India, Solo Travel, Travel Inspiration
Comments 59

5 Reasons Why Travelling Solo in India is Not So Scary!

I remember the first time I took a train by myself from my small hometown to the big bad city of Delhi. While dropping me off, my mother announced to everyone sitting around me that I’d be alone for the journey, in the hope that some good soul would look out for me. I felt like a fresh wound exposed to the elements of nature. All stares & smiles I received on that train ride felt sinister. I wasn’t half as mortified to be journeying alone as I was in realizing that everyone around me knew it. Not much has changed for solo trips that start at home (and that’s a story for another day), but I’ve come a long way, stuffing my pockets with solo adventures.

If you’ve read anything about travelling in India, you’ve probably read scores of reasons why travelling solo in India, especially as a female, is at best, scary. You’ve probably read hundreds of tips to avoid getting ripped, mugged, touted or groped. You’ve probably felt surprised, angry, sorry and nervous, in that order, after reading all that you’ve read. So I present 5 reasons, from personal experiences, to assure you why India isn’t such a scary place after all, to travel, to travel alone, and to travel alone as a female:

1. Your perception is half your experience.

Last year, when I felt my corporate job was burning my soul, I took a 2-month sabbatical to see the countryside of Europe and take my first solo trip in the high Himalayas of India. I didn’t spend hours reading about travelling solo and the things that could go wrong; I just took off, fearless and trusting, sans the scenarios my parents painted in my head. After the initial solo travel jitters, I quickly realized that making friends was easy, people were helpful, and ignoring the occasional jerk came naturally.

women India, solo female travel, solo travel india

Photo by Steve Evans.

2. Strangers fear for you.

While people are nicer to solo female travellers in most countries, it is particularly so in India (and mostly in a platonic way) because everything you’ve read & heard about the country being unsafe for women has also been read by thousands of other people, many of who will take it upon themselves to ensure that you get around okay. Stuck in Pin Valley and waiting for a ride, I literally had an entire village scrambling to find me a way to get back to my base town of Kaza before nightfall. I was offered food and endless cups of tea, invited to attend a cultural function in the village school, and ended up exchanging life stories with strangers while I waited.

3. You are constantly reminded to be safe.

Even if you do decide to let your guard down, you’ll constantly be reminded of how risky it is to be by yourself, and how unsafe this country is for solo women. On a bus ride during my recent trip to North Kerala, I met a chemistry teacher from the small town of Kannur, who tried to initiate a conversation with me in Malayalam and when I told her in English that I don’t speak the language, she affectionately chided me and made me swear not to tell anyone that again. (How I could pretend to know a language without knowing it is something I refused to argue about). She went on to warn me not to talk to strangers. By the time she alighted from the bus, I knew all about her inheritance, her love for Malayalam literature, and her son’s north Indian friends, and she knew all about my pepper spray!

4. Among 1.1 billion people, you’re hardly ever ‘alone’. 

Let’s face it. You must really work hard to find a dark lonely alley to walk along. Unless you are trying to chart an off-road trail, there is no reason to not always be surrounded by plenty of people, locals if not foreigners when you happen to be somewhere less travelled. As I found out, the region with the lowest population density in India also has the friendliest of people; a simple interaction in Spiti for directions or a ride would often turn into a homely meal, a revelation of the region’s best kept secrets, or a heartfelt invite to join a family on their yearly pilgrimage.

Women India, solo travel, solo female travel india

Photo by Anurag Agnihotri

5. There’s a ‘women-only’ everything.

Say what you may, but that’s a blessing not so much in disguise. From women-only ticketing queues, railways compartments and bus seats, to run-by-women-only taxi services and home stays, having women-friendly services is a reassurance that there are places where (sleazy) men cannot intrude. Feminists may argue against the segregation and fairly so, but when you are passing the night on a bus predominantly filled by men, it is comforting to smile at the woman sitting next to you.

Have you ever travelled solo in India? Would you recommend it to fellow travellers?

59 Comments

  1. samareshbiswal says

    nice post . ur facebook page on indian solo traveller is a testimonial

    Like

  2. I’m doing the solo thing in India at the moment… People are so concerned for my welfare that I’m even being interviewed by reporters about that very fact! A lovely post 🙂

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  3. Wow! Just wow! I admire you for taking such a huge leap from fantasy to reality! I also have been dreaming of travelling for one year now but it never happened! Mostly due to lack of like minded company!! I totally totally admire you for taking that first leap and going away to Europe of all places! And that too alone!! Another Wow!

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    • Haha, thanks 🙂 See that’s the thing, once you’re actually out there and travelling by yourself, you realize it’s really not such a big deal or leap. You should take the plunge and set out alone. It can be addictive! Good luck.

      Like

  4. Traveling solo is fun. I spent 5 days exploring Mcleodganj last month all alone. Got lost, made friends, felt truly happy and at peace.
    But at the same time, I think that traveling solo isn’t for everyone. Most people have their own comfort zones in company of people which they find impossible to escape.

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    • You’re absolutely right, solo travel isn’t for everyone. But you sure can’t know your comfort zone without even trying it. I’m sure everyone who’s ever travelled solo has felt the ‘out of the comfort zone’ pangs 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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  6. i very much agree. the problem is that we have a strange society that judge things much before they actually happen. If everybody mind their own business, you will never have a problem in this great land

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    • That’s true Tushar, but because everyone minds everyone else’s business, there are so many people looking out for solo travellers & their safety. It’s a double edged sword 🙂

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  7. Funny, I never thought about it from this angle when I traveled in India (being a man, I suppose the dynamics are different). Why travel alone? Let me add some thoughts to your post. I think traveling alone is wonderful because you’re more likely to socialize with new travelers (instead of just staying with your friends), your’e more likely to converse with local people, and it’s easier to learn the local language of the country you’re visiting.

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    • I agree those are great reasons to travel solo, and there are so many more. But in this post, I was trying to paint some arguments on why contrary to what’s popularly believed, travelling solo in India is not more scary than travelling anywhere else.

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  8. I travelled solo in India (around Maharashtra & Gujerat) in 2004 & had an amazing life changing experience. I’d definitely say that it wasn’t that tough; though there were certain times that I had to toughen up and fight for my way (eg. in the trains from Mumbai to Aurangabad). Great blog, btw!

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    • Thanks, and welcome to The Shooting Star 🙂

      Sounds lovely, and yes I know what you mean by having to toughen up. It’s all part of the experience!

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  10. I’ve traveled to India solo three times now. I met so many more locals going off on my own than when I did traveling in a group of people.

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  11. Well said and simply put.. i like the fact that you aren’t fighting, exclaiming or trying to hard to make this point.. just stating things in a very matter of fact manner.
    I’ve just come across your blog, but will definitely stick around considering I’m a passionate female traveller (still trying to break the corporate life mould) on a 5 year quest to discover India (of course in spurts and bursts)…
    also… it is true.. the people in Spiti are the BEST.. i was stuck in Rangrik trying to get to Kaza… best experience ever..

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    • Thanks Janita, I’d love to read more about your travels (where can I?). Oh yes, I can’t wait to go back to Spiti, especially after living in Delhi for almost 10 months now!

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  12. mallika says

    Hey!
    Its amazing what u r doing.
    I have travelled solo in manali..being a city girl born n bred in bombay, I crave fr the mountains each n every morning I wake up.
    A year ago I took off to manali..the train journey is long but the sights u get to see, the platforms u get to get of at fr 7mins at a time… All once in a lifetime experiances.
    Iv always wanted to make aife out of travel..and the urge for it has maximised since manali.
    I recently quit my not so corporate job in films as a fashion designer…buc as much as I love clothes, there’s waayy more to life then being stuck in the city.
    I collect shoes and agarbattis from each place iv been too–manali, hampi, rajasthan…but that’s a tiny collection I want to expand.
    About manali..if ur going places on foot and do not hav a vehical..staying out too much post sunset isn’t advisable. Locals r friendly…local kids are adorable…share you gummy bears with them..the itrigue and the smiles and giggles that come from it are precious.
    Eat trout, in everyway there is on the menu. Drink wine like a lady..local fruit and flower wine!
    Buy shoes n handbags.
    Steal apples..or get some1 to take u apple picking…eat apple pie everywhere u can..be a critic. It brings your tastebuds alive.
    But most of all- walk walk n walk by the side of the road with your eyes and ears on the river.

    I hope to travel solo more now that I of the rat race. Although a job in travel wouldn’t hurt, would it!

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  13. Mitzi says

    I traveled with a friend around India (both females and of Hispanic heritage). I read all those horror stories of what could go wrong and I honestly almost cancelled my trip. I won’t deny that I experienced a lot of culture shock but the people in a small city in Gujarat made me feel at home. I can honestly say it was the trip of a life time. India is wonderful and completely safe. I hope that I can return one day.

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    • Glad you didn’t cancel your trip, Mitzi! Sometimes, even living in India, travelling to certain parts is a bit of a culture shock, but that’s perhaps also the best part about travelling here; you never know what you’ll find. Come back soon 🙂

      Like

  14. Oh Shivya,

    Thank you thank you for this post! I nearly cancelled my plans to book my little solo trip to Delhi and Agra today, when reading the many horror and warninf stories. but after this post Im happy I will be buyin my ticket for my week in INDia. yay.

    Do you have more detailed stories ands for places like Agra, visiting the Taj Mahal and Dehli, solo and on a budget, with an inquisitive eye…. ? 🙂 Id love to read more

    Thanks!

    Like

  15. I agree with you Shivya. Having travelled across India alone, I rarely felt scared or as if I was in danger. Using your common sense and instinct always helps too, but plenty of people will help along the way.

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  16. Jacquelyn says

    Excellent post! I have taken the plunge and been allowed a 6 week career break from my soul sucking job to travel to India. (single female under 30!) I keep seeing scary facts / stories everywhere and my friends are not much help. But then I found your blog and feel sooooo much better thank you! I can’t wait for the trip. I’m scared and excited in pretty much equal measures, but I know once I am there, I will not want to come home! :o)

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  17. According to the stats, India is overcrowded. You may think once there you will be surrounded by many strangers. Yet, it is (very) easy to find places, streets where there is nobody (or almost).

    Like

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  20. sujata says

    Hi 🙂
    this was such a nice article. Quite contrary to all the dark and depressing articles about women travelling doing the rounds nowadays. I often visit your blog:). Uve sort of become a role model. Im a 25 yr old freshly graduated doctor struggling to get into specialisation and can only currently dream of travelling the way you do. Reading about your accounts gives me hope that one day i will succeed. 🙂 thank u so much!

    Like

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  22. Therese says

    Reblogged this on The Nomad Damsel and commented:
    India is a country I would love to revisit (not with a tour group) and this post gives me hope and courage!

    Like

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  25. All you’re 5 points are so true I’ve been to India and although they could be more open-minded about people with disabilities most of them are really nice.

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  27. Carla says

    Traveling to India by myself in one week!! I googles “Am I crazy for traveling solo to India” and I found your blog, and Im so grateful I did. Thank you for posting about your experience.

    P.s. where did you find pepper spray? I was thinking about getting it.

    Like

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  29. This is what I tell people time and again. India is not as bad as people think, not even close. We hear about 5 awful cases, but no one writes about all the wonderful experiences others have. We hear about how some guy tried to molest some girl, but we never hear about the other girl or guy who pushed the first guy off, and made sure the girl was safe.

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  32. Krishna says

    Hi Shivya,

    Glad you could quit the job and get on to something that you love! all the best wishes for your future.

    And yes you’re quite right with this post….India is not a scary place to travel alone for a female. mostly i have to travel all by myself either for social visits or office related trips and my experience so far has always been good if not excellent. I am in a habit to take the night travel by bus as it saves me day’s time and believe me I have never faced any problem since 10 years almost now! lol!

    Keep going!
    take care
    Krishna

    Like

    • nandini says

      Baby..way you go..you got me in you..only thing is I cannot leave my job and go backpacking.I did last year 10 days trip alone to europe..I loved myself soo much,seriously confidence boomed.And now I am back in India , want to quit everything and start embarking on journey,I do want to become a travell correspondent . Let me know where shall I start

      Like

  33. mousumi das says

    thanks shivya this writing make women confident about solo traveling. I feel too when I travel solo.

    Like

  34. Excellent blog!! Thanks for clearing many doubts about the country being safe and motivating females like me to undertake a solo trip! 🙂

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  35. Angélica María García Estupiñán says

    Short time ago I got the idea of traveling to India but I have to admit that it scares me a bit. India is almost sexteen thousand kilometers far from my country, Colombia, and I have been reading a lot and your blog has been really helpful. And your travels has been very inspiring to me. Thank you.
    Greetings.

    Like

  36. ” big bad city of Delhi ”

    Hi Shivya

    actually its not true , if you hv passion to look under the skin than you can easily find out the truth .. I would personally request you to please remove these line from your statements, which is not fact..
    since the delhi is Capital of India and press are more free & accessible here, the things are more highlighted & get the space in headline as compare to any other part of India ..

    Secondly Delhi is surrounded by many different States within its 250km of distance .

    I cam from Army background family and my father was an Army officer , I got the chance to travel & live in many part of India & this fact I m sharing based on my piratical experience..

    The best test to know about this fact is . one should buy the daily newspaper of all the major metro Cities and compare them self that how many news will gets the space in National headline

    Regards
    pk
    india7503233477@yahoo.com

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  38. I think it’s all about your confidence and the level of knowledge that you have about the place you are travelling to. If you appear tensed, you are an easy prey. Plus, having a background check about the place, its safety levels will also help you.

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  39. I would really recommend travelling solo because of the following:

    1. You can decide where and when you want to go without worrying what the other person travelling with you might feel. In summary your travel plan becomes more flexible!
    2. The journey becomes more adventurous.
    3. It allows you to interact with more people and sometime make friends.
    4. Expense is less.

    The only challenge is getting a good click of yourself (other than taking a selfie) as you will be busy taking picture of your surroundings 😀

    I did a solo trip to Gujarat last December and it was an unforgettable trip. During my visit to white desert and Bhuj city I hired a taxi to see around the places. By the end of the day me and the driver became good friends. Later he and his wife invited me to their house for dinner and had a lip-smacking ​Kutchy food :-). So I agree with Shivya that India not a scary place the way some people describe. Need to step out of your comfort zone and meet people!

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  42. I’ve been traveling solo in India for almost 5 years now, and I’ve never found it unsafe. All those worries and apprehensions are in the head, that create boundaries. Once we step out, it is not too bad. Everything can be managed. But I do feel that I need to be alert and use my brains all the times when I travel solo.

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  43. it has been constantly drilled into our minds that its not safe for girls to travel alone,this was a really interesting read thank you so much

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  44. It’s feels so good to know that India is still safe for a woman to go on trips alone. I have travelled alone for my office trips. Although I didn’t face any difficult situation so far, but I had to be aware of my surroundings all the time. Yes, it’s true that most of the time fears exist only in our heads. but what to do?This is also a fact that women become the victims of heinous crimes in this country.

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  45. WOW! It’s beyond wonderful what You’re doing!!! And yes. I wholeheartedly agree with this post. My son moved to India and I went to visit him for a couple of months. Along with hanging out with my son and learning his world there, I took some solo day trips and was amazed at how kind and helpful people were. Once when I got off a bus and wasn’t certain where to go, one of the men in the bus yard walked me quite a few blocks across town to the stop I needed to be at. I was handed off to a gentleman waiting for the bus himself with what the strictest of orders that he make sure I got on the appropriate bus. When my bus arrived the entire group at the stop sounded the alarm, made certain I got on and told the ticket taker where I needed to get off. It was wonderful. A couple of times I started to get up at the wrong stop and the entire bus population shouted out, “Not yet! Not yet!” Charming and so kind.

    The last 2 weeks of my trip my son insisted that I travel to see mount Arunachala alone. He said You cannot go to India without making a solo pilgrimage. So I did. An entire night on a train, an entire day on a bus and there I was. Again and again and again caring, kind people helped me along. My son made certain I dressed culturally respectable and that my behavior showed respect to the culture. India is absolutely mindblowing. Life OUTLOUD in more colors than can be imagined on every level. And yes, I agree that it is absolutely safe to travel there as a woman alone.

    You ROCK!!! Thank You for Your amazing, inspirational blog! I’ll be back!!!

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