14 MUST-DO Tips for every Solo Woman Traveler in India
To travel across the country solo with nothing but a backpack is on a lot of bucket lists, men and women alike, however, it won’t be an exaggeration for me to say that it is especially difficult for women to take on such an adventure.
There are certainly major concerns about safety due to India’s dubious reputation in terms of ensuring safety for women, however, there are lots of inspiring stories of those who have traveled alone and found it to be the most enriching experience of their lives. Shivya Nath left her stable corporate job to travel the world at 23, after her solo trip to Indonesia. This is the power of travel, more importantly, solo travel, it makes you get in touch with not only yourself but your surroundings. India is a beautiful country with amazing diversity in terms of people, locations, food, clothing, etc, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to explore that.
Here is a complete guide for solo women travelers in India so that you can take on the trip of a lifetime.
1) Pick the right hotel- One of the most important things is to ensure that you’ve picked a reputable homestay/hotel. Try to pick one right in the middle of a market or a crowded area and stay away from isolated ones. Make sure to read the reviews and get yourself familiar with where you’re going to stay. Try to stay in residential areas that are known to be safe and steer clear of the shady, cheap hotels. This plays a very major role in ensuring your safety during travel and makes you feel comfortable with your surroundings. On the off chance that you find your homestay/hotel shady, don’t hesitate and immediately leave. This is one thing that you should readily spend on to make sure that where you’ll be staying is safe.
2) Keep someone informed about your travels- It’s nice to have a travel buddy, not necessarily one that comes with you but stays updated about your travel itinerary and whereabouts. This can be anyone, from your family member to a friend, just someone whom you can inform about which places you’ll be visiting on your trip. Make sure to keep them updated of where you’re going, how you’re going and when you’ll be coming back so that they can take swift action in case of an emergency.
3) Choose the right spaces- In most public transport they have designated spaces for women, be it in buses or metros. Try to choose such spaces to steer clear of unwanted trouble. Even in restaurants, they have a ‘family section’ so head straight for that. In general, choose more spaces where you’ll find more women or families. Even in a market, don’t head out to an isolated shop in a basement/any far away area. Try to be in spaces that are women or family-friendly.
4) It’s okay to be rude- If you don’t feel comfortable in a situation, walk away. Don’t hesitate or think that it might be rude for you to do that, nothing comes before your safety. If you feel someone is staring at you, or if someone is invading your personal space, just walk away. It’s okay to be rude when someone makes inappropriate remarks. It’s okay to be rude when your gut instinct — your intuition — tells you something is off. Social étiquette doesn’t matter when it comes to personal safety and wellbeing.
5) Do your research - This rule applies to every traveler everywhere, do your research about wherever you’re going. This will help you a lot not only in organizing the trip in a much better manner but also knowing what to do in times of an emergency. Learn about the safer spaces you can go to in times of an emergency. Get familiar with the emergency numbers of the particular place and do remember some in case you don’t have your phone with you. This little research will go a long way in making you feel safe and comfortable. Caution, not fear, is what will make your trip much more exciting and fun.
6) Dress accordingly- Let’s face it, there are still certain places in India where wearing dresses or shorts might not be the best idea. In certain conservative places, you might stand out if everyone is wearing a saree/suit while you wear shorts. Not to say that you have to wear traditional Indian clothes to travel solo here, but just to make sure you don’t stand out, dress according to the place you’re going to. As they say, when in Rome, do as Romans do. This will allow you to merge better with the crowd and not stick out.
7) Use transportation strategies- To start, get someone to pick you up at the airport when you land. Many good hotels and guest houses will arrange this for you. When you’re leaving the hotel, ask them to arrange a good cab/local transport for you. Don’t be hesitant to ask for assistance, when leaving a bar or restaurant, get someone to walk you to an auto or taxi. Or call someone, and loudly tell them the number of the taxi, so the driver can hear. Such small things can go a long way in ensuring safety. Plan your trip so that you don’t land anywhere in the middle of the night, stay connected and keep someone informed about your whereabouts.
8) Consider timings while going out- It’s best to explore any location in daylight. Not only does it allow you to explore it in all its glory but it is also much safer to travel in broad daylight. Leave your hotel/homestay early in the morning and explore as much as you want to but try to be back before dinner so that you don’t have to compromise on your safety. Certain areas can get very isolated, especially at night. Even public transport isn’t safe at night, it’s better to be cautious about such situations. Use this time at night to figure out what you want to do tomorrow or unwind and relax at the hotel.
9) Choose the right places- India is a vast country with numerous locations to explore, from mountains to beaches, we’ve got everything. However while choosing which place to go to and figuring out the itinerary, do factor in the safety concern. Especially for your first solo trip, choose locations that are known to be safer for female travelers. There are umpteen blogs on the internet by women who’ve traveled solo, go through those. Not only will you be familiar with how to go about it but also get an idea about which places are relatively safer. Mumbai, for example, is known to be relatively safer as compared to Delhi. Even Rishikesh, Varanasi, etc are considered to be relatively safer. Of course, no city, place is completely safe so do take all the necessary precautions.
10) Don’t post your real-time updates on social media- While social media is an amazing tool in many ways, sometimes it’s best not to share too much. Click that picture of the beautiful monument but maybe don’t post it right away. Let someone know where you are but maybe not the best idea to let the whole world know. You should share the beautiful pictures and memories from your trip but don’t post real-time updates of where you are for it may cause unwanted trouble.
11) Certain important tools for safety- Do carry a pepper spray with you for safety reasons and take it everywhere you go. Another thing worth buying is a rubber door-stopper/wedge. If you don’t feel a lock on your hotel room door is secure, carry a rubber door-stopper/wedge with you and stick it under your door from inside if need be as extra security. As soon as you enter a room, check around for peepholes, if you feel uncertain and uncomfortable, switch rooms or hotels immediately.
12) Establish clear boundaries- Feel free to create a space you’re comfortable in and establish clear boundaries. Call the local men bhaiya (brother) or kaka (uncle) to establish clear boundaries and ensure distancing respectfully. Avoid getting friendly or sharing too much information with men such as your cab driver, guide, etc. Trust your instinct when it comes to places if you feel uncomfortable somewhere or someone, then leave immediately. It’s best to trust your gut.
13) Carry the right numbers with you- Take the number and address of your hostel with you. If you’re in a dodgy situation or get lost, they can often arrange for a trusted local driver to pick you up, which is much safer than just jumping into a passing taxi. Also keep the number of a trusted someone you’ve been informing so that even if you lose your phone, you can easily contact them. Do remember the emergency numbers of the particular location you’re in.
14) Lastly, just have fun. You might not get this opportunity often so make the most of it. Of course, necessary precautions are important when you’re traveling solo but don’t let it create a fear in your mind. Solo trips teach you so much about yourself, the people around you and the places you go to. So, explore the places you go to as much as you can and make memories that last a lifetime.
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