“Of all the evils for which man has made himself responsible, none is so degrading, so shocking or so brutal as his abuse of the better half of humanity; the female sex.”
- Mahatma Gandhi
India is a country filled with beautiful landscapes, rich culture, and deep-rooted traditions. Whether travelers stick to the Golden Triangle or venture to the South, India has a lot to offer in terms of food, people, and aesthetic beauty. However, it is also filled with unpredictable incidents and dangerous areas. Visiting India not only requires carrying your medicines for spicy food or the mosquitoes, but also researching enough about the places you will be visiting and the precautions you will need to take in terms of safety. Hence, a traveler coming to India for the first time needs to get a heads-up about certain situations before landing. For those travelers who have traveled several times to the country – it doesn’t hurt to look through a few safety tips that could be of utmost use! There have been several reported and unfortunate to say, unreported, incidents that could’ve been avoided with a little bit of knowledge about safety, specifically for India.
One such incident occurred on the 14th of March, 2017. An innocent traveler with a British passport had been touring the country, since the month of February. By mid-March, the woman was brutally raped and murdered on the beaches of Goa while celebrating the festival of colors with a few friends. Whether it was because she wandered off alone in an unknown place or had not been cautious of her surroundings, it is no doubt that the sadistic attacker is to blame. In light of this recent event, we spoke to a few women travelers and travel bloggers who could give us some insight about how to take our own steps to prevent such incidents from happening. Precaution is always better than cure, and in the woman’s case, there was no cure. Unfortunately, women in India have to be responsible for their own safety.
The following are some general safety tips for women traveling alone in India as provided by several women travel bloggers:
Aditi Kumar Mathur, author of a critically acclaimed book - Love Whatever that Means says "Women traveling alone should be alert and aware of the surroundings. They should research the destination city as well as the hotel/home stay they have booked.". She advises women to try and connect to travelers who might have experienced the same hotel/destination via trusted friends or travel communities they know about. Swati from Recipe4Travel adds "Women should book hotels via reliable sources or choose family rated hotels."
Do not go out alone with new acquaintances. It is ok to mingle and make friends but it is better to be on the cautious side.
No matter where you are, be aware of your surroundings. Although traveling involves letting yourself be free, making sure you’re safe comes before that. Stuti Shrimali from 'Me and My Suitcase' added, “Keep your GPS tracking on whether you’re traveling in the cab where you don’t know the directions or just exploring. You should know your location.” Aarti from travellerspeaks added “Make sure you know where you are and what’s happening around you. Be in a safe place”. Shivani Garg, popular travel blogger says “Even when you’re interacting with the locals, be cautious of whom you are giving your personal information to and whom you are trusting. Keep your distance.” Click here to buy Personal Alarm Clip for Women Safety from Amazon.
"When in Rome, dress like a Roman - ancient saying but pretty a relevant for women traveling alone," says Aditi Kumar Mathur. "Dress up conservatively to avoid unnecessary trouble; shorts or skirts and noodle straps are for friendly gathering or parties and bigger cities. Avoid late night sojourns to remote areas," says Shoma Abhyankar from Astonishing India. Dress as locals do & avoid traveling to secluded places post dark.
One of the most common safety tips is never to go exploring in dark alleys or isolated areas. That’s where trouble is usually lurking, especially after nightfall. Woman blogger Nidhi KM says “Avoid traveling or exploring after dark and make sure you reach home or your room before it’s dark.”
It’s always better to have some back-up. Even if the inner traveler in your feels the need to explore more, being armed with self-defense is a huge plus point. Popular author and editor, Shuchi Singh Kalra says " She usually carries pepper spray and a Swiss knife which is attached to her keychain so that it is easily accessible. She also has a whistle dangling from her backpack. It can come quite handy when you want to raise an alarm or throw an attacker off guard". Pooja Gupta from Travel Jots suggests that women traveling alone should be aware of words like "Bachao Bachao" meaning help in Hindi, "Police Police" to call help. Click here to buy a pepper spray from online store now.
If you feel suspicious of your surroundings, don’t panic and don’t show anyone that you’re scared. Be confident enough and find your way out of there as quickly as possible. Isha Chopra from Letusgoto says “It is important to trust yourself and be confident even if you don’t know exactly what’s happening. Exude confidence and no one will question you.”
“It would be helpful if you knew a little bit of the local language to get your way around. Speak it confidently like you’re sure of what you’re saying and trouble-makers will steer out of your way, knowing you can communicate with the public.” Megha Shrimali from 'The Brown Scooter' added.
Your necessities include medicines, some money, identification, and flashlights if you’re moving around in the dark. Make sure to always have them with you in a case of an emergency. Samarpita Sharma, travel writer and editor says “Make sure you do some research about where you’re going and accordingly, take the necessities with you.”
“Your necessities include things like flashlights and medicine, not your jewelry or an extra amount of money or other irrelevant things that you don’t need.” added Ankita Singhal from 'Make a Change'.
We realise that India is an extremely humid country, especially in the North and wearing jeans and a T-shirt all the time is exhausting. We know you would prefer your shorts or skirts and short tops, but strongly urge you to avoid them as much as you can. The locals may not be as accepting and may not be able to perceive your culture the way you do. “Respect the people and their culture. Try to blend in with the locals as much as possible,” says Aditi Mathur Kumar.
Solo traveling is when you want to get away from the routine of your life and be alone to explore the country you’re visiting. However, it is always advisable to leave important details such as where you’re staying, your roaming mobile number and your itinerary with your family or friends who can contact you if they are concerned about your well-being. You wouldn’t want another 127 hours movie scenario now, would you?
Another advisable point is to let them know where you’re going if you’re stepping out after nightfall or when it’s about to get dark. Most women travelers have suggested the same. Keep someone (family, friends) informed about your moves, stay options and travel plans, this may be helpful in times of crisis.
We cannot stress on this as much as it needs to be emphasized, but at any cost, trust your instinct. If your guts tell you to get out of there, then get out of there as soon as you can. Even if you feel like it would be rude to do so, know that your gut is never wrong and that split-second decision could save your life.
Divya Rai from 'A Borrowed Backpack' says “Always follow your gut-feel; you are better safe than sorry! Listen when your gut tells you to do certain things.”
“Even if you are rude by dropping everything and getting out of there, do it. There is no room for courtesy” adds Shivani Shourie, prominent travel and parenting blogger in India. You can buy a 150db Noise set for Women safety as well from Amazon, that costs less than 500 bucks.
Traveling in India especially places like Goa where tourists are seen in plenty, comes with its own risks. We realize that it is unfair for travelers who are only looking for fun to take so many precautions, always knowing that you cannot let yourself free at all times, but it is necessary. The recent Goa rape case sheds light on the same. We also realize that as much as it is our own responsibility to take care of ourselves, we also hold the Indian government accountable. We asked the same women travel bloggers what they think the government - and Indians themselves - could do to make traveling in India safer and more enjoyable. This is what they had to say.
Yes, this is the number one priority; The Indian government should make stricter laws and moreover, execute them in a much more serious manner. The public and the offenders need to know that the people and the government will not just look away from crimes like these.
Shivani Shourie says “There need to be quicker trials and more strict punishments.” Almost every Indian and every travel blogger we interviewed would agree with her.
The Police Department needs to deploy more cops to areas that are prone to crimes. Dark alleys, beaches after dark and other dingy areas should be their target point. By doing this, offenders will be kept at bay. Aarti says “There should be cops on the beaches, public places, and dark alleys canvassing the area regularly to keep trouble-makers away.” Nidhi KM adds “I think they (government) should deploy police personnel at dingy places in civil dresses so that prompt action can be taken.”
Another suggestion by Shivani Garg was to create an SOS App. In her words, “Launch an SOS app that alerts at the click of a button and sends a distress message and exact location to the nearest police station in case the sender feels suspicious.” You should also share your good, bad or smart travel tips on Tripscam.com so that other women traveling alone may benefit from your experiences.
Regardless of which country or state we are talking about, the locals have a certain responsibility towards tourists who come to visit them. They must participate in making sure the travelers have a comfortable and safe stay on their watch. They cannot be held accountable for any incident, but they do have a certain responsibility in the same.
Megha Shrimali says “More than telling the travelers what to do and what not to, the Government needs to ensure that the locals are vigilant enough and report if anything suspicious around them happens. With places such as Goa which are always abundant with tourists round the year, it is very important for the locals to help out tourists and be attentive.”
With the above suggestions, India can be made a safer place to travel to. Rome wasn’t built in a night – just as change cannot be brought in overnight. However, with persuasion and perseverance, change can happen. Women have every right to be let themselves free and enjoy their vacation. They should have the freedom to explore every nook and corner they want to out of curiosity or just plain adventure. However, until change is brought about, solo women travelers need to keep an eye out for trouble and the above safety tips will prove extremely useful in your travels. Happy Journey!
Disclaimer: The information and views set out in this article are those of the author and quoted contributors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the Tripscam Solutions. Neither the Tripscam Solutions and its bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.