India is one of the largest and most populated countries in the world, located in South Asia and bordered by the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea. The home of the beautiful Taj Mahal and some of the best Dal Mahkani I’ve ever tasted, this beautiful country can be a bit overwhelming at first. In March, I spent nine days solo traveling in India throughout the Golden Triangle and in Goa. I don’t believe India is a place to be “cheap” if you’re a female who’s by herself, so I splurged a bit on myself. Here are my top tips (in no particular order) for females who plan to travel alone to India and the best tips for staying safe.
1. Hire a driver
Hiring a driver is one of the most beneficial things I did. If you don’t hire a driver, you will be stuck haggling every ride. Indian’s love to overcharge foreigners and most foreigners don’t realize they can haggle for a better price. I used India Personal Tours, my drivers name was Alex and the owner Manu provided great customer service to me refunding me for a day we weren’t out all day.
2. Hire a tour guide or local photographer
I decided to go the photographer route because I have a blog but don’t worry, the locals know a ton of history and the best kept secrets of each town. However, if you could care less about photos there are local tour guides for hire with most companies that provide the driver services or almost every place has a tour guide for hire. If you are like me and love taking photos, I DM’d local photographers in each place. In Delhi and Agra, I worked with Gopi Thodupuniri and in Jaipur I worked with Apoorv Shrivastava. Both were very professional, having locals with me made it easier to haggle and communicate with the locals when I needed too.
3. Stay vigilant and be aware
I wouldn’t say India is the scariest place in the world, but as a female it’s important to stay cognizant of your surroundings. After all, you ARE alone. If you don’t want to hire a private driver, make sure you pay attention to where your taxi driver is taking you and if he asks to bring a friend the answer should always be no. If you’re walking, make sure to stay on busy roads and don’t take short cuts.
4. Wear non-revealing clothing
Many Indian men tend to stare at females, they’ll stare regardless of what you wear but wearing clothing that covers your goodies will make it a little less uncomfortable. If they start teasing you or make you feel uncomfortable, then make a scene as it tends to make THEM feel uncomfortable and they’ll stop whatever they’re doing and go about their way.
5. Don’t go out at night alone
When I went to India, I left my hotel once at night. If you do leave the hotel, I’d suggest sending someone you trust your location on WhatsApp, Facebook or iPhone messenger. I’d send my location to both my dad and my boyfriend every time I left my hotel, more for their sakes and not mine because they were worried regardless.
6. If you’re a US citizen, sign up for STEP
STEP is an acronym for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, it’s set up through the US State Department. It sends out alerts about where you’re visiting, when I was in India they sent me alerts about the Pakistan/India issue that occurred whilst visiting North India. In general, it’s a useful tool because they’ll be able to help you in case of emergency.
7. Get travel insurance
India is a beautiful place, but it’s easy to get sick whether you catch a cold or get Delhi belly. It’s important to have that backup just in case you have to go to the hospital or need medical attention. My medical insurance works worldwide but I’ve heard World Nomads is the best in regards to travel insurance.
8. Don’t rely on Wi-Fi
Either spend the extra money for data roaming or get a SIM card. You will not regret it, I personally just learned about data roaming with my phone plan in Kuwait and I use it every time I leave the country now. Wi-Fi is not always the best and even though there are cafes or restaurants with Wi-Fi, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best. You’re alone in India, do yourself a favor and splurge on internet- you will not regret it.
9. Make sure your mobile phone is always charged
I would charge my iPhone and bring a fully charged battery pack with me for emergencies only. Having a fully charged phone will be useful if you end up in a difficult situation, you’ll be able to call someone you trust or the local authorities.
10. Do not get stupid drunk
This goes for anywhere you plan to travel alone, getting stupid drunk is probably not the smartest idea because you are alone and you are a woman. As mentioned above, it’s important to stay vigilant and aware and getting black out drunk is not the best way to do that.
11. Know where you’re staying
My best advice would be to download google maps of each place you’re staying before you leave. Make sure to write down the number and address of each hotel/hostel you’re staying at so if you’re in a difficult situation they can arrange transportation for you. If taking a taxi or other form of transportation, you can use your google maps to navigate and know you’re heading in the right direction.
12. Regularly call family and friends
This is more for their sakes rather than yours. You’re in India, you’ve realized it’s not as scary as the movies and TV shows portay but your family and friends still worry. Regularly calling and chatting with them let’s them know you’re okay and even though they’ll worry, you can reassure them that you’re rocking the shit out of solo travel in India.
13. Not all Indians are the same
I can’t stress this enough! After living in Kuwait on and off since 2015 and having Indian employees for almost a year, I’ve realized not all Indians are the same. Yes- there are Indians who will stare and make you uncomfortable but for every Indian man that stares, there is an Indian man who is frowning upon this. Also, remember their culture is different so there are some things we’ll take offensively and it’s just normal. For example, the lack of personal space- they do this because people tend to cut in line so they stand really close so no one will cut them.
14. Scams are almost unavoidable
Repeat after me- Indians are hustlers. They know they can scam foreigners, especially because something pricy to them may seem cheap to us. Learn how to say no. I had a man try to charge me $8.00 for Pringle’s, yes, PRINGLES. I sent my driver in there with about $1.50 and he got my Pringle’s. Download a currency application so you can figure out what the currency exchange is and go from there. This is a good place to work on your haggling skills.
15. Buy tickets online
Buying your tickets online to different places such as the Taj Mahal will help you avoid the long lines and you may get a cheaper price. The foreigner price versus local price is way more expensive and there’s no way around this but sometimes the tickets are cheaper online because you can’t haggle with a fixed price at the attractions ticket window.
There you have it, my top tips for solo female travel in India. People are constantly asking me if I felt “safe” in India, I did completely- however you can always be in the wrong place at the wrong time like any place you travel to or even back home. There’s always measures you can take to make your trip safer for you and more enjoyable in the long run. With some preparation and good judgement, India can be safe for anyone. Until my next post, inshalla.