We are well aware that India has a reputation for being unsafe and that women in particular should not travel alone. However, this is not the full picture. India is a country replete with culture, experiences and, of course, people.
People, people everywhere. This means that you’ll be hard pressed to find yourself alone when travelling. Plenty of people does mean that there will be those who are not so friendly, those who may not have the best intentions. Here are few common conceptions that we’ve heard about travelling around India:
1. “But there are pickpockets, bag snatching, and scams everywhere!”- Unfortunately, this can happen everywhere you go not just in India; any traveller can be a victim of theft or scams. The main way to prevent this is by being mindful of your surroundings and avoid flashing/carrying too much cash on you at once, ensure you keep money in different places (don’t put all of it in your wallet or bag for example), and stay vigilant of your bag and wallet. That being said, I’ve been travelling solo around India and have never had an issue. In crowded areas I put my bag and belongings in front of me and hold onto it tight.
Avoid talking to people who aren’t official guides, people who approach you and claim to know the best hotel/shop/restaurant (could be getting commission for bringing you).
2. “I’m a woman and I’m afraid of being sexually harassed…I’ve heard that India is the worst!” – We completely understand the fears and reservations women have regarding safety in India. The news is constantly showcasing events and cases; India’s treatment of women has been condemned not only internationally but also within the nation. Protests against sexual harassment, rape and more have drawn widespread attention subsequent legal changes over the years.
This means that if ever you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, do not be afraid to make noise and get peoples’ attention. There will always be others to step in and help when needed. Also, be sure to let people know where you’re going if you’re heading somewhere alone. Ensure to respect dress codes and be mindful of attire; many parts of India are conservative, so ensure to dress accordingly to avoid unwanted attention. Do research about where to stay, which neighbourhoods are safe and well connected. India’s a place where you’ll quickly learn the balance of being assertive and being open, especially when travelling alone.
3. “I couldn’t manage taking public transport, rickshaws, and local trains myself” – This is a huge misconception! Train travel is seamless, comfortable and fun. We’re talking about the overnight train journeys or shorter train rides between neighbouring cities. For example, I took the train to get from Udaipur back to Delhi. The train ride was a fun experience, as I had the company of a large family travelling with kids. The kids were curious and playful and I found myself entertained for most of the ride. The family insisted I sample all the delicious homemade food and snacks they had.
Public transportation in metropolitan cities is generally easy to use and easy on the pocket. Delhi has a reliable, clean and safe metro system to take you all over the city. (Did we mention it’s air conditioned?)
Mumbai has local trains that offer respite from hours of being stuck in traffic. You can get around almost every large city in India via public transport.
Rickshaw rides are also fast and easy to navigate. Know the average prices and route between locations beforehand so you can effectively haggle. But sometimes you don’t feel like engaging in the haggling process with taxi or rickshaw drivers (yes, we understand as it can be intimidating). Luckily, Uber and Ola operates in most cities here in India. Simply download the mobile application and input your destination and go at a pre-determined price.
The points above are, however, applicable to anywhere you travel. No matter where you go, where you stay, any traveller–and even local–may face these issues. Indeed, safety issues are not unique to India and common-sense precautions should be taken. Be vigilant, wary, but also open to new experiences along the way. You’ll realise that most people you encounter are warm, helpful, and hospitable.
We hope this helps clarify a few things about travelling around India!