Backpacking alone in India is not that hard (neither scary)!
When I arrived in Istanbul a few days ago, some of my friends were hesitant if it was easy to backpack alone in India as a girl. Especially, one person encouraged me to write about this topic, as she was curious and willing to know more about it. Thanks, Şebnem for your support!
In this article, I would like to show that backpacking alone in India is easy for a woman. Or at least, this is my opinion.
Why did I go to India alone?
I have no idea. I am in love with India since I don’t know when. Even before I step the country I was already feeling I had to visit it.
Maybe it was my curiosity or maybe my need of adventures, but I knew I had to go there and explore the country by myself.
I visited India for the first time in 2014 with a friend as I didn’t dare to travel alone. I had the best time of my life while she struggled and hated the country. Everyone is different and we can’t enjoy the same. When I came back from this trip, I knew I would go back to India again. At the beginning of 2018 I made my mind and I started saving money to travel around this Asian country again for a few months.
This time, I was traveling alone to know more about the country. I wanted to discover the culture, visit new places, live adventures, learn yoga and find my personal limits.
Is it very difficult to be a girl backpacking alone in India?
It depends. For me, it has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.I am a quite chill person (who sometimes gets super stressed; I know) and I adapt easily to new environments and cultures. I will not say there weren’t any hard moments, especially when my patience was almost over when it was the time to deal with sellers or tuk-tuk drivers. But you know it is part of the experience and it is up to you how to handle those moments. I saw a transformation on me: in the very beginning I was more opened and nice to almost everyone and, after a few months, I became rude to those people. This is not a secret: in India, if you are a woman and you behave too nice, some people might want to take advantage of you. And I have to add that some men misunderstand your friendliness. What are we left with? To be rude and sharp to make them respect your boundaries.
Is India a difficult country to move by public transportation?
Not at all! India is huge and it would take over one life to visit every spot of the country. I decided to not use airplanes, and I moved all the time by train or bus. Nowadays it is very easy to use public transportation in India thanks to new technologies.Booking trains on-line made my trip very easy. Moving by local bus is a little bit different as sometimes it is hard to know the real schedule and, most of the time you have to jump on them and fight to get inside but when traveling local is so much fun! Besides, you get to meet a lot of people and learn from them, as well as share a nice time and, in a lot of occasions, some local food!
I know a lot of tourists prefer to arrange private transportation to discover the country but traveling by public transportation in India is one of the greatest experiences you get from this country. And I am sure most of my friends who have been there would 100% agree.
What are the best memories of India?
I have a lot of memories from these 5 months in the country but sometimes I feel it was only a dream.
In the very beginning, I got to attend Dalai Lama’s teaching in McLeod Ganj. I feel very lucky this was happening when I just arrived. At that moment I didn’t have any idea about Buddhism, but it was a very beautiful experience to see such an important personality in the world.
Some of my best memories are in Hampi, to me, a magical place where the landscape is breathtaking and the vibe is peaceful. In that spot of Karnataka, I met some incredible people who I traveled with for more than a month and now I consider part of my family. Also, I have very good memories from visiting Vicenç Ferrer NGO in Anantapur. There, I got to see their projects, and I met one of the coolest Catalan family ever!
Going to an Indian wedding was also one of the best memories. I feel very lucky a friend who I met during the yoga course invited some friends and me to his marriage. It was an exhausting and incredible experience I will never forget! We danced, we ate, we take millions of selfies and I got to get dressed with a traditional saree.
Another amazing experience was my volunteer experience in Kodaikanal. I got to stay with locals and understand better the role of women in Indian families.
For sure, another great souvenir is the extraordinary Ayurvedic massages and Sirhodara for only €8 in Puttaparthi! And the experience of staying in a huge Ashram full of Russian people, it was very interesting. In that place I met some of the greatest girls I came across in my Indian trip and they were such an inspiration for me!
Traveling by train, discovering new places, meeting new people, ending in places I even didn’t know they exist… India is full of wonderful surprises! I could keep going with good memories, but I think for now it is enough.
What are the worst memories?
Many people asked this question and I couldn’t find a quick reply to it. I had some moments where I struggled a bit, but these memories are fun to me at the moment.
For example, the day I traveled from Varanasi to Nepal I was sick and I didn’t want to change my plans. I couldn’t stop falling asleep everywhere as I felt weak and I ended staying in a hotel room in Lumbini with a rat. I didn’t realize there was an animal around until the second night… at that point, it was too late to change the place so I spent all night watching movies waiting for the sunrise to take the bus to Pokhara. By the way; never Google “Can a mouse jump on my bed while sleeping?”.
Another bad moment was when I lost my passport in an Indian train… I had to move berths a few times and the document felt from my bag. I did not realize this until I woke up. Luckily, I checked and finally, after checking and asking around, a man had it and gave it back to me. I felt so relieved after I got it back, but all the time I spend looking around I felt very stressed and anxious.
These things I just detailed, could happen in any other spot of the world. I do not think it has anything to do with India (or Nepal). I think the worst experiences in India usually take place in cities and this time I avoided them as much as possible. So, overall, I can tell my Indian experience was smooth and without big troubles.
Is India a dangerous country to travel alone (for women)?
I never felt I was in danger during my 5 months in India. I was pretty relaxed most of the time and local people are very helpful and welcoming. Besides, in India, there are a lot of backpackers and most of the time is almost impossible to travel or be alone. Most of the travelers in India go to the same places: Dharamsala, Rishikesh, Rajasthan, Varanasi, Goa,… When you go off the road a bit you can be lonelier but it is amazing as you get to experience the “real India”. I went to a few non-touristic places, and I truly enjoyed very much. I never felt in danger, even in those places where there aren’t other backpackers.
Needles to say it is necessary to be careful, the same as you would be in any other place in the world.
Where to go or stay in India as a solo female traveler?
In my case, most of the time I was just flowing. I knew some places I wanted to go until I reached Anantapur; once I arrived there I felt lost. I didn’t know where to go next. But the world always shows us our next destination. In Vicenç Ferrer NGO I met a woman who recommended me to visit Puttaparthi and so I did. At that moment, I decided to completely stop planning and let things happening.
Finding accommodation in India is very easy and nowadays there are also a lot of websites and apps. I prefer to ask around and take a look on my choices before I make a decision. Sometimes it is helpful to check the places on Booking.com and then just go there and see and bargain. I only booked two hostels during my stay in the country and I didn’t like the experience. I do prefer to stay in smaller Guest Houses or Home Stays.
In my humble opinion, India is not a country for everyone. It is very special; as are the people you can end up meeting there. It all depends on your personality and how you want to experience life. To me, India is a place where a part of me will always be (and actually is somehow true as I cut my few dreadlocks when I was in Varanasi 5 years ago!).
Below, I want to share a video of Hampi, so you guys can see how this place looks like (made by Simon, an amazing and crazy person I met in there!)