Top Tips for ladies travelling in India
Donna is our resident India (and Sri Lanka) guru. She has visited several times over the last decade – so here are her top tips for women travelling to India, from a personal perspective!
I just can’t seem to get enough of India! Without doubt travelling in India is a wonderful and life changing experience and I want to share with you my tips for women travelling to this incredible destination, with the hope that I can put your mind to rest that it is not as scary as you may have heard…..
That said, I do feel that, especially at first, India can be a tricky country to travel in. This can be even more so for women, especially solo female travellers, but it is certainly not as bad as the media might make it out to be.
So please don’t let fear stop you from experiencing the most amazing, mind blowing, magical and life changing travel destination there is – it really is ‘Incredible India’ and the rewards certainly outweigh the challenges. The best way to first experience India? As part of a small group tour of ladies, which many of our guests would agree with.
Here are my top tips that will help make a great trip to India, no matter how you choose to experience it!
Do your research
India travel is not the same as going to the Caribbean, Greece or even Thailand. It is massive, diverse, traditional, ancient … and it can be overwhelming. Knowing as much as you can about the culture can help prepare you.
Adjust your expectations
If you are from the Western world, 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 individuals, particularly men; and be cautious about moving around at night on your own.
Be ‘culturally aware ‘and adaptable
There’s no use trying to fight it, accept that things work differently here, embrace the differences, go with flow and you’ll enjoy traveling in India a lot more. Come with an open mind and open heart and India will open up to you. Travelling in India is as rewarding as it is challenging but ultimately your attitude will affect how much you enjoy and get out of the trip. Try your best to fit in with Indian culture both for your safety and sanity!
One of the most important things for women travelling in India, or anywhere else really, is to be confident and assertive. Be prepared to stand up for yourself and don’t be afraid to speak out. How you carry yourself plays a large part in your experience. If you are confident, you are less likely to attract unwanted attention.
I also find it best to ignore people, especially salesmen, touts and men who want to take selfies with me, as saying a polite no thank you is still engaging with them and could be mistaken for a sign of interest. Act confident even if you don’t always feel it!
Beautiful Travelling Divas’ Guides doing their thing at the Taj Mahal…
India is a conservative country and women showing skin is not really acceptable no matter how hot it is. Respect local culture and avoid unwanted attention, which at the very least will make you feel uncomfortable, by covering up.
I prefer to wear colourful, light weight Indian clothes to try to blend in a little and cover up without over-heating.
This doesn’t mean you have to wear a 5 foot long sari (although it is really fun to dress up in one while you’re in India!) I usually wear local clothing such as a kurta (long top) or salwar kameez (loose fitting long top and pants) with a dupatta (scarf). I also find a scarf useful to cover my nose and mouth from pollution if I’m in a tuk tuk and stuck in traffic. Indian clothes are light, comfortable, inexpensive and appropriate to the climate and the need for modesty. I am a big believer in the “when in Rome” philosophy of travel.
Copy the local women
Local Indian women know best so follow their lead. In some cities like Mumbai it’s common to see young women wearing jeans. If local women are wearing it I usually assume it’s OK for me to wear it but I often carry a scarf or pashmina in my bag just in case I feel like I should cover up a bit. I also watch how other women are carrying themselves, if a street is full of women alone or families then I feel safe, if there are no women then it’s probably not safe for me to be out either and time I headed back to my hotel.
Colours are divine on these gorgeous women
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 a tuk tuk driver, you could inadvertently be giving him the wrong signals.
Again, realise 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, for example. Obviously, there are lots of educated and well-travelled men in the modern metros, like Delhi and Mumbai, but the regional cities and countryside are not as sophisticated.
Be careful who you trust
Whilst Indians are usually wonderfully generous, friendly and hospitable people you can’t be naive and trust everyone. You do need to be on your guard to avoid the scams and hassles when traveling in India, especially in the North and the hassle is worst around airports, train stations and popular tourist monuments. Even though they are usually just trying to get you to part with your money and are not trying to harm you, I find the best option is to just walk confidently past, ignore them all and don’t believe everything people say.
Trust your gut instinct
Whilst the hassle can be really annoying don’t let a couple of scam artists jade your opinion of all Indian people. Honestly the most incredible things can happen in India if you have an open mind and an open heart and I have been amazed more than once by the hospitality of Indian people. After you’ve been travelling in India for a while you will be able to tell who is genuine and who isn’t, don’t be afraid to accept an invitation but always trust your gut instinct.
Keep it in perspective
Although I’ve just been through a long list of safety tips I’m not saying that it’s unsafe for women traveling in India. You just need to be aware. Keep in perspective that, most of the time, hassle is just hassle, they just want you to part with your money, not actually do you any harm, and although it can feel overwhelming at first, I’ve never felt unsafe.
India is a very religious country, most people still believe in karma and there is always someone happy to help you out.
That’s all from me.
Drop us an email if you want to learn more about our India trip in 2019.