An open letter to foreign women travelling alone to India

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In the wake of a recent incident that had a British female tourist jump of a window of a hotel room fearing a rape and fracturing a leg, India is facing a lot of wrath of being highly unsafe for women tourists. Data from Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry shows that in first three months of the year the number of women tourist have dropped by 35% . As an Indian journalist having travelled in India extensive and yet safe, I get saddened at stories of rapes and loots on women tourist. But, I find that even female tourists are to be blamed as they have some unrealistic expectations from the country. The following are a few points you would thank me for, so read on.

  1. Build your network beforehand– In your own country if you know a colleague, an acquaintance, a friend or anyone you know is an Indian just talk to them beforehand and ask them to let their families or trusted friends know that you are travelling to India and ask them to introduce you through skype or a call. Exchange phone numbers of their families or women friends.
  2. Location! – Travel websites like www.makemytrip.comwww.yatra.comwww.travelguru.com may be helpful in connecting you to good hotels. Also, state hotels that are usually a safe choice for example MP Tourism and Rajasthan Tourism offer some great hotels at affordable prices.
  3. Booking your travel– Indian domestic airways and Indian Railways are your best bets. If you plan to travel by rail, always book your travel at www.irctc.co.in 3-4 months in advance as it is a very busy website. If money allows travel by AC three Tier and AC two Tier as most families travel in that class. Befriend a family with kids and women. They will provide you with security you need in your rail journey, you may also sit with them until 9 pm just before its time to hit the sack in IST inside the rail, if it’s an overnight journey. Do not book yourself in first class as it allows only 2 people in a coupe. If you want to travel by road make sure it is through the hotel and make sure it’s the hotel’s private taxi service. Most tourist destinations have a railway path, if not a domestic airway connectivity.
  4. First things first– If your High Commission suggests you to register your itinerary with the diplomacy, then do so, no questions asked. Many of us abide by the rule of our own countries but why do we have to flout rules when we go out of our country? Do yourself a great favor by keeping the local Indian Police station in loop.
  5. When in Rome, be on your own – We are often on our own when in our countries doing painting, renovating etc. As far as deals and restaurants are concerned Google is our best friend. Then, why suddenly in places like India do we listen to the flimflammers? There is no deal that an auto rickshaw driver, taxi driver or a local tourist guide will give you, if it sounds too good to be true then you are risking your security.
  6. Cheap Deals are a passé’ – There are no cheap countries left in the world. A decent hotel will cost you average $60-$70 USD per night. Reputed hotels like Radisson and the likes of Marriott may average at $119 USD per night but the experience is safer and peaceful. Any hotel charging you $20-$50 USD per night may be a bummer.
  7.  Communicate– When checking-in to a hotel, let the manager know that you already registered yourself with the local police station and they have your itinerary. Also, include you wouldn’t require a room service and will not entertain knocks and if not abided by, just call 100 (Indian version of 911) even if at the end it turns out to be a false alarm.
  8. Night life – Night life is not a safe time to explore India. Period.
  9. Do not get overwhelmed– You will find taxi driver, coolies, beggars hounding you like vultures most of the places in India, do not show your frustration as these moments make you look for a back door. There is no place a local guide will show you that you haven’t seen in your recce.
  10. Listen to your gut– As women we all have been gifted with a sixth sense that helps us when there are doubts hovering our mind. Respect your gut no matter how luring a deal or an argument by anyone seems and go by your instincts.

P.S- Indian experience is humbling and exhilarating at the same time. It is all that is touted to be colorful, hospitable, enlightening, empowering, traditional and tranquilizing. Just do your research and plan ahead, you will love India.