Safety Tips for Women Traveling to India

1. Traveling safety precautions for a woman often depends on the places and region they are traveling to. One could always travel alone but it’s better safe than sorry. In certain regions like Kashmir especially Ladakh, South India, Uttarakhand, and North East assaults against women travelers are unheard of. North India especially Delhi and adjoining areas are where women are most vulnerable. It’s always wiser to have a male companion around which makes it less likely to be sexually harassed and/or molested.
2. Never travel alone at night especially in Delhi in an auto-rickshaw (tuk-tuks) or taxi. Before boarding a tuk-tuk or cab ensure that there is no other person sitting except for the driver. Do take the number before hopping in and sit near the door. Keep a cell phone with you in case you detect anything fishy. Don’t hitch a ride or follow a person who instead of giving you the direction you have asked about tells you to follow him instead.
3. For long-distance traveling book AC Tickets (1st, 2nd or even 3rd is safe) in Indian Railway if you are in India and have an Indian cell phone number you can do so online through IRCTC. Use a porter at the train stations. Carrying a cell phone is a great asset and talking to someone you know when you’re on the move is even better. And always mind your space and let people know it’s not okay if they trespass your personal space and be firm.
4. If you are a female solo traveler safety standard should take precedence over budget while choosing your accommodation. The rule is that the lower the cost of a hotel the bigger the risk with safety. Also, don’t take accommodation is obscure places. Look for recommendations at the online travel community.
5. Don’t ever accept the food offered to you by the person you don’t know especially on trains, buses, hotels and tourist places. There have been a few cases where drugged food and drink have been offered to the tourists before robbing and sexually assaulting them.
6. Clothing is also very important when you are a woman traveling to developing countries like India. Following the intrinsic yet unwritten cultural codes could save you a lot of hassle and glares to make sure that your arms and legs are covered fully covered especially when you are traveling religious places and market areas or neighborhoods that are not upscale. If you are traveling through rural areas people will stare at you but it’s okay as they are just curious and mean no harm. Although clothes have nothing to do with rape some of the members of the so-called intelligentsia and cultural/moral brigade have also blamed ‘skimpy’ clothing for inciting men into assaulting men. Now add that too to India’s Hall of Shame.
7. Don’t make direct eye contact and smile simultaneously as this is often misconstrued by perverts and sexually repressed people as a sign of approval and freedom to take a step further. Not that you can’t be friendly, it’s just that you need to be very careful with your body language. Appear assertive and stride confidently and ensure that your body language exudes firmness. As mentioned above setting your boundaries is a must. Don’t get friendly and smile back to the people you don’t know. Don’t shake hands or hug people you know very little (your travel guide, cabbie, etc.). If you are uncomfortable you let the person know instead of acting friendly in trying to not appear snobbish or insensitive. Don’t let anyone touch your hand or sit close as to brush you. Tell them politely but loudly to move away.
8. Get to know the many India you’ll be traveling to. This rule is applicable in any country to which they’d be traveling. India is vast and a potpourri of cultures and beliefs. Each region in India varies considerably from the other.
9. Get to know the Indian woman. Walk-in her shoes, observe her get a feel of how they travel and try to imitate their style. Not that it will make it safe to travel alone but it’s always good to have more tools to work around with. Prefer public transports for inter-city travel and always keep the change. Don’t tip generously or where it is not needed.
10. Don’t encourage a person with politeness if he/she is trying to act extra friendly and most importantly keep your eyes and ears open and be alert of your surroundings. A little caution, alertness and following these dos and donts could go a long way in helping you plan a safe travel experience in India especially if you are a solo woman traveler.