Contributed by Shelly Viajera Travel Blog
Days before I flew to India, there were at least five people who told me to be extra careful when travelling around India, three more who told me not to go to India, and one who told me I was out of my mind to even think about going solo in India. Despite these, I pushed through with my plans of going to India.
I knew where they were coming from. They must have read it online since, when I look it up myself, search results advise women not to travel alone to this country. As publicized rape stories have been told and scamming incidents have been shared, some female travellers tend to back out.
As a Spanish saying goes, “Si no lo intentas nunca lo sabrás” (If you don’t try, you’ll never know). I’ve always wanted to see India because of its rich architecture. I knew right then that nothing and nobody could stop me from going.
Actually, I never really treated India differently. For me, anything bad can happen wherever you are, and you just have to be prepared at all times. People should understand that crime happens all over the world. Bombings happen in first world countries. Zero crime rate may happen in a third world country.
New Delhi, for instance, was just like any other busy capital in the world. My presence of mind while walking on its streets was similar as when I’m in Manila. Likewise, when I walked in Tokyo, my caution was just the same. The point is, travellers should not judge a country by its economic status.
Admittedly speaking though, solo backpacking in India isn’t meant for a newbie traveller. It isn’t like Vietnam or Thailand that’s backpacker laden. At times, going solo can get real; that in a swarm of locals, you may be the only foreigner in the pack. As India is the second most populous country in Asia (next to China) and the seventh largest in the world in terms of geography, scamming is rampant. Fresh lads who aren’t used to the clues of scamming just might not know how to avoid it.
Nevertheless, I think India just needs to be understood. For one, poverty is all over the place. People sleep in temples in New Delhi, people beg for food in Jaipur, and people are thin in Agra. Life is tough for many. In fact, I asked the locals if they have gone outside of India for leisure, they all said that it’s too expensive for them.
After a while, I understood why all the vendors tried to give me an overpriced amount on what I wanted to buy and why every act had to be compensated with money.
But that’s not always the case. Sometimes, it’s better to think about the good and positive side of Indians: they smile, they enjoy taking selfies with foreigners, and are nice to talk to. For when you believe there’s goodness in every place, every person, you feel more secured and less worried.
So to all women with India on their bucket list, go on and fulfil the dream. Never let the thought of being a solo female backpacker get in your way of exploring the world.
Here are just a few general tips for women travelling to India
As India is a Hindu-Islamic country, make sure to wear something that doesn’t expose the knees and shoulders especially when entering temples and mosques. Also, if you aren’t going to the beach area like Goa, leave the shorts and sleeveless shirts at home. Catch less attention. Pay respect to be respected in return.
Female travellers get easily noticed as foreigners since Indian women wear colourful saree, kurti, and punjabi. Dressing like a local is a good way, not only for the cultural experience, but also to get away with what I fondly call as “the stare.” Indians tend to stare at foreigners from head to toe, which somehow felt awkward to me. But when I wore a saree in Agra, I didn’t get a lot of stares anymore and felt more like a local.
Travellers should bear in mind that they’re on foreign land. There’s always a difference in religion, food, and practices. For one, I noticed that some (but not all) Indians asked for tip from me when I took their photos. They have this rubbing-of-fingers gesture as a sign of asking for money. It’s a practice that they usually do to foreigners, so be mindful.
Also read: 18 Reasons You Should Travel to India
Truly, India has a lot to offer. I may have seen Taj Mahal, but I saw A LOT MORE. It’s a beautiful country gifted with amazing architecture, colourful history, and interesting culture.