Sadly in recent years a huge number of horror stories have come up regarding how unsafe India is for women. The truth is that travelling in India is no more and no less safe than travelling elsewhere although there are variable pockets of risk in some places. Whether you are travelling in a women’s group or as a single woman, there are numerous ways in which you can protect yourself while on your tour to India.
Here are some safety tips
Try to select hotels that are well-known and have a good review. If you look online, there are many sites where people rate hotels and leave reviews. One way to find out about a hotel is to Google the hotel. Anything that has been written online about the hotel should appear and you can judge it for yourself.
A few top-of-the-line hotels even have separate wings with rooms dedicated to women. As far as you can, avoid hotels in shabby locations. They may be cheap but safety wise, end up costing you more in the long run. This applies whether you’re travelling in India or elsewhere in the world.
Trains are convenient and economical for travelling over long distances. In many cases, local or suburban trains connect big cities to places in the suburbs. Trains often have compartments which are meant for women passengers and you can choose these over and above general compartments. But how do you know which are compartments for women? Usually the women’s-only compartment in trains is third from last or you can just stand where many women are waiting on the platform. You will find a lot of women clustered in one part of the platform, just go and ask if they are waiting for the women’s only compartment. If you have a long wait at the station, say for several hours to catch a connecting train, you can go the Rail Yatri Nivas or waiting room available at most stations.
On other forms of public transport
Buses are commonly used for travelling within the city and for inter-city travel. If you are taking a bus, especially in state-run buses, several seats are meant for women passengers. If you plan to take overnight buses or those connecting cities, pre-book if you have the option. Taxis give you the luxury of travelling privately between places, but it’s a good idea to know the route before hand to avoid being duped or overcharged by the driver. Prepaid taxis or taxi rental services are usually a safer option than hiring taxis off the street.
In tourist spots
In most tourist spots of India there is some sort of government surveillance but it is also a good idea to look out for your own safety. Usually special police forces patrol tourist areas, looking for signs of trouble or misbehavior and you can report to them if you feel unsafe. Also, try to follow regular safety precautions like not being in unlit areas after dark. Do not just go off with a stranger and if you are going out partying, stick to drinking with people you can trust.
Using the mobile phone for safety
These days, technology can also help keep you safe as a woman tourist. In general, wherever you travel, have a safe point of contact you can call in an emergency, and let friends if you have any in the country know of your whereabouts. You can always let your hotel know about your whereabouts. Tell people at the reception that you might call them if you get in trouble or if you need anything. In most cases, they will be willing to help.
Here’s a tip - Set up a Speed Dial system on your mobile phone for emergency numbers like 100 for the Police or 108 for general emergencies in southern cities like Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kochi. Also, note the toll-free number nationwide to report sexual harassment or other issues you face as a traveller.
In taxis if you feel unsafe, an oft-used tip is to pretend to call a friend and keep talking. Also, note the number of the taxi you are travelling in and pretend to say it aloud to your friend at the other end of the line. Get off at the nearest police station or the nearest crowded public area you can find. While Indian crowds can be intimidating, in emergency situations, they act as a safety net preventing miscreants from following you. Also if you can have a pepper spray bottle or something similar handy keep one as it can work to ward off possible attacks. In case of any trouble, head to your country consulate without wasting time or at least phone them up. You can get their phone number from the internet.
A few practical strategies like these can help you enjoy a safe tour in India. It is always better to be safe than sorry.