I think that in everything I have been traveling I have never heard such mixed and diverse opinions about a country. Travelers who have traveled the entire world, even in regions as remote as Africa or in warfare like the Middle East, when I ask them about India, just say to me: “I’m not ready to travel to India yet”
They are right, to travel to this great country you have to be prepared in a certain way, mainly mentally. If you have already read my articles: ” Why people love or hate India ” or ” Guide for your first trip to India ” you will understand a little of what I am talking about.
India is everything at the same time, it is black and white in the same place, there are no shades of gray, everything is extreme. It is a place that will fascinate and frustrate you at the same time. And therein lies its charm.
But hey, I have talked a lot about the contrast and the situations that you will constantly see in the country, but I think I have not talked about its safety, especially if it is safe for a woman to travel to India.
Why do I emphasize being a woman? Because unfortunately India is one of the countries with the highest rate of discrimination against women, it is true that they venerate their goddesses and love and respect their mothers and daughters like no other person, but gender discrimination is very remarkable, even more so if you have to be a woman of the lowest caste in your society.
I do not remember where I read, as a joke, that in India the hierarchical situation is as follows: Men, Animals, Women and foreign women; As extreme and sad as it sounds, I think it is.
Remember that discrimination does not mean danger, so I am not saying that it is risky to go, it is just different and if you want to visit a country like this you must be prepared to have to deal with many things as a woman.
Personally, as a man, I never encountered any problems traveling through India, however, every time I spoke with travelers who were in India, both alone and in groups, their opinions and comments were similar and it is the compilation of all of them, plus my personal experience, then you want to know Is it safe for a woman to travel to India? continue reading.
Prepare in advance, plan a lot and define your route.
In any other country or place my advice is usually, travel and then plan. But India would be the complete opposite, especially if you are a woman, you must plan very well and do your homework before arriving in the country.
The first place you arrive in India will be the one that will leave you the first impression and this will not always be a good one, my advice is to get to the south, places like Kerala, Bangalore or Goa have well connected international airports that will make your first contact with India be calmer and less shocking.
Once inside the country, carefully choose the places to go and how to go to these places, there are certain regions in India that are in constant conflict, have high crime rates or in monsoon times are completely flooded.
Search the internet, especially in the news, what is said about those places where you want to go. Fortunately the tourist areas are kept safe for foreigners but if you plan to go to other places because you want to see a more “authentic” India, then don’t forget to do your homework.
Read everything you can about India, the best preparation you will have for this country is mental and once you have read enough about this country remember one thing, it is not the same to read it than to experience it, it is not the same to experience it through reading that with the 5 senses of your body, you must be aware of it, because what you come to live, even if you have already read about it, will be totally different from what you will feel being in the place.
Learn to tell half truths.
During your entire trip in India you will meet more than one extremely friendly stranger, the truth is that in India it is difficult to distinguish between a true interest and a hidden one.
My first day in Delhi I was “fooled” by an extremely friendly taxi driver who took me to the “Government Tourist Office” to check that the train tickets he had bought were correct, this government office really was a travel agency of his friend . This experience was quite unpleasant, especially since it was my first day in India, since I got carried away by my intuition and the good intentions of this person, which looked authentic, and ended up being deceived. Not much happened, he couldn’t sell me anything, I made up dates and details of my trip, including my name, but still I was left with a very bad taste in my mouth. The bad thing is that this is normal in India, very normal.
As I was traveling I was learning to discern between good intentions and deceits, I learned to tell half truths and with whom to share the information. Whenever you travel you must be extremely careful with whom you speak and what information you give them, never give hotel names, dates or details of your itinerary.
If you travel alone they will always ask you, are you married? Are you traveling alone? My recommendation is to say: Yes, if I am married, my husband arrives tonight or my husband works in Mumbai.
If possible use a fake wedding ring, I saw many women who did it and they told me that it helped them a lot to reduce unwanted encounters, this brings me to the next point.
Be careful how you say things.
Not only will it be necessary to make use of one or another lie to get rid of unwanted situations, you must also be careful how to say things.
At the beginning everything will be “no thanks” with the Mexican kindness that characterizes us, after a few days you will not even turn to see the person, nor to return the greeting.
If you get involved in a conversation, even with hotel or hostel workers, be careful as you say things, in countries where the woman is submissive, kindness can easily be confused with seduction. A kind smile, a gentle touch on the arm or back can easily be mistaken for hints of insinuation which can make everything end badly.
Never give them even a small sign that you are interested, the colder and drier you are the better, although you must remember that this does not mean that you have to be rude or forget your manners.
One day in Delhi I met a girl from the United States, she was small because she was approximately 1.55 meters, thin, blonde hair and despite being 29 years old, she had a face so young that it seemed that she was starting university, always happy, smiling and even certain point retaining features of innocence that you only see in young children.
That afternoon we met we went out to look for some food, the moment we left the hotel, all her body language and features changed, the wide smile turned into a serious and immutable mouth, her eyes full of joy became hard , as if he had lived through an extremely tragic event a short time ago.
I have trained martial arts (Box and Krav Maga) for a long time to immediately recognize when someone is in a defensive or attacking position, she was ready to attack, her body did not indicate any kind of submission, on the contrary, she had a posture which gave signs that it would hit with all its might to anyone who will cross his path.
I was impressed, the small, slim, cute and kind girl I had met a few moments ago transformed into a completely different person.
Walking through the streets, he avoided vendors and how many people would approach him, he avoided eye contact with everyone and he always looked straight ahead, ignoring any sound except for our conversation.
Arriving at the restaurant I asked him about it, and the only thing he said to me was: In India I learned to become tough, it is the only way I have managed to travel alone without being bothered much.
Not only must you be assertive and say firmly NO, no matter how kind you are, a not very marked and very loud sometimes is necessary but above all you must understand that body language is important to assert your point.
Consider traveling on tours or groups.
Despite the fact that traveling on tours or organized groups has never been of interest to me, for a woman in India it may be convenient, especially if it is the first time.
Traveling in a group will give you a numerical advantage that immediately translates into greater security. It does not mean that you cannot travel alone, of course you can, but you will face a greater number of situations and experiences that in a group will be easier to handle.
If you can’t find a tour or a group try to make foreign friends at the hotel or hostel where you stay, there is always more than one solo traveler who would gladly accept some company.
Choose the right option on trains.
If you travel to India and do not get on an Indian train you are missing a GREAT experience, but as a woman you must also be careful in which train to choose.
There are several categories, each with its pros and cons, my recommendation as a foreigner in India is that you go to 2AC or 3AC and choose a superior bed.
These carriages are comfortable and provide you with security, the first class or 1AC carriages are private compartments where the cabin can be closed from the inside, which is not always very convenient if you are traveling alone. It is true that nobody will bother you, but it is also the perfect place for someone with bad intentions.
The upper beds, especially in 2AC, are ideal since you can close the small curtain that you have and nobody will know who is sleeping there. If you are in a lower bed you will not only have to pay attention to the noise and constant movement of passengers in the corridors but also to the curious looks that you will receive from the moment you get on the train.
Get ready for the pictures.
If you are a foreigner and a woman you will be the center of attention of everyone and if that were not enough, they will also want to take a picture with you as if you were dealing with a celebrity.
At the beginning all the attention is part of the attraction, after a while it becomes annoying, especially when people start taking photos of you without your permission. You will be able to see clearly how many Indians with professional cameras will point directly at you, you will feel how the zoom of their lens almost touches your face and it will start taking photos of you.
The moment you say that if a person takes a picture of you immediately you will have 10 or 20 more people wanting to take one with you.
My recommendation here is that you do it as you feel comfortable with it, if at one point you no longer want to take pictures, it is also worth saying no.
You must remember that many Indians have never traveled from the country, much less from their city, and in some places the impression of seeing a foreigner is similar to your impression of seeing the Taj Mahal, it is a unique experience that you will want to remember with a photography. So take it easy.
In India everything is generally extreme and the Taj Mahal is proof of this, click to read a reflection on the Taj Mahal.
Wherever you go, whatever you see, the saying goes. There is no place where this is truer than India regarding clothing, especially if you are a woman. In the most traditional parts of India, a couple never see each other naked no matter how long they have been married, even when they have sex. The naked body is taboo so you must learn to dress.
The traditional Indian woman’s dress is a Saree, consisting of a top that covers the shoulders and chest but leaves the stomach uncovered, and a long fabric that covers the shoulders, part of the stomach and tangled in the legs in the form of dress.
The most profane parts or taboos for women is the neckline and shoulders, it is rare that you see an Indian woman with bare shoulders so if you want to avoid being the center of attention of people try to dress according to their customs.
Wear something that covers your shoulders, chest and legs well, no matter how hot it is, I suggest you make this sacrifice for your peace of mind during the trip.
The awkward looks.
If you think photographs can be uncomfortable, then be prepared for obsessive looks. I have never known a country as curious as India and if you mix that curiosity with a lack of recognizing the personal space of other people, what you have is an unpleasant mix, especially if you are a woman.
It is important to clarify that it is not just any gaze, it is a constant gaze. Have you seen the kids playing video games That same look of a child or adult, towards the television screen while they are playing is the look that you will receive in India, inquisitor, observing every detail and will never leave you for a long time.
You must have a lot of mettle and tolerance to be able to overcome the curious and sometimes lewd glances that you will receive from men, the contact that you will have with these people is minimal or non-existent and will be summarized in just glances.
After a while you will get used to it and you will not give it importance, but at the beginning it can be puzzling and very uncomfortable.
In conclusion, prepare yourself and do nothing that you would not do at home.
India, Mexico, Germany, the United States and even Japan and Canada can become extremely dangerous or safe countries depending on how you act and travel in them. If you are a careless person and you are not alert, it is very likely that no matter where in the world you are, you will always be at risk.
India is not a dangerous place, but it can be a very uncomfortable place to travel, especially if you are not prepared. And just like at home, where you would not go out walking alone late at night or accept drinks from a stranger, the same is in India and around the world.
Your best tool on a trip to India will be common sense and your instinct, sometimes you will have to act only by instinct and if it tells you to get out of that situation, do not think twice, do it. But if it tells you it’s okay then there’s nothing wrong with trying, as long as it’s within reason.
I remind you once again that India is a country of extremes and extremely chaotic, but do not be fooled because its people, who are not trying to get money from you, are extremely kind, affectionate and love to receive foreigners. Eventually you will notice, and once you do you will not be able to do anything but fall in love with this country , its people and realize that it is safe.