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Parvati valley

10 safety tips for women backpacking in India

“The women who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.” – Albert Einstein

            Solo travelling has undoubtedly been the most raw and exhilarating form of travel. Solo travelling does not always mean you’re alone. More than often you meet marvelous people along your path and make memories to last a lifetime. You will have no path, you will not see where you are going, and the uncertainty of the journey is what makes most take the road less travelled.

Chalal river bank

In the past few years, the number of women traveling solo across the country has increased by a manifold of 37% as compared to the last decade. An increasing count of women are ditching their jobs, the regularities of life and breaking through the contemporary thresholds of society and setting off with their backpacks to lands unknown. Women say they need moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance out how much of themselves they inadvertently give away.

            However, safety still remains one of the primary concerns and factors that leave women flummoxed about solo travel and backpacking in India. The following are a few key tips to keep in mind always, while on the go.

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1. Research

Women

Before you go on your trip, research everything about the place you are going to visit. This is very important because you don’t want to act or dress inappropriately. Culture is something about which, you always need to know before you go. Also check for places that may be troublesome or may smell of gang culture or local wars, avoid booking a stay around these places.

2. Dress like a local

Chitkul village

In some parts of the world, the way you dressed can make you a target. Sometimes that would imply that you’ll have to cover your legs, shoulders or head because you don’t want to receive any unnecessary attention and blend in. Also avoid wearing flashy jewellery and expensive accessories as it is most likely to attract attention which could result in mugging and theft.

3. Keep people informed

Dawki chai stall

Always keep someone informed about your whereabouts.  That might be a friend at home, family member or someone that works at your hotel or hostel. Try to let your family know that you are okay every day. Being active on social media also will show your loved ones that everything is fine.

4. Trust your women instincts

On the hike to Grahan

Politeness is never more important than safety. While the world would be a better place if everyone was thoughtful and kind, sometimes people – especially women – let courtesy override the gut instincts because they don’t want to be rude or be told they’re ‘overreacting’. But they should always trust their intuition, stop worrying about what other people think, be nice when it’s warranted, and choose safety when it’s not.

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5. Have a fake lover waiting

Fishing at Bhandardara

When travelling alone in the night by a cab or a bus, always make sure people around you know of a boyfriend or husband that you are on your way to meet soon. Similarly, when conversing with locals at cafes or bars, make sure you mention the existence of a male company travelling with you, if you are alone or with women companions. That will keep most troublemakers at bay.

6. Don’t get high

Couples at Yolo cafe 2.0

Always drink in moderation, and enough to keep a hold on your senses. Do not accept any drinks or substances from strangers or even fellow travellers you meet on your way. Safety always comes first and even though a little party may be tempting, resist the urge to play with the odds of falling into a risky situation.

7. When you get lost…

Wilson dam Bhandardara

If you get lost, don’t look at your phone or the map in the middle of the street. Duck away into a corner or a café and check the routes in privacy. You don’t want anyone to know that you’re lost. Looking at a map or your phone in an unfamiliar place is dangerous and time-consuming.

8. Do not sleep on buses or trains

Train ride india

Avoid taking night trains. Similarly, avoid dozing off when travelling in cabs and buses. Always go in a train or car that has other people in it. In buses or trains, sit close to the front and see that there are other women around.

9. Don’t wear both earphones

Dawki bon fire

If you’re listening to music on the go, never wear both the headphones. That way you can always stay alert. You can also wear headphones with no music on as an excuse for not listening to unwanted conversation and a way to eavesdrop and overhear anything sketchy that might be going on.

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10. Organise smartly

ladakh home stay

Packing light can actually be a safety tip. Nothing says ‘rob me’ like someone wheeling four large bags along the side of a street. You’ll also be more mobile with a smaller bag in case you need to move quickly. Don’t keep all the money in one place. Stash your cash in different places in your luggage and carry credit and debit cards. Have hard copies of your itinerary and important phone numbers with you at all times.

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