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Challenges faced by girls travelling alone in India

Updated: Aug 16, 2020

Girls in India travelling alone? We mostly get weird looks and speculations around this question.

So when my neighbor aunty heard it, I was given really bad expressions as if I was committing a crime along with suggestions that I should probably quit the plan...

The idea of a girl travelling (especially solo) is something of a foreign concept, she said. I did feel uncomfortable and immediately a war of thoughts began to emerge in my head. I wanted to say a lot aloud but I just sighed as I can’t change the age old mentality in one day.

Although it was not something I had ever heard before. Hence, I was NOT astonished to hear that!!!

Being a female solo travel enthusiast in India and a part of both urban and rural societies, I do understand where these mindsets are coming from.

There are cases in some rural societies where still Indian women are thought to be under home arrest their entire life after marriage. There are rare exceptions too but we still come across the issue of child marriage in many villages & cities. Trust me it is hard to advocate to allow girls to travel solo in a land where it’s still a challenge to persuade families for letting their girl-child to go to school.

"Misogyny & Patriarchy run deep in our veins"

We also can’t deny the fact that India is not known as the safest place or a favorable destination for girls travelling solo thanks to innumerable crimes that are committed with women & girls all across the nation. Generally, men have the privilege to travel anywhere alone because they are not subject to issues like safety & security. Women are expected to be careful and avoid solo travelling.

Even though in India we have many breathtaking destinations, it’s much more challenging for females and many are taking advantage of them. It is sad how the highest percentage of women are killed, betrayed or brutally cheated around the world. It has become hard on us to be able to trust anybody as we have been deceived by someone we knew, someone we trusted, someone we loved, someone we considered a friend or colleague.

In a perfect India every girl/lady would be respected with her lifestyle choices and treated well but that is not the case yet.

8 problems solo female travellers face while travelling in India:

1) Curfew Time

India is to provide secured solo travel for girls, said no one ever. There have been rapes and assaults in hotels, cars, boats and many other places. Security is everything for us. Girls always have to adjust their schedules based on the time of the day to ensure we avoid any late evening or mid-night travels. Definitely we can’t utilize our time effectively worrying about our safety. Most of the time, we have to opt for premium accommodations out of our budget just for security sake. So there is this "unofficial curfew time" which we are always expected to adhere to just because you are a solo lady traveller in India.

2) Lack of Basic Amenities

We have to compromise on every aspect, be it hygienic public toilets, sanitary pads, or even accommodation. Girls travelling alone are often not welcomed, doubted and even slut shamed by the so called "society". Basic facilities as well as infrastructure is something females travelling alone must get. Proper female attendants to be present and working cameras should be installed for every female accommodation along with clean toiletries.

3) Be Appropriately dressed

No shorts. No tank tops. No off-shoulders etc. In some places if girls wear jeans - that's a problem too. Girls have to take care of their dressing while travelling in many places or else we are watched upon as a hunt. I really don’t want to get into the dispute that it's an issue of man’s perceptions of woman….because the reality is that when we are traveling, we do watch our dressing even if we want to wear whatever we like. The last time we checked it was legal to be wearing bikini on a beach in India but no India runs on moral policing which feels it is okay to pee in public but a girl can't wear what she wants.

4) Nightlife - A big No No

Girls too enjoy going out at nights to have a peaceful walk in the park, beach or even in a restaurant. Most girls avoid because they just can't risk their lives. We miss out the ecstasy of nightlife without having to worry about getting into any kind of trouble. Even if we go to restaurants we need to be very careful about someone trying to trick us with drinks or foods. Much news has been evident [Ex. Nirbhaya Case] that some awful men take advantage of girls who are doing night outs. We are forced to hold our love to explore the night by just looking outside from a window.

Dear Men: The ladies you chase in clubs deserve the same respect as your mother or sister!!

5) Getting Judged too Quickly

We girls are alienated when it comes to solo traveling, be it our relatives or friends. Many people judge saying “Girls have brought their own problems by travelling alone, if something goes wrong, it’s their fault”. We cannot totally blame families as our society has been this way since ages. So, girls are opposed instead of getting open support. Thinking about our well-being, parents have their share of concerns. Many perceive us as bad girls or as if we just hook-up here and there.

6) Stares and Comments

I often ask myself, how to minimize the staring and ogling by men? I am sure many girls take stoles [dupattas] even if they do not need it just to hide the shape of body parts in case its a body hugging dress, in a wrong notion that this will stop some rascals from leering at them. People everywhere, in public transports or on roads do make it a point to pass comments on girls' bodies especially when they are alone. We deal with it every day and even more while travelling solo. If we react to it they take it personally and bully us, if we ignore and be quite then they enjoy it.

7) Over-friendly People

People, especially some men, become very friendly when there are girls alone. In some cultures, touching while talking may be a normal gesture but some men can take it in different ways. Girls even maintain a proper distance while talking and don’t touch [hands, shoulder, hug etc.] still some people take it otherwise and approach/follow us for their benefits. Hopefully there will be a time when people of India will become more understanding towards the actual help needed by a girl and not treat her as they wish.

8) Need to be alert all the time, just can't keep the guard down

It's a good thing to be alert but as girls, we have to be extremely cautious about our whereabouts or locality around new places. The moment people know girls are alone; their suspicious, criminal minds are elevated. Also, sometimes a casual conversation with locals, cab drivers, shopkeepers etc. may lead to queries about which hotel you are at? Or which place are you going next? It’s better to stay stern and have a (false) backup guesthouse in mind for those situations. As there was a case when a girl was spied, then raped and later murdered…. that’s the risk of revealing the location or sharing any personal story.

Even if we have many hurdles, we still step out every day. Girls have overcome some road blocks and I am glad to say India is definitely progressing and with amazing concept like Women only travel groups by Wander Womaniya, girls have been able to somewhat overcome the stigma of solo travelling. There have been few successful stories of girls travelling alone and we hope soon it will no more be alienated, instead appreciated and encouraged.

Wander Womaniya helps solo female travelers to explore & travel without the worry of safety & security and even the need to micro manage your itinerary or the hassle of making the bookings, selecting the right hotel because everything is already taken care of you just need to choose your next trip with them and do the packing!!

Contributed by Ms. Nayana Rajni

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