There have been some highly-publicised attacks against women in India of late, spurring the notion that women shouldn’t travel there.
Travellers travelling overseas do accept that there are risks when travelling anywhere in the world, and many know that unexpected disasters, crime and dangers could be encountered anytime, anywhere. India is no stranger to tourism, and unfortunately these latest horrific crimes have contributed to giving the country, and its people, as a whole a bad name.
Travelling safely through India is possible and female travellers can equip themselves with a basic understanding of local customs before departure. With this knowledge, and a few simple tips, you can travel through India with confidence and experience what this incredible country has to offer.
India is predominantly Hindu, and locals live by a code of modest dress. Female travellers should avoid revealing and tight-fitting clothing. Instead, opt for items such as flowing long skirts or pants and loose fitting cotton shirts. These items are handy for combatting the hot weather too. When visiting temples and other places of worship, ensure that shoulders and legs are covered and shoes are removed. Take the locals’ lead, gain instruction from those who work at these temples or look out for signs.
Travel with a friend
Solo travel and the independence it brings is a liberating experience. But, there is also safety in numbers. Consider a small group tour through a tour company that specialises in travel for women. Or, travel with a friend or companion. Enjoy the sights and sounds during the day but re-consider your need to set out at night.
Friendliness, smiling and eye contact is acceptable in many Western cultures, but could be misconstrued in India. Refrain from being overly friendly with local men and keep eye contact to a minimum. If you are travelling alone, then consider wearing a ring that poses as a wedding ring and mention you are married if it comes up in conversation.
Pick your moments
Does that southern-Indian beach and surf look enticing enough for a dip? Before you change into your bikini and frolic in the ocean, ensure that it is acceptable to swim in the area. Some beaches are patrolled, for example in Varkala, and it’s possible to swim in the ocean without being hassled. Refrain from swimming anywhere if no one else is. Sensibility is key here.
Take care with transportation
Auto-rickshaws are a fun and cheap way of getting around but negotiate the price and destination with the driver before departure and never hand over money until you reach your destination. Ensure that the driver understands where you want to be taken, and never agree to stops or diversions along the way.
When taking an overnight train, ensure all your valuables are as close to you as possible. Consider sleeping with your money belt strapped to your body and choose a sleeper to share with your travelling companion. Try to occupy a higher rung sleeper that will keep you at ample distance away from prying strangers or pick-pocketers who may be roaming the corridors. Secure your bags to the frames of seats/beds with a lockable bike chain that can be purchased cheaply before departure.
Last but not least – have fun!
India is a bustling place, a melting pot of sights, sounds and colour. So soak in the culture and enjoy your stay in this lively and hospitable country.