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Solo Travel: A Woman's Guide to Exploring India Independently

Discover essential tips empowering women for confident solo travel in India

29 Jan '24
9 min read


Ever thought of solo travel but got intimidated immediately by the idea of it? You aren’t alone. Trust us on that. But within the challenges lies an incredibly rewarding experience. For starters look at the benefits: freedom to travel at your own pace, makes you self-reliant, forge new friendships, and empowers you. This is evident with the huge influx in the number of solo female travellers today. 

Moreover, with proper planning and research, you can have a safe solo travel experience within India. And why not?  With its rich cultural tapestry, diverse landscapes, and warm hospitality, India offers a plethora of opportunities for self-discovery and adventure. In this guide, we'll explore tips and insights to help women navigate solo travel in India confidently.

As a well-known travel blogger and author Shivya Nath described in her blog, “I discover the romance in solo travel. I wouldn’t do it any other way, in India.” 

Let’s help you discover the romance as well. 

Research and Plan Ahead

When embarking on a solo journey, thorough research and strategic planning become essential. From delving into the intricacies of your destination to securing accommodations in advance, there's a myriad of preparations to undertake. Take into account factors such as weather, local festivals, cultural norms, and any travel advisories during your research. 

Given the vast diversity in India, travelling from the north to the south (or vice versa) may seem daunting, akin to exploring a new country, especially with the language variations. Engaging with travel blogs, forums, connecting with fellow solo travellers on social media, and consulting travel guides can provide valuable insights, inspiration and motivation. To streamline your information, consider using a travel planning app.

Do a thorough research for your first solo trip

It’s not necessary, maybe even possible, to plan every tiny detail. But this tip surely helps with the overall experience and contributes to your safety and well-being. 

Alternatively, there are travel groups specialising in solo trips for women like JugniGirls on the GoWOW ClubWovoyage, etc where you can meet other like-minded women travellers. A few of them even can help you organise your first solo trip based on your budget and preferences (read laid-back, adventurous, food-themed, offbeat, etc), making the entire process relatively easier. 

    2.  Start small 

If it’s your first-time solo, start with a journey close to home. Pick spots that are just a few hours away or a chill overnight bus or train ride. Look for destinations that combine your interests and passion. Travel writer Sophie Nadeau suggested, “Pick somewhere where you think you might feel comfortable visiting.”

For instance, art and history enthusiasts in Bangalore can dive into the history at Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its gorgeous temple ruins and rock structures. The other option can be to soak the coastal charm of Pondicherry. Both are safe for women. 

Begin your solo travel journey by exploring spots closer to home

These mini-adventures will fuel your wanderlust and equip you with the courage to travel to (relatively) far-off explorations. They serve as confidence boosters, making it easier to step out of your comfort zone, try new activities, and explore the place.

 3. Choose a solo-friendly destination

For first-timers, it’s a great tip. Solo-friendly destinations are safe with low crime rates, have good infrastructure, easy-to-access sights and offer unique experiences. Consider a well-known place with booming tourism industries, also which will keep you at ease, as suggested by Mariellen Ward, a long-term expat living in India. Goa, Jaisalmer, Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Darjeeling, Landour-Mussoorie, etc, are among the top picks for solo-friendly travel.  

Opt for solo-friendly havens like Goa, Pondicherry, etc—safe and accessible

  4. Plan a thorough itinerary

Craft a detailed day-wise itinerary using online resources like Google and YouTube; bookmark and save insightful links. Consider the old-school charm of guidebooks and travel memoirs for inspiration. Ensure you book your accommodation in advance and familiarise yourself with nearby attractions and offbeat spots. 

Craft a detailed itinerary

Always check the ratings and reviews of other tourists who stayed at the same place that interests you, as pointed out by YouTuber and solo traveller Tanya Khanijow in her blog. “I always look for a comment that mentions ‘best location to stay.’ A review like that usually means that the hotel/place of stay is centrally located and close to places of tourist interest. Make sure the place doesn’t have any negative comments on safety.”

Opt for budget-friendly homestays or centrally-located hostels for added safety without breaking the bank. It boosts your chances to meet other fellow travellers at hostel-organised social events. You won’t realise but that also does wonders for your self-confidence. Meanwhile, you get to savour local experiences at homestays as you get a peak into local traditions, food and customs with company. 

Once you have planned your itinerary, share it with your family or friends.   

       5. Keep your family and friends informed 

Keep your family and friends updated about the trip for your safety. Once you arrive at your destination, share your daily plans, the contact details of your stay, and your transportation details. Give them access to your live location when you step out to explore. These precautions ensure a smoother journey and ease any concerns they might have. They might even offer mental support when the going gets tough. Author and blogger Shivya Nath penned it down in her blog, “Stay in touch with someone who inspires you to keep going when the road looks tough or lonely.”

Keep family in the loop with daily plans, stay details, and live location updates

   6. Trust your gut 

Your gut never lies. So during your travels, if you feel something is off, walk away.  Don't be afraid to say no or set boundaries. Female solo travellers are expected to come across as polite. But in tricky situations, safety should take precedence over politeness. For instance, if a taxi driver seems shady, get out of the car.  Let go of what others think. Be nice when you want to, and choose safety when you don’t.

Like  travel journalist/blogger Mariellen Ward, reiterated in her blog, “If you think something is off, it probably is. Trust yourself, trust your rising anger. Anger is a protective emotion. Use it.”

 7. Keep Cash Handy And Essentials

Even though we live in the age of cashless transactions there are places without a network. The last thing you want to face in an unfamiliar territory is running out of hard cash when you are travelling solo. Especially in places like hills where ATMs are not easy to find, extra bucks in your wallet will always emerge as a saviour on your solo expedition. Also, it’s a great way to stay on budget as money reduces in real-time. 

Keep cash ready for emergencies

Equip yourself with all the essentials you can think of –  a torch, raincoat, pepper spray/swiss knife, sanitary napkins, tissues, a travel edition of First-Aid kit, a power bank, a torch, and something to munch on. Don’t forget duplicate copies of your ID proofs like your Aadhaar card, travel insurance, and some passport-size photographs.

  8. Pack smart 

If you are a first-timer don’t commit the grave mistake of overpacking. Reason? “Repeating clothes is better than getting stuck with an immovable backpack,” Brand strategist-turned -travel blogger Archana Singh mentioned. 

Don't make the mistake of overpacking

Invest in a good quality backpack and a fanny pack to keep your hands free for other tasks. The latter will take care of your daily essentials. Have this bag with you all the time in case your luggage gets lost. It’s good to carry those small foldable bags within your bag for that last-minute souvenir shopping.  

When you are travelling solo you don't want to stand out. So keep your travel wardrobe understated. Save space by packing clothing items that can be layered, mixed and matched or even worn in multiple ways. For instance, a dress can also be turned into a shirt when worn over a long skirt. Leave out your valuables. Trust me, you don’t need them. 

9. Dress modestly 

Choose modest attire to blend in with the local culture and minimise attention. While you're free to wear what you like, opt for comfortable clothes that blend in to avoid unwanted attention, ensuring a more comfortable solo travel experience. Singh wrote in the blog, “Dress for comfort. Dump your skinny jeans, skirts and ballerinas. Live and breathe in track pants and wear comfortable shoes.”

   10. Safety first ALWAYS

Since this is about safety there are multiple points to cover. So bear with us. 

  1. Arrive before sundown for a smooth start; mornings are ideal for reaching your destination and avoiding the challenges of navigating in unfamiliar places at night.
  2. Be aware of your surroundings. Notice who’s walking behind you. 
  3. Needless to say, practise caution especially while exploring offbeat deserted sites. Get done with sightseeing in the first half itself. 
  4. Study the routes on maps before you start and keep your smartphone navigation on while driving through cities and towns. Always download maps for offline viewing.
  5. In crowded places like bazaars or metro trains, keep your bag in front, not at the back, and secure your phone inside the bag, not the pocket. 
  6. Don't tell strangers where you are staying. 
  7. Learn local phrases as speaking to people in their mother tongue tends to deter miscreants.
  8. Be adaptable. Leave room for last-minute changes.
  9. Keep a can of pepper spray, a Swiss knife and a whistle. 
  10. Act confident and avoid appearing lost or confused while navigating. If unsure, seek help from a reliable source.
  11. Don’t hesitate to shout out for help if you feel threatened.
  12. Keep your mobile and cards in separate places. Divide cash and keep it inside pockets of your backpack etc. 
  13. Note everything down right from your hotel’s address to emergency, local police stations, and hospital numbers in your diary. 
  14. Have 100 on speed dial
  15. Take physical women self-defence classes if possible or master the basics through a few videos.  

   11. Finally enjoy 

Finally, don't forget to prioritise self-care during your solo adventure. Take time for yourself, recharge when needed, and indulge in activities that bring you joy. Keep an open mind to new culinary adventures, landscapes, traditions, and experiences. 

Finally, soak in the beauty of the place

Rose, a solo traveller from the UK, recommended in her blog, “Enjoy this! Even the testing moments won’t last forever. Several years from now, you may sit back home wishing you could do it all again.”

There is a reason why solo travel is an unparalleled route to self-discovery and personal growth. 

So what are you waiting for? Let’s do this. 

If you are a Solo Woman Traveller, share your travel experience and tips in the comments section. 

Category : Travel


Written by Madhuwanti Saha

Writer, Journalist , Photographer