There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that everybody should travel to India. It’s a remarkable country; one that is bound to leave a traveler changed by the experience. And exploring solo is a great way to do it. It only requires taking certain precautions that may sound daunting when put in a list like the one below but are quite simple. In fact, these are precautions I follow wherever I travel, from Southeast Asia to South America.
- Like in other countries, it pays to learn a few words in the local language. Nothing disarms a curious bystander more than a greeting in their own language.
- Dress conservatively. That doesn’t mean you need to be covered head to toe; but shorts paired with a tank top are not advisable. Loose cotton clothing that breathes and shields from skin burn works better for the weather too. Keep a scarf handy in your back for additional cover-up if needed in some situations.
- I tend to pick reputed homestays when I travel because that lends a personal touch to the experience, ensuring I have an ally in a destination even before I get there. Alternatively, if your destination has an affordable hotel by a reputable chain, book the first night there so you have a safe landing spot to launch your explorations from.
- Don’t compromise on your safety to save money. If I try to book the cheapest room I can get in NYC, I’ll probably end up in a seedy neighborhood where trouble lurks around the corner. The same applies to India: Do your research and go for a recommended place.
- Keep a friend or family member apprised of your travel plans. Create a system to check in regularly, say once in three days. Even a Whatsapp message or Facebook post will do the trick. Get a local SIM card with data for your phone, it doesn’t cost much.
- In most places, it is best not to venture out alone after dark. While booking flights, trains, and buses, choose options that get you to your destination in daylight. If its unavoidable have someone from your hotel/homestay come meet you.
- If you’re alone in a cab or a rickshaw and the driver tries to take a friend along, say no. If they don’t agree, get a different taxi/rickshaw.
- Most public transport has spaces just for women; look for these. Even in restaurants, you’ll find “Family Section”. Head straight for those. Added benefit: These usually have air conditioning, though the food costs marginally more.
- Most staring is just curiosity. Try to ignore it. If it bothers you, politely tell the person not too. If it persists, and you feel trouble is lurking, don’t hesitate to make a loud scene.
- Eve-teasing, a phrase you’ll hear often in India to refer to the harassment of women, is often the realm of weak, sexually repressed men who try to take advantage of crowded spaces to cop a feel. As college girls, my friends and I learnt to wear our backpacks in front to prevent “accidental” brushing. And we didn’t hesitate to elbow any man who pressed too close and then blame it on the swerving bus.
- You can also dial 100, the number for the police that works across India. Several big cities and tourist spots, have squads dedicated to addressing women’s safety concerns. However, their response time can be erratic.
And if all this sounds too overwhelming, do remember, these precautions are only meant to protect you in the off chance that something nasty happens. Have a good time, and have plenty of conversations; they’ll make your trip extra special. Most Indians are welcoming, chatty, and happy to share their life stories. Go for it, ladies!