When in India: Thoughts on Solo Female Backpacking in India

Days before I flew to India, there were at least five people who told me to be extra careful when traveling around India, three more who told me not to go to India, and one who told me I was out of my mind to even think about going solo in India. Despite these, I pushed through India. 
I knew where they were coming from. They must have read it online since, when I look it up myself, search results advise women not to travel alone to this country. As publicized rape stories have been told and scamming incidents have been shared, some female travelers tend to back off and skip India. 
As a Spanish saying goes, "Si no lo intentas nunca lo sabrás" (If you don't try, you'll never know). I've always wanted to see India because of Taj Mahal. I knew right then that nothing can stop from going.

Actually, I never really treated India differently. For me, anything bad can happen wherever you are, and you just have to be prepared at all times. People should understand that crime happens all over the world. Bombings happen in first world countries. Zero crime rate may happen in a third world country. 
New Delhi, for instance, was just like any other busy capital in the world. My presence of mind while walking on its streets was similar as to how I do it in Manila where I live. Likewise, when I walked in Tokyo, my caution was just the same. The point is, travelers should not judge a country by its economic status.
Admittedly speaking though, solo backpacking India isn’t meant for a newbie traveler. It isn’t like a Vietnam or a Thailand that's backpacker laden. At times, going solo can get real; that in a swarm of locals, you may be only foreigner in the pack. As India is the second most populous country in Asia (next to China) and the seventh largest in the world in terms of geography, scamming is rampant. Fresh lads who aren’t used to the clues of scamming just might not know how to avoid it.
Nevertheless, I think India just need to be understood. For one, poverty is all over the place. People sleep in temples in New Delhi, people beg for food in Jaipur, and people are thin in Agra. Life is tough for the many. In fact, of all the locals I talked with, asked if they have gone outside India for leisure, they all said that it's too expensive for them. 
After a while, I understood why all vendors tried to overprice what I wanted to buy and why every act had to be compensated with money.
But that's not always the story. Sometimes, it's better to think about the good and positive side of Indians: they smile, they enjoy taking selfies with foreigners, and are nice to talk with. For when you believe there’s goodness in every place, every person, you feel more secured and less worried.

So to all women with India in their bucket list, go on and fulfill the dream. Never let being a solo female backpacker get in the way for you to explore the world.

Watch: Viajera Vlog: India

Here are just a few general tips for women traveling to India:
Dress properly. As India is a Hindu-Islamic country, make sure to wear something that doesn't expose the knees and shoulders especially when entering temples and mosques. Also, if you aren’t going to the beach area like Goa, leave the shorts and sleeveless shirts at home. Catch less attention. Stay away from temptation. Pay respect to be respected in return.
Blend in. Female travelers get easily noticed as foreigners since Indian women wear colorful sareekurti, and punjabi. Dressing like a local is a good way, not only for the cultural experience, but also to get away with what I fondly call as “the stare.” Indians tend to stare at foreigners from head to toe, which somehow felt awkward to me. But when I wore a saree in Agra, I didn’t get much stare anymore and felt more like a local.  
Understand differences. Travelers should bear in mind that they're on foreign land. There's always a difference in religion, food, and practices. For one, I noticed that some (but not all) Indians asked for tip from me when taking their portraits. They have this rubbing-of-fingers gesture as sign of asking money. It's a practice that they usually do to foreigners, so be mindful. 

Truly, India has a lot to offer. I may have seen Taj Mahal, but I saw A LOT MORE. It's a beautiful country gifted with colorful history, amazing architecture, and interesting culture.
The social experiences were also mind-opening. Hearing stories of people in India was very humbling.



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