Safety is a concern for many solo female travellers to Delhi. Any new place is a bit overwhelming at first, especially a city as diverse and bustling as Delhi. A little alertness and caution can go a long way in ensuring that you travel safely and return with good memories.
Here is how to stay safe in Delhi as a solo female traveller.
What can really go wrong in a place which is so crowded?
Residents of Delhi and India, in general, have a much smaller expectation of personal space around them and are used to people in close proximity. Most tourists, unless you are from a crowded city, become uncomfortable in this scenario. In Delhi, you are surrounded by people at all times, even if you don’t want to. There is little regard for personal space so women should be extra careful when walking in crowded markets of Delhi.
However, this presence of people also makes you feel safe. Help is just a shout away.
Here is a list of safe travel strategies.
1. Dress Conservatively in Delhi
As a foreigner you are a center of attention so please dress conservatively when out and about in the markets. Please wear a long skirt or trousers or a Capri or anything that covers your legs below the knees. Wear clothes which cover your shoulders, carrying a scarf with you is a good idea as well.
There are different places in Delhi, such as the Connaught Place etc where no one will bat an eye at your clothes. You can safely dress up in jeans and t-shirts. But for places like Old Delhi- Chandni Chowk area, Mosques, Temples etc, be sure to put on more layers. Jeans and a small Kurti or a long skirt is always a good choice. Moreover, Indian clothes like salwar-kameez are light and easily available locally.
Do carry a scarf. Most religious places require you to cover your head. You can buy one here.
Dressing conservatively alone will help you avoid 90% of safety issues. Take it seriously.
2. Be Assertive And Confident Rather Than Polite
It is very important to carry yourself confidently. Be more like a part of the crowd that knows where it is headed rather than a lost tourist. Use google maps and navigation as much as possible. If you don’t have access to the internet, make sure to carry a printout of maps. You are less likely to attract unwanted attention if you look confident. Eve teasers usually target women they perceive vulnerable. You can ignore it for the most part, but if they start stalking or making you uncomfortable in other ways, make a scene, draw the attention of the bystanders or authorities such as traffic police, etc. Do not try to be polite. Rudely tell them to leave.
3. Take Travel Advisories Seriously
Delhi a lot of areas that are not safe on certain dates or days, especially around national holidays. There are also some areas that are not safe for women in general. Some that are not safe at night. Most attacks on women happen in remote areas. Stay in the public eye. Check the reviews and stick to traveled tourist routes. If you want to go exploring, go in a group and even then avoid night time. Rules are more strict for foreigners. You might notice many Sadhus openly using hash or other derivatives of cannabis. It is not legal. While the local authorities give them a free pass, they won’t let you up that easy. Drugs are illegal in India.
4. Be Aware Of How You Interact With Men
India is a conservative society. You have to be mindful of how you interact with men here. Especially the less educated ones you will encounter in public transportation or in hospitality like bellboys, etc.
A very common misconception here is that if you are overly friendly, you are giving them signals. Be conscious of your clothing around these people. Most of all, be polite but distant. Do not engage in more conversation than necessary.
5. Safe transit from Delhi Airport and Railway stations
Plan your arrival in Delhi such that you land during the day. If, for some reason, you are unable to do so, arrange for someone to pick you up at the airport. This ensures you have a great start to your trip and is well worth the money.
Most good hotels and guest houses can arrange airport pickup. Avoid traveling anywhere after 9 PM. If you have to, prefer public transport over personal autos. Travel in a group or with local friends if you are getting late.
Homelessness is common in large cities. Labourer’s in Delhi work during the day and are out sleeping on the streets at night, in certain parts of town. Don’t be shy about inquiring about the safety of the area you are going to or staying at. Please avoid walking alone at night. Staying in groups is always a good idea. Having a local companion also helps significantly.
6. Traveling safely by Cabs in Delhi
You can safely call a cab- Ola, and Uber- at any time of the day. They have a GPS and an emergency button. Always share your ride details with someone. If you feel uncomfortable, ask to be dropped off at the nearest public place that is open. When getting down is not an option, call someone and stay on call till you get to your destination. If you’re alone in a cab or a rickshaw and the driver tries to take a friend along, say a firm no. If they persist, get down.
7. Copy The Local Women in Delhi
In Delhi, chances are that a lot of women around you are either tourists themselves or college students. Note how they safely ensure no one touches them by putting their bags in front etc. Most of them prefer to stay in a residential neighborhood. This is a good option if you are planning on staying for a long time or if you want to try the Indian lifestyle. Most of the students use Metro to travel. It is inexpensive and available at every 1.5 or 2 km.
Observe how these women are acting, how they carry themselves, how covered they are, etc. Also, pay attention to how they are interacting with the men around them- the ones that are not with them. If a place is full of women (alone or with families), it is safe, if there are no women then it’s probably best to head back.
8. Drinking and Visiting Bars in Delhi
The nightlife in India is vastly different from other countries. Since most bars do not have a permit to stay open past midnight, make sure to visit early. Pick bars in better neighborhoods to avoid hoodlums. The police are very active around these places so do not drink and drive. Get a cab.
If you want to stay in to drink in your room, you can look up nearest wine shops or ask the reception to guide you to a respectable one. These shops do not stay open past 10 PM, so make sure to arrange for the drinks accordingly. Here is a list of some of the best bars and pubs in Delhi.
9. Learn Basic Hindi Phrases
Using some everyday phrases is the best way to throw off any miscreant and ask for help in any place. While you will always find someone that speaks fluent English and can help you, it is always best to be prepared yourself. These basic phrases– salutations, asking for directions, cabs, help etc- will ensure that you are able to convey your problem to any person you come across. It will also help them understand you and get you to the person that can help. This is especially helpful while trying to avoid unwanted attention. You will mostly be left safely alone once they realize you can bring mass attention to their eve-teasing in the local language.
10. Local Helpline Numbers in Delhi
Bring your phone. Get a local SIM card. Prepaid packs in India are very cheap. It is always smart to keep a friend or family member apprised of your travel plans. Here is our guide to buying a SIM card in India.
There is a very little chance that you will need to contact the authorities but here are the numbers if you need them.
Here are some important numbers-.
- 112 is the pan-India emergency number.
- 100 will connect you to the nearest Police Station
- 101 for Fire
- 102 for Ambulance
- 1091 is the Women Helpline
Do not hesitate to call for help if you think you are even remotely in any form of danger. The response is quick and effective
10. Do Your Research
Delhi has an amalgam of cultures. Which means there are innumerable immersive experiences you will be able to participate in. To ensure that you make the most of your trip to this exciting city, do check out our Free Resources for Delhi. Before you decide your itinerary for the day, make sure to look up the reviews and recommendations of other travelers. Our one and two-day itineraries might also be helpful for you to plan your time here.
Check up on where you are staying. Make sure you don’t pick accommodations based on distance, instead, pick a good neighborhood.
Learn to keep your money safely divided. Here is an article you can check for more details.
Most of all, please keep in mind that it is no ta given that something will happen. This is just being smart. Indians everywhere have a philosophy: Atithi Devo Bhava” which literally translates to “Guests are Gods”. Wherever you go, you will feel the people being respectful and deferential. Stay alert but don’t forget to enjoy the warm Indian hospitality.