Franz Sinatra said “if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere” referring to New York. Well, I surely made it in New York. But, hey Franz! I think you were never in India. For me this phrase has a new meaning, “if you can make it in India, you’ll make it anywhere”. Hell, yeah! India was really intense. Just read my post about my first night in India, and you will see what I’m talking about.
India is definitely my favorite country in the world. I even joke about getting marry with a Hindu just to get an Indian passport and have more time traveling through India. I am seriously obsessed with the Country and its culture. But not everything is safe. 80% of the people I met there were trying to take advantage of me, just because I’m a western woman. They think I am rich because I come from a different side of the world. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you but I travel with a tight budget all the time. Or men think I’m opened to have casual sex with everyone. Helloooo! I’m not an escort. I choose if I want to have sex with you or not. And If I do so, it’ll probably be after knowing you better. And only maybe? Idk. Those guys were crazy.
Anyways. I made it through India and I’m alive. I’m happily writing about it while I’m drinking my chai in Thailand. But here are some tips to keep you safe.
1. Make sure that your flights, buses or trains will get to your destination during the day.
I can’t stress this more. But if you messed it up with the flight, then spend the night at the airport. If it is after 7pm, then just stayed at the airport. Wait there. It’s safe. Get some food, sleep on the chairs, charge your phone, read a book, watch the airplanes landing, go to the bathroom, talk with strangers (don’t give too much personal information or lie about your life), do whatever you want BUT DON’T LEAVE THE AIRPORT UNTIL NEXT MORNING! And it’s better if you take the metro to your hostel.
Always take the overnight buses or trains. I loved these trains and buses for 3 reasons.
- They were the cheapest option.
- You get to your destination during day time.
- You don’t pay for accommodation that night.
Overnight transportation is safe, nothing to worry about it.
2. Use Uber all the time.
Uber is going to save your life. You’re going to get a decent price, it’s always cheaper than the tuk tuk drivers. Taxi drivers are prechecked so you’re safe with them. They have the moto uber service in some parts of the cities! How cool is that? You can get a ride in a motorcycle! I only found it in Gurgaon though. But it was cool!
Most of my uber drivers were so nice with me, even if language was a barrier. Uber is not available in every city though, but you can also use Ola!, it’s a little bit more expensive than uber but safer than the tuk tuk drivers.
3. Always ride the Women only car on the Metro.
A lot of men came closer to me on the metro and it was super uncomfortable. Some of them even touch my boobs or ass by an honest “mistake”. Plus, having a lot of men staring at me, it’s not my kind of fun. Women are going to stare at you, but because of curiosity. It feels safer being on the women side only for sure.
4. Cover your legs, chest and shoulders.
Okay, I went out a few times wearing dresses without leggings and I was safe. But I did it only in Delhi and just one time I was by myself. I had no problems. I don’t think you have a lot of problems in big cities, or places like Goa and Rishikesh that are full of tourists. But be smart!
5. Always go out with a guy from your hostel.
I know. We’re strong independent women and we need no man in our lives, but think twice about it while in India, especially if you’re going out during the night. And even if you go out with a dude from your hostel, be aware of your surroundings. Like one night I went to a bar with Loren, a guy from my hostel, and this bartender tried to kiss me. Oh god! I have more stories like that one.
6. Make local friends.
There are so many ways you can make local friends here, just be smart! Hindus are super smart and they are working all over the world. So, I wouldn’t be surprise if you have a Hindu friend already. Tell him/her about your plans. He/she might introduce you some friends through Facebook. I know, it’s weird. But, hey! Social media is everything these days! This is how I met a couple of friends.
Couchsurfing wasn’t created to get a free couch to crash anywhere. It is to meet people.
So, use it! Most of the people there are going to be guys and some of them we’ll have hidden intentions with you. You’re going to receive thousand of messages from guys inviting you to go out, etc. It’s okay. Just make sure to read their references first. I normally read a few references from women and I always read the negative ones. Never go out with a guy that tells you “hey cutie!” or “you’re cute”. This is not tinder, so avoid that type of guys. Always agreed to meet in a public place. Go to the CS meetings and make yourself famous. Meetings are always fun! You’ll get to meet more people in one evening! CS literally saved my life.
7. If you’re on a solo adventure, try to get to your hostel before 7pm.
Just do it. Don’t even hesitate.
8.Pretend that you are married.
I believe it’s something cultural that they respect married women, idk. You don’t even have to wear a ring; they will just believe. Pretend you are married all the time. I had a lot of messages requests in Instagram while being there, and even there I used to say people I was married, engaged or had a boyfriend traveling with me. They believed it even if I didn’t have any picture with my special one. Weird! If you meet a well-educated guy, then tell him the truth or not. But I never had any problem with my well-educated male friends.
9. Buy a SIM card at the airport.
I was planning on not buying sim cards to save money, but you need one for your safety here. A sim card in your smartphone is always useful. Google maps will help you to navigate through the cities and villages. You can see if your driver is going on the right direction. You can keep contact with the people from your hostel/guest house, etc.
10. Do NOT make eye contact with men.
Is he staring at you? Okay. Ignore him. They think you’re flirting with them while doing eye contact. Weird, right?
11. Don’t worry about being rude.
This was one of the hardest for me. I always care about people’s feelings. I don’t mean that you should be an asshole, just be rude when you need it. Like, if the guy is making you feel uncomfortable, be rude. Tell him something, yell at him! Make a scene! Scream! He will run away soon.
12. Take pictures of the taxi or tuk tuk plate and the driver before get it on.
And make sure the driver notices it. They won’t try to take you anywhere else or drive you around. Plus, if you need to call to any local friend asking for help, you already know all the information about the driver.
13. Trust your intuition and gut.
If you don’t feel right about something, then just don’t do it. I said no to many drivers just because of their appearances. I know, it’s bad to judge people because of it. But, I don’t care. It’s my safety. So, I’ll go for it.
14. Imitate the local women
See how they behave, how they dress and where they go. Do you see that they are avoiding a street? Then don’t go there. You barely see a woman after 7pm on the streets, so why do you want to go out late at night? They definitely know better than you.
15. Don’t agree to take a picture with a man.
People in India are going to stop you all the time and ask for a picture. You can either feel like a celebrity all the time, embrace it and love it or totally hate it. It’s okay if a family comes to you and ask for a picture. It’s okay if you’re with a group of friends and a guy ask all of you for a picture. But it’s definitely not okay when you’re by yourself and the guy ask you for a picture. Don’t do it, and don’t be afraid of saying no.
16. Tell them that you are calling to 100 (the police) or your embassy.
After watching the documentary Daughters of Mother India, I learnt about the law enforcement in 2013. Women and girls are no longer being blamed because of being rape. You can call the police and say that someone try to rape you and the won’t even hesitate twice. They will take the guy immediately to prison. Men can spend months in jail until everything’s clarified.
Saying that you’re calling to your embassy will help you to get your money back from scammers.
I am not saying that you shouldn’t travel to India. I partied in Delhi until 4 am, went by myself wearing dresses, and even went bra-less a couple of times. Yeah, I know, I might be stupid but I’m alive.
India is not as bad as you hear it on the media. Yes, it’s definitely an intense country. But you’re going to miss so much in your life if you don’t visit it! Just be smart and have the time of your life here!