You’re travelling solo to India and you simply can’t wait, which makes sense because India is beautiful. No matter what happens it’s guaranteed to be an adventure, but that doesn’t seem you can’t prepare! Since you’ll be travelling solo, you need to be twice as diligent about taking care of yourself, which is why we’ve put together this list of 10 things you shouldn’t do while travelling solo in India.
Our experience has taught us that there’s no such thing as being too prepared, so brush up now and concentrate on having a stellar time once you arrive.
As an Indian female traveller who has moved all around her country – solo and otherwise – my single most important piece of advice would be to not underestimate the value of research. Because, there is more to India than just The Golden Triangle! For its multiculturalism and ecological diversity, India is a treasure trove for every type of traveller. I’ve learnt that blending in with the places and its people – to the extent possible – is the best way to experience it. Consult with your host to understand local nuances better as these vary across the country. – Elita, Nomadic Thunker
1. Don’t Drink the Tap Water
There’s nothing worse than coming down with a stomach bug when you’re on your own and there’s no one to look after you. You could quite possibly feel like you’re dying a miserable death, as coming down with a serious case of diarrhoea or cholera is no joke! There are ways around this, though…you can carry a SteriPEN or similar water purifier with you that can sterilise the water you drink. Otherwise just make sure you stick to bottled water throughout your journey and skip the ice in restaurants.
2. Don’t Ask for a Beef Steak… Anywhere
You might be a big fan of beef back home, but in India you will be frowned upon or even worse for insisting that you want to eat beef. Cows are sacred animals in India and you’ll see them roaming the streets freely alongside everyone else. It’s an absolute insult to even consider eating them and you could land yourself in hot water – with no one to back you up – if you make a scene about it.
3. Dress a Little More Reservedly
This is especially applicable to women. While the weather will no doubt be extremely hot, try and avoid walking around in your hot pants and cropped tops. Indians can be quite reserved and this is seen as disrespectful towards their culture. Humidity friendly clothing options can include maxi skirts, capris, flowy tops and loose, lightweight, breathable fabrics like linen, cotton or jersey.
Respect the local culture. While Indians in small towns and villages are friendly and helpful, it’s always good to be mindful of the local culture. Like it or not, the country is still in a state of limbo as far as modernization is concerned. So unless you’re in one of the metro cities, avoid or exercise caution with regards to skimpy clothing (if it’s hot, loose cottons would help), public displays of affection (hand holding is fine), staying out late and befriending random strangers when inebriated. Also be careful while selecting guides; we’d advise against going along with local touts. – Ankita & Mohit, Trail-stained Fingers
4. Don’t Forget to Sign Up for Travel Insurance
You’re going to be far from home and alone so why not just let your parents relax and give yourself the peace of mind that comes with the security of travel insurance. Err on the side of caution by taking up some comprehensive travel insurance, as it’s not expensive and will be your very best friend if the worst happens. Should you get injured, travel insurance could be the difference between you having to navigate your way through local hospitals on your own or being flown back home to familiar territory.
Travel light. You want to be mobile in India as you wander down narrow roads and squeeze in packed transportation. Also, do research on a safe place to stay — especially traveling as a woman. I felt less stressed knowing my lodging had a good reputation and would give me good advice on any of my “off the beaten place destinations”. – Tara, Tara Shupe Photography
5. Don’t Be Offended by a Barrage of Questions
Travelling alone will result in you meeting people and them wanting to make you feel at home. Indians do this by way of a multitude of questions, some of them quite personal. It’s best not to get offended, as these are seen as more of a bonding exercise. They’re simply trying to get to know you and make you feel more at home.
6. Keep Your Left Hand Out of Bounds of Contact
Indians eat with their right hands and reserve their left hands for ablutions (washing oneself, typically as part of a ritual purification). Trying to shake someone’s hand with your left, or even reaching out to them with your left hand, is totally rude. Always remember that right is right, even if you’re left handed.
7. Leave Your Feet Out of It
Aside from walking on them, try and keep your feet out of the equation. Feet are deemed to be dirty and even gesturing towards them can be seen as an insult. Don’t ever put your feet up on a chair or table and remember to take your shoes off before walking into people’s homes or sacred places such as temples.
8. Don’t be Alarmed When People Want to Take Your Photo
Again, this is more prevalent with women, but you shouldn’t be alarmed when your presence is requested in a photo. Consider it a compliment! It’s perfectly innocent in most cases and is also usually aimed at women. You can always mention that you’re married and your husband won’t approve if you start to feel overwhelmed or annoyed. Fine with it? Then don’t forget to smile!
When in India be flexible about your plans and expectations. There will be certain things that will happen and certain things that will not. Here, a Yes does not always mean a Yes and getting a No from an Indian is next to impossible. To save your frustration about delays and cancellations, always have a Plan B ready. But fret not, whatever changes will happen to your initial plan, they will bring you to unforgettable experiences. India may not offer you what you were initially expecting, but it will surely offer you a memory of your lifetime. – Devesh, Footloose Dev
9. Don’t be Afraid to Stand your Ground
Though the way of the world teaches us to be extremely cautious when travelling alone, there should be little cause for concern while adventuring through India. The people are kind and more than anything simply curious about new faces. If you do find yourself in a situation where you are being harassed, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and be firm or even shout. The embarrassment alone will usually put an end to any negative behaviour.
10. Avoid Eating Street Food
The street food in India is notorious for causing some form of food poisoning or what has commonly become known as “Delhi Belly”. This usually only applies to the meat products, as it seems that foreigners have trouble breaking down this type of food. Overall you’ll find that the local cuisine is very affordable, so you shouldn’t have any trouble being able to afford to splurge at a fancier restaurant that’s more reputable amongst foreigners.
The most important piece of advice that I would give to a solo traveler through India would be to begin early and make sure of reaching the intended destination before dusk. Doing this would enable the traveler to find a budget place to stay and also minimize chances of trouble, by not travelling in the night. – Shubham, A boy who travels
Are you ready for your trip to India? We’d love to know if you found our tips helpful and if we missed anything that should be on the list!