I am fearless when it comes to traveling as a solo female to foreign countries. I have been to places such as China, Sri Lanka, and Mexico by myself. However, I must admit that I was holding off on visiting India (a country at the top of my bucket list for a long time) because I was afraid to go alone.
Eventually one of my really good guy friends (yay, a man!) messaged me saying he wanted to visit India. It was on.
We planned to spend a month traveling India together. I quit my job as a teacher in South Korea (okay – I didn’t resign my contract but that just doesn’t sound as spontaneous). I bought my plane ticket and applied for a tourist visa.
A few weeks before our trip – my friend told me that he could only get two weeks off from work! I had planned to travel India for an entire month. What was I going to do now? End my trip early?
I did a bit of research and read the blogs of some females who had ventured to India solo. What I read was that the North of India was a bit more sketchy as a female, but changed rather drastically once you got to the South – especially in Goa.
With this information, I decided that I would travel the North of India with my guy friend and then fly to the South of India once he went back to his 9-5 job.
For the two weeks up North, I was definitely happy to have my friend with me. In the North a lot of travellers complained about being groped by Indian men – and they were with their boyfriends! I remember that when my friend left me to visit a temple while I waited outside with our bags, hordes of men came up to me wanting to take pictures with me. They were harmless, but I never was approached that much when I had a guy by my side. I also noticed that when some Indian men were speaking to us, they would only look at my friend – as if because he was a man he was the only one they needed to respect.
I am fortunate to say the I left the North of India without any scaring situations.
Once I got to the South it’s true that there was a big change. I didn’t need to be as reserved in my clothing and I found that all the Indians that I met were very kind and accommodating – both men and women.
While down south I made friends with a lot of travellers and locals, who I trusted. I had an amazing time and never once felt scared. With that in mind, I was very cautious and use my street smarts (if you don’t have street smarts take a trip to Hawaii instead).
I am so happy that I ended up checking this destination off of my bucket list and cannot wait to go back – man or no man.
Here are some tips for females traveling India:
Get a man
I am not going to lie – I definitely felt safer when traveling with my guy friend. I remember we went out at night in Jaipur to go see a Bollywood movie. If I had been alone I NEVER would have would have went to see that movie (or anything else) alone at night.
I hate to say it, but you won’t have as much freedom as a female as you will with a male travel partner.
My man? He’s out there somewhere…
Say you have a man
So you couldn’t find a man – at least say you have one. Some women even go so far as getting a fake wedding ring or saying that they are on their way to meet up with their husband. Unfortunately, some men have the mindset that if you don’t ‘belong’ to someone then you are fair game.
At the very least, this should prevent you (a little bit) from getting hit on.
Wear scarfs and loose clothing
In case you’re catching on – you don’t want to draw attention to yourself as a foreign woman in India. I read a lot about covering up but what people didn’t seem to mention was to wear loose clothing. There is a big difference between wearing a tight t-shirt and pants versus a loose outfit. The more loose your clothing is, the more comfortable you will feel because it will help hide your curves. Scarves were my go to for covering up. Always bring one with you for they are super easy to throw on if you are ever feeling too exposed.
If you are in Northern India avoid wearing shorts or exposing your legs. Once you get down South especially near the coast – shorts are fine. (Read here for the best beaches in Goa).
Take a ‘women only’ car when taking an overnight train
This was my saving grace when I began traveling India solo. I heard stories of women on trains in India – and how they just get stared at all night. Not ideal.
However, you can ask to get a seat/bed in a women’s only car. This will give you way better peace of mind as you close your eyes to fall asleep in this public space, in this foreign land.
Cover up on trains
Whenever you take public transport – you are a prime target for stares. Make sure to cover up to not feel completely vulnerable. I wish that I could say this will prevent people from starting – but who am I kidding. I will say that I don’t actually remember people staring at me too much – but be ready that it does happen.
Even if you take a women’s only train, it is still important to dress appropriately for the culture – which can be hard when the train is so hot. I remember I had a sleep mask on and it felt like my eyeballs where sweating!
Read here for a low down on India’s transportation options.
Learn to be stared at
Like Luvvie Ajayi says, “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” You are not going to got through a whole trip in India without having people stare at you (if you manage to let me know your secret). Eventually, you will have to learn to pick your battles. If it seems like they just curious – it’s easier to let them observe than make a scene. Lucky for me, I visited India right after living in South Korea – where I was starred at almost everyday for a year – so I had a pretty high tolerance for stares. Eventually you just have to learn how the ignore it.
Don’t be shy
When a man is staring at you it is uncomfortable. If it is too much to handle, don’t be shy.
As women we are often raised to be polite and not show aggression. However, this method won’t help you out when you are feeling violated. I found that the best way to get a man to stop staring at me was to call them out on it. You don’t need to yell just look them dead in the eye and say; “can I help you?” This will often embarrass them enough to get them to stop – works like a charm.
Trust your intuition & gut
F@*& being polite. If you are in a situation and your intuition doesn’t feel right or you have a gut wrenching (or even tingling) feeling – say no or do whatever you need to do to get out of the situation.
I found that people in India were way more likely to try to rip off women because they see us as more vulnerable and sympathetic. Don’t be fooled. Some of these people scam tourists for a living so don’t feel bad for saying no.
More importantly, if you ever feel like your safety is at risk trust that feeling (this goes for anywhere in the world).
Don’t walk alone at night
Need I say more?
Don’t put yourself in vulnerable situations
Call me crazy but I actually preferred to take the train to the airport than get in a taxi alone. You just never know where you are going to get driven off to. I found that I met a lot of people while traveling India and so was fortunate enough to not have to take a taxi or rikshaw alone.
While I was in Goa there was an Irish woman who went out to party for a night, when she wanted to leave she jumped into a taxi alone. She sadly ended up dead in a field the next day. You can read the full story here.
I don’t want to scare you – but think about this next time you consider leaving a bar or anywhere else alone at night. Is it really worth it? Don’t put yourself in vulnerable situations.
If you have no one to watch your back, do not go out and get intoxicated.
Don’t go too far off the beaten track
This is usually not my advice at all – I usually encourage traveling off the beaten path. However, for safety reasons, in India you will want to stick to more touristy areas. Locals in areas often visited by tourists will be more used to seeing foreign women, typically more respectful, and there will be more facilities for tourists. The more rural you get the more uncomfortable and creepy encounters you will have.
Don’t place all men into the same category
Yes be weary but also be open minded. I met a lot of very nice men in India. I made friends with many of them – and still keep in touch to this day. I also had some men help me out of trouble when I got very lost on my own (story to follow). I went out for dinner with some other Indian men that I met and they showed me the best restaurants.
Get a walking stick
I can promise you that you won’t find this piece of advice on any other travel blog.
I found this tip out the hard way by breaking my toe before my trip to India. I didn’t want to be on crutches so I ended up buying a walking stick to use as support. To my pleasant surprise, my walking stick ended up acting as a barrier between my breasts and men’s hands. I remember coming back to my hostel after a day out in Jaipur and all of the women were complaining about the men that had groped them that day. I was the only one that had no issues – thanks to my trusty walking stick.
I also had a big green foot cast that I believe acted as a distraction – from my booty to the boot. Plus my stick had the potential to be used as weapon if I needed extra self-protection.
Okay…I realize you probably won’t use this last tip.
Do you have any additional tips for traveling India as a female? Comment below!