When you ask me about solo female travel in India, unpleasant memories of being cat-called on a recent trip to Jaipur buzz through my mind. My affair with traveling doesn’t have a long history but ever since I started, I have had my bitter bite of being teased on different occasions.
India’s poster value for women travelers isn’t promising; we all know about it. Whether you are a foreigner or an Indian woman, the country will rub patriarchy in your face: travel, politics, or business, whatever the realm. Now, you can certainly not stop doing what you love. You cannot hide at home for the fear of being cat-called. You cannot kill your dreams of exploring new places. What you can do is take required measures while traveling in India to ensure your safety.
Here are some tips that will help you have pleasant memories and see the brighter side of India as a solo female traveler.
1. Do your homework
Before you embark upon a journey to this beautiful land of various cultures, make sure you do your homework. By that, we mean you must pay attention to every small detail available. From how you should dress to how you should speak, if you should mingle with the locals or not, what areas are safe for you to visit, which hotels are the best — you should have it all noted in your head. Also, conduct thorough research on the modes of transportation that are available in the region. If you want to avoid the public transport, opt for a private cab service. But in that case, make it a point to check their reviews and safety rating. Don’t forget to save the women helpline phone numbers from the Internet. These can really help in times of need. Overall, the idea is to prepare yourself before you begin the journey. Having some information handy is always a perk.
2. Dress according to the occasion
Irrespective of being one of the fastest developing countries and the world’s largest democracy, India still has its roots embedded in conservatism. If you are traveling to the areas of Rajasthan or Haryana in India, make sure you dress modestly. Avoid wearing super short or revealing clothes. When visiting temples or mosques, choose to carry a scarf to cover your head. Indians are quite conservative when it comes to religious points of interest and they expect you to respect this. While traveling to cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Goa, you will see most women dressed in a modern attire. You can choose to wear whatever you are comfortable in making sure it doesn’t attract a lot of attention. In this case, also you should do some prior research based on which region you are planning to visit.
3. Avoid what you can
Those catcalls and advances that men make towards women in India can be really difficult to ignore. While you may feel comfortable standing up to yourself to men who stare or make any vulgar comments to you, it’ll not really help in India. When you shout back at men, they usually enjoy that you are annoyed. Hence, the best way is to ignore and avoid what you can. This definitely does not mean that you have to turn mute and dumb towards every catcall; some do require action. Be the judge, act smartly, and let impulsive reactions take a backseat. In addition to this, avoid traveling to new places at night.
4. Prepare for night travel in advance
At the first thought, avoid traveling alone at night. Certainly, everyone cannot. In the days when you have to travel overnight, make sure you plan it well in advance. Make all bookings beforehand. Also, be sure you have booked a ride from the airport, railway station, or bus stop before you start the overnight journey. Keep emergency numbers on speed dial, just in case of an unpleasant experience. Avoid sharing details of your stay with complete strangers.
5. Don't let your fear build up
Travelling alone may sound scary to you at first. While you are in India, make sure you don’t let this fear get the better of you. It will keep you from enjoying your experience here. Make sure you are not afraid to explore. After all, the idea of solo traveling is to get out of comfort zone and be a better version of yourself, isn’t it? Fearless doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be foolish at attempting things that are clearly unsafe. You shouldn’t let others get a catch of your fear. That’s the whole point!
6. Pepper spray for those unfortunate encounters
Pepper spray can be your best friend in India in the times when an unfortunate encounter stands in your way. The sale and purchase of the spray has been legalized in India and you can easily buy it from a supermarket or an online store like Amazon. In case someone attacks you, pepper spray can give you enough time to raise alarm or find safety. However, you certainly have to be confident and bold enough to use it.
7. Prefer traveling during the day
Avoid traveling on public transport late at night. It is always safer to travel from one spot to another during the day. Also, it gives you an opportunity to witness scenic panoramas along the way. So, both for safety and experience, we recommend traveling during the day.
8. The pretend and act policy
Now, this may sound funny, but it really works. On a recent road trip to Dalhousie, while checking into a hotel or hiring a taxi, I would pretend to be talking on the phone with someone from a group of travelers that I was suppose to join. Also, I would act as if I have given all details of my stay and travel to a family member. This ‘Pretend and Act’ policy can help you stay safe in India. By displaying that you’re not alone, you can save yourself from several more difficult experiences.
9. Check reviews before booking an accommodation
Whether you are booking an accommodation via phone or Internet, make sure you have checked all reviews beforehand. A lot of solo women travelers avoid booking accommodations with no reviews. If you are making a reservation through Airbnb, go through the host’s background properly. You can even get in touch with them to understand what kind of people they really are. Also, you can visit other review websites to get a glimpse of the property and if it is safe or not.
10. Keep friends and family informed
Stay in touch with your family or friends. Keep them informed about your whereabouts. If you are traveling to remote areas where you may have no access to the Internet or telephone reception, make sure you inform them beforehand. Keeping your friends and family informed is always a good thing to do when it comes you being safe as a solo traveler in India.
Be yourself, be fearless
There may be several occasions when you may want to give up the idea of solo traveling. Don’t quit and be fearless; that’s all we have to say while ending this piece. You can follow the aforementioned tips and stay safe while traveling in India. Make sure while you enjoy the colorful experiences that India offers, while taking care of yourself as a priority.
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