10 Safety Tips for Train and Bus Travel in India

The media has been treating India like a punching bag recently… and not without reason. Even Indian media reports on the horrid incidents occurring somewhat regularly in India. This will be one of many posts dedicated to safety tips for traveling India.

Many of us heard of the tragic disgusting gang rape in Delhi last year, and some became subconsciously nervous to travel in India. Before this rape made world news, I was in Delhi riding buses, alone, at night. THAT rape hadn’t happened, but many others had. I didn’t make a fuss of my safety because I figured this could happen anywhere.

With more and more women coming forward about their attacks (the only good thing that came out of the mass attention), it’s becoming clear, if it wasn’t already, that safety for women is an issue in India particularly but not limited to being on transportation. Regardless, I will continue to travel throughout India just like many other women will. I have 14 tips for solo female travel in India that might help you.

I traveled solo and still continue to do so on overnight buses and lowest class trains, as well as local buses and trains, like in Bombay. I have additional information coming on how to book trains and buses, which classes to take, etc.

trains india transport

Here are my Tips for Staying Safe… and Not Being Mugged

1. Don’t take heavy sleeping/anxiety pills before an overnight bus or train. It’s so nice to conk out (and I have to admit, even I’ve done it), but it’s not worth sleeping through someone taking all your stuff, is it?

2. I took a bike chain on my first trip to India. If I were to do another extended trip by train I would do it again. I ordered this Master Lock Chain from amazon for about 15 dollars. On buses this wasn’t necessary, and it wouldn’t be necessary on 2nd and 1st class trains. On sleeper class trains, it was necessary. Overnight sleeper and second class trains can get overwhelming, and I wouldn’t have slept well without this. The doors are open, people are on and off all night, and could easily grab my bag.

3. Hold your purse or “daybag” while you sleep. I wrap a handle around my arms and keep in in my sleeping bag, which leads me to my next point…

4. I never go on a long trip without a sleeping bag, a sleeping bag liner, and a travel pillow. Other than my contacts, it’s literally the most important thing in my bag. On trains it benefits me in that it keeps me covered from the blasting fans, keeps me covered from staring men, I can keep my purse close to me inside of it, and I stay a little cleaner in my shell.

travel india train

5. Stay covered up. The trains and buses are not the places to decide you want to express yourself or something like that. When traveling local buses instead of tourist ones, and lower class trains, you’re going to looked at anyways because it’s rare. Don’t draw more attention to yourself.

6. I find the closest family on the train and make friends with their kids, or at least say hi. I make them aware, without saying it, that there’s a solo female traveler on the train. For some reason it relaxes me; if something were to happen I’d like to think our newly made friendship would send them to my rescue.

7. There is this rule in guidebooks that says, “don’t smile to men in India” C’mon. I’ve said in my post about traveling India solo that it’s an unfair silly rule. I think that the reason I didn’t have problems is because I smiled, because I offered some of my snack, and because I didn’t judge these men that stared; I chose to believe they were just curious. Even some of my Indian guy friends call me naïve for that, so take it with a grain of salt- but it’s worked for me.

8. Hold your spot! I’m not kidding, I have had someone sit on my lap on an overnight local bus in the mountains coming from Sarahan. There is no such thing as personal space on Indian transport. The worst is the Delhi metro in rush hour or the Bombay slow local. On the overnight trains, even though you buy a whole bench to sleep on… others have bought a whole bench for their whole family. I have woken up many times to people sitting on my bench, fitting into the empty spaces my curled up body made. One at the end of my feet I can allow, but eventually a line must be drawn. They almost make me feel bad for having a whole seat to myself.

9. Overnight buses: if they stop for a bathroom break, obviously take your belongings off with you to the toilet. Don’t take long because I’ve met people who were left behind!

10. Don’t sick next to the pretty Indian woman who looks nervous, like she’s never traveled before… she’ll puke on you! (and no, they won’t stop the bus for you to get water and clean off)

 

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10 Comments
  1. 6 months ago
    Shaun

    Great tips! It’s very refreshing to get your point of view and perspective from the experience. I’ve been on public transportation in Central America and as a male get stares from everyone. I assume it’s just curiosity as well.
    To be blunt, the disgusting events those women went through makes my blood boil.
    Shaun recently posted…Edinburgh – In on a whim out with a bang…literally.

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      THanks Shaun! I think curiosity is a main factor, and when it’s just looking I choose positivity and believe the best. (but then at times like on Holi when a man completely gropes my boobs, it’s like ok fuck you mr.!!) One person treating a foreigner wrong can ruin their whole view on the country and its sad that there are so many men like this. The best thing now is that people are talking about it- young and old, in person and on indian blogs and they are at least acknowledging the problem!

      Reply
  2. 6 months ago
    Annette | Bucket List Journey

    Great tips! I have only been on the trains in Europe, but a lot of these would still apply.
    Annette | Bucket List Journey recently posted…Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride Over the Vineyards of Northern California

    Reply
  3. 6 months ago
    Christie

    These are some great tips! You definitely need to use your common sense when travelling through India. I’m very glad #10 has never happened to me..haha! I was actually in Delhi last year when that horrific gang rape happened, and it was just the most awful thing :(
    Christie recently posted…5 tips to stay healthy when you have a desk job

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      It’s a shame you were there at that time, but in a way it’s good that foreigners were there to play witness to the replies of the Indian women. So many foreign women were interviewed in international news and it helped spread the word, and I really think if that hadn’t happened, like many of the other rapes the men would have walked free .

      Reply
  4. 6 months ago
    Jen

    You need to add… don’t eat the train food! I heard many nightmares of eating train food in India. Great tips, especially number 10 ;) I miss Indian trains.

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      Ahh yes, I never got sick from it but did forget to get water and was dying by how spicy it was!

      Reply
  5. 5 months ago
    Agness

    Great tips. Some of them can be followed in China and most of Asian countries I guess. #3 is the most important – to hold your purse or “daybag” while you sleep. It’s easy to fall asleep and get robbed.
    Agness recently posted…The Maldives In Photos

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