How safe is it for a woman to travel alone in India?
Sharmila A, Original question : Can a girl travel alone in India?
I have travelled alone to 17 states and 4 union territories of India. I started traveling when i was 22, its been 3 years. The answer is YES, a girl can definitely travel alone and stay in hotels alone in India.
- Dressing plays an important role in safety of a woman traveller. Always cover your shoulders and legs. A girl wearing a jean & tshirt gets less attention than a girl wearing a shorts & a spaghetti. It's totally understood that whatever we wear is for comfort but when travelling alone we don't need unwanted attention. Keep a low profile, ensure you don't attract attention unless it is necessary. Always watch what local woman wear. Jean and a modest tshirt is always a best option. Sometimes comfort can be compromised for safety. Keep it simple like dora but with little longer pants.
2.Whatever you wear, ensure it has a pocket to carry a whistle, a small but bright torch and some cash. I am not comfortable wearing jean, i always wear salwar / kurta which normally don't come with a pocket, so i started customizing my clothes.
- Choosing the mode of travel is very much important. I always opt for flight / train, i take buses only if i am on budget or the destination has no other travel mode than road. Most of the bus driver's here are on duty 24 hours, driving decades old buses which is quite unsafe. Unless you are sure about the reputation of the bus company don't take buses often.
- Always have a plan. Aimless travel is for groups not for a lone traveller. Keep updated on conflicts in areas nearby your travel route.
5.Always make hotel bookings through trusted travel sites (Tripadvisor , expedia etc) and cab bookings through the hotel (which might be expensive) or mobile apps (Ola, meru etc). By this you are always leaving traces and people know you can always be tracked.
- Get back to your hotel before 9pm. It's a personal choice, but its not always safe to roam in dark. Yes its fun to explore the new place in night, but safety is important than the adrenaline rush.
- Be friendly with people. Say hotel clerk, the receptionist, bartender or cab driver. Build a rapport, have a smile, be nice. Its okay to establish to the hotel manager that you are staying alone and hoping a safe stay, by this you are transfering a part of the responsibility of your safety to someone.
8.Have an updated GPS app in your phone. Its better to have a stand alone GPS system, so that you can save on your phones battery. I have one.
- Always reconfirm the departure time and be informed about how long it takes to reach the bus / train station.
- Always stay connected with home / friends / your significant other.
11.Again its a personal choice. Always avoid travel during the time of the month you get your period. Even if you are at the most exotic place you can't enjoy yourself because of nausea and cramps. Atleast avoid night travel during the time, because its really difficult to find a hygienic rest room to get changed.
- Once you enter the Cab or Auto, call someone and read aloud the name of the driver & registration number of the vehicle. You can also tell them the pickup point, drop point and the expected time of arrival. Now its the responsibility of the driver to drop you safe. Couldn't reach anyone? its okay, just pretend as if you are talking to someone.
- Don't hesitate to lie. There are several instances i have been hit upon by random men and i have told i am waiting for my boyfriend / my husband is waiting at the hotel and he is a professional karate teacher. There is no need to tell random stranger's that you are unmarried or travelling alone. (one of my friend wear a fake toe ring which indicates matrimony).
Last but not least Always trust your instincts, if you feel like you are in danger, blow the whistle you carry or start screaming if the situation wants. Dont worry about overreacting or acting foolishly.
In my experience Indians are more kind, friendly and generous towards a woman. I'm tempted to say that I'm lucky that nothing terrible has happened to me so far. Have enough fear to keep yourself cautious, but not enough to stop you from travelling and don't think too much about risks, we can only take precautions as much as we can; rest is left to chance, risk is a part of life.
Very safe. I’ve done it.
I travelled solo to India, the whole country. I never would have gone alone, but my ex and I broke up; and it was go alone or go home. Best decision I ever made is to stay. A week before my flight, i was skeptical and had cold feet about India. But i decided to go anyway.
I made so many friends in the hostels I stayed in so I was only really alone when I chose to be. I was terrified at first because of everything I'd read, the rape cases and scams involving foreigners. I was overly cautious, whether necessary or not I don't know.
Take trains but check the times of departure/or arrival so that it's daylight and book 2AC class. Use Uber or taxis booked from the official stand at the airport or bus station, message someone when you're getting in the cab (local sims are cheap and easy to get). There's women only sections on the metro and on buses.
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If anyone gave you any hassle on public transport believe me if you kick up a fuss that guy will be in so much shit from the other people around you, Indians won't tolerate it. It can be overwhelming. Especially in Delhi. People will really call you ‘didi’/ sister and actually mean it. Pickpockets and molestors will get beaten up by public before being handed over to the cops. Especially in Delhi.
I got stared at a lot and asked for photos by mostly curious people. I learned to judge when this was innocent and when it was creepy, but this was mostly at tourist attractions and I wasn't afraid to go tell security if I didn't feel safe. I'm not pretending to be an expert or being naive and suggesting that no one has any problems, but I was considering not going and I'm really glad that I went to India! Best decision ever.
As foreigner; I really love India.
Some tips that might come in handy:
1.Don’t hitchhike. I wouldn’t recommend hitchhiking. Use public transports like buses, train, ola cabs, meru cabs, or auto instead. Its cheap and accesible too- the public transport in India.
2.Use your common sense and don’t announce to shady strangers that you’re single woman doing solo. Lie about your marital status if you have to. But I didn’t.
3.Don’t stay/spend overnight with strangers. I would always recommend Airbnb or hostels. They are safe. Maybe you could meet Tinder guys, to catch a cup over coffee but DO NOT crash at their place if you’re a female doing solo.
4.Don’t get shit drunk and party wild. Skip drinking if you’re doing solo to any new places, as a matter of fact. You need to be sober all the time.
5.Know your location through google maps. Use MAPS.ME app for navigation without wifi. Be vigilant of your surroundings. Update your location and travel plans to your friends/family all the time.
6.Wifi is not common in India. Having sufficient mobile net pack is VERY important. Get an Indian sim card with adequate net pack according to your usage.
7.I carried powerbank and one extra phone with fully charged battery, earbuds, lighter, torchlight, travel guide books and paper map for emergency use.
8.Don’t roam out after 10 pm onwards. Preferably, return to dorm/ room after it gets dark outside at 7 pm. Wear a wristwatch.
9.Although I wouldn’t emphasize this; dress modestly. Cover your shoulders and knees. Have a scarf with you at all times, it will help you to cover yourself in temples. Avoid spaghetti tops, miniskirts, bikini and shorts. Ditch the make ups and try to blend in with the local.
10.Street food- gave me severe diarrhea. I would suggest packing some breads or simple snacks before embarking on a journey. I stuffed my bag with instant noodles and coffee sachets, peanuts and lots of snacks.
11.Avoid some grim areas. You gotta research the areas prior to travelling. Upgrade your accommodations, don't stay in grim and pop operations, especially not in remote area. Make sure your hotels are facing the main road. Try not to go to secluded places at night.
12.Transportation- When traveling in trains, try to book for upper berth for privacy. Instead of buying normal railway ticket, buy a 3rd AC tier compartment ticket. I find 2nd tier AC and 1st AC compartment a little secluded. Tie your luggage to train seat hooks with a metal chain locker.
So far that’s about it. Have fun. Happy travelling.
Charlotte Tottenham, Travel Writer, wanderer, avid reader, Indophile. Currently living in Delhi
I lived in Delhi for two years and regularly travelled alone, taking buses, boats, trains and planes to wherever I wanted or needed to be.
There are some guidelines to make it easier for yourself:
On trains, travel in women's only carriages, or in ac3, where people give each other a bit more privacy and you can draw a curtain round your cabin.
Clothing: whilst part of me hates to say this, as I believe a woman should be able to wear whatever she chooses, on public transport it is best to keep covered up. A kurta (long tunic top and churidar) or jeans and tshirt, but nothing too revealing. Remember on public transport especially, it is pretty crowded and it's nice to have a shawl to pull over your cleavage so that it's not being eyeballed from the bunk above.
Avoid arriving somewhere you don't know in the dark.
Have a phone - everyone in India relies on their phones and 3G and top up is exceptionally cheap. When you arrive somewhere, especially if it is after dark, be sure that you know where it is you're going. If you have booked a hotel/hostel most of them will offer to pick you up. Although this is sometimes for a fee, it is often more reliable than an auto wallah.
Buy an extendable combination padlock and strap your bag to some part of the carriage, or even your leg if necessary, to avoid waking up in the morning with no back pack!
As I said, broadly speaking these are all precautions I would take anywhere in the world. The international press has gone to town on the fact that India is 'unsafe for women'. Whilst I don't dispute that there is a major problem in India with gender equality and sexual violence, this is not something in itself that should deter you from visiting this beautiful country. Be cautious and aware and you will have a fantastic time!
Yes, its safe. Or rather, I'd say, no place on earth is safe, whether it's India or any other country.
- Just keep in mind to have a rough idea of bus routes, map, timings arrival n departure.
- Travel during the day and avoid travelling at night.
- Act little smart. Pretend that you travel often and it's a cake walk for you.
- And, take the first step, you'll get through once you make up your mind, and trust me, you won't regret it.
I personally traveled alone from Delhi to spiti because I dated a dumb guy who didn't have the balls to take me to spiti. Later, i realized that there are brave and humble people out there, I just had to take the first step..
PS: few of my journey flashbacks that can give you some motivation.
I was so much naive that I went to the Chandigarh bus stop and asked people where can i get tickets for spiti bus. And people were like, there's no direct bus to spiti, are you alright madam?
Also, when i reached tabo, a small village at spiti, everyone in the bus discouraged me for coming unplanned and said that there less probability of finding a hotel or home stay. Out of no where, a kind lady got up, and ended the conversation by saying if you'll not find any place to stay, I'll take you to my home and you can be with my family to you get the next bus.
Dear Madam, it is not even safe for a man to travel alone in India. I'm ashamed to be telling you this about my own country but that's the bitter truth. At least backpack travelling alone is not safe for either males or females. They might dupe you, rob you, harass you, molest you, rape you and even murder you. But if you have loads of money and have planned your travels in such a way as to have bookings only in reputed five star hotels/resorts and have arranged for their hospitality wing to organise your tours and sight seeing itinerary with an employee of theirs accompanying you as a personal guide of sorts then you could be relatively safe. Otherwise it all depends on your luck and fortune, you might have the time of your life traveling alone or may have a traumatic experience which would scar you for life. As for convincing your parents it will be an impossible task. They know what happens in our country to women and children so how could they let you go off alone. The only way possible is to rebel against them or lie that you are traveling with a group of friends they are familiar with. Good luck with that...