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My top tips for women travelling in India

Mariellen Ward at Taj Mahal in India

Me at Taj Mahal, India 2006

Safe travel strategies for women in India

In December 2012, a young woman was viciously raped on a private bus in Delhi, India and she died of her wounds 13 days later. The Delhi Gang Rape provoked unprecedented outrage in India, condemnation around the globe and opened up discussion and debate about the safety of women in India.

I have travelled across India for about 17 months in total, over the past seven years — most of it solo. In all that time, I have rarely felt unsafe. Although I do not hesitate to pursue my travel dreams in India, I am always careful about my planning — to make sure I don’t arrive on a train platform alone in the middle of the night for example. And I am cautious about my dress and deportment. Here are my top safety recommendations and travel tips for women who travel in India.

1. Do your research

Going to India is just not the same as going to the Caribbean, Greece or even Thailand. It is massive, diverse, traditional, ancient … and it can be an overwhelming travel destination. Knowing as much as you can about the culture can help prepare you. For example, many tourists go to Rajasthan, but that doesn’t mean the desert state is westernized. Far from it — Rajasthan is one of the more traditional states in India. Wearing a tank top and shorts is just not appropriate in Rajasthan and can invite unwanted attention. On the other hand, in certain parts of Mumbai, like Colaba and Bandra, wearing revealing western clothing is much more acceptable.

2. Adjust your expectations

If you are from a western country like Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Germany or Australia, you cannot come to India and expect that you will freely be able to do all the things you do at home. You have to accept reality: India is a traditional society in the throes of great change. It is very wise to play it safe, as I do, and wear loose, modest clothes; refrain from overly friendly behaviour with unknown men; and be very cautious about moving around at night.

3. Be confident, not polite

I’ve had many online discussions with women who travel regularly in India about staying safe. Most of them stress that how you carry yourself plays a large part in your experience. If you are confident, you are less likely to attract unwanted attention they say, and I agree. Apparently, rapists look for women they perceive to be easy targets; women who don’t look like they will put up a fight.

As a Canadian, I come from a culture of politeness, but sometimes in India — often, in fact — polite doesn’t work. If I feel someone is harassing me for whatever reason, I have become very adept at either becoming very cold and ignoring them, or becoming quickly angry and saying “jaao,” loudly, which means “go” in Hindi.

4. Watch how you relate to men

In India, you have to be careful about how you relate to some men — specifically, less educated men working in service, transportation or hospitality. In other words, if you are overly friendly with an autorickshaw driver, you could inadvertently be giving him the wrong signals. It’s unfortunate that foreign women are sometimes seen as more “available” than Indian women, too — which doesn’t help.

Again, realize that much of India is still a traditional society, and in certain parts of society the genders do not mix. Many of the men in India are just not that sophisticated when it comes to flirting and dating, etc. Obviously, there are lots of educated and well-travelled men in the modern metros, like Delhi and Mumbai, who understand the signals we take for granted in the west. But lots don’t and will take your friendliness as an open invitation for sex. Err on the side of caution.

Recently, a Danish tourist was raped in Delhi after asking a group of men for directions. It seems these men were possibly homeless migrants, the kind of man you should definitely avoid as much as possible in India, especially in the big cities.

5. Use transportation strategies

I have travelled all over India, on overnight trains, in countless autorickshaws and taxis, and sometimes even on the backs of motorcycles. I have never felt unsafe, but I am cautious and I have come up with a couple of strategies, especially for travel at night. For example, when leaving a bar or restaurant, get someone to walk you to an auto or taxi. Or call someone, and loudly tell them the number of the taxi, so the driver can hear. Plan your travel so you don’t arrive in the middle of the night; and try to have someone meet you at the train station or airport. Many hotels and tours offer this service. Always let someone know where you’re going, and stay connected to friends and contacts via social media.

6. Carry a mobile phone

Carrying a phone is essential for both safety and convenience, I believe, as India is a mobile phone obsessed nation. Everything is done via text meesage, including train tickets and manicure appointments. You can buy a cheap phone, or get a SIM card for your regular phone, when you get to India. Prepaid rates are very cheap. Just make sure you have a copy of your passport and Indian Visa, and a passport sized photo with you when you go to the store to get the phone or SIM card.

7. Wear Indian clothes

Indian clothes are light, comfortable, inexpensive and appropriate to the climate and the need for modesty. I usually wear the three-piece salwar kameez, or Punjabi suit; or a kurtah and trousers when in India. But wearing Indian clothes is a bit controversial among my Indiaphile friends. Some say it just draws more unwanted attention; others say it draws respect and protects you. I am in the second camp. I am a big believer in the “when in Rome” philosophy of travel.

Not only do I wear Indian clothes, but I also wear Indian jewelry, and tell people I am married to an Indian man and that I live in Delhi. The family is the strongest social structure in India. As the wife of an Indian man, I am perceived as Indian, as part of the society — an insider — and even more importantly, as someone whose movements are probably closely tracked, and who will be missed. I feel my gold Indian ring draws a veil of protection around me … it works for me.

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110 Responses to My top tips for women travelling in India

  1. Colleen Madden Devan January 14, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    Thanks for this post, Mariellen! I completely agree with all of your tips.

    I have only been in India once, for one month, and I stayed in the South- around Northern Kerala, Chennai, Pondicherry, Bangalore. I never felt unsafe but I was always with my Indian husbands’ family.

    I will certainly use your tips when I venture out on my own when I visit India again. I hadn’t thought about hotels offering the service of meeting you at the airport or train station- great idea!

    • Mariellen Ward March 20, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

      Hi Colleen, That sounds like a great trip, you visited some of my favourite places. ps Is that a “real” Indian husband? Just kidding ;-)
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..What’s the story? Is travel in India safe?My Profile

      • Sabitha March 8, 2014 at 2:58 am #

        Hi mariellen,

        A women traveling to india alone. Mostly avoid on night traveling anywhere.
        And make sure that your visiting populated place and with a group.

        Have a safe and wonderful trip.

        Regards,
        Sabitha

  2. Jennifer Hicks January 14, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

    Great tips! I agree that acting with confidence and speaking firmly (sometimes loudly/forcefully) can be powerful in India. I have worn a marriage bindi (red dot on my forehead) which communicates a very strong message.

    • Mariellen Ward March 20, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

      Hi Jennifer, Yes, I have done the bindi thing too, though they seem to be going out of fashion in the metros.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..A woman’s voiceMy Profile

    • SAURABH February 22, 2014 at 10:54 am #

      hey believe in good people deal in good way and when in trouble call police & your embassy member do,not feel unsafe in india indians are very emotional and good

  3. Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com January 14, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    Thanks for these tips. Will definitely be doing a lot of research before my backpacking trip there in March!
    Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com recently posted..Snapshot Sunday—The Spiral Staircase at the Vatican MuseumMy Profile

    • Mariellen Ward March 20, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

      Hi Aleah, I am responding to your comment late, sorry … but as I am writing this I know you are actually on you way … very exciting!
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Photo Essay: Stories of DelhiMy Profile

  4. Steph | DiscoveringIce.com January 14, 2013 at 11:10 pm #

    Great tips! I couldn’t agree more. I lived in Delhi for 3 months in late 2011 and I can definitely relate to a lot of what you wrote about the attitude towards women. I never wore indian clothes while there but I think it is so important to dress modestly. I stand out enough as it is with my super pale skin and green eyes!
    I also consider myself a really friendly person (I’m Irish!) so I found that difficult to tone down while I was interacting with people (especially men). I just naturally smile at people and look them in the eye when I am talking to them, but you’re right; most Indian men are just not sophisticated enough to realize that friendliness may mean friendship only and nothing more.
    Steph | DiscoveringIce.com recently posted..How to Make Money Online and Travel: Our First Successful ExperimentMy Profile

    • Mariellen Ward March 20, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

      Hi Steph, My ancestry is Irish too, and I’m very friendly also! But you do have to be careful, a little more guarded, a lot of the time in India — especially with less educated and less worldly people, unfortunately.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Finally, a perfect small hotel in DelhiMy Profile

    • Droide January 17, 2014 at 8:22 am #

      Truly the men from the Indian sub-continent are not at all sophisticated, rather dumb. People hailing from the sub-continent might wear brands, drive cars, use cards, cellular phones and many of them must have attended schools but deep inside they are mostly savage villagers – immature, dumb. Never believe anybody, visit such countries to see the sights, eat local foods and enjoy the cultural stuffs but never befriend any local men especially. Respond with a stern ‘NO’, if necessary. If necessary ask shopkeepers for direction. Trust Nobody. Most of the people are poser. Take Care!

  5. Rakhee Ghelani January 15, 2013 at 12:04 am #

    These are some great tips. I backpacked for 10 months across India on my own and used many of these strategies. Another one I found useful was always looking out for other women and staying close to them, particularly on public transport or when it was starting to get dark.

  6. Celest January 15, 2013 at 12:53 am #

    I’ll arrive tonight in India for the first time. Thank you for the information.

  7. Srimanta January 15, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    Great article! Marvelous tips for a women traveller in India. Thanks for sharing…
    Srimanta recently posted..State wise popular tourist places in IndiaMy Profile

  8. Carla January 17, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    Brilliant list! I did my research before I went to India, but your advice is much more informative and practical than that in any travel book I read. Thank you for putting this together!
    Carla recently posted..Monday + (f)unemployment = trip to GettysburgMy Profile

  9. Andrea MacEachern January 17, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    great advice! I hear India is a great place to travel but for women it can be a bit trying at times and there are dangers. However, one should not skip travel there but exercise caution and common sense while doing so!
    Andrea MacEachern recently posted..The Lost Girls – A Book ReviewMy Profile

  10. Cristina January 17, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    I never thought of saying you’re married to an Indian man and wearing a ring. Genius tips. I’ll definitely remember this for my future trip to India one day soon :)
    Cristina recently posted..Why I turned down my dream job – TwiceMy Profile

  11. Vasu January 17, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    An important tip that goes a long way in India. Indians are particularly respectful of people especially who “seem” part of the upper-class or have upper-class connections. It is a cultural thing. Indians worship ( and envy) the upper-class. India is a classist society and it can come in very handy if you come across as part of the upper-class!

    So, if you sense danger, it is often wise to name-drop influential names like the police commissioner or the Governor or the chief minister or some other influential person. It may be a bold-faced lie but it is a white lie that comes in handy.

    Often hooliganish riff-raff types who tend to harass or hurt foreign women or have bad intentions back off once they realize that the foreign tourist is not some, naive, innocent, clue-less person but well-connected to India’s elite. When I took my Canadian girlfriend to India with 6 other Canadians and Americans, our group and especially me being Indian had no problem hinting ( name-dropping!) to riff-raff types, taxi drivers, hotel managers, street thugs as to how “seemingly” well-connected we were ! In fact, in some cases while staying in hotels or guest houses or hitching rides we got treated like royalty!

    • Mariellen Ward March 20, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

      Yes, I have to agree, it’s a good tip and I actually use it myself quite a lot. Sad to say it though, ’cause I hate to enforce “classism.” But every society I know is “classist,” even Canada.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..What’s the story? Is travel in India safe?My Profile

      • Lacey July 9, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

        Hi There, I am headed to India next month alone and really appreciate the tips. Would you be able to suggest some names to drop or how to go about this? I am also Irish and come from a very friendly culture so I really need to prepare myself for this trip, my first time travelling alone.

  12. Indian Business Visa January 18, 2013 at 3:41 am #

    while travel locally wearing indian clothes is good idea. i am also agree with you at 3rd point. Great post.

  13. Kumar January 19, 2013 at 1:03 am #

    Hi,

    Being an Indian, even I could not have written it better!

    Delhi is modern, there are very well educated men but it is NOT safe for women. I know it because i am staying in Delhi.
    Jaipur, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune everywhere else is safer than Delhi!

    Showing that you are well connected to India, (like married to an Indian man and wearing Indian Dresses) will be a Great help!
    I think what would help more is having the company of someone local to wherever you go.

    • Mariellen Ward March 20, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

      Hi Kumar, I think women have to play it safe everywhere. Personally, I have not found Delhi to be less safe than other cities … though Bangalore IS very chill …
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..What’s the story? Is travel in India safe?My Profile

    • J.Kay June 4, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

      Everywhere is not safer than Delhi – I lived in India for 2 1/2 yrs. Great advice to look confident, have a local with you, dress modestly and in somewhat traditional Indian clothing (but not so much that it is resented).I too often said my husband was Indian. In fact, my father was of native American decent and I told many that my father was Indian – he was, American Indian.

      Also advisable to learn a few phrases in Hindi or the native language of the area you are going to visit; Hello and thank you go a long way. I also used a few not so lady-like phrases when ‘hawkers’ or local men acted in a way I found offensive.

      If you go, read, plan and take nothing for granted. Trust no one completely and don’t take valuables. Persons that are really poor and are working just to survive until the next day steal without conscience. Be aware.

  14. Shailesh Jangra February 6, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    I was eating Biryani @ Kumsum (near hazrat nizaumdin station). It was near about 2 AM and I saw three drunk girls are shouting and spreading their foods on the floor but no matter they are enjoying their treat. Then how can one say that Delhi is not safe. Show your attitude and confidence then every place is safe for you. Who says that girls are weak?
    Shailesh Jangra recently posted..5 Alternatives to Whey ProteinMy Profile

  15. Christine @GrrrlTraveler February 9, 2013 at 12:10 am #

    I like the tip on transportation strategies. I didn’t think of making a call and giving the number of your taxi. I know I occasionally feel uncertain as to where I’m going when I’m in them. Even though I don’t have anyone to call in India, I”m good at bullshitting calls and that’s usually enough.
    Christine @GrrrlTraveler recently posted..Is Solo Travel Still Safe for Women? …6 Safety Tips that make it soMy Profile

  16. Lisa Cook February 16, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

    I love this blog! All woman should face their fears and travel alone. Follow your instinct. When I travel alone I am always surrounded by women asking me if I am afraid. Number one rule carry yourself with confidence! Act like you know what you are doing and follow your instincts; if you feel unsafe get as quickly as you can to a safe place. SPEND extra money for safer places to stay or get a cab or whatever. Going the cheap route when you are a woman alone is not worth it. It’s just a few dollars…… Open your eyes and your heart…… And have fun traveling. Take the woman who was raped in India, it was horrible but 2 weeks later a woman was raped walking home from a church service in my area! It happens everyday somewhere. As women we need to band together so if you are traveling and see another woman then join together until you part ways I do this all the time and don’t walk the streets alone late at night when people are stumbling out of bars it’s just not a smart thing to do! I will be in india in four weeks if you would like to go check out the “palace on wheels tour” safe option to cover a lot of ground! Happy Traveling everyone!!!

  17. payel March 20, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    I loved reading this piece…as woman who has never traveled alone, it just opened my eyes to a different kind of experience, one that I am now very curious about & might even try in the future. Being an Indian myself, I found your perspective of India very interesting…can’t wait to read more. :-)

  18. Johanna April 2, 2013 at 12:43 am #

    Hi Mariellen! I came across your site for the first time today, and I leave for India on Thursday. It will be my first trip and I will be with a guided group tour, but of course I am a little uneasy about recent events and being a woman travelling alone (albeit with a group of strangers). Thank you for sharing your experiences and for reminding me that we intelligent, inquisitive, and cautious women can have the most enriching and rewarding experiences. I’m so excited!

  19. Sandeep Singh May 1, 2013 at 3:09 am #

    Hello maam ,
    I am Sandeep a citizen of India, from Tarai area of Uttar pradesh ,
    District – Pilibhit.
    I dont have much to say but you are exactly right about the facts and thinking of indian men.
    Your blog will 100% help foreign travellers to have a safe travel in India.
    One more thing maam thank you very much for helping our country indirectly.

  20. Arianwen June 4, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    Fantastic tips! I am always overfriendly with foreign men. I don’t want to come across as a rude disinterested tourist so I interact as much as I can and usually end up leading them on a bit. I need to learn when it’s ok to say I’m not interested in the conversation and walk off!
    Arianwen recently posted..Scared Britless: High-adrenaline New ZealandMy Profile

    • Mariellen Ward June 6, 2013 at 8:26 pm #

      This is part of the reason why travel is so worthwhile. It really does teach us skills we need and also maturity and, oh, so much more — like confidence and over-coning ingrained patterns that can actually harm us.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..WeGoSolo Dream Destination ContestMy Profile

  21. Indiaza June 4, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    Can you tell me a little about the gold ring? 18, 24 caret? Worn on left hand ? Have you traveled to Lucknow in Bihar?

  22. Stephie from The Wandering Soles June 4, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    Hi Mariellen,

    Thanks for this great article! I will be travelling in India for a few months next year as part of a world trip I am doing with my boyfriend. A couple questions, if you don’t mind:

    1 – Like I mentioned, I will be travelling with my boyfriend. He is very tall, big, white, and will be an obvious tourist. I am probably the complete opposite: short, small, and I am actually half-brown so I might blend in better. I am also planning on wearing Indian clothing for the most part. My question is, if I am travelling with my very Western-looking boyfriend (and obviously the Indian husband method is out of the question) do you think that I will encounter any problems? I figure that no matter how well *I* blend in, I will always be next to this 6’3″ 200-pound white guy…so is the whole “don’t look like a tourist” thing a hopeless cause?

    2 – You mention wearing a ring and other Indian jewellery to blend in better. I was planning on avoiding jewellery altogether at risk of being targeted by pickpockets/muggers/etc. I have never been to India before so I do not know how much of a problem this is in different parts, but it’s something that came to mind when I read that. What are your thoughts on this?

    Thanks again Mariellen! I will definitely be coming back to this to brush up before we leave next year!
    Stephie from The Wandering Soles recently posted..Quitting Your Job to Travel the WorldMy Profile

    • Mariellen Ward June 6, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

      Hi Stephie! I can travel under the radar in India and I am tall and blonde :) It’s more of an attitude than anything else.

      The only thing I have ever had stolen in India was a cheap mobile phone. A group of women grabbed it out of my purse at a big Lakshmi temple in Mumbai.

      Women in India tend to drip in gold jewelry, even those on the more modest scale of income, so I never worry about wearing my gold Indian jewelry. But do what makes you feel comfortable. As far as I know, India does not have the same kind of problem with theft, robbery and those kinds of crimes that other places too, like South America.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..WeGoSolo Dream Destination ContestMy Profile

  23. ruthann storr June 4, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    Mariellen: your travel tips for women are sound advice for anywhere in the world! I have never been to India, but hope to go there after I retire and visit Bollywood and other sites. I have travelled thru out Australia 27 times between 1979-1998 and over 30 times to Fiji between 1981-2013 and I agree with you- dress conservative or in native clothes, don’t be out in the middle of the nite, be aware of your surrounding at all times, behave in a normal manner, watch where you go, have local contacts in case of emergency. I do a lot of charity work in Fiji, so I am out in villages and have never had any problem. I have a set of friends there that I work with, who watch out for me, and advize me on things like which taxi or bus to take, where to go and not to go, which hotel is OK, which cafe is OK etc. I actually feel safer in Fiji then I do here in the San Diego, California and there are places here that I don’t go too even in the daytime due to high crime rate, drug dealers etc.

  24. Mohit Sharma June 5, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    I really appreciate Mariellen, for the info provided here. It will really help women travelling to India, not only for tourists purpose, but for job, long stay too.

    As everybody is aware, India a growing nation in terms of economy, technology, health, education and so on, there is vast scope of growing in terms of moral sense. As not everybody is from educated background (which is changing drastically, as every parent is putting in effort to educate their child), not everyone sees diverse clothing sense as a fashion.

    India is a place where we adore women as goddess, even we state our country as “Mother India”.
    It’s a place where diversity can be found in everywhere, in language, culture, dress, behavior and nature.

    It’s even a place where few wearing shorts is prohibited and if someone seen in so, is treated as a easy target in eyes of few. You can find such at almost every corner.

    Though, we are changing, people are more educated now. They know foreign culture and respect it. We treat visitiors/tourists as God, “Atithi devo bahava” i.e. Visitors Are God. We seen god in everyone and treat them so.

    It’s just some more time that we require as a whole when our mindset will be like as it is expected. There are more places where you will find respect, care and hospitality then being hostile :)

    Times are changing in India. Though for now some caution will help making it better and out-rooting the evil.

    ~ Request to all my female friends travelling to India, Do note points mentioned by Mariellen here and enjoy your visit. Happy travelling.

    Cheers

    • Mariellen Ward June 6, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

      Yes, Mohit, even int he 7 years I have been travelling to India I have seem a lot of change. And that is part of the problem. Hopefully with better education, some of the social problems will start to erode.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..WeGoSolo Dream Destination ContestMy Profile

  25. TAPANRANJANA June 6, 2013 at 1:34 am #

    Mariellen,you hav certainly given very good tips about the safe travelling by female tourists in India.For us the most important thing is proper research,study about India & particularly the villages,towns,cities,religious places,tourist places,local habits,etiquettes of people on the route that a tourist plans to undertake in India.This is a giant country with a population in excess of 1.2 billion & is on the way to be the most populated country on earth by 2020.

    Each state in India is so diverse in so many ways from the other that a person coming frm out of India can be shocked to see the diversity in language,religion,food habits,etiquettes, way of dressing,role of women in a family etc.A proper research can show the traveller that travelling in a state like Rajasthan is quite different than for example travelling in a state like Maharashtra.In Mumbai if u may be knowing for getting married,a girl must hav to hav a secured job like the boy.Ladies travelling up to late night in trains,buses is a common feature here.We stay in Mumbai n host a good number of couch surfers from around the world being members of http://www.couchsurfing.org …..Many of them young girls,ladies all travelling alone,couples,aged couples etc.Almost all of them hav memorable experiences abt their travails in India.

    We hav always guided our guests abt proper dressing while travelling in trains & in interiors of India, abt. etiquettes while travelling etc.

    The rape of the swiss girl cud hav been avoided in the jungles of Datia in central India if her boyfriend & herself wud hav done their home work.Who had advised them to put up a camp in the deep jungles infested with wild animals,tribals ? Our couch surfing friends do that in Europe,New Zeland,Australia etc. but then in India we hav advised them against it.Two days back the American lady was raped at Manali by some truck drivers .The lady again failed to understand that its not at all advisable to ask fr a lift from a truck in so late in the night around 1 a.m.She cud hav stayed overnight in that village which she had visited for its hot water springs.

    Our advice for the visitors is to be well versed with the places that one intends to travel & take tips frm people who hav already travelled the beaten path.Do not be over friendly with people whom you do not know.Some people may misinterpret friendly overtures as an invitation fr a relationship.Indians overall are a friendly people but one has to know the genuine ones.While travelling in trains,buses one will be offered with a lot of foodstuff by fellow passengers.Politely u may refuse some .Travelling in late nights alone must be avoided unless u are with known people.Life in the most cosmopolitan city in India,Mumbai is very different from what one can encounter in the distant interiors of India.As per various studies,Mumbai is the best place fr working ladies staying alone or travelling .H,ever we hav always informed our CS guests that Mumbai is not India.

    Stay safe & happy travelling.

    • Mariellen Ward June 6, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

      Thanks for your comment. I agree, do your research, realize that India is a vast country. Find out where it’s safe to travel, and what is acceptable behaviour etc.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..WeGoSolo Dream Destination ContestMy Profile

  26. Anita June 6, 2013 at 8:12 am #

    Hi,

    Good starting point article and sometime it is not as simple as a list points. One thing though I would like to add is for my western friends and co-workers, What you pay is what you get – especially in India.
    If you do not want to spend money on food and eat street food, your chance of being infected become higher. If you want to pay only $10 for your stay, you are not going get Red Maple or ITC Mayur, it is the same anywhere in the world. Here is Australia, you will only not get even a backpacker hotel for $10 per night. So manage your expectation when you do your research.

  27. Vaish June 10, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    Good tips there Mariellen. Another thing I do is speak or pretend to speak to a friend if I’m in a rickshaw late night. If I pretend, then I keep my phone on silent so that I don’t look like a fool if the phone rings while talking:). I speak in a language which might not be understood by the driver. In between I use the name of location I pass by which is seen on shop boards especially in narrow lanes. All shops (not malls) will have the name of the shop and the complete address below it. So I read the location name on it and say it/pretend to say it to the person on the phone. I say it confidently or in a tone which conveys I know where I am. Also before venturing out in an unknown location, I google or ask people to give names of roads or locations or landmarks I will pass through while reaching the destination. Sometimes that helps in making people think I know the routes so less chances of being taken for a ride. Also in buses or train stations etc men can stare at you or your body. Staring back at them and a simple head nod vertically up (Indian way of asking What?) makes them stop it. However this can be used only that person is alone (not with a group of men as that could invite trouble), distance between you and him is fairly large, there are many people around you i.e. it is a public place like a bus etc. Hope this helps.

  28. sahitha June 14, 2013 at 12:24 am #

    That was very sensible advice. I agree that if we trust our instincts and act confident, it wards off many dangers. I am an Indian woman who lived in UK for 10 years and definitely agree with the comments on Indian men. I enjoyed travelling solo to US and Europe because I found that it made more outgoing and sociable. People actually responded very well and were nice and gracious to me. I also used to enjoy going to restaurants and movies on my own. I would not trade doing these three things solo for anything else. Going solo made me more connected to my surroundings and people. I was wary of doing that in India but picked up the courage in 2010 on my visit to Kerala. Although I was anxious all through the flight to Cochin, the trip went well. Since I am back in India now, I am glad I made that trip to Kochi which I can use as a reference to travel in India. It kind of helped my mind to accept that if I followed my instincts, I would be safe in India too.

  29. Reena Tory June 17, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

    Great post :) I can agree with your trips as a female that has travelled and lived in India and as a result I now run my own travel company helping first time travellers, single women and couples travel to India safely creating life changing experience. I will book mark your blog :)

  30. dexter July 4, 2013 at 3:56 am #

    Hello there!
    You have mentioned everything that should be remembered in India for a safe experience. However I would like to add a few things.

    Take the case of the American woman who was raped in Manali. It was an extremely sad incident. Even the local men don’t prefer truck lifts. So it is considered more unsafe for women.

    You also need to adjust your politeness according to the situation here. Less educated men(in general) may misunderstand you for that. However in modern cities and with well educated men, things are usually easy.

    In the 5th point, if you can not call someone, you can make a fake call.
    You can do it this way:
    1) Learn a local name (rajesh, kunal, karan etc).
    2) Before entering the autorikshaw, record its number in front of the autorikshaw driver to make them aware.
    3) When you enter the autorikshaw, make a fake call and say: “Hello Rajesh! I am in an autorikshaw and its number is xxxxxx. I will meet you in Palika bazaar(your destination) in a few minutes(duration of journey).”

    This will create an impression that you have a support in the area.

    Loose clothes are the best here. Tight or short clothes may invite unwanted attention at some places. Prefer wearing artificial jewellery instead of real one.

    • Mariellen Ward July 4, 2013 at 7:17 am #

      Thanks Dexter, I agree with your tips. I always try and create the impression that I am well-known — married to Indian man, guest of India Tourism — wherever I go. And that I respect the local culture by dressing appropriately and being very clean, well-groomed and polite. These strategies really go a long way, and I am usually met with friendliness, hospitality and goodwill wherever I go.
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  31. A S July 23, 2013 at 3:49 am #

    Hello Mariellen, I found your website to be usefull. I have been feeling slightly jumpy about going to India, since the story of the rape in Delhi, the attempted rape in the hotel room, the rape of the
    Swiss couple, and topping it off with the rape in the North area….Way too many rape stories in the span of 6 months. Anyhow, I have decided to go ahead with my trip.
    I will arrive in Delhi around 1 AM, and my connection flight to Leh, Ladakh at 6 AM, same day.
    Is it SAFE to wait around at the Indira Gandhi Airport by myself for 5 hours?
    I am carrying my trekking equipment, and just wondering about the safety at the
    Indira Gandhi Airport. Thanks for any input.

    • Mariellen Ward July 23, 2013 at 7:14 am #

      I can appreciate your concerns A.S. as the media has reported extensively on these terrible incidents. However, please take a closer look at the incidents: the two women tourists who were raped were in very desolate areas, and one of them was hitch-hiking alone at night in the mountains. The media has created a false impression, in my opinion, of the relative safety of women travellers in India. When you get to the IGI Airport, you may find yourself chuckling. It is a big, modern, slick airport now, filled with very high-end stores and restaurants. You will feel you are in London or New York. There are also premium lounges in the airport, and with either the right ticket (business class), credit card, or for a fee, you can relax in comfort and style. Have fun!
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  32. sachin August 11, 2013 at 6:59 am #

    I liked your post, body language across cultures vary, so anywhere its good to stick to neutral body language, be modest if you are jn foreign land, learn some common jargons and words to handle annoying and less educated people, and blend little bit with local culture to show that you are regular visitor.

  33. Chanel @ LaViajeraMorena August 16, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

    Excellent tips. Thanks for sharing!
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  34. Puru August 24, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    Unfortunately, I will give an 8th advice: Avoid coming to India. I am ashamed to say but this is no place for women. Beasts have taken over :(

  35. ash August 27, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    Im an indian woman …I would like to say by expereince….try to come back at home or hotel by 7 ….no more later….ghastly crimes ocour on women here…..im sad to say but 90% men and most women have a mindset which is stuck in the middle ages….
    .
    wearing loose lothing will invite less staring but it doesnt chage the mindset….im stared at all the time even though im an indian….it must be pathetic for foreigners especially women…

    Also refuse any late night invitations….sit at home …eat icecream and watch tv.

    Be very firm…dont smile… men misinterpret it(i knw its weird)….

    develop 6th sense….

    if its gtng late…but u hv urgent work left….Leave it!…get back home…

    Dont open both doors when answering bell..open only one.

    flight at night….reach the airport when theres still light…Its safer in the airport than travelling in a cab in evening…..

    Dont trust ppl easily…dont eat anything offred…dont take lifts!!!!!

    travel in a small group….

    I knw its like jail…..but safety is the utmost priority for any woman…..

    • Mariellen Ward January 17, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

      Thanks for your comment and for your concern. Women need to be safe, and we also need to live without fear, too. Hope that will happen.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..The RiverMy Profile

  36. Annie August 30, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

    Mariellen … Excellent tips! Well articulated – I was led to this page from your “A Tale of Two Countries..” I have just become a follower on your Facebook Page as well!

    And Thank You! – Post the CNN story about Michaela Cross, your perspective of the other side of the coin is indeed a much needed and factual description of what India is.
    (Myself an Indian woman, these are times we ourselves fear to travel here locally )

    However, I have also had the opportunity to travel the world and see the difference you mention in culture as well.
    I am in awe of how you have been able to pick up on the nuances of the culture here, because sadly, it is a fact, that it does seem easier for an Indian to travel out to the world than a foreigner to travel into India

    That being said, when coming to India , an open mind to “explore” is key, coz, “diversity” is the crux of this nation. Any woman – Indian or foreign have to follow these basic safety principles that you have so neatly outlined, as in India – its true, there is a specific way we women need to take care.

    Once you imbibe these, especially understand how and when you can “be friendly/polite” versus give the stony ” just buzz off I know may way here” ( which by the way I think is the best way to ward off attention, I rather seem impolite than open myself to risk) – you would actually be able to enjoy your travel

    To summarize with a leaf from your page – in India,

    – Dress Modestly
    – Look confident
    – Choose to be “impolite” ( if men just seem to be getting friendly without reason, use your sixth sense every woman has it – to know when someones just not looking right! )
    – Of course be sensible not to step out too late or get caught at any place alone

    India is a very beautiful country and yes sadly there seems to have been a spike in reports over attacks over women..but not all are so..You will enjoy this place..Just take care..the right way :)

    • Mariellen Ward January 17, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment and I apologize for my delayed response (I was travelling throughout the fall). And thanks for the compliment about “getting” India. I spent a lot of time there, much of it living with an Indian family or at an ashram studying yoga with an Indian teacher.

      You make many excellent points, and I agree about choosing to seem impolite over risking safety!
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..The RiverMy Profile

  37. Sunita September 16, 2013 at 6:37 am #

    Lots of good information here. Also remember never accept a drink from anyone in any upper-class bar. Though uneducated men haven’t been exposed to Western influences & may not know the subtleties of male/female interactions, it doesn’t mean you’re safe with an Indian who ‘looks educated’ or seems ‘Western’ in anyway.

    As previous posters have said – don’t accept food from strangers, never accept drink at bars or 5-star restaurants and get out well before closing- time. Safe journey!

  38. Sunita September 16, 2013 at 6:42 am #

    Also, how do Indians know you’re wearing a WEDDING ring? The culture here from North to South includes the mangalsutra, thaali, conch shell bangles, the sindoor, but only very small communities like the Anglo-Indians or Parsi wear wedding rings & recognize one on someone else.

    Most people especially in the less Westernised sections of society won’t know what you’re wearing.

    • Ami September 16, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

      I am from the UK and about to travel to India for the first time with my partner. The recent media reports about gang rapes of woman have terrified me, so finding your blog was a breath of fresh air and has given me some great tips.
      Thank you!!!
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    • Mariellen Ward January 17, 2014 at 6:35 pm #

      Good point, maybe I need to invest in those other ornaments you list :)
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..The RiverMy Profile

  39. suchitrakelkar October 3, 2013 at 2:35 am #

    Delhi and some cities of UP and Bihar is most unsafe and dangerous for solo women traveling. Traveling by train and bus is more dangerous. If you want to travel Delhi at night then i suggest taxi is best way for safety traveling. Just remember before traveling inform taxi details and drivers details to your friends or relatives.

  40. Hemant October 3, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    The United States had more than 80,000 cases of rape reported to the police from 2004 to 2010, according to UN data.and the Centers for Disease Control puts the number much higher at 1.3 million.

    When looking at reported rape cases per capita, Australia, Botswana and Lesotho rank highest. But tallying sheer totals, Europe and the Americas consistently top the charts.

    India on 22172 cases , assume a worst case another 22000 not reported cases , now

    Which country is safe for woman ?

    • Mariellen Ward January 17, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

      Thanks Hemant, the truth is that women are more in danger at home than out on the street … that’s another story that rarely gets reported…
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  41. Rachel October 5, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    I am currently in Delhi and it is my fifth day. I did not know what to expect and was heartbroken coming here. One really needs a positive filter of vision to keep from letting the poverty get to you. I am teaching English in a building right next to one of the slums and I must admit I do get scared from time to time. Thank you for your advice here, I will definitely keep it in practice and do some thorough research on the language and culture.

    • Mariellen Ward January 17, 2014 at 6:39 pm #

      Seeing India for the first time is a shock for many westerners, and it is wise to be cautious. However, once you start to get a sense of the people and culture and feel more comfortable, you begin to see so many beautiful things.
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  42. India Tourism Office November 19, 2013 at 3:07 am #

    Hello Marriellen,

    I am a travel operator from India. I am glad, I found this blog. You have mentioned some good tips here. This is helpful for western people travelling to India. But I think, today safety is a big concern anywhere in the world. This doesn’t limits only to India. You need to do your homework right before you go anywhere in the world. And times are changing. India is growing in terms of health, technology, economy and education. People here are friendly and kind. Not every person you meet is a friend, but also not every person you meet is bad. Kindness can be find anywhere in the world. In India, it’s obvious. Keep travelling. Keep Exploring.

    “Aithi Devo Bhava” (The guest is God)

    • Mariellen Ward January 17, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, you do need to develop a sharp sense of intuition to know who to trust …
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    • afc July 1, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

      really appreciating reading all the tips. I am planning on going to Rajasthan next month for about 2 weeks and will be a female (27) alone. this is mainly because no one is free to go and i don’t want this to limit me. I went end of last year and had a wonderful time in a yoga group and with my mother, met some people and want to go back and explore a little more.

      do you have any advice for what to do say, you get there and after a few days feel nervous being alone- are there safe and reliable tours that you can book last minute for example?

  43. john December 27, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    India is great, do not have any doubts go on!

  44. Sid January 16, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    Well written article. Good tips for folks travelling to India. I will share your article with my friends who are planning a trip!

    I agree with all of your observation except for the one regarding Jewelry. It is just not safe to wear gold jewelry up north. It is quite common down south. But in north it will be an open invitation to get mugged. A strict no no.

  45. Dilip January 16, 2014 at 10:43 pm #

    Meriellen… Excellent tips! The visitor may be aware how to move alone in a country and escape being preyed but the host also needs to realize and change! I have already remarked on some of your postings that the people are to made aware of the necessity of being civilized which the politicians keep away from -conveniently! May be they themselves are not civilized then how could the blind lead the blind?!!!

  46. SSN January 17, 2014 at 1:32 am #

    Very informative tips!
    Not just for foreign tourists, it applies to Indian tourists too. When I travel to a new place, I try to pretend that I am local to that place. Else I will be considered “clueless” which makes me an easy target. I always avoid asking for directions to a group of men who look homeless. It is always safe to ask someone who is working in any local shop in the road, or even traffic police. And before taking taxi or auto from the airport, I go to the police who is standing there and ask him for help – usually the police notes my name and the taxi number and driver details. So the driver will not attempt anything as there is a record.

    Thanks!
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  47. Priti January 17, 2014 at 10:49 am #

    Hi Merriellen,
    I don’t know how I stumbled upon your blog page and I found your recent article safety tips for women traveling India. I am Indian but currently I’m living in US from past one year.
    I feel sorry for the foreign women traveling alone to India and some times worried about their safety. However when I see the safety n respect a women get here is commendable. And I wish too that India should set free their women like this. No doubt India is a beautiful country and so are their people. I miss my family n my country so much but simultaneously appreciate the organized and well planned & respectful way of living here. I wish and hope for India to become number one nation in the world not only because of the economy but because of offering respect and rights to the women the nation and anyone traveling India.

    This is sad that due to some mischievous men out there all Indians have to feel ashamed.
    Hoping to follow your blog regularly now. Appreciate your work.

    Thanks

    • Mariellen Ward January 17, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

      Thanks Priti, I appreciate your comment. India could become a much greater nation with time, I think. People need more education, women need more rights and respect and the politicians need to become less corrupt!
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  48. Prateek Kumar January 25, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    Hi Mariellen,

    i really enjoyed reading your article and I totally agree with your theory of visiting India. In India there are different cultures,values,tradition which cannot be changed at once. our society is changing but it will take time. suggestions you have shared in this article re really gonna help foreign tourist who are planning to visit India…. its always better to take precautions….

    Thanks

    Prateek Kumar

  49. Itchyfeet January 29, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    I am planning to go to India sometime this year or early next year and your tips really helps. Btw, I will also be traveling alone. I think having a strong personality would help to be more confident when you travel to a foreign country and also researching and reading blogs will help you to know the place you are going to; and your blog surely enlighten me on what to do when I get there. Thanks again and wishing you good luck! (and wish me luck too!) :)
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    • Mariellen Ward February 21, 2014 at 8:32 am #

      Thanks Itchyfeet, I think you are on the right track by doing research and also feeling confident. That’s a great combination for the solo traveller, can’t be beat!
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  50. sanjeev February 5, 2014 at 2:32 am #

    Great. You covered all aspects. Being an Indian, i appreciate the way you put your thoughts in a positive manner

  51. Heather February 5, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    India is a great destination and I think it’s pretty safe for women to travel to India, provided they stay within limits and don’t engage in anything overtly exciting.
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    • Mariellen Ward February 21, 2014 at 8:30 am #

      Personally, I have found India to be safe and also very exciting! However, I get your point: don’t partake in any “risky” behaviours such as drinking too much. getting overly friendly with male strangers, travelling alone in remote places, etc.
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  52. Renata February 8, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

    Thank you for such a terrific list of suggestions for solo travellers. I’m sure we can adapt to suit other countries as well. I have learned to always use my instincts ~ that compass in our gut is one of the best tour guides available.

  53. sonya February 18, 2014 at 8:56 am #

    In addition to the good tips provided by the author of this article, may I suggest that women travelers to India get in touch with a women’s venture that specializes in home-stays for foreign women visitors to India, airport pick-up and drop-off, advice, shopping and sight-seeing, fascinating tours to the northern and western parts of india

    • Mariellen Ward February 21, 2014 at 8:27 am #

      Hi Sonya,

      Thanks for your comment, I would have included the link to your home stay in Delhi but I see you don’t have a website. However, I encourage women to do research and find good home stays, by reading online reviews and asking others.I know there are lots of good home stays in India.
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  54. Mansee March 14, 2014 at 5:59 am #

    Wonderful writeup- being an Indian myself, I couldn’t have written it better- very useful, practical tips. India is not as unsafe to travel as it is portrayed but it always helps to be sensible about it and use the tips shared
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  55. Ashok Agrawal April 11, 2014 at 1:27 am #

    Nice! You have brought up great strategies for women regarding safe and secure travelling. Hire an authorized and trusted taxi or cab in Jaipur, India for travelling in this city.
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  56. ashwini April 15, 2014 at 4:47 am #

    mam, i totally agree what you said……..India is not comleately unsafe for women……….

  57. Vikas Nehra April 22, 2014 at 8:08 am #

    Very Great tips! I agree that acting with confidence and speaking firmly can be powerful in India.

  58. Anupriya Biswas May 24, 2014 at 3:21 am #

    Hi,

    Very good article! Indeed
    India is a great country to spend your holidays, but everyone should pay attention on their safety, specially for women travelers. All these tips are very important to be safe in India while travelilng. Also keep attention to take a drink, should avoid drinks from those person you don’t know.

    Thanks for sharing these important tips to travelling in India.
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  59. Caroline Achieng Otieno May 29, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

    Would love to visit India someday!! Lots of Kenyan students study there and they have a different angle as to how they are treated there. Would love a first-hand account..to experience India for myself.
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  60. Shimla Packages June 16, 2014 at 7:11 am #

    India is a place that can capture your heart and no wonder tourists come back for more times.Try to organize money in various ways such as traveler’s cheques, cash, credit cards.Happy to read this.let this be a motivation to women travelling to India.
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  61. Poornima September 3, 2014 at 6:30 am #

    Very nice article! Being an Indian, I have always believed that your safety depends on you for most parts. The choice of how, where, what and who makes all the difference. Only recently I have started travelling across India and some of the above points truly helps. Loved reading your other articles as well.
    Happy travelling!!! :)

  62. Helen September 6, 2014 at 5:59 am #

    I would not go to India even if someone paid me and would also avoid other unsafe countries. I see no reason why I should contribute to the economy of any country that treats women like shit. Instead, I will take my slutty western woman tourist $$$ to nice, safe and clean places.

    • Mariellen Ward September 8, 2014 at 8:05 am #

      Hi Helen, I can certainly understand why you feel that way, and I think it’s important to stick to our principles and use our spending power to make the world a better place if possible. I never encourage anyone to go to India — it is a very challenging place to travel. It is not for everyone. I also agree that some places are ‘safer” than others, but no where is 100% safe, things can happen anywhere, unfortunately. I also think the media has over-stated the potential dangers in India. Seven million foreigners travel here each year, and for most of them, Delhi-belly and over-paying are the worst things that happen.
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