Female solo travel tips

Mariellen Ward, Pondicherry, India

Me in Pondicherry 2006

Q&A about female solo travel for women in India

A HIT NEW film from India, Queen, is all about a young woman who gets jilted just before her wedding and decides to go on the European honeymoon by herself. While there, she makes mistakes, has fun and — guess what — discovers her inner strength and learns to value herself. In other words, she goes on a solo female travel adventure and gains priceless self-confidence.

The film is inspiring women in India to travel solo, and it inspired a journalist with the Deccan Herald to interview me about solo travel. Here is the entire transcript of the interview, most of which did not make it into the newspaper.

1. Do you think that if women from India or abroad make smart travel plans, they will be able to have a better and safer vacation?

Yes, definitely. There are so many resources available nowadays, especially on the Internet. You can read travel blogs, like this one or those written by other female solo travellers (there’s a long list at the end of this blog post); check out reviews on sites like TripAdvisor; read articles on travel sites HappyTrips; and get on social media to ask for recommendations and advice. I always advise that women do research and get to know about cultural differences and safe places to stay.

2. Has the increase in publicized crime reports made women wary to visit India?  Or, do you feel it is as safe or as unsafe as any other destination?

I don’t know if there is an answer to the question “Is India safe for female travellers?” Bad things can happen anywhere, at anytime. I think the question should be: “How can women travel more safely in India … and elsewhere?” And I think the answer is to do research, be prepared, use common sense, don’t take unnecessary risks.

I think all the media attention on the attacks against women in India has made some women wary of visiting India. However, there are still many, many women who have not taken India off their “bucket list,” especially those who feel called to go to India, perhaps because they are yoga students; or those who have a bold, adventurous spirit. People who are natural born explorers know that the places they visit are not like “at home,” they know there are risks involved, and they take adequate precautions.

All women everywhere (just about) are brought up to be a bit fearful, and taught to guard their safety. There is unfortunately nothing new in this. We are also responsible for our own safety, and I have mixed feelings about this. I wish men were brought up to universally respect honour and protect women so that we didn’t have to fear the opposite gender.

Mariellen Ward, Kerala, India, Arabian Ocean, beach, yoga

Me in Kerala 2006

3. In your solo journeys in India, do you come across more non-Indian women solo travellers than Indian women?

I have travelled in India for about 17 months in total, on six separate trips, most of it solo. And yes, there are lots of solo women travellers out there … in some ways, I think women are better solo travellers than men, in fact. There is a long tradition of solo female adventurers, women like Freya Stark, Alexandra David-Neel, and Dervla Murphy, among many others. Among Indian women, too, there are some great adventurers like Shivya Nath of The Shooting Star.

I have recently discovered that the poet Mirabai was a great traveller, who journeyed all across Rajasthan and Gujarat. I was recently awarded an Explorer’s Grant to follow in her footsteps later this year. I am looking forward to discovering a 16th century Indian female explorer! I will be writing about this journey on Breathedreamgo so I hope Indian women (and men) will follow me, and perhaps even get involved.

4. In your opinion, what does a solo holiday or a vacation in India or anywhere else teach women?

Most of the solo female travellers I know, myself included, say the number one benefit is finding out that you can do it; that you are stronger and more capable than you think. It gives you a huge boost of confidence and pride, and makes you feel more alive than you have ever felt before.

5. Best places that you can recommend that are women friendly for going on solo vacations?

The best place is the place you feel either drawn to or comfortable with. To start, it could be a weekend jaunt to a nearby town. Somewhere close by, and known to you. Or perhaps going on a small group tour with people you don’t know, for hiking or visiting a national park or historic site.

Come to Canada! Canada is a friendly place, and women here travel alone as a matter of course. I am running a series of articles about Canada over the next few months. I am very proud to come from such a beautiful country, with a vast, magnificent wilderness right at our fingertips. There is so much to see and do here.

6. You must have learned a thing or two during your travels in India. Can you share a few general tips for women to have a fun trip in India?

As a tall, blonde, foreign female, I will have a different experience of travel in India than a native Indian woman. But generally, I think the principles hold true: do your research and plan your trip based on an honest appraisal of yourself. If you love big cities and nice restaurants, don’t go hiking in the remote Himalayas. If you’re really nervous about travelling alone, go with a small group. Do what makes you happy. For some people, like me, a yoga ashram is the ideal vacation. Others may want to volunteer. Everyone is different.

Luckily, India has literally everything. Ashrams, beaches, mountains, deserts, bustling cities, fine dining, outdoor adventures, tiger reserves, national parks… you name it …

7. And lastly, please share a few tips for women to help keep them safe when on a solo holiday.

I published an article on called My top tips for women travelling in India that is very popular and worth reading.

The tips can be modified for travel anywhere. If you are on social media, I founded a community called WeGoSolo for female solo travellers. We chat on Twitter every Wednesday at 11 am EST / 4 pm BST / 8:30 pm IST using the hashtag #WeGoSolo and offer tips, advice and support one another. Do a Google search for “solo travel” and see what comes up.

I would say that my two most important pieces of advice are:
1. Do your research
2. Be honest about what you like and what you’re comfortable with.

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23 Responses to Female solo travel tips

  1. Renuka July 29, 2014 at 3:41 am #

    Another great interview from a great female solo traveler! I hope people realize soon that solo travel in India isn’t scary. It IS quite good. The only advice I have for foreign women if they choose to travel solo in India is that they should understand Indian culture and sensibilities before judging Indian men. I agree Indian men look at women in a strange manner, but there are good men as well who are very, very respectful toward women in general. So, there is good as well as bad in India or anywhere else in the world. I’d say every woman should follow this as a thumb rule that she should be a little more cautious in a foreign land – it’s better to be safe than sorry! On the other hand, be adventurous and bold, have fun, try new things, but draw a line.
    Renuka recently posted..Tea Gardens Of Darjeeling – A Photo EssayMy Profile

    • Mariellen Ward July 29, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

      Thanks Renuka! It’s great that more and more women are starting to venture out, and finding out the world is not that scary. Caution and common sense go a long way — and yes, researching the local culture and finding out what’s acceptable, what’s not and how things are different.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..The world is watching herMy Profile

  2. jomblo cakep July 29, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    I love your articles, and give me lot of info about India. Next januari, I will go to India for duty and this post is the first information about India.
    jomblo cakep recently posted..Tips Meningkatkan Pengikut Google PlusMy Profile

    • Mariellen Ward July 29, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

      Please take a look through this blog. There are almost 400 articles, and many of them are travel tips about India. Good luck with your next adventure.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Missing the smells of DelhiMy Profile

  3. Asia Tour July 29, 2014 at 11:46 am #

    Thanks for this interview’s information. As a travel agent, I need a lot info like yours about India. We are going to arrarge tour package to India because we never do it last time
    Asia Tour recently posted..Keindahan Salju Abadi Gunung Fujiyama di JepangMy Profile

  4. Rachel of Hippie in Heels July 29, 2014 at 11:47 am #

    Great interview. I’m glad you spread the word about how wonderful India is- it’s clear you really love it! I truly believe that being positive in India helps your experience & smiling can go a long way. I did get annoyed sometimes while traveling solo in India because of stares or that one-timebutts-grab… but it could have happened anywhere and I never felt unsafe. Men in India are bold and say things that can be offensive… Living here I still am not used to it. I am a thai massage therapist (which is a massage with clothing on) & literally 2 minutes ago (and its 9 PM) I got a call asking for massage and as I’m trying to understand what the guy is saying he says “erotic massage yes?” I said NO do not call me again! Would that have happened in America… maybe… but not as often as the calls I get here because most men wouldn’t have the audacity to ask that. Then there are the people who ask me on dates after a massage and get angry when I say no. My point is, yes bad can happen everywhere, and India is not scary or unsafe compared to other places, but women should be aware that some of the men in India do not know proper boundaries and after almost 2 years here I am certain that they aren’t used to a women putting them in their place! It takes patience and strength to travel India.
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..13 Little Known Tips for Taj Mahal VisitMy Profile

    • Mariellen Ward July 29, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

      Thanks for your comment Rachel, and I agree. One of the “secrets” to solo travel, in my opinion, is to get the know the culture you are travelling in. Find out what’s considered acceptable, use common sense. India is still largely a traditional culture, and the genders relate differently than in the west. It’s important to realize this and act accordingly.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Missing the smells of DelhiMy Profile

  5. Journeymart July 30, 2014 at 6:51 am #

    Congratulations on a great vacation. Keep it up.

  6. Jana August 1, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

    Great interview, I agree with you. I also think that because everyone says that when “traveling solo as a female” you have to be extra careful, women might be more aware of potential dangers, although men should be as aware as we are. Being male doesn’t automatically make you safe.
    Jana recently posted..6 Striking and Affordable Islands in EuropeMy Profile

  7. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra August 5, 2014 at 3:32 am #

    Its very informative, interactive and quality content.

  8. Abhay August 13, 2014 at 6:39 am #

    Congratulations on a great vacation in India….

  9. sonya August 25, 2014 at 7:20 am #

    WOMEN-ONLY ACCOMMODATION AND WOMEN-ONLY TOURS is yet another tip one could offer women travelers especially those visiting India. One such recommended venture is “Women’s Bed and Breakfast Homestay with a View” located in New Delhi / NCR. It offers not only safe accommodation for women, but safe airport transfers, safe travel tips and safe tours within Delhi and its neighbourhood: Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar pradesh, Haryana, Himachal. They can be contacted on 91-9717923793. Their details can be viewed on http://www.bedandbreakfast.eu/bed-and-breakfast/gurgaon/women-s-b-b-homestay-with-a-view/556687/

  10. S December 1, 2014 at 3:36 am #

    I recently did a solo trip to Europe…and what a liberating experience it was. It is people like you who have inspired me to finally take the plunge and GO!

  11. [email protected] March 26, 2015 at 1:58 am #

    Hi Mariellen -I’ve been a fan for some time now.While appreciating the fact that you encourage women to travel solo in India, I have only one comment – women wouldn’t need to be protected by men if they just let us be.
    [email protected] recently posted..Top places in India to visit this summer vacation/holidayMy Profile

  12. Zoé April 12, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

    PS to my previous post (on a different day’s blog!) my travelling dictum is blend, blend, blend – the more you look like everyone else the less you draw attention and the happier your connections will be -Indian women do appreciate modesty in a western woman, as modest as they are themselves.
    and PPS Mariellen – who are you travelling with to always have yourself in your photos??? I’ve been travelling solo for 50 years and I’m in no more than a dozen photos – out of thousands and thousands!

  13. south indian packages June 1, 2015 at 4:08 am #

    Hello nice to see your blog.Next time we will suggest you Kerala Our God’s Own Country.

  14. Fiona Ludbrook September 2, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    Hi Meriellen, discovered your website as I began my solo woman traveller research pre India today. Thankyou, it’s great!

    I am now in my mid 50s and have been travelling, usually solo since I was in my mid twenties, covering Fiji, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, lots of Europe, Turkey (with a group) Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar and most recently, Peru, Ecuador, including the Galapagos,Bolivia, and Chile, including Easter Island. I also made it to two remote and quite different eco systems in the Amazon Basin. I have also travelled solo across most of my native Australia.

    I love travelling solo and invariably find it an enriching and sometimes challenging experience.
    To your top tips for women travellers I would add learning a few basic phrases in the local language. Please, thankyou, basic greetings, “I would like….,” how much and go away/get lost!

    What you say about being, or at least acting confidently really helps avoid getting preyed upon. I well remember, when I was much younger and quite attractive, having to cross a bridge that was virtually blocked by a very large gang of young, “heavy” looking islanders in Auckland. I gritted my teeth, held my head up high and kept walking ahead unhesitatingly. I didn’t get harassed, have my bag snatched, let alone gang raped, which was my deepest fear!

    I have put many travel articles geared to solo women travellers on my fionaludbrook.com blog, including posts calling upon women to use anti discrimination legislation to challenge the invariably frustrating singles supplement!

    I believe singles supplements were initialy derived as a means of detering single women from travelling, or the assumption that businesses would be paying for men travelling solo. Be fascinating to discover the history of the singles supplement, when and where it originated, in any case.

    Would make a great thesis for a woman studying tourism and hospitality!

    In any case, thanks for your terrific website!
    Kind regards

  15. Fiona Ludbrook September 2, 2015 at 5:40 pm #

    For clothing for travel, I have found my safari wear serves me well, pretty much anywhere that has a suitable climate.

    I buy the men’s, rather than women’s shirts because they have more pockets, that free me of carrying a handbag and are loose fitting rather than tailored.

    Ditto the trousers.

    Also, they launder really well by hand, Dry overnight in my hotel room, do not crush and give great sun and insect protection.

    Also keeping baggage to under 15 kilos, including carry on baggage for trips, even when covering diverse climates is another really good tip for making transit between locations much easier and less obtrusive and obvious than women loaded up with huge suitcases and heavy hand luggage!

    ‘Never start with more than 15 kilos is my travel motto’, especially as a woman!
    Leave hairdryers and most make up at home. One trusty lipstick will suffice for formal occasions!

    Will buy one of those Indian trouser suits when I land and give it a go!

    • Mariellen Ward September 3, 2015 at 11:11 am #

      Great tips Fiona, I can’t get down to 15 kilos … yet … but making headway! Also wear my safari clothes a lot. But I do LOVE those colourful flowing Indian outfits 🙂
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..How to travel safely in India webinarMy Profile

  16. Rajesh Bhardwaj January 11, 2017 at 1:21 pm #

    Dear Mariellen, I read your blog regarding safety issue of solo women traveller. I think all post very helpful and gives a confidences not the fear. On my blog i also write some observation, you might be like. Thanks


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