20 Tips to Remember while Travelling Solo as a Woman in India
Travelling solo can be an exciting experience. It not only opens your mind to new possibilities, but also gives you an insight of who you really are. At least, this is what happened with me. I got to know the ‘real’ me because of the simple fact that I only had myself for company on my trips; especially the ones across India. I was able to face my fears boldly. Also, I was able to identify my weaknesses and work on them. I would definitely recommend solo travelling across India.
Travelling solo in India can seem daunting at first because it is a land within many lands. Each state in India has a unique culture, language and demographics. I was able to understand and appreciate each of these differences on each of my solo travels. I was also able to compile the following list of tips for female trippers travelling solo in India:
1. Get a brief idea about the city before you travel
This is one of the most important tips for women who are planning to solo trip across India. Do your homework; get to know about the basics of the city you are travelling to. Note down the places that are worth travelling to, the hotels that are worth staying in, etc. You can do a simple Google search. Or even post on travel forums online like Travellerspoint, which is a personal favourite. In this way, you can get to know from other solo trippers about their experiences and carefully plan your own. Here is the ultimate guide to North India, for example.
2. Learn about latest political developments
India is the largest democracy in the world. This means that its citizens are allowed to express dissatisfaction with the government. This can happen in the form of protests or even ‘bandhs’ – a complete shutdown of all activities in the state. So always check on the internet for the latest political developments in India. They may hinder your plans otherwise and you may get stranded in a city rife with political instability.
3. Carry extra prescribed medications
If you are solo-tripping to India as a female traveller who is on regular medication, then here is a life-saving tip for you. Always have enough supply of the medicine. Maybe get two or more bottles or vials of it. Why? The drug policy in India and your country may vary. A medicine that is widely available in your home country may be banned for sale or may be unavailable in India. So do not take a chance and carry extra.
4. Pack right for the varying weather conditions
As I mentioned earlier, India is a land of many lands. The weather in the country also varies accordingly. For example, the month of December is peak winter season in a northern city like Delhi. But December is a light winter in a southern state like Kerala. While you may have to pack woollens and other warm clothes to travel in Delhi, you have to pack full-sleeve cottons to travel in Kerala. Always be mindful of these differences.
5. Learn the basics of a few Indian languages
As many as 780 languages are spoken in India, believe it or not! India also has 22 official languages mentioned in its constitution. It is impossible to learn all these languages, but you can surely learn a few words in languages such as Hindi and Tamil. Hindi is the most commonly-spoken language in North India and Tamil is the commonly-spoken language in South India. If you can master some greetings at least in either of these languages, then yay!
6. Master the public transport system
Another golden tip for a solo female tripper planning to travel across India is to master the public transport system. It is faster, cheaper and far more efficient. Here are some do’s and don’ts of using the public transport system in India.
7. Install safety apps on your phone
Safety should be high on your priority list as a woman travelling solo to India. Having a good presence of mind while on the go is important, but that will not suffice. The smart thing to do is installing safety apps on your phone in case of emergencies. I recommend Indian apps such as Raksha and Safetipin. Read what I think about India being a safe destination for solo trippers.
8. Do not experiment with food if you are sensitive!
If you have a weak stomach (literally), then you should not experiment with a variety of foods. Indian food is known to be spicy and oily – especially the street food. It is important to note here that most restaurants in India do not ask the customer if they have dietary restrictions or allergies. So if you do have either of these issues, you need to stick to safe options. This includes asking the restaurant beforehand about the ingredients in a particular dish.
9. Do not fall for scams!
It is a shameful thing to admit, but yes, foreign tourists are scammed in India. It could be anything – from fake-selling monuments like the Taj Mahal to tourists to offering free taxi rides in return for foreign currency. To avoid falling for these scams, always cross-check details with a competent authority like the police. Have 100 (police emergency toll-free number) on speed dial on your phone.
10. Learn how to haggle like a pro!
In Indian markets, what you need more than money is the skill to haggle or ‘bargain’ as we say in India. Local shopkeepers are known to sell artefacts and clothes to foreigners at overpriced rates. It is the sad truth in India. So a tip for you as a woman travelling solo to India would be to be adept in the art of haggling. Do not agree for the first price that a shopkeeper quotes you. Quote it 20% lower at first, then 15% and so on till you get a fair price. Do not let local shopkeepers charge you exorbitantly high rates. Ask a local shopper for advice if you think someone is overcharging you. Know that India usually has denoted an MRP (Minimum Retail Price) for products sold in the market. Never let anybody sell you products higher than this rate.
11. Look up special certificate programs for tourists
Many organisations – both governmental and non-governmental – organise special programs for tourists. This could be in anything ranging from arts to handicrafts and so on. Details of these programs are usually displayed on official websites like Incredible India. Go through the website to enrol in a course of your choice. Most of these programs would be short-term. But in case they are a little longer in duration, always check with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) or your country’s consulate regarding your visa renewal. This would ensure that you do not have issues going forward with the course.
12. Grab the best hotel deals
One cannot do anything proper without a Google search in this era. And this extends to solo tripping as well. A tip for a woman who is planning to solo-trip across India would be to get the best hotel deals online by Googling for the same. You could also visit websites such as Trivago, which will select the best hotel for you based on your preferences. Seasonal discounts will be available on certain hotels by pre-booking them online. You could also get some amenities free – like a free spa day or even a massage – based on the package that you have booked.
13. Connect with locals
If you are a woman solo tripping to cities in India, then you absolutely should connect with locals. As you are on your own, you will have all the time in the world to sit down with a local and talk about anything under the sun, really. You could exchange notes on how life is different in your country versus life in India, what you liked about India, what could change, etc. It would definitely give you a fresh take on life. You would be able to see life from a whole different perspective as well. You could also give them something to remember you by, and ask for a souvenir in return.
14. Carry a first-aid kit!
This is a tip for not only solo trippers to India but for any kind of trip, really. It is always advisable to carry a small first aid kit with you at all times when you are on the go. This kit should carry all the basics – an antiseptic cream, bandages, painkillers such as Ibuprofen and cold press. It should be small enough to fit into your handbag or backpack. Always remember to carry a sanitiser also with you at all times during your travelling stint in India.
15. Carry your IDs at all times!
This is such an important solo travel tip for women travelling to India. You should always have an ID – preferably your passport – on you. A policeman can stop you on the street and ask you your whereabouts. At that point, if you do not have either your passport or a copy of your visa with you, then you could land in some serious legal trouble. It could lead to an incredibly bitter experience if things go that far.
16. Have a solid local contact in case things go wrong
Now, one cannot expect to have a contact in all the countries that one visits as a solo female traveller. But in India, things are different. An important tip for you as a solo tripper to India is to have a local contact who could help you if things go awry. For example, if you lose your belongings in an Indian city, an acquaintance in the same city could help you in registering a ‘lost and found’ case. They could also help you in connecting with lawyers if you get entangled in a more serious legal battle.
17. Try getting the Indian tattoo – mehendi
Mehendi or Henna will be alien to you, especially if you do not belong to the Indian subcontinent or South Asia. Mehendi is the art of applying henna tattoos – tattoos made from an ink of henna leaves. This is applied on hands or feet during celebrations such as weddings or festivals. In my opinion, you should experience getting a henna tattoo at least once in your life. It’s beautiful design and bright colour will look great in pictures. It will be something for you to flaunt on Instagram. Trust me!
18. Sport a traditional Indian attire at least once
Be it the Rajasthani Ghaghra-Choli-Odhni (blouse and skirt with a shawl), Punjabi suit (long kurta with bell-bottomed pants) or even the set-sari (golden saree) of Kerala, but you should try sporting a full Indian attire at least once you are in India. Besides being a fun activity to indulge in, it could also create some everlasting memories for you. Make sure to click pictures while dressed in the attire, especially if you are in India during a festival. If you are visiting India during Diwali, make sure you read this. Here’s a pro tip: You could create a postcard with these images and send them to loved ones back in your country. Let them know all about the fun you are having in India – all by yourself that too!
19. Read a local newspaper!
Another tip for solo female travellers in India is to be aware of all the happenings in India as well as abroad. I understand that travelling is a busy business and that you will be on the go at all times. But it is great if you could read a local newspaper – even online versions would do if you cannot get a hard copy. Apart from knowing all the latest news, you could also compare and contrast the style of journalism in India with your country’s style of journalism. It could be a great conversation starter if you are trying to make a few friends in India!
20. Do a vlog on your daily travels
Vlogging is all the rage in today’s digital world. People communicate more online than they do face-to-face. So, in order to keep up with the times, why not try vlogging about your solo travel in India? You could connect with travel enthusiasts online and even create a niche audience for yourself in this way. Vlogging will help you keep track of all the places you have visited and all the interesting things you have done so far in India. It could also turn out to be an alternate career option for you, if you have significant views on your videos.
India is definitely one of the best places to go to, as a solo traveller. Keeping these tips in mind will definitely help you become more of an informed tourist. Being smart and having a presence of mind is key to having a good time in India. If you are travelling solo for the first time, it is normal to have certain anxieties. This is what I experienced on my first solo trip.
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.