help, trust your instincts when asking somebody.
If you are talking to strangers, be mindful your body language so it isn't interpreted in any twisted way. And while these are just tips to be extra extra safe (in a real world you don't need to be THIS cautious), it doesn't hurt if travel teaches you to be a little more confident than your normal life! ;)
8. Keep An Open Mind:
Don't ever go to any place with too many pre-conceived notions. I know I said earlier that you need to do your research, but don't form too many opinions about the culture, people or your environment. There are some elements of travel that will always surprise you. So, keep an open mind and be ready to explore places while leaving behind your older opinions.
9. Hotel rooms, Homestays, Couchsurfing, Workaway?
Okay, now this is something a lot of girls ask me about when it comes to safety. Hotel rooms and "safe" places to stay. So let me tell you. I 100% book all my hotels and homestays online through different web portals like goibibo, airbnb etc. The safest bet is to always check the ratings and reviews of other people who stayed at the same place that interests you. And with this approach you also find other interesting things about the places to book. Like I always look for a comment that mentions "best location to stay". A review like that usually means that the hotel/place of stay is centrally located and close to places of tourist interest. Also you get to make sure that the place doesn't have any negative comments on safety.
If you are a backpacker and are using services like couchsurfing and workaway to save expenses, choose your hosts carefully. More often than not, only choose hosts that are verified and have reviews. Go through all the reviews and weed out the things that other people like or dislike about hosts to reach a decision about contacting them. Personally I haven't ever used these services in India. Although I intend to find out soon.
10. Don't refrain from making friends
While solo travelling, it may seem like you have to be on you guard all the time (especially after this article :P) But don't let it make you feel like you can't make friends. Making new friends is one of the most enriching experiences of travelling solo. Trust your instincts and don't let fear grip you or stop you from finding like minded people or friends. And if you are lost or unsure about what to do, ask someone in the vicinity who looks like they could help you, like couples or other travellers. Don't think too much before tagging along with other travellers for adventures (after using your better judgement and instincts of course) and have a good time.
But after having said ALL of the above, I would like to acknowledge that most people in India are very kind and helpful, especially at tourist destinations, and there's no reason to be afraid of asking for help if you need it.
Lastly, solo travel is all about having fun, making new friends, finding local connections and experiencing culture. So keep the basics in mind but don't forget to garner experiences that will last you a lifetime! India is not as unsafe while travelling as its made out to be. In Fact, you will find that locals are very helpful and will try to help you, keep you safe and necessitate the right knowledge knowing that you are a solo female traveller! All the best!
Additional Travel Information for first time travellers:
- If you are travelling solo for the first time in India, start small. Plan a weekend adventure or join a volunteer program. As fascinating as solo travel sounds, it may not be everybody's cup of tea.
- For making bookings in India for hotel stays, flights, buses etc. these are some of the most useful websites: https://www.makemytrip.com/ ; https://www.goibibo.com
- For making train bookings - https://www.irctc.co.in/
- For more information on hikes and treks: https://indiahikes.com/
Leave your comments below and let me know if there's something that I missed or if you would like to add something from your experience!