Is it Safe for Women to Travel India?

By Nomadic Matt | Published September 9th, 2013

candace rardon in IndiaThe issue of women’s safety in India has been in the news frequently lately. Many women have expressed concerns about traveling there and many more have opted not to go at all. I’ve never been to India — and I’m also not a woman — but I feel this is an important subject to discuss.Today, please welcome Candace Rardon, who spent many months traveling around India by herself, to discuss safety and solo travel in India.

Here is Candace….

My introduction to India came behind the wheel of an auto-rickshaw.

For two weeks in 2011, my friend Citlalli and I took part in the Rickshaw Run, driving one of India’s ubiquitous three-wheeled vehicles 2,000 miles across the country.

On our fifth morning, we spent three hours wrestling our way through an 18-mile traffic jam in Bihar – a state known for its poverty and violence. After the second hour, I needed a break from dodging trucks and buses and cows, and so we pulled over.

Instantly a crowd of about twenty men surrounded our rickshaw. Citlalli and I nervously said hello, hoping to break the tension we felt as two foreign women in such a situation, when a white-haired shopkeeper approached us. In his hand were two tiny cups of sweet, steaming chai.

I tried to explain that we were out of small change and couldn’t pay him for the tea, but he insisted, saying, “I may be poor, but I still have a heart.”

Why go to India?

rickshaws on the busy streets of India
I am aware of the various threats facing Indian women and foreign visitors alike: staring, groping, stalking, and most seriously, rape. With such threats forever hanging over a female traveler’s head, it makes sense to wonder if India is worth the worry and the hassle. Why not skip it entirely in favor of less troublesome destinations?

One reason: No country will fascinate and frustrate you more.

While travel in India will require heightened attention and common sense, let me assure you it is worth it. Although I did encounter men who stared at me inappropriately, there were countless others who in no way treated me as a sexual object – farmers and pharmacists, shopkeepers and teachers, men whose warmth, kindness, and compassion moved me in unexpected ways.

The man who gave us chai in Bihar was only the beginning. There was the time I had Delhi belly in Bhubaneswar and a hotel worker brought me yogurt with sugar; the time I was waiting for a friend’s flight to arrive at 1 a.m. and a guy I struck up a conversation with invited us to his sister’s wedding the next week; and the time I jumped off a train in Chennai and a man led me across the street to buy gauze and disinfectant to patch up my skinned knee.

It is impossible to stereotype a nation of one billion people, and bad experiences there will naturally be impossible to avoid. The challenge lies in refusing to accept such occurrences as the status quo, while still choosing to focus on the positive. This might sound trite or naïve, but it’s a choice that India demands of you.

Drawing on my own time in India as well as advice from other women who have traveled there extensively, here are 11 tips to help ward off unwanted situations – but also keep you open to positive experiences:

1. Do your homework

candace rardon in India
As you would for any destination, spend time learning about India and its customs before arriving. Go in with your eyes wide open, having taken the necessary steps to be educated and prepared, and understand that what awaits you there may be vastly different from what you’re used to.

Beth Whitman, founder and CEO of Wanderlust and Lipstick and WanderTours, has been leading both female-only and co-ed tours to India since 2009 – and not once has a woman on a WanderTour had any issue with her safety.

“Don’t go to regions where crime (particularly drugs) are rampant,” Beth writes. “There are places in India like this. Read the guidebooks and forums to determine if your destination falls into that category.”

In my own experience, the most important preparation for India was mental. Before going for the first time, it felt like I was getting ready to visit a different planet. Between worrying about what shots to get, what would happen when I got sick for the first time, and whether or not I would be safe, India required a huge mental adjustment – this wouldn’t be another beach holiday or European city break.

2. Dress appropriately

candace rardon in India
This goes without saying, but deserves repeating: India is a conservative country, so be respectful of that by covering your shoulders and legs and watching your cleavage.

Consider wearing Indian attire such as a kurta (long, loose tunic) or a shalwar kameez suit, which can easily be picked up once you arrive at local markets or from stores like Fabindia. This is by no means a guarantee of your safety and may not change the way men act towards you, but there’s no need to draw unnecessary attention to yourself.

The only possible exception to this is Goa, whose well-known beaches have become increasingly westernized. But be aware that although it is more acceptable to wear a bikini here, you might still attract unwanted advances.

3. Discern when doctoring the truth may help you

candace rardon in India
I am never a fan of not telling the truth on the road. I believe that, when appropriate, it’s as important to share our own customs and ways of life with other cultures as it is to learn about theirs. This mutual exchange is one of the many things I love about travel.

The fact that I am unmarried at 27 and travel alone was often surprising to the Indians I met, and I enjoyed our conversations about our different cultures – conversations that might not have taken place had I worn a fake wedding ring or pretended that my fake husband works in Mumbai.

While eating dinner alone in Mumbai one night, an Indian man sitting at another table asked if he could join me. Our conversation was interesting and I was glad for the chance to chat, but afterwards he asked if we could go somewhere else for a drink or meet again the next night. I didn’t feel comfortable doing so on my own, and told him that I already had plans with friends.

Use discernment and get a sense of whether or not such a white lie may help protect you. Beth Whitman specifically recommends this strategy when staying alone at a hotel. “Consider making mention of a husband or boyfriend who is arriving shortly and don’t make friendly conversations with the male staff. Instead, become friends with any women, if they happen to work there.”

Matt says: There is a lot of other articles on this website written by female travelers about female travel safety and give tips on blending in. You can find them all on by clicking this link for further tips and stories.

4. On train journeys, book an upper berth

candace rardon in India
Everyone has their memorable tale from the Indian rails – the couple who helped them get off at the right station, the family who insisted on sharing their dahl and chapatis, the college student who said to wake him if there was any trouble. Nowhere else in the world is the journey just as fun as the destination as it is in India.

But it’s also important to take certain precautions. When booking your journey, request an upper berth. This will not only be a place to keep your bags secure during the day, but will also give you a sense of privacy and keep you out of the fray at night as you sleep.

There is a lot of hustle and bustle on Indian trains – during the day, a constant stream of vendors move by selling food and drinks, and even at night passengers are constantly getting on and off the train. Although the commotion is fun to be part of for a while, you will appreciate having an upper berth to yourself at night.

And while the idea of more space and cooler air in 2nd class A/C may be appealing, Citlalli Milan, a writer and actress who lived in the Rajasthani city of Udaipur for four years, suggests otherwise.

“If traveling alone, I would always book myself into a sleeper class train. It’s full of people – women, children and other travelers – making it harder for [unwelcome encounters] to happen.”

5. Don’t arrive at a new destination at night

candace rardon in India
Try to avoid late-night arrivals or departures. This is as much an issue of safety as it is for financial reasons – cunning touts will be out, hoping to take advantage of those who appear lost or without a plan. Book at least your first night’s accommodation in advance so that you’re confident on where you’re headed when you leave the airport or train station.

Also avoid traveling on foot at night, as well as by public transportation (especially if the bus or train carriage is empty); opt for pre-paid taxis or auto-rickshaws instead. Even then, Mariellen Ward – founder of the India-inspired travel blog Breathe Dream Go and the WeGoSolo community for solo female travelers – encourages women to note the license plate of the vehicle, make a call on their cell phone (whether real or staged), and state the plate number and destination within earshot of the driver.

Travel writer Sophie Collard traveled to India in 2012, shortly before the Delhi Gang Rape took place, and received this advice: “A female journalist said, ‘Girl, you gotta get one of these,’ and pulled out pepper spray and told me I could get it from the chemist, so I did and it made me feel safe. I actually carried it with me in the streets of London when I got back too.”

6. Be assertive

candace rardon in India
In a country whose classic head bobble can mean yes, no, maybe, not now, or “we’ll see”, it makes sense that it’s difficult to firmly tell someone no in India. But as a woman on your own, this is necessary at times, just as it’s occasionally necessary to ignore unwanted or uncomfortable conversations.

When you are traveling alone as a woman, especially in a country like India, it is your responsibility to protect yourself – so don’t hesitate to do so, be it with a strong word or silent response.

Nowhere did I feel the need to be assertive more than when in a market. To make it through a gauntlet of persistent and persuasive vendors, saying a polite “no thank you” will often have little effect. As rude as it felt as someone who is typically more soft-spoken, I would sometimes reply with just “no” in a sharp tone of voice, or even with “nah??,” the Hindi word for no.

7. Watch your body language

candace rardon in India
The challenge I mentioned earlier – between staying on your guard and keeping an open heart – is perhaps most relevant to how you act towards men in India and the messages you may subconsciously send. As Beth Whitman advises, “Never give them any sort of indication that you might be interested in them.”

The important thing to remember is that an action or gesture that may come naturally to you, such as touching someone’s arm while talking to them, might be misinterpreted in a conservative country like India. Be mindful of keeping your physical distance from men even while being open to them, especially on public transportation where personal space is at a premium.

While on a train ride from Panjim, Goa, to Mumbai, I befriended an Indian woman named Mercy and her elderly mother, as well as a large group of male university students. Over the course of our journey, I enjoyed getting to know the students, even though Mercy would quietly caution me to keep my distance and not sit by them.

Although I could tell why she would do so – they were loud and had clearly been in Goa on holiday – I could sense they meant no harm (and I’m even still in touch with one student through Facebook).

Interacting with men in India is a constant balancing act of being guarded and friendly.

8. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home

It’s true that travel opens you up to new experiences and pushes you out of your comfort zone, but at the same time, be sensible and ask yourself if you would do something at home. Things like hitchhiking, going out alone at night, and accepting drinks from men you don’t know are risky no matter where you are in the world.

Citlalli Milan suggests getting to know someone first: “When I accepted an invitation or went with someone for chai, it was after a few weeks or months of saying hi on the street and making sure they knew who I was and I knew a bit more about them…It’s great to interact with locals, just always with caution and with an awareness of culture.”

9. Consider traveling with a group

candace rardon in India
The thought of visiting India for the first time is intimidating enough, so perhaps beginning your time there on a tour (through companies such as Intrepid or the aforementioned WanderTours) can help you get acclimated. (Matt says: Get 10% off Intrepid Tours over $500 with the code “11422”.)

After a series of unsettling moments during her first trip to India, Becki Enright is planning to go with a tour next time: “I am looking at group tours again, where I am guaranteed the idea of ‘safety in numbers’ and where I won’t be traveling on trains and buses on my own. I stand out and am aware of that, and those are my initial measures for ensuring my safety.”

A huge part of traveling alone is learning to trust your own instincts when you don’t have friends or family there to discuss your options with. Before you can trust those you meet on the road, you have to learn to trust yourself. Develop this sense of self-trust before venturing to India alone.

10. Know that mass photo-taking sessions will happen

candace rardon in India
This happens enough in India that I feel it’s worth mentioning: If you suddenly find yourself at the center of a flurry of photo requests, especially at key historic sites, go with the flow – for as long as you feel comfortable.

It happened to me at the Taj Mahal, in front of the Gateway of India in Mumbai, and even on a beach in Puri, Orissa – I was asked to have my photo taken with at least a dozen different families or groups of young men. This may seem strange, but it’s usually harmless.

11. Regroup – or even begin your time in India – away from big cities

new york city skyline at night
Even if you follow the suggestions mentioned here so far and elsewhere on the web, harassment might still happen. If you have an experience that rattles your nerves, don’t leave India immediately. Take time out to process, heal, and regroup.

Think of heading to places such as Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama and surrounded by the Himalaya; Jaisalmer, an ancient fort city in the Thar Desert; Fort Cochin, a colonial town with easy access to Kerala’s peaceful backwaters; and lesser-known spots in Goa such as Colomb Bay, located between Palolem and Patnem beaches.

These are all places where I found a certain calm and respite from having to be on my guard so much, and I’d even recommend starting your time in India in such locations. Although it’s tempting to begin in the Golden Triangle – comprised of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur – the intense crowds there might not give you the space to adjust and adapt to India.

Keep an open heart
Although India can be a difficult place to travel and there will be moments when being the center of attention is overwhelming, it is an experience I would redo again in a heartbeat. By using the tips above, I hope you can mitigate the feeling of having eyes inappropriately on you and transform uncomfortable situations into positive ones.

Furthermore, keep in mind that this issue of staying safe while visiting India is part of a larger issue at hand – what it means to simply be a woman in India. The threats facing female travelers are things that Indian women have been dealing with their entire life, and will still be dealing with for long after we leave.

Ultimately, there is no secret to staying safe in India. It is a continual process of being wise and keenly listening to your instincts – just as you would anywhere else in the world. Indians love to welcome foreigners into their country, so trust your gut in accepting their hospitality and learn from their kindness.

India is a complicated and chaotic country, and yet it is also a place of inconceivable beauty and warmth.

Candace Rose Rardon is a travel writer who has been featured in the New York Times and writes the blog, The Great Affair. She travels the world and paints beautiful watercolor images of what she sees. Her blog is one of my favorites.

There is a lot of other articles on this website written by female travelers about female travel safety. You can find them all on by clicking this link for further tips and stories.

comments 181 Comments

These are some great tip for both men and women! It is always refreshing to hear that world, no matter where you are, is full of kind people. My wife and I will be in India next year and we cannot wait to experience the culture and the craziness India is famous for.

I couldn’t agree more with you, Eric – kindness is everywhere, and experiencing it over and over in the world has really inspired me to be as equally open and kind to others. That’s great to hear you and your wife are off to India next year – there really is no other place on earth quite like it :)

Lokabhiram D

Hi Candace,

Great tips and would be very useful for anyone travelling to India. I am actually from India and when I came across your blog topic on Google search I thought of clicking them to know the perspective of someone from a western country…As I said great tips..I would like to add one more – apart from Goa, Bangalore which is in South India is equally westernized and a great place to visit. Please come over to Bangalore the next time you come to India :)

Hello Paul,
I would like to differ somewhat on few points you mentioned. It is true that every state has different language and culture here, but asking a policeman is not a good idea until he is an officer rank with 3 silver stars on his shoulders. Usually across entire India, people don’t even talk to them until they approach you. By asking them you might invite their suspicious questioning like “what are you doing here at night”, “show the id proof” etc. I am not a foreigner so I cannot tell how would they react to inquiries by foreign travellers. But it is always better to avoid them. Second point you made was to ask travel agent. Now with all my experience, I can tell you that most of the crimes in India (specially metro cities) originates from a property dealer or a travel agent. Travel agents and low level policemen are most of the time interested in extracting money. Ofcourse, all policemen, travel agents and property dealers are not bad. But don’t you yourself think it will be better to make friends with multinational company employees on facebook or linkedin etc and the most they can expect from you is a photo session while having dinner together. Some of them (who may be a couple) can accompany you to places like hill stations in summer or beaches in winter because domestic tourism is very popular with Indians who don’t want to spend several dollars by opting for a foreign tour specially because Indian currency is an all time low of 62 to 65 per dollar courtesy corruption in the system upto the highest level possible.

I will be traveling to Trivandrum for business 1st week of January, curious if you have been to that part of India. My family is extremely nervous for me to travel alone. What are your thoughts.

Peg

Arrica
I am going to India in Jan 16 from the US as well….my first time also! Most of my family are more than nervous! But I am going to stay with a family so I really am quite calm….I am very excited. Just stay in the crowds and dont be alone at night on the streets. Have fun and be wise but relax also…Best to you.

Simz

Less population and development in South India is more than the North. Trivrandrum is safe and Kerala is the India’s one of the loveliest tourist spots. You can check out more hill stations around. You won’t be disappointed. I’ve been there.

satheesh

I am.from Trivandrum, living in USA since 2008. Trivandrum is entirely a different India and people are used to forigners there. If you are on business trip, take help and suggestions from your fellow workers there. You have the best beaches, back waters and hill stations too. Please let me know if you need any help there. You can stay with my parents and enjoy kerala dishes if you think it’s ok. Welcome to Trivandrum.

Peg

Candace
I am really enjoying all the info you have written! My first visit to India will be with a family that found me on FaceBook last year! I am soooo excited….I will be there for over 2 months. They are so sweet and kind. But also I have learned a lot about the culture in a year. I have to stay at the Mumbai airport fo r3 hours when I depart. Are there people there I can find that will direct me to the correct terminal, etc? Just wondering….
But other than this ….wow I am so thrilled.

Ravi

Dear Peg, Iam not sure if you have already travelled to India..but if you have’t here is reply to your question how to travel to local airport from International airport. Once you getdown at the international airport and go thro the customs and collect your baggage, you will be provided with transfer to the local airport free of charges. So do’t worry and wish you nice holiday in Kerala and India as a whole.

sudha

India is a safe country to woman,all depend on the area,comunity and state!!! Most of rapes happen in north india,north india is more poor and dirty….dont know why people travel to there only…come to kerala,bangarole,tamil nadu.

Really interesting read. India has always been a destination I’ve wanted to explore but with recent negative press, it has made me reconsider. The thing that is great about this article is that it is realistic about the risk without going too extreme.

Thanks for reading, Naomi! I’m so glad to hear this post has been helpful for you, and I really hope you’ll have a chance to explore India soon.

WOW… Amazing Tips shared by you. I belong to India & it is a shame on us that our women are facing problems like Rape & all… but for the foreign tourist it is considered as a safe not in Delhi.. but in Mumbai because Kuoni Company has their Tourist Police which are always helpful to the foreign tourist..
We Welcome you all with our join hands with a smile!!!!

love it!! great tips/ideas… no just for India, maybe for every country! and the part Don’t arrive at a new destination at night.. is so true… i did once by myself with no problem and we did once with my husband and was hard to get a hotel!

I couldn’t agree more with you, Emma – a few of the women I talked to for this piece mentioned that these tips are things they do to stay safe no matter where they are in the world. In India, though, I just feel it’s important to be that much more vigilant and aware as you adjust to it!

I wrote India out of my travel plans as its not somewhere I feel comfortable starting my travels alone. This post helps.

That’s interesting to hear, Kate, and I can definitely understand where you’re coming from. Are you still planning on starting your trip in Asia? Perhaps you could head to India after spending a bit of time elsewhere first and then ease into it :)

Have you ever been to lucknow (India). its a city of Nawabs. full of monuments like – chota immambara, bada imambara..etc. right now lucknow mohotsav is also going on where you can find a lot of things you want to see…? if any one need any other information about India pls let me know we will definitely support every travelers to India. NAMASTE

Avani

Interesting read!! As an Indian, I can’t agree more on all the points mentioned here. One more point: while shopping at tourist places, sometimes the street vendors might get bit aggressive, in such cases, it is good to act rude. Also, beggars can get really irritating, never be generous to them, but there are many local Samaritans

Thanks for sharing your insights, Avani! For me it always felt a bit strange to be rude to vendors, but sometimes that’s the only way to let them know you mean no.

Avani

Interesting read!! As an Indian, I can’t agree more on all the points mentioned here. One more point: while shopping at tourist places, sometimes the street vendors might get bit aggressive, in such cases, it is good to act rude. Also, beggars can get really irritating, never be generous to them, but there are many local Samaritans who can help you chase them off!! I hope this blog will give moral boost to all those who were in double minds to visit India.

“Ultimately, there is no secret to staying safe in India. It is a continual process of being wise and keenly listening to your instincts – just as you would anywhere else in the world.” Yes! I think this post was so important to write, not to mention extremely helpful and informative. I have always wanted to travel to India and this will help me so much. Thanks!

Happy travels :)

I’m thrilled you used Candace as someone to write a post on women traveling in India. She is perfect for tempering the caution with the fascination of this amazing place. Even having been there, the idea of India on my own would be intimidating, but I love that lots of women are doing it every day.

Thank you for your honest, straighforward advice. I’m looking forward to visiting India, but I must admit it can get intimidating reading the news about crime. Honestly though, I could get mugged in my own hometown where my guard is down probably more easily than when I travel and I’m looking out for things like that!

What a wonderful experience you had in India, I hope you’re able to go back someday.

yolanda

you know what no matter what you do as a women, you will more then likely get harrassed. I travel a lot and my best advise is to be smart and aware just like you would if you were at home.

amy

I lived in India for two years straight, and then returned multiple times for one month visits. I’m 6’3 and couldn’t possibly blend in if I tried! Yet despite this disadvantage-or advantage-I’ve enjoyed India and I think it’s an important destination for women to visit.

I like many of the things Candace has shared: I have been somewhat dismayed by the bad rap that India has gotten as a travel destination of late. For example, there was a very negative article on the CNN website about women traveling in India-esp. foreign women. It was written by a woman who experienced a great deal of attention during a year long stay, and I think it swayed many women from ever even considering India as a travel destination again. At one point in the article, the author talked about “dancing in the street at a festival” with other foreign women in her group, and how suddenly a million flashes happened, from all the men taking pictures of them. I’d like to point out that even if something seems ok to do, and Indian women are doing it, that doesn’t mean the foreign woman can do it, too. At least without attracting a lot of attention to herself, and possibly endangering herself.

There are times, as a woman, you can do certain things, and being in a group of foreigners is one way(like a tour group). Another way-which I prefer-is to become part of a community while there, even if only for a few days. You can do this by volunteering with children or women’s organizations, of which there are many. By volunteering, you place yourself in a better position, because you will immediately make friends with other foreign volunteers and you will connect with Indian women working in that environment. You may find yourself invited to a wedding, a dinner, a village, or a special event, and since you will be the guest of a local woman, you will have the chance to experience things more deeply.

I agree with Candace about the form of dress. This is a big issue with foreign women, who often buy “Indian” clothes that they could wear at home–little tank tops, wrap around skirts, flimsy materials…or wear clothes that are too tight or reveal too much. These clothes which we see as “cool” are really only appropriate for Goa and similar locales–elsewhere they are seen as similar to the underthings Indian women wear under their clothes. It is important to wear traditional clothing-the salwaar kameez being the most practical option-and to visit a tailor right after you arrive in the country to have some made up for you. It also helps to cover your hair if you are blonde or red headed, and to wear sunglasses in the street. Eye contact with men can suggest possible intimacy in this culture, so avoid it.

Eve teasing is a big issue(men fondling women on the street) and while not entirely preventable, it helps to be aware of your surroundings and the time of day.

I lived in India alone and never traveled with a group. it is possible, even in remote places like Bihar and the Northern Highlands. However, it’s not something to take on lightly. I found it helps to stay in more touristy areas first, and once you are used to the culture, make your way for those other destinations.

I think my time in India has taught me a great deal. Bravo to Candace for encouraging more women to visit what is one of the most lovely places on Earth!

The idea of volunteering is great! and seems much safer! thanks for sharing your experience! I have kept this is mind for my trip that I would love to do in India

Bravo Amy and Candance,

I have traveled to India a couple times once alone and another time with a close girlfriend. Cities in India can be like any large US city, just be careful and cautious. My experiences in India have been positive encountering very kind and helpful people. It has not felt anymore dangerous than traveling in the US in certain cities. My last visit at age 62 I felt very safe; partially due to the respect given to “older women”. India is one of the most fascinating travel experiences in the world and I have been more fearful traveling in other countries. I say go, take in the smells, sights and rhythm of India. My good friend an Indian man I met many years ago has always said “incredible real India” and he now owns a travel business, ask for Devender Yadav he is a wonderful resource. Feel free to contact me if you want any tips or advice!

Joyce

Nanette

Like most people who have posted comments on this blog, I was doing some research about travelling solo to India… and like most of the women, was trying to find out how safe, or not, this notion was.

I’m so glad to have read this blog. It has just heightened my desire to visit India, and will take all the comments and suggestions on board. In reply to your comments though, amy, how does one react to this part of your review :
Eve teasing is a big issue(men fondling women on the street) and while not entirely preventable, it helps to be aware of your surroundings and the time of day.

What should one do/say and how to react should a man fondle a woman on the street?

Angelo

Great Blog! I am an Indian from Goa and feel very proud of my country. Everything you have said in this blog is true. Wile the people of India are very friendly, you will always find some males who are not used to seeing foreign females. But this should not be construed as being dangerous as they could be easily dissuaded by an assertive female. In its entirety, Candace has portrayed India in its reality. Ladies, dont be afraid of India but enjoy the experience.

Thanks for this really informative post. Couldn’t have come at a better time as I am planning my solo trip and wondering whether I should make India part of the itinerary. At the end of the day, it’s just about keeping your wits about you and using your common sense – same as you would need to anywhere really!

This was one of the more helpful posts on traveling in India that I’ve read! It’s so important to have a balance of caution and excitement, and these tips seem perfect for achieving that. India has always been one of my dream destinations, but even though I usually travel alone I’ve always though of it as a place I’d need a travel buddy for. Candace has totally made me re-think that idea!

Thanks so much for reading this, Megan! I’m so glad to hear it may have helped you re-think needing a travel buddy for India. Although I often traveled alone there, I was rarely ever “alone” – between making friends on the trains, meeting other expats in places like Delhi, Mumbai and Goa, etc. I hope you make it there soon!

Rose

Hi Candace,

Thanks for all your tips in this article. How did you go about meeting expats in Delhi? Just out and about or did you find communities online?

Rose

This is definitely the information I was looking for, but here’s the thing – weren’t you part of a group much more often since you were part of the Rickshaw run? I’d be going completely solo if I go to India, which is what worries me. So many other travelers have said “don’t go alone,” some of whom were solo female travelers. Seems like a lot of opinion and the only way to know is go to and beg and plead a male friend to accompany me.

Thanks for your comment, Kristin! While I was indeed traveling with a group for two weeks during the Rickshaw Run, I’ve also spent an additional nine or so months traveling mostly alone in India. I occasionally traveled with a friend, or with colleagues from the NGO I was volunteering with, but I’ve lost count of how many hours I clocked on Indian trains by myself :) Traveling in India alone is certainly a challenge, but not impossible!

This was a great read and I will bookmark it for my future trip. She had many valid points. But, I will say that when it comes to race and ethnicity you may need to tweak the travel advice. Traveling in India as an African-American woman will be a slightly different experience compared to a white or European woman. Sometimes it will benefit me more, sometimes not. India has their caste system and I could easily be mistaken for an Indian person, which has happened before on the road. Some of the women I see being raped, we look more alike than not, am I at risk? Or, Indians may think I am from Africa which brings a whole other round of assumptions, suspicions, etc., until I say I am American, which usually brings another round of puzzled looks, poor media stereotypes, etc. I DO feel there is something bubbling in India right now with many women organizing around their domestic violence issues, rape crimes, etc…Also, India does not have the best track record in regards to women and little girls and their limited opportunities.

I have experienced groping and my girlfriends have experienced other lewd acts in SE Asia and it was VERY unsettling to experience, especially when realizing the lack of legal protection and policing if we did look for help or report it. Most of us followed ALL these tips, but that did not prevent inappropriate or dangerous situations from happening.

I totally support travel, wanderlust and going where your heart takes you. But, I don’t believe getting sexually assaulted during your travels should be chalked up as “part of the travel experience” as some women have indicated when discussing their experiences in India (I know your guest poster was not doing that in her blog, but I have seen it around many blogs over the last year. When this normalcy starts to happen “you’ll get groped but the Taj Mahal and chai tea is incredible” does not serve anyone–tourists, Indian women, the country, men, etc. People NEED to speak up and speak out, whether with their voices or dollars. People should consider where they spend their money traveling and send a message to India that they need to take these incidents more seriously. There are national domestic violence campaigns happening so it is clear that there is definitely an issue with violence (physical, sexual or otherwise) against women. I am passionate because India is one of the places I would love to go, but my life or livelihood is not worth it. But, that’s just my view. My two cents.

Thanks for sharing, your view is also very interesting! I couldn’t agree more! there is NO OKAYS about sexual assault

amy

You bring up an important point: women who don’t have a “white” skin color can be treated very differently. This is absolutely true. I have had friends who faced more problems in the country due to their nationality and/or skin color. Thanks for pointing that out.
Your comments added a new dimension to the conversation here. Thank you. Food for thought….

I agree with Amy here, Robyn – thank you for bringing up such an interesting and relevant point. Also, I think you might really enjoy this post from Oneika the Traveller, about being “the other” in India: http://www.oneika-the-traveller.com/foreigner-in-india.html

karni

india is save.. and indian always respect outsiders… ya somewhere in shops and hotel some creepy people can make fool to tourist for money but if tourist come with perfect programm no body can harm

Al

Very well-said, thank you for bringing this up.

I’m hoping to get there next year! Not sure if I’ll end up going solo or not, but either way I’m glad I have this first-hand reference. Thanks for sharing, Matt.

Thanks for reading, Kay! Whether or not you go solo, I hope you’ll make it to India next year – I traveled alone and as part of a group there, and absolutely loved it both ways.

This is a great article! Thanks so much for sharing such a vast amount of information. Im the type of traveler who is perhaps a little naive to danger at time and tend to get into a headspace where I just want to try and do everything. Indian has been a place I have always wanted to visit – but with my naive attitude and try and do everything attitude it was a place that I thought perhaps I might not be the type of traveler who should visit. but your article has changed my mind. I would certainly go with a different mentality.

I’m really glad this has been helpful for you, Rebecca! I’m always a fan of being open to new experiences on the road, but you’re right – in places like India, it is definitely important to exercise a bit more caution than normal.

Fantastic! I would say that these tips are applicable not only in India, but to anywhere else so long as it’s not your hometown. I do want to visit India, especially the Taj Mahal. In fact, I’m contemplating between India and New Zealand for my next trip. With the recent rape incidents, I can’t help but worry, though I have Indian friends who assured me that it’s pretty safe. Then again, on the hand, I do have friends who traveled to India on business trips and they strongly discouraged me. I guess at the end of the day, it’s about fine-tuning your mindset with an open heart to give the place an opportunity and, of course, be alert while having fun. Thanks for the pep talk. :)

“It’s about fine-tuning your mindset with an open heart to give the place an opportunity.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself :)

I also spent a year in New Zealand and loved it, but I have to say – you couldn’t be choosing between two more different countries! New Zealand is full of gorgeous landscapes that are incredible to explore. For me, India was more about the people you meet and the connections you make. Best of luck deciding where to head next!

Eufrosyni

This was a great article about India and I couldn’t agree more with the writer…I went to India with 4 friends (3 of them were females) in 2012 before all these stories came out… To be honest after rape stories came out one after the other it felt like I had visited a completely different country…I am not trying of course to underestimate incidents of violence and raping against women, it is just the fact that while visiting that country I never felt threatened or receive any hostile behavior by anyone…Yes men were staring although I am not either blonde nor pale, but for some strange reason med. looks were very appealing to them…Yes it felt weird at times…Yes they were very talkative and at times made me respond with an abrupt manner and yes they took billions of photos with me….But this did not make me feel strange during this whole time I stayed there…I did not visit only the big cities, but small villages as well where things perhaps could be worse, but still although we looked “strange” to them no hostility in the air…

The only thing that felt more “weird” to me, considering I am Greek, was the fact that touching people (even women) was not common among Indian people despite the fact that they were very friendly, talkative, social and showed extreme hospitality to all of us (inviting us in their houses, weddings etc.). I was trying hard not to touch anyone!To be honest before I went there I thought I would meet a completely different world and culture, but I was really impressed to see that my country and culture had so many things in common with theirs…Many more things in common than other countries within Europe! It didn’t feel “foreign” at all…

My trip in India was one of the best I ever had and I am certainly planning to revisit. No one should visit unprepared, but I guess this happens to every country one goes…There is no way I am leaving this life without going many more times there and I suggest this to anyone who considers himself a traveller and not a tourist…India, and every other country, is perfect as long as you have done your homework before going there and be aware of the conditions that you will find there…It is a cultural vault and Indian people were of the nicest ones I have met during my trips…Forget stereotypes and just enjoy your trip… Hoping to revisit soon!!! :)

p.s. Pardon my English :P

Thanks so much for sharing about your own time in India, Eufrosyni – it was wonderful to read. I’m really glad you also had a largely positive experience there, and am thrilled you want to keep returning in the future :) I’m right there with you!

That’s awesome to hear you’re heading to India so soon, Kristen! Stay safe and have an amazing time :)

Valerie

Brought back nice memories of past travels. I have been in India very manyntimes, travelling alone, with husband and three kids, with one 12 yo son for a year straight. Travelling with children and especially sons ensured a very different experience from locals than when travelling alone. One daughter came several times, at 10 and again at 16, she is a red head and got way too much attention for her comfort but was assertive and told one camel driver co riding that if he didn’t move further back then she would get off and walk! Certainly afree with the train tips, upper berth is best, but then i could get second class a/c in an open carriage , not individual compartments like first class, where youncould be with three men. There are also Ladies compartments though it often gets crowded with many children. I had a few unpleasant moments , one being driven the wrong way in a taxi, but it stopped and i caused a scene and a crowd gathered and someone got me another auto and took the driver to task. Overall people were very generous.

GREAT article! I’ve always fancied travelling to India & honestly I think my first time I’ll plan to go with a group or at least a friend. It’s funny because people don’t realize, but most of these tips apply in our home countries as well. It’s a shame how the media can influence people’s decisions to travel to gorgeous countries! x

great tips Candace – was a bit worried about heading to India later this year based on what you hear in the news, but these suggestions have put my mind at ease!

Paul

Thanks for this post. It’s is a life long dream of mine to go and spend a couple of months in India and I really want to go with my partner but due to some of the stories we’ve heard in the last year, she is extremely cautious about it. I will have to show her this post! Thanks!

Thanks for reading, Paul! I really hope this post might help show your partner that India can be a wonderful and safe place to travel as a woman. Fingers crossed you make it there soon :)

Lynn

This is exactly the kind of article people should read with all the negative press surrounding India! I hail from Mumbai (considered India’s safest city) but I am no stranger to men staring at me. Having traveled around India and abroad, I’ve noticed that the situations in other cities and countries are no different.
I know people from other countries are fascinated by India and the excitement to travel to the country makes them want to explore every possible state and city. But I have a suggestion – start slow. Begin your tryst with India by visiting a handful of “safe” places first (try Goa, Kerala, Shimla, Jaipur etc) before moving on to states like Bihar (always avoidable, trust me.) and getting into the chaos of Mumbai and Delhi. Once you are a able to recognize the differences in the people here and once you have a little more practical knowledge about the country, your visit to the rest of the country will be an adventure with beautiful memories!

I couldn’t agree more with you, Lynn! I love your advice to ‘start slow’ and to work your way up to the more chaotic cities…I found that really helped me, as it was about three weeks into my time in India before I stepped foot in Delhi. Thanks for sharing that!

Lynn

Oh, and another tip, be careful about your accommodation. It is always avoidable to book your stay in hotels that have less than 3 star rating because quality control becomes a major problem then. Ask around if you can or surf the net thoroughly for suggestions. Bad accommodation will only dampen your spirits :) Bed and breakfast options are few India but hotels and (certified) guest houses are plenty…so choose wisely! Have a great time visiting India!

Traveling with shanti Travel is safe for women alone. They gives personal driver, sim card on entire trip. Enjoy your stay in India.

It’s a lovely read with accurate information about anything. Glad you enjoyed your stay in India. Of late there have been lot of security concerns for women and being an Indian it worries me too. So, I will leave a small advice.
Most travelers/backpackers start their trip in Delhi’s Pahraganj area, a backpackers ghetto as it offers cheap accommodation. This is the worst possible way to start a trip as it’s not very safe. It would be better if they start in a boutique hotel in South Delhi which have better facilities and are safe.
Also, if I could be of any help drop a mail or leave a comment on my blog.

Ashwin

You’re exactly right, Ashwin – Paharganj is definitely not an ideal place to start a trip in India :) After I got to know South Delhi some more – especially Hauz Khas – I started recommending that to friends, and they were able to find great, even female-run guesthouses as opposed to the cheap hotels in Paharganj. Good advice – thanks for sharing it!

Wonderful article, well-balanced and honest! I am eager to go to India, for Christmas holidays I hope. I will join a group, but all this advice is appreciated.

Thank you for this. It’s terrible to constantly see terrible things about my country plastered all over newspapers all over the world, when in reality, it’s not that bad. I had almost started hating my own country, but while traveling in Europe I met a lot of foreign women who had been to India (alone and in groups) and LOVED it.
That’s when I realised that though the bad cases are sensationalised, no one ever writes about the good part. Thank you for doing that :)

You’re so welcome, Surya :) It’s also rare for me to meet a female traveler who’s had a truly terrible time in India. There always seem to be small instances of trouble or uncomfortable moments, but on the whole, their positive experiences far outweigh the negative ones.

Yeshi

My daughter and I have lived in India for 3.5 years total. I was pregnant in Dharamsala and later, I brought her back when she was 5 years old. We had very few problems. While India is child-friendly, your children shouldn’t be left unattended unless you truly know the people. Girl children especially. My daughter, at 5, knew that her body was hers and couldn’t be touched by anyone if she didn’t want it. She had and has good boundaries. You have to be aware that, just as in the West, some people believe that molestation doesn’t happen or is the fault of the victim.

Traveling, we met many kind souls. We dresses carefully and I was vigilant. I have whacked a man on the head with my shoe for grabbing my child. I’ve also had to be a tiger mom because ppl. told me to send my child to school. In Dharamsala, the schools are sub-par, unclean, and there is corporal punishment. Homeschool worked for us.

The police sometimes need bribes to act. This is the system and it’s changing, moving away from bribery.

As far as being a single traveler, use common sense, carry pepper spray, don’t run off with a guy or guys you don’t know and if you get that icky feeling, LEAVE. Enjoy India, and try to learn its customs…you’ll arrive tender and soft, you’ll leave toughened and more aware…and with India in you heart, you’ll come back.

Randy

Excellent article! I’ll pass it on to my daughter who can’t say ‘no” to the next big adventure.

Thanks for this great post! I spent 4 months in India and many of your tips ring true. It can certainly be difficult with many challenges but also one of the most fascinating and memorable places. I’ll never forget my time there or the lovely people I met.

Last year, my wife and I were visiting India when that tragic Delhi rape case occurred that left the victim dead. Before then, we had familiarized ourselves with what we thought would be the dangers of the country, but now that we were there, everything changed. Each morning when we opened the Times of India, page upon page was covered with stories of perverse sexual assaults. Since we had booked 2 1/2 months of travel in the country it left us on edge. Luckily, we minimized our risks by taking precautions (Number 2 on this list: Dressing appropriately is crucial. The more you cover, the less of an invitation you present.).

I found India to have a sharp learning curve for how foreigners, especially women, are treated. It is tough to comprehend – a recent survey found a quarter of men in Asia had commited a sexual assault (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=221121112) – and the most common rationale was a “sense of sexual entitlement; that men felt entitled to women’s bodies regardless of consent.” The north, particularly in cities like Kolkata, where we started our journey, made us both feel extremely uncomfortable. On the other hand, the people we interacted with in south India made us feel welcome and infinitely safer. Given the option, I would recommend first-time travelers to India to start in the south and then work their way north if they have the time and desire.

Thanks for sharing about your own experience in India, Mike. It’s interesting that you also suggest starting in the south – that seems to be a common thread of advice running through these comments! I would also recommend for someone to start outside the bigger cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, etc., and leave those for when they’re a bit more familiar with the country.

Naveen.N.N.

Yes Mike I agree with you I am an Indian belongs to South India (Karnataka state). South is far better when compared to North. Visit Coorg when you are in India next time which is in Karnataka state.

Caleb

# 6 is one that stood out for me. India in 2008 was my first traveling experience outside of the US…..yes, my first time traveling outside of my home country, I ended up in India.

Being a relatively quiet, unassuming introvert is not the way to travel there. I learned relatively quickly you needed to follow the advice given in #6. Either ignore (as rude as it sounds and as hard as it was to do) and/or be firm. Getting off a train in Agra we were swarmed by vendors, drivers, etc – I was hunting for our pre-arranged driver in the sea of people and 8-10 people were literally crammed into my personal space trying to get my attention/business. Ignoring them was not working so I made a motion with my hands and said “NO!” so loudly it actually surprised myself. We weren’t bothered after that.

Good write up Candace.

Candace Rose Rardon’s tips are excellent. I feel it is better to keep them in mind wherever one goes! Do these rapes and sex assaults happen only in India and not anywhere else? I am sure it is yes and then why all the focus lights are on India alone? It is the India press. Yes, when any such incidents happen all the press people vie with one other in reporting it-neglecting all the other important news, of course!! When the heat of this sensational news dies out they wait for another to come up to fill the space of their news paper.
Earlier, native indians might have ‘stared’ at tourists – though irritating harmless though!!!- The mind set of many in India need to change. there may be so many reasons for this; because the laws against them are weak, they think they have an upper hand over women, muscle power is greater than decent humanitarian behaviouir, their powerful and political connections etc. It is a very complex social issue and issue and need to be seriously attended by the criminal department. Now, I wish to discuss on the reasons for this decadence.
The internet and the western movies add their share to corrupt the minds of the people. Sex is depicted as a very casual’ or ‘common’ friendly occurrence between men and women in the west. My friends say that the characters in the pornography movies on the internet are ninety percent Westerners. Many people In Asia believe that western women will take one to bed if you behave decently with them even for a short while!
Indian women could very easily sense the intention of one trying to befriend them. May be the language and experience give them an edge over the Western women. Many of them come to india without having any study of India and come with the wrong notions like the country is still in ‘ the Robert Clive era’, the people are poor, illiterate, gullible and would be happy if the tourists focus their cameras at them and the like…
I agree a few villagers might fit in the above descriptions but it is high time the the tourists who think like changed their minds. Many Indians lead a comfortable like people in other countries and even many of the villagers in the remote parts of India are not illiterate which sadly they were once. Never go to India with a mindset that you are going to visit another planet but just your neighbouring country. Understand the culture, do some homework as how to manage difficult/embarrassing situations. If you are not ready to all these- better stay back at home !!

Lauren

Great article! Much needed :) I was in India for the first time for 5 months this year and never had much trouble (though my intuition was always on high alert and never let me down). I shaved my head after being there 2 weeks as I had always wanted to try it and thought it might help with the heat, and I noticed that that gave me instant space. Most women in India have long hair and I think I may not have seemed like a 100% woman to some people, as many asked why I did it or ‘what happened?’, and some told me that only men should do it.
I think it cannot be emphasised enough that relations between men and women in India are completely different, MUCH more than you expect! (The dress code is also a lot more conservative than you expect. I would not dress in anything tight or remotely revealing because the average man in India simply cannot handle seeing that, it is too shocking. Do yourself and everyone a favour).
Basically men and women do not interact as friends, (except maybe modern youth in the bigger cities?) so if a man is trying to befriend you, do be aware! (Not paranoid, but aware).
The main indication is that if you get any feeling someone wants something from you, or there is an assumption that you owe them something, walk away. It is not impolite to do so. It may be unfair to generalise but a chatty man who seems intent will usually want your business or your booty.
When I was new in India I was greeting lone men (as well as women) as I passed them on a path near the sea, none of them greeted me back. Someone explained to me that men and women who don’t know eachother never greet eachother casually as we might in the west. Even the man who rented a room out to me, very friendly and sweet, would ignore me if I was alone in the town. If I was with others, he would chat. He was showing me respect.
Also, as a woman visiting India, it can be very enlightening to realise just how free we are in the west compared to other countries. A woman in India is generally expected to marry, have children, and get along with her in-laws, even in liberal sections of society where the daughters have an education and a job. To have the choice to remain single and go travelling alone is a privledge most Indian girls would not even dream about. I did try, in a subtle way, to burst some assumptions. When people asked if I was married I said ‘no’ with a contented smile, as in India there must be something horribly wrong with you if you aren’t married… of course every girl wants to marry?

Also it is seen that only loose vamp-like women drink and smoke in public (though some older women smoke amongst themselves out of view), so western women who drink and smoke freely while talking to males must be extremely loose… a cultural conditioning I am told is widespread.
I had a laugh once when I was sitting there on a street corner in McLeod Ganj. A family of tourists from Punjab were staring at me with great confusion and wide eyes – I was dressed very modestly, chatting and laughing with a buddhist monk, with my shaved head, smoking a cigarette. I could see all the categories being mixed up and jumbled around as they tried to come to terms with what they saw. I won’t deny I got some satisfaction from it – India’s many taboos did infuriate me at times!

In the end, I found India responds to you how you respond to it. When you’re having an off day, not feeling very perky or positive, you will find it gets reflected back to you.
Try not to travel while you are feeling weak in any way, better to go out and face the world when you are strong and positive and in tune with yourself, as India will usually serve up the unexpected ;)

Lauren, I can’t thank you enough for your comment – you bring up so many great points. I love what you said about being aware, but not paranoid, and what you said here: “I found India responds to you how you respond to it,” should be sent out to anyone traveling there for the first time…that’s a brilliant way to put it!

PS – It’s fascinating to hear a bit about your experiences after shaving your head…I can only imagine the responses you got and the conversations it sparked :)

Diane

Sound guidance and wisdom on a country full of experiences that, for me, were hugely joyful and rewarding.

Great advice in your article, Candace.

India is the most difficult country I’ve ever travelled in. But overall the most fascinating and even after 7 months there was still so much of the country that I hadn’t seen.

The sexual harassment I received was relentless and exhausting despite always travelling with a man and being modestly dressed. I was assaulted on several occasions (thankfully relatively minor but still upsetting). I would never travel there alone but I have a lot of admiration for women who do.

Very nicely said, and not a word extra. I have stayed at Goa for a long time, and yes its culture closely resembles what most westerns are used to. But then Goa was under Portuguese rule for 400+ years and got its freedom 13 years after India. India has such a large diversity in its culture across the states, you could hardly compare one state to another. States were demarcated according to linguistic backgrounds rather than size. So what happens in one part of country hardly says anything about India as a whole!

Just like we do not venture into area without referring to google maps, holds true for countries as tourist destination too. No point skewing one’s views by referring to worst of the news coming out of a country.

Great question you have asked Matt, Everybody know that India is a so beautiful country and no doubt about here. But this is big happen in India as far as woman safe while traveling in India. I’m sure that many foreigner women are enjoying here without any dare so i hardly suggest for visit in my country and have fun!!! thanks for nice post

I have been to many places on my own as a solo women traveler including Nepal and Thailand but I cant convince myself to go to India on my own – I will probably go with a group of friends.

Nabakrishna Hazarika

It is more of a cultural thing really. Northern and Central India is a world apart from North Eastern India for example which stays away from most tourists’ radar including the writer’s. North Eastern states particulalry the hilly states of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur are just a different India altogether. The North eastern society have always given a higher status to women and tourists here have enjoyed safety and freedom. These landlocked area has a raw scenic beauty unmatched anywhere in India except probably the Silent Valley in Kerala. Its people are the most hospitable and tribal traditions are preserved in all its richness and vibrancy. Check out this incredible India section on North East http://www.incredibleindiatour.net/north-east/
Being from North East India myself I welcome everyone to check out the India you never thought existed.

I love that you suggested traveling to Northeast India! I went to Shillong a couple of times when I was working on the Rickshaw Run, and was surprised by how little tourism it sees (compared to other parts of the country). And as you say, I remember learning that Meghalaya is one of two states in India that has a matriarchal society, so yes, there are definitely different cultural vibes to experience there :)

Nabakrishna Hazarika

Shillong is probably the most visited place in north east just to give you an idea of the lack of tourism here. And I can assure you there are many places in North East which are as enchanting as Shillong. But you sure are a wonderful traveller Candace. Good luck with your adventures.

Akkta

Candace, your article summed it up beautifully. You have done what even me, as a citizen of this country couldn’t. And it’s not just for foreigners like you (maybe it’s a lot more) but even for Indian women like me that travelling around in the country can be tough. But, where in the world isn’t it difficult for a young woman to be by herself?

Despite it all, India is a remarkable country to explore. The diversity is spellbinding. There is so much to experience and soak in. I’m glad you could make a such a journey happen and also inspire others like me to travel more.

Just a note to say that carrying pepper spray in the UK is illegal, so think twice before carrying it on the streets of London

Thanks for pointing that out, Shalinee! Apologies for not making sure of that myself before posting.

These are great tips! Although I don’t know of any way to avoid the sexual harassment.

I’ve been to India twice, once alone as a 21 year old and once with my husband. The first time I wore a salwar and was attending school, and even then I had trouble with my butt getting pinched and occasionally someone sideswiping my boobs.

The second time, I stayed close to my husband and had no troubles. Then on our last day, I walked around the corner from our hotel by myself. On the way there a tiny man grabbed my butt.

In my experience, sexual harassment WILL happen in India, and the only thing to do about it is not put yourself in situations where you are an easy target and then let it go when it does happen. I once chased down a boob grabber and while it was vaguely satisfying, it was also a waste of energy. It’s hot there.

Great tips Candace! There are good people and bad people everywhere. Common sense is the most important. Safe travels everyone!

Indeed there are, Cherry! Common sense is hugely important – that was one of my key reasons for including #8. Be smart and sensible, and learn as much as you can about what ‘normal’ looks like in India – so that if something is off or suspicious, you’ll hopefully be able to sense that quickly.

Calleigh Chin

Thanks for the great inspiration! Traveling around the world alone could be safe, just have to be alert and cautious. Love the travel tips! Thanks <3

aditi

totally agree with Nabakrishna Hazarika, i have always wanted to visit north east india, its beautiful , ps am from north-west india.

Great article Candace, I’ve heard that Is India safety for women? It is very difficult to answer in one sentence. It depend on you that how do you keep safe. Candace pointed here, how to keep safe yourself in India while traveling.

This was a really interesting post, especially since I’ve been toying with the idea of visiting India this spring.

I think your advice is really helpful, although I’m still not sure I’d feel comfortable traveling alone there. Kudos to you though for doing it!

Perfect guide. This guide can be applicable on India and Pakistan also. Appreciated. Candace do you visited nearby country Pakistan?

Thanks for your comment, Zahid! I haven’t been to Pakistan, but would definitely love to visit. One day, I hope :)

Rahul

As an Indian male, I can say that this is one of the “best” guides I have comes across about travelling for a single woman from abroad in India. The various quirky things you might come across have been very accurately been advised as being normal, kind of ok, and those which could be wrong, without being prejudices in any way.

I can not stress enough on the points so well covered about “dressing up” and “body language”. Wearing a Salwar Kameez and talking a bit of Hindi, you could easily pass of as a foreigner who has been in India for a while maybe, and that “greatly” changes the way people may approach you.

And another thing that I always suggest to other female friends of Mine who come to India is, your whole chances of being eve teased,stalked,groped,or worse… are far far faaaaar lesser if you stick to the Southern India. How do you know them? Look up a map, and find the southern states starting from the southern most tip:- Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra. Southern India is what “real India” used be historically where women were respected, and still are considered almost equal, and in some cases even the dominating one`s at home.

The whole non-sense that India has become known for recently is more of a “Northern India” mentality. I can not go into details, as that would require like a whole fat book of history, plus offending many people, but as these were the areas that were invaded and occupied predominantly by the Mughals/Muslims when they invaded India around 1500’s , and hence all the cultures and practices and the basic sorry state of women in their religion spread into Indian culture too, and sadly still remains ingrained. So avoid states of Haryana,Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and even New Delhi as plague !!! These are the states where the whole “North Indian crappy mentality regarding women ” and crimes against women, and also generally usually happen. Rajasthan is safer because it has remained more of a touristy place for foreigners since forever, just like Goa.

For those who are not here only for the temples and the forts, but also want to relax and let their hair down maybe for a while, if at all you are into rave parties or something like that, then you would find tons of like minded foreign tourists in places like Pushkar and Rishikesh and basically all over the state of Goa !! :)

I’ve already raved on the post on your blog, so I’ll save it, but I have to ask: your #7 tip says to watch your body language and not give any indication that you might be interested in a man, but isn’t that just what a smile can do? That’s the biggest barrier I’ve sometimes found to smiling in a foreign country! :/

You couldnt have said it better..Being an Indian and a traveller, I am often asked this question if India is safe for women ! And I often say it is, if you are careful and responsible. India is a land of extremes and even as a local, I will be careful in a different state when I am travelling alone. And South India, where I live is a lot better than the Northern counterpart, but even there, the hills are very safe.

Good tips indeed. It is safe for women to travel in India. The safety concerns are similar to most of the countries in the world. Is it safe to move around for women in New york at midnight alone? No. Same is the case in India as well.

Having said this, one has to be cautious while travelling in a new place till you get accustomed to the culture and ethos of the place. India is still a conservative country – especially in smaller towns – and women travellers have to appreciate this fact. On the other hand, Indians are amazingly hospitable. One also need to appreciate that India is very diverse – culturally, linguistically and in every aspect – which makes it difficult initially for a western traveller. In fact, if i find it difficult to converse when i travel in India as India has around 1300 living languages! That is the beauty as well as challenge.

Thus, please bear in mind the above tips which is helpful indeed. Otherwise it is great country which will leave with amazing memories and binding forever. Welcome to India!

You’re so right about the diversity of India – and as difficult as that can sometimes make traveling there, it’s also what I loved most about the country. It’s amazing how much can change from state to state – language, food, dress, etc.! – so you make a great point about taking the time to learn any new customs that may change in a different part of the country.

I travelled to India 2009 and even 4 years later I can’t disagree with any of your mentions facts about India. Good luck for new travelers!

Interesting article but carrying pepper spray is illegal in the UK so please don’t encourage people to break the law and please read up on the laws of the country you’re going to so that you won’t do/bring anything illegal.

Great tips on travelling to India. I am from Bihar and I am happy you went there. Its all about being cautious and taking some steps you mentioned and I am sure it will be fine. Women in India will be fine as along as they take some precautions and learn the local language and dress appropriately.

It’s great to hear you’re from Bihar, Shalu! I’m grateful to have had the chance to visit the state twice now, on two different Rickshaw Runs. While we heard lots of rumors that traveling through Bihar might not be safe, we never had a bad experience.

Great article and very well written.

While India has more than its fair share of law and order issues, not all of us are bad and I have come across many solo female travellers enjoying their journey across India. So like the article states, exercise caution and use commonsense and you should be alright.

One of my gfs just got back from India, and she said it was pretty scary getting from the airport to the hotel by herself. The taxi driver took her to an alleyway to meet up with three other guys, and she thought she was going to get kidnapped. Fortunately, all she had to do was pay them off before he took her where she needed to be. I would always carry extra cash in case you need to pay someone off. I don’t like to travel by myself to a lot of foreign countries. At least having one other person helps a lot!

That’s a shame to hear about your friend’s experience, Esther, although I’m glad to hear it worked out okay in the end. The only thing I can say is just to reinforce how important it is to get in a licensed taxi. Especially if you’re arriving at an airport at night, it’s important to hire a pre-paid taxi, where your destination is set before you even step foot inside the car.

Extremely well written article Candace! These tips should go a long way in helping address a little bit of the negative press India has been getting. Personally, I couldn’t agree with you more on ‘Being assertive’. Not only does this trait work very well in India, but also in other male dominated societies. Even though I am male, I have found this trait to come in handy during my days of travels in tougher places.

Thanks for a wonderful and detailed post, Candace. I am glad to see you highlight the great things about India, while providing cautions to make a traveler’s experience safer and worthy.

One aspect that seems clear from the comments is that the southern part of India is safer compared to the Northern part. There are tons of activities one could plan around in the southern part, especially in the Kerala, Tamil Nadu area.

And, if you want to experience the cosmopolitan / HiTech types, then you can visit two these cities – Bangalore (in the state of Karnataka) and Hyderabad (in the state of Andhra Pradesh). Both cities belong to the southern part of India and will give your plenty of things to do. They are safer too. Good luck with your travel to India.. It is a beautiful place with tons of awesome people :)

Great recommendations, Prasad – I especially enjoyed my time in Hyderbad, so I’d have to agree :)

I’m an American who has been living and working in India since 2007. I would never recommend any woman to travel alone here. Some of the advice you give would be extremely dangerous, for example regarding trains. There are many people, friendly looking families, who offer to share their “home cooked” food with you only for you to wake up groggy from being drugged and all your stuff gone, maybe worse. If you are traveling alone, get the most private train coaches you can afford, especially if you can lock the space at night – usually the Rajdhani Expresses are the safest. The subways, called metros, usually have “women only” cars to cut down on the inappropriate sexual contact. Do not use a taxi alone at night (after 9 PM), especially in Delhi/Gurgaon. The taxi drivers can very, very dangerous, and NEVER let them put another person in the car with you. If they do, get out IMMEDIATELY. I have had this happen even with pre-paid taxis at the airport. Just open the car door even if it’s moving and be demanding that they leave.

I’ve lived in Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Gurgaon and Pune, and have traveled all over North India. Treat these cities like any other major urban center. Keep your money stashed carefully, hold your bags across your chest so they can’t be pulled away by passing motorcyclists. Watch the space around you – I’m short but keep people at arm’s length as much as possible. I need more personal space to be comfortable. I keep my elbows out a lot, use my laptop bag as a way to keep my breasts from being groped, and have actually pushed people out of my way.

One of the biggest challenges is being cheated. We call it “firangi pricing” (foreigner pricing). While paying $10 for those really cute shoes sounds reasonable to you, they probably would cost you $1 or 50 cents. Ask other shoppers what the price should be. Many people will actually bargain for you. :-)

You are dead on about clothing. Think nearly as conservative as Saudi Arabia. Your neckline should reveal only your collar bones. Longer sleeves are better. Keep a scarf or “dupatta” with you at all times – you never know when you will be entering a Muslim enclave or very traditional Hindu village. Long pants – no shorts, unless they go over the knee. If you’re blonde or redheaded and don’t like the attention, wear hats and scarves. It will help – a little. Men here think all western women are whores. I’m not joking. I’m a 53 year old fat white lady and I’ve been propositioned so many times I’ve lost count!

Biggest advice is to trust no one, but have faith in humanity. If you take the help of someone and start feeling uncomfortable, go with those feelings. It will potentially save your life. If it becomes something you cannot control, DO NOT go to the police. Go to as public an area as you can get to, and enlist the aid of other women. Like you said, they’ve all experienced this and the “aunties” (older women) will put those men in their place, hopefully shaming them into better behavior.

Re: Goa – while you certainly can wear your bikini, or go topless, bear in mind that there is an unspoken tourist industry here with busses of men that go from beach to beach to walk the shore with their cameras taking photos for their “spank bank” later. While some come with their families, it’s quite uncomfortable. HOWEVER, for me, it’s seems like payback for the indiscriminate photo taking tourists do as well. When I go to Goa and find men taking photos of me or my friends, I walk up to them and ask them for money! These are middle class and wealthy men, and they will be offended, hopefully keeping them from doing it again.

I highly recommend getting out of the cities and into the hill stations. Dharmsala is a perfect example. Darjeeling as well. There are numerous smaller, less known hill stations that are simply breathtaking and will show you the real India. Other tourist areas like Rishikesh, Jaipur, Agra are very tourist-oriented and not nearly as pleasant an experience. Lots of aggressive touts, beggars. Get off the beaten path.

Don’t get me wrong. I love India. I wouldn’t live here if I didn’t. Being mindful of your surroundings will keep you safe. Seek advice from all, especially other women, but trust no one. While India has modernized dramatically over the past ten years, it still has a long way to go, especially when it comes to how this country values its women.

Stay safe!

Rose

Jeanne
I appreciate your insights. I’m from California and am planning on traveling to New Delhi next year. What form of transportation to you recommend women taking after dark? Obviously, not being alone at night is safest, but if one finds herself needing to go somewhere (pharmacy, to get food), what would you recommend?

Also – is there anyway to tell which taxi drivers might be bad? Do some of them have valid licenses whereas others dont, for example? (that was the case in Mexico City)

Thanks again!

travelaviator

Hello Rose,

Its great you are visiting India , if I would you I would have asked my Hotel manager to get a taxi for me. Or if I have any known friend in delhi, I will ask him/her to get me a taxi.

Hi Rose! Thanks so much for your comment – it’s exciting to hear that you’re headed to Delhi next year. That’s a great question about what sort of transportation to take at night. Honestly, I’ve taken the metro, auto-rickshaws, and taxis all after dark and not had a bad experience – except for being ripped off now and then by an auto driver, of course :) What I would say is, I normally took rickshaws for short distances – for instance, from the metro station to my apartment – but if I needed to get across the city, I would use a taxi – and possibly even pre-book it. And in terms of the metro, as Jeanne mentioned above, there is indeed a woman’s only compartment, so I always felt pretty safe on them. Hope that helps, and have a great trip!

Thanks for sharing some of your experiences here, Jeanne! I really appreciate the fact that you’ve spent so much time in India and are obviously well-versed in staying safe in the country as a woman. What I hope came across here is that, in my humble opinion, it ultimately comes down to discretion – i.e. trusting your gut instinct. I’ve definitely heard those horror stories about food on trains being drugged, but I gratefully never experienced that myself. I usually accepted food after I’d gotten to know the family, chatted with them for a while, and got a sense of whether or not I could trust them. Trust is an essential element of travel – be it for getting to know someone on a train, discerning whether or not to take a particular taxi, etc. India is the kind of place that perhaps requires a bit more discernment than elsewhere, but hopefully will help keep us safe! Thanks again for taking the time to read this and share your insights – I appreciate it.

Great article candance, Go travel best places and enjoy you travel.

I appreciate your effort for creating such amazing article. I really like the way you represent things in-front us. I know it’s little unsafe place of women but not all the place. Here in Mumbai, you will see women used to come home from office late night without any fear. Everywhere whether it’s India or any other country, some bad peoples are there and because them it’s not right to blame whole. So, we should be cautious of them.

Rohini

Was browsing the net and found your article . I could not agree for more. I would suggest any Indian / Foreign traveler to approach either a family or college students(girls) . 99% of the times you are safe with them. And be wise when you are purchasing anything . Approach any educated women/students , they will definitely help you out in getting you the right price . There might be people who want to cheat foreigners but there are more people who wholeheartedly want to help the tourist .
Happy to see so many of you want to visit India. Hope you all have a safe and happy trip :)

wow !!! i can’t believe that you share truly wonderful words that sounds good and hope when lot’s of visitors read this then they should also come to India to avoid any fear . Wonderful Article on women safety in India thanks for sharing.

Hello Candace..very informative blog for those who want to travel to India, especially for women travelers.Thanks

When i read title of your blog i thought its negative about India.

But after read it whole content its very good and informative content for those who are looking to come India. I can say that this kinda words help tourism and increase relationship between two country

Excellent blog! You can never judge a country’s character because women safety is a rising concern throughout the world. It is important that women keep tools like SOS Stay Safe mobile apps that can keep their family and friends informed about their whereabouts.

I hadn’t heard of SOS Stay Safe, but thanks so much for sharing that, Lara – that definitely looks like something every female traveler needs to have!

Jon Tran

Will it be safe for me to travel to Southern India with my girlfriend and a couple of friends? I’m concerned of her safety although I’ll be going with a few people. Please advice!

Dorian

I would love to visit India. Just need to convince my wife !
Thanks for this post, great Information.
I will make her read it.

I hope you and your wife get a chance to visit, Dorian! Although India can be a frustrating place to travel, it’s also incredibly fascinating. Any idea what part of the country you’d like to see?

Patty

My boyfriend of five months lives in India. We met through facebook. He wants to come to USA, or for my children (Amber who’s 16 and Mike who’s 14) and me to come stay with him at his parents’ place in India. He’s a web designer and a model. I’m much older than he but he didn’t care since that we like each other a lots. We have had our ups and downs yet stuck through. Is there any company here in USA that could sponsor him to work here? I’m apprehensive for my children and myself to visit India. I have couple of other male friends for past five months who would like for me to come too. They speak English, Hindu, and believe in one God of love. I would love to be connected with a group of Americans there who know about India and its culture and laws. I want to be with my bf but also know that I could rely on the Americans who are experienced as well.

Thanks for this great article. You make me think about going for India soon. And BTW, superb photos you have here.

uttar expat

am glad to see comments of Jeanne Heydecker… women must be very very careful in India today, taking the train alone is absolute insanity… the author of the essay doubtless means well but could be leading many into disaster

Thanks for sharing your perspective here! I haven’t added a final total yet, but I’ve spent at least 300 hours on Indian trains – and 95% of that time I was alone – so I don’t think it’s too insane :) I actually found traveling by train a great way to experience the country, and I would be sad to have not had the many encounters that unfolded with my fellow passengers. As I said in the article, absolutely be wise and take care of both yourself and your belongings, but I personally feel that missing out on Indian trains would be missing out on a big part of India itself.

Ajay Rana

India is safer country for womens. we respect the women by our heart and we welcomed to womens of other country to visit India and get the chace to live and learn more about India and their Places. This is the emerging Issue so i thanks to author who write this post.

travelaviator

great article, you will find generous people everywhere in India. you have to follow you instinct and always pretend you are very much aware.

Just one more things to add as a tips. Prefer government services for traveling tickets.
Indinrailways is one of the world’s largest and awesome railway networks.It almost connect whole country, use government railway website(irctc.co.in) for tickets, you have all different kinds of coaches to travel, which you can choose as per your comfort. you can book tickets in some clicks.

If you have any concern about going to any place government Information center or you can google them and as rightly said in article reach there in day time.

If you have to travel by bus, I would again prefer state government buses.
Bihar about which Candace told is known for poverty and crime also has great, comfortable government owned bus transport system, which you can again book online.

Government transportation system is good and safer than local private system, in India and as a Indian I have always preferred Indian railway and government transportation system.

BE SAFE

I definitely agree in terms of sticking to public, government-run transportation when you can (especially when it comes to buses) – thanks for sharing that! I occasionally used the IRCTC site itself, but also found ClearTrip to be great for booking trains – even for Tatkal tickets.

Great post, Very informative and helpful indeed… There are so many beautiful reason why to visit India.

Being a white woman who has traveled in India, I can completely relate to this post. Every country has its goods and bads. In India, you just need to be more careful. India is a country of more than a billion people and even if only 1% of that population is bad, you have a whopping 10 million bad people and only one of those is enough to ruin your trip. You can not blame the rest 99% of Indian people for the deeds committed by a bunch of assholes. Just follow the safety guidelines, do not try to act smart, avoid any clashes at public places, memorize the points mentioned above by Candace and you will have a good experience of one of the most diverse lands on this planet.
Cheers :)

What you said, Laura :)

I think any place in the world is not safe now. because we can hear news all over the places both good and bad. but in generally same countries are not safe at all. I think India is in mid level. Be careful out there.

Thanks

A.Sen

I am an Indian man. I really appreciate what you said about India. But please don’t let this eve teasing and other such bother you. India is going through a change or for a better word revolution. Women are outshining men in every field like politics, films, corporate world, sports etc. So that is why these incidents are happening because more and more women are coming out and trying to live life on their own terms. This change will take time. But it has started.

But India also has good and kind people. In our culture guests are treated as god. It is a kind of mini world itself. It is the only country in world which has beaches, mountains, deserts all in one country. People here much more tolerant. We have people of different religions like Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Parsies, Sikhs, Jains, Buddists living together peacefully.

Just because of some bad people you can’t generalize a country with 1 billion people. My friends have also visited western countries and faced problems like hate crimes, racial discrimination from some people. That doesn’t mean they have generalized west in a bad way because in every country there are bad people.

Lastly some tips to lone female tourists in India. You can wear denims and half t shirts in India as it is a common attire for young girls, girls in college and even for office goers. Avoid travel late in night especially after 8pm. There are many Indian students studying abroad. If you know any one of them then take information from them about India and also ask if they know some woman friend in India so that you can call her in emergency. Always keep numbers of local police stations and NGOs that help women. You may get these numbers from your hotel or your guide. Always keep a pepper spray or a pocket knife in your purse for emergency. India is a developing country so come here with an open mind to see India. Don’t compare it with Europe or other western countries as India is an unique country even in Asia and can’t be compared with any other country in the world.

Great! Very helpful tips! Even I didn’t think from this point of view. I am an Indian woman who loves to travel – I have traveled solo also. It’s pretty easy to deal with little unwanted attention and stuff. The thumb-rule is to be careful.

Fantastic tips for seeing India.If you go anywhere in the world there is a combination of good people and bad people.I am a traveler and I know these things very well.Many places in India there you don’t need to be fraught.You can travel South India there are people helpful and honest. So come to India and see its culture and heritage of Indian History.

India can definitely be an intimidating place to travel alone. My first experience there was with a group (for about three weeks), and this really gave me the confidence to then strike out on my own after our trip ended. Perhaps if you were able to travel with your teaching colleagues at first, you might then have a chance to do other journeys around the country on your own? Either way, I hope the teaching job works out for you!

Rose

Hi, I’m suppose to be traveling to Bangalore and Mysore next year as part of a school group. Any tips for Southern India as a woman?

Hi,Rose I have visited South India as far as my experience you won’t face any problems there.Book your Hotel as well as your whole travel tour.I hope that you are not going to face any problem staying in South India.People are calm and cool and well behave with tourist.I went to Bangalore and Mysore with my family that was a wonderful experience for me and my family.

Excellent advice. All points apply but the 1,6,7 and 11 are particularly close to me – I wish I have thought about it before my frist trip to India. I went there in 2007 for a 2-month long university fieldtrip without knowing much about the country and, must say, it was a difficult experience at first. I started fromn Delhi and abolsutely hated it back then – wasn’t prepared for anything I experienced. Then with 2 other people we moved to Uttarakhand and I fell in love with the place. The people, the landscape, the food, the pace of life, well – everything really – was easier, and it gave me the necessary time to get used to the country, get to know the culture, do my reading and face Delhi once again. I’ll definitelty go back one day :-)

Hi Alina I can understand the experience which you had in the past but now onwards time has changed everything in Delhi specially for women.I hope that next time your trip to Delhi is going to change your mind as well as your experience. :)

I think India is not like Africa… People are educated and mostly welcome foreign people with great love but some bad guys has ruined the country’s image. You can also find bad guys in the United States as well as in the Europe. Its universal problem where you can find 10% bad people.

Sarma

Nice blog post. As an Indian male, I would agree with what Dilip has commented above. Typically, all Indian male brains are same! They crave for sex. But the outward behavior of different male is different. Few male behave modestly with female, but their intentions would be different, they feel that being modest would make them close to the female to have sex. This kind of behavior can be seen in any class of the Indian society.

The college girl who asked you to be ware of the male students was completely correct in cautioning you. Typically, Indian male make friends with female and they try to have an “affair” with them. I am not generalizing though. The major part of Indian male society is like this.

That is the reason, even an Indian women would not be interested in talking to strangers, Indian female won’t even try to have eye contact with strangers. A prolonged eye contact with a stranger would give wrong signals that she is interested in him.

Very informative blog for women. But i must say that if you are a travel enthusiast then you must consider visiting India as it promises rich heritage and culture experience than any other country. As far as security concern it depends on how concerned you are about yourself and if you aware all the do’s and dont’s then you are safe, not only in India but in any place.

PS: No place on earth is safe untill you make sure about it.

I am not a woman, however I am an Indian, and have traveled quite a bit. Based on my experiences, I do find that the safest places in India are undoubtedly the Himalayas. In fact taken together, the Indian Himalayas will largely seem like a different country.

I love how open-minded you are in your post (you certainly offer great tips), but still I couldn´t help but being utterly shocked and saddened by the brutality of these recent incidents in India..And I certainly understand why so many travelers originally planning trips to India had instead opted for other Asian countries. I was trying to be rational about this and tell myself that I cannot judge the whole country based on the actions of few individuals, but emotions rule over reason in this case..

Hey Candace
you have written many good points here, if there are some bad people here than there are lots of good person also. For safe trip we need to hire a government certified travel agent or agency who knows the local place and people and with them you will feel safe but before hire them you need to do a deep research about that travel agency.

Jay

WOW Candace, Long Live! God bless you… Damn you are the biggest genius I saw recently!

Yes, go to India, most multi-dimensional, oldest, historical, and so on. :-)

India is best place for tourism especially bangalore is packed with places which caters to everybody’s interest in a family. For women’s safety its depends upon the places.

Geo790

Hello,
A very comprehensive and interesting writing. In India every day is like a ‘Black Friday’ . So do not expect Thank You or welcome or very nice behaviour from people. We foreigners consider this very rude and very unfriendly and well it is not.Thats the way it is, there. And do not forget to visit a place called ‘Kerala’. I think Kerala is probably the most beautiful place in the world. It is that beautiful. I strongly recommend it. And do try out all the cuisines. I think no place in the world can offer cuisines that India can offer you. It is just amazing.

milkteanlsg

For the first full-time job in my life, I had to travel to India and had just come back this morning for a week-long work trip. As it was my first time going to India to face the customers, my supervisor accompanied me on this trip throughout.

It was a rather uneventful and safe trip other than a little fright when during the last car ride to the airport at Bangalore, the driver took a different route to relieve himself…

Nevertheless, it made me feel a little unsafe, especially if I had to travel alone next. Moreover, my parents are most worried about me, and I am just in a dilemma as my job requires me to travel to India.

I am pondering if I should tell my supervisor and boss about my dilemma and see if I could avoid travelling to India all together or in the worst scenario, quit the job or somehow un-worry my parents.

Jeny

I really enjoyed reading your article about women travelling in India. To me India always feels like one of those countries I would like to visit, because it’s a country you should experience once in your life. Even though it might push you beyond your comfort zone. I have mixed feelings if I think about India, but that’s mostly because of the stories people tell me about it. But I like the fact that you not only focus on the bad things, but also on the good things that happen. I will definetely keep in mind your tips and consider travelling with a group.

Thank you for sharing this.

Tim

I am traveling to India for the fourth time at the end of the month and, while I have always traveled alone or with a friend, I’m bringing my 12-year-old daughter with me this time. Although will be with friends while in the country (both Indians and U.S. nationals) who can help her with local customs, etc. and while she will never leave my sight, I’m having her read this article, as it contains a lot of common-sense advice applicable to a number of situations in which she may find herself. Thanks

rav0704

here there, being an indian myself, i agree with almost every point mentioned here in..sorry if i sound rude but the truth is that indian men(not all) look at a foreigner women differently from indian women and you people are more prone to being harassed as the people in western countries are sexually more open and thus some indian cheap men think that a foreigner girl is always ready for sex. So its better to stay away from men offering free help during your visits in india and there is no harm in even slapping them or complaining about them in police if they touch you or misbehave. There is no need to talk to such people politely. Yeah, one more thing, though it is not advisable to wear skin revealing clothes but capris and jeans will fit in well in almost every tourist place and even sleeveless tops will do in most of the places..Wearing kurtas or salwar kameez is not necessary.i live in india and i have never worn a suit or kurta..
And yeah, when you go for shopping be cautious as many people on seeing a foreigner charge almost double or sometimes even much more than they charge a localite for the same product.. So whenever you go shopping, ask a localite buying from that shop about the actual cost of the product or just go to three or four shops of the same kind to match the price
have a hppy and safe journey ladies :)

Chirantan Bhattacharya

Dear Candace, I read your entire Dos and Dont’s while travelling to India. It was a very nice documentation of your experience, however I would say you have to be either brave or stupid enough to be a woman (foreign origin) travelling alone in India. Apart from few places, it is not all safe for women. Refer the rape of a girl in new Delhi in 2012, that was not once in a blue moon. Crime against women happens every second every moment here. You get on a bus, someone will try to grope you, rub against you. You stroll in a park you will soon be joined by many uninvited aliens, who will ogle at you, pass comments at you and if you are unlucky enough, you might find someone masturbating, looking at you. These crimes are something which goes unreported here, because these are not even considered crime. If you have a daughter or sister or wife who works and travels, you will never be at peace unless she reaches home. We do not allow our woman folk to travel alone because you never know, when she will be preyed on. When I was reading I read the episode where you be friend a person at a restaurant, who asks you for drinks, which you refused. I bet you did the right thing. In India a person gets introduced to a foreigner (girls) via pornography, so they develop this mind set that every foreigner (girls) have the same traits, and are easy going. I would advise (ladies) travelling to India, to take precautions as mentioned by Candace, and restrict your touring to Western and Southern part of India only.

d

yup im a woman and have just done india alone.

Not sure about this article above but unfortunately rape is the fastest growing crime in Incredible spiritual India.

India is becoming dangerous place for western female tourist and now another shameful incident happened in India today where a Polish women is raped by a cab driver when she was travelling from Mathura city to Delhi.

Not sure what will force India government to take some stern action.

me

Candace – thank you for this positive article and tips on travelling in India for women.

I have visited India twice – the first on my own ten years ago for about a week, starting in Delhi and crossing the Nepalese border via Lucknow and Varanasi.

The second time with my husband for two weeks, starting in Kochi and finishing in Chennai. We just returned today.

I had uncomfortable experiences travelling alone – such as men leering and yes, the occasional grope – this happened in Delhi and in overcrowded places and on public transport, and the only advice I can provide is to be extra cautious and vigilant in these types of places. Even in Varansi and Lucknow, a city of about 3 million people – I did not encounter any problems.

India is not an easy place to travel for women as well as men, as I came out of this trip being affected by the immense poverty more than anything else. But the interactions I had with locals – the care and generosity expressed to me – trumped any negative (which were minor in my perspective) experiences I had. There was no doubt that I would return to travel more in this country that really shakes up your whole being and soul.

Our travels in South India (Kerala & Tamil Nadu) were a dream, and both my husband and I have noticed the massive differences in travelling between the north and south. No hassles and not much haggling even. It may have helped that I was travelling with my husband but even when I was out and about on my own – I was treated very well.

Whenever you get on a plane to go to a foreign country, you take a risk. And if you exercise the right precautions (in India, that would be avoiding travelling alone at night, dressing conservatively which is a must) – then the chances of anything bad happening will be very low. Personally, I’d rather take the risk and be extra cautious than give up on a dream of visiting a place that I’ve always wanted to go.

Agree with Candace’s tips – that if you haven’t travelled much previously or on your own – it may be much easier to “tackle” India by either joining an organised tour, or otherwise starting your travels in the south (e.g. Kerala) where it is much more laid back than the north.

For my husband and I, who have travelled widely to various parts of Middle East, Asia and Africa, to India separately and together, we are planning to return again, and again to this beautiful country.

Francesca

This is a great article, yet I am toying with the idea of crossing India off my list. Why? Mainly because I feel reluctant to go to a country where such treatment of women is not only mainstream but something where the onus is on the victim to be vigilant against. I have been to conservative countries before, even worn the hijab in some regions, yet my brief experiences of India’s border regions have been something different. So many backpackers have told me of gropings, leering, and dangerous situations they have narrowly avoided through what seemed to be quite accidental, small misteps. While a part of travel is accepting the home countries values, beliefs, I bulk against the idea that women should expect to be constantly vigilant lest they want to experience something unpleasant.

Overanxious? Perhaps, yet in my mind there are many many countries to explore that do not have these problems.

As an Indian I think you highlighted well all the points … somehow I feel ashamed of my country with these vagabonds I see many women across the street facing staring and comments which makes me sad because of illiteracy this is on high. I think blogs like these should be on all advisory sites of foreign govt.

Hello! I have some inputs to contribute to the topic, especially for those traveling through Delhi. Although not as elaborate and comprehensive as Nomad’s blogs (congratulations to its author), it would be a good revision of important points. http://fordelhitouringwomen.blogspot.in/
Thank you.

Safety in India. Well, all of you above have explained most of the things. Being born and brought up in this country , I have understood the culture to a larger extent and one thing is appropriate to quote ,”All men are not going the bad way, but still you need to know who are”. Stay away from Rickshaw Walas, Group of men together.Wandering alone at night after evening is a strict NO unless you are with someone u know.Friends, well you can befriend Employees from MNCs for sure.If not, meet people with families, they might guide to right and also give you experience about the culture.Places to visit where you will find the local culture are crowdy, so dress up with caution. Don’t be overly involved. If you want peace of mind some places are Kerala, Auroville, Ladakh, Shimla. Above all, be confident. Try to avoid attention but don’t just avoid people who are friendly .After all, travelling is all about meeting people, transcending thoughts across cultures.

Very good tips for safe travel, Candace. As an Indian woman I feel extremely bad at how the behaviour of some of our men and some highlighted cases of violence is putting off women from discovering India, a country that has so much to offer.
I hope these help women who take the step of visiting my country!

Sully

Thank you to Candace and to most everyone else for your realistic and respectful perspective on safety for women in India. I am on my way to India for 3 weeks in late Feb, and know that I will be following your advice right from my arrival. Unfortunately, I am arriving into Mumbai at night, but with a pre-paid taxi and the tips you shared about the cell phone call from the cab, I feel prepared to safely reach my pre-arranged lodging. Thanks again!

Been there, done that. I think India is as much safe as any other place in the world. It’s just that travellers need to exercise some caution on their part as well.

Recently i went to vaishanodevi katra with my friends.This place is very beautiful for moving.I think there are many beautiful moving place in india.

sonya

For women travelers to India, a woman-run venture offers safe homestays in Delhi/Gurgaon/North India. Neat, clean, comfortable, independent rooms with attached bath and balcony/garden. Other facilities offered are airport pick-up and drop-off, meals, transport, accompanied sight-seeing, shopping and business tours, interpretation, travel-planning, yoga & meditation.

Maggie

Hi Sonya, I would like to know the women run venure. Could you please provide me more details?

Rekha

Indian guys are funny in a way. If you address them as brother, they usually treat you as their own sister. Use “BHayya or BHaayi” in the North and “Anna or Annayya” in South India.

I agree with the OP that nowhere else in the world is the journey just as fun as the destination as it is in India. I’d like to correct her on several occasions. One of these is She says about dressing modestly and India being a conservative country. Imagine wearing ‘Indian KURTA’ in Europe or your native country. People will be attracted because you look different and lady remember People are almost the same all over the world It’s upon your perception of that place

These tips are so much helpful for womens who are willing to visit India or planning for it . You discovered major points in it . Now days the government of India is providing more security and safety for tourists .

I would love to travel to India; however, safety is a concern, especially with such a difference in culture. Thanks for clarifying some of the questions I had.

For security purpose, proper guidance is necessary. Usually we want to go new place we enquire information about that place like that reaching a new place after knowing about that place should give safety.

Kiran

Thanks Candace, I am seeing ur enthusiasm to state pro’s and con’s in balancing….great

Oddly enough this year our India trip is even more popular. It does correlate with news headlines, but more so with the economy in general! Women should go with the good advice above, but use it everywhere they travel.

Devdas

Wonderful article. Some how its difficult for me as a man to imagine that indian men will molestest women.