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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!