India is a place that often seems out of bounds for solo female travellers. Although it’s a vast country with beautiful places to see, the media only shows us the worst parts: few people have seen photos of the gorgeous mountains and lakes of Kashmir, but we’ve all heard stories about women getting groped on public transport.
It’s 2017 and women should be free to travel wherever they want to on their own but, the sad reality is, we do need to take more precautions than our male counterparts.
I travelled solo in India for a month before starting my yoga teacher training course, spending time in the states of Kerala, Goa and Karnataka. I took overnight trains, public transport, ate dinner in restaurants alone, partied on the beaches of South Goa with new friends and explored ancient ruins. I’ve also travelled throughout Rajasthan with a friend in the past, riding camels in the desert and drinking too many cups of chai.
Guess how many bad experiences I had in those times?
Some might say that I was lucky, but I also listened to my gut and trusted my instincts. If a situation felt weird, I removed myself from that situation. I never went out after dark unless I had a friend with me and made friends with families on overnight trains who could keep an eye on me. Of course, it’s possible to exercise all these cautions as a solo female traveller and still be victim to attacks, but the same could be said for anywhere really: even those fantasy European cities like Paris and Barcelona that people have no qualms about visiting.
That being said, not every Indian destination is the same. There were some cities where I did feel intimidated walking down the street…. *Cough, Mumbai, Cough.* However, these places were outnumbered by far by the places that I felt relaxed and at ease as a female traveller- solo or not.
I’ve compiled this list of my top 5 to inspire you to visit this beautiful country and show you another side to India.
Do note that I’ve hardly even scratched the surface of the subcontinent and would love more places to add to this list. If there are any other places at all that you would recommend, please leave me a comment and let me know!
As a state, Rajasthan embodies India at its brightest and most beautiful. This is the land of Kings where women are clad in colourful saris and dripping in gold. You can explore vast deserts and view some of the country’s most stunning architecture before spending hours getting lost in bazaars.
Sound like the perfect spot? I loved my time in Rajasthan and would love to return, however, it can be overwhelming. Due to the amount of tourism, touts can be very demanding and things are generally fast-paced and intense. That’s why I recommend Udaipur to solo female travellers. The city is set on a lake and, with its twinkling night lights, it looks like something straight out of an Indian fairy tale. It’s much more chilled out and has the perfect balance of interesting things to see and relaxing things to do.
Although it receives a lot of tourists, you won’t care because the whole town is beautiful! Shopping is great here and you can pick up beautiful Rajasthani wall hangings and get leather goods made fairly cheaply. Don’t miss those lakeside restaurants, either and, if you’re feeling fancy, book a room at Taj Lake Palace.
When I travelled here with my friend Andrea, we felt safe at all times. On our first day, we hired a tuk-tuk driver to show us around the city for the mere price of 600 rupees. After that, we felt confident getting from A to B independently.
Where to Meet People: Stay at Nukkad Guesthouse and take advantage of their rooftop yoga classes before exploring each morning. You could also bond with fellow travellers over your terrible art skills with painting classes at Ashoka Art or simply chill and eat tasty, healthy food at Millets of Mewar.
Varkala Beach, Kerala
Beach bums in India tend to head to the hedonistic state of Goa to soak up the sun but I think you should head elsewhere. For me, the beaches in Kerala are more beautiful, more interesting and have a more chilled out vibe. As a solo female traveller, I loved my time here.
I spent a month on Varkala Beach doing my yoga teacher training course and loved it so much that I cancelled a trip to Pondicherry to spend even more time there afterwards!
The main draw to Varkala is the stunning cliff area that is lined with charming cafes and restaurants where you can spend your afternoons sipping on lime sodas watching dolphins swim past. I found things much more relaxed than in Goa where most people go to party and drink cheap kingfishers!
There are a few ashrams dotted along the cliff is you want to practice yoga, as well as ayurvedic spas where you can get massages and beauty treatments for much less than you would back home!
It’s also conveniently located close to the backwaters which you absolutely can’t miss on your trip!
Where to Meet People: Varkala Beach is, admittedly, lacking in decent hostels but there are still plenty of places to meet people. Head to Coffee Temple for amazing omel
ettes and the best caffeine fix in Kerala. After sunset, Darjeeling Cafe is one of the most lively spots along North Cliff with DJs every night, amazing food and great cocktails.
Oh Mysore, I never expected an Indian city to pull me in as much as you did. I went here as a “filler”, expecting to spend a couple of days sightseeing between seeing “more important” destinations. I ended up spending far longer than I expected, just loving the mix of leafy suburban streets and busy, fragrant spice markets.
For travellers, Mysore has lots to see but I ended up spending too much time chilling out in Vegan cafes and having one-on-one ashtanga yoga classes that I missed most of the sights…. ooops. But no regrets, those days are some of my favourite memories out of all the time I’ve spent in India!
Mysore is dubbed as the cleanest city in India and the mix of colonial style and traditional Indian architecture give it a completely different vibe to other Indian cities. If you want a taste of city life, but don’t want to spend too much time in Delhi or Mumbai, spend a few days in Mysore for your urban fix.
Where to Meet People: Sonder Hostel has a warm, homely atmosphere and is the perfect place to make friends.
Another small city that deserves so much more praise that it gets. Typically, travellers visit Kochi as a short stop over before exploring the famous backwaters or tea fields of Kerala. Much like Mysore, it’s the sort of place you might want to spend a few more days in just to soak up the vibes.
The most well-known sight in the city is the Chinese Fishing Nets which are best enjoyed at sunset. Multiculturalism really makes up this city’s charm and you’ll see Jewish Synagogues side by side with Portuguese style catholic churches and traditional dutch architecture.
Kerala, as a state, is a lot more chilled out than other parts of the country and Kochi is no different. Despite being the capital city, it’s still managed to preserve some of that laid back charm!
Where to Meet People: Set in a prime location with friendly staff, Happy Camper is the best place to stay in the city. This is one of those hostels that you’ll have a hard time leaving behind- it’s responsible for me spending much more time than planned in Kochi.
History buffs are generally well catered to in India, but Hampi will spoil them! As one of the oldest civilisations on Earth, Hampi is filled with ruins to explore, that will make you feel like a real life Lara Croft.
This is the first place that I ever rode a scooter and, with its wide quiet roads (and lack of police checking for my non-existant driving license), I can’t imagine a better place to have done it! Even history non-enthusiasts will be taken in by the tales of the past. If you do get bored of it, though, just enjoy the views or try your hand at rock climbing.
When it comes to making friends, Hampi has one of the biggest backpacker scenes in India. The downside is that there aren’t any proper hostels. No need to worry though as it’s one of those places where you are bound to meet people to share memories with. Just head to one of the many rooftop restaurants which are sure to! be full of elephant pant clad backpackers!
Where to Meet People: A lot of the ruins in Hampi are spread out, so you might want to take a tour where you can meet other travellers. Some accommodation is more sociable than others- I’ve heard great things about Gopi Guest House on the Bazaar side and Hema Guest House on Hippie Island.
A trip to India is one of the most memorable travel experiences that you can have for yourself. Whether you want to practice yoga, explore ancient civilisations or just enjoy the stunning nature, there’s lots to see and learn. In my opinion, India is no less safe than The UK or The USA so it seems silly that the same naysayers have no problem heading to London or New York for a week! Yes, it’s different from home, but isn’t that why we travel?
Let’s be honest, every country has its bad eggs but, for every bad egg, there is a golden egg mortified by their sleazy behaviour! The same goes for places- there are a lot of parts of Scotland that I hope travellers never get to see but I wouldn’t want to deny them the joy of seeing Edinburgh or the Isle of Skye just because of that. Plan your trip carefully, be informed and you’ll be fine!
If you want a bit more comfort, consider heading south, since it’s more laidback, and take a tour with Go Mowgli. I did several tours with them on my trip and loved each one of them!
India has so many amazing places and these are just 5 that I think solo female travellers will love.
If you know another city perfect for solo female travellers, leave me a comment and let me know!