This blog post is for everyone who wants to start their planning for a trip to India, but especially for women travelling solo. In this article you can find information on transportation, accomondations and activities and my personal advices for your trip to India.
How to get to India / Visa
You can fly almost to everywhere in India. Most of the travellers start their trips from Delhi or Mumbai. Well I guess the reasons therefor is obviouse, the cities are huge, well known, have a perfect infrastructure and you can reach out to everywhere in India with whatever transportation you like from this places.
To get into India there are different types of Visa. As I stayed shorter than 90 days in India I applied online for the e-visa on the homepage of the indian embassy. For me as a German and for a lot of other countries this is possible but please check it out for yourself if your country is on the list as well. All information about the visa process given here are from my experience and knowledge and valid for german citizen. So if you are from another country you might check the country specific requierements on the homepage of you embassy.
Applying for the e-visa is pretty simple. You need a passphoto in the indian format, which means height and width must be equal 51mm x 51mm. I just scanned mine and cut it with my photo editor to the format, which worked perfectly. Than you need to scan your front page of you passport with all relevant information and the picture. Your passport need to be valid for minimum 6 more month.
When you have your documents you can easily apply for the visa online on the official homepage. Therefor you just log in and follow the instruction to fill out all the questions. When you get ask for a address, just enter the address of your first hostel.
In the end they ask you to pay the fee. For me as a German the fee was 33–€. Within a few hours you get the confirmation of payment and for me it took only a few hours more and I got my visa approval in the system to print it out.
With this visa approval, your passport and another picture (same height and width) you go to the immigration gate for e-visa after your arrival in the airport in India. There the officers will take your fingerprints, shoot a photo and stamp your passport with your visa. Now you are ready to explore India and to rock it.
The e-visa you can apply for max. 120 days in advance and should apply for min. 4 days in advance. As the whole process works really fast you don’t have to panic if you are like me and forget about the need of a visa.
If you want to travel India for more than 90 days (totally worth it!) than you have to apply for a normal tourist visa at the embassy.
You can apply for a stay up to one year with single and multiply entry. The current fees for Germans are 98€. You need as well the photo in the format 51mm x 51mm, the fill out application (the request form you can download from the homepage of the embassy) and valid passport. For this tourist visa type you should consider a time frame for the approval of 3 weeks. From my experiences with visas, always try to be safe and add a few weeks as you can never be sure if the process is working as it is suppose to work.
Once you are done with the visa process, you arrived in India and leaving the aiport let’s see what comes next.
Transportation in India is actual easy but it has it’s challenges. Let’s go into the details.
For long distances and within in the big cities trains are the most common type of transportation. As taking the train in India is a big topic and I want to inform you the best I can, I wrote another article just about travelling India by train. You can find this one here.
There are taxis everywhere in the cities of india. I never took one as i always choose tuktuk’s as my transportation to go for on short distances but they exist. Make sure that the driver make use of the taxometer to not get cheated on the price. Taxis are quite save and especially in the night an option to go for when you are on the streets alone.
First of all: I love them.
Tuktuk’s are always my choice, if a distance is to long to walk. This small three-wheelers are just so easy to go with, the drivers are nice most of the time and you can see everything passing you while you drive almost open air. In the crazy and crowded traffic it is also easier for a tuktuk to get through, than a normal car or a bus.
In India there are more than enough tuktuks everywhere. Most of the time you will not even need to search or wait for one, they will come themselves to you. Just make sure to agree about the price before entering the tuktuk or that the driver is using a taxometer. Otherwise you will pay 2,3 or 4 times the actual price.
The tuktuk-driver normally know how much money they will need to earn for the day, so they will try to earn this amount with as less passangers as possible. So don’t let them cheat on you by not agreeing about the price in advance.
In the cities you can also find busses, but as the traffic is crazy and crowded it’s not the easiest and shortest option to take. They are very cheap. I once used one and a 25km drive, took me 60 minutes and charged 0,25€.
If the trains are booked out there is another option to go with a long distance bus. There are sleeper busses, semi-sleeper busses and normal busses. In the sleeper busses you will have a full bed for yourself, in the semi-sleeper busses you only have a chair which you can bend. As a solo female traveller make sure you get a bed for yourself as there are some you have to share with another traveller. This can get quite akward, so please make sure when you book the tickets to reservate a single bed. The busses you can also get booked via an agency or book them via the RedBus-App by yourself. This app is working like any other transportation booking app and you will see of your bed is a single- or a double-bed.
Prices are higher than the trains but sometimes the busses bring you closer to your destination than the trains, so it’s always worth a shoot to check this option.
In Delhi and Mumbai you can easily take the metro to explore the city. The infrastructure is good, there are seperate coaches for women only and it just charges a few cents for a ride. You can also get multi-day-tickets. It depends how much you want to walk, if this mult-day-tickets are worth for you. I normally like to walk so most of the times single-tickets are the cheaper option, but in the asian metropolis the distances are so long that I almost always go for the multi-day-packages if they are available.
In India you will always find a place to sleep. There are numerous different variations of accomondations for all budgets. I for myself stayed in hostels, with indian families, got invited to homes to stay, sleeped in the sand on the beach and under the sky on a roof in the dessert.
The Hostel culture is young in India. This is as it is not accepted in the society that women and men live and sleep together in one room, when they are not married or from the same family. So hostels itselves, let people raise their eyebrows.
Nowadays you can find hostels in most of the places, especially in the most common tourist and backpacker places. I stayed in a lot of hostels in India and they were all very awesome. I found one home away from home after the other.
The hostels were all more or less clean, had warm water (every backpacker knows that this is not common) and a place to do your laundry. They offer dorm-rooms and double-rooms and all of them had a nice commune area. The people working in the hostels in India normally also live in the hostels and are treating the travellers als part of the family. I never felt like this is just a job for them. I experienced that in every hostel I stayed in in India.
Prices for a dorm-bed can vary from 1€ to 10€ depending where you are and what you want. In average I paid 4€/night over a time frame of 6 weeks.
The travel community in India is very strong so there is never an issue to bond with other travellers.
For female solo travellers there is no need to worry to end up alone or to find nobody to explore the streets with. The people travelling India are most of the times very open and communicative. Everybody knows that India can be hard, so everyone is welcoming.
Most of the hostels offer tours to explore the cities. These tours are not very expansive and I can recomment them if you want to get to know the places better. Especially the food-tours are worth it as you will get to restaurants with food you wouldn’t have found yourself probably. The benefit of this tours is, that in India they are normally made by locals and not by any organization cooperating with the hostel. So you will get a local insight of the places.
If you are at a place with no hostels you will find guesthouses. Guesthouses don’t offer dorms in India but you can still find rooms around 5€ per night or below. Again this depends on your personal demands. Guesthouses most of the time offer food and drinks or have their own restaurant anyway.
I didn’t stayed in hotels, but as everywhere you can find hotels from all range of budgets everywhere in India. But as I am a backpacker I never look for hotels.
On the beaches or in the nature you can often camp or get yourself just a really basic bamboo-hut for like 1€-2€ per night. In Hampi for example there is a camping-site. If you are even to broke for a dorm-bed some hostel let you sleep in their common area for almost nothing. If you are like me a fan of sleeping under the sky, you can ask if it is possible to sleep on the rooftops of the hostel, which I did for example in Hampi for 6 nights (amazing!!).
Food and Drinks
If you go to India…EAT AND DRINK AS MUCH AS YOU CAN! :-D. All different types of curries, thalis, biranyis, samosas, all the street food. It is simply delicious. Also the chai tea, the lassis and the juices are not to be missed.
“What about the delhi belly and all the stories of food poisining in India?” you might think now. Well, yes this is a thing in India. Most of the travellers are suffering once or twice from a more or less bad stomach. Take some medicine with you, otherwise the doctors and pharmacies in India are very good in handling such things. Not trying out the food and preventing yourself from a unique culinary experience will not avoid this medical issues. You can get it or you won’t it if you are lucky. Me for myself I only got food poisened once after a veggie Mc Donald’s burger, who would expect that?!.
Just enjoy the food and drinks and follow your instincts. My advice, which is valid for every country in the world, eat always in the most crowded places where all the native people are eating. Normally at these places you are pretty save.
How much money you will need on your journey depends on your way to travel and your need of comfort. If you are a basic backpacker you can easily live on 20€/day including freetime activities. If you are not so much into activities and travel very slowly you can also live below 20€/day.
You can get Money out of ATM’s pretty much everywhere in India. Please be aware that a lot of times the ATM`s are not working and it can happen that you can’t find one. So don’t wait until your last rupee to start looking for new money and maybe have some spare money with you just in case.
If you can’t get any money out of an ATM or you can’t find an ATM, a lot of times you can get money from the travel agencies, which will costs you a fee. This fee can vary from 3% – 6% according to my experiences.
Advices for female solo traveler
For female solo traveller as I am one (solo bc yolo!) I want to add some extra bullot points.
- Dont be affraid travelling india but be cautious
- If you are an experienced traveller take use of your already developed travel instinct
- Trust your gut – if your instinct is telling you everything is fine, than don’t worry
- Don’t wander around in the streets by night alone – take a travel buddy with you
- If you are travelling alone in the trains, just try to stand/sit close to a family or other women if possible
- On train stations and trains try to get into contact with other women or families – It happens anyway a lot of times, that people just start talking to you and ask you if they can help you. If you have a good feeling just stay with them. They will be happy and you will be safe.
- Get into contact with the train attendant or the station officer. They will have an eye on you and check on you from time to time
- Dress according to you surrounding – means in the north long toursers and covered shoulders! In the south it depends and can be more felxible. Just dress as covered as the indian women on the streets.
- If you get into a situation make a fass out of it. Scream and make people to realize that you are in a uncomfortable situation. There will be someone helping within seconds. The good thing about India being crowded wiht people everywhere is that you are never alone.
- Talk directly and clear. Indian men are not used to that and will get afraid of a women talking like that to them
- Enjoy your trip and again don´t be too affraid!
If you need any more information or more details on the given information feel free to contact me. I am happy to help you to enjoy your trip.
Get lost, but don’t get hurt!