India is a popular destination for female travellers. Its colourful markets, smiling people and the rich history of the spice continent lure thousands of tourists to its borders each year. While some female solo explorers sojourn to India to seek enlightenment and practice yoga, India is also a thriving haven for those in the textile industry or in the tech space. In fact, some of the best development shops are based in Mumbai and throughout parts of India.
From a Western female perspective, India is still conservative in its moral standards.
Marriages are still arranged and “How to Kiss” is still one of the highest phrases searched on Google. One does not need to guess what’s on a man’s mind when they are staring at you across the bus aisle. Whilst India is big and beautiful, it does come with some official warnings for female travellers.
Today OSAC – the US Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security issued the following safety and travel advice specifically for female travellers. Whilst some of the travel tips for India are great common sense rules to follow anywhere, if the US State Department issue such notices, they clearly have a reason to do so.
- Avoid the use of public transport (taxis, buses, or rickshaws) without known and trustworthy companions, especially at night.
- If using a train that travels overnight, lock your sleeping compartments, and travel with known and trustworthy companions. Some trains may also have a “ladies” only compartment. If they offer one, choose it. Pay more for it. There is clearly a reason that train has that car for you. Another McGyver hack in case you don’t get a Ladies compartment is a leather belt. Fasten the leather belt between two door handles from the inside. This makes the door unable to be opened from the outside and will allow you to get some beauty sleep without fear.
- While sleeper class on trains is not recommended for female travellers if you do HAVE to travel in one of the sleep class cars sleep on the top bunk, if possible, in order to reduce unwanted attention at night.
- Do not use private unmarked taxis/buses, or enter any taxi/bus carrying unfamiliar passengers. Instead, use a commercial or official taxi, app-based car service, or bus service that is clearly marked. Whenever possible hail a taxi or private hire car from hotels or at airports rather than flagging them on the street aka Carrie Bradshaw in Sex In The City.
- Be super discrete with what you share and the conversations you might have on your mobile phone while in the presence of drivers. Do not take the advice of taxi drivers regarding your stay, no matter how nice they might appear. Refrain from sharing details about your identity, hotel, or travel plans. When in the vehicle, always sit in the rear seat (not in the front). Make sure to lock the doors from the inside. If the driver attempts to accept other passengers while you are in the vehicle, don’t allow it or get out right there and then.
- When checking into your accommodation, ensure that the doors of hotel rooms have a functioning chain, deadbolt lock, and peephole. Do not open the door to unsolicited room service or maintenance people and if you didn’t request something, call the front desk before answering a door. Another item that you should carry for additional peace of mind is a rubber doorstop. They are lightweight and easy to pack and will put an extra layer of comfort in place.
- Practice a zero tolerance rule for unwanted attention. If accosted or subjected to inappropriate advances, immediately call for help, complain to management and/or call the police.
- If you are heading out after dark for dinner or drinks, stick to well-known venues that are well lit. Avoid walking in isolated areas alone at any time.
Solo travel offers adverturous women a real chance to connect with countries and cultures, but it’s important to use good sense when you are a female traveler in India.
Have a story or travel hack for India? Share it in comments — we’d love to hear from you.
Global Citizen, Latina, visited 52 countries and love to make new friends and learn new languages