Just like in every other country, safe and smart travel is important, especially for female travellers. Here are our top tips for female backpackers heading to India.
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Book the most convenient flight, not the cheapest
Smart travel for your trip to India starts before you’ve even arrived in the country. When booking flights, avoid picking the cheapest ones out there, as these flights usually have very early departures and very late arrivals. As a female backpacker, venturing through the streets at night is generally not considered a great idea, especially if you are on your own. Like in any country, the not-so-nice characters tend to be more present during the night, so arriving as a confused, jetlagged foreigner can put you in a vulnerable position when it’s dark. We would advise spending a little bit more money on flights to make sure that you arrive during daylight hours.
Arriving during the day will make your journey from the airport to your accommodation so much easier and less stressful than it would be in the dark. But if you can’t avoid a nighttime arrival, ask your accommodation to organise a pick up for you and get them to address you by name so you can be sure it’s for you. Many hotels and hostels will be more than happy to accommodate your needs.
Stay connected, stay safe
The Indian government has created an incredible system for foreigners to stay connected while travelling in India. Trabug offers travellers an easy and affordable way to access the internet, make calls and send texts while exploring the country. As Wi-Fi connection isn’t always reliable in India, this easy access to data is the easiest way to make sure you’re always contactable, without incurring huge roaming charges. It will ease your mind knowing that you’re not off the radar, especially if you’re travelling alone.
The phone also comes with pre-installed apps to find the best locations near you, see where you are on Google Maps, easily call a reliable cab service, and have all the Indian emergency service numbers at your fingertips.
If you choose not to go down the Trabug route, it’s a good idea to send your full itinerary or route to your friends or family and organise to contact them every 2 or 3 days. That way everyone back home will know that you’re safe, even if you can’t get in touch all the time!
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Know what to wear, it’ll help you pack right
India is a very religious country and perspectives are relatively conservative there, although it does vary depending on what area you are in. It’s advised to respect the culture and cover up a bit, but that’s not to say you have to be completely covered from head to toe! The most important areas for women to cover up are the shoulders and knees. In Goa, it’s acceptable to wear a bikini, shorts and tank top at the beach, but advised to cover up again as you make your way back through the town.
To adapt to the heat and religious values, we recommend loose-fitting t-shirts made from thin, airy materials. V-neck t-shirts are a great way to cover up but still keep it cute. Pair these with bottoms that go below the knee, maxi skirts, or even leggings. If you do go down the leggings route, make sure your top is long enough to cover your bum to avoid offending anyone. Culottes and loose maxi trousers are a great choice if you don’t feel like rocking a maxi skirt the whole time.
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Pack your bag half full and buy clothes there
Many travellers recommend the clothes that are on sale in Indian markets, not only because they’re bright, fun and great souvenirs, but also because they’re very practical. Anything you buy in India will be made of a material well suited to the hot climate, and you can wear them knowing you’re adhering to the religious views. It’s natural to want to buy things during your adventure around India, so we advise only packing your backpack half full. This will give you plenty of room for your new purchases and it won’t make your bag unbearably heavy. And, this way, you won’t be carrying around clothes that you end up realising you can’t wear. It’s a win-win!
The two most useful items of clothing to have in your ensemble are a sarong and a scarf, both of which you can pick up for super cheap when you get to India! Much like in Southeast Asia, sarongs are perfect for wrapping around you when visiting religious sites like temples. Having a sarong in your day bag will help you if you find you’ve misjudged your outfit and are feeling a little too showy. It will also help massively if you change your plans and decide to visit a temple, that way you won’t have to trek back to your accommodation to change!
Some places require your head to be covered for entry, so a light scarf is a great solution. They’re also great to throw over your shoulders if you feel like you need to cover up or keep it as a head scarf to protect you from the sun. They can even become great make-shift pillows when you’re travelling, not to mention the gorgeous colours and patterns they come in!
Learn these 10 useful phrases (or at least have them on your phone!)
How much is this? – Yeh kitane ka hai?
Lower the price please – Daam kum kijiye kripya
I want a small/big size – Mujhe chotta/ bada size chahiye
I don’t want it! – Mujhe nahi chahiye!
Go away! – Chaley Jao!
Help! – Bachao!
Can you help me – Kya aap meri madaad karenge
I need a bottle of water – Mujhe ek bottle paani chahiye
Where is the toilet – Toilet kaha hai
I do not wish to go to that place – Main udhar jana nehi chahta
Consider buying travel insurance
It’s always a good idea to buy travel insurance no matter where you’re going because the best planners can never predict what’s really going to happen! Flights can be cancelled, and baggage can be lost, leaving you with a giant hole in your pocket. And no matter how well you follow our ultimate guide to backpacking in India, there’s always a chance that you might get a little sick on your trip. Most of the time, the things that go wrong when people travel are out of your hands, so take control of the one thing you can and buy travel insurance! In fact, many travel companies – including us! – require proof of purchase when using joining their tours. Don’t know where to start? We’re big fans of the insurance World Nomads provides.
Book your place on a group tour
A quick Google search for “backpacking India female” will bring up a list of articles about whether or not India is safe for women to travel around. But backpacking as a solo female has its pros and cons anywhere in the world! If you’re apprehensive to travel on your own, but your wanderlust is too hard to resist, why not book your place on a group tour?
We have recently launched our complete India Adventure Tour, where you can explore all that north and south India has to over! Our group tours take you to all the top destinations, go off-the-beaten-track and are jam-packed full of super exciting activities. We even take care of all accommodation and inter-city transport. With The Dragon Trip, you can experience all the things you would as a solo backpacker in India, just with the safety of a group with you! All you have to do is book your flight… so what are you waiting for!?
Want to find out more about travelling in India as a woman? Solo female traveller, Anna, has over 6 years of travel experience, many of which were spent in India. Check out her blog, Global Gallivanting, for more great tips and brilliant blogs!