Unofficially, India is called the rape country of the world, and Dehli – the rape capital of the world. Here’s what you must know to stay safe in India whilst traveling on your own.
This hub addresses some of the reasons why solo female travelers might get harassed or experience incidents that are much worse. I hope that you’ll take this information seriously, as this post was born from the experience and not mere theories.
Tip No. 1 – Skimpy Clothing Is A Big No No
For safety’s sake, avoid wearing low-cut tops or shorts during your stay in India.
Indian people don’t see such clothing the way westerners do. For Indians, such a way of dressing is a direct insult to their culture. Many Indian men see such a way of dressing as an open invitation to the suggestions of sexual nature.
Even a short eye-contact with a local man might be misunderstood as your fascination with him. How much more so if you wear skimpy clothing and look at them! Some would definitely think that you’re open to invitations of sexual nature.
I’m not joking about this. It’s surreal, but true.
Tip No. 2 – Don’t Go Out When It’s Late
Please understand that Indians consider single western women who go out alone in the evening as openly asking for one-night-stand offers. They also automatically assume that such a woman smokes, drinks, and is very easy to get into bed with.
For traditional local people it’s utterly puzzling to see western women walking alone when it’s dark. Most wonder what such women are searching for. After all, some think, there are plenty of daylight hours to walk outside.
So if you want to be respected in whatever place you visit in India, please don’t go out late. You may walk alone in the early evening hours in relatively safe tourist hubs such as the Laxman Jhula part of Rishikesh or some parts of Goa. But if the place has only a few tourists, please avoid late walks as this may attract unwelcome attention.
Tip No. 3 – Avoid Risky Locations
Some areas of India must be avoided by solo female travelers.
It’s wise to check news reports of each city before visiting it, in case there are some increases in crime or other safety concerns.
Usually village-like places that abound in tourists are safe, such as Varkala, Rishikesh, or Fort Kochi. Even some cities, such as Trivandrum, are safe.
However, some places can be dangerous, especially more developed cities that attract a mixture of people from all over India, like Delhi and Mumbai.
Delhi is the least safe place for female solo travelers. Of course, if you apply the advice given in this post, you’re likely to stay safe even in such a city. I’ve stayed in Delhi quite a few times, never encountering any dangerous situation – because I follow the advice I’m giving to you in this post!
Here are some dangerous places in India, according to The Indian Express website (1). I’m listing the most crime-ridden areas at the beginning:
- Jodhpur (Rajasthan)
- Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh)
- Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh)
- Nagpur (Maharashtra)
- Durg-Bhilainagar (Chhattisgarh)
According to another website (2), here’s a list of the least safe Indian cities for women, starting from the worst offenders:
- Navi Mumbai
Below is statistics obtained from TheHindu.com (3) about reported rape cases in 2013-14.You must understand, however, that the vast majority of rape cases is never reported.
That especially applies to villages, because a woman who reports an assault there is considered the one at fault. She is more than likely to be shamed, and may be ostracized from her community. If this happens in a village, where everyone knows her, she won’t be able to find any employment apart from prostitution or begging. So, as you see, there’s an incentive for women to stay quiet.
For example, though the village of Varkala is very safe for foreign women, almost all wives suffer from domestic rape and abuse, but this statistic never becomes official, since women are motivated to keep it under the rug for the fear of shame.
Here is another table of statistics taken from Numbeo.com (4) . It gives historic averages of crime rates in India. The highest crime cities are listed first.
In general, to stay safe, avoid…
- Places where alcohol is being sold and drunk;
- Places without any people, like jungles or empty archaeological sites;
- Areas with Indian men clustering in groups;
- public gatherings where you’re likely to find yourself squeezed between people (so that you avoid groping which is very common. If you do get groped, make a big deal out of it, shout and accuse the groper in front of everyone so that he would feel ashamed and think twice before doing this to another woman.)
Tip No. 4 – Have Your Own Padlock
If at all possible, stay in guest houses whose room doors could be locked with a padlock.
This is much safer than a simple key lock; because anyone having the second key can get into your room if it’s not secured by your own padlock.
If you’re given a padlock by the guest house owner, use it, but also secure it with your own. This will give extra security for you and your belongings.
If you must stay in a place without a way to secure the door with a padlock, at least secure your luggage with that padlock. Such a way of securing your bag would make it obvious if someone breaks into it.
Therefore this might discourage room cleaning staff or other persons employed by the hotel from even attempting to do so.
You can get a good-quality old-style metal padlock in India very cheaply. Expect to spend 60 to 150 rupees for a good one. In North India they will be cheaper than in the South. You can usually get them in convenience stores.
5. Know Whom To Ask For Directions If You’re Lost
Avoid asking random individuals, especially men, for directions to your destination. If they are average locals somewhere from the middle of India or the north of it, they’re likely not to understand your English anyway.
When asked such a question, they may, out of politeness, point to any place of their choosing, because saying “I don’t know” or “I don’t understand” is considered to be rude.
If you must ask such people for directions, at least ask the same question several different people, to see a general trend, and, therefore, make a more informed decision about the location of your destination!
The best people to ask for directions are police officers, though you may be unfortunate enough to encounter some that smile at you seductively and act weird, since they’re very familiar with western pornography.
If you happen to be in a touristy place, ask tourist police for directions – they’re likely to speak good English and should easily help you out.
Traffic police can be very helpful in helping you understand how to get to your destination; but many of them speak little English.
Another safe choice are train station employees; I mean the ones that do office work, sell tickets, check tickets, do train bookings and the like. Just go to any office located on the first train platform of any train station in India, and you’re likely to find someone who will help you. Plus, English of railway station employees is likely to be really good.
Another great choice, if you find yourself in a big railway station, is to search for a Tourist Information Booth usually located on the first platform. Such staff will speak good English and will be familiar with the touristy parts of their city or town.
You can also ask military personnel for directions, though some of them won’t understand your English. You’ll find them in areas of higher security risk, like the city of Mumbai or Delhi. They may also be found in Indian airports, around important monuments or governmental establishments, and some train stations.
Another safe place to ask for directions are in higher-end stores. They are likely to be air-conditioned. (I’m mentioning the air-conditioning in case you’re new to India and don’t know the way to recognize a more luxurious establishment.)
The staff of such stores are likely to speak good English, and they won’t follow you after giving directions since they must stay in a store! That’s why I like asking for directions in stores – this helps me avoid unpleasant experiences of having someone following me after the directions are received.
Another good choice to ask for directions is white-collar workers who seem to be rushed to get somewhere. They’re likely to speak good English and might give you shorter yet more accurate instructions of how to find your destination.
Another option is to look for least-threatening people. Such ones are mothers with children, old people, families, and younger women. However, if you’re visiting non-touristy places of India, such people may know no English.
If you find yourself in such a situation, say the name of your destination in as clear English as possible (without British or American accents) and then add “ka-HAAN”, which means “Where”. This may make them understand why you’ve approached them, and they may be able to help you.
In general, pay attention to how the locals pronounce Indian place names, so that you know how to pronounce them correctly and therefore make yourself understood. Most westerners pronounce Indian place names totally differently to how they actually sound.
Tip No. 6 – Avoid Talking With Random People
If some guy or guys approach you on the street, keep walking. Don’t even say “No” to them. Simply ignore them, like Indian women do.
No respectable Indian person would chat you up this way. If you get approached on the street, know that it’s either to extract money from you in some way, or to get you into bed with them – no matter how ugly or old they may be.
That’s because most Indian men see western women as promiscuous, because they believe that what Hollywood and pornographic movies show must apply to all white women.
Do not engage in conversations with guys who work or hang out in touristy places. Some of them can be very good-looking and charming. These ‘beach boys’ may be using drugs and be addicted to alcohol; they’re likely to be involved in numerous relationships with western tourists (both men and women), and they might be involved in different illegal money-making schemes.
They probably sell weed or other drugs to tourists, thus earning much more than the salary they get from their official jobs.
The ones you’ll find hanging around touristy places are often thieves, and, on rare occasions, even paid killers (I’m not joking). No respectable Indian associates with such people. No respectable Indians hang out around such places doing nothing but just eyeballing women or playing volleyball or Frisbee on the beach all day.
Beach boys almost always (if not always!) come from broken homes, have psychopathic personalities, and cannot form normal relationships based on trust and care due to their traumatic upbringing in poverty and without any love.
They try to compensate for the lack of feeling in their young days with excessive alcohol abuse, fast motorbike rides and different sexual encounters (sometimes daily). This, of course, never permanently fulfills them, so they continuously deepen their involvement in crime, drug-use and promiscuous activities until there’s no way out of their addictions.
The way that beach boys bond with others is through the consumption of drugs, alcohol, partying, sex, and similar activities. If they’re employed, it’s usually in the tourism sector, because the motive is not the work itself but what one can get with the help of it – sex, money, selling drugs to hotel guests and similar ‘benefits’.
So usually the hotel or restaurant work is just a cover for stealing from the rooms of hotel guests, sleeping with guests in order to get them emotionally bonded with them and therefore willing to spend money on them. They seduce and have relationships with both men and women, because most of those guys are into everything if it’s to do with sex.
Beach boys might especially target older men and women because they know that such people are more emotionally vulnerable (as many don’t want to acknowledge the fact that they’re ageing so they might use a relationship with a beach boy as a proof of their desirability). Beach boys also know that such people are likely to be richer.
Another big target for them are women suffering from low-esteem, especially overweight women. They easily seduce such women and then milk them for money or even get them into marriage and thus escape India and their poverty.
They might be absolutely charming due to their psychopathic personalities. They might look totally at ease and extremely self-confident due to their narcissistic traits and total lack of conscience.
Please, don’t get involved with such people. I’ve seen too many broken lives of women travelers as a result of forming relationships with such superficially charming guys. You cannot change them, and if you attempt to help them, they’ll probably, through their craftiness and experience, get you involved on an emotional level with them, thus getting you committed in some way, or dragging you into their dark life of alcohol abuse and the like.
Tip No. 7 – Avoid Staying In Cheap Rooms Of Big Cities
Although it’s perfectly fine to stay in cheap rooms in village-like places of India, such as Rishikesh, Varkala and Fort Kochi, that doesn’t apply to big Indian cities.
Strangely, hotels in dirty cities of India are much more expensive than hotels in beautiful small touristy towns! But no matter what the cost, it’s better to spend more money for a good hotel than to put yourself in a possibly risky situation.
Cheap hostel or guest house rooms in main cities of India are often rented for an hourly rate, which means that prostitutes use them to service their clients. It can be unsafe to stay in such rooms for a solo female traveler, especially if you’re the only foreign person in a hotel, or the hotel is filled with local men without any families in sight.
It’s even worse if a dirty bar is downstairs, making the cheap hotel a place to be avoided at all costs!
If you must stay in such a place, make sure it has a good internal locking facility. If there isn’t a way to properly secure the door from the inside, don’t stay in such a place.
Tip No. 8 – Think Long And Hard Before Getting Into a Relationship With a Local Man
It might be exciting to get into a relationship with an exotic-looking South or East-Indian man, but please understand this – no respectable Indian man who lives in India would get into the relationship with a white woman, because of the prevalent opinion of their lascivious natures as well as because of social casteism.
This applies to all Indian men living in India (and to most who live abroad too), no matter how educated they are and how many years they’ve lived abroad. If they were brought up in India, their understanding will be heavily influenced by the Hindu way of life. Throughout the years of my stay in India I have never witnessed an Indian man with a correct understanding of the nature of white women.
In India, inter-racial relationships are viewed with horror, and the children from such relationships are considered to be lower than their lowest caste that consists of public sweepers, toilet cleaners and cremation-ground workers.
You must understand that a man who lives in India doesn’t see you in the same way that a westerner does. He sees you either as…
- a sex-object (most Indian men dream of having short-term relationships with white women due to their exposure to lots of pornographic materials from the West),
- an easy ticket to freedom (through marriage, thus making it possible for them to leave India which is actually very difficult for average or low-income earning Indians), or…
- as a way to get entertained and get some money from you.
Because lying isn’t considered bad due to the Hindu philosophy of the absence of evil (it’s taught that nothing is good nor bad), many Indians excel at it, making it almost impossible for inexperienced westerners to catch them in their lies.
So an Indian man can be utterly convincing about his undying love for you, but the chances are, it’s only about sex or money, or, if he’s poor, he hopes to get married to you so that he can leave India.
If you absolutely want to have such a relationship, at least make sure he shows you to his parents (and make sure they’re actually his parents), because then it means he might be thinking of long-term relationship with you (marriage) – but probably because his financial situation is very pressing.
Tip No. 9 – Always Be Aware Of Your Belongings, Especially In Big Cities
Watch your belongings at all times, especially in big cities. I was nearly mugged whilst about to cross the street in Mumbai when I was with my friend. I didn’t even see how a skinny Indian man approached me – he did it so seamlessly!
When I looked at my bag, his hand was in the process of opening the front zip! He disappeared as seamlessly as he appeared, leaving me in shock and confused, wondering how skillful these thieves are.
Since the city life demands much more money to survive, many Indians resort to such ways of making the ends meet. So be very aware when you’re in a big city. Keep your money in different places in your bags, so that if one part of it is stolen, there are many that remain!
When using public transport, keep your hands on zips of your purse, and keep your eyes quite often on it, just in case. That applies especially when travelling in cheapest train compartments or on crowded local buses.
10. Ask Ticket Inspector to Change Your Train Berth if you Find Yourself Surrounded by Suspicious-Looking People
If you happen to travel on a train overnight, and find yourself sharing space with a suspicious-looking man or a group of men (Indian men tend to travel in groups), wait for the ticket inspector, and when he comes, ask your berth to be changed.
He will fully understand why, because many women present such requests. Usually ticket inspectors are very helpful, and will thoughtfully assign you a berth near a family or near women. To identify the ticket inspectors, look for white-collared mature men usually wearing glasses, and carrying a clip board and a pen. They wear black jackets and dark ties (at least usually).
If you’re not familiar with India, I would advise against travel in cheap sleeper compartments. It’s better to book berths in 2 AC or 3 AC train compartments. They are much safer because they’re usually used by higher-income earning people, and also because ticket inspectors and even police monitor the safety of such train compartments.
Summary Of Most Important India Safety Tips For Women
Here are the most important points to take from this article.
To stay safe in India, do this:
- Wear conservative clothing as skimpy clothing is considered insulting to the Hindu culture and sends the wrong message about your sexual availability!
- Stay in your hotel during late hours to avoid unwelcome attention from local men.
- Avoid crime-ridden areas of some cities, especially late at night. Some of such cities are: Delhi, Mumbai, Jodhpur, Kanpur, Indore, Gurgaon, Hyderabad, Noida and Nagpur.
- Avoid places where you see clusters of Indian men, cramped public places (to avoid getting groped), deserted places such as jungles or archaeological sites, and places selling alcohol.
- Have your own padlock and secure your guest house door with it, or, if that’s not possible, at least secure your luggage with it.
- If lost, ask these people for help: police officers (including tourist and traffic police), white-collared train station employees, military personnel found in or near airports, big cities, governmental buildings and historical sites; staff members of air-conditioned stores, busy white-collar passers-by, families, women, mothers with children, and old people.
- Don’t talk with men who randomly approach you, as well as guys hanging out or working in touristy places. If you must deal with them, keep it brief and totally professional so that they don’t get the wrong message.
- When staying in big cities, avoid cheap rooms. They are usually rented by the hour (for prostitution).
- Don’t get intimately involved with local men because almost all of them would be either after sex or your money, or will see you as a ticket out of India through marriage with you.
- Always be aware of your belongings, especially in big cities where thieves are absolute experts and can mug you in a minute.
- When travelling on an overnight train, ask the ticket inspector to change your berth if you find yourself surrounded by suspicious-looking men (or people in general).
1 – Indian Express – indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/ncrb-report-2015-six-indian-cities-most-unsafe-for-women-3005926/
2 – Womanpla – womenpla.net/the-safest-and-most-dangerous-cities-of-india-for-women/
3 – TheHindu.com – thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/delhi-is-now-indias-rape-capital-show-ncrb-data/article7554551.ece
4 – Numbeo.com – numbeo.com/crime/country_result.jsp?country=IndiaSupport My Work