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11 Safety Tips for Women Living or Traveling Alone in India

August 6, 2010

photo credit: Sirengsongs. All Rights Reserved.

As more and more Indian women have jobs that require them to travel or keep late hours in the office, safety has become a no.1 concern of working women in India today.  A recent survey shows that 94% of Indian women feel unsafe living or traveling alone, or staying alone in hotels in India.  Of those who’ve traveled outside India, most say they feel safe traveling or living alone in hotels in western countries!  Street sexual harassment, molestation, and stalking are seen as a normal part of day-to-day existence that all women are expected to put up with.  And even though most rapes are never reported in India, or of those reported most are not filed by the police,  rape still is the fastest growing crime in India today. There has also been an alarming increase in the number of  reports of rape of women tourists in India.

Here are 11 safety tips from The 50 Million Missing Campaign for all women living or traveling alone in India.

1. Though there is no reason one can’t live or travel alone, the fact is that it is might be safer for single women in India to live or travel with at least 1 or 2 other people.   Often if you have a male companion, you are usually also less likely to be sexually harassed and/or molested.  (We are not saying this is how it should be! It curbs women’s rights to freedom of movement and is fundamentally sexist.   But it is a safety precaution that works to some degree in India.)

2. If you are traveling on assignment, or have moved to a new town or city for work , ask your company or organization to ensure your safety by making the arrangements for your stay through their local contacts.  Or ask them for known and reliable contacts through whom you can make your arrangements.  In the hotel, make sure your door has a latch or chain on the INSIDE, and once you are in your room always keep the door locked and chained.  Always carry a portable door-stop and use it at night irrespective, or use some object like a door stopper. If it is a room on the ground level or 1st floor, make sure the windows have grills.  Do not leave your balcony door open while sleeping at night. When ordering food etc. do not leave the door open, and yell for the service person to walk in.  Have them knock and take your items from the door.

3. In budgeting your travel or rent expenses make safety your no.1 priority.  The lower the cost the bigger the risk with safety.  Hence it may seem like a good, cheap deal on a  rented house, apartment, hotel/guide/transportation/tour package, BUT the more obscure it is – the bigger the risk with safety.  You are better off with a known place.  Also something that other SINGLE WOMEN you personally know have used and recommended. (Remember it is not the same for a men!)

4. Never accept food and drinks from complete strangers (especially on buses, trains and in hotels), even if they seem friendly or are very insistent .  There have been cases where food and drinks were laced with drugs, and the unwary travelers then robbed and/or sexually assaulted.  Visit bars and restaurants which have more customers (that way your food is also fresher :)) and whatever you drink, insist on a sealed bottle (check the seal carefully).

5. This is particularly for western female tourists : Avoid all body contact with men you have just met or even if you have known them over a few days.  Do not give hugs and don’t shake hands.  Use the conventional ‘namaste’ instead.

6. Your eye contact with strange men should be brief and never intimate.  Don’t make direct eye contact and smile simultaneously.  These can often be misinterpreted. Be casual with your words; but be aloof and alert with your body language.

7. If you are living in low budget hotels, or are in public areas, the market, villages etc., wear baggy clothing and try to ensure your arms and legs are covered.  This may (or may no!) help prevent male stares and harassment!

8. Avoid all travels at night.  Never get into a cab or auto that has more than one man sitting in there.  Sit near the door and if other men get in at any point, get out immediately.  However, we have also got reports of women who’ve been attacked by lone cab drivers.  Therefore, if you are traveling in the evenings or if you are journeying to unfamiliar places, it might be best to use public transport like buses.  Do not use unmarked ‘share’ cars or vans. Never ever hitch a ride or accept a ride with a stranger no matter how friendly he seems.  During train journeys mindfully gauge the people who are with you in your cubicle, and if you feel uncomfortable stay on your guard; don’t go to sleep. If you need to find your way somewhere, ask for directions.  But never follow someone who says, “Follow me, I will show you.” Follow the directions and keep checking with others you meet en route to see if you are on the right path. Never agree to meet people you barely know at a house or hotel they invite you to.  If you must meet and talk, ask them to meet you in some café of your choosing.  Go and leave alone.

9. Set your boundaries with your body language. Usually men who are looking for an opportunity for an apparently ‘careless’ brush or uninvited physical contact, will test your boundaries first, for e.g. sitting too close. Or touching your hand. Indian women often get frightened and flustered and are unable to speak up.  While foreign women are often concerned about seeming unfriendly, racist or snooty. But the rule of safety is the same for women no matter where they are in the world: IF YOU ARE UNCOMFORTABLE, IT IS NOT O.K.   In crowded areas, set your boundaries assertively.  Move away or remove your hand.  If they persist, tell them loudly and firmly using very straight language, “Do not touch me.”  Never appear hesitant or apologetic. But if the place is isolated and there aren’t too many people around, do not try to get assertive or aggressive.  Just try to get away as quickly as possible. 

10. Avoid intensely crowded places – like buses and festivals. That is where men take the opportunity to molest women. Also, be very careful about a direct, angry confrontation in these kinds of situations, for mobs in India are notoriously unpredictable.  Indian women often don’t complain because the crowd begins to blame them. In a festival try to stay on the edges of the crowds.  In a bus or market place, loudly but firmly and politely say “What are you doing?” And remember guilt works better than anger.

11. The Golden Rule of Safety for Women where ever you are:

Be alert to your environment and the people around you at all times.

Listen to your gut instinct and don’t second guess it. (It is better to be wrong and safe than wrong and sorry!)

And act on your observations and instincts intelligently.

 

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Sirensongs is a founding member and a contributor to The 50 Million Missing Campaign’s Photographers Group on Flickr  which is supported by more than 2400 photographers from around the world.   To see more of each of her works, please click here.

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79 Comments leave one →
  1. tasweer permalink
    August 6, 2010 1:14 pm

    very helpful. my head hang in shame god give sense to my fellow indians

  2. Meeta Choudhury permalink
    August 6, 2010 2:01 pm

    I dont think people are so dangerous in India…I really did not like some of the alerts mentioned herein as if Indian are not humans they are animals….why only In India …in which country women are not molested or raped…India is far better than their own countries…Indians are kind,caring ,generous,helping ,know hospitality,know how to entertain guests…they have outstanding patience and sincerity.I am proud of India and Indian people.I have been to all the countries of the world but failed to find people like Indian people. Go to poorest family , if they have one piece of bread they will definitely give u half of it to u .We treat our guests like God.

    In every foreign countries young women should be alert about their money and self respect and India is not different from others but not indiffernt like others when they see others pain and sufferings they come forward to share their pain bcz It is India, our India .I am proud to be and Indian and I love to keep my head up as an Indian.

    • Piyali permalink
      August 7, 2010 6:36 pm

      Men ARE dangerous in India. I have and worked in Delhi for 15 years. Thankfully I am out of there in Mumbai now. I had to carry stones in my bag to ward off molesters. They’d just brush against you, finger you, grab you. Indian men, especially north Indian men, are disgusting.

    • THE 50 MILLION MISSING CAMPAIGN permalink*
      August 14, 2010 5:50 am

      @ Piyali — You go girl!!! Fight back — that is the way! To all Indian girls and women reading this:
      1) Remember when men harass you — it is NEVER your fault. It is not what you wear, or how you look and behave! It is a perverse and antisocial thinking IN THE MAN that makes him do that.
      2) You MUST speak up. These men predate on girls or women who they can sense will be too scared or frightened to speak out or fight back. SAFETY IS YOUR BIRTH RIGHT. YOU must protect yourself.
      3) IF ever you are attacked please contact a trusted person for help. Any one who tells you that it is your fault is not a ‘trusted’ person. A ‘trusted’ person (they don’t have to be family; they can be a friend, school teacher or ngo) will support you, they will comfort you, they will stand up for you, they will help you find medical and legal help. Remember the shame is the attackers. YOu never have reason to be ashamed!! When you are abused — the right emotions to feel are anger and outrage! BUT NEVER EVER SHAME.

    • THE 50 MILLION MISSING CAMPAIGN permalink*
      August 11, 2010 4:29 am

      @ Meeta — Please note this is not a tourism site but a site that is FOCUSED on the issue of violence against women, human rights and therefore the safety and well being of women IN INDIA.

      Our answers below concern ONLY this post:

      1) The safety advisory here does apply to women traveling anywhere in the world. Some of the pointers, eg. 5, 6 and 7 are more culture specific and apply to more conservative and traditional societies like India — and would probably include many countries specially in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

      2) NO we do not regard men who violate women to be “animals.” If you put a dog before a bone, the dog will jump on the bone. But the human species, men included, have a brain — and they make choices. A man (anywhere in the world) can choose to be decent or he can choose to violate women. So when a man molests, harasses or attacks a woman — he is making a choice. The people who assume that men are “animals” are the people who suggest that wearing certain types of clothes is what makes men behave obscenely. They are the ones assuming that a man is incapable of choice. But we believe that all men are human, and everything they do is a choice!

    • Jess permalink
      April 3, 2013 1:39 am

      I agree with you.I visit India every year.I love India and her people.The rest of the world can learn a lot from India.I live in the UK but I love India more.

    • Pearl permalink
      April 8, 2013 4:25 am

      If it is so safe in India, why are so many women and children being raped and murdered there on a daily basis.???? Women deserve to be treated with respect , nothing less. No female should be forced to marry and have sex at any age, this is a crime and need to be treated as such.

    • October 20, 2013 4:53 pm

      Indian govt should provide gun to girls for safety nd before provide tell them to shoot on knees nd call near police station orelse like a pen type jiske uper up nd down movement hota wala nip hai usmay atleast 250 volt electric rahega ussey kya hoga suppose koi rape karne aye to wor pen pakad kar uske body par push with pen 250 enough to unconscious anyone nd that pen should be tag on shawl

    • Sabine permalink
      January 18, 2014 4:42 pm

      I have good experiences travelling in India, also alone in bus, train and shops. Most the time I met kind and helpful people. I only avoided crowded parts in a festival. I felt safe in India. Media should give a picture of both sides.

    • January 21, 2014 3:37 pm

      Sabine — There are villages in India where every woman has been raped by the local politicians. In 2 years there are more than 12 rapes cases of foreign women in India (and this number is very tiny compared to the thousands of women who do get raped). Rape is only one kind of violence. Thousands of girls and women are also killed in India. You are saying your experience was good. Now if you suffered what the foreign rape victims or the Indian women and girls have suffered would you be writing this? What would you say then?

  3. August 6, 2010 2:31 pm

    I have travelled India as a solo woman for more than 16 years now and while one advantage of that is I have made some true heart connections with families the downside is always the behaviour of Indian men.
    All ten tips are valid for a woman alone in India.

    http://wanderlustandlipstick.com/wandertips/india/tips-and-tricks-for-staying-sane-while-solo-in-india/

  4. Ananda permalink
    August 6, 2010 3:39 pm

    I agree, this is very good advice. I think that foreign women need to be on alert in India. I had no idea about the not shaking hand thing, or the eye contact. In North America it is seen as impolite not to shake hands, and make direct eye contact. In India never do this, I believe their minds are thinking something else.

    There are over a billion people, so yes there are some of the best people on the planet, but there are also some of the worst.

    Being a white women, I can tell you, I experienced extreme racism in India, I am married to an Indian man, and at times I was so surprised, I was treated as if I were a prostitute, some just assume, white women equals prostitute.

    It was a huge surprise to me, because I thought this was the land of the Vedas, Gandhi, Ganesha, Krishna, it is but beware….I think some watch Hollywood films, and just assume we are Hollywood film, free, and easy. That is like making the assumption that all of India is Bollywood film…

    It is s a different culture, where men can not touch women, they have different rules, women from outside of India need to know these rules….for their own safety. Do not let a man you do not know, shake your hand or touch you.. it means something different. They can not touch Indian women, they should not be touching you.

    Also travelers to India need to have respect for the customs, sometimes a few can ruin it for everybody, always respect Indian customs, when in India, do as the Indian people do.

  5. Kathie Noga permalink
    August 6, 2010 7:22 pm

    There are rape prevention with women and there is also rape prevention with men. What is being disgusted with men to make them change this situation? It seems like it is all put on the woman. India used to be an matriarchy in ancient times. Why are men using their power and doing this? Something should be done about this. This bothers me. If they are not supposed to be touching a woman, then ladies scream and make it known he is touching you. That is what they tell you in the US if a man touches you without your permission.

  6. Arjun permalink
    August 7, 2010 4:16 pm

    It is imp for ladies to understand indian environment and adjust to it when in India and travelling alone.

    The average man is not matured to understand the sensitivities associated with foreign travelers, the govt agencies like police are not adequately equipped and also corrupt ………….

    so it is advisable to be careful also govt must have tough rules and implementation

    all the best

  7. fatima permalink
    August 7, 2010 8:57 pm

    wonderful hints , thanks

  8. August 8, 2010 1:01 am

    Great reminders for all women who travel anywhere.

    My 13-year-old sister has just flown out to visit with me, and she told me about a man who was being much too forward with her on the plane. She said that she talked to him even though she was uncomfortable, because she was afraid that if she ignored him he might realize that she thought he was weird and do something crazy. I told her never to do this, that she should never talk to a strange man, that if he makes her uncomfortable she should ignore him, and that if he persists, she should tell one of the airline personnel. Obviously, if she were not on a plane she should have walked away, but on a plane I think she should have told a flight attendant about the problem and asked to be moved.

    Anyway, it just goes to show how our desire to be polite can be used against us. Don’t let that happen, women! It’s not rude to follow your instincts to protect yourself.

  9. Anil permalink
    August 8, 2010 12:19 pm

    I see this as a direct copy past from some travel advisory which has seen bitter experience and has made it a personal issue…

    II feel such harse and biased opinion about India is not warranted for. If one has to take into account rape as a crime in any country, India is far far low in percentage.. I am confining my data only for the foreign tourists since the forum here is focusing them only..

    My advise would be to refrain from making such blatant accusation on Indian males. Please allow them to show their better part too. you would be amazed to find how hospitable and helpful they can be.

    Yes, I agree that there has been cases of rape and similar crime in recent past, but then Indian government has been prompt in dealing with them. It is taken as a matter of national pride and prestige and such instances are dealt strictly and quickly..Not that I harbor fundamental thoughts, but it certainly helps to respect sensibility of a place and people living there//..

    Nothing wrong in putting on a decent attire when moving around. Of course the basic precautions in a new place, new country are applicable here too just the way they exist elsewhere…

    Finally I wud conclude with just a plain logic that had it been that bad, the number of tourist visiting India wud never has seen upsurge in recent time…

    • THE 50 MILLION MISSING CAMPAIGN permalink*
      August 9, 2010 6:01 am

      @ Anil.

      1) This is not a “copy paste travel advisory.” It is something that we felt necessary to put up because of the many complaints we have received from BOTH foreign women and Indian women about sexual harassment from men in India. What we realized was that even though there are many travel programs on Indian Channels, on Discovery and BBC etc. — almost none of them address the issue of safety for single women traveling in India.

      2) As a man we understand that you would find this post “harse and biased,” and you would probably have to be a woman to understand the discomfort and fear you feel about men staring at you lecherously, trying to grope you or assault you in public places. Though there are also lots of sensitive and decent Indian men who also feel outraged by the way women in general, that includes Indian women, are treated by men in public places in India. We also want to point out that this is a safety advisory for single women (in India and elsewhere) — not a treatise on India!

      3) More than 80% of rapes by strangers in India are among the poorer sections of women. These are women who wear saris and salwar kameezes. They do not have the luxury of traveling in cars and living in posh, secure neighborhoods. They have to move in public places, for work etc. to survive and that is what makes them vulnerable and victimized.

      4) However we are making a statement about male attitude in India towards women that needs to change — and it is not through this post in particular but through the campaign. Sexual violence is one of the many forms of violence that underlies the misogyny that has systematically eliminated more than 50 million girls and women in India in 3 generations. And it is not going to change as long as men (women) in India are defensive and in denial. Because that is the very attitude that perpetuates this horrendous human rights disaster. We hope that you will have the courage and conscience to admit that we in India need to change. And become a part of the change.

    • Mel permalink
      April 22, 2013 2:07 pm

      @Anil,

      It’s truly amazing how you turn a personal security awareness for women & make it about you & other men. Don’t you realize what you’re posting your message on? This organization is based on the human rights for women of India. Don’t be so naive & turn a blind eye on the heinous crimes committed against young girls & women. If you’re not going to support this movement, step aside. Take your own advise and tell your fellow Indian men to act as you portray them to be in your above comment. Don’t ask women who are simply protecting themselves to nurture your ego.

      @The 50 Million Missing Campaign,

      Keep fighting this fight! I’ve read several responses to the posted messages and I love that you don’t cower or second guess your stance. I’ve always wanted to travel to India as many have posted already. I’ve had friends travel there and loved it. No matter where we travel, we must always use the necessary precautions to secure our safety. Thanks for posting the safety tips when traveling to India.

    • April 22, 2013 5:45 pm

      Thank you Mel! We are always glad to hear that we are being heard and it matters :)

  10. August 9, 2010 12:48 am

    Wow, this is making me scared to travel! LOL – thanks :(
    Jessica

    • THE 50 MILLION MISSING CAMPAIGN permalink*
      August 11, 2010 4:50 am

      @ Jessica — actually if you keep these advisory tips in mind traveling in India can be safe and fun :) What we want to point out is that where in some countries attacks by men on single women can be very aggressive and direct, in India a lot of the sexual leching, harassment etc. is just opportunistic. You don’t have the typical brawn and muscle man here, who looks and sounds very intimidating. Most of these men look sort of “harmless,” and sidle up to you or wait to catch you unawares. Indian women are generally aware of the movements of men and generally can read intention in how men move (often slyly) and act. The reason Indian women face problems is because there is a cultural conditioning that psychologically cripples us, and prevents us from shouting out, calling for help and defending our space and safety — which is every woman’s right!

      But foreign women are generally unable to read into these subtle maneuvers and sometimes are embarrassed to shout out, because they don’t want to be seen as being culturally intolerant. So the groping, etc. usually catches foreign women here off-guard; it is totally unexpected. But on the flip side if you stand your guard and through your body language or words show that you will shout and defend your space, men either won’t bother you or they will run off very quickly. The only time men can be sexually aggressive in India — is when they are in a group. That is why all through this post we constantly remind women — all women, foreign and Indian, (if they are alone) to avoid densely crowded events or places.

  11. Lila permalink
    August 9, 2010 5:48 am

    Its Indians who are themselves making a mockery of thenselves. Indians are after all Humans and not cannibals. I have been living in Delhi for past 34 years and have been working. Your self respect and dignity is in your hands. I dont see, Indians specially, highlighting the hospitality that Indians extend to foreigners visiting our country.

    If people like Julia Roberts can visit India and return safely, I am sure others will be safe as well. Foreigners who are helping in Leh have not complained or given words of alert to other fellow foreigners not to help the people in Leh in the most difficult situations.

    As Indians its as much a right than a duty to protect our dignity and values.

    • THE 50 MILLION MISSING CAMPAIGN permalink*
      August 9, 2010 6:16 am

      @ Lila —

      1) First of all this is not a “hospitality” forum. It is a safety forum.

      2) The molestation of single women is not any form of “hospitality” for anyone, anywhere.

      3) “Your self respect and dignity is in your hands.” That is the cowardly manner in which women have tamed and maimed their daughters in India. Girls growing up in India if molested or raped are told they asked for it, as if anyone ever asks for abuse! It is what prevents girls in India from shouting out in public when they are groped. This is why girls in India don’t complain when they are raped. It is also the unfortunate attitude that encourages men to take no responsibility for their action.

      4) Excuse us — but Julia Roberts had an army of security. Even her family couldn’t get through to her on the phone. Bad example :))

  12. Ananda permalink
    August 9, 2010 3:33 pm

    I have been in Delhi for an extended period of time, I was with my Indian husband, I am in my late 40’s, I was covered head to toe, I am white, and I was shocked.

    I felt like I was a sex symbol walking down the street, … I have traveled the world, never have I felt so disgusted.

    I came back to my country, and told my teenage children about this, they laughed, and would not believe me, because I am their mother, they were thinking?? who would look at their mother, an old lady like this. They were thinking I was delusional … yes anywhere else in the world I would have been, but this is true… I was looked at like I was a 20 year old sex symbol..maybe some would think this was cool, but it really bothered me. I felt degraded.

    Would the Delhi men do the same to their mothers??? If you do not want to be seen as degraded men, clean it up, start a campaign, be more educated in how to treat women, change your attitudes, grow up.

    Yes, Julie Roberts is a really bad example

    • THE 50 MILLION MISSING CAMPAIGN permalink*
      August 11, 2010 5:02 am

      @ Ananada — You do make an important point here. ‘White women are easy’ is one of the many female stereotypes that many men in India harbor. There are other female stereotypes that makes some other sections of women very vulnerable to sexual harassment and abuse from men — Divorced women for example. We have had numerous divorced women in India write to us to tell us how because they left their abusive husbands men in their social circles and neighborhood immediately take it into there head that these women are game! One woman we heard from, is so psychologically traumatized, she is a virtual prisoner in her house. She doesn’t answer her landline, or pick up any unrecognized number on her mobile, because she gets obscene calls all the time.

  13. August 15, 2010 2:40 am

    Delhi is the rape capital of India for a reason, but according to Indian culture the man can do no wrong and the women have to find another way of dealing with sexual violence. Sexual Violence is the srongest form of social control exercised on women in India.
    BUT there are plenty of Action Sheros in India! Take a look at the Blank Noise Campaign

    http://blog.blanknoise.org/

    http://dibundyontour.blogspot.com/2007/02/kya-dekh-rahe-ho.html

  14. THE 50 MILLION MISSING CAMPAIGN permalink*
    August 19, 2010 4:48 am

    Here is a recent post on this topic by Indian author Shobhaa De on her blog site:
    She writes “As a nation we are so seriously sex starved, any touch is better than no touch. And the best touch of all, is the one that comes with a phoren tag…Fairs, melas and festivals are Groping Heavens during which it is open season for all those hard up men…This nasty celebration sometimes leads to molestation, even rape.” Read More.

  15. October 5, 2010 4:44 am

    I agree totally with this advice. I went to Kerala this August [2010] for just one week, on my own, and I had to be on my guard all the time. If I made brief eye contact with a man many times it was followed by more engaged behaviour on their part. So I decided on day 2 to wrap my Afghan scarf around my head like a ‘hijab’ and then I was treated to catcalls like “Hey Miss Iran! Kashmir! Open your mouth girl!” I had one guy on a 4 hr train journey strike up a conversation, which, even as I turned away from him and looked out the window, he starts putting his arm on my shoulder and at my waist!! At my destination, while walking along a main road, this youth on a bicycle starts stalking from the other side of the road, turns off and disappears, only to be coming up fast from behind to try and snatch my bag, which I thwarted by turning around as he approached, after my spidey sense started tingling…I walked the rest of the road with a big stick in my hand which I occasionally thwacked demonstratively into my palm…I felt ridiculous doing it but And Kerala is said to be one of the more peaceful states. I was told by a couple I met there that men were openly ogling the girl on the beach as her bf lay beside her asking them to leave them alone! A twosome of Dutch girls this couple met had also been harassed in the same town..

    Despite this, I would like to return to India and I would still travel alone, but would have some of deterrent/defense weapon on me, probably pepper spray.

  16. Shana permalink
    October 27, 2010 10:04 am

    Or better yet, don’g leave your home… Thank god for the feminist revolution so that in the year 2010 we can still be warned to avoid crowded place and have a man on our side as much as we can…
    I know this was written with good intentions and I don’t want to be too cynical but women get rapped in the US and in Switzerland, as they do in India. I have heard about the Indian men and some of your tips are good as cultural translation of the human behaviour to western women, yet I think your post, as a whole is disturbing and gives the wrong message.

    • October 27, 2010 6:15 pm

      @Shana — they are only safety tips for those who want safety tips. But if you feel you don’t need them — then don’t heed them :) Yes you are right to feel distured! Safety of women in India is a very disturbing issue — we have selectively killed more than 50 million in less than 3 generations. You think that’s happening in Switzerland and the U.S. too? check out our blog and all the links.

  17. August 9, 2011 9:14 pm

    Hello! It doesn’t matter it is about India or not. Your advices are very useful and important for any place in the world. Please go on to propagate the travel safety topic. It is a big challenge for modern world. Thank you!

  18. Erika permalink
    July 25, 2012 11:25 am

    I was just amazed of reading all the advices. I traveled solo to India on 2006 and I did almost all the things is suggested not to do. I should now better because I come from Mexico, where machismo still prevails and I work with women´s human rights, but I have a naive trust in humanity.
    I have a bad experience in a 28 hours bus (been touched) and I´m glad I reacted as suggested, instinctively (being careful with the confrontation).
    Anyway, I would like to add an advice about being aware on how you interact with other travelers.Once, a rickshaw driver asked me for a kiss, and when he saw my surprised face he just said: “You just gave a goodbye kiss to that man you just met”, refering to another backpacker. I know in some countries this is really common, but we should be aware of the customs of the place we are visiting.
    I know thos post is almost two years old, so I was wondering if there is something newer since I´m going to India on October and maybe will be traveling solo for a couple of weeks.
    Thanks for this post.

    • July 25, 2012 2:01 pm

      Unfortunately it’s not got much better. You can see this newspaper log on reported incidents of violence against girls and women that we’ve started. Basically, what we are saying is just be extremely and careful about your safety and comfort, and make it a priority. Print out our tips, and keep them in mind, and we hope you will find them useful as you travel.

  19. Aroup Chatterjee permalink
    July 30, 2012 7:12 am

    Very good and useful. Indian men come across as dysfunctional children alas! Another point I’ll mention – in the West women and men have a custom of smiling and nodding at total strangers and mumuring a brief Hello.In India this is often taken as a cue for ‘Undress’

  20. September 26, 2012 9:40 am

    Thanks for sharing this useful information. This would really help the women.

    Thanks,

  21. anonymous permalink
    October 4, 2012 6:13 pm

    Whatever you can do is useless until the mentality or backwardness exists where women mostly supporting men and sometimes even blaming themselves and defending them. Wrong should be punished and India is a too gender discriminating to describe. Even some Indian girls educated are sexually harassed & marriage is forced on them if someone stalks them. The entire society will discuss her public life and if she doesn’t want to marry then it’s a crime in India. She has been given little or no place for even to breathe unless she is harassed enough to break all laws. Society doesn’t come for humanity but for entertainment of all sorts and women being considered as objects of sex is mostly the mentality found and those who oppose are made to suffer. Though our country has modernized but for rights of women we are moving backwards.

  22. October 20, 2012 5:03 am

    Just to add to it

    Men not only harass directly but may also pay street kids to harass a woman in the street.The street kids physically harass by touching, pulling on cloths, lifting skirts, holding on to legs or hands. While I was studying Engineering at BVBCET, Hubli, a few fellow collage mates used to pay street kids to harass us, the girls, in the collage campus itself. It was humiliating and tormenting. Had to scream and shout at the kids, threaten them with “I will take you to the police” and all the while being aware of being watched and someone having cheap fun at my expense.

    • November 1, 2012 5:52 am

      We were not aware of that! Good you fought back. Though it says much about the system of law and order, that the levels of harassment on the streets get worse every year!

  23. December 18, 2012 9:26 pm

    Great blog, and very useful tips!! Thank you so much for that in advance.
    But this has just a slight bit to do with the subject: I’m a European girl and going to India soon. I have long dreadlocks and I am aware of the fact that in Hinduism, dreadlocks are reserved only for holy people. But now I’m wondering, since I am not a Hindu and far from holy, if people may be offended by this? Will people find my haircut offensive, because I’m not a Hindu but I do wear the locks?
    Kind regards
    Caroline

    • December 19, 2012 11:38 am

      No people may be curious, but there is no religious rule or anything about it. There is no reason anyone should object to it for the reasons you say. They may be curious as to why you are wearing them :)

  24. Anupam permalink
    December 19, 2012 10:44 am

    Yes it is indisputably true that all these problems are very very deep-rooted. Segregation of the sexes certainly has had a ghastly impact on the safety of women in India. It is preposterous to find people blaming the victims for all the assaults and it is very outrageous to find the police doing the same and saying non-sense about the outfits women wear. It is also nonsensical to find some Indians finding the above guidelines as some kind of slight, which these are not. To those Indian folks – Our own epics talk about good and evil, here we are talking about fighting the latter, so please try to clear your conscience and be nuanced about the exact idea of this campaign, which I find very important. Yes, an assault is a very conscious choice. I am a North Indian male and I feel that we should try to remove the filth and darkness that we let thrive inside us and not camouflage it with notions of hospitality and culture. These acts only make the latter sound and seem hollow.

  25. December 25, 2012 6:43 pm

    Do not worry (Apply Islamic rules)……………..KILL THEM…. DESTROY THEM….SHOT THEM ON PUBLIC ROADS so that people should get lesson……I think after that “No man would be born to molested any woman in INDIA”.
    GOD BLESS INDIA

    • Anna UmQasim permalink
      January 16, 2014 8:02 pm

      What you’re saying it’s not Islamic rules at all, it’s trangression and inhumane very punishable in Islam! Please educate yourself better about Islam or at least stop spreading lies! Thank you.

  26. March 3, 2013 10:31 pm

    Would carrying a taser or stun gun get a woman arrested in India if she used it for self-protection? These bas**rds desperately need some justice and it seems as if the only way they’re going to get any is if the women who are attacked dispense it themselves…

  27. Brooke permalink
    March 27, 2013 9:58 pm

    I am traveling to India alone for 10 days this summer before meeting a friend in Thailand. For part of the journey, I will be staying with friends in Hyderabad; however, I plan to start my venture in Delhi and travel to other cities first. With the recent publicity of rapes in India, I am seriously starting to reconsider my trip, which is sad because I have so long been wanting to visit India, a country so beautiful and intriguing, and one with which I am in contact every day through my company. This is excellent advice and helpful.

    I find myself wondering about my own safety and if men in India really do behave that more inappropriately than do men elsewhere. I am tall and blonde, a definite stand out in India. My sister travelled alone to India two years ago (she is 5’10” and blonde) and said she was definitely stared at everywhere she went (by women as well as men) and often asked to take pictures with families, but only stated that it was irritating, not frightening. She had a wonderful trip and great experiences that sealed my decision to travel. I think of myself as a confident woman who people generally don’t mess with based on the way I carry myself in general. I have taught in one of the most dangerous areas in Chicago, and have never felt dangerously threatened because I like to think that I handle myself appropriately in most situations. Is it stupid to travel alone in light of recent events?

    • March 29, 2013 12:07 pm

      Brooke, One of the reasons there is an escalation in rapes and violence on women (both Indian women and tourists) is because men can see that the government has no intention of taking a strong stand on law and order, or even justice. It’s basically free for all! So if you are traveling alone please be alert at all times and please do take all the advice we’ve given here seriously.

  28. The girl who learned how to say NO permalink
    July 11, 2013 5:50 pm

    Friends, I am currently living in India and have been here for 2 years and a half. Its not a lifetime, but its enough to make a good friend or two. I have met wonderful people whose kind words and love have changed my life forever here. But I have also lived dangers from which only my God has saved me. 1 advice, don’t let anyone guilt you into anything. People can look so innocent but still have a bad intention in mind (like anywhere else in the world). They will give you the lonely puppy eyes, they will beg, they will talk about their poverty and family, they will change subjects, they will have so many tricks, but NEVER back down on what you KNOW is not right or doesn’t sound right. Don’t let “politeness” push you into terrible situations.
    Don’t answer personal questions. You will see how many “Do you smoke or drink?” you get… as if its a free pass to think you are an easy woman.
    Then how do you make friends? Well… you have to take the call (work, class, interest groups) just NOT strangers on the street.
    Thieves broke into my house at night in India… anyways long story short: Keep your cellphone charged, powered on and with credit to call ALWAYS. Sadly “sleep with one eye open”. That’s how it is, here in India, in my country Colombia, in USA, everywhere girls. EVERYWHERE.

  29. ganhar dinheiro permalink
    December 5, 2013 5:00 pm

    Excellent post. Very helpful information.
    Thanks and best of luck.

  30. Julian Skinner permalink
    January 15, 2014 5:25 pm

    Not likely to travel to India until rape treated as serious crime it is and prosecuted fully.

  31. Anna UmQasim permalink
    January 16, 2014 7:54 pm

    All of these safety tips are already in accordance with Islam and these is the reason why Muslim women dressed conservatively, limit their interactions with the opposite gender, travel with a male relative, both men and women are instructed to lower their gaze for each other, respect each other, guard their private parts and fear Allah if they transgress! Mothers you’re the primary and most important teacher for your children. …therefore teach your boys to grow up to respect and protect women not hurt them!

  32. Sally permalink
    January 17, 2014 5:36 am

    Sadly I think the advice here is very relevant and necessary for women traveling to India. I have lived, worked and studied in India during several trips, (sometimes staying for nearly a year) since 1988.

    I love many aspects of India and am married to a beautiful Indian man who is nothing like the sort of men who are causing problems for women in India. He feels a great amount of shame about the rape problem in his country of birth. And he has told me he prefers it if I dont return to India at this point in time (or any time in the near future) as a result. We live in Australia.

    I definitely noticed that on my most recent trip alone to India a few years ago, the daily level of harassment while walking down the street to my Indian classical music school in Varanasi was exhausting. This was in broad daylight, (I never walked outside after dark). The trip was still worth it because my teachers are amazing and I learnt a lot about Indian classical music while there.My teachers were responsible enough to implore me not to venture outside AT ALL during the Holi festival in Varanasi. They gave it to me straight, saying that if I do, the crowds will rip my clothes off. I am glad I heeded their advice and stayed indoors to practice music until the festival was over. Some of the other female music students from America were resentful that they were told to stay inside. They wanted to be a part of the festival. They felt controlled and commented angrily that the position of women is bad in India, but unfortunately, that’s just how it is at the moment. Concerns for safety are paramount and important despite how “wrong” this state of affairs for women in India is. And yes I definitely also personally feel it is wrong, and yes it angers me too, but common sense really needs to reign supreme.

    I walk for exercise every day, and my teachers in Varanasi also advised me to catch a taxi to the university to walk on the grounds there rather than on the streets. Very good advice. But even there I received some menacing comments from rickshaw drivers such as: “Why are you always alone?” Obviously I was being watched and noticed, simply for trying to get my daily exercise in broad daylight.

    It wore me down to the extent that I shortened my last India trip. In particular in Delhi I definitely noticed a very different and “threatening” feeling that I had never felt before on previous trips. And someone did try to enter my Paharganj hotel room one night, violently bashing on the door and rattling ferociously at the handle (the door was thankfully chained from the inside). I didnt answer the door of course and telephoned the hotel reception and asked them to deal with this person and their response was suspicious and sheepish, defending the actions of the person trying to enter my room, stating they had simply mistaken rooms and thought mine was theirs.

    I am never going to travel to India alone again. No doubt I will have to return at some stage for family, study or pilgrimage reasons, but never again alone. I just dont think its safe.

    Thanks for posting this pragmatic and useful blog. I hope women travelers to India heed the advice so clearly outlined here.

  33. Ayse permalink
    January 20, 2014 3:07 pm

    After reading all of these stories about rape and harrassment in India, it is the last place on earth I will choose to go! 94% of women do not feel safe in India! What chance is there for your own safety?!

  34. January 21, 2014 9:27 am

    Reblogged this on Flip It Right Side Up.

  35. January 27, 2014 6:10 pm

    Very useful guidance that will help to preserve the safety of women. Just a shame that is so needed

  36. May 13, 2014 2:13 pm

    Thanks for sharing this great tips..This tips will be useful for all working women.really such an nice and decent information shared here with awesome stuff.

    best hotels in Rameshwaram

  37. asis permalink
    June 2, 2014 11:31 pm

    I just returned from six weeks in India as a solo female traveler. Here is my opinion and I hope it helps others make informed decisions about if and/or how to travel alone in India.

    There are mostly nice people in India.

    These people will most likely not be the ones talking to you. Maybe 1:100 will not want money, sex, or money and sex.

    The people who DO talk to you 99x’s out of 100 want money or sex. Or both.

    ‘Good’ men in Indian culture do not talk to strange foreign women. Many women do not speak English because they are not as educated and they are not allowed to interact with foreigners.

    You will be lonely because of this.

    Men will try every angle they can to try to get something from you. DO NOT EVER think they are being friendly. They are just the better con artist.

    If you want to meet nice Indian people, approach families and only ones that YOU approach, not ones that approach you. In other words, you must be the one to start a conversation.

    This also applies to taxi’s etc. Never go with anyone eager to serve you. Goto the guy just standing there or just passing by.

    It is difficult as someone coming from western culture, that is friendly and loves to meet people, to understand and then to live with the fact that you have barely, if any, human contact that is genuine. Everyone just wants something, many are trying to scam you etc.

    Personally, I would NEVER goto India again. Having see the culture as a single woman, I can never un-see it. Even if I went with friends, I would know what these people were really like.

    This does NOT apply to most Indians. BUT, as a traveler, it DOES apply to almost ALL the people you will meet. So, why go? I’m sure it is different for people living there but it is an awful place to travel.

    I can handle many things, the trash, the smell, the noise, no problem. I wish it were better but it is part of the whole experience. I have traveled to several other developing nations and I understand.

    The lack of humanity, the disgusting behavior of men to tourist. The pathetic, meek, way that men practically begged me in every way to be intimate with them, the dangerous, terrifying way they tried to force me to be intimate with them.

    That I can’t handle. Neither should India and it’s good people. Even young boys (7-8yrs.) are poorly behaved. I am older, I wore traditional clothing, I am smart and did everything I could to avoid trouble (never out alone at night, left name of taxi drivers with guest house etc.) and I still feel as if all I did was fight, avoid sexual advances, fight over prices of everything in order to not be ripped off, dodge traffic, avoid stepping in any number of disgusting things in the street and sadly, learn to hate Indian culture.

    It’s a few bad apples that will rot the whole bushel but that doesn’t mean that the bushel is any less rotten. The few bad men in India ruin India for any woman traveling alone.

    It was not fun at all. Not even for a moment. Why ‘vacation’ there? Why try to “find yourself”, or relax there, or learn yoga there or anything there when PLENTY other places offer anything your looking for, even on a budget BUT without the negatives.

    I have traveled a lot and I have NEVER wanted to leave until India. I have never had men treat me so badly, I have never been so lonely yet, not been able to be left alone. I like being alone, but in India your never really alone, you just wish you were and feel like you are without the bonus of peace of mind or well, anything positive.

    I could not “get to” any of the good of India for being smothered by the bad.

    That’s some of my feelings. If you are a woman traveling alone and you were my friend I would suggest that you find somewhere else. You can go somewhere else and get all that you would in India without the negative stuff. It’s hard to understand how bad it is unless you have done it. If you really want to learn for yourself, I understand. I am the same way. I have to see everything myself. I would just say be very careful. That’s about 90% of what a woman alone in India does, they are being careful most of the time. If infiltrates everything you do, every interaction, every choice you make.

    So, depending on who you are and what you want either:
    1) choose somewhere to spend your valuable life or
    2) read all you can, be super careful and try your best to keep belief in humanity. Seek out stores run by women, not for profits etc. But above all, research and follow all the advice you can.

    *One practical note, I bought a RFID proof “safe” hip purse that locked onto my body. I got it at AAA. It saved my passport, money, and debit card TWICE when someone tried to pull it off me and who knows how many other times that I’m not even aware of. As a woman alone in India with no money, you would be in grave danger. So I highly recommend them.

  38. Anonymous permalink
    June 6, 2014 7:51 pm

    Thanks sooooooo much for all the work you’re doing!!!

    I had an Indian boyfriend, visited him in his homecountry and was raped by him several times. Since I am autistic, it is very difficult for me to make out if someone is genuine or not, and by nature, I am a naive and trusting person, and I hate to mistrust. Since I can’t read face expressions and second meanings properly, I just give everybody the credit of my trust – it is less energy consuming to trust than to always mistrust and look for the hidden meaning. It is certainly not the first time in my life that people took advantage of my naivety, but it was never so evil, I could always manage myself out of it and it had never had such deep impact on my psyche.

    I know that this can happen in any place on this world, but I also believe that certain cultures are more prone to this. I have a very very close friend who is a girl from India, and through her, I got to know so many male guys from India. They don’t shake hands with women, they would prefer to sit a little afar from her when having a party or dinner, and they avoid long eye contact. It feels a little offending – like “why the hell is he so reserved???” – and my friend explained to me that this is pure respect to women so that to never give them the feeling of being molested. It makes me very happy to meet such respectful men from India, but it also makes me sad that their culture makes it so difficult when women and men are interacting. As if there is always a huge boundary between both genders, created by a few stupid people.

    I wish that the work your organization is doing can not only make life more safe for women, but can also diminish this boundary. I don’t like that friendship between women works in such a different way than friendship between a woman and a man. I believe that it is only education that makes men and women so different, and I hope that you can do a great contribution into equality between men and women! Thanks again and all the best :)

    • June 8, 2014 12:46 pm

      That’s terrible what happened to you! Unfortunately rape by intimates is so prevalent that it is acceptable even to the law. The Indian penal code refuses to recognize rape even in severe situations. However, the sitting apart of men is not necessarily and indication that they won’t commit such crimes if they have the chance. Part of the problem is that there is tolerance for all sorts of violence on women within the cultural context and even the law and police are tolerant of it. And so our approach is that of zero tolerance. Rape and all forms of violence on women by men is opportunistic. Men select their victims aware of who they can do it to and get away with it. And we must not tolerate this any more! Stay strong sister! We are all together in this.

  39. sonya permalink
    June 9, 2014 4:56 pm

    Very sorry to hear about the awful experience one of your readers had.

  40. Erika permalink
    June 16, 2014 10:52 pm

    I´ve been following this post since 2012 as well as all the work of the campaign. I travel alone in 2006 by myself for six months around India and then again last year for 6 months, but with my boyfriend. Some people, especially girls, ask for my advice to travel around India. The other day I was discusing with another friend, who has also traveled there, if violence against women was increasing in India or not. I personally believe that what is increasing is awareness, media exposition, worldwide discussion, etc. I saw more women traveling alone, in the streets, in the news, etc. during my last trip in India, more women fighting for their rights, standing up. But after the discussion, I was wondering if my perception is right or violence is really increasing in India. I´m specally concerned because I feel responsible for my advice to other female travelers. I would appreciate any comment.
    Thanks!

    • June 19, 2014 4:40 pm

      Erika, Violence on women in India has definitely increased. And our census data shows that. The number of dowry related murders, witch lynchings, the killing of infant girls, and also rapes. Many people don’t count dowry murders, and killing of infant girls as violence on women in the “real sense,” and I don’t quite understand what else they mean. Because to me it means a permissive social mindset. Violence is not compartmentalized. But yes, there are definitely increased incidents of rapes of female tourists too. In fact I’d say that women in India are still not coming out and reporting rape. Because the cases we hear about, are cases that are extremely violent and the women are either hospitalized or killed. But most rapes happen within circles we know, and women even in middle and upper classes are often pressurized by their families not to report these rapes or other incidents of terrible violence within their homes and social circles. I think if women tourists follow the advise we’ve given in this post here they should be fine. But I think there is in the west a desire to view India as an exotic, often spiritual place, and so there’s a reluctance to take this kind of travel advisory seriously. Also, I think that many western women who are familiar with India sometimes perpetuate this idea it is safe. But the fact is that they know people in India, and they understand what is safe and what isn’t within a cultural context and perhaps instinctively protect themselves in choices they make, but most women won’t have that advantage. So my advice to any woman, not just foreigners, but Indian women traveling too is to take this advisory seriously. Last week two Indian graduate students were gang raped in Delhi. They had come there for some research from another part of India, and two men at the railway station offered to show them the way. They gave them some juice which they accepted, which was laced with drugs. And the women were then gang raped. So it’s really something that all women need to be careful about.

  41. Erika permalink
    June 28, 2014 6:01 am

    Thanks Rita for your response. I really was expecting that violence against women in India was not increasing but awareness. I work with NGOs focused women´s Human Rights and I really love India, so I follow the news related and noticed an increasing in this type of news, but wasn´t sure which was the reason.
    I´m from Mexico City, where violence against women is sadly also recurrent, so this safety tips are just common sense for us.
    I´m really interested in this issue, do you have or could you recommend any article to understand why it is increasing. And also, I find a big difference between violence in India and other countries and is gang rape. For me this is showing how confident are men about impunity and their power over women, like you said, permissive social mindset. I would also appreciate any lecture recommended about this.
    Thanks and congratulations for your work and commitment.

    • July 1, 2014 2:24 pm

      Erika — I wrote an article recently in March 2014, titled ‘India’s Gang rapes and male territoriality’ for a gender studies magazine called ‘Hysteria’ by the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. It is a print magazine and I’m not sure yet if they’ll put it on their online blog. But that’s exactly what I point out: that India is seeing an uncontrollable rise in gang rapes and why this is so. Gang rape is different in its criminal psychology from rape in that it is not just a crime, but it is how men validate the crime to each other, and diffuse personal responsibility. And what I argued is that it as women and girls step out more for education and jobs, this is a way that men are aggressively pushing to control territorial boundaries within the patriarchal system. Here’s another article where I make a similar argument and what is needed for change http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue23/banerji1.htm

  42. Sophie Marie permalink
    June 29, 2014 9:10 am

    This article is very good. India and it’s men are disgusting. I met an Indian man on vacation here who already had a girlfriend in America. I am in Germany. His name is “Anmol Chandan” or “Nikka Anmol”. He cheats lies and uses abusive with words. He took photos of our visit to show his friends and used me. He uses online dating sites to find women all over the world and con them and spread disease to them. He uses them to stay or have sex until they see him in person. He is doesn’t deserve any woman or a nice girlfriend and all need to beware.

  43. July 1, 2014 12:52 pm

    Every women traveler should pay attention on their safety. All these tips are very important to be safe while traveling in India. Also you should avoid drinks from those you don’t know very well.

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