This week on the Girls Go Abroad podcast we’re talking to Madhurima Chakraborty. Madhurima is a Kolkata-born girl and aspiring world citizen who has been traveling full time for more than a year and is an expert on solo female travel in India!
On this episode she shares with us absolutely everything you need to know about traveling solo as a woman in India, from safety tips to the best places to go to little-known secrets!
If you’re planning a trip to India, or just want a little bit of India inspiration, this is a must-listen episode!
And for even more solo female travel tips, be sure to check out my interview with Whitney O’Halek about solo female travel in Japan!
In this episode we cover:
- The top reasons to travel solo in India
- The best solo female travel destinations in India
- Solo female travel safety tips for India
- The best food you’ve never heard of
- Accommodation & budget tips
Why Travel India as a Solo Female?
It Has Something for Everyone
“India is a diverse and beautiful country,” says Madhurima. There are so many different things to do and different kinds of places, from beaches to mountains to cities.
No matter where you go in India, you’re going to have a different experience. “We’re talking lifestyle, culture, everything,” she says. “Even the languages that we speak in different parts are different. It’s not always Hindi, it’s not always Bengali.”
“If you’re talking about experiencing diversity in culture and amazing food, India has to be a top destination.”
India is Actually Safe
You might think of India as a scary place to travel as a solo female, but India is actually incredibly safe for female travelers, says Madhurima. “Being a female, and a solo one and that, you’ll have special access. A lot of that has to do with the fact that people are really respectful to females-not just travelers. There is an inherent respect to females in society and that actually makes travel easier in India.”
For example, if you’re on public transport, you’ll find a seat reserved for female travelers.
Solo Female Travel Destinations in India
There are so many amazing places to travel in India, it can be hard to choose! Madhurima was able to narrow it down to a few top solo female travel destinations in India, though.
First up is Madhurima’s hometown of Kolkata (Calcutta). “Kolkata happens to be the erstwhile British capital,” so it has some amazing monuments and colonial architecture.
“The food here is incredible, and it’s really safe,” says Madhurima.
If you can, be sure to visit during the Durga Puja festival, which is often described as “India’s Own Carnival.” It’s a celebration of a female goddess and everyone can join in!
If you’re looking for gorgeous mountains, you’ll find them in Darjeeling. An old hill town set up by the British, it’s now a popular spot with tourists.
You’ll definitely want to get off-the-beaten-path when traveling to Darjeeling. Be sure to visit some of the nearby hamlets for a taste of local life as well as “glorious sunsets and misty mornings.”
If you’re looking to get really off-the-beaten-path and are up for a challenge, then Arunachal Pradesh is a great choice, says Madhurima. Located in the far north-east of India, this state is home to rolling hills and dense jungles.
The food is also a lot different than what you’ll find throughout most of India. They have a very famous rice beer, for example, as well as “amazing pork dishes.”
If it’s your first time traveling to India, Madhurima recommends starting in the South because it can be a lot less overwhelming. The state of Tamil Nadu is her favorite for solo female travel in India!
Be sure to visit the Great Living Chola Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You can also find hill towns in Tamil Nadu which are much different to the hill towns you’ll find in the North.
Another great solo female travel destination in India is Kerala. Kerala receives a lot of tourist footfall so it’s relatively easy to travel.
It’s a great place for a yoga retreat. Or get a little adventurous and book a stay on a houseboat.
And of course, Kerala has amazing food as well 😉 The food in Kerala has Jewish and Arabic influences and is cooked in coconut oil, so it’s a really unique experience.
The state of Kanakata has many amazing places to visit, including the city of Bangalore, also called the Silicon Valley of India.
If you go further out to the rural parts of Karnataka, you’ll find that they’re especially welcoming to female travelers, says Madhurima.
You should especially visit Karnataka if you love wildlife. It’s home to the most Royal Bengal Tigers in the world!
Finally, you can’t talk about traveling in India without talking about Goa. “Some say Goa doesn’t feel like India,” says Madhurima, but if you go out and explore the hinterlands you’ll find it feels a lot more like India. You can still find the hippie Goa people talk about if you go off the beaten trail.
Lucknow is the most overlooked city on the Golden Triangle, says Madhurima. There are amazing monuments, yes, but there’s also some absolutely amazing food. If you’re a foodie, you have to visit Lucknow, says Madhruima.
Is Solo Female Travel in India Safe?
“So let’s address the elephant in the room,” said Madhurima when I asked her about safety for solo female travelers in India. “There have been reports of violent crimes against women from India. Nasty crimes. It actually makes my heart sink to think about that, that these kind of acts have taken place against women in India.” Unfortunately, “these violent crimes never really slowed down,” she says. “That’s a fact. And it’s sad, but we must accept that that has happened.”
But Madhurima also says that those crimes are NOT the experience of the majority of women in India, and she wouldn’t define India as an unsafe country for solo female travelers. “There are some 1.5 billion people living in this country. Almost half of them are women, which is somewhere around 60 to 70 million women. And trust me when I say this: women in India are taking the lead and they’re the most fine, compassionate, and helpful people.”
“I’ve seen this in my travels around the country and I have faith. I have met amazing people, amazing females who are really helpful, who went beyond their way to find me, say, a good meal or a night’s sleep or the fabric that I was looking for.”
“It’s not just creepy, annoying Indian men. Yeah, some of them are really annoying, but that’s not everything. That’s not the end of the story there. There is so much more in India and I don’t think India is an unsafe place.”
Safety Tips for Solo Female Travel in India
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to still use your common sense when you’re traveling alone in India. “Don’t drink alone or with random people,” says Madhurima. “And do judge. If a guy is being creepy, always trust your gut instinct.” And of course, always keep your phone handy and make sure that it’s fully charged.
If you need help, all you need to do is go up to a woman and ask her for it. “The roads of India are not devoid of women,” says Madhurima. “There are women everywhere. They’re working, they’re selling stuff. They’re at the marketplace. So if you need help, ask a woman. You’ll be surprised by her eagerness to help you.”
It’s also generally a good idea to dress conservatively while traveling alone in India, as that’s simply what people are used to.
Of course, it would take way too much time to type out EVERYTHING that Madhurima said in this episode – it’s over an hour long and absolutely packed to the brim with information! For even MORE tips on solo female travel in India, including accommodation, food, and more, be sure to tune into the full episode!
Listen to more episodes of the Girls Go Abroad podcast!