Thursday, September 29th, 2016

Solo Female Travel in India — Is it Safe?

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Mariellen, Tiger Fort, India

Is it safe for a woman to travel alone in India? Yes, it absolutely can be — but traveling in India requires special preparation and practices, especially if you’re a woman.

For this piece, I decided to bring in an expert: Mariellen Ward, a Canadian travel writer and longtime advocate for solo female travel who considers India her “soul culture.” Mariellen is the voice behind Breathe Dream Go, a travel blog focusing on India and the spiritual journey behind travel. She is also the author of Song of India, a short story collection available for free when you sign up for her newsletter.

In this interview, Mariellen reveals how women can travel India safely.

You’ve traveled extensively in India. What is it about India that brings you back again and again?

To me, India is the only technicolour country I’ve been to. While I’ve travelled to some fascinating places and had wonderful experiences, India is in a class by itself. “All life is there,” a quote from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, sums it up.

Also, I feel an uncanny affinity for India, and I have since the day I landed back in 2005. I feel India is my “soul culture” … for completely inexpressable reasons. And then there’s the food…

I have travelled in India for 17 months over the last eight years, on six different trips. Most of it was solo travel. I’ve had a few minor incidents — my phone was stolen at a temple in Mumbai by a group of women and my breast was grabbed really quickly by a passing man in Old Delhi — but aside from staring, unwanted attention and people trying to over-charge me, that’s it. Most of my travel in India has been wonderful — exciting, life changing, challenging, rewarding. The great adventure of my life.

The recent attacks on Western women traveling through India have dominated news headlines. What are your thoughts on these horrific events?

I feel heartbroken this is happening in India, heartbroken the women had to suffer these experiences and heartbroken the media has effectively stereotyped India as a dangerous place full of perverts. There are some “badmashes,” no doubt; and Indian society as a whole is not advancing as rapidly as I would like with regards to women’s rights, education and opportunity.

India is a massive nation, with a deeply entrenched, ancient culture currently in the throes of great change. It is, to me, the most fascinating place on earth right now.

I am aware that I am a “white woman” travelling in India, and that I have to face unwanted attention, and take extra precautions. However, personally, I have not had a lot of bad experiences; in fact, I’ve had overwhelmingly good experiences in India. There are many warm, hospitable and helpful people in India, and they are by far the majority.

Ultimately, I think you should travel in India when you’re ready, when you feel called. It’s not for everyone. Go with your eyes open…you may see wondrous things…

Mariellen at Kumbh Mela, India

How can women protect themselves in India?

One, gain an understanding of the culture of India, and how it’s different from the culture you grew up in. In Canada, for example, I might flirt with a waiter. I would not do that in India, where the genders relate differently and the meaning could be misinterpreted.

Two, The attitude you take when you travel in India will influence your experience, in my opinion. Try and have a positive and confident attitude. Be cautious, use common sense, but try and keep your fear in check.

For some reason, India seems to reflect back your inner feelings, expectations and judgments much more quickly and forcefully than other places. If you are afraid, you may have scary experiences. If you are open, trusting and positive (while remaining cautious of course), you are likely to have warm, wonderful experiences. That may sound flakey to some people, but it is honestly my experience and I have heard it from many others as well.

There are some specific tips on my India safety blog post, like getting someone to walk you to a taxi at night and carrying a mobile phone, and my over-riding advice is twofold.

Mariellen, Karnal Lake, India

How should female travelers dress in India? For traditional clothes, is it best to buy a few outfits at markets? Which kinds?

Personally, I’m a big believer in the “when in Rome” school of travel etiquette. Modesty is the key in India. I wear Indian clothes in India, and only modify to make them more western when in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Rishikesh and Goa. Those are the most westernized places in India.

You are already at a disadvantage in India as a western woman, as there are unfortunately many men who view western women as “easy.” Wearing revealing or skimpy clothing just exacerbates that stereotype. On the other hand, wearing modest, Indian clothing gives the signal that you respect the culture. I have found wearing Indian clothes to be a door opener — for the right kinds of doors.

I bring my own shoes, underwear, hats, outdoor gear, all that kind of stuff; and I buy three-piece “suits” (known as a salwar kameez) at stores like FabIndia and Anokhi. And for special occasions, like weddings and some religious events, I wear sarees.

Mariellen with Friends, Taj Mahal

I generally think that wearing a fake wedding ring or pretending to be married while traveling alone isn’t a good idea. You’ve said that you think that this is actually a smart thing to do in India. Could you tell me more about that?

I had an Indian boyfriend from Delhi for many years, and I “upgraded” him to husband when I travelled and wore a gold Indian ring (though that is not an Indian tradition). I found that people were more open, warm and protective towards me when they found out I was a “cultural insider.”

This may not work for everyone, you have to have a familiarity with Indian culture, but it works for me.

I’ve heard that sometimes locals in India will look out for you, especially if they see you getting scammed by others. Have you found this to be true?

Yes, that’s been my experience. Like most Asian countries, India is a very family and community-minded culture, and the social fabric is very strong.

If you are being abused, threatened, cheated or anything like that, and you draw attention to it, the odds are good that people will rally around you and protect you. I think this is especially true for women. I’ve heard many female travelers say this.

There are times when it is just not a good idea to be polite; sometimes you have to speak up, even holler, and make a fuss. Hard for a Canadian like me, but necessary to learn. Having confidence is an important attribute for a female solo traveler.

Mariellen in Chennai

Being a female in a conservative country like India gives you the chance to get to know women intimately in settings where men wouldn’t be welcomed. Have you had any memorable experiences like these?

Oh, yes, too many to recount. I lived in an Indian family home, and was part of my boyfriend’s family, so I had many, many opportunities to interact with the women of the family. They do have a separate world, to a large degree.

When traveling, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for groups of women, or women traveling alone, and befriend them. It makes the journey more interesting, safer and you never know where it will lead.

Do you recommend India for first-time solo female travelers, or do you recommend that they start somewhere easier first?

It’s hard to give advice around this, because everyone is different, everyone is on a unique journey. Generally, I advise some hand-holding for your first few weeks in the country, either as part of a group tour or with friends who know India or who are Indian.

I was met at the airport when I first arrived by an Indian man I knew when he was in Canada, many years before. He drove me back to his family’s house in South Delhi…and eventually we became partners and his family basically adopted me.

So, it worked for me! I started with India as first-time solo traveler (except for a short trip in Canada). I was on a spiritual journey, and I was very open, very willing to accept whatever happened as a life lesson. Maybe that’s part of the reason. I know it has worked out well for other women, as well.

Mariellen, Taj Mahal, India, 2006

Many first-time India travelers start off with the Golden Triangle: Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. Do you recommend this route? If not, where else?

Golden Triangle is in many ways a good first route because there is so much tourism infrastructure, whereas in many other parts of the country there is little to none. The only problem is that there are swarms and swarms of people who prey on tourists in this region — beggars, rickshaw drivers, touts, con men, etc. It’s very tiring.

But I do love Delhi (when you get to know it and get out of the central, touristy area) and Rajasthan. I would recommend Rajasthan, for sure, as well as Kerala, for first time travelers.

Which regions in India would you recommend for more seasoned travelers?

Once you have your “India legs” you can begin to branch out and go to the second-tier places, like Rishikesh, Mysore, Pondicherry, Hampi, Mumbai, the tiger reserves and national parks, long train rides…anywhere that has some tourism infrastructure.

For women, I do NOT recommend going too far off the beaten path. Of the highly publicized attacks against foreign women travelling in India over the last couple of years, two were in really remote places that my Indian friends tell me they wouldn’t even travel in.

Mariellen, Elephant Blessing

What would you like to pass on to women traveling on their own in India?

I am very aware that attitudes towards women in India are not the best; women in India do not have the level of respect and freedom we in the west enjoy. But I also think the dangers to female travelers have been somewhat sensationalized by a fear-mongering media. Definitely you have to be cautious, definitely you have to use your common sense and realize you are travelling in a traditional culture.

But I do not think fear is warranted. Fear is a negative attitude that breeds negative experiences. Be cautious, but not fearful. That’s my motto.

Ready to plan your first trip to India? You can join Mariellen on a Kensington Tours women-only trip to India in autumn 2014 called Legends of the Maharajahs and Mirabai

Mariellen Ward is a professional travel writer and cultural explorer based in Toronto and sometimes Delhi. Breathedreamgo.com, her award-winning travel blog about “meaningful adventure travel,” is inspired by her extensive travels in India. She writes for many print and online sites and founded the WeGoSolo online community for female solo travellers. Mariellen is a Kensington Tours Explorer-in-Residence and the recipient of an Explorer’s Grant, which she will use to trace the life of Mirabai in north India. Though Canadian by birth, Mariellen considers India to be her “soul culture” and has spent many years immersing herself in the culture.

You can also find Mariellen on Facebook and Twitter, and you can join her on her women-only Kensington Tours Legends of the Maharajahs and Mirabai trip to India in autumn 2014.

Have you been to India? What are your tips for solo female travelers? Share in the comments!

Comments

115 Responses to “Solo Female Travel in India — Is it Safe?”
  1. Nick says:

    I’m in India at the moment travelling solo and I have to say I have a world of respect towards the woman travelling solo here. It’s a tough but extremely rewarding country and I could agree more with what you said about how India very quickly reflects back on you the mindset you bring to it.

  2. Great tips, really happy to hear about locals rallying around you when in need.

    Dressing the part is a big sign of respect and I completely agree with doing that, no matter what country you’re in. Reading posts like this will remind me to be more conscious of solo female travelers. The world is never as scary as the media wants you to believe it is and first hands knowledge really proves it. Rachel @ Hippie in Heels has tons of great info on solo female travel in India as well.

    • Thanks for the shout-out Shaun 🙂 I just love reading posts about India. I’ve been here almost 2 years now and agree with all the Mariellen has said! You have to have an open mind and be friendly- India will accept you! I was on my own for a while and like her, had a couple tiny problems but nothing to make me feel negative toward india

  3. Amelia Tuttleby says:

    I have to thank you for this wonderful information about solo travelling in India for women. One of my dearest friends is from India and has often spoken to me about visiting her family with her next time she goes over. To begin with I am quite naive on Indian culture so I was a bit uneasy about travelling with little to no information on the place i was visiting. Your blog has provided me with an excellent starting point into my research and I cannot wait to delve further into my research in preparation for my trip!

  4. I have read so many different experience of solo female travelers going through India, pretty much all of them had some kind of incident on their way, but nothing really major. It is truly shame what kind of image media create about so many countries. I honestly had guys grabbing me where they shouldn’t in crowded places in Berlin, but noone says it is a sexist place. It is nice to see that you had a great experience. I am really looking forward to visiting India at some point in my life. I Really want to visit the festivals and take photos! 🙂

  5. Amber says:

    I just returned from India. Although a very interesting and beautiful place, it’s also extremely chaotic and there’s so much that will tug at your heartstrings (quite possibly the most poverty-stricken country I’ve visited, with Cambodia following closely behind). Out of almost 40 countries visited, I’d say India is the one I’d be last to recommend to anyone brand new to traveling abroad… let alone a solo female traveler. Of course, this certainly will vary by the individual, but I do think novice travelers would find it very overwhelming.

  6. Renuka says:

    Loved reading this interview! I have followed Mariellen’s blog for a long time now. She understands India very well. I agree, it’s better to be prepared as a solo traveler to India. It might be shocking for many! Since I am an Indian, I am used to many things and I know how to deal with them. India is a lovely country and it’s safe as long as you are well prepared to deal with some stupid people. The more aware you are of things, the better it is.

  7. Shivya says:

    Having grown up and travelled extensively (solo and otherwise) in India, I agree with most of what Mariellen has to say. But as someone who loves to go off the beaten path, I disagree that solo travellers should keep off it. I think that’s where you really experience the virgin beauty and genuine hospitality of India. Since these are places that see very few tourists, they are actually very welcoming of the occasional wanderers and chances of genuine local interactions are much higher. As a woman, I actually feel much safer off the beaten track, in a small village in the middle of nowhere, than say a bigger town on the tourist circuit where the locals can no longer keep track of who’s who. Of course, like anywhere else in the world or the country, you have to do your research.

    Overall, a great interview and some very interesting thoughts 🙂 Thanks to you both, Kate and Mariellen, for sharing the “other” side of the India story!

  8. Sunil Verma says:

    great post still many people need to TEACH | learn respect woman in India. Keep calm and enjoy traveling

  9. Arthi says:

    As an Indian and having grown up in India, I have to say, what a well written and balanced view of traveling in India. I’ve traveled with family in India, but never solo, and would probably be scared to, but I really liked Mariellen’s thoughtful advice and agree with everything she said. Great writing!

  10. Dear Kate, dear Mariellen, thanks for this post!
    I never traveled solo, and I’m now considering taking my first solo trip, to India.
    I’m a bit scared, and this post (together with others I have read) are giving me the right strength to do it!
    Especially, Mariellen’s pictures are so beautiful that really make me wanna go there!!
    Thank you very much!

  11. This is so encouraging and a great read! Thanks for sharing.

    Happy travels 🙂

  12. Thank you for posting this interview. I have been considering traveling on my own for many years and will be heading out on my own soon and it’s good to read an interview like this that is honest and direct. India is a country in particular that continues to fascinate me, and I’ll keep the advice from this interview in mind when I make it out there.

  13. I traveled to India for the first time last month, not really feeling called to it until I found a cheap flight out of Madrid and booked without thinking twice. Despite the stares, a scam and coming back home with a nasty parasite, I felt moved. Mariellen’s blog was a huge help in not only feeling prepared, but also comfortable with my decision to go.

    I’d book a flight back in a heartbeat – you see everything and nothing of the world when just crossing the street in India.

  14. Upasna says:

    Hi Kate,
    This was a great interview. I’ve been reading Mariellen’s blog for a while now and It’s heartwarming that despite the negative publicity / media backlash recently, people are still visiting and loving India. Because there truly is so much to love! Being an Indian, and despite having lived in Delhi my entire life, I still find the unwarranted male attention a bit disconcerting at times, but it definitely isn’t as extreme / life threatening as the media makes it out to be. And while I’m not a solo-traveler myself, I can assure you that by exercising basic precautionary measures and just keeping your wits about you, India can most certainly be experienced solo.

    That being said, Kate, do you have any plans to visit India any time soon? 🙂

  15. Arianwen says:

    That is an impressive selection of Indian-style clothing. I should make more effort with my travel wardrobe! I should also check out India one of these days!

  16. Clare says:

    Great interview! Having completed my first solo trip around India this year I agree with everything Mariellen says – she is always an amazing source of information and support for solo female travellers in India. The thing I found hardest I think was adapting the way I interact with people, particularly men in India – I am naturally very smiley and outgoing, and I had to learn that smiling and making eye contact with men in certain parts of India was most likely being interpreted in the wrong way. Definitely be safe but don’t be scared – India is an amazing, beautiful country; in which you learn more about life in one day than you would in a year in other places, and as Mariellen says it is like nowhere else on earth! Even my negative experiences there would never stop me from going back, as the positive experiences and wonderful people I met hugely outweigh the challenges 🙂

  17. Mariellen has put across her “India experience” beautifully! 🙂
    I’m sure it would be of great help to all of you female travelers who are contemplating travelling to my country.

    I’m from New Delhi, India and I’d just like to say a few things-

    -Yes, India is not the safest for solo female travellers. As much as I love my country, I despise the attitude that some men have towards women. So “hand-holding” as Mariellen puts it is correct. One has to be “cautious” at all times. Once you align yourself with the country’s culture, you’ll be more at ease to explore different parts. But for starters, sticking to big cities is a good idea (primarily because it’ll be easier to get a “feel” of the culture, without missing the western amenities).

    I think try visiting the country with a companion, and just get a basic idea of how the country functions, from public transport to accommodation to other such things. See if you can manage things on your own, without relying so much on other people, and then if you’re ready, take the plunge and go solo! 🙂

    And if any of you needs help or is planning to visit India, feel free to address your queries to me. I’ll be more than happy to help! 🙂

    Cheers!

    Anya

  18. Rebekah says:

    I’m slowly becoming fascinated with India, I love how people talk about it as a place you have to learn how to travel in. I sort of feel like I’m getting my “china legs” right now. I was curious about needing to stay “on the beaten path” and if thats in the country as a whole or just in the cities?

  19. Tessa says:

    Thankyou so much for sharing you amazing travel experience in India. I would love to travel there myself, but after hearing so many bad things it’s hard not to be afraid to go there on your own. It’s great that you’ve given many women the confidence to re-consider travelling to India solo. I also have a lot of female friends and family who feel the same as I do, and I’ll definitely be sharing your story with them!

  20. Shennae says:

    I just spent 5 months travelling through India with my boyfriend and I have a huge amount of respect for women who do it alone! I definitely agree that you have to have the right attitude and you have to wait for India to call to you because it is totally overwhelming at times. For this reason I would never suggest India to first-timers. It is so so so important to respect their culture in terms of modesty of dress and behaviour – it got to the point where even I was staring at Westerners!! I wore a fake wedding ring but many people in India didn’t understand that’s what it meant. Also, we told people we were married and although the staring is inevitable I found men generally treated me with respect after learning this fact. India is so worth the experience!

  21. Prue says:

    What an insightful article. Thanks you. I haven’t yet been to India but when i do I will revisit Your article in preparation…

  22. Dale says:

    Following Mariellen’s blog these past few months has made me understand India much much more than I thought I did already and through her posts I’ve seen places I never dreamed, and now feel far more educated about.

    Though I plan to travel with my partner, if she was to travel alone I think that with the wise tips that Mariellen has given would put my mind at ease a little more, though I’d be lying if I didn’t worry about her anyway!

  23. Luka says:

    A petite woman, having grown up and travelled to several developing countries across Asia and Africa , I felt India stands out to be a country of chilling contrast. It is a place where locals can be at your feet at one moment and at your throat when your head turns. Beautiful land, unfortunate society. It is fantastical.

    Always be on alert. Think twice before you do anything with anybody. Be self sufficient and keep it to yourself..

  24. I like the tip with wearing Indian clothes to blend in with the local culture and agree with Mariellen to be cautios and not fearful as a negative attitude only leads to a negative experience. India has always been on my list and these tips are very helpful.

  25. savannah says:

    i spent four months on my own in India last year and had my fair share of negative encounters despite modest dress and other precautions… and i had countless conversations with other women who had their own unpleasant stories… but at the same time i have met plenty of women that never had any problems and could not believe my experiences!?

    i tried to unravel the gender issue: http://savstravelnotes.blogspot.com.au/2013/07/the-gender-divide.html

    and general safety/survial: http://savstravelnotes.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/a-survival-guide-to-india.html

    BUT i have to say, despite all that India was an incredibly interesting and complex country to visit and it still has me puzzled a year after i left…. i, personally, would not recommend it as a destination for first time travellers… it was pretty hardcore!

  26. aman says:

    I don’t know why you folks think India is all good and nice and rainbowy. I would never recommend India as a tourist destination to any of my western white friends. What you get to see is a put on facade for the show, the reality is much darker and horrifying. Every 20 minutes there is a rape occurring in India and Delhi is the worst. People in general are cold, ruthless and cunning in Delhi and no one has time for you if you are in a sticky situation. Women especially the ones from open, civilised and liberal societies are always viewed as “easy” by a large chunk of Indian men and the reason is, the overtly conservative and inequality ridden history of this country. Women have always been treated as a man’s “daasi”- a slave and Indians to date are entangled in that abominable ideology. The country is so backward and traditional which is why they haven’t been able to grow and improve people’s lives. I left the country 4 years ago and I am never going back.

    • Anneliese says:

      While I find the attitude towards women in India very upsetting, I don’t think it’s fair to write India off as a tourist destination. India is such a diverse country and I found the south to be very manageable as a young Western female travelling on her own. I met a few young blonde girls who travelled the north on their own who didn’t have any problems, though I personally would want to travel the north with a friend.

    • I don’t think Mariellen indicated at all that India was “all good and nice and rainbowy,” Aman — I think she painted a very realistic image with a lot of both light and shade.

    • Nance says:

      To put your Indian rape statistics in perspective, you might want to check out rape statistics in the USA: once every 6 minutes. Is this what you are referring to as “open, civilised and liberal?”

      Although I am a “western white” female, the conspicuous racism of your comments is not lost on me. I recently visited India on a solo trip – Kochi, Varanasi and Amritsar were my main destinations – and I found as many contradictions as a first-time traveler to the USA would no doubt find.

    • Datta Ghosh says:

      Aman you are an Indian Right? Respect the country, She is your Mother. I am an Indian woman and have faced harrasments but all is not dark, come on how can you defame your own Motherland. Respect as it gets you more respect. Better you have left but do not abuse because it shows that you are bitter and dark somewhere like the people you hate so much. I was never treated like a slave. Yes, conditions are gloom but then a ray of light is there. This country educated you you ate its food. so consider that

      • aman says:

        Hmm…i didn’t think my statement would get as many responses as it did. Its been a few months since I wrote what I wrote and I might have written it while my head was very hot due to then recent rape incident that happened somewhere in North India. Let me clarify my position and you are welcome to either take it or leave it, and I am addressing all of your comments in one go.

        1. Its very obvious and a fact that the attitude towards women in India is more deplorable than anywhere else in the world save for few other conservative places like Middle East and certain African countries. I am not being a racist, the definition of racism is completely different to what we are talking about here. However, the general attitude towards women anywhere in the world does tend to be on the wrong side. In India this problem is made worse by our history and figures in our history who seem to condone the incredibly sexist notion of a woman being a man’s “daasi” (slave). Read the works of Manu (if you are familiar with who he was) to understand what I am on about here, and then this ancient belief system is just carried on in the present day by our ignorant society without giving it any thought whatsoever or even questioning it.

        2. The culture of the country in general while very diverse and vibrant and enchantingly chaotic, is also very conservative especially when it comes to women. I am a husband, a brother, a friend and I find this erroneous “standard” set out by the men in the society for how a woman in India SHOULD conduct herself, to be despicable. Have you ever tried reporting a harassment to the police? they will make YOU feel like a criminal, they will label YOU as “lacking morals” and blame YOU for bringing this on yourself by dressing evocatively, and trust me, their definition of “evocative” is anything that doesn’t have a veil. Large infact a majority of these police”men” come from little to virtually non educated rural backgrounds where they were brought up to treat women as a second citizen, so expecting them to understand the pain and frustration a modern liberated woman who has been harassed goes through, is like asking the Pope to understand the reason for my athiesm. But I digress.

        3. Why should a woman have to behave a certain way to be safe, in India? why can’t she walk on streets on her own without fearing for her life? Why a woman MUST be accompanied by a male everytime she decides to go out alone or after 5pm? Isn’t that reinforcing a sense of sexism that a woman needs protection so she needs a male presence ALL THE TIME? Let’s face the facts here, women’s rights in general in western countries > women’s non-existent rights in India. Just Google it, the stats are fairly recent and were conducted by a reputable world agency. And Datta, I am bitter? yes to a certain extent, wouldn’t you be? but “dark somewhere”?? absolutely not! infact, I don’t even understand how does criticising the appalling but true situation in India make me “dark somewhere”?

        Either way, I have said my final and true to the core words on this matter and no one can deny them. You are welcome to disagree with me, you won’t be the first and you sure as hell won’t be the last.

        • Priya says:

          Aman, consider these two things before passing a judgment on India:
          1) It is the second most populous country in the world. Where there are more people, there will be much more of everything in equal proportion- crime, progress, and beauty.
          2) India is a democracy, meaning there is more freedom of speech and no regulations over media hype. To my previous point you might argue that China is more populous than India but there not as many incidences of rape. However, China is NOT a democracy, meaning most such incidents are swept under the rug or not allowed to be reported at all. Ergo, there is no way of knowing the real situation in such an opaque system.
          In my opinion India is no different than any other country in terms of safety. Misconceptions like these are often birthed by a select few, but truth is that India just doesnt bother to defend its image internationally.
          I recently visited Malaysia and before visiting, i was told that being a muslim country, it is better to dress conservatively there, but i was shocked to see women flashing half their butts in malls! Every country has its share of misconceptions, which later leads to surprises for the traveller. My advise to anyone considering a solo trip to India- enjoy the land, like any other. Have no inhibitions, but be cautious at all times.

        • Amman, thank you for your valuable insights. I came to this site for exactly the kind of information you have provided. If people have to devote so much time to a discussion over women’s safety in India, then there is obviously a problem. A writer whose livelihood depends on travel to India would have to be cautious in describing the situation obviously. And if there is a problem then how can it ever be solved by ignoring it? Therefore, your honesty is a necessary first step. These men harass women and tourists with impunity. It costs India in terms of tourism and business, but mostly in terms of the misery in which it’s women are forced to live. With more men like you in government and in the police force in India, the problem could be solved. There should be punishment for people who harass others, and if there were, it would stop.

    • Christina says:

      Thank you. I don’t understand it either. There is such a dark side here maybe people refuse to see? Especially for women. Women are not valued from birth here in the society. There are some amazing people here I’ve met, but most people walk right over you and as an overall culture with a history of institutional degradation of women… I don’t get the rainbows

  27. Christine says:

    Awesome interview! I have to admit, all the scary news about female travelers in India has gotten me a little hesitant on visiting India. But then, on the flip side, I’d laugh at anyone who thought Mexico was too scary to visit, so I guess it’s all relative. Great post though, definitely more keen to visit now!

  28. Anneliese says:

    I travelled India alone at the start of the year and I agree with Mariellen. I didn’t have any serious incidents and I would recommend it to other solo female travellers (provided they have experience travelling around other countries).

  29. HalehPR says:

    Great post! This post is very interesting and insightful.
    Any female tourist would be worried about their safety when travelling alone, however you have given some really valid tips and your invaluable personal experience about travelling as female. I was also looking through your other posts on your blog, there is some excellent material! Many of my questions have been answered on your blog. So pleased I found your blog, I will defiantly be checking regularly, not only to find out tips on my next overseas trip, but just out of curiosity of the many destinations you’ve visited. Thanks for sharing your experiences and knowledge. I will keep these in mind when traveling overseas next☺

    Haleh, Perth, Western Australia.

  30. Laura16151059 says:

    What an interesting post. India has always been a country of curiosity to me – possibly not top of the list to visit, but full of beautiful and enriching culture and experiences. I would be hesitant to travel alone anywhere however I like the way you described the Indian people as “family and community minded”. I have several friends who have travelled to India on volunteer trips and such who said it was a life changing experience – perhaps I will have to upgrade India on my list of places to travel. Thank you for the insight.

    • I’m glad to hear that you’re considering it, Laura. I know this post won’t change anyone’s opinion overnight, but if it gets you to CONSIDER it a bit, that’s what’s important.

  31. Bella says:

    I loved this post, it was a nice read. Showed me a little piece of India and you are certainly brave to be doing it on your own. I don’t think I would be able to do it, definitely not brave enough but India does look like a beautiful country, definitely rich in culture although I am aware of the politics and dangers predominantly in certain parts. I think as well, this post has good tips for travelling solo as a female anywhere, not just India. Thanks for that I will remember them!

  32. Andrew says:

    Great interview.
    The fact is that any place can be dangerous I guess if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. But exercise a little caution, and a fair bit of logic, and most places in the world are ok. India is so brilliant, it would be sad if people who wanted to go there decided they wouldnt suddenly because of safety…

  33. Really awesome post, it had some really interesting information. India in high on my list of places, that I want to visit. This seemed very down to earth and had some really good information. Thank you

  34. Such an informative post. I have always wanted to go on a solo trip so this post was very enjoyable. Thank you for providing so much insight. It was very reassuring and I hope to be able to go on a trip very similar in my future. Definitely on my bucket list, thank you for sharing!

    -Sara

  35. Ross says:

    Very informative post. I have always been wary of travelling to India and many of my female friends will take great heart from this.

  36. Tamika says:

    This blog was so informative and in depth, your images enable viewers to be engaged with the content and as a travel blog is so important. I myself are now influenced to visit India

  37. StaceyF says:

    Hello Kate!

    I loved reading this interview; such an informative one. I’ve always wanted to go to India and people always warn you of the dangers of it, so it’s very reassuring and encouraging to read this article. India is definitely on my bucket list so I’ll be sure to keep this one in mind whenever I do go there. The blog overall is so interesting and inspiring. I would love to start traveling solo after university and your blog and your experiences have been so useful so far.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Stacey.

  38. Emma F says:

    I have always dreamt of travelling through India, however I have always been afraid of the risk of travelling as a woman by myself. I am aware that it would be hard travelling, not a walk in a park like a trip to France or Germany. Nevertheless, I believe if you are smart enough, do you research and stay strong and smart about your travels, it can be done safely.

    • Hi Emma,

      I am from New Delhi, India, and I can understand your fears and apprehensions about travelling solo to India. I honestly suggest you first try the so to say “India experience” with a co-traveler, and then, decide for yourself if you are comfortable enough to take the plunge solo. I say this because firstly, yes, the attitude of some men towards women here is (to say the least) disrespectful, and secondly, Indian culture is quite different from the Western sensibilities (you might find the bigger cities easier to navigate and get used to, but if you want to explore the interiors, I suggest you first visit India with a friend).

      Cheers!

      Anya

  39. Faiz Alam says:

    Kate i’m from india, and can say that a women can travel in india as she is ALONE yet,

  40. Should point out that while I’m not a woman, traveling *anywhere* new builds a fair bit of confidence in yourself. Stepping through that trepidation is part of what makes traveling so… freeing? confidence-boosting? I’m not sure the right word there…

    That being said, going from comfortable first-world life to traveling through India seems a lot like going from playing Little League to the major league. There are probably other places in Asia to get your traveling legs before attempting to tackle India. One may not have the time or the interest in visiting, say, Thailand, but even a few days might acclimate you to some of the huge differences…

  41. Heather says:

    The fear and misconceptions regarding India is reason enough for me to go. Most travel here without incident, and coming here in person will remove the lens that the media puts on us, causing us to interpret a country in a certain way without having traveled there in the first place.

  42. Michelle says:

    I definitely would not travel in India solo. Too many horror stories from female friends who have done it.

    One of my closest friends loves India and has been more than 10 times. But this last time, after far too many unwanted gropings by strange men on buses, in crowds, in stores etc. decided she’d had enough and that, next time, she’ll be taking a male friend with her.

    You seem to have been lucky, but from what I’ve heard from many female friends, it’s not the norm. And, yes, I travel overseas and have lived overseas (Thailand) for more than 12 years, so I’m not a naive traveler.

  43. I have many people ask me the same question. I had no problems while travelling in India except during Holi. I had a few men grope me and always ask for hugs so they could rub up against me but it is not a reason not to travel to such an incredible country.

  44. Thanks for the really great post. I came across it when looking for tips before coming to India. I’ve now been here for 4 months and will stay until the end of my 6 month visa. I love it! I just wanted to give a few more tips for women to stay safe that I’ve picked up since being here:

    1. Buy an Indian Sim Card. This will help immensely with feeling safe. Call or pretend to call a friend or hotel owner in a 4am taxi… Use the 3G maps to get your bearings of a new place. Things like that.
    2. When getting off a bus or train at a new destination look for other travellers or a family and stick by them until you’re safely in a taxi, etc.
    3. Never travel between destinations when you feel sick or over tired. Most of the horror stories I’ve heard have been because the person made bad choices because they were too tired or sick to put extra effort into being safe.
    4. If catching a taxi late at night have your hotel owner ask the drivers name and take a photo of the number plates. Take photos of buses too! I’ve been left on the side of the road at 4am when going to the toilet once. I was lucky I knew the bus company name and number plate to get my stuff back!
    5. I have heard several times that when young Indian men ask to have a photo with you it’s because they are going to take the photo home and tell their friends they slept with you. This may or may not be true. But a good way to avoid this is ask for money – in the very least you could make money, otherwise you’ll quickly defer them.
    Lastly, enjoy yourself and make loads of friends. The Indian people are mostly lovely and LOVE to talk!

    • Thanks for these great tips, Crystal! I would have freaked out after being left on the side of the road while peeing!

    • Abhi says:

      Crystal, Most people ask for pictures from our ‘white friends’ as they consider all white people celebrities from Hollywood than other reasons (there are exceptions everywhere as you know), but generally that’s the main reason… all the more reason to travel to india, to feel like a hollywood celebrity… haha — 😀

  45. Becci says:

    Love this post, really good extra boost of confidence for my upcoming India trip. India’s the only country that I’ve ever been nervous about but I feel like my recent couple of months in Nepal will have hopefully prepared me a little bit!

    Love the all of the outfits in the pictures!

  46. Natalie Kane says:

    This was an eye-opener! Lots of great info. I’m traveling to India next year, partially solo most likely and partially with one friend. I’ll pass this on for sure!

  47. Nikhil says:

    Hi Kate,
    First, I want to give you a big thanks for such a nice blog. I am not surprised with the Women security issue in India. You have raised a vibrant issue in your post. in the the last few years, the environment is changing for the women. They are not safe as they were before. But the new government is bringing some changes to protect the women. I think now India will be the most protected tourist destination in the world. Indian Govt. is making a huge efforts to ensure the security of girls. Probably, the results will come soon. Nevertheless, not all the places have the security issue. There are many places like Golden Temple in Amritsar, Pushkar in Rajasthan, Shirdi sai Temple In Maharashtra. So many examples can be listed here……So enjoy the Indian Travel Destinations without any worry…….

    Thanks again kate…………Keep posting these kind of valuable posts…..

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