Before going to India, I heard and read so many horror stories about travelling to India as a solo female.
Instantly, I had the worst thoughts and expectations. I expected a lot of inappropriate behavior and interaction, chances of getting kidnapped for ransom in Jammu & Kashmir, and what not.
But guess what? I went, had a blast and came back in one piece. There wasn’t a single time that I felt like I was in danger.
It is important to keep in mind that this is based on personal experience and many other factors. For one, I blend in as a local in every city I went to. Second, India did not feel foreign. I like to consider myself to have sufficient knowledge of their culture, behavior, day to day routine etc as I studied in an Indian school from nursery to 9th grade. Moreover, we have a huge Indian community in Saudi.
So here are my top 10 tips to survive in India!
- Tickets: Book your ticket for buses/trains at least 3 weeks in advance. They run out real fast! You will end up on a waiting list or no seat at all. In order to book your train, you need to create an account with IRCTC which requires passport validation and may take up to days. I’d recommend hitting the booking 6 weeks prior to your arrival.
- Bus Seats: Opt for middle or back seats. The front seat is way too loud with the honking and loud music/TV.
- Bus Sleeper: I would recommend single upper deck for females.
If you’re 5’3 or less with an average body weight, a single sleeper is a perfect fit. If you’re taller, it might not get comfortable because there won’t be any room to stretch your leg.
- Schedules: Expect delays and reschedules. Always call the station or office before your scheduled trip and check if it is still on schedule.
- Going around: If you think Uber is the most convenient way around the city, you’re mistaken! Opt for the metro instead. It’s so much faster and it is not bad at all. In fact, it was very comfortable and quick! Uber is convenient after midnight but not for other times of the day.
- Things you must carry:
- Sanitizer: You will be surprised with the number of kids that will run after you for a simple handshake or even a hug and not to forget the selfies!
- Water bottle: Always carry one to keep hydrated since some places might not have bottled water.
- Scented oil: This helps a lot in dealing with the smell. Peppermint or Tea Tree oil works best in my opinion.
- Blanket & pillow: When travelling long distance using public transport, you need your own travel blanket/pillow to get cozied up and get some rest.
- Wander around the narrow streets of India to soak in the true feeling of India. Those monuments, temples and historical sites won’t give you that satisfaction. You need to experience the great chaos!
There isn’t a better way of getting to know the city than to simply wander around and get lost in the streets of India! It is chaotic. It’s the type of chaos makes you want more! I found myself in all sort of emotions and feelings. Ignore the dead animals and rodentS you may find along your way and since cow is one of their god, you’re considered lucky if you step in one of their dung. I was pretty unlucky most of the time!
Number one rule of walking in the main streets of India is to keep going. JUST KEEP MOVING! Do not stop. You don’t need the sidewalk, just move in the same direction as the vehicles or animal and you’ll be just fine.
I get several doses of thrills just by crossing the roads. It’s SO MUCH FUN! You have to be on high alert and have quick reflex in maneuvering between rickshaws, autos, cars, buses, cows, bulls, vans, dogs, and people!
I think I could write a 2 page article just on walking the streets of India. And when you’re in a narrow street and 3 huge bulls come right at you out of nowhere, brace yourself!
- Cash: Always bring cash. Many other travelers and I faced a lot of problems with their ATM, it simply won’t withdraw or it’s out of cash. The latter is more common.
- Accommodation: Hostels and family guest house is your best bet. Also, the best ones are usually fully booked but don’t worry! There are plenty of hostels and they can always accommodate you in the common area. I’ve stayed in a common area twice and they were just as good as having a bed. And if you just need a place for the day to drop your bag or have a power nap, some hostels have those options too!
These are my recommendation!
- Delhi: The Madpacker, Zostel
- Jaipur: Moustache
- Agra: Moustache, Zostel
- Varanasi: Stops Hostel
- Food: Download Zomato to find the best food close to you!
- Markets: There are so many markets in Delhi. My favorite ones are Janpath and Khan Market. Khan market is slightly on the upscale level while Janpath is very affordable. Both are great!
- Taj Mahal: Buy your ticket online from https://asi.payumoney.com/#/ so you can be the first one to enter! Make sure to queue up at the Western or Southern gate by 5:45 a.m. and have your ticket printed and ready!
- Airport: Security in India are pretty tight even when it’s just domestic flight. Get there 2 hours prior to domestic flight and 3 hours for international flights. Make sure to have your boarding pass printed and get a tag for each carry on.
Go get your great Indian adventure! Live it now!