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How to do India as a solo female traveller

written by Katy Colins July 5, 2016

India has a reputation as one of the most beautiful and, frankly, bizarre countries on the planet. But it’s also got a reputation, rightly or wrongly, as a slightly dangerous place for women to travel alone. Now we’ve never had any problems on our group tours in India (our guides know all the areas to avoid and tips for staying out of trouble, no matter your gender).

But we wanted to get some thoughts from a pro traveller who recently returned from a trip to the subcontinent: British blogger Katy Colins, aka Not Wed or Dead. Here’s Katy’s advice for solo female travellers planning an India adventure. Live it, learn it.

What made you want to write about India?

For many travellers, India is this mystical, chaotic, colourful and magical place – a country that really has to be seen to be believed. I just fell in love with it during my travels but that’s not to say that backpacking in India is without its challenges and frustrations! I wanted to share the emotional rollercoaster that many backpackers experience as your senses are in over-drive from the smells, sights and noises that welcome you. It is intoxicating, overwhelming but also quite addictive. I hope that people feel inspired to experience it with their own eyes after reading Destination India!

Were you nervous about travelling to India as a solo female traveller, and how did it match up to your concerns?

I did feel a little apprehensive being on my own as a female traveller but I was determined not to let this put me off the wonders I knew I was going to discover. I won’t lie, it isn’t the easiest country to travel around on your own but with these challenges come incredible moments that you can learn so much from. The cultural differences, the people and the beauty that lies around you both shape and make your time in India so much more rewarding than any other country I’ve travelled to alone.

What would you say to anyone nervous about travelling to India?

Don’t overthink it. Of course you should do your research before you go (as you would with any solo trip) but as long as you use your common sense, dress appropriately and expect people to stare at you (mostly out of curiosity than anything untoward) you will have the best time.

What surprised you most about the country?

The generosity of local people. They live very different lives to the one I’m used to back home, which at first can be hard to get used to – especially the levels of poverty. But some of the happiest people that I’ve met in India are the ones who appear to have nothing. It certainly makes you look at your own problems and quickly puts them into perspective.

Where were your favourite and least favourite places and why?

I adored the Taj Mahal but hated Agra, where it is based. For such an iconic site I felt the surrounding area was quite intimidating, filthy and tough to adjust to. I also loved my time in Goa, getting away from the chaos of the big cities to laze on unspoilt sandy beaches is hard to beat!

A post shared by Sofy Mills 🌙 (@sofymills) on

If you could give one piece of advice about what to pack, what would it be?

Female travellers should make sure they cover up with a scarf, especially when heading to religious sites, you want to blend in and not stand out. I also couldn’t have travelled without my trusty antibacterial hand gel – if you want to keep Delhi belly at bay then this needs to be with you wherever you go!

What was the most memorable part of your trip?

Getting to see the Taj Mahal with my own eyes. Even after growing up on images of this wonder of the modern world from guide books and magazines, nothing prepares you for seeing it just ahead of you. I’m not ashamed to say that I was a blubbering mess! As I stared up at it in total awe I just felt like I was really here, in India, and doing it all on my own. I guess I just hadn’t realised how resilient I’d been and far I’d come to get here. A complete pinch-me moment!

Ready to tackle the subcontinent? You might be solo, but you won’t be alone: check out our India small group toursWant more destination inspiration like this? Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter here.

You can follow Katy Colins at her award-winning travel blog, Not Wed or Dead, or pick up a copy of her book, Destination Thailand, on Amazon.  Feature image c/o Modes Rodriguez, Flickr 

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11 comments

Kason Major July 7, 2017 - 9:46 pm

I found lots of interesting information here. The post was well written. I found this much useful information. Thanks for such post and please keep it up.

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Sapna Parmar June 14, 2017 - 9:05 pm

Thank you for sharing your experience. I am also planning a solo trip. This post is going to help me a lot to plan things before the trip.

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Mukendra May 25, 2017 - 11:18 am

If you are solo traveler book your tour through interpid travel they have such a good options in all budget. We have basic – original – comfert tour so now it is your choice which tour you want to pick …. No worries we are here to take care of you …. Come and explore india with interpid travel ….. It’s really incredible country …

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Suzanne May 25, 2017 - 8:55 am

PS I did not mean to sound so negative re: the dress. I have travelled in Maharashtra and Goa. I, too, have conflicting feelings about India and was uncertain if I would put it back on my list. Now I am interested in trying more of India and maybe even working in Bangalore or Delhi on my next international teaching contract. It is such a vast and diverse country! The people I interacted with personally were incredibly warm and generous. My favorite memory is of the little street urchins on the corner in front of my hostel looking so ragamuffin all weekend, then suddenly on Monday I saw the same children: perfectly clean, sporting sharp school uniforms, and full backpacks awaiting the bus. I was fascinated that their mother washed, combed, and dressed them right there in a tub and a shack so they could take care of this most important business: LEARNING. Thank you for writing this enlightening piece.

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Suzanne May 25, 2017 - 8:49 am

Um, surely not recommending doing India in that sheer dress!

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Ros March 28, 2017 - 11:21 pm

I think that the photo posed inside the mosque at the Taj Mahal revealing Katy’s legs through a see-through skirt is not entirely appropriate or in-tune with the religious sensibilities of the country. It makes a mockery of Katy’s suggestions to dress modestly and appropriately. Some people might find this photo deeply offensive.

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Ramona Briggans June 22, 2017 - 7:05 am

That’s the first thing I noticed too! Bad choice of photo Intrepid!!

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Justyna August 15, 2016 - 1:21 am

It doesn’t matter who you are… Behave properly, respectful, wear clothes which more hide than expose, read about culture to know how to behave and be normal. I was traveling many times solo (also in India) and nothing -zero problems. But I saw many times traveling girls, smiling to everybody, shaking hands with man, nearly flirting. Of course you can meet bad people everywhere but if you use your brain – all should be well.

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jean July 15, 2016 - 3:07 pm

For single female travellers, Katy eases the anxiety somewhat!

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Patricia fawcett July 6, 2016 - 11:21 am

An inspiration to all women an admirance

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Alan Rimmer July 5, 2016 - 8:46 pm

Hi Katy, incredible article. I’m sure being a solo (female) traveller…not trying to sound sexist…must have been very difficult but rewarding at same time. Loved the article and your descriptive style. I wish you every success and many more happy adventures, also to read about them.
Best wishes…
Alan

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