• is traveling to india dangerous

The TRUTH About Traveling Alone in India

If you are a 18 year old girl going abroad for the first time and emailing me for advice on backpacking India solo, don’t be surprised if I tell you to go to Europe first. I have traveled a lot before coming to India in Europe and Africa and was a little older (and wiser hahah! jk).

Honestly, the thing that inspired me to write this was reading this article where the writer asks can women travel India alone and calls me out a little bit.

“Well, of course you can. Before trekking off to India, countless travel bloggers (such as Hippie in Heels) told me Yes! I can travel India alone! Unfortunately, they never told me if I should – whether or not the day-to-day life in India would be exhausting or exhilarating; whether or not the risks were worth the reward.”

Go ahead and read it. She goes on to say “It definitely is possible to travel India as a woman alone. But I would never, ever, ever recommend it.”

I totally respect her opinion and I think it’s so important to share because I don’t want to just tell people “yeah, go you’ll love it!!” and not be realistic about the worries and fears they’ll have here in India. So thank you to Alison for getting me inspired to write this post!

Traveling India Alone

When you say you want to go to India you’ll get a variety of reactions. Parents will say you’re crazy and a bit of an idiot… friends will say they’re jealous and wish they could get off work… some will say you’re brave, others will say that you’re going to call home regret it.

It doesn’t matter what any of them say because it’s impossible to have a real opinion about India without having gone there yourself.

In some publications you’ll see India portrayed as perfect, clean, and full of incredibly nice locals there to help you travel. Others like mainstream news say it’s a no-go zone and imply you’ll basically be raped upon exiting the airport. Neither of these drastic views are the truth! On my bog, I try to find the balance and show you the real India, especially through my series, This is India.

indian experience

The following are extracted from two longer comments from my blog this month who hadn’t yet been to India.

“Dont know why you dumb white women go to countries like this, India and Pakistan are shitholes and not worth risking your life over.”

“I stayed up all night reading your many posts and I’m very excited for my trip now! I know I am going to love India.”

Two totally different opinions of a place they hadn’t been, but two that I’ve heard over and over. The truth is, India is unique… maybe the most unique country in the world even, and your experience there will be based a lot on LUCK.

make money travel blogging

is travel to india dangerousIndia is a contradiction, something that I’ve mentioned when I talked about the love hate relationship with India that many backpackers have.

It’s full of incredible riches and extreme poverty. The slums meet the sky scrapers and the BMW’s dodge the cows who stand in the road munching trash.

The religion is beautiful and the people are inviting, but the culture is different, in ways that can make foreigners uncomfortable.

India’s been around too long to cater to want you think is right. India is “set in her way” like an old lady and you’re not going to change it.

A man may stare at you or push you out of line and another man may offer you a snack on the train and help you get your heavy bag down from the top bunk. As you think of eating the snack, you’ll see a Government approved sign saying don’t take snacks from strangers- they will poison and rob you. 

A neighbor may curse you for shacking up with a boyfriend unmarried, and another may fix your car when you’re not looking.

In some ways, the people are like people everywhere else, but the culture is one of a kind.

indian experience luck

Is traveling to India worth the risk?

On this little blog, I try not to be bias, but also try to stay politically correct so as to not offend people. It’s a balance and it doesn’t always work.

Although I will always promote India as a travel destination because that is something I believe in, I would be wrong to not prepare people for what it is really like here. As this blog grows, and more Indian people start to read it, I do worry that I may upset someone. Sometimes I do. But, those Indians who read the blog often, know that with 1 bad thing I share on here, I share 20 good ones. I am so thankful for my Indian readers who leave comments and show open-mindness and understanding, as well as explain things I can’t wrap my head around.

Not just some of my readers are Indian, but some of my friends are. I have been here for 3 years. I even wrote about how I’m turning Indian as a joke. Most of my readers know I have traveled and lived here a while, by choice, and love this country. I give advice out of necessity to readers, not because I want to diss India. But not all realize that.

I get nasty comments either way. Sometimes it can be frustrating! I think it’s important to share the things that I love here and the things I don’t.

Overall, it’s a positive experience living in India or we wouldn’t be here. I love living in Goa. Are there annoyances? Yes. Mostly, they are funny. Although sometimes they are scary or unfair. I tell those stories in my “this is India” series on Fridays, though to be honest the very negative things I don’t write about because I don’t want to deal with the backlash or I don’t feel I want to share every single detail about my life here.

It’s irresponsible to generalize India as a bad place to travel, but it’s just as irresponsible to tell a 18 year old girl who emails me leaving abroad for the first time, it’s 100% safe to travel here alone and not warn them of what is different from home.

is travel to india dangerous

is travel to india dangerous

For me, India was amazing and I stayed here. Yes I got sick while I first traveled here, but I loved my days backpacking.

But…

Some girls leave India and have PTSD because of the things they encountered.

Because I run a travel blog, I get emails asking for advice from girls telling me they are nervous.

I get emails from girls in hotel rooms whose nerves are making them afraid to go out on the streets, and I get emails from girls who are in hysterics saying they are totally overwhelmed and have booked a flight home having never left Bombay.

It’s sad, but because it happens it shouldn’t be ignored when writing about India as it can set people up for failure. If a girl reads India will be perfect and she feels scared and overwhelmed, she’ll feel very alone in that feeling. That’s why I wrote this pep talk on traveling India & shared about a time I remembered how hard backpacking India really is.

It’s not all doom and gloom. I also get emails from girls who came to India and had a beautiful trip. They say they feel connected to India and are planning a trip back. Most want to know how to get a extension on their visa to stay longer.

is travel to india dangerousEven if you feel prepared (reading lots of advice online and packing appropriately), you should know India is hard… and it’s really as simple as that. I sat with travel bloggers at a conference this weekend and they all said India was the hardest place they traveled. Others said they wouldn’t come to India. A guy who has spent the last 10 years traveling all but 18 countries (so far), and 6 months in India, said he would never tell a girl to travel India alone.

I think a lot of Indians would agree that it can be difficult to travel alone here. Some girls tell me their fathers would never let them travel alone. If you watch a documentary like India’s Daughter, chances are you’ll never want to come here. That is real life. But, that doesn’t define over a billion people. My Indian readers know that it is not the norm for an Indian girl to go off traveling on her own here and there is a “blame” culture to women who break the mold.

The truth is, India is as harsh as it is accepting- depending on who you meet and where you go.

Because the truth is, whether or not you have a good or bad time in India could come down to sheer luck

So, what can help you find the good luck? You have to be prepared. You have to be open to imperfection. You have to accept a culture different from your own. You have to try new things, smile and have patience. You also (I hope you realize after this post) will need to manage your expectations.

I think that if you are young, haven’t traveled much, and feel nervous before going, then it is best to travel with a friend or even a group rather than alone. I am not sharing this to scare you! I had a blast backpacking India. So do many girls I chat with via the blog. As you can see from the blogger at the beginning of the article, it’s not always that way and I just want everyone to be as prepared as possible.

If traveling India alone doesn’t sound like it’s something you want to try, and you’re interested in a tour, I recommend using G Adventures. Lots of readers have emailed me over the years saying they did a tour with them and it was a great success. They offer all types of ranges in price. Personally, I haven’t used them but I don’t know any other company to suggest!

Coming to India?!

is travel to india dangerous

2017-08-17T14:34:41+00:00

About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing to live on the beaches of Goa, India almost four years ago where she is now a travel writer. Her website gives advice on the 35+ countries she's been to but has become the go-to site for India travel, focusing on offbeat places & “glamorous travel”. Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE magazine, Tripadvisor, and Thomas Cook. Her blog is one of the top 50 travel blogs in the world based on traffic. She also enjoys writing for BravoTV.

66 Comments

  1. allison February 8, 2016 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    thank you for this post. do you think that if I travel with my boyfriend, it will be much easier?

  2. Bea February 8, 2016 at 11:30 pm - Reply

    Hi Rachel! Great post – I completely agree on the duality of India and how difficult it is to tell people/give advice about it.

    I personally left to go to India alone a couple of months before my 19th birthday, and despite having travelled in Europe and America, I hadn’t travelled properly on my own before. I think people react so differently to India; I was fortunate that I was staying in one place for a while to get my bearings. Living in Dehradun for a couple of months meant that when I went alone to Delhi to do the sightseeing stuff, I wasn’t as completely overwhelmed as I think I would have been if I’d come straight off the plane into the chaos of the city!

    I only had a couple of occasions where I had cause to get irritated or angry with people in India, but far more where I was taken aback by the generosity and kindness of people I was surrounded by. A highlight for me was celebrating my birthday with the women and children at the shelter I was volunteering at. Delhi especially is a love/hate kind of place – some people just loathe it but I was lucky to take to the place immediately.

    Culture shock is so real for us coming in from the West but you just have to accept the craziness of arriving in a completely new place and I think the experience will be far better than you could imagine, even with some bumps along the way!

    • Rachel Jones February 13, 2016 at 7:24 pm - Reply

      It’s good you got to ease into it. Thank you for sharing your experiences! Culture shock definitely hits hard in India.

  3. Rachel February 8, 2016 at 11:31 pm - Reply

    Not an easy subject to write about in your position, there will always be someone who feels slighted by your opinion and it’s very tough to be honest yet culturally sensitive about topics like this. When I read the negative comments from Indians, I think they forget that you are writing from YOUR perspective and your audience is made of mainly non Indian westerners and you do a disservice to everyone involved if you’re not honest about how it feels to be a foreigner in India, so good on you for doing it anyway.

    Having been to India as a backpacker traveling with my boyfriend (now husband) I personally would not recommend that an inexperienced young woman backpack alone without a plan to travel in a group if I were asked, and I am a proponent of solo female travel. As you and Alison both said, yes it can be done, but the question is should it? It entirely spends on the person and you are so right about luck. I think our month long trip 4 years ago was positive mainly due to good luck. We had a great time and had very few issues, but we were also well traveled and very experienced. Coincidentally, I just saw India’s daughter for the first time yesterday and when it was over I turned to my husband and said, “if this had to happen it’s a good thing it happened after we’d already been because I don’t think I would have been able to go to India had I seen this first”. India is a hard place to travel, especially as a white woman. It wears on you and I did not like how being stared at one minute but ignored when I made eye contact to speak the next made me feel at all. My experience made me understand that India was not a place where I would want to be alone. But that’s me!

    • Lolo February 9, 2016 at 1:12 pm - Reply

      I had the exact same experience as you. I was hell bent on going last year by myself and ended up postponing. My boyfriend and I just flew out of India yesterday afte 6 months and each day was seriously a test and I’m so glad I waited to not go alone. The only way I would consider going alone now is if I was going to a yoga retreat or something specific and knew I had reliable pick up from he airport, etc. it’s not that I couldn’t do it (I also have tons of exp solo traveling) but it just makes the experience much more enjoyable to travel with somebody, particularly male. Men (which is basically everybody you’ll encounter) treat you with MUCH more respect or at least like a person and not a wall. I also Was shocked seeing how some western girls dressed. Being on a public bus in Jean cut off shorts and a tank top that shows your leopard print bra just Totally misses point of going to immerse yourself in a culture. You have to respect Indians traditions. You’re not going to India to educate locals on what the world is like in America in 2016. This is asking for major trouble. Also thanks Rachel for posting this it’s super honest and I can totally relate. India is hard and it’s really difficult to even prepare people for what’s to come.

      • Lolo February 9, 2016 at 1:15 pm - Reply

        Also side note I would have probably never gone out at night if I were alone and India can be the most magical at night with all the lights and lanterns, etc. so I’m super happy I was with my boyfriend and didn’t miss out on that whole part of the experience

      • Rachel Jones February 13, 2016 at 7:08 pm - Reply

        Yes lots of girls come for yoga retreats which is great because they send someone to collect them at the airport and makes it a lot less stressful! it’s a great way to see India at first and get comfortable. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!

    • Rachel Jones February 13, 2016 at 7:23 pm - Reply

      Thanks Rachel, you’re right it’s hard to find a balance when I write and not offend anyone. Thanks for sharing your experience. It will definitely help other girls make a decision to travel India alone.

  4. Nishant Jha February 8, 2016 at 11:43 pm - Reply

    A very well written and balanced article I must say. Being an Indian and having travelled across my country and 6 countries of Europe, I definitely agree with everything you have written. Yes it can be a very harsh country but a very welcoming one too many a times. Having said that I always believe that of you are a good human being then more often than not, good things happen to you and you have some real amazing experiences while you are on the road.

    I am a regular follower of your Facebook posts and would love to see more posts about your India travels. I have a special connection with Goa too! I spent 2 years there studying my MBA (supposedly)!

    Keep writing and keep travelling…

    Cheers to Life,
    CheontheRoad

  5. Michelle February 9, 2016 at 12:30 am - Reply

    Very thoughtful article, Rachel. I think it’s hard to say “yes” or “no” to this question because it really depends on many different factors, and as you say, it can come right down to luck.

    In your travels in India, have you noticed that the answer depends on where in India you travel? I felt comfortable in some areas when I was traveling around the south, but in other areas in the north I had some bad and scary experiences. I also found that some areas, like parts of Goa and Hampi, are more tourist friendly, and I felt really at ease there.

    • Rachel Jones February 13, 2016 at 7:15 pm - Reply

      Yes definitely! I find the South in general easier than the North and the cities using Uber makes life 10x easier than dealing with negotiating cab fares… so many small things make the difference!

  6. Betsy February 9, 2016 at 1:57 am - Reply

    Hey Rachel! I agree with what you have said here. I first went to India in 2009 with my graduate professor and her husband who is also a professor. They both have Ph.D.’s in different areas of India research, so they have spent a lot of time there. They were able to show me the ropes if you will. My first trip to India alone was a short trip to Delhi in 2013. I got a little hassle and was in my hotel by dark. But I had no major problems. I even stayed in Pahargang. I returned this past fall for two months. I had a great time! I used AirBnB at most of the places I went to. It gave me a contact, someone expecting me. All of them set up rides for me from train station/airports. I spent most of my time in Udaipur. I love it some much I am moving there this spring.
    All this to say. Yes, go to India. If you haven’t traveled much or are nervous take a friend. Mostly use your common sense, if it feels not right, don’t do it. I have been in some tough situations and am better for it. Unfortunately, terrible things can happen on the road, you have to decide for yourself if the risk out weights the possible reward. But seriously I am most afraid of being bitten by a mean street dog in Udaipur than anything else.
    I would say it takes both the good and the bad to make somewhere worth visiting. These opposing things are what will change your life.

    • Rachel February 9, 2016 at 2:20 am - Reply

      Right on! Gotta do it the way that makes you feel comfortable- then you are more likely to have an experience that will change your life :-) Great to hear about using AirBnb in India. We backpacked right around when AirBnb was getting started I guess? (2011-2012) and didn’t know about it. I wish we had because that would have been so awesome! As a couple in our late 20’s we didn’t want to stay in dorms and hotels were beyond our budget, so finding accommodation in India was really the most challenging part of the trip for us.

      • Rachel Jones February 13, 2016 at 7:13 pm - Reply

        Yes accommodation in India has gotten better and better, even with high end hostels that have affordable private rooms!

    • Rachel Jones February 13, 2016 at 7:15 pm - Reply

      It’s great to have someone show you the ropes when you first arrive. That’s awesome that your airbnb hosts set up transport from stations to you- amazing! Funny you say Udiapur because that’s where I found the dogs are meanest! ahh!

  7. Ella February 9, 2016 at 2:27 am - Reply

    What an interesting and important post! I really appreciate that you talk about India honestly and address the fact that it’s not either 100% good or 100% bad, but more of a combination of both and that one person can have an amazing experience while the other a terrible one. For example, one of my friends went on a month-long trip to India and she absolutely loved it, while a separate friend liked the country but found the trip to be a very stressful experience. I’ve never been but I’d like to visit one day and before I do, I’ll prep myself for possible stressful experiences. Thanks for this!

    • Rachel Jones February 13, 2016 at 7:12 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing Ella. It seems to be that way, for each person who loves it, another hated it!

  8. Hannah @GettingStamped February 9, 2016 at 3:17 am - Reply

    Totally agree if your 18 start your travel adventures in Europe not India! I visited India in 2015 for the first time, ups and downs for sure. I know we will return!

    • Rachel Jones February 13, 2016 at 7:12 pm - Reply

      Awesome to hear you’re planning to come back some day!

  9. Shivya February 9, 2016 at 3:55 am - Reply

    This is such a great post Rachel. As an Indian girl who’s travelled a fair bit around India on her own, I’m nodding to so many things you’ve written.

    Do I love it? Yes.
    Can it be hard, sometimes harder than traveling alone in most other countries? YES.
    Would I recommend it to others? Yes, but it’s certainly not for everyone.

    I’m so glad you found your ways to love India; it’s a constant struggle even for me, but in the end, the love wins over the hate ;-) Thanks for an honest perspective. Going to share this!

    • Rachel Jones February 13, 2016 at 7:11 pm - Reply

      Thanks Shivya. I often refer girls to your blog so they can see an Indian female’s perspective on traveling India. You’re right that Indian is not for everyone and thanks for sharing!

  10. Alison February 9, 2016 at 5:49 am - Reply

    Hey girl!
    I’m so glad that my blog post inspired you to write another of your own. I just wanted to clarify that even seasoned travellers, not just 18 year-old first-time backpackers, may find India difficult. I’ve been travelling solo for the past 5 years. I’ve lived abroad. India was my 32nd country. And still – I struggled!
    Props to you for continuing to do it. I think it’s beautiful that we can have diverse opinions that spark good discussion :)

    • Rachel Jones February 13, 2016 at 7:10 pm - Reply

      Hey Alison! Thanks for clarifying that. It’s good for readers to see that even experienced travelers can find it difficult. I’m glad you wrote your post, it made me question if I’m sharing enough of the “bad” or if I’ve become to scared of haters to share the bad.

  11. Joella February 9, 2016 at 8:08 am - Reply

    I really appreciate this honest post, Rachel. I have always thought you do a really good job of giving a realistic view of travel in India. I think you show it to be a beautiful and rewarding but somewhat challenging place for travellers. And I agree, I think everyone has to make up their own minds on their comfort levels. Some people are just more adventurous/confident at travel than others or just cope with things differently. So while one person would not advise women to travel there, other women love it. I met a girl when I was in Nicaragua and she just raved about India. Of course, others find it overwhelming and I can understand that too- we are all different. So yeah, everyone has to do the research and make up their own mind. Or just try it and go elsewhere if it’s not for them- there’s no shame in that either. I really like your advice to young women about travelling elsewhere before travelling alone to India. No one really knows what they are like as a solo traveller until they try it and Europe and the US are easy and familiar places to test the waters!

    • Joella February 9, 2016 at 8:15 am - Reply

      Ps- I meant that girl raved about India in a good way, in case that wasn’t clear haha! She really loved it and had lovely stories from her time there.

    • Rachel Jones February 13, 2016 at 7:09 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your comment- I hope that when people research and see my blog it doesn’t put them off or make them want to go, but just gives them all the details so they can decide themselves.

  12. shaurya jain February 9, 2016 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    India is a mixed bag. You will encounter people of all types. And we do have this habit of staring. It may be highly inappropriate in foreign countries but in India, it is very common and not frowned upon. this maybe because, many of us have not left our city, let alone our country so whenever we see something different, we stare but in an unharmfull manner.

    I hope it helps someone here !!

    • Rachel Jones February 13, 2016 at 7:07 pm - Reply

      I see what you mean about the staring. Oftentimes it’s not done in a harmful manner, but sometimes it leads to men bothering you or taking photos which is frowned upon by Indians and foreigners alike. Thanks for your comment!

  13. venus john February 9, 2016 at 6:45 pm - Reply

    thanks for a wonderful and balanced post..i especially liked..”India is “set in her way” like an old lady and you’re not going to change it.”
    even though I am a local ,I would be scared to travel to different parts of india alone..ideally I would need a female bodyguard with a gun..
    and it wasn’t like this 15-20 years back..it was much safer…

    • Rachel Jones February 13, 2016 at 7:06 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing, it’s great for readers to see local’s thoughts on this!

  14. Fe February 9, 2016 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    Hi Rachel! I am a filipina living in the South Goa, 45 minutes from Margao. I lived with my husband, mother in law, and sis in law. Even after living here now for 6 months, I still don’t go out alone. And my mother in law and sister in law don’t allow me to go out alone. They know I must still be scared, well unless if just around the neighborhood. I even remember my husband telling me not to talk to strangers when we were in Margao Market.

    I’m from Philippines, which is also a third world country, but I was culture shocked in India during the past few times we keep coming to Goa when we were still working in Singapore. I’m scared of the way they drive around here too and that is besides all the other things you’ve mentioned. Thanks for the good read! I do share the same bits of experiences like you.

    • Rachel Jones February 13, 2016 at 7:06 pm - Reply

      Wow thanks for sharing that! I am a little surprised as Margao seems so safe to me. You’re right about the driving it’s very crazy! That’s great you have family there to help you out :)

      • Fe Canas February 14, 2016 at 12:49 am - Reply

        Margao is fairly safe I would say. Those were my “first times” in Goa. I can also say it is safer in India to to use your phone in public or in public vehicles than if I was in my own country. But still my husband reminds me to be careful and vigilant in public places.:-)

        Looking forward on your next article!

  15. Sonja Riemenschneider February 9, 2016 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    Really great post, Rachel. I think you really hit the complexity of the situation perfectly. I would agree, for someone who has never traveled alone before, India would be too challenging (male or female, honestly). Best they develop some solo-travel skills in an easier place first. I’d suggest that when solo-travelers do travel to India, they find a fall-back option just in case – like a contact in each city who can meet them when they arrive and get them oriented, and be there for them if anything comes up.

    • Rachel Jones February 13, 2016 at 7:04 pm - Reply

      Yes that’s a really good idea and would help with peace of mind. Thanks for giving your input – it will help others for sure!

  16. Jennifer Cooper February 10, 2016 at 12:56 am - Reply

    Great article, I spent 2 months in India with my boyfriend a couple of years back. Complete respect to all the women that do travel alone in India – but I couldnt do it, I dont think I could relax.

    • Rachel Jones February 13, 2016 at 7:03 pm - Reply

      Thank you for sharing your view. I think many girls feel the same as you.

  17. firoz khan February 10, 2016 at 7:32 am - Reply

    i worked in dubai and other middle east countries.
    every country have good and bad.

    in some places the stories are hidden but in india its a competition between medias. and they thinks they are doing something better than their competitor and making solo travellers in doubt.

    its the media who makes it worse for their own benefit

  18. Crystal Kushwaha February 10, 2016 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    Great article, very balanced view point. As you said, India is like an old lady set in her ways. Everyone’s experiences will differ. I think THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT of travelling to another country, is to understand and respect its culture. If you know it’s sort of disrespectful not to dress modestly, then for love’s sake, dress modestly.
    Use common sense, be aware, no matter where you go.
    I have had one sort of negative experience in India the entire 2-ish years I have lived here on and off. You will find the highs and lows, all are “the real India”. The slums and the Goan beach parties, both are “the real India”.
    Yes, I think going to India is worth it. Absolutely.

    • Rachel Jones February 13, 2016 at 7:02 pm - Reply

      You’re so right that both goa parties and the slums are “real”. A lot of people email me asking where to get real India experiences.. I say EVERYWHERE!

  19. Michele February 10, 2016 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    Thanks for a well balanced article. It’s refreshing to read your thoughts and that you don’t give a Yes or No answer to “should I travel to India”; it really is a “it depends” answer! I’ve traveled to India 10 times for business and on each trip have made time to explore a different part of India, sometimes alone, and sometimes with India friends or my American work colleagues. You are so accurate to describe it as “hard” but worth it. I’ve seen and experienced things that I am so grateful for, but it’s never been a luxury trip. I agree on the luck part as well…. like anywhere you go, you meet lovely, kind and generous people and you meet rude, scary and unkind people. Some of it is luck, some of it is the energy you put out yourself and attract similar energy. I spent 4 days in Goa on one of my trips, and loved it!

    • Rachel Jones February 13, 2016 at 6:59 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your comments Michele. The energy you put into it really does make a difference.

  20. Tim UrbanDuniya February 13, 2016 at 11:35 am - Reply

    1.2 billion Indians, many of them women, seem to get by every day,… I guess it’s a matter of what you’re used to.

    I proffer similar advice for foreign travellers about Pakistan, but personally, I wouldn’t call anywhere else home <3

  21. Keir Briscoe February 13, 2016 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    I have now been in India for just over a month. The first three weeks I was staying with a friend and that allowed me to adjust to the strangeness that India is. This last week I have been traveling alone. I have been to a few countries before this and I have to agree that India is completely different and super challenging. And I’m a 47 yo guy. I understand your love/hate relationship. I’m honestly challenged to find positive things to write about India. However I’m now in Goa and things are looking a bit better. Anyway. Love reading your articles.

    • Rachel Jones February 13, 2016 at 6:53 pm - Reply

      Always good to stay with a friend to adjust at first if possible. Thanks for being so honest about your experiences, comments like this help people get an idea on what to expect in India! Goa is much more relaxing and sometimes a great place to fly to within India when overwhelmed.

  22. Tarn February 13, 2016 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    I spent 3 months travelling around India with another female friend when we were both 18 and did not have much experience with travelling but had a desire to metaphorically throw ourselves in the deep end. Looking back we did not have many expectations and that helped, when we first arrived we spent the first 24 in our hotel room in Delhi because we had extreme culture shock! We spent the first month of our trip on an organised tour which was completely overpriced but a great way to safely get comfortable with the culture as we were grouped with 6 other travellers of a similar age. The last two months of our trip we were on our own, this was in 2011 before India’s terrible reputation for sexual violence became headline news and looking back there were times we found ourselves in situations that as older women, less naive and more aware of what can happen in India we might have felt more uncomfortable with. We were also met with kindness and respect by many Indian men, more often than not. Overall, I think that it’s not worth succumbing to fear mongering and not going somewhere out of fear, you just have to be careful and sensible. Also – you will undoubtedly meet other travelors, we met some amazing people that I’m still in touch with now 5 years later. Love this blog post, it’s spot on!!

    • Rachel Jones February 13, 2016 at 6:51 pm - Reply

      Hi Tarn, throwing yourself in the deep end is a good way to describe it – go big or go home! A lot of people do a tour at first which is a great way to get into it. If that’s the way you want to go, it’s best to book it and think of it ahead of time rather than get pressured into one in Delhi when you land as many do! :) Thanks for commenting

  23. Cindy February 15, 2016 at 9:05 pm - Reply

    This entry brought back so many memories. My husband and I were married in September of 1974 while my husband was attending Kent State University; he needed a language to graduate so he signed up for Hindi; his instructor interested him in India and by Christmas Eve we were off to Bombay. Yikes! By the time the taxi got us to the hotel I was ready to stay in the taxi and return to the airport. Weaving in and out around cows in the roads, stopping long enough for the disabled on carts to roll up to your window, sticking their arms in wanting money, the heat, noise, smells, etc. was an overload to my senses. Then my husband had a severe case of jet lag which kept us in Bombay longer than we intended and with me being essentially alone during the day. I was too scared to venture from the hotel on my own. Instead I sat in tears by the window overlooking the street, watching the homeless families line up on the sidewalk with what little they owned and cover themselves completely for their night of sleep. Eventually we were able to proceed with our adventure. We found that after one month we needed to move on (we called it a vacation from a vacation) so we went to Sri Lanka for a month, went back to India for a month and then to Nepal for a month; both breaks were a welcomed relief. While I have no desire to go back to India, my husband would go back in a heartbeat. I’m glad we went. The years have somewhat softened my opinion of travelling India. I’ve come to believe “if you’ve travelled India, you can travel anywhere”.
    (by the way, we live in Loudonville)

    • Rachel Jones February 15, 2016 at 9:26 pm - Reply

      Wow what an interesting story. It’s amazing how well you can remember and share it! Thanks! You’re right once you’ve traveled India, everywhere else will be a breeze. Loudonville… small world!

  24. Ivana February 21, 2016 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    Very well written blog post! One thing people often forget to mention: if you’re a blonde girl you’re likely to have a more difficult time than a brunette. I have super dark hair and am often told I could pass for an Indian girl. I guess this is why I didn’t get many stares or harassment (also I looked like a hobo LOL).

    Entering India from the South is also a lot easier than the North. The South (love Kerala) is simply less crowded and more relaxed.

    One more super important thing: India is ruthless in giving back what you put in. If you are scared, on edge and afraid of getting scammed you are likely to not have a good time. I was also scared but at the same time made peace with myself that I would get scammed, sick or cut in line by a man. When I did get scammed (for 20RS in a cab LOL) I just wished the man a good day and felt happy I could provide him with an extra chai that day.

    I’m honestly not saying it’s your own fault if you don’t have a good time. I’m just saying a lot of people are not willing to accept it could be bad and that’s ok too. If you don’t like it just be at peace you can always book the next flight out of the country. This way you can just say India is not your thing instead of trying to like something which is not your flavor (and be disappointed).

    I will redirect people to this article in my next vlog because I think I give off a too positive perception of traveling India as a solo female traveler. My experiences were amazing but I would be heartbroken if a 18 year girl ends up getting hurt because she isn’t prepared enough. Thanks Rachel, you are doing a really good job providing this information.

    • Rachel Jones February 22, 2016 at 12:34 pm - Reply

      Great advice! Thanks for sharing your experiences with us!

  25. mimi April 6, 2016 at 8:51 am - Reply

    Just like here in the US your dress communicates to people something about you (whether it be your status, your dignity etc), so similarly your dress communicates something to Indian men. Additionally you have to overcome by your dress and conduct a not uncommon concept that western women are loose, more so in rural /more conservative areas. In India it is not uncommon particularly in rural areas, that people are chaste until marriage. However Indian men have heard that women in the west are not. The less sophisticated or educated the man, the less they are likely to understand under what circumstances a woman might engage in sex with a man and optimistically potentially view you as damaged goods/ ready to hand it over. So if you show up with spaghetti straps when every other women is covered head to toe in a dress plus long pants plus scarf to hide even the outline of their chest, you might be confirming to them their misconceptions. However If you dress with dignity in THEIR estimation, conduct yourself like a dignified Indian woman might (not walk the streets alone at night, not walk smoking a cigarette etc, not touch someone of the opposite gender in public like hugs, and absolutely do not peck-kiss in public) and if you preferably say you are a married woman, and refer to your boyfriend as your husband, you are communicating something they are familiar with and respect, and you will be in most instances treated accordingly. Things are a little more relaxed in some places like Goa but still, it can’t hurt to respect the fact that this is a country where people cover up. On a train, you want to be dressed head to toe, nonverbally communicate confidence and dignity. Indian business women who travel alone – watch how they carry themselves.

    Where I live in the USA I can walk safely in the dark from where I parked to where I am going. But there are many places in the USA where I would change that behavior without giving it any thought and without living in fear per se – you wouldn’t be as comfortable in an unfamiliar neighborhood to do the same. You would absolutely not walk at night on deserted streets or an unfamiliar neighborhood. Just use common sense the way you would at home, dress per the dress code of the country you are in, ditto for conduct, stay in at night if you do not know anyone to accompany you ( I’m typically exhausted by dinner in India) and hopefully you will meet at first many other travellers until you cultivate friendships with local people, and have as much fun learning as much as possible about a beautiful country and culture…..(loaded with contradictions).
    I’ve been to India more than 6 times, and once travelled alone for a few months in the nineties when things were much more safe I guess. Last year I took an overnight train alone in 2AC. I followed advice on some blogs which suggested 2AC because it has curtains instead of being enclosed behind a door with strangers / got the top bunk for privacy, but forgot a lock so I had my luggage up there too – it was a bit inconvenient but ok. I was a little nervous but in hindsight when we go prepared for the situation and bring our common sense, I think we fear much more than necessary :). That said, every person has to decide for themselves given all the info out there, whether they are ready to venture into a country which can be chaotic, exhausting, at times a little unnerving, in exchange for the wonders to be found. If you have experience taking care of yourself, are adventurous, and are sensible to some extent, you are blessed with a multitude of pointers from others who have done it before you, happy to show you how to do it. But let your spoilt only-child friend choose to stick with Club Med, or take the expensive guided tour and you guys can meet up at Somatheeram for some panchakarma.

  26. Saiful Islam Opu May 10, 2016 at 9:55 am - Reply

    Wow, such an informative post you written Rachel!
    You know, Indian cultural history spans more than 4,500 years and they are diversified throughout in the country. A tourist must have different tastes in different state exploring its people and natural beauty.
    Have you been to BD ever? This is another amazing undiscovered land of beauty. Peep it http://bit.ly/1QdnTuq

  27. Andrea G. May 15, 2016 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    I think there’s something else missing here, which is that it’s really hard to appreciate India if you’re here for less than a month: basically, if you’re here for a short time, you will hate it–home is only x days away. If you’re here for longer, it’s much easier to accept reality, and manage expectations. Living here (I lived in Delhi in 2008 and am currently traveling in the South) makes it much easier to just deal with the challenges of being here, and you also experience so many more positives. Traveling in the south for two weeks where my Hindi is useless has been exhausting (and this is where it’s more progressive!) If I were alone, it just wouldn’t be fun at all. So I’d add that as a caveat to folks.

    • Rachel Jones May 16, 2016 at 1:02 pm - Reply

      Yep that’s exactly right! staying here for a short time and especially if you are traveling a lot in that short time will usually leave you with an unpleasant experience.

  28. Carol December 24, 2016 at 12:25 am - Reply

    Very well said. Im a female in my early thirties and last July I went on a solo trip to India. Ive heard a lot of horror stories about a female traveling to India alone but I just brushed it off. Ive traveled solo to Indonesia and Thailand before so im confident I can manage. But despite the thorough research and after reading all blogs about the country i thought im well prepared..well i got scammed in delhi.i was on my way to Agra but cos of the scam, I was so disappointed that I thought of going back to the airport and flying home instead!yet i changed my mind and lo and behold,I arrived in Agra in one.piece! At the end of my trip I concluded that in order to love India, uve got to be openminded and accepts its flaws.it will take time to get used to the indian way of life,but once u do, ul fall inlove for sure :) im definitely visitimg the country again.

    • Rachel Jones December 24, 2016 at 11:33 am - Reply

      I’m glad that you went on after being scammed. It really feels terrible when that happens but it’s great you got past it mentally to enjoy India!

  29. Bree Lobo February 13, 2017 at 10:24 pm - Reply

    Hi Rachel, I loved reading your article. Agree to most of it. India is definitely a harh country to travel in wthouth much experience. But once you get the hang of it, the method to the madness, its an absolutely wonderful place. Definitley the most diverse country in the world! Like every country one needs to be culturally sensitive and have your head on your shoulders at all times.

    Glad that you loved India so much, you chose to stay here for 3 years. I too am from Goa and its definitely my fav place in India

    Cheers
    Bree
    http://www.breeonthebrink.com/

    • Rachel Jones February 14, 2017 at 2:59 pm - Reply

      Hi Bree, thanks for commenting :) How cool you are from Goa, it’s good to meet you!

  30. AKT October 5, 2017 at 11:56 pm - Reply

    Good article. I am a male in my 20’s, so I guess my perspective is abit different, but I will comment anyways. I travelled to India for the first time a few years back. I only went because a buddy of mine who is originally from India was going to see his family, and he asked me to come. I though it would be a great opportunity that I could not pass up. I am glad I went, saw and did some amazing things. But I am so glad I did not go alone, because I don’t know if I would of survived. It is definitely culture shock, and even as a man, it can be abit uncomfortable. I think its a place as long as you use common sense you would be fine, generally speaking.

    • Rachel Jones October 6, 2017 at 11:12 am - Reply

      I’m glad you commented because it’s a good point to make and one I can’t since I’m not a dude – it’s hard traveling in India for guys, too! Not just women. Especially alone!

  31. Bo October 23, 2017 at 12:39 am - Reply

    Hi, I’m an 18 year old girl from the Netherlands. I just finished high school and I’m doing a gap year right now. Me and my best friend (also a girl, 19) were thinking about backpacking in India together for about 2-3 months. We don’t have any experience with backpacking and I was wondering if you think it’s a bad idea to go to India. I wouldn’t travel alone, but is it mutch better/good enough to travel with the two of us since we’re still just 2 girls alone? (We are more interested in seeing beautiful nature and old buildings than staying in the big cities btw).

    • Rachel Jones October 23, 2017 at 11:19 am - Reply

      Since it is two of you together, I think it’s okay you don’t have backpacking experience. You’ll learn as you go which will be fun! The cities are where all the stress is, so if you plan to stay in nature, it’ll be awesome for you.

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