TRAVEL SOLO IN INDIA
I am here to encourage you to travel solo in India. It actually liberates you. If you have ever felt limited or suffer from lack of confidence at any point of time, then you need to take only one small step to overcome it! And that is, to take the decision to travel solo 🙂 – to a place where you have always wanted to go. It might be with a group, but necessarily without an already known friend! Crazy, right? Well that is how we have always wanted to live, right?
INDIA IS NOT JUST DIRT, DUST AND DANGER
There exists numerous myths about India. But those who have traveled its length and breadths are the ones who have come to know that it is not what one thinks about it. The media is not the only thing that India is made of. It is made of colors and hues of human life – spirituality, festivals, yoga, mouth watering cuisines, diversity, colorful clothes, mesmerizing tea and so much more. These are the colors you add to your life when you set out to explore India.
CRAZY BUT NOT CARELESS!
Well we have decided to embark on our dream solo travel. So we take as much care so that we create the best memories. So we would take all possible steps to travel safe.
Here I would be listing down few pointers to take into account for your safety. Few points are in view of a female international travelers, which are equally applicable to all of us natives and to males also.
So, here are 14 tips for traveling safe and solo –
CHOICE OF DESTINATIONS AND SEASON
India constitutes 28 states and 9 union territories. Each state has its unique language, custom and culture. They have different festival times. In some places the festival times are the most desirable whereas it is advisable to avoid few festivals in certain states. For example, it is better to avoid traveling to Northern states during the Holi festival (festival of colors). Thus I would suggest to browse through the internet for the said information. During Holi try to get out as less as possible from your place of stay.
India experiences monsoon season characterized by rains during most of the times. Avoid beaches during monsoon to make the most of those places. We had decided to go to Andaman island during an off season to fit our budget. But we eventually dropped the idea as it would have jeopardized the very objective of being near the beach or into the sea. Whereas few hill stations like that of the Sahyadri range are best during the monsoon.
Book your most Intercity transports and accommodation beforehand. Traveling for short distances will be more comfortable by rail than bus rides. Please know the various classes and their respective facilities of the railways before booking a particular class. Please note that unless ‘AC’ is in the name of seat category it would not be Air Conditioned. For example, the 2nd sleeper class does not have AC.
International travelers are always thought to be quite affluent. And Indian public transport is abound with pickpockets. Thus use a very ordinary and inconspicuous bag. This will help to keep the gadgets inside the bag safe from pick pockets. Also keep your money in different places. You can make pockets in your inner wears to keep money safer.
Interact more with locals
When we interact more with the locals help us in more than one way. Try to interact with locals especially women. It will help to know what are considered kinda taboos for the place.
You can discuss the choice of routes to reach to your next destination or the preferred mode of transport or the rates of cabs and other alternatives of transport with your hotel manager. Most of them are more than happy to help. Many a times they know reliable cab drivers. So always communicate more and decide as your guts tells you.
In public transport keep the conductor or the bus assistant informed where do you want to get down. Most times they will tell you once you reach the place. In case of any query always take views of more than one unrelated persons. This way you can be sure that one is not trying to mislead you.
learn to speak the 4W’s and 1 H in local language
Learning few local words, like all 4 W’s and 1 H i.e. what, where, when, why and how will help you in the long run. For example, to ask direction for any destination for example, to understand what our cab driver is speaking on phone. Additionally, in India languages are much interconnected except the accent and little modification. So getting one language may possibly help you at other areas of the country.
Prefer directions from a Traffic police
It is the best to take the assistance of the traffic police for directions, choice of transport, distance to the destinations and many other information. They can guide you to available government facilities.
Dressing tips are more for the female travelers. Please excuse me if I sound like a MCP 😕
But the truth is that many more than one international travelers would have experienced ogling gazes from Indian males.
Try dress as much possible as the land you visit. The closer you look like a localite, the less you are likely to stand out as a foreigner, and thus sound a less novice to the land.
Different states have different local costumes 😱 In such case let me give you an universal formula. Get yourself the costume called ‘Salwar kameej’ meaning a ‘pant and a long top’ from local market. Its preferable that the kameej/Kurta/shirt has sleeves (not a sleeve less one). The long kurta alone can serve the purpose with the usual trouser beneath.
Especially during nights wear clothes with least display of skin, like short skirts or shorts. Do not bother if Indians around you are wearing them.
GET INTERNET CONNECTION FROM RELIABLE SERVICE PROVIDER
Get a reliable internet connection from a good service provider of the country in order to remain in connectivity as much as possible especially when you are in move. Currently, Airtel is doing fairly well. It depends on places also.
If you have to travel alone in private vehicle, then it has to be only at day time. Check the driver’s credentials before getting on-board. After getting into the vehicle, the first thing I do, is to check if the door can be opened. This ensures that there is no child lock applied to the doors.
Secondly, share about your next destination and vehicle number with your close friends before you start the journey and before you go off the connectivity network.
Save the Google map directions before embarking on such a journey. Before you start your journey ask the driver about the route he is going to take. Remain attentive towards milestones and match them with your map.
food and drinks
Never accept any food items from strangers or newly acquired friends. Keep your food items always with you. Always have bottled water with seals. This expense will prevents you from having bigger expense of ill-health. Indian foods are spicy. Latin and baked dishes are safe bet. Also, “south Indian food” like dosa and idlis are also not spicy.
Avoid having drinks or intoxicating objects. It is better to have them alone in your hotel room where you can ensure your safety. Never have intoxicating things with strangers or newly acquired friends, however noble they might be.
The Indian rupee being lesser in value than the USD. In order to get a fair deal, take rates from more than one place and bargain the cost.
Do an extensive research on internet to get reviews of the place, and the accommodation. Have your parameters very clear and search accordingly. Travel sites, reviews and blogs are very helpful in getting an all round idea. Look out for any other solo traveler’s review. Decide only after reading multiple blogs. Do not book because the reviewer liked it. Also, you might want to refer to a review from your country-person. Don’t let your parameters go out of mind. Refer latest reviews because they may very well vary with time and seasons. For example, in a busy season the service or taste of food might go up or down than other times.
Location of your stay
If you find your accommodation is located at an isolated place please change it. On the very first day, at a new place, manage your schedule in such a way that you reach the hotel before it’s night. This will help you to gauge the surroundings of your stay in a better way.
Room and bathroom
Check the mirrors that they are real mirrors and not two way mirror. You can do the fingernail test to ascertain it. (http://www.wikihow.com/Tell-if-a-Mirror-Is-Two-Way-or-Not)
Many bathrooms in hotel or during travel may not have tissue rolls. It is advisable to carry it.
If you are traveling and staying alone at a place, it need to be easily accessible from the main road. When I was traveling to Kerala, I like a place very much due to very good reviews. But I noticed that it was situated in a sort of an island. To be able to reach the main road, one needs to take a boat to cross a backwater stream. My movement would be constrained by the availability of the boat. Thus I dropped the idea of choosing that place to stay.
Availability of vehicles nearby
On similar lines, it is also advisable to stay at a place which is near to a vehicle depot or stand. It makes it easy to commute to various places on rental vehicles like rickshaws. And, it would be easier for you to travel back to your hotel as the vehicles would easily agree to go to such a place.
WHAT’S IN THE PURSE?
What to keep in purse – id cards, name, phone number, local emergency phone numbers, phone numbers of family and close friends, pepper spray, phone charger, band aids, other frequently used medicines apart from cosmetic bag.
TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
All said and done, gut instincts are stronger than any facts. So rely on them.