If you ever happen to be a solo traveler looking to discover new frontiers, chase business opportunities, fly off to the orange horizon to unwind and relax, then nothing is as important to contemplate and secure as your safety during the voyage. Sadly enough, we women do face bigger obstacles than men when travelling alone.
Do Proper Planning
Anticipate unwanted situations or conditions and be prepared beforehand so that you can have a safer and more enjoyable trip. Just to inform you, theft and harassment are the two biggest concerns for women safety while travelling alone in India.
First of all, research to your heart’s content. Know as much as you can about the place you would be visiting like female visitors count, administrative efficiency, women helpline, police station location, general perception about place etc. Based on your research, formulate a risk-management stratagem dealing with hazards you should be aware of and precautions you should take.
Be prepared so you do not have to rely on others.
We have pondered over the issue of women safety when travelling alone and compiled ten important safety tips for you (apart from carrying the best quality pepper spray available in the market in your part of the world) so you can rest assured you have done your duty as the cautious and responsible woman you are.
1. Do Advance Booking
Throughout your itinerary, pick a reputable lodge and book in advance, especially if you expect to arrive late at night. This will reduce down the risk you will otherwise face while hunting down for space in the middle of the night.
2. Be Covert in the Hotel
Keep your room number and location private. Keep your key out of view. Do not accept a room if the receptionist calls out your room number out loud. Be wary of people within hearing distance who may use your hotel room information to call you or get access to your room. Ask for a room above the ground floor, near the elevator and away from staircases. Never leave your window open.
3. Be Overt in the Hotel
Leave the television on and the “do not disturb” sign on your doorknob when you are out to give the illusion that the room is occupied. When you return to your room, secure the windows and balcony doors; check the room thoroughly before locking yourself in. Also, make use of rubber-wedge door stoppers to prevent possible forced entry.
4. When going out, Be Conscious
Carry cash, a map and a guidebook. Keep helpline numbers on speed-dial (181 for women helpline, 100 for police). Always try to travel light so as to protect yourself against theft of money and valuables. You would be less vulnerable when you are not struggling with a lot of luggage. Always look confident and keep your head up while walking. Be cautious about the milieu and keep an eye out for bag-snatchers, pickpockets and con artists (they are not called ‘artists’ without reason). Avoid listening to music as it can distract you from your surroundings. Study a street map before going out and avoid opening a map in a public area.
Don’t be too friendly or too reserved. Engage in normal talks when only when invited. Avoid going out alone with new friends or strangers – they may be good, may be bad but you don’t know.
5. Ensure apt Apparel and Appearance
If you’re a foreigner travelling in India, make sure you dress modestly to lower attention from men. Observe what the local women wear and imitate them or just put-on salwar kurta or saree which are common dresses of Indian women. Wear a (real or fake) wedding ring. Avoid exposing cameras, jewelry and other showy accessories that may suggest you as a wealthy tourist. As a matter of fact, wearing Indian wardrobe will invite appreciation and affection towards you from the natives.
6. Unleash the Porcupine within
If anyone encroaches your personal space or tries something when you resist his advances start screaming, dial speed-dial number and act crazy if the situation demands it, without caring about seeming foolish or making a scene. You may carry personal security alarm with a strident sound or wear a whistle as a necklace.
7. Be Martial if you can
You sure would set sail with added confidence after taking a self-defense course for women. Failing that, try to educate yourself on personal safety devices. Since most of these devices are prohibited to carry while flying, you can mail order the device and have it delivered to your hotel’s concierge in advance. Learn use of things like pepper spray, stun guns for self defense. Install anti-theft app on mobile, buy anti-theft shoulder bags and hire personal bodyguard(s) if visiting a dangerous place or dealing with serious issue.
8. Care your Essentials the most
Going to beaches in bikini may be normal in western countries but not in India. Avoid going to the beach at night. Also, when going out to the beach or pool carry your essentials in a compact waterproof pouch with a neck or wrist strap. You can also leave important items in your hotel safe.
9. Do not Eat. Do not Drink. Do not Smoke
Safety tips and self-defense are useful till you’re conscious. That’s why never accept snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from strangers, or new friends so to say. Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers or they may dare to spike it. Minimize alcohol consumption and avoid use of illegal drugs altogether to be on the safe side.
10. About Taxis, Trains, and Tours
Safety is most important for women in India when travelling in Indian trains and buses.
Its better to ask your hotel for taxi or get recommend taxi services so that you never need to grab an unlicensed cab on the street. Never get out of your car if another vehicle bumps into it. Thieves often fake accidents as an artifice to loot you. It is rather best to wait for the police to arrive. In a taxi, sit in the back behind the driver. Avoid travelling in train compartments and bus with very few people in it. Better get AC tickets for comfortable and safe journey. Rather than going alone, joining a sightseeing tour to experience the sights of a city at night is not a bad idea.
Your Safety is the First Priority. Never Compromise on That
Although we presented ten invaluable safety tips for women travelling alone in India as we promised, we cannot afford to leave out minute things that sometimes make major impact like preferring women-only taxis where available, avoiding hitchhikes, avoiding a meeting with anyone in your room, remembering to ask the concierge about areas to avoid on a trip and scanning all your documents to save in an e-mail address you can access anywhere.
Traveling is no doubt transformative and indispensable for personal growth but it comes with taking calculated risks. So, trust your instincts and be in constant touch with your family back home who should be aware of your itinerary and other details like your flight and ticket information (these bits of information could be crucial in tracking you down if you don’t return as per the plan). We wish you have great stories to share with your friends, and us, when you return. Bon Voyage!