Chaotic and bamboozling, travelling in India can be confronting, even for the experienced traveller. The reality for solo female travellers is it can be even more challenging, but don’t let that put you off exploring incredible India.
This amazing country is so full of colour, fascinating people, religious icons, ancient sites, fabulous street food and diverse landscapes. India is everything and more, and all at once. You wouldn’t want to miss this sensory overload of saris, sacred cows, slums, spices, car horns and incense!
1. Handling the stares
As a female in India, you’ll enjoy your time much more if you come to terms with the fact that people will stare at you. At first this can be confronting, but once you realise it’s a cultural difference it won’t get to you as much and you’ll become more accustomed to it. Ways to avoid unwanted male attention include dressing conservatively and avoiding eye contact, as this can be considered flirtatious.
2. Staying safe
Female travellers are rarely the target of violent crime in India, however like anywhere you need to keep your wits about you. Some tips to help you stay safe on local transport:
When travelling by overnight train, choose an upper berth for more privacy.
Avoid eye contact and chit-chat with unknown men: both can be misinterpreted.
Try to book seats near the front of long-distance buses.
Sit next to other women when possible.
3. The crowds
Stepping onto the streets of India, one of the things that will hit you immediately is the crowds. There are over 1.2 billion people in India. The extreme numbers of people can come as a big shock, especially for women who are travelling alone. If the crowds become too much in the major cities, consider heading south to the waters of Kerala or up north to the chilled out hill stations of Leh or Ladakh to give yourself a break.
Whilst hygiene standards in India have risen considerably in recent years, they are still often below what we are used to in the western world. Make sure you drink treated or bottled water, avoid buying food from street stalls that has been sitting around for hours or hasn’t been cooked in front of you and opt for shops and restaurants that appear to have higher hygiene standards. Use hand sanitiser throughout the day and carry your own supply of toilet paper and sanitary products.
5. The poverty
With an increasing number of people living below the poverty line, the divide between the very poor and the very rich is extreme. Slums are home to many and you will see beggars of all ages, particularly children. While it is heartbreaking, giving them money can add to the problem, as many of the children are being exploited by bosses who make them beg. Offering them food or donating through a reputable charity is a safer option.
6. See the fun side
Finally, have fun and enjoy your time here. Remain lighthearted and know that an easy going attitude will get you everywhere in a place where nothing runs to time. Stay safe and take precautions, but be open to delays, change of plans and adventure.
For many, India is one of the most rewarding travel destinations. With preparation and an open mind, the beauty, profound spirituality and mesmerising chaos of India ensures it will be one of the most unforgettable travel experiences you will ever have!