If you’re looking for a life-changing experience that will empower you, teach you things about yourself you never knew, and open not only your mind but also your eyes, you should definitely consider solo travel in India. Traveling alone in India is anything but easy. It is a wild adventure that at times might push your psychological limits but it’s also a very rewarding experience. In this post, we’ll introduce you to all of the most important aspects of solo travel in India and teach you everything you need to know before hopping on this incredible adventure!
Let’s start from the basics…
Helpful Resources For Visiting India
If you’re looking for an affordable international flight to India, Qatar Airways always has some great deals (this link gets you up to 15% off on all flights to India).
Looking for bargains on accommodation in India? Use this link and save up to 10% on all Booking.com properties in India.
It’s also important to check if you need a visa before entering the country. If you do and you want to get an Indian visa, consider using IVisa. I visited India a number of times and this is the best visa intermediary I have ever come across. The price they charge is almost the same as getting a visa in the embassy, but their team will do all of the work for you. All you have to do is pay the fee and wait for your visa confirmation in your email.
Last but not least, you should never forget about travel insurance. I personally always use World Nomads. True, their plans are more expensive than most others, but their coverage is also far superior. There aren’t many travel insurance out there that will compensate you for a delayed flight, lost/delayed luggage, stolen goods, and even critical injuries. No matter where you travel in the world, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
India is a beautiful country of contrasts where you can find pretty much anything you’re capable of imagining. It’s a country of deep cultural and religious traditions that can also be described as a hot mess. It’s a country of innovation, start-ups, and technology, but it’s also a country of incredible poverty and inequality. It’s home to some of the most beautiful architectural masterpieces the world has to offer, but it’s also home to thousands of homeless people, and millions more who live in the slums.
And the contrasts don’t end there; oh, no- this is just the beginning. If you go to the northernmost point of India, you’ll find cold sub-Himalayan regions covered in snow throughout most of the year. Go south and you’ll find something completely different, but only after experiencing a few different climates/landscapes along the way.
In different corners of the country, you’ll find different ethnicities which have different religions and speak more than 200 different languages…
The reason why I’m telling you all of this is to try to show you just how much of a huge, diverse melting pot India actually is. Because in a country of so many contrasts and so many moving pieces, there will be so many times when you are having a great time, and all of a sudden, you start hating this country as you curse Indians for having a different definition of what “being on time” means as you wait for your train on the train station for more than 4 hours.
So, before even thinking of solo travel in India, you have to prepare your mind for everything. And a good starting point for that is to…
Do Your Research
Before you start planning your trip, learn a few things about India. Get familiar with all the hot topics, learn about the different aspects of traveling to different regions, learn to distinguish between different ethnic groups, and most importantly, learn how to be respectful, especially when talking about topics that often raise tensions across the country. The point of this is to get a grasp of India as a country which will effectively allow you to blend in and communicate with locals more easily without stepping on anyone’s toes.
Is Solo Travel In India Safe?
I would avoid answering this question with yes or no but I would say that solo travel in India is not any more dangerous than solo travel in any other country in the world. In general, if you’re a guy, India is pretty safe for solo travelers. That doesn’t mean that India is not safe for solo female travelers but if you’re a female traveling alone in India you should be a little bit more careful.
Even for girls, there are plenty of places in India that you can visit as a solo traveler without any worries, like Rishikesh, Manali, Goa, Varanasi, and other popular tourist places. You’ll also be completely fine even in big cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Bangalore. You should just know which parts of the city to avoid at which time and not walk alone on the street in the middle of the night. But I guess that’s just common sense you’d want to apply when traveling elsewhere too.
The three most common crimes against tourists in India include pickpocketing, groping, and con artists but if you’re careful enough, you’ll never experience any of these.
To avoid pickpocketing, get yourself a theft-proof backpack and always be careful with your other belongings, especially your wallet and your phone.
To avoid groping or god forbid a raping accident, try to blend in the environment by wearing neutral clothes similar to the ones local ladies wear, plan your itineraries carefully, and know which parts of town to avoid.
To avoid con artists and scams, always keep your guard up and be wary of strangers who are overly friendly and are trying to “help you” for no reason at all. Don’t believe taxi drivers who tell you that your hotel/monument you want to visit is closed (they say this to take you somewhere else and get more money out of you). Lastly, get a grasp of local prices and know the rough worth of an item. This way you’ll have an idea when a vendor is trying to overcharge you for something that’s clearly worth a lot less.
You Might Travel Solo But You’ll Never Actually Be Alone
In a country of close to 1.5 billion people, finding peaceful, unfrequented places and being alone is often a luxury but this is not too bad for solo travelers. Staying in hostels and visiting popular touristy bars, you’ll be able to find a lot of like-minded travelers to hang out with when you feel like you could use some company. But on the other hand, I don’t know if you will feel this because you’ll be constantly surrounded by people everywhere you go and if you’re not used to big crowds, this can be very tiring.
Be Prepared For A Lot Of Questions
Traveling alone will inevitably lead to meeting a lot of people along the way, especially in India. Indians are generally very welcoming people but asking a lot of questions, some of which very personal, is a part of that hospitality. Don’t be offended by it and try to take this as a bonding exercise. See the questions as someone simply trying to get to know you and make you feel at home.
There Will Be Times When You Need To Stand Your Ground
It might be intuitive to be extremely cautious when traveling alone, but at times you need to act counter-intuitive and stand your ground. For example, when you’re being harassed, when a vendor is trying to overcharge you, when a taxi driver is trying to scam you, or when a friendly stranger won’t leave you alone (and will try to get money out of you in every way possible).
With vendors and taxi drivers, bargain hard, sometimes even pretend to leave; this usually does the trick and ends up with you getting a more favorable price for the product/service you’re trying to obtain. With con artists and scammers, don’t be afraid to raise your voice. Usually, the embarrassment alone is enough for them to leave you alone. If that doesn’t work, threaten to call the police.
Tours For Solo Travelers In India
If you ever get tired of traveling alone or just want to mingle with other travelers while taking tours, you’ll find plenty of options in India. For example, you can join a group of fellow travelers on a single-day tour of Delhi but you can also, for example, join a small group of travelers on an epic 20-day trip across India (north-to-south). There are companies like G-Adventure and Intrepid travel that design unique travel experiences for adventurers looking to experience the best of India. Here are a few of our favorite tours.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to plan your own itineraries as you make your trip around India, GetYourGuide is perfect for you. On their website, you can find hundreds of different tours in most cities in India that more or less cover the best things most touristy cities have to offer.
We briefly touched on this topic in the first part of the article and I guess it’s fair to say that getting around the country using local transport is an experience in itself. If you’re traveling between two cities that are more than 700-800 kilometers apart, the most comfortable way of getting around is via flight. There are many local airlines that travel across India and the flight fares are relatively affordable; you can get from the northern part of India to the southern part of India (around 2,300 kilometers away) for approximately $60-$70.
And for shorter distances, there are many buses and trains that travel across the country every day. The prices are substantially cheaper than the flight but buses and trains alike have different classes. There are buses without AC, buses with AC, and sleeper buses with AC but the prices for all are very cheap. Trains are a slightly different story.
The cheapest trains are dirt cheap and can take you 500-600 kilometers away for less than $1 but if you’re not quick enough in getting a seat, you’ll feel like a sardine in a can for the rest of the journey. The first-class trains, on the other hand, are equipped with all modern amenities and often cost more than taking a flight.
Whichever option you choose, if you’re taking an overnight method of transportation, make sure to keep your valuables on you and bring a padlock and chain to secure your bags overnight.
Getting around the cities can get a bit more challenging, depending on your location. At the time of writing, Delhi is the only city with a superb metro infrastructure and there, it’s easy to get to different parts of the city via metro. In the other cities, however, that’s not the case, even though it seems like the local authorities are working on this issue. The other transportation options include local trains, local buses, tuk-tuks, and ride-sharing.
If you take local trains or buses, take extra care of your possessions because these places are a haven for pickpockets.
If you are taking a tuk-tuk, always insist on the meter running or try to bargain for an acceptable price. However, when possible, you should always use ride-sharing apps (Uber or Ola) because they are quick, they are affordable, and you don’t have to struggle with the potential language barrier when explaining to the driver where to go.
One good aspect of solo travel in India is that the accommodation options for solo travelers are practically unlimited. There are many different options for people with different budgets. The most popular choice among solo travelers in India is hostels because, in hostels, it’s much easier to meet new people to hang out and party with. To find the best-rated hostels, you can use Hostel World (plus every time you use our link, you get 10% off which is even better).
Some other popular choices include lodges, homestays, and of course, hotels. The best way to book accommodation in advance in India is through Booking (you get up to 15% off by using our link). Just make sure to read the reviews of the hotel/homestay/lodge before going there because many of the properties listed on Booking (and other websites) look nothing like the pictures they post online.
Planning Your Solo Trip To India
Now that we have covered some of the other most important aspects of solo travel in India, it’s time to get to planning the actual itinerary. As you’re probably already aware, India is a vast country, and exploring the entirety of its territory and cultures would ideally take at least two months (probably more). Clearly, for most people, such a long period of time on a vacation is a luxury which is why it’s probably best to divide your trip to India into sections.
The five major international airports in India are Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, and Kolkata.
If you want to explore the northern part of India (Rajasthan, Punjab, the Indian Himalayas, Agra and the Taj Mahal, and Kashmir), then you should begin your journey in Delhi. Delhi has the most frequented airport and is located in the central part of North India, from where most other places are no more than 8-9 hours away by bus. I know this sounds like a lot but by India’s standards, it’s not a lot at all. If you want to cover all these places, you should plan for at least 15 days.
For people planning to explore the west coast, Mumbai is a great starting point. Gujarat, Pune, Goa, and a handful of national parks are nearby. If you extend your trip, maybe you can also include Hyderabad, Nagpur, and/or Hampi.
If you want to explore the south, you can start either in Chennai or Bangalore and explore the south of India, you should plan a two-week itinerary consisting of Kochi, Trivandrum, the forests and beaches of Kerala, Mahabalipuram, Madurai, Pondicherry, Tirupati, etc. (Hyderabad and Hampi can also be included in this trip).
Last but not least, we have the often forgotten eastern part of India. This part of India gets far fewer tourists than the other regions but there are plenty of beautiful places to visit in the east. The starting point for this itinerary would be Kolkata and some of the places that you should seriously consider visiting include the beach town of Puri, Jorhat (the tea capital of India), the forests of Mawynram, the hills of Tura, Nameri National Park, Ziro, Shilong, Sikkim, Tawang, Darjeeling, etc. But if you’re planning to visit this part of India, you should probably plan for 3 weeks because the roads in this part of the country, especially the northeast, are not very good.
More Useful Tips For Solo Travel In India
Avoid drinking tap water at all costs.
Tipping is not expected but leaving a small tip when eating in a restaurant is welcome.
Prepare to bargain. The only places where you should accept fixed prices are supermarkets and malls but you can bargain pretty much anywhere else.
ATMs are widely available, especially in tourist areas, and withdrawing money from the ATM won’t be an issue.
Program your brain to accept that people drive on the other side of the road. Even if you won’t be driving, this is very important when crossing the street.
India is a haven for vegetarians. There are countless veg-friendly restaurants and dishes. In fact, there are probably more vegetarian dishes than meat-based dishes. So, if you’re a vegetarian, you’ll likely fall in love with India.
The best time to visit India is between the months of December and March. In the northern parts, this period is characterized as winter with temperatures going as low as 17-20 degrees in the cities and even below 0 in the mountainous regions. In the southern part, this time of the year is relatively warm and it doesn’t rain a lot, making it the best time to visit.
India has 40 UNESCO sites, making it the sixth country with the most UNESCO world heritage sites in the world.
Do have spare photocopies of your passport, visa, and other important documents. You might need it if you’re thinking of visiting zones with special status or protected sites.
Avoid wearing expensive clothing or accessories. This makes you an easy target for pickpockets and scam artists. Instead, dress respectfully and cover up as much as you can.
Make sure you keep a family member or a friend informed about your itinerary and travels.
What About The Budget
We saved this for last but that doesn’t mean budgeting is less important than all other aspects of solo travel in India. India is a very affordable country and one of the favorite destinations for budget travelers. If you’re disciplined enough to stick to a budget and ready to go to extremes, you can even travel around India for less than $10 per day. This would include a lot of low-class train travel, cheap and dirty hostels (or sleeping in temples), and eating mainly street food.
However, the point of traveling is to experience as much as you can, not to survive in the extremes. That’s why I’d say that if you want to travel with an average train/bus, stay in decent size hostels, lodges, or even affordable hotels, eating food at average-priced restaurants and eateries, you should be okay with somewhere between $20 and $30 per day.
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Did you like this guide to solo travel in India? Were our tips helpful? Do you feel prepared for your solo travel adventure in India? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!
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