When I asked for an explanation, she said that India is not the same anymore, India had changed. It is more dangerous to travel there now.
I don’t know if she’s right and India has become more dangerous, or if it’s just something that is portrayed to us by the media. But I do know that as a solo traveler you always need to be more cautious and calculating, especially if you're a woman. And what’s right for India is right for every other place on the planet.
So these are my safety tips for all of you female solo travelers out there:
1. Avoid hitchhiking as much as possible Hitchhiking can be dangerous. You don’t have a lot of control when you take a ride with a complete stranger. It’s always best to use public transportation instead. But if from some reason you have to hitchhike (and I can understand when that happens. Been there, done that.) then it’s best to find other trustworthy travelers to join you. There is always someone looking to get to the same place you want to go.
Also, it’s better to take a ride during the day and with a female driver. Whatever you do, absolutely do not go on a ride with a group of unknown men.
2. Solo travel does not mean going alone to dodgy places Just because you travel alone doesn’t mean you have to go everywhere alone. Being brave - yes. Being stupid - no!
If it’s a deserted place like a forest, a desert, or a shady neighborhood, or it’s nighttime — find yourself a reliable friend, or even better, a group, that also wants to go, and join them.
It doesn’t mean that you’ll be sacrificing your solo traveling, it just means that you’ll be doing it smarter.
3. Safe journey When you need to take a bus from point A to point B, in some places it’s better to take a tourist bus than a local one. Just go into a local travel agency or ask other travelers about it. If there is no tourist bus in the area then it’s best to go on a local bus with other travelers and not alone.
4. Even two is not enough In some cases, even being two people together is not enough. If the area you're visiting has a bad reputation or it just doesn’t feel safe, then it’s not enough to find one more person to go there with you. Find a group of travelers and join them for that part of the trip. Remember that you are still a solo traveler and you can always break apart from them when you reach a safer place.
5. Know the customs of the local married women In uncomfortable situations, particularly with local men, it can be helpful to pretend that you are married. Adopting the local matrimonial customs, perhaps by wearing a fake wedding ring or a shawl on your head, can prevent undesired interaction.
6. Go with confidence Embracing a strong and steady walk, sometimes even a slightly tough one, can make you feel safer and send a message of “keep a distance” in an uncertain environment.
Even in safe places, being confident and acting like a local can keep away dubious individuals. Try to blend in.
7. Feel free to lie Not everybody needs to know who you are, where you’re from, and especially that you're there alone. If someone is asking and you feel uncomfortable, you can always say that you are there with your boyfriend/family/friends or say nothing at all and just walk away.
8. Respect the local laws and customs Know and respect the local laws and tradition even if you don’t agree with them. Dress appropriately, especially in religious places, so you won’t attract unnecessary attention.
10. Let people know where you are It’s important to let people from home, and other travelers you meet, know where you are, especially if you move around a lot. It’s extra important if you’re going on a long trek, in a place without internet or phone reception, or if you're moving to a new location on your own.
11. Get there by nightfall Try to get to your next location and find accommodations before it starts to get dark. If you know you have to take a night drive, it's best to order a room in advance. If it’s not possible to do so, don’t be shy about following other travelers you met on the bus to their hotel or hostel. It would be safer to wait in the lobby of a hotel all night than to wander off on the streets.
12. Learn some basic words in the local language Memorizing some basic words and phrasings in the local language can really come in handy, mostly when you are on your own. Don’t forget to learn the word ‘help.’ It might sound funny now, but you never know when you’ll need it.
13. Don’t get wasted alone No, it’s not an invitation to party hard, and I'm definitely not encouraging any sort of substance abuse, but it’s something that needs to be talked about.
As a solo female traveler you have a lot more to worry about when it comes to getting wasted.
First of all, it’s always a good idea to be around people you trust, so that if something does go wrong, they will take care of you and not leave you there alone to just deal with it. Second, it’s ok to have fun, but don’t overdo it. You still have to remember that you are traveling alone, you are out of your comfort zone, and these people are not you best friends from back home. Take care of yourself first. Don't ruin your trip.
14. Trust your gut instincts If something feels wrong, it usually is.
At the end of it all, solo travel is an amazing experience. With the help of these tips and a bit common sense you have less chance of finding yourself in scary situations.
So go travel, have fun, be aware of your surroundings, trust your instincts, and have a safe journey.