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.
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.
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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