Travelling in India as a female seems to have some sort of taboo attached to it, but I can honestly say it shouldn't. Of course, my parents were slightly short of terrified when I announced my plan to spend a few weeks exploring some of this epic country, however I somehow convinced them that it would be 100% safe, and I was. Once there, India stole my heart; it’s a place like no other with diverse cultures and stunning scenery - I would encourage anyone to head out there as there really is an experience for everyone. So what 10 tips can I offer you to make sure you have the best time in India? Simply read on.
Don’t go out alone at night
It’s same as it is in any country around the world - if you’re in an area of town that can be considered slightly ‘dodgy’ then don’t go out alone at night. It’s very easy to grab yourself a taxi or tuk tuk home, especially considering how cheap they are here. It’s not like in the UK where you have to consider taking out a loan to cover a 20 minute journey home after a night out, it’ll cost you a few tuppence and you’re home safe to whichever hostel or hotel you’re staying at.
In a world where the women dress conservatively, don’t wear your best hotpant shorts and crop top. I am a believer that every woman should be able to dress how they want without it saying, ‘I’m asking for it’, but unfortunately the world isn’t quite there yet. So just play it safe and cover up to your knees and preferably your shoulders. The local women of Delhi always look unbelievably stylish and graceful to me, yet they’re pretty much covered up completely and stay cool in the Indian sun.
Again on the topic of clothing, when heading to the temples show respect by fully covering your arms and legs. You should also remember to take your shoes and socks off to enter, just follow in the locals footsteps as it’s a great way to ensure you follow the best temple etiquette!
In light of recent events I kinda feel I have to remind you all of the importance of showing full and complete respect to their gods. You don’t have to be religious to understand that the Gods worshipped by people all around the world can be as real as you and me to them. Take an interest in each religion you have a chance to immerse yourself in, the art and culture that has sparked from them is beautiful in so many ways. Just because religion can be the cause of war doesn’t mean it’s worship is hateful.
Confidence is key! If you can appear to know exactly where you’re going and exactly what you’re doing, it’ll make others nervous of taking advantage. You can convince people into thinking you’ll call them up on any trick in the book generally preventing them from trying even if you are 100% confused.com about where you are and what you’re doing. I’ve been shot at, abandoned in the middle of nowhere in Laos - the list could go on. The point? If you bluff it you should be ok.
You’ll be surprised at how far a smile can go! If you’re friendly and just generally happy to chat you never know what kind of wonderful situations you’ll end up in. The local women love to chat about their lives and are desperate to learn about ours. In Delhi, there was a fascination with how much they want India to grow, the younger generation calling themselves the ‘new India’, yet they make sure to tell you that their culture is definitely going on the ride with it. By having the opportunity to chat away with them, I learnt a lot about what to look out for in certain areas and was able to see the country through their eyes - truly something money cannot buy.
Bottled Water Only / Watch what you Eat
The clue is in the title - while in India it is bottled water only and always. Make sure you check the seal as you never know if it’s been tampered with. You seriously do not want a case of Delhi Belly whenever you can prevent it. Remember not to have ice cubes too, as it’s generally made from tap water unless you are in one of the top hotels and will cause the same ramifications.
The same situation applies with food too - be careful about what you eat such as salads as they’ll have been washed in water too. Spicy curries are generally a safe bet if your stomach can take them as the spice (I’m told) will kill some bacteria! The food here is divine so you want to eat it - don’t be nervous simply play it safe and have fun. Perhaps stock a little imodium & rehydration sachets too as you don’t want to end up in an Indian hospital if you can help it...
Credit Card Payments
This is a simple no no. Paying anywhere other than a hotel with any electronic payment is foolish. Life can be tough in India, and when they see western tourists coming in with plenty, I can understand the temptation to take more money than agreed if not all of it. With this in mind, always settle an agreed rate before taking your money out to pay, unless it is to show that this really is ‘all you’ve got’. Please only play this card if it’s true though, if they see you’re lying they certainly will not back down.
This is the best tool in your arsenal in any situation. Common sense will generally guide the way, and you’ll figure out fast if this is something you can talk yourself out of, or if you’ll need to walk (or run!) your way out of.
Do your best not to have accidents causing an open wound, but if they do occur ensure to keep it clean and covered until healed over enough that dirt won’t get in. I know you would do this everywhere but India’s idea of hygiene and cleanliness is different than ours, with sewage waste in the streets and water sources. DON’T let this put you off, it’s not bad just different! All you need to do is take extra care when problems arise, have a reasonably advanced first aid kit if heading off the beaten track, get the correct immunisations before you leave and use a nice amount of antibacterial gel!
Join a Group
If all else fails, just join a group! Either meet a few people in your hostel / hotel or find a tour group to hop on with. It’s not worth having a shit time to prove a point, some of the trips by companies such as G Adventures are absolutely incredible. You still travel via local transport and have an authentic experience, only with 8 - 12 other like minded individuals and a local expert who helps out if you run into any difficulties. Feel free to ask though if you need any advice with this though!