I was in India for a total of one month. The first month, I spent traveling with my guy friend. However, he only had two weeks for his vacation. I didn’t want to leave India after two weeks, so I decided to stay for a complete month, and finish exploring the massive country on my own.
This choice led me to find myself getting into a stranger’s car, alone, in India….
The two weeks that I was alone, I spent down south – the safer part of the country. I had an amazing time and met a lot of friendly travellers and locals along the way. For the most part, I wasn’t really alone.
My last stop in India was a city called Kochi, were I would eventually be flying out of. To get to Kochi, I hopped on a local bus and kept my eye on my phone’s GPS – acutely aware of where to jump off.
After a few hours, the blue dot on my phone’s map neared the star marking the location of my accommodation. When the bus pulled over, to the side of the road to let more people jump on, I quickly grabbed my bag and hopped off the bus.
With my large backpack on my back, and my day backpack on my front, I started walking down the hot side streets to my accommodation. I followed my GPS down a road that looked like a residential street – not a place for travellers to stay. As I neared the end of the road, I could tell there was no guest house around. Instead, there were to men there standing at the end of the road, speaking with one anther, eating some dates.
As I approached, they looked at me curiously. It was evident that a young, white, female walking alone down this random street in India (carrying a ginormous backpack) was not an everyday occurrence. I felt very out of place. The men approached me and asked me what I was looking for – so I told them the name of where I was staying. They looked at each other confused, then back at me and told me that I was in the wrong place – there was no accommodation in this area. Perfect.
The younger of the two men then took out his phone and began looking up the name of my accommodation. While he did that, the older man offered me a couple of dates he was eating. I accepted and we talked and ate dates together – his English was really good. Eventually, the younger man located my guest house on a map. The bad new was that I was no where close.
I was really exhausted from my long bus ride and now didn’t have the slightest clue as to what to do. Since my GPS had clearly guided me to the wrong place, how was I to trust it? I decided to just go back to where I got off of the bus and jump back on another one – it would at least get me closer to my destination. I was about to say goodbye to the men, but they quickly began speaking to one another. I couldn’t understand them, so just stood there awkwardly. When they finished speaking, the older man turned to me and said that his friend would drive me.
This is the moment that every solo female traveller in India is told to run away from.
So what did I do? I accepted – naturally.
I listened to my intuition and decided to trust these men. I had stood with them long enough to get a good feel on the situation and felt that they were genuinely concerned about this young girl, lost and alone in this foreign country. Plus, getting to know the locals would be a fun experience!
So I waited in the scorching heat as the man ran back to his work to grab his car. It took him quite a while and I definitely got some strange looks while I waited on the side of the road for him to pull up. He rolled up in an old, small, yellow car…I got in.
We started up a friendly conversation as we began driving. He explained his life to me and how long he had lived in Kochi for. As we drove past different areas of town he would explain them to me. It turns out that my accommodation was more than a 30 minute drive away! As we approached the area where I was staying, the streets were so confusing that we drove around for another ten minutes just trying to find the place. We asked for directions from strangers at every block and received strange looks from them when they saw a foreign woman in the passenger seat. To be honest, I never would have found the place without him!
Once I checked in, he told me that there was an art exhibition happening if we wanted to check it out together. His boss (apparently the older man who was with him) had given him the rest of the day off. I had no plans so said yes. I was happy to have a local show me around.
We ended up going to the art exhibition together and it was really cool! Here are some of the things that we saw there:
Bathroom made from all toilet paper
The guy that I had met wasn’t creepy at all (like the attention you often receive in Northern India) and was a perfect gentleman. We sat down for coffee and chatted more about each others backgrounds and hobbies.
After the art exhibition, we walked around the town a little bit – and I made friends with street goats.
Then he took me out for a really nice dinner at a restaurant on the ocean that was recommended to him by his friends (although I admit it was a bit too romantic for my liking). After dinner together, he dropped me back off at my accommodation and that was that. Now I’m not going to say that he probably didn’t wish more would happen – but same goes for any guy that takes you out for a nice dinner.
I would also like to stress that this is not a recommendation to get in cars with strangers in foreign countries. Follow your wits and intuition. If you even have a slight doubt – don’t do it. So why am I sharing this story? Because there is so much negativity about people in the world – especially towards people who we do not understand and I think it’s important to highlight the kindness that out there. The news won’t do it – so my little blog will.
Believe it or not, I actually have a blog post on tips for how to travel India Safely as a female (and no – getting in stranger’s cars is not one of them): read it here.