Solo Female travelers in India
Traveling to India as a solo woman is a different experience than a single man. You will find in this article a collection of reviews, tips and advice from several women (obtained through my Instagram community) to help you prepare your trip.
India is a vast and huge country with a multitude of diverse cultures. Therefore, women’s opinions can differ greatly from one to another. This travel guide contains feedback from different regions such as Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Ladakh and as far away as the Far North East or South India and other regions.
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Tips for solo female travelers
These tips were written by women via a questionnaire on my Instagram account :
“Be self-assured and act frankly. A hesitant woman will always be more annoyed than a strong woman.»
“Don’t hesitate to say stop to annoying men, even when it comes to taking selfies for the whole gang of friends. Indians know how to stop when you raise your voice.»
“Wear with a ring (marital status).»
“Cover your shoulders. In India nudity begins with this part of the body. Women only let their back and belly appear (through saris for example). This rule applies especially in temples and rural areas.»
“I warmly recommend accepting to go to places reserved for foreigners during large-scale crowd events, for example, on New Year’s Eve on Cochin beach, where hands and bad intentions can flow from all sides. In the same way, gather with the women at the front of the buses and in the dedicated queues, if it is organized in this way.»
“When there are places for women, not mixing with men. It’s made especially on purpose. In queues, go to the front of buses, festivals etc. »
“I advise staying in places where people see you and where there are people if you go out at night, avoid streets with little traffic.»
“Your instincts and intuition are your best friends, listen to them and go straight away if you have a bad feeling.»
“When you travel as a woman, you have to be careful in crowded or isolated places.»
Feedback of solo women in India
⌛ 2 months: solo
📍 Himachal Pradesh – Uttarakhand – Uttar Pradesh
“I keep from my trip to India, a nice charivari of colors, smells, fabrics, divinities and obviously looks, touching attentions and smiles. The photographs testify to this but the reality is impalpable, the memories indescribable.
Before I left, I was overwhelmed by the fears and prejudices conveyed by my entourage and Western society: blog, podcast, etc. Some are true, others to deconstruct:
“No respect for women
“Be careful, there is a lot of kidnapping”
“Forced marriage, what a horror!”
“You’re going to get groped at every street’s corner”
I would not speak for Indian women and their conditions, only mine: that of a thirty-year-old woman traveling alone in North India: a white woman in a backpack.
On the first day, arriving in Haridwar, one of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism: I did not manage to leave the hotel drowning in an anguish fed by the few strong images passing before my eyes during the taxi ride. Between the guilt and shame of letting myself be overcome by my fear, I tried to listen to myself and respect my limits. Then, I went out little by little, an hour, then two, then three….I rubbed shoulders with my first dozens of looks, my first selfies. It’s strange, for once, I was “the different person”, the discriminated against. It may be heavy but you get used to it, or at least, I’ve gotten used to it.
At first, we smile at these requests for selfies, then it can quickly become boring when a shoot follows with the father, mother, son, daughter, sister-in-law and spouse of the latter. Only, one person told me that these requests for photos were auspicious: that they were in evidence to me the great journey that we made to come to this sacred country. And as in life, everything is history that we tell each other, I decided to keep this one and lend myself to the game.
The only tactile gestures I received during this stay are those of young men who during the photos dared a hand on a shoulder or on the waist. A gesture that our friends in the West would make and that would not bother us but which is, here, adventurous: a small challenge, the crossing of a prohibition. I didn’t feel bothered.
As for male looks, I did not find them intrusive or sexual: I never felt naked. They are above all looks of questioning, sometimes of misunderstanding: “ Why does a woman travel alone? ».
I also didn’t have to lie about my marital status, which many travelers’ blogs testified to. I would even say that I was often helped, accompanied, protected by taxis, butlers and that without any notion of money or profit. Of course, some will alpaguer you too insistently but overall I felt confident.Moreover, I have often thought of these pioneers, the first women to have come here, alone, what courage!
Not being reassured, I put all the security on my side. For two months, I almost lived in my pajamas, covered from head to toe: wide pants, long-sleeved tops. Both to try to go unnoticed (which was in vain) but also to respect the codes of this country. When I travel, I try as much as possible to be neutral and not have an impact on the culture of the country. I often stayed in my bubble, a bubble sometimes too closed. I think this posture sometimes prevented me from being in contact with the Other, but it was my solution for this first trip to India.
Perhaps because men and women are not equal there (but are they somewhere?), I was very touched by the sisterhood. In France, I often feel that women are rivals. While there, it is not uncommon to see a group of twenty women walking together: Sisters, friends, neighbors, we know nothing about them but they are reunited. In the same way, women came to me to exchange: with open hearts. It’s inspiring.
Today’s India is globalized, highly evolved and it’s much easier than I imagined. I think I imagined an India of 20 or 30 years ago. The younger generations are very similar to those in the West. We even see some rafting on the Ganges! But fortunately, India has retained its faith and it is she who has every street corner fills us with wonder: magic in nothingness, calm despite the hubbub. It is a melting pot that harmonizes.
I already have nostalgia for India, for its fraternal aspect, for this closeness where there is no embarrassment to be next to each other, to feel, to touch each other. I miss that freedom, that simplicity.
Finally, I have no tips, only to listen to you: there are as many testimonials as travelers. There is still a question of choice: that of letting yourself be invaded by doubts and prejudices, looking at the scenes through this prism or that of realizing our own fictions, of accepting them in order to hope one day to detach themselves from them. Leave room for new stories that India to tell us.»
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⌛ 3 weeks: 2 womens
“I went to Rajasthan with my mother a few years ago. The most disconcerting thing was the fact that we were photographed all the time, sometimes queues formed with men and women who wanted a shot with us. Even if we read it in many guides it is impressive to live and especially in places not very touristy … After the relationship to contact is not the same, Indians are very tactile and do not hesitate to touch and hug.»
⌛ 1 month: solo
📍 Manipur – Meghaya – Mizoram – Nagaland – Sikkim – Assam
“Women’s solo trip to the northeastern states of India: Before I got there, a young man from Himachal Pradesh had presented his experience in the northeast to me as his favourite of all his trips to India. His argument? According to him, it was the only place where he could see a woman serving a beer to a group of men sitting in a bar, then serve one and join them. “It wouldn’t be possible where I grew up,” he told me. Traveling with my boyfriend at that time, this meeting reinforced my desire to go, encouraging me to do it solo!
Giving a thumbs up from time to time, it was with great kindness that the people I met wanted to help me, even if they could not take me in their car. The reason? A need to protect myself, as a single woman. Even though women are more free and independent in this region of India, one can feel that a woman traveling alone is a new concept for them. Culturally, gender injunctions maintain the idea of a woman being protected from possible attacks.
This is found, for example, in Manipur, where women are not supposed to go out at night alone, in the form of a kind of cultural ban. But these behaviors are so tinged with kindness and kindness, that it made the trip very simple and enjoyable for me! This feeling of being carried by the meetings of lovely people, opening the door and feeding me whenever the opportunity arose. I, who had difficulty adapting to the question of the gaze in major India, found the opposite in North-East India, sometimes meeting shy glances, a smile of which resolved any discomfort.
I can only encourage women to travel and discover its surrounding and human beauty, and thus participate in showing young women living there that it is possible, and that they can also do it if they have the desire (a fact that was the most striking of my experience)!»
⌛ 6 months: alone
“I am in a private university to learn the culture and social problems of India (and Asian countries.) It’s very interesting and rewarding, but as a girl I sometimes feel embarrassed by the looks. I have never had a problem with aggression, but I have very often had requests for photos by students or teachers, or questions about my private life.
Men often have strong looks. Personally I refuse photos with men. I have never had a problem, they are understanding. I never take the bus alone, I don’t feel confident enough. Being a woman here, I will be afraid to sleep in a homestay. Maybe my lack of experience too, but I would not feel safe enough. I also prefer to make my plans in advance and know where I’m going to go. I think being a woman here shouldn’t be a barrier to traveling to India. I think you have to respect the dress codes, and do research in advance on the place where you want to go.”
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⌛ 1 month: 2 girls and 1 man
📍 Delhi – Rajasthan – Madhya Pradesh – Uttar Pradesh – Uttarakhand
“My feeling: beyond the immense cultural discovery that a trip to India represents, traveling through northern India as a Western woman is generally expecting to be ourselves a discovery in the eyes of Indians.
“For example, it is not uncommon for groups of men to watch us during an entire train journey of several hours. And since we meet many more men in transport and restaurants in particular, it can be burdensome sometimes.
But since difference arouses curiosity, traveling is accepting both. During a trip to India, don’t we ourselves spend our time contemplating the Indians? For my part, no feeling of insecurity felt during the whole trip.»
⌛ 2 weeks: solo
“The main image I have left from my trip to India, harassment and touching while visiting a market. As a return to India I would say that it is a destination with an energy that does not leave indifferent, a culture and centuries-old traditions very interesting. It is an enriching country on many levels.
When you travel there as a woman , you have to pay attention to crowded or isolated places.
I was walking with a friend at the Jodhpur market in the late afternoon when we were surrounded by a group of young men. They insisted on talking to us and laughed as they hugged us as we walked along. I quickened the pace and raised my hands a little to tell them that I did not want to speak, one of them took the opportunity to put his hand on my breast and press it. I yelled and started insulting them in French. They laughed and dispersed. People in the market were watching us without saying anything.
The same thing almost happened to me in Agra. I was at the entrance of the fort, I heard “hellos” behind me and a hand touching my arm when I turned around there was a group of young men who surrounded me and talked laughing. I immediately started screaming and a French traveler was going up the aisle at the entrance of the Fort came to my rescue and made them leave.
Both times I was well covered T-shirt, wide pants no visible body parts.»
⌛ 10 days: solo
“I loved traveling in this country. I stayed there only 10 days (but another trip is planned) and I went around Rajasthan. The people were kind, always willing to share a meal with me. He was also very intrigued to see me alone and often ask me for pictures. At no time did I feel insecure, I still took my precautions. I was twice lucky enough to have (local) guides who offered me to discover their city by motorcycle without asking me anything in return. Very nice experience and we come back changed.
Tip: Stay vigilant despite everything but otherwise no different from another trip for the organization and the way of traveling.”
⌛ 3 weeks: solo
📍 Rajasthan – Uttar Pradesh
“Between September 2019 and February 2020 I spent about 1 month in India, including 3 weeks alone. And if there is one thing to remember, it is that India upset, it upsets everything in its path, it upsets you and all your certainties. Forget everything you know, and everything you think you know, because you are going to have a unique experience. That’s what happened to me.
There is so much to say about this country of which I have only seen a very small part.
As a woman I did not feel unsafe at any time, and I admit to having even accepted things that I would never have considered in France, such as riding a motorcycle with strangers for example! I think you have to do things with feeling, you feel it ok go, you have a doubt, abstain. The most important thing I would say is to take your time to soak up the places and people, and do not hesitate to “blend in” by taking the train or the local bus, a unique experience (especially when your driver takes the highway in the opposite direction because the rest air is not on your side lol)
What you should also know is that Indians tend to stare at you, sometimes even insistently, at least it was my case! Maybe because I was a single woman? I can’t say, but it’s a bit surprising at first! Oh yes, I forgot, learn to say no! Otherwise you will leave your shirt ^^! Zen, let’s stay zen! And have a good trip!»
⌛ 5 weeks: solo
📍 trip Kerala – Tamil Nadu
“Personally, I really enjoyed my trip to South India. I felt comfortable in this culture of spirituality. Meeting and exchanging with Indians is easy, the human relationship is generally courteous and above all direct.
Here, there are almost 1.5 billion inhabitants so we do not get lost in multiple courtesies – everything goes fast!
For various reasons, including the language barrier, I found it more difficult to meet women – but the few experiences were tinged with a beautiful sisterhood, a sensitivity easily shared.
As a female travelling alone, I did not feel any particular insecurity. Whether in a bus, a market, the queue of a temple, you are seen. It’s easy to ask for help and people feel if you need to stand close to them for protection or accompaniment.
However, I advise what I was advised before my departure: know that the approach of some men can be destabilizing so dress accordingly. You have to be vigilant and trust your intuition.
I warmly recommend agreeing to go to places reserved for foreigners during large-scale crowd events, for example on New Year’s Eve on Cochin beach, where hands and bad intentions can flow from all sides. In the same way, gather with the women at the front of the buses, and in the dedicated queues, if it is organized in this way.
So leave in conscience, but above all leave in confidence! You will enjoy every moment of this beautiful country, Incredible India!”
Travel to India
“Let our souls sail and get drunk by the sounds, smells, colors of India! One can only come back transformed from a trip to this multifaceted country-continent.
Everything is spiritual and at the same time very grounded. The clash of contrasts is very marked, at all levels. The relationship to life is not the same as in the West, and this may be surprising. But if we can let our Western reflexes crumble a little by looking beyond the visible, and let ourselves be enchanted by the ambient magic, we will be rewarded with the gift of an experience of inestimable richness… and perhaps some additional good points in soul awareness.”
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Hitchhiking for a solo woman
⌛ 3 months
📍 12 states of North India
“If you want to hitchhike alone in India, we advise you to place yourself in places where there is traffic so that you are always surrounded and visible. Adopt a sober outfit, rather loose if possible, and avoid mini shorts / skirts and tank tops.
As for your drivers, choose couples or families. Again, always chat for a few minutes with the driver if he is a lonely man to make sure of his good intentions and, if you do not feel it, trust your instincts and do not get in his car. We do not recommend getting into a car alone with several men.
If by bad luck a driver becomes too insistent during the journey, do not give him the benefit of the doubt and announce clearly and firmly that you are not interested (you can say that you are married to a policeman for example), that you want to get off at the next gas station or the next road restaurant.”
➡️ Read more about hitchhiking in India
How to dress in India?
In India, almost all women have their bodies covered. In this country, nudity starts with the knees and especially the shoulders, which means that you will rarely see an Indian woman with these body parts uncovered. Most of them are even veiled.
On the other hand, uncovering your belly or letting your back appear is not seen with a bad eye, on the contrary. Rely on the appearance of saris. Wearing a skirt is also not frowned upon as long as it covers the knees.
You should know that there is no obligation to respect these rules or even laws. The dress code has a purely cultural aspect and everyone is free to want to apply it out of respect for the culture, for their own tranquility or not at all. It is certain that if you prefer to live with it, you will necessarily draw less attention to yourself and therefore receive less insistent looks.
Things not to do in India
India has very different codes from the West, which is why it can be useful to know them in order to avoid making a mistake. Some things may seem trivial to us while they may not be for Indians.
➡️ Things to avoid in India
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Feel free to Contact me once your trip to India is over if you want to contribute to this article dedicated to women in India to register your advice and / or feedback: it is welcome. Otherwise, you can just leave a few lines in the comment space to share your feelings.