“To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” – Freya Stark.
Women from all across the globe today, are taking this big step of traveling solo, and seeing the world. Why do I say ‘big step’? Well, according to my knowledge, solo travellers have a lot more planning to do than people travelling in groups – friends or family. And when it is the question of a woman travelling solo, it is of a bigger deal because her safety is at stake. So it is, in a way, a ‘big step’!
Traveling in India has always been a big debate for people all over the world, sometimes even for people from India. I am an Indian, and to be very honest I am a little skeptical about traveling anywhere in the world solo, not just in India. Though I would love to see places all by myself, just the thought of it, is so exciting. Every country can be dangerous for a woman, if we are not cautious, not necessarily India. But yes, why the bigger doubts about India in particular. Let’s see why – firstly, men tend to look at women as sex objects, this could be true for other countries as well; secondly, people in India, on an average are dark skinned, and when they see fair skinned people it is somehow exciting for them to stare; thirdly, many Indians think if a person is not a local, they are an easy target to rob; and lastly, some parts of the country are still very conservative. But don’t let this hold you back from planning a trip to India.
India is so vast and diverse, that it is unfair to judge it based on a few unfortunate events. Every country has their share of flaws, and this nation is no different. Give it a chance, it might surprise you. I’d like to share a few tips that I gathered from different women travellers – hope this helps:
- Avoid unnecessary attention while traveling in India, by covering yourself properly. We cannot deny the fact that it is a conservative country in so many ways. The lesser skin you show the safer you will feel.
- People will stare, it is difficult to avoid that here, and the trick is to not react to it. They will eventually get tired and get busy with their work.
- Learn a few basic words in the national common language, hindi – Namaste (hello), dhanyabad (thank you), aap kaise ho (how are you), etc.
- Do some thorough research on the places you plan on exploring – the do’s and don’ts especially.
- Keep your belongings safe and close to you, as there are many pick pockets in and around the markets and other busy areas like the bus stations, railway stations.
- Be friendly but not over friendly. For instance – be careful while you decide to talk to somebody or befriend someone. Don’t go anywhere with them unless you know them well.
- People are going to be fascinated when you’re white skinned – don’t get offended or scared when they ask you for a photograph with you. You can refuse politely and just walk away.
- Avoid the streets during the wee hours of the night. This is not just for India but anywhere in the world you should try and avoid that.
- Be sure of the places you want to see and visit or go to. If you are unsure, there is a high chance, the drivers of auto-rickshaws or cab drivers might take advantage of that and take you for a ride.
- Communicate in the right way, body language says a lot, and it might be misunderstood by some.
I spoke to a few women I know, who have traveled quite a bit in India all by themselves. Some very inspiring stories, I might add. A friend of mine quit her job and traveled extensively in India last year, and she says with a smile, ‘it was the best decision I ever took and would do it all over again’.
This country is filled with some of the most beautiful hills, mountains, beaches, villages and cities. Explore it with an open mind and heart, instead of worry and anxiety. Not every man or woman is looking for a chance to exploit you, there are a few who will be the warmest towards you. Some unforgettable experiences and memories will make you want to come back for more. The food, culture, traditions that makes this nation, is going to leave you in awe most of the times. “No place is ever as bad as they tell you it’s going to be.” – Chuck Thompson.
India, as some people may say is completely chaotic and complex, but yet it is one of the most extravagant, exciting and adventurous places to be in.