India, with a string of violent gang-rape cases that have recently made international headlines, has been under fire when it comes to solo female travel and safety.
A recent USA today article cited tourism as down by as much as 25% in wake of these incidents, and the US State Department is cautioning female travelers to “observe stringent security precautions” and “avoid travelling alone in hired taxis, especially at night.”
But travelers, like Mariellen Ward of Breathe, Dream, Go, propose that India is relatively safe, provided women use caution and take some simple safety precautions.
Is India a safe place to visit? One Go! Girl shares her experience.
I just came back from a work-related trip to Delhi. Though I was rarely alone while I was working, I traveled to Jaipur, also in northern India, by myself.
I had originally planned to fly to Jaipur and take the train back to Delhi to join my company, but after the incident in December, the company I work for felt it was not safe to for me to travel by alone by train.
I’m a pretty experienced solo female traveler (and really, who doesn’t want to travel by train after watching Darjeeling Limited) but in the end I switched to flying both ways since it was a work-related trip and there were liability issues involved.
As a solo female traveler, and an Asian one at that, I get harassed… a lot. Some of the worst experiences I’ve had were in Rome, Marrakesh, and Athens, but even eating dinner alone in North Carolina, I’ve had a couple come up and ask me about my race and then had the restaurant owner come over and apologize after they’d left. Even in London, arguably the most cosmopolitan city in the world, men will yell or mutter “Asian slurs” at me.
So, I was prepared for some pretty uncomfortable situations in India.
The thing about India is that yes, people yell things at you, but worse, they stare. They stare….and stare….and stare, which can feel very invasive and uncomfortable. While I was at the Amber Fort in Jaipur, there seemed to a large number of local male tourists, and while I was taking pictures of the monument, they were taking pictures of, yup, you guessed it, me!
My colleagues from India say that they wouldn’t allow their female family members to travel around Delhi by themselves after dark. Heeding this advice, I was careful while traveling at night. Should you avoid night travel? In the end, it’s a personal decision.
Overall, I enjoyed my time in India. But, if you’re feeling intimidated while traveling through India, make sure to follow some simple safety tips.
Safety Tips for Women in India
1. Dress Modestly: You should dress respectfully no matter where in the world you are, but in India, it’s the best way to blend in and keep a low profile. Wear loose-fitting clothes that keep you covered.
2. Please Don’t Get Drunk: Take care to ensure you never lose control of yourself in an unfamiliar surrounding and become an easy target.
3. Don’t Travel at Night: Take precautions so that you’re not traveling alone at night– have someone walk you to a cab, cab it home together, and make sure you’re not arriving to a new place late at night. Again, these tips apply globally, but are especially important in India.
4. Keep a Low Profile With Men: As with many other places in the world, Western women can be thought of as ‘easy’ and therefore, be aware of your interactions with men. You don’t want to give off the wrong signal. Be confident, but always make it clear that you’re not available/ not interested. Sometimes that mean acting a bit rude– at least more rude than we would in everyday life. Don’t be afraid to be firm!
5. Avoid the Beaches at Night: If you’re along the coast, NEVER WALK ON THE BEACH ALONE AT NIGHT. Ever. Keep that in mind as you travel around the world. Beaches are generally not patrolled by the police at night, if at all.
Stay safe girls, but also remember to enjoy yourselves!