Discovering the amazing culture and history of India is the highlight of many travelers' journals. From the austere rural areas of the north to impossibly hectic metropolises to the backpacker havens along the coast, India encompasses several countries' worth of culture and people.
While India features many unforgettable scenes and experiences, it isn't a country without controversy. With a long history of patriarchy and the caste system, various groups have initiated movements to overcome challenges in Indian society. With recent protests about women's rights and the Indian government's response to crimes against women, this evolving aspect of life in a very traditional society has reached the world stage. While it's a pivotal time for the women and progressive advocates of the country, the high profile accounts of violence against women are still a sobering reminder that women, in India or any country, should be vigilant to keep themselves safe.
Our grantees who have worked in India have experienced amazing opportunities, became integrated in their host communities and were able to travel around different regions. We remind all our grantees, whether male or female, to always take appropriate precautions when traveling in an unfamiliar area.
Many travel sites like Smarter Travel, Travel India and Lonely Planet offer good advice for women traveling abroad to stay safe while traveling and enjoying the amazing places they are visiting. Below is a short list compiled from these sites for our participants to follow while abroad in India or any country. We encourage you to read through the more comprehensive recommendations for being safe on the sites above to prepare for traveling abroad.
- Have a buddy. Whenever possible, travel with a trusted person, especially if that person has knowledge of the area.
- Arrive during the day. Whether traveling alone or in a group, female travelers should arrive and check in before the sun goes down. Trying to navigate in a new place at night will take your attention away from observing your surroundings and it will be harder to distinguish landmarks and street signs.
- Be aware. The most important thing for any traveler is to be aware of their surroundings. When you walk into a dark hotel room or are going to dinner down the street, observing your surroundings and using common sense will be the best way to keep yourself safe to enjoy your destination.
- Meet new people, but don't share the details. Getting to know different people when traveling is one of the best reasons to explore different countries and cultures. But, if traveling alone, especially for women, you shouldn't share where you are staying with people you've just met.
- Carry the important stuff with you, except the cash. While you'll of course want to carry enough cash to last you throughout the day and evening, you should leave any extra credit cards or money in the hotel's safety box (most international hostels and hotels have them). You will also want to carry copies of your passport and other important identification documents with you.
- Be careful when having fun. Enjoying the night life of a new city is part of the fun of traveling, but drinking too much can, just like in the U.S., put you at risk. Acknowledge that you are in unfamiliar surroundings and a night of too much partying can easily become a safety hazard.
- Always take a marked cab. Just like in the U.S., marked transportation is the safest. If someone is offering you a ride and they have a private car, just don't accept it.
- Act like a local. Learn about the culture you are going to experience before you leave for your trip. When you know how to greet people, say thank you and behave in restaurants and other public places, locals are much more likely to accept you as a welcome addition to their community. Whether you agree with the customs and traditions of the country you are visiting or not, tourists are still just that, tourists. Don't unnecessarily attract attention to yourself. Dress like a local. This will not only help you blend in a little more, but will allow you to navigate different places more effectively, whether you're shopping or interacting with people in your program.
- Always have a backup plan. If a hotel falls through or a ride you reserved doesn't show up, you should always have an alternate plan. This will not only help keep you safe, but save you from paying extra money on last-minute services and added stress.
Exploring different areas of the world is one of the best learning experiences available. As with all our programs, we know that participants can best enjoy their time abroad when they're safe, secure and healthy.