With the exception of Goa, (one of the FEW places in India where scantily clad, western women are a dime a dozen,) women should be covered, at LEAST to the mid-calf and elbow in loose-fitting clothing. Often, it can be considered disrespectful for women to be too revealing, so play it safe and stay covered. To really blend in, purchase a beautiful, traditional sari or salwar, But be forewarned: saris can be tricky to get on and off. Politely asking the person you purchase it from to demonstrate for you may be a good idea.
DON’T WANDER THE STREETS ALONE AFTER DARK
While this is really great advice for any solo female traveler in any foreign country, do follow it while in India. It’s easy to become disoriented in India, with its busy, buzzing streets, touts vying for your attention, and tantalizing aromatic cuisine pulling you in every direction, which also makes it easy to get lost. Do your exploring during the day, and head in before dark for the evenings.
HAVE A CELL PHONE (or at least a fake one)
Having a cell phone with appropriate numbers, (guesthouses and hotels you’re staying at, your country’s embassy, emergency contacts, etc.) is also good advice for any country. In India, it’s also a good idea to call the hotel you’re staying at as soon as you get into a cab, making sure the cab driver can hear you, and tell them the name and number of your cab. Always ask the cab driver to see the verification that he is indeed a legitimate cab driver, and let him see you write down his information. IF you don’t have a working cell phone, or if no one answers at the hotel you’re staying at, it’s okay to go ahead and fake it just to let the cab driver know that they’re expecting you at a certain time, to reduce that chances of him taking the long way to charge you extra fare. Again- cab drivers in every. single. country. will try this trick- so go ahead and combat it to begin with.
IF YOU’LL BE ARRIVING AT NIGHT, BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION IN ADVANCE
One of the joys of traveling is turning up in a new place with no idea what your next move will be, however, it’s always important for solo women travelers to make sure they have their accommodation booked in advance if they’ll be arriving somewhere after dark.
USE THE PRE-PAID POLICE TAXI BOOTHS AT THE AIRPORT, BUS, AND TRAIN STATIONS
This is just plain good advice for anyone traveling in India. Rather than hitting the streets the minute you hop off the train and trying to catch a cab, follow the signs that can be found at almost any airport, train, and bus station pointing you toward the Pre Paid Taxi Booths. Stand in the line, tell them your destination, pay the fare, and hop in the police-verified cab. This prevents you from being overcharged and ensures that you are with a legitimate cab driver.
SEEK OUT THE ADVICE OF OTHER TRAVELERS
Hang out in the common areas of your hotel or guesthouse to get in-person recommendations from other women travelers of where to stay and what to do further on in your journey. If you find someone you hit it off with and trust and your plans aren’t set in stone, travel with them for a while! Online reviews can always be helpful, but nothing beats good old, direct, word-of-mouth.
DOUBLE CHECK YOUR HOTEL ROOM BEFORE AGREEING TO STAY THERE
In any lesser developed country, you’ll run into the problem of hotels and guesthouses over promising and under delivering. “Hot water and free wifi” can sometimes mean hot water that trickles into a bucket, taking ten minutes to fill, and the wifi may be limited to those closest to the router, (or coincidentally be “out of order,” quite often.) If these things are important to you, double check the room first: The water pressure, wi-fi signal, and lock on the door are all good things to scope out before agreeing to stay.
CHECK IN WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY BACK HOME
Again- solid advice for any traveler in any foreign country- let your family where you are, where you’ll be staying, and where you’re headed next.
DON’T FLAUNT EXPENSIVE JEWELRY OR MONEY
This one probably doesn’t need much explanation, and you should be seeing the pattern of “plain old good advice for anyone, anywhere,” by now.
LEARN HOW TO RELAX WHILE KEEPING YOUR GAURD UP
Hey- the people of India are amazing- relax! That doesn’t mean getting wasted in public and relying on a new found friend to get you home, (which, by the way, women drinking in many parts of India can be frowned upon,) but it does mean to use common sense- trust when it feels right to trust, keep your wits about you, and embrace the beauty that is INDIA.