Is India Safe for Women Travelers?

By Mridula Dwivedi August 25, 2013 40 Comments ,

The short answer is no. And then there is a long answer. Pay attention to my short answer first and only then read the rest. Anyway I wonder if I even need to write a post? There are a variety of posts doing round on the internet now on the same subject. Most of it was written even before the recent Mumbai Gang Rape. And that young girl was not even traveling. She was doing her job. She was not alone.

And yet when I was invited by Suryagarh (a luxury hotel in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan) on one of the Blogger’s Fam Trip we were an all women group. The PR person was a woman. So, clearly Indian women are traveling, writing travel blogs and going about their life. On a list of top 30 Indian Travel Bloggers at least half are women. That still does not make India a safe place for women to travel but if you really wish you still can, with loads of caution, with ‘when in Rome …’  attitude.

First of all many women have complained about sexual harassment in other parts of the world and that has to be true. But in India it is of a different magnitude. It is commonplace and if you are not careful it will happen to you. Here are some random thoughts on the topic. The brain just refuses to process it in any logical way right now. This is in the end just a rant.

Women Tourists India

Women Tourists in Agra, India

10. I will look at what the local women do when I visit a new place. If I do not see any local woman at a place I will get out quickly. If I see kids and women along that sea shore I will continue walking.

9. I avoid crowded places like plague. That is where it will become free for all most of the time. And yet on my first trip abroad to Singapore I boarded a packed metro and everyone tiptoed around me. I now actually consider spending my hard earned money on other nations, which give me greater safety. My personal trips to Nepal and Sri Lanka are a case in point.

8. Not every place is equally unsafe in India. There are safer places but then this is India. However as I have to get up every day and go to work, I will go out and travel too. And countless other Indian women will do the same. I know India is not safe hence I will take a lot of precautions.

7. I was attending a media even in Pragati Maidan in New Delhi. The director of International Marketing Division (South Asia/West Asia/Africa) Mr. Julkifly Md Said told us, “we welcome solo women travelers to Malaysia.” I am part of a powerful market segment and I will take my custom to those places that make an effort for keeping me safe.

6. In is not only women and travel, the rule of law is weak in every sphere in India.

5. After Delhi Gang Rape in December 2012 I have actually regretted my decision not to immigrate. If my daughter shows any inclination to go abroad when she grows up, she will have all my support.

4. As someone who has been born and brought up in India I am more clued to the local scene. A foreigner will find it more difficult.

3. Religious places and festivals are in no way a guarantee for safety. As a local I will never go to Holi celebrations with unknown people.  Holi is trouble in general to all women, Indian or not.

2. I do not encourage conversation with unknown people, more so men, however harmless it may seem.

1. I will take a flight instead of traveling on a night train if I can, I feel safer that way. So I envy all those male bloggers who are die hard Indian Railway fan. I do not view it in the same light.

However India is my country and most of my travel is going to happen here. In spite of all what I wrote, nothing will make me stop traveling. It is this country that needs to change, not I.

Also I agree harassment is common throughout the world. But there have been places where I have felt much more at ease than in my own country. This is problem of mindset as well as general law and order. Why would women be safe when almost nothing else functions in this country as  it should?

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40 thoughts on “Is India Safe for Women Travelers?”

  1. The worst part is for every crime against women somehow every body tries to find a reason to blame the women be it media, the police, the politicians etc. I wonder what happened to Amir Khan’s campaign of Athiti devo bhava? We need some kind of national task force to make our tourist places safe, hygienic and welcoming to all.

  2. As Prasad rightly said, a task force is needed to safeguard.

    In the larger context, a big question on the value systems itself. On one side a Rakhi festival is celebrated and on the other side, all women who are not one’s family, are viewed as objects for pleasure at will!

    Inculcating the right values is the need of the day. Respect for female child, women needs to be taught . When.. oh.. when..

  3. Makes me feel justified in travelling with a tour group (I’ll be going to Darjeeling and then Bhutan in November)! I don’t know how I would cope as a working woman or student in India. Where is the national task force to keep THEM safe?!

  4. Lets face it, India is not safe and will never be safe until molestation and rape of women is taken seriously and the culprits punished without the justice system beating about the bush. I have even written a book on this out of frustration.

  5. According to a recent survey, Nagaland is the safest place in India. But we push that place into a corner geographically and mentally as some unknown and uncivilized aprt. Our attitudes are all wrong, our values are all hay wire. For all the technology fan far we have only regressed.

    1. Ilakshee when I traveled through Sikkim I saw women selling liquor at liquor shops. Now that felt safe. People would not misbehave even when they were drunk or buying liquor.

  6. The answer is one word: No.

    For a second, forget safety. When I travel with my wife, it is impossible to find a toilet. I hate acting like a bodyguard but that’s what we eventually become with a woman around. The bloody constant feeling that we need to be protectors!

  7. There are a thousand and one things that do not function in our country. We are therefore plagued by a plethora of problems & everything is wrong everywhere: women’s safety being one amongst the multitude of issues ! there is no administration, no government, no rule of law. There is simply anarchy and corruption everywhere.
    Women (or for that matter even men too ) should be adept at the art of self defense, learn karate or kung fu, kick boxing, carry pepper sprays & small weapons like knives & iron rods, pins, sharp objects,get a small arms license & carry a gun etc. The Government or the police can simply not protect you ! Sorry state of affairs indeed.

  8. It is sad but true that even the 21st century India is not safe…not for female travelers, let alone for females who go about their daily lives going to a job to earn their daily bread.

    Having said that, I liked what you said that ‘it is the country that needs to change, not I’, but do you see this change happening?

    1. Aditi the one change that I have seen is that people are getting out to protest on the streets. Never before do I remember witnessing or taking part in anything like that.

  9. Mridula, thanks for addressing this. I must say that during my recent trip abroad, the number one question I was asked, by both men and women, was to do with women’s security in India. As local women, we take as many precautions as possible, but just as Rose Chasm’s story that went viral online describes, you can cover up, but not hide.

  10. A country which was once headed by a woman President and powerful women as chief ministers and other ministers in many influential states should have been safest place in the world for women. On the contrary, India is the fourth most dangerous place in the world for women.

    It’s not just rapes or murders, some men don’t even respect women. Women don’t get equal rights as men. Even though its only in some places, India as a society needs to improve. Two major events have happened in Delhi and now in Mumbai, but no one’s doing anything about it. The government and police need to take more action and not just say to women, don’t travel at night by yourself..S.H.A.M.E

  11. This is one thoughtful post .. its true that in our very own country .. and me traveling ever with female .. keep my mind active even about which lanes to take and what conveyance to board !!Forget people from outside ..
    Its sad.. although as you mentioned not all the places in India are deadly for women but its always wise to be thoughtful.. for punishments of one rapist is not going to stop others from committing similar crimes unless the punishment is brutal or .. unless entire nation is taught on morality !

  12. I differ in your view Mridula, India may be unsafe in pockets but imagine this. A country of 125 billion people you are going to have some aberrations that doesnt make the whole country unsafe

    1. As a women I would say we are more unsafe than safe. And as a market segment I think many of us will take our custom to safer places.

  13. OMG. I saw your message, feel afraid. I’m Malaysian. I will be on the 16th November to India, Nasilk to learn yoga. I went to yoga vidya gurukul, but it has to provide taxi, from Munbai to school but have to pay. I have bought a ticket and made ​​a visa.
    Ask you to give advice, whether to go or not?

    1. Chilnalice I too travel by taxi in India. I live in India 😀 But in the end it is your choice. I would say go but be careful.

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I am Mridula Dwivedi, I love to travel! I started my travel blog in 2005. I have been going places since! For more details do check out my media kit! In another life I did a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur. I was a professor when I quit my job in 2015.

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