How to safely travel to India as a solo female traveller

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You’ve got dreams to travel to India as a solo female traveller. They probably involve tracking down a yogi master to learn all his secrets, photographing the Taj Mahal at sunrise, or chilling out on the beaches of Goa.

There’s just one problem.

You’re a women and you’re scared.

You’ve heard all the stories: acid throwing, gang rapes, and boob groping on buses. Of course, you’re going to change your flights from New Delhi to New Hampshire. Back to the burbs where it’s safe.

I’ve not been to India. I’ll admit, I’m a little nervous about it. Not so much the boob groping because let’s face it, Craig’s trained me well to manage that! I personally don’t hear many of these stories of horrible treatment towards women in India, because I rarely watch the news.

And most travellers I speak to who visit India never mention it either. I wonder why that might be?

I met a lady at my local farmer’s market the other day who told me she lives in India four months a year.

“Oh, I love India. I just can’t wait to get back. I feel so centred and balanced when I’m there.”

I find India intriguing. I feel I have to go there to experience what this thing about it is. But, then I’ll met the next person who tells me how much they hated it. The crowds and the begging and the constant harassment was just too much for them.

So I worry about that more.

We had an interesting discussion on our Facebook page the other week. We shared a post about the Taj Mahal and many women jumped out to say they would not go to India as they did not feel safe. I could not comment in response, but tagged my friend Mariellen Ward from BreatheDreamGo.com, and Reena Tory, from Mantra Wild Adventures to share their experiences.

Both women. Both madly in love with India. Both frequent travellers to India as solo women. Both passionate advocates of it as being a worthy destination, not as unsafe as the fear-mongering media would like you to believe.

I mean didn’t Gandhi come from India? And don’t women get groped and attacked in every country? Is India really that bad?

It’s been a goal of mine to start webinars this year and when Mariellen offered to write a post for our site dispelling the myths about India being a dangerous place for women to travel, I suggested we do a webinar instead.

She agreed and Reena quickly joined us.

So if you’ve got dreams to do that big solo female travel to India this is your chance to quieten those fears and dream bigger! Mariellen and Reena are going to tell us the realities of travel in India such as

  • why you should travel solo to India as a female traveller
  • why India is such a love it or hate it place and how you can love it
  • how to best approach a trip to India as a solo female traveller
  • how to best protect yourself from the monsters (I’m looking at you Craig!).

I sure do hope they tell me how to find a yogi master too. I need to perfect a headstand by the end of the year!

Watch the solo travel to India webinar

If you’re nervous about travelling to India as a solo female traveller, consider doing a tour. We love the philosophy behind G Adventures the most. Click here to learn more about their tours.

About Mariellen Ward

Solo female travel in India Mariellen Ward

Mariellen Ward is a professional travel writer and cultural explorer based in Toronto and sometimes Delhi. Breathedreamgo.com, her award-winning travel blog about “meaningful adventure travel,” is inspired by her extensive travels in India.

She writes for many print and online sites, co-founded the Toronto Travel Massive and founded the WeGoSolo online community for female solo travellers. Though Canadian by birth, Mariellen considers India to be her “soul culture” and has spent many years immersing herself in the culture.

About Reena Tory

Travel to India

Reena Tory is a passionate soul seeking traveller, conservationist and the founder of Mantra Wild Adventures. Mantra Wild Adventures is a boutique travel company specialising in personally crafted private journey’s that peels back the layers of India. Mantra Wild’s Motto is “Travel on Purpose” and Reena’s aim for her clients is that their lives are changed forever from their India experience

Reena has a love for Indian wildlife, especially the Royal Bengal Tiger! Reena has a Degree in Science specialising in Zoology and further studies in wildlife management with communities that involves them in the process. After witnessing the aftermath of a rhino poaching, she set up her company Mantra Wild Adventures – a unique way to show her India to the world, while positively impacting the communities, people and environment in India.

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32 thoughts on “How to safely travel to India as a solo female traveller”

  1. I spent in total 6 months in India due to my husbands work. I did a lot of explorations on my own, others with my husband.

    India had never been on my wishlist, but once there ofcourse I did all I could to make sure that I would have a good time nevertheless. And I succeeded. I made friends and saw and did a lot. India is a country that will amaze, surprise, puzzle you all the time. The colors are amazing.

    Do I find India safe (for women)? NO, not at all.

    Did I fall in love with India? Absolutely NOT. It is way too overwhelming in every imaginable way. Sensory overload. My pictures are amazing, sure. But on a picture, you don’t smell the odours of garbage, you don’t hear the cacaphony of sounds and noise and you don’t feel being surrounded and/or harrassed by people all the time. (not that ALL locals approach you hostile or unfriendly. Ofcourse not.)

    There is a lot of poverty, pain and suffering. Animals and women suffer more, I think. My heart got broken by what I saw day after day.

    I too have two friends, women, solo, who love India. I asked them to explain to me what they love about it. I still don’t get it.

    1. Thank you for your honest feedback Anja. There are so many aspects of India that one cannot simply tag India as a place with too much poverty and overwhelming. That may be true for many of the cities, but just driving an hour or so into the rural areas, or wilderness areas, and what you see is village life. Totally different. I believe many of these parts of India are the real heart and soul of India. The same goes with safety and travelling solo. India is so diverse and there are places you would definitely be more cautious and on guard, but that’s a aspect of that part of India, and it’s not the whole and common sense and following your gut is important. I hope you can make it to our call. We will be discussing this further 🙂

      1. I agree! India is a big country and as diverse as you can imagine. I loved living in Ahmedabad (where my husband is from), even if it took me a couple of days to get used to the chaotic traffic, and had a great time in Diu. Not a fan of Delhi. I’d love to take the time to attend the webinar and maybe help with my experience, let’s see (it will be 1 A.M. my time… but I’ll make the effort).

  2. Will the webinar be viewable after it goes live? I’ll be (coincidentally!) traveling at that time and will likely not have reliable internet or be in a time zone where I can watch it.

  3. Great idea! I think one of the keys to enjoying and being safe in India is confidence and attitude. India is not so much a place to see, but a place you feel. If you go with a positive attitude, open mind and open heart then India can be the most amazing, rewarding and transformative travel destination. I admit my first time wasn’t easy at first but it gets alot easier, especially once you get adapt the way to travel to suit India – 6 months wasn’t enough for me, I’m already planning my third visit! Women need to be cautious but remember to keep it in perspective – it’s not as bad as the media says! Take it slow and prepare to have your mind blown! I just wrote a whole article about my experiences in India and tips for women travelers which might help others. 🙂 http://www.global-gallivanting.com/safety-tips-for-women-traveling-in-india/

    1. Confidence and attitude is the key to any form of travel or life journey! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences Anna – it’s so helpful for other readers who may be nervous to hear!

  4. Hi! I came across this as I was on lookout for ppl who have travelled to INDIA and mentioned about their various experiences. I am born and brought up in India Mumbai, currently I am based in the UK in Cambridge for my daughters secondary education. And wish to settle back in my home country in 7-8 years time. I know and am aware of all that India has to offer in all its glory. In UK I have lot many asking me about the dos and donts in India during their travel. I am in the process of setting up a web portal a market place online where I want to connect people in the UK to India to experience India in its authentic form. I see this happening more often if people are connected with them lot who have already traveled to India or are bag packers and frequent travellers to India. Please can you email me regarding your views on my web portal venture and how we can collaborate in any way, with a mutual thought of “love for India” 🙂 awaiting response !!!

  5. Hi! I love India! And some things I hate 🙂
    But most of all I love the people, culture, nature and everything.
    It is a love/hate thing. You hear it a lot and it’s true.
    First time I went with a friend, loved it! Second time I went solo for a month. Loved it!! Now planning a third trip with my dad because he wants to see too!!

    Do go!! You’ll love it…and hate it a bit 😉

    Greetz from Jacomijn

  6. Darby of Green Travel Antics

    I traveled to India alone when I was 18, and never felt endangered, although I did hear one story about another solo female traveler who was aggressively approached on a train and had to jump off when it stopped.
    I found that when I took trains (I almost only traveled by train), I’d go to the tourist reservation offices, where you can get seats reserved only for tourists. This was a good way to meet other travelers.
    There were almost always families or college students traveling in the sleeper trains, and I always felt safe with them around. There are way more good people than bad people, so take whatever help you can.

  7. I haven’t managed to tick India off the bucket list yet, but the other day my girlfriend mentioned us going there. I told her I wanted to go there, but not with her. I then proceeded to explain how it could possibly be unsafe for her and I wouldn’t feel comfortable having to look over my shoulder every second to make sure shes okay. Plus people groping here wouldn’t make me feel particularly happy.

    I know I’m probably overreacting and infarct most places in Asia can be dangerous at times, but after reading the AMA by a guy on Reddit who was given a spiked apple (it had been spiked with acid) in India and nearly died after being arrested and left in a mental hospital (cell) with no food or water for multiple days… I think India needs to wait for the time being.

    Props to those who travel it. The people who I have met who traveled it successfully and for long periods normally loved it.

  8. I missed the webinar unfortunately, but wanted to comment and give my experiences. I lived in India for close to a decade. I’m white, blonde haired blue eyed. The night I arrived I was assaulted in a taxi. The day mumbai floods killed 1000 people I was assaulted while walking in waist high wAter. Those are the big times, the little times of breast and crotch groping are too numerous to recall.
    Did I feel safe in India? Yes. Are all solo female travelers safe there? Not at all.

    I applaud the work to inform travelers to India, but it’s also important to be realistic about what can and more often than not will happen. It’s not about how you are dressed (although don’t wear tank tops!), or the color of your skin. It’s a cultural issue that goes deep into the fabric of Indian society, if this is ignored it perpetuates and over time increases the danger for women of all color, class and breed.

  9. Me and my wife are working on our itinerary in India. We both are from Indian but still haven’t seen the length and breadth of it (what a shame).

    It’s good to read what other people have to say on their experiences and for all what we have traveled till now (27+ Countries and counting), each country has its own good and bad to offer and i guess that is what makes that country unique.

    Keep writing 🙂

  10. I lived nearly five years in India and heard some disturbing tales from both Indian women and foreign female travelers about their unwelcome encounters in transport and on beaches. Here’s to safe and enjoyable travels.

  11. Well said Caz! Though such mis- happenings are seen in streets and most of the cities, it all depends on the time, place and various other circumstances.
    Wise choice of including some lone women travelers and thank you for guiding us further into the to[ic with your researches and links.

  12. India is a beautiful country having unity in diversity. You will find here a mix of ancient culture and modernization. Here in India, guests are treated as God, so being an Indian girl, I would say India is safe and there is no need to scared about your security, but you will have to be careful about few things as a girl that are gonna help you in India and in other country also:

    1. Don’t trust anyone until you know them properly.
    2. Try to avoid travelling alone late night.

    I hope, next time you will definitely plan your trip to India without any fear or hesitation.

  13. “INDIA” alludes to custom, its a delightful nation with parts a religions and societies . Its a decent place to visit where regular wind and delightful landscape you can see . Its the spot where yoga and contemplation where conceived . Numerous legends lived place . We arrange safe road trips across india visit our indian road trip blog http://inroadtrip.com

  14. Each country has its own culture and tradition. Few are Good, few are bad, the perspective plays an important role here. There are many places in India which is safe for the solo women traveller. I am not telling this because I am from India but recently we organized a solo traveller meet (more info: http://www.theindia.co.in/blog/solo-travelers-meetup-ahmedabad-201) where many women traveller participated and shared their experiences.

    If you are around and would love to connect with fellow solo traveller, Kindly let me know. The next meetup is there in March and would love to see you in the event.

  15. I am Indian, and I don’t feel any kind of security issue here. Before making any comment you need to consider that, it’s a homeland of 1.3 billion people. And like any other country, you can find people of different mindset. But that doesn’t mean that India is totally unsafe for women, and countries like US and UK is totally safe.

    I would like to assure single female travelers that traveling in India is as safe as traveling to any other country. You just need to follow some thumb rules…

    1. Always choose reliable source of information. For example, hire cabs from professional cab operators like Taxi Guru Solution, Ali Cool Cab or Just Car Rental. You can find information about these car rental companies from portal of CabX.

    2. Always reserve room is good hotels, and if required, request for tour guide from the hotel management.

    3. Avoid traveling in a crowded zone or slum areas.

    If you follow these simple rules, you will never feel unsafe.

  16. I’m a solo female traveler and been in India for a while. I have been exploring this place from long and during that meet many kind of people, but overall my experience is good. Though being an solo female travel it is very challenging on the other side it is very amazing too.. So, I suggest don’t worry come India and live this place they way it serves..

  17. I’m really glad that you wrote this article. I’m from India. Eventhough there are many safety concerns regarding women, many regulations are coming up that has made it safer now than yesterday. India is truly a magical and diverse place. It would be a shame for people to not visit. It’s home for me, and I want everyone to feel what I feel.

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