Tips for Solo Female Backpacking in India

Today’s guest blogger Nisha Jha is an Indian solo backpacker who writes about her sweet & sour experiences at www.lemonicks.com

I love traveling solo. As a female backpacker I feel it enhances our character by exposing us to our weaknesses and strengths. As a backpacker you always have some uncertainties – often you won’t have a concrete route or plan and unlike holidaymakers you’ll just be waiting to see where the days take you.

I’ve travelled to many countries all alone, but there are always certain precautions I take when I’m away from home. India is a beautiful and diverse country to visit but often the way of life and local customs can be a bit of a culture shock for someone visiting the country for the first time. Your holiday will be all the more enjoyable if you accept the local customs and values, keep your wits about you and take heed of the following tips…

10 tips for travelling India

  1. Arrive at a good time – touching down in a new country where you don’t know anyone or your way around can be a bit daunting. Opt for early morning flights or overnight trains. Even if it takes a little longer or costs a little more, it reduces the risk of being stranded in a new place in the dark.
  2. Accept that taxi methods are different – especially if you come from the west of the world. Auto rickshaws are normally perfectly safe so just agree on a price before you get in and just engage your usual intuition and senses as you would getting in a taxi anywhere. Also, don’t get in a taxi just off the street – use a company that has an office and can radio one in for you. It’s also perfectly normal to share the taxi with other people who you don’t know to get the most out of every journey. If this makes you feel uncomfortable be prepared to pay more to use the taxi exclusively.
  3. Know your route – don’t show the world you’re a stranger by holding an unfolded map with confusion painted on your face. Do your homework at the hotel itself. Ask the hotel staff for guidance and get familiar with landmarks. Mentally chalk out your route before you even leave the hotel.
  4. Dress modestly – India is a quasi conservative country so try not to have bare shoulders, cleavage revealing tops or short skirts and shorts. You may get away with it in a touristy area where the locals are used to seeing more westernised clothes, but it’s best just to cover up. And remember you won’t be allowed in a temple if you’re not appropriately dressed.
  5. Keep your mobile phone and other gadgets charged – in India there are few places where you won’t get electricity for hours, so it’s best not to risk it.
  6. Stay safe in the evenings. Use your common sense – don’t go out drinking and then wander the streets. If you are out and about late ask your host to either drop you to your hotel or arrange for a vehicle. India is actually very safe in this respect – there isn’t much pubbing and clubbing so you are unlikely to be walking around drunk or with drunkards!
  7. Keep some protection on you – like pepper spray, chilli powder or a whistle. It’s good to have something for self defence just in case you get stuck late at night. Otherwise, daylight and crowded areas are safe. While travelling alone, I also keep a whistle in a string around my neck under my dress.
  8. Always use the foreign tourist offices at stations for directions – if you are lost on the streets and want to ask for directions, ask a woman, a family, policeman or a shopkeeper.
  9. Wear modest jewellery or not at all – in some countries it’s advised that you should display a ring on your ring finger even if you are unmarried to indicate that you are not alone. Not in India! In India it doesn’t matter which of your finger has a ring – just don’t flaunt your jewellery of any sort.
  10. Carry your own bag – if someone wearing a uniform starts taking your bag at stations, you’ll be expected to pay them and it could end in an uncomfortable situation.

Other than this use your instincts and common sense. In a few cities some of the points may not be applicable, however, it’s better to be safe than sorry. India is a beautiful country and by taking a few precautions you can enjoy it safely. Happy travelling!

You can connect with Nisha Jha on twitter @cemonde and on Facebook to learn more. If you’re looking for a hostel in India they start from around just €2pppn! 

Thanks to *L*u*z*A*Koshyk and Meanest Indian for the images from Flickr! Please note, all images were used under the Creative Commons License at the time of posting. 

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8 Responses to “Tips for Solo Female Backpacking in India”

  1. Uggggg, posts like this annoy me so much. Numbers 6 and 12 apply to women. The rest are just good common sense for everyone. Sooooo hate the “solo female travel tip” posts that have absolutely nothing to do with gender.

  2. Idea for part II: What women CAN do when they go on vacation alone.

    -Stay in their hotel room from 5pm until 7 am
    -Wear turtlenecks
    -Slap anyone who touches your bags

    This list is ridiculous. The author needs to re-examine the elements of a vacation and India.

  3. Hello Michael and Ali,

    Thanks for your comments I have edited the post slightly but I hope you will see it as a useful resource for new travellers and any women who are particularly searching for this subject. Yes, we hope a lot of the points will be useful for men too. I agree that women should not be scared to travel and definitely not to India – this is one person’s opinion and tips they’ve picked up along the way. Anyone who is unsure, check these comments we had on Facebook today…

    Karine Dierickx “India is soooo nice for single female travelers! Only you have to explain more than a 1000 times why you are still single! They don’t understand. A wedding ring won’t help much here.”

    Marieke Bode “I agree with Karine. I’ve been to south India and it was great. Planning to go again. Be polite, be aware of the do’s and don’t of the country, watch how the locals dress. I was very happy wearing a thin scarf around my shouders and a bit wide cloths. But most of all: be yourself, follow your heart and bellyfeeling :-). Have a nice trip!”

  4. 11. Practise throwing elbows behind you
    12. Take the back seat of the bus to stop gropers sitting behind you
    13. ‘Eve teasing’ is part of the Indian culture, get used to the idea of being groped or go to another country

  5. Thank you so much for publishing this article. India is indeed a beautiful country and most of the times it is quite safe for a woman to travel alone here.

    These are just a few tips to ensure one’s safe stay.
    If anyone wants to know any particular thing about female travelling, please do not hesitate to ask me.

  6. Hi, I am Sonu from India. I am Sonu from India. For the past three and a half years, I have been working here as a freelance English trainer and recently, I started thinking over making a holistic trip on my motorbike all along India. I like to be rider cum guide for those who are interested to go backpacking on my bike…

  7. Hey Sonu, where abouts do you live because I’d love a motorbike tour around India. I’m looking at coming at the end of the year/January 2013 for 4-6 weeks solo. 🙂

  8. Stayed & travelled in Australia for 2.5 years , loved it.
    Travelled Thailand last month & can’t wait to go there in April ( thai new year).
    Been to Leh Ladakh on bikes with friends for 3 consecutive years & fell in love with it.
    It’s one of the highest motorable roads in World. You have to go there to see it.
    Now planning solo trip down south & east ( may be with friends ) soon. But need to save before I start it. Lives in north India.

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