25 Tips for Using Public Transport in India as a Solo Female Traveller
As a woman, if you’ve made the decision to travel solo in India, chances are that you may have gotten ‘friendly advice’ from your parents, grandparents, older siblings and even your neighbourhood gossipmonger aunty. This may range from “Oh no…it is too dangerous to do that” to “I think you should have a travel buddy…just to be safe”. Annoying as hell, right? I know.
Once the solo travel bug has bit you, there is no going back. And if you want to explore every nook and cranny of the many wonders of India, then you would surely require using public transport in one form or the other. Read the blog Is India safe for female solo travellers? to know the other side of the country.
If you have never used public transport in your life or if the very thought of using it makes you nervous and unsure, worry not. I have some great tips for using public transport as a solo female traveller in India. Read on:
1. Do a simple Google search before you set out
Once you have chosen your place of visit and booked your tickets, make sure you learn more about it on the internet. This does not only include best hotels, restaurants, and touristy spots, but also the local public transport routes. Get a fair idea of the timings of local buses or trains and note them down in your diary. This will not only make you confident about your upcoming travel, but also make things easier for you once you reach the place
2. Get connected to fellow solo travellers online
The best way to learn about the nitty-gritties of a place is to ask people who have been there before you. With the power of social media and ease of making connections, you can do just this! Look out for solo female travel forums or solo female travel enthusiasts’ groups on the internet. Get posting about the place you want to travel to and about the public transport there. Read up generally on using public transport in India as a solo female traveller. This could surely give you some leads about do’s and don’ts and who knows, you may even get to make some friends for life!
3. Learn the basics of the local language
It is always an added advantage if you know some words in the language of the place that you are travelling to. For example, in the northern states of India, knowing a bit of Hindi can make asking for bus routes and timings a tad unchallenging. Get a translator on your phone if you cannot remember words easily.
4. Befriend a local
Now, it is understandable that going up to a stranger in a new place and trying to befriend them may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is worth a try. If you get good vibes from someone who happens to be a local, then great! You could clear your doubts about public transport in that area and understand the way of the land better. Just go for it!
5. Make sure that your phone is fully charged
Just imagine this scenario: You have booked a tram to your next destination somewhere in the suburbs of Kolkata on www.calcuttatramways.com and are waiting for the confirmation. Suddenly, your phone gets switched off because of low battery. Imagine the horror! To avoid such situations, make sure your phone is always fully charged or carry a substitute mobile phone/power bank with you.
6. Pack all your essentials, but pack light
One thing known for sure about public transport in India is that there is no guarantee that you get to sit throughout the journey. Therefore, it is always advisable to pack light while using public transport as a solo female traveller in India. This does not mean that you forego your essentials – but prioritising them. For example, wipes and sanitisers are any day more important than cosmetics, right?
7. Dress up but be comfortable!
Being a solo female traveller, using public transport in India could get daunting. Either you may not get to sit at all during the journey, or you may have to adjust with two or more people on a single seat. Both cases require you to dress comfortably, so that you do not feel suffocated. This does not mean that you should not be fashionable at all but choose your fashion wisely. In short, be both comfortable and trendy!
8. Carry a pepper spray
Safety is a top-most priority when using public transport as a solo female traveller in India. One cannot be too prepared to face any threat that may creep up during a journey. This is why it is better to keep a small bottle of pepper spray handy, just in case something untoward happens. If you are travelling solo to any country, carry these 10 things without fail!
9. Have 100 and 1091 on speed dial
100, as you know, is the police helpline number that is used throughout the country. 1091 is the lesser known women’s helpline number, which is exclusively for women’s safety. It is recommended to have both these numbers on speed dial just in case things do not go as expected. There could be an unprecedented accident or some other unfortunate incident that could make things wary. Hence, it is important to be prepared for anything.
10. Share your location with loved ones
I completely understand that the purpose of travelling solo as a female is to let go and enjoy a few days of solitude. But this does not mean that you should compromise your safety. It is great to have fun and be practical while doing so. Therefore, you could amp up your safety by sharing your location with someone you trust. You do not need to do this all the time but keeping people in the loop is okay. If you want to know more about safety while travelling solo, click on 21 safety tips for solo female travellers.
11. Always locate the nearest police stations
One of the most important things to do right before you use public transport as a solo female traveller in any part of India, is to locate the nearest police stations to the area you are visiting. If you have a map of the place that carries landmarks like police stations, it will be useful for you. If you can get the phone numbers of these police stations, even better.
12. Get chatting with fellow passengers
I get it if you like keeping to yourself generally and listen to music on your journeys, but it is not bad if you can strike a conversation with a fellow passenger. If they are a tourist like you, you could share experiences. If they are instead a local, they could possess information that is not available on social media or online; things only local passengers would know.
13. Note down busy routes and look for alternatives
After you have been solo tripping using public transport for a few days in a row, you will easily get to know the busy routes or traffic hotspots. You need to note them down in your diary or journal. This will help you in looking for public transport that use alternative routes.
14. Get your hygiene essentials sorted
Being a woman is just not easy. Being a solo female traveller, using public transport in India is worse. There is a lack of public toilets, especially ones that are clean and hygienic. Worry not, you just need to be prepared. Use products like PeeBuddy that will help you relieve yourself in any place without having to ‘sit down’ in dirty places – if you get what I mean. If you are on your period or anticipating, it is advisable to replace menstrual pads with cups or tampons that can stay in a longer time without needing to be replaced.
15. Choose lodging near public transport hotspots
One you have made the decision to use public transport as a solo female traveller in India, it is better to choose lodging near bus stops or metro stations. This will make your commute easier and you won’t have to take many stops to and from your destination. This way, you can also get to know earlier if a certain bus or train is cancelled and book another one with ease.
16. Beware of fraudsters
We all want to live in a happy world where we can follow our passions peacefully, without being overly worried. But sadly, the reality is far from this. There are many people in public transport systems that are out there for the sole purpose of scamming you. They may promise cheaper travel rates or even offer free tickets – please do not pay heed to them. Double-check everyone and everything before proceeding to say ‘Yes’.
17. Note down where to recover lost belongings from
No matter how careful you are, it is possible that you forget your belongings in a public taxi, auto rickshaw, bus or metro train. Instead of fretting and getting anxious, calmly find out how and from where you can recover your stuff. Most metro stations in India have a safe where they keep ‘Lost and Found’ items. In the case of cabs, you can directly contact the driver or the cab aggregator.
18. Do not carry expensive items
While on the move as a solo female traveller using public transport in India, be sure to avoid carrying expensive items. Jewellery and high-end electronics are a big no-no. Even if you are careful, you are at a risk of losing them. Many public transport systems in India do not have a proper, functional ‘Lost and Found’ point as well. So prevention is better than cure.
19. Do not act like a newbie. Be confident
If you are using public transport in India as a first-time solo female traveller, do not show it. Be confident. Act like you have everything figured out, even if it is not so. Appearing weak and confused may attract social nuisance and land you in trouble. Have faith in your instincts and always be alert.
20. Light snacking for hunger pangs
Before you hop on that bus or train, get an energy bar, a chocolate bar or even some nuts to keep up your energy levels. Make sure you pack some for the rest of the journey as well because your chosen mode of public transport may not stop at intervals. Packing some munchies beforehand is important especially if you have issues with blood pressure or dizziness.
21. Carry a small first aid kit
Carrying a first aid kit is a cardinal rule in travel. It is compulsory for buses or trains in India to have a first aid kit in place. But most of the time, these kits may not have essential components, or they may even carry expired medicines. So, the best strategy is to depend on yourself. Carry a band-aid, antiseptic solution, and some cotton in case you get cut during your journey. You could also carry some painkillers.
22. Carry another pair of shoes…just in case
Anything can happen in India. Anything. Suppose you are on a bus to your destination, enjoying the scenes outside while you have removed your shoes and put them under your seat to go barefoot for a bit. Later when you go looking for them, they are missing. Bam! Somebody has stolen them. This could very well happen to you. So be smart and pack another pair of shoes to keep your journey uninterrupted.
23. Scarf it!
This may sound unusual, but there is no greater weapon than a scarf when travelling via public transport in India. Somebody shady-looking staring at you? Cover your face with a scarf. The wind blowing too hard on your face? Again, cover your face with a scarf. The AC is too cold in the metro? Don’t sulk, just scarf it up!
24. Motion sickness is real, be prepared
All the moving, shaking and jerking while using public transport may be exciting for some and they may even enjoy it, but others – not too much. Be prepared to encounter some form of motion sickness or the other. Carry a small paper bag, in case the nausea kicks in. Do not hesitate to let the driver of the vehicle know if he has to stop for some time if things get worse.
25. If it is not working for you, ditch it!
There is no way to say which mode of public transport will work for you as a solo female traveller in India. Some love the hustle and bustle of rickety buses, while others love the calm inside a metro train. You choose what suits you the best and ditch the others. You do you, girl!
Experiencing India as a solo female traveller
Travelling solo using the public transport system in India could be an entirely different and once-in-a-lifetime experience for you. I sincerely hope that the tips given above help you in some way or the other. It has certainly helped me learn a few tricks about using public transport like a pro and I wish the same for everybody else reading this.
May your travel lust lead you to undertake magical journeys across the length and breadth of India. May you be unstoppable in all your travel pursuits.
If you know more tips that could help a fellow solo female traveller using public transport in India for the first time, let me know in the comments!
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.