Last year, I chose to travel to India as a place to backpack for three months based only on the fact I wanted to see tigers and elephants. The more I read online and in Lonely Planet, the more I added to my list of things to do in this beautiful country.
It still blows my mind how many amazing sights there are in India. I wish I could bring all my friends and family here and start some kind of hippie commune, but for some reason people don’t want to or are afraid of backpacking India alone and a trip to India is the last place they’ll plan.
Amrtisar, at the Golden Temple
I first was introduced to the mystical land when I saw “A Little Princess” Shockingly, no one thought of that movie when I said I was headed to India; they thought of Slumdog Millionaire and the headlines of rape and corruption.
I do read the news, and I am not that naïve, but I still had no fear of traveling in India alone. I know India Tourism does everything it can to combat that, but sometimes it looks like they brush the troubles under the rug which scares people. The only way to know how it’ll be is to travel India yourself.
A Little Princess, such a cute movie!
Traveling through the sub-continent solo
I made friends, I rode a yak in the Himalayas, saw the cremations in Varanasi, took in the view of the Taj Mahal, stood in the Ganges, became a masseuse, rode an elephant, toured through jungles, met the love of my life…
… and didn’t get hurt/scared/molested by anyone.
Rowing a boat down the Ganges in Varanasi
Sweaty and crammed onto a train… it’s not the most glamorous transportation unless you pay for first class
I rode buses alone, was surrounded by only men on multiple trains and bus journeys in India, and I never felt unsafe. There was ONE butt grab on a bus in Delhi and after making a scene the guy was embarrassed and the whole bus had turned against him.
My advice in these situations if there are women around they WILL be on your side, so always make a scene. Indians, really everyone, hate a scene. As a female traveling solo in India you should be extra aware of your surroundings; but I think that is the same in every country.
Hanging out in a Rickshaw
Trips to Bombay still leave me on the “hate” side of the spectrum, but I’ve never been a big city person. I truly believe it made me a stronger person and gave me more patience in my daily life. Now that I’m living here, my list has only grown longer of the places I want to visit. I still haven’t seen a tiger!
Wouldn’t have met him if i didn’t take my trip to India
It’s safe for you to travel India alone too.
Believe it or not, the tourist trail places in India are ready for YOU. There are guesthouses, yoga classes, cooking and art classes, and tours. Many things are different like what to pack and that you must lock your bag to the floor of the train. Overall, you can feel safe in India.
Check out my full travel resource page to see how to prepare, book, and pack.
Absolutely have travel insurance! It’s so important.
You MUST have a visa. Check here to see what one you need for your nationality. I use and trust this company to do visas for me.
You have to pack a little differently than other places. When it’s “on season” there are loads of westerners touring the country. Everyone seems to stay on the same path because of the fact most areas are very seasonal.
Painting class in Udaipur
India is far from becoming the newest gap year trip, but that’s what makes it so perfect. My advice is to come now before it is turned into a tourist-churning machine. At this moment, each town is still excited to see tourists, happy to help, and looks just like it would if no backpackers came through.
In 20 years, I bet that it’ll be just like the Thai islands with travel agents scamming you left and right and everyone turning off their brain to drink buckets and do the tours set up by all the hotels.
Goa, India is probably the most tourist friendly. It’s known for it’s trance drug-induced parties and beaches, so the locals are very used to girls in bikinis and westerners riding their scooters around from bar to bar. Everything is a little “easier” in Goa.
As each year that goes by, more KFC’s will be built and more malls added in, Goa will slowly start to lose it’s charm. (I’m torn on this because I really love KFC and have been living in Goa for almost 2 years!)
Sadhus (holy men) hanging out
India as a whole is a little off the beaten path, and each day the sights will shock you. I cried from being tired, dirty, angry and annoyed in between crying from joy at things I couldn’t believe I was so lucky to see.
Travel in India for me was just as safe as anywhere else (it should be noted that I wasn’t getting drunk and I was going to bed at 10 most nights for early AM yoga). Don’t let everyone’s opinions get you down on visiting a “dangerous” country.
Do your own research, sign up with the state department, and make an educated decision yourself before you head out. I also recommend everyone to backpack alone at some point in his or her lives because “finding yourself” although cliché, actually happens.
What to Pack
Want to read more about this?
Check out this article as a follow up two years later and keep in mind that traveling India alone isn’t for everyone even if I loved it. If you want to go with a group there is NOTHING wrong with that. I recommend G Adventures and even though I go solo, does not mean you should feel pressured to!
For cheap flights to India, use my favorite search engine Kiwi.