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 about all the things to see while backpacking India, 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.
Amritsar, 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 backpacking 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 can scare foreigners. Truthfully, the only way to know what solo travel in India is like is to experience it for yourself.
The Logistics of Backpacking India Alone
I’m guessing you’ve already gotten your visa and booked your flight. If not, my favorite places are iVisa and Kiwi. iVisa makes it really easy to get one online, and Kiwi is by far the best place for finding the cheapest flights.
The next step is to make sure you’re protected. I always recommend buying travel insurance because you just never know what will happen! I personally prefer World Nomads. You can read a full review here and check out the site here. I like that you can enter your trip and get a quote pretty without too much hassle.
My Experiences Backpacking India Alone
Looking back, I’ve done a lot of backpacking India completely 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, toured through jungles, met the love of my life…
… and didn’t get hurt, scared, or 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 is to not be afraid of making a scene. If there are women around, they will be on your side, and 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
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 backpack India alone too.
Women come here for yoga retreats and yoga teacher training (YTT) ALL the time and love it. That is one of the best ways to see India. This site is the best for searching retreats in India and this site is the best for finding YTT. They both are owned by the same person and people leave detailed reviews about the courses.
If you’re coming to Goa, I wrote a 170-page ebook the Insider’s Guide to Goa which you can buy with this link. It’s all my secrets to make sure you have the BEST time here, chill in the coolest places, and meet other travelers.
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 and happy to help. They all still look just like they would if no backpackers came through.
The Best Place to Start Backpacking India
If you’re still not ready to jump feet first, I’d start your trip in Goa. It’s known for its 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, and it will be a good transition between the West and India.
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’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions in India. Cried from being tired, dirty, angry. Annoyed in between crying. And, of course, I’ve experienced total joy at things I couldn’t believe I was so lucky to see.
Backpacking 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 morning 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, get travel insurance, let someone know your itinerary, and make an educated decision yourself before you head out. I also recommend everyone backpack alone at some point in his or her lives because “finding yourself,” although cliché, actually happens.
What to Put in Your Backpack
Want to read more about backpacking India?
- Check out this article as a follow-up two years later.
- If you’re still not ready, then don’t worry! Sometimes it’s easier to do a tour first and then visit in the future on your own. I LOVE G Adventures for group tours as they don’t feel touristy. Check out their different itineraries here.
- Click here for all my Goa posts. I call Goa home now, and I know this place inside and out.
- For some backpacking India guides, here are a few:
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