I can’t explain precisely why, since forever, I was infatuated with going to India, to the extent that it was on the second place of my top 3 countries to visit. The problem was precisely the fear. That fear of, simply, being a woman.
I arrived to India a few months after the brutal attack to Amanat (a student from Delhi named like that by the media), who died a few days after six men put an iron bar inside her vagina during a group rape, while traveling in a moving bus, from which they threw her away. I arrived at a time when all the backpacker horror legends about India have risen more strongly than ever from the newspapers pages. But there I was. And I wouldn’t go back.
And you shouldn't either. If you are a woman, forget to pack the fear in your backpack and just go!
Here are some tips that made my life easier:
Tip # 1. In India do as the Indians do
Even when I would love to change many things about women condition in India, for once, I decided to follow the crowd. India is one of the most complex countries on the face of the Earth (probably the most complex one), so pretend to understand its culture in a short time is naively utopian, to say the least (if not stupid) and to change it... no way. For respect and for your own safety, behave as they do: cover yourself, be respectful at temples, avoid to walk alone at night. There will be opportunities to share your opinion with other people and help to make a change in smarter ways than swimming against a current of 1.2 billion people.
Tip # 2. Before going to India, get married!
Before going to India, get married. Do not stick to a simple boyfriend. That’s not enough: GET MARRIED. Many Indian men seem to have no respect for women, but they seem to have respect for marriage. I understand that many Indian guys may think that foreign women come by default with vaginas that don’t discriminate anybody, and they will try to hook up with you at all cost, but only with the verbal hologram of an imaginary husband is enough to keep them away most of the times.
Tip # 3. Travel at least in 3rd class
Overall, India is very, very cheap, so it really worth paying a little bit more and travel in 3AC or 2AC in case of trains, where families often travel with you and you will feel safer (some of them will even share their food with you).
Tip # 4. Yeah, take a taxi or a rickshaw, but…
1.The safest way is to catch one of the police prepaid taxis or rickshaws (yes, they are managed by the police), located in major train stations and airports.
2. Ask the people at the hotel to pick you up at the train station, especially if you are arriving at night. Some hotels offer this service for free.
3. If you have no choice but to get on a taxi or rickshaw on the street, look for the license number (usually, it is written with white paint inside the vehicle), take your cell phone and make a very loud ghost phone call. Remember to scream to your husband (yes, to your husband) that you are already on your way and you’re in the taxi number XXXXX.
4. NEVER, NEVER EVER allow the driver to be with someone else in the taxi or in the rickshaw at the same time as you are there.
Tip # 5. Never look them in the eyes
Men interpret that if you are looking at them you are inviting them. Avoid to stare at them the same way they stare at you.
Tip # 6. Defend yourself
As long as you are in a public place with enough people around you (which is not unlikely to happen in the second most populous country worldwide), just verbally defend yourself if you don’t like something. In India, what people may think of you is super important, it’s a society strongly based on the family and on the opinion of others, so if a man does something that bothers you, just say it very load. He knows he is doing wrong and he may even LITERALLY run away from you.
Tip # 7. Guys may touch your breast with their elbows. Watch out!
In fact, it was not until I sat down to write this that I confirmed it, meanwhile I was reviewing some other articles from solo female travelers in India to be sure to contribute as much as I could. At that time, I had doubts because it seemed such a bizarre way to touch me that I didn’t know how to react. But some of them may touch you in that way. Watch out!
Tip # 8. Lose the fear
Thousands of women have traveled alone in India and thousands will continue doing it. Chances are that if you go to India, you will survive. As I survived as well. So just go to India and lose the fear of, simply, being a woman!