When I lived abroad, people used to ask me “How to Travel Solo as a woman in India?”. Travel solo has been an increasing trend since the past decade. However many incidents in India with inessential media attention raise questions about the safety of women on the road. Many Indian ladies grew up with the mindset to be a dependable partner.
Women I met from different parts of the world told me, “I love to travel across India, but I am scared to do so as I am women”. However, I was dumb to answer until I tried to travel solo myself. I was unsure how far I can push my limits on the road when I decided to travel alone in India.
Why Travel Solo is necessary?
There is a saying in my mother tongue Kannada “ದೇಶ ಸುತ್ತು, ಕೋಶ ಓದು”. Which means “one should rigorously travel and read various books to gain knowledge and experience”. When one travels solo, a form of experience is different and intense than traveling with the group.
- You can plan the trip at your own pace.
- You can understand your strength, learn to push limits and think about new possibilities to overcome difficulties.
- Getting out of the comfort zone and traveling solo helps to “overcome insecurity” and “increases your level of confidence”.
- When you are planning for a trip and visiting the places alone, you often face situations to make instant and disparate decisions. Which “improves decision-making skills”.
- Often we are bound for the lessons we learned since childhood. The society we lived influences a lot in our outlook. We lead a life with an obstinate mindset unless we decide to change it willfully. Solo travel opens the new world, introduces a new point of view, establishes new connections, presents new ideas and helps to develop a variety of skills and brings changes in your perception.
- Travel solo is a journey within. You will learn Who you are, what you can/can’t do, how you can effectively approach different circumstances etc.
How to plan a solo trip to India
India is diverse in each and every manner. The culture, lifestyle, slang in language, food everything varies when you travel about 50 miles in diameter. To my knowledge, it is not easy to understand India. A variety of landscapes, rich in ancient history and architecture makes you feel overwhelmed if you don’t know what to expect.
- To overcome culture shock, research thoroughly what you focus on and what not during your visit. Based on your interest, chose the destinations.
- Figure out what kind of traveler you are? If you want to visit a set of destinations, list out and book your stay and transport in advance. If you are open to experiences, be open to new destinations after discussing with locals. I would personally prefer to be open to new plans on the go.
- India has good public transport facilities. Major cities like Dehli, Mumbai, etc, have good Metro connectivity. Even smaller towns and villages have government/private buses running at a certain time. Uber and Ola cabs facilitate at popular destinations at a reasonable price.
- The best way to book online is to MakeMyTrip for both bus trains, hotels, etc. RedBus provides more options for buses. You may book through IRCTC for trains.
- If you are a foreigner and boking a train under foreigner quota, you must be present in person at the counter with a passport and valid visa. I have seen many foreigners booking tickets without any hassles a few minutes before the train departure.
- There is 5 star, 3star hotels all-around major tourist destinations. Apart from that traveler’s hostels, Airbnb, etc provides comfortable stays at a reasonable price. In some major cities and touristy spots, CouchSurfing is popular if you are up for the cultural exchange and stay for free. I stayed in a hostel in Pushker and Udaypur which was hygienic, walkable to major sightseeing and costs less than $5 per bed.
- The food in the restaurant is not very expensive. Within $10 you would be enjoying a full meal for the whole day in a very good restaurant. If you would like to sit in Non-AC local restaurants you would get a meal within $2.
Can I Travel across India alone as a woman?
Absolutely! In my experience, India is safe to travel alone. If you have the right attitude and mindset to get out of your comfort zone and appreciate things as it is, you will have a wonderful experience. I would like to mention my recent experiences.
I was traveling from Rishikesh to Jaipur in Sleeper coach by train. I booked online, my ticket status was not yet confirmed. I suppose to share a lower birth with an unknown man. The ticket collector on the train was surprised to know I am alone. He came back in a while and told me, he pushed to confirm my ticket so that I could travel comfortably. He kept on checking once in a while whether I am comfortable or not until I reached Jaipur.
I landed Volvo in Jaipur to go to Amer. There were a bunch of men sitting in Ladies’ seat. Pregnant women struggling to stand by holding a rope in a crowded moving bus. I stood next to the conductor and told calmly: “All needy women are sitting in the reserved ladies seat and a brave man with a baby in the belly is standing firmly. We should fight against 33% reservation for women in the country han…”😊😊. He laughed and told me “most of the time you need to raise voice and make noise for your own rights”. I responded with a smile: “Right now I am ok with equality rather reservation”.
The conversation went on.. he gave me some suggestions to hike around for sunset and gave tips to deal with auto drivers around. He delightfully shared his contact number and asked me to contact him in case if I am late reaching down from the fort. So that he can make his last trip wait for me until I land the bus safely.
Do’s & Don’t on the Road
There is a saying in Sanskrit which means “treat guests like God”. Most people I observed in India are easy to communicate, are generous and cross their limits to help the guest. There are some you may have to be careful about.
- Be communicative and ask for help if you need it. It is usually safe to approach the nearest shop, or a woman on the road to seek help.
- Hire a local guide for visiting historic places and difficult hikes. You may book good hikes to using Indiahikes, TrekmatesIndia, etc.
- Drink purified water from the filter.
- Book your stay in the safest areas. Contact someone local through CouchSurfing who has good references to get details about the area before traveling.
- If you are hiking alone, make friends with another solo traveler or any group who is hiking at the same time.
- Taste local food. India has a variety of tastes in each region. Attend cultural events and festivals, visit historic monuments, roam around the markets.
- Better install apps developed to make sure the safety of women. Shake2Safety, Himmat (Used by Dehli Police), etc.
- Don’t land local private buses alone in the night. If you are traveling in the night, book for the transport in advance rather than going to find instantly.
- In popular tourist spots, there are pick-pocketers who specifically target foreigners and tourists outside of the state. Be careful with your belongings and don’t carry expensive items and huge cash to such places.
- I have seen in some places like Jaipur, Agra, etc, small business and auto drivers are pushy. They just see money in a tourist. Be firm to say NO if your ignorance was not respected.
- Before purchasing expensive items, visit as many shops as possible and try to know the actual price. If you can, catch hold of a local who can negotiate for you.
- Don’t opt for unauthentic tour guides. There are licensed guides for most of the monuments who committed to provide authentic information. In some places, men approached me to help to guide me for free. After a background check, I realized few cultivated hobbies to flirt with foreigners and marry them for money. Don’t put yourself into any difficult situations by involving with shady guys who come forward to help you.
Traveling solo is easy in India. Even easier when you cultivate the mindset to get out of your comfort zone and blissfully appreciate each moment as it is. Imagine meeting a bunch of people in the hostel, great company to hike together, climb a mountain and watch a beautiful sunset, sitting and chit-chatting on a roadside restaurant, share a local meal and exchange culture.
I had toothsome local dishes, landed public transport, met spirited folks across the globe, walked on mountains, markets and historic monuments freely without any hassles. I would like to encourage more and more women to travel solo to build a safe and healthy community. My article 12 best ways to travel using CouchSurfing in India may help you how to make use of CouchSurfing during your solo travel.