So you’ve ignored all travel warnings about India’s capital city, overlooked all evidence pointing against safety, discarded all perceptions thrown at you, and decided to move your life to Delhi. Brilliant.
Here are 9 tips for surviving life in Delhi as a single woman, compiled after my five-month-long love & hate relationship with the city.
1. Use protection.
Not that protection. Get yourself a pepper spray if you’re female, whether or not you have male company. In a city whose reputation precedes it, a tiny bottle in your purse can elevate you from a victim to a brave soul in your head, and as you’ll soon realize, you’re only as safe as you think you are.
Practical tip: You can buy a pepper spray for INR 500 or less at any chemist store or pharmacy in Delhi
2. Find a house.
This one isn’t fun, especially if your budget isn’t sky-rocketing, and surprisingly, expats seem to have it easier than Indians in a house-hunt (yes, in India). Join groups like Yuni Net, and room-sharing sites, but beware of sleazy Indian men who try to offer you their house. Don’t settle for the first relatively good house you find; house agents typically show you pigeon-holes at first, and then an exorbitantly priced average house. Trust your gut when it comes to landlords / house owners.
Practical tip: Avoid agents if you can, and if you hire one, remember that the standard agent fee is 15 days rent, not one month.
3. Get a room.
Public displays of affection are not well received in public places or on the streets, not even holding of hands. Refrain from it, unless you want jobless men to perform a cheap Hindi song just for you (in no rhythm, I promise) or old aunties to shoot you down with their “shameless people” looks. I admit it’s worth one try as part of the Delhi experience.
Practical tip: In my observation, Delhi has some up-market areas where PDA is considered part of the ‘new’ culture. Go find them yourself.
4. Just Dial.
When in doubt, Just Dial to reach the Google of the offline world in Delhi. It’s a phone service that helps you find any practical information, including food joints near your area, home delivery services, bus companies, and the name or location of anything you can need. This brilliant service is available in all major Indian cities while you’re on the road too.
Practical tip: Just Dial +91 8888 8888 for any practical information in Delhi.
5. Travel first class.
That’s how we proudly refer to the women-only coach in the Delhi metro. You don’t want to be pushed around like a lost luggage trolley, or subject yourself to the crowd, the odor, or the stares in the ‘everyone’ compartment aka third class. And no, third class on the metro is not part of the Delhi experience.
Practical tip: The first coach of every Delhi metro train is for women, and is clearly indicated by signs on each station.
6. Beat Delhi belly.
As a rule of thumb, indoor food joints bustling with people can be assumed to have fresh food. Trust food reviews on Zomato, and use it to find Delhi’s hidden food havens. Most street food stalls & carts, crowded or not, lead you down the Delhi belly road, thanks to the smoke, dust & smog in the Delhi sky. If street food must be tried, look for hygienic alternatives like Haldiram & Bikanerwala.
Practical tip: Delhi has some lovely hidden cafes with a cozy ambiance & good food. Use Zomato to unearth them.
7. Know your night buddy.
The majority of indecent incidents in Delhi happen after hours, when pedestrians recede into their cars and homes, and the streets lie deserted. Book a Meru Cab each time you anticipate a late night; it’s the most reliable and professional cab service in Delhi in my personal experience, followed by the Radio taxis run by the Delhi police.
Practical tip: To arrange a Meru Cab in Delhi, call 011-4422 4422. This cab service is available in other major Indian cities, with a change in the city code.
8. Join Twitterville.
Tweet your way to a social life in Delhi. The community has lots of free advice to spare. Admittedly, it has its share of sleazy men wanting to “do fraandship” but it won’t take you long to know how to filter them out. Many women & travellers in India are active on Twitter, making it a good source of social interaction, and often converting virtual tweeple to real friends.
Practical tip: As with any other social platform, trust your gut when it comes to taking a twitter friendship into the real world.
9. Escape on the weekend.
While Delhi is culturally & historically rich, trust a weekend away from the crowds of the city to rejuvenate your spirit. There are plenty of tourist trails and offbeat options, as well as rural retreats to keep you experimenting. The overnight volvo buses and trains will comfortably transport you into another world, literally.
Practical tip: It’s relatively safe for women to travel on major trails, especially in the mountain areas, but follow your instinct if you ever find yourself in a sticky situation.
Have you lived in Delhi? What would you add to the list?
Photo credits: Shashwat Nagpal & Supritam Ghosh
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Welcome to my blog, The Shooting Star. I’ve been called a storyteller, writer, photographer, digital nomad, “sustainability influencer,” social entrepreneur, solo traveller, vegan, sustainable tourism consultant and environmentalist. But in my heart, I’m just a girl who believes that travel – if done right – has the power to change us and the world we live in.
Great post, Shivya! Meru Cabs and JustDial are lifesavers (even in other cities in India)! And I’ve heard it’s a tough job looking for an apartment in Delhi, esp. Gurgaon.
On a side note, one of the starters of Zomato was a neighbour and childhood friend of mine! Glad to see it doing so well! 🙂
Thanks Abhijit, haven’t done the job-hunting bit (luckily) so can’t vouch for it, and I reckon there’s no easy way / tip for that.
Shivya, I love this post. The points hold good for most other major metros. And cheers, you are the only other woman in the world who uses the word fraandship 🙂
Thinking of doing a similar list for SG, what say?
Haha, fraandship only in reference to the unique species of fraand-makers in India 😉 I guess things are a lot more straight forward in Singapore. No battles there!
How are you? Wish you a very happy new year. Just going through the posts that I missed. I like this post on Delhi, very informative. I missed my annual trip to the Kumaon , so trying to make it up. Let me see if I can make a trip to Devprayag and Sarkhanda devi before I leave country again. Need to find out if I can approach Sarkhanda devi from Chamba as the road from Mussourie will be closed now.
Have a nice week ahead.
Thanks Ushnish, I’m not sure if it can be approached from Chamba, but perhaps India Mike will be able to help. Have fun!
PS: It’s Shivya.
This is just so freaking coincidental.I’ve got a chance to take up a new job in Delhi,and I’m seriously thinking about it.I’m a tamilian,with only a very basic understanding of hindi,but with a quest for adventure and travel.I was concerned about the safety aspect for women in delhi,more than not knowing the language.
Welcome to the Shooting Star, Vandhana 🙂 Yes, there’s a lot said about Delhi’s safety for women, but I’ve lived here 6 months without a single threat. Of course, you always have to keep your wits about you & not walk along isolated roads late at night – something you wouldn’t want to do in any other city either. So yes, welcome to Delhi in advance!
PS: It’s Shivya.
Yahyy,that sounds reassuring! My first priority is to find shared accomodation .Either a P.G or shared flat with other gals.I’m going to check out those sites you mentioned in your post and hope for the best.In case.I’d have to actually stay in Gurgaon,but I would most likely be visiting Delhi to roam around on weekends.In case you know any female pals looking for roomie,could you keep me posted?
Awesome Post! Loved every linbe of it even though i m nt a woman moving in Delhi! Have seen women going through such kind of travails here.
BTW- U mentioned some Upmarket Places where PDA is acceptable?may i know which are these? 😉
Haha, it’s more fun discovering them for yourself 😉
Thanks for the tip on the women only coach in Delhi metro.It certainly improved the metro experience!
Haha, anytime. There’s a reason we call it “first class” 😉
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This post is going to be so useful. I’ve been dreaming of visiting India, living there as well, for ages. I could have and should have visited already, but I didn’t think I was quite prepared for the culture shock and I wanted to be so I could enjoy my time in the country as much as possible. So I’ve gently prepared myself by visiting Europe, than Australia, than SE Asia first. I figured I would ease myself into such a big trip. I’ll be going with another lady traveler and I have to admit, for the first time ever I’m a bit nervous about traveling as a female. It’s nothing that would stop me from visiting, but tips like the ones you have given help me stay aware. Plus, the help with Delhi belly is brilliant!
Welcome to The Shooting Star, Bobbi! Perhaps no amount of reading can prepare you for the myriad of colors, people & chaos that is India. After 8 months of travelling all over the country, I’m now on to pen a post on why it isn’t so scary to travel solo in India – a lot just has to do with the pre-conceived notions we enter India with. Something tells me you’re going to love it 🙂
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awesome post shivya!moving to delhi is a task due to people talking about the risks!!but this post made it simpler !!thank yo !:D
I am new in Delhi and this post seems really informative for me….Thanks!!:)
n my first step after this would be a pepper spray!:P
Welcome to Delhi, Subha =) Hopefully you won’t ever need to use it, but it’s a confidence booster for sure!
Thank you so much for this indispensable info! I am moving to Delhi in few months and is in the process of brazing myself for the adventure of a lifetime!! 🙂
Glad you found the info useful, Li Ann! Welcome in advance to the city that you’ll both love and hate 🙂
Very well done Shivya…. I think it was a must written material for women who want to survive in Delhi…. specially nowadays…n thanks for vary information…..hats off to “daughter of mountain”…..
Glad you found it useful, Dharm!
I would like to add one more tip: If you are coming back home,say, after midnight, please make sure you are in a group or if not that, you are commuting in a four wheeler. I have had first hand experience in which these Haryanvi goonda type people tried to stop me when I was with four guy friends and the only distance I had to cover was between the multiplex and the auto rickshaw standing 20 feet away. I could get away easily thanks to the group of guys with me but things could get that bad in a place like Gurgaon. Having one’s own vehicle is the best thing. Sometimes girls think that having one male companion along will suffice. That is so not true here. Your male companion will most likely get beaten up if you are caught in some situation.
Thanks for sharing the experience, Neha. Point taken.
Having said that, I would also like to add that once you have made sure that you are in a trusted circle of people, you can enjoy virtually anything that you can in other metros like Mumbai. I have had absolutely no problems or hindrances and have in fact been using my Delhi stay to the fullest potential by frequently going out on trips to beautiful Himalayan locations as also on the heritage walks inside the city. Delhi is really really enjoyable when you have the right people around; just that, you have to be extra careful in the North. I have stayed here for 15 months till now and have no plans to go back to Pune ( from where I shifted here) anytime soon!
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Hey Shivya, great article and very useful tips. Will reblog on my site if you don’t mind- readers would love it!
Just one thing I would differ on- and that’s the street food. Delhi has such wonderful streetfood options, you would be missing a lot if you didn’t try them. I have it all the time and hardly ever get the Delhi belly. I think we just need to trust our instincts about the general cleanliness of any stall, and we would be fine. Otherwise all the fun of having chhole kulche in DU, puchkas in CR Park, and kebabs in Chandni Chowk would be lost!
To the tips provided by you, I’d like to add one more: women travelers to Delhi (foreigners and NRIs) could get in touch with a women’s venture (91-9717923793) prior to departure that will ensure SAFE STAY AND SAFE TRAVEL.
Although there had been many incidents happened in the passed with tourists but Delhi is safe until you are following safety norms.
I can’t thank you enough for posting this Shivya! I’m shifting to Delhi from Chennai in a month, and i still can’t find a place to stay. Although the easyroommate link you suggested is down, now I’m at least reassured enough to keep searching for one.