If you are white then perhaps you are not right in India. This is not me saying it – this will be the ‘first’ impression you will get in India especially if you are a white woman travelling alone.
Unfortunately, in light of the Delhi gang rape of an Indian student and of that of the Swiss tourist, India seems to have been given a label as a dangerous, misogynistic jungle for women. In fact, the reality is far from the truth. India is a country which is incredibly rich in warmth, kindness and humanity. You will also find people who will go that extra mile to help you out, you will find the people are extremely friendly and helpful, men will step aside for you, men will carry your luggage if you are struggling, people will offer you something to eat and much more. These are some of the things you never hear about.
But social problems exist in India. There has been moral devaluation. Indian culture is sexually repressive to the extreme. The population do not have healthy attitude towards sex like the west. Combine this with severe economic and social inequality; you have got a dangerous mix.
As a solo female traveller to India…
- You will have your boobs stared at
- You will be considered as a “loose” western woman looking for sex
- The Indians will want to be photographed with you
- If you’re blonde then, you’ll have young men following you around
- You might be groped and touched in crowded places
- Beggars will insist that you give them alms
- You’ll certainly be charged more by taxi and auto-rickshaw drivers
- And so on…
Solo white women in India should wear Kurtis – a way out
I suggest you wear the Indian kurta or Kurti during your stay in India. The kurtas are usually for men while the kurtis are shorter visions of the same thing for women. These are traditional collarless shirt like tops that goes down to the knees. They can be worn with jeans or leggings rather than the traditional pajamas. More travel tips for India and what to wear in India.
A foreigner recently travelled to India and wore these kurtis and she was able to get away by saying that she was from Nagaland, one of the North Eastern States of India. The people of Nagaland are generally lighter skinned. In addition to all this, she was even able get away by paying less admission prices at certain locations (Taj Mahal for instance) compared to Indian nationals.
The great thing about the kurti is that, you can have the best of both worlds – Western and Indian. Just make sure that these kurtis are light and comfortable preferably made of cotton. There are no shortages of Indian shops where you can buy them, even eBay and Amazon seems to be selling them. Or you can buy them when you are in India.
In addition to wearing the kurti, you can cover your strategic parts of your body with a dupatta. Although the dupatta is the scarf-like cloth for wearing with the salwar and kameez, it can be worn quite beautifully with the kurti.
It’s down to women travellers to take the responsibility for their safety. Wearing modestly and in tune with India’s culture will go down well not to mention that it will deter idiots and weirdoes that might take you for a ride.
Danger is certainly out there but you just have to be brave and be prepared specially if you are travelling alone in India. You know what they say, “when in Rome do as the Romans do”. Similarly, just dress as Indian women do. Cover up your curves with the kurti and the dupatta.
I have travelled to numerous countries and nowhere have I been harassed than my own country. My own experience is that it’s common for women to be groped, verbally harassed or stared at in a way that makes you want to dress in an Islamic Hijab. I’m afraid; Indians too need to take a good hard look at themselves on how they treat women on the streets.
I know this sounds biased but you just need to be careful when travelling solo in India, so dress modestly and get treated well. Just trick them into thinking that you are an Indian.