Travelling solo in India, particularly as a woman, in India can be tricky, but also very rewarding.
Meeting the challenges can lead to special experiences that you don’t have when travelling with others.
A few tips to make it work well.
Choose South India where there seems to a culture that is particularly helpful, relaxed, family friendly and conservative.
Carefully choose (e.g. trip advisor) home stays that:
– have helpful and friendly families hosting who are likely to be able to tell you how to get there, how to get around, and what to do and see.
– provide an evening meal with the family so you don’t need to go out to eat and have company.
– have good food, as there’s nothing like home cooking for really experiencing the best of South Indian food.
– cater for your needs e.g. wifi, A/C, balcony or private sit out, tea and coffee making facilities, close to the bus or train station.
– share your interests or at least are able to support them, e.g. Are you able to tag along to do the market shopping and watch in the kitchen? This could also be with the cook or home help. Great English is not essential as it’s mostly observation, especially if you’ve done some research first so have some knowledge of ingredients and techniques already.
Consider carrying a water boiler and cup to make your own tea and coffee if that’s important to you.
Dress conservatively covering shoulders and legs and wearing fairly loose fitting clothes. Consider buying some better quality traditional salwar suits (pants and tops) and getting them laundered properly to keep them looking good.
Use local bus and trains for short daytime trips and plan not to travel too far each time. Conductors keep good order and tend to look after women. Ticketing tends to place women next to women. Do take snacks ( biscuits and bananas are good) to share with fellow passengers, and some photos of family and your country to show fellow passengers as good conversation triggers when shared language is limited. Family, food, occupation, children and clothing style are always good topics of conversation that lend themselves to good non-verbal communication.
Travel as lightly as possible and leave shopping until the very end. A light bag is so much easier to manage on your own.
Adopt local style, eat what everyone else eats, at local meal times and try not to have to try to cater for special needs.
Go in good weather so that traditional dress or long clothes are more comfortable, you don’t need A/C so badly or a pool and you don’t get wet getting around. It’s easier then to dry washing too. Home stays usually have the same rates all year round, and public transport doesn’t vary so there’s not so much to be gained by going in low season.
Do your homework, find out as much as you can about how the buses and trains work, about the places you are visiting and what you plan to do when you’re there.
Get a local phone, it makes is so much easier.
Take lots of small gifts from your country to give as tokens of appreciation for kindnesses.