Is India Safe for Solo Women Travellers? Sharing my Experience & Tips from my 40-Day Solo Trip around India

By Rutuja Bhagwat - December 06, 2019

With the recent shocking and maddening news about different rape cases registered on one single day in different parts of the country, re-emerged the old fear. Is India not really safe for women? I met a friend yesterday who has to travel to Hyderabad for work and she said she's worried because of the recent brutal rape happened in the city. I was saddened to know this is what women feel. I shared my two bits to her. I told her how it is safe and how she should not worry at all. But she was not convinced. I couldn't understand how to explain it to her.


Manikaran, Himachal Pradesh

Is India safe for solo women travellers? Well, it is subjective. And situational. I travelled alone around India, covering all the five directions of the country – West, North, North East, East, and South. So I'm in a good position to answer this question. What I experienced and the people I met and the kind of night travels I had on my 40-day solo trip around India, I can certainly say, India is safe for solo women travellers. Of course, at certain points in my trip, I did feel a storm of fear in my heart but that's got nothing to do with the men I came across on my journey. It was the fear in my heart; the men, irrespective of in which part of the country I was, never made me feel unsafe. 

They were quite inquisitive on how and why I was travelling alone, and depending on the situation (and the current state of mind), my answers changed. Most of the times I would lie saying, "My friend is in the room; she has already visited Taj Mahal, so she's least interested to visit it again", or "Actually, my parents have already been to Konark and Puri so they'll be joining me here tomorrow." That's how I reassured to myself that I was safe (even though it was not true).



One of those times when I was terrified, was on my one-day sightseeing to Konark and Puri from Bhubaneswar. Since it gets dark too early in the east (just at 5:30 pm), I was terrified. It was just me and my taxi driver in the car. It was almost 6:00 pm and pitch dark around. My taxi driver, who was in his 40s, asked me if I don't get scared to travel alone. At that point, I already was slightly terrified due to the dark, but I answered confidently, "No, I don't get scared to travel alone. Sometimes you just have to trust men around you." I tried my best to tell him to not mess with me indirectly. Later in the conversation, I also mentioned how my dad was in the Navy (to make things better for me). 

I was certainly terrified when he asked if I wanted to have tea. I was wondering, why would he want to drink tea now? I understand he's tired with the driving, but oh boy, it was total dark around. He stopped at a dhaba on our way to Bhubaneswar, and brought me a glass of tea. I shouldn't have taken that tea, I feel. But most of the times, I don't refuse tea. I was tired and needed some refreshment. We finished our tea and resumed the journey. The man did not make me feel unsafe; it was just the prevailing fear in my heart. 


Kheerganga trek

Another situation when I was totally scared was when I was reaching Agra from Jaipur. My bus was supposed to reach Agra at 10:00 pm, but it got late and reached at 12:30 am! Just imagine! I had never been to Uttar Pradesh before so I did not have any clue about the state.  I had asked my hostel to arrange a pickup for me but they refused. I tried booking Ola/Uber and after multiple attempts, I got an Ola auto finally. I was petrified, to be very frank. 

To add to the drama, the bus stopped 5 minutes before my dropping point and waited there to unload some goods for a nice 20 minutes. My auto driver called me saying he had reached the pickup point but there was no way I could reach it. So I requested the driver to come to this petrol pump where the bus was. I'm so glad he came and did not cancel my ride because one inconvenience to the drivers and they straightaway cancel your ride! 


My auto driver, a guy probably in his early 30s, arrived and the men from my bus helped me load my luggage in the vehicle. At 12:30 am, we were riding for my hostel on the lonely streets of Agra. On hearing my driver's sick voice (he sounded unwell with a sore throat), I started a conversation. "Is your throat not okay?" The driver replied, "Yes. It's been like this since a few days now. Just 4 days ago, I was down with a fever." I replied in a relaxed way knowing the driver is buying my conversation, "Yeah. The weather is really confusing. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it is sunny."

I did not realise when we reached my hostel. I just thought the talks about the weather and the driver's health would keep him busy to think of anything else. I was ecstatic. I was telling to myself how if I passed this test, it was equivalent to winning the world. The driver dropped me at the hostel safely and at 12:45 am, after all the check-in procedures, I was finally into my room. 


Coorg, Karnataka

I faced similar situations where I was either boarding late night or getting off late night, however, not even once did I come across any bad vibe from anyone around me. Whatever I felt, it was just the prevailing fear in my heart. I suppressed it many times by acting all tough and badass. It certainly helped me be strong, courageous, and a don't-mess-with-me woman around. Was it my posture? Was it my attitude? Was it my clothing style? Or was it the goodness in people around me? I do not know. All I can say from experience is that it is safe for a solo woman traveller in India. 


SAFETY TIPS FOR SOLO WOMEN TRAVELLERS IN INDIA

To talk about the precautions or safety tips, firstly, is to know where you're staying. Don't go for shady stays just because you're on a tight budget. It is better to be safe than sorry. Secondly, when it is dark, try to be around people. For late-night local travel, use Ola/Uber apps or simply, be on your toes even if you're going by local taxi/auto. Your attitude and confidence matter; do not show you're a weak person, even though internally, you want to cry running into someone's arms. On this trip, I had neither carried a knife (I had carried one but they confiscated it on the airport in the mid of the trip) nor a pepper spray. I had no self-defence tools with me (frightens me now to know!). 

Your clothes. Well, no hard rule as such. But whenever you are wearing shorts/sleeveless and you know you will be reaching your room late, carry some covering, just in case. During day time, there's no need to fear. Keep your phone with you and a power bank, especially if it's gonna be a long day. Do keep your family updated with the live location on WhatsApp. 


Amer Fort, Jaipur

That's it, folks. I hope you never keep yourself from travelling solo only because you are afraid of abductions and rape. Be brave and show it through your body language, clothes, facial expressions, and your personality. I would just like to add one sentence that personally pushes me to achieve the impossible,

"You are anyway going to die one day. It is better to do something you love and die than do nothing and die."

Am I right? Go ahead and plan your solo travel you've always been hoping. All my good wishes to you! You're brave; don't let these evil men or news or anybody for that matter tell you otherwise. 

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