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Are you thinking of travelling solo to India? I’m guessing if you’re reading this, the answer is yes! Before my first solo trip, I was pretty nervous so I can imagine you may be feeling apprehensive, excited or even both. I’ve been exactly where you are, hence I put together these India solo travel tips to help and guide you.
It may seem overwhelming to start with but, after 3 successful trips, I’m proof you can have a rewarding and trouble-free trip to India with a little planning.
INDIA SOLO TRAVEL ESSENTIALS
India Lonely Planet
Accommodation: Booking.com / Hostelworld
Getting around: flight (Skyscanner) / bus / train (12Go)
Travel insurance: True Traveller (European travellers) / Hey Mundo (other nationalities) / Safety Wing (digital nomads)
Read next: the ultimate guide to travelling alone as a woman
My experiences travelling solo in India
I first visited India in 2015 with a friend, and plucked up the courage to return for 2 months solo in 2019. I was nervous about what it would be like alone but I managed to overcome any challenges and have a fantastic time! Then, I returned again in 2023 to host my first group tour with readers of this blog.
Is it safe to travel in India alone?
Telling people you’re taking a solo trip to India usually results in negativity. But, as I share whenever anyone asks for solo travel tips, you need to be selective when taking advice. Has the person been? Are their sources up to date? Well, if not, smile and move on.
I’m here to share a little reality and try to hopefully strike the right balance between encouraging and preparing you .
Is India the easiest destination to travel solo as a woman? Well no.
Will you get looks and stares and sometimes feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed? Well, most likely yes.
Is that a reason not to go? Well, if you are confident and prepared, no.
Can you have a fantastic trip alone in India that’ll provide some of the most wonderful, precious memories of your life? YES!!
All in all, India is not for everywhere and it’s not the best first-time solo travel destination. It may be best to build your confidence up in other places first.
If you hate crowds and getting stared at, it may never be your place!
But I love it. We all know the best things in life don’t come from taking the easy route. If India appeals, you owe it to yourself to experience this culturally-rich, contradictory wonderland that’s like nowhere else on earth!
Overall, it is safe to travel alone in India provided you stay cautious and follow the right advice. I’ve broken down my tips in the order you’ll need them…
Planning tips for solo travel in India
Prior to your trip, spend some time focussing on the following…
Choose carefully where to go
Unlike travelling solo in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia or Bali (click for solo travel guides to those places), you can’t travel everywhere alone in India. I would recommend choosing easy places to start, for example:
- Rishikesh – this hippie town in the mountains is known for its yoga culture and all things related like meditation and sound healing. Put on the map by The Beatles (whose old casa complex can still be visited as a tourist attraction), it’s become a popular tourist destination with gorgeous river beaches and mountain scenery to boot.
- Goa – this is an obvious first destination for solo India travel. My personal favourite place was Palolem (and nearby Patnem) with beautiful beaches and amazing food (local and healthy/vegan). Other popular tourist towns in Goa include the capital, Panjim, and beach towns Agonda, Aramobol and Anjuna.
- Rajasthan – although it’s busy and hectic, this is a well-trodden part of India where tourism is concerned and every city has fantastic hostels and guided activities where you can ease yourself in. Read about the best places to go in my Rajasthan itinerary.
Read next: 28 best places in India to travel solo
Stay on grid
Travelling solo in India is very different from travelling Southeast Asia alone. When I offer advice for backpacking Europe alone, I’ll tell you to get off-grid and escape the tourist trail as it’s safe and easy. However, I wouldn’t recommend this for India because attitudes to women vary considerably when you get out of more progressive cities where they’re used to seeing tourists.
Small, non-touristic towns in India are where you don’t want to be. Stick to places you’ve heard of where there’s a well-trodden tourist trail.
Plan, plan, plan
This is my number one solo travel tip for India, and in fact any country. Life’s surprises can be great but you don’t want any nasty ones when travelling alone in India. Research how you’ll get from the train station to your accommodation and be aware of common scams for each destination. Pushkar has a few, as does Delhi airport.
Don’t pack too much into your itinerary
Since life in India can be hot and hectic, you run the risk of getting exhausted and emotionally overwhelmed if you’re constantly on the go with no downtime. The other thing you need to prepare for: getting sick and having to spend a couple of days recovering!
For this reason, I’d suggest not booking too much non-refundable accommodation just in case. Booking.com usually have a generous refund policy, and Hostelworld lets you pay a very small deposit to ensure you can cancel close to the time!
Safety tips for India solo travel
There’s no point sugarcoating it: personal safety is most people’s biggest concern when travelling to India. These are my tried and tested travel tips to stay safe while travelling solo as a woman.
Arrive by day
This is an obvious but important safety tip. As a general rule, I’d recommend arriving in places during daylight hours.
If you DO have to arrive at night due to public transport schedules, there are workarounds. If you have a local SIM, you can call an Uber in most larger towns and cities. In smaller places, ask your accommodation to send someone to meet you or pre-book a taxi.
Charge your phone and power bank
These days, it’s hard to imagine what it would be like to travel without technology. For all its pros and cons, tech makes it so much easier and safer to travel solo in India. I ensure my phone doesn’t die on me when I need it by travelling with a power bank. I usually charge it overnight and boost my camera and phone off it during the day.
Get a SIM card
On the note of staying connected, I would highly recommend getting a local SIM when travelling alone in India. They don’t make it THAT easy because you’re required to show your passport, visa and proof of home address to get signed up… But once you have, it’s worth it!
Jio, Airtel and Vodafone are a few of the main providers. I’ve always used Vodafone and it’s super affordable: around 400 rupees for a month of data. Ask your accommodation to help you get sorted.
It goes without saying you shouldn’t be travelling anywhere without insurance especially India where health and safety isn’t always the greatest, plus it’s common to experience gastro problems.
Personally, I use True Traveller (for European residents including the UK) since it’s affordable but covers everything you need including valuables and pre-existing health conditions. The last time I claimed, they paid out within 2 days which I’ve never experienced with any other company! Get a quote now.
For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
This isn’t your typical solo India tip but it’s very important… When my card was copied and I had to deal with hackers stealing hundreds of pounds from my account, let’s just say I wasn’t a happy bunny!
This could happen anywhere, not just India, so I would always recommend using a VPN when travelling, especially when it comes to paying for things online or typing in passwords and usernames. Nord VPN is my provider of choice; their plans start from $3 a month.
Clothing and packing for India
I know lots of foreign travellers to India will have questions surrounding what to wear in India and how to dress. A good place to start is by looking at the locals and emulating them… Not in a cultural appropriation way, but simply by observing what body parts they cover and doing the same.
India is a place where foreign travellers get a lot of attention whatever they’re wearing. So to minimise it as much as possible, I’d recommend covering your legs and shoulders especially in holy places such as temples.
Because it gets very hot, you should opt for light, loose clothing where possible, preferably in pale colours to stay as cool as you can. Sunglasses, suncream, a sun hat and comfy shoes are also essentials.
Read next: what to pack for India
Advice for getting around India alone
Travelling around safely is another point of concern for many travellers preparing for their first solo trip to India.
If you’re unsure whether to travel by bus or train, I would suggest the train where possible. It feels like a more authentic Indian travel experience compared to buses which you can take in any country, plus it’s more spacious and you can get up and walk around.
However, there are some places – like the mountainous region of Himachal Pradesh (including destinations like Dharamshala) – where there are no trains, only buses.
How to book tickets
Thankfully, the complicated old system of booking train tickets (the official IRCTC ticket website which required receiving a text to an Indian SIM, or emailing your passport scan) is no longer necessary because you can now book tickets on the 12go website.
Booking bus tickets is also easy with 12go.
Tips for riding the train
Riding the train is a fun, India essential!
- Understand the classes – AC First Class Sleeper has lockable doors, while AC2 has just curtains, then there’s also AC3 and Sleeper Class. I wouldn’t recommend the latter as it’s hot and crowded.
- Know you’ll be sharing – on Indian trains, you’ll be assigned a bunk (upper or lower) across from another bunk in a carriage off the train corridor. So, if you’re solo, you’ll be sharing with three others.
- You can eat and drink – chai sellers come around selling chia tea and coffee. Snacks and water are also sold.
Ride Uber or Ola
Within big cities, it’s easy to call Uber or Ola to get around. It’s very affordable: I paid 400 rupees ($5) to travel for an hour halfway across Delhi! It feels like a safe way to travel because there’s a panic/emergency service option on the Uber app.
Prepare your airport transport in advance
Annoyingly, Indian airports usually only let you use the Wi-Fi if you have an Indian phone number. You can get a SIM card in Delhi airport but it can take hours to activate. This means you won’t be able to use the internet between landing and getting to your accommodation, so you need to plan the journey in advance.
I would suggest getting your hotel or hostel to pre-book a taxi to meet you at arrivals. Make sure the driver knows your name and hotel as there are common scams where guys will pretend to be your driver (sometimes involving third parties to confuse you) then try and take you to a different hotel.
If you haven’t booked already, head to the official taxi stand walking past any touts who try to get your attention. You pre-pay (card accepted) before getting in.
Tips for health and wellness
There’s nowhere I’ve been quite as sick as India! While it shouldn’t stop you from going, I would recommend that you prepare well. Of the various pros and cons of travelling solo, the numero uno con is getting sick without anyone to help. So do your best to prep in advance!
I highly recommend preparing your stomach for your India trip. Probiotic tablets are your best bet because you can take them to India with you. Eating other gut-healthy foods like kimchi and kombucha in the weeks before your trip is also a good idea.
Water & sanitation
You probably already know not to drink the tap water in India. Most backpacker hostels offer free fill-ups so you simply need a reusable water bottle. However, on my most recent (more flashpacky) trip, I realised that unfortunately, hotels make you buy plastic bottles which is a real shame.
For better sustainability, bring a filtering water bottle that makes any water safe to drink.
Have rehydration sachets ready
Being sick while travelling by yourself in India does suck, I can’t lie. Find something good to binge on Netflix and wait for it to pass while dosing up on electrolytes to restore your body’s natural balance. These can be bought cheaply from any pharmacy.
Money tips for a solo India trip
India is the most affordable travel destination of the 64 countries I’ve visited so far, but there are still some money and finance tips you need to know…
Read next: how much does a trip to India cost?
Fee-free bank accounts
Although ATMs in India usually charge a fee you can’t avoid, you can dodge further charges by travelling with a card that doesn’t charge fees of its own.
My favourites for UK travellers are Starling and Monzo, but other nationalities can apply for Revolut and Wise cards (Wise is also a great platform for transferring money between currencies with minimal fees).
Split up & have spare bank cards
This is a great tip for any destination! Losing your bank card abroad can be a nightmare. I travel with all the bank cards listed above partly because they’re great generally, but also because I have backups if one gets lost.
Also, don’t carry all your cards at once. Just take out one and leave the others at your accommodation. When travelling between destinations on a train or bus, keep them all close to your person in your most secure bag.
ATMs in India charge between 150 and 300 rupees as a fee. For this reason, I take out the max amount each time of 10,000 rupees ($120). One thing to note is that ATMs are often out of cash so don’t wait until you’re totally out otherwise you may end up walking around all the ATMs in town hungry and thirsty!
Tips for making friends during solo travel in India
Just because you’re travelling solo in India (or anywhere) that doesn’t mean you have to spend every moment alone! There are lots of ways to meet people when travelling alone including…
Stay in hostels
This is the numero uno way to meet people backpacking in India! There are lots of great hostels including the Moustache, Madpackers and Hosteller chains. You can meet people in the dorms, in the social area, or during social events held at the hostel such as food tours and shared dinner nights.
Overwhelm & emotional wellness
The internet is full of tips for physical wellness alongside safety tips, but not everyone mentions emotional wellness. Travel is a privilege and India is a dream destination for many, however it can be emotionally taxing to be always ‘on’ in terms of assessing your surroundings and safety.
So make sure to take care of yourself during your solo India trip! Book a nice hotel to relax and recover every now and then, or a private driver and airconditioned car for the day.
Stares and selfies
One thing to prepare yourself for is lots of stares from locals and copious selfie requests. The first thing to note is that 99% of the stares are purely curiosity, coming from not just from men but also women and children.
Of course, there’s the odd occasion when men are being creepy. In this case, all I can recommend is ignoring them and getting on with your day. Of course, if you are feeling unsafe, stay in busy, public places and call a taxi to get away safely.
In terms of photo requests, it may seem novel to start but will probably become an annoyance after the 100th one! Just know it is ok to say no if you’re not feeling it.
Ease yourself in
It may be worth booking a nice hotel for the first night and an aircon car tour for your first day. This is an especially good tip for solo travel in India if your first stop is Delhi which is notoriously hectic and overwhelming.
Nice hotels in South Delhi (the most pleasant part of the capital) include Bloomrooms, Prakash Kutir Bungalow 157, B Nineteen, Avatar Living and The Stay Inn. Check Booking.com for more.
For your first train ride, you may want to treat yourself to AC Tier 1. Once you’re feeling comfortable and confident, get a bit more adventurous with 2 or 3!
Thanks for reading!
Read more India blogs:
- 3 day Jaipur itinerary
- Things to do in Pushkar
- Where to eat in Pushkar
- Complete India budget break down
- Places to travel solo in India
- India female packing list
- Top things to do in Amritsar
- Rishikesh travel guide: yoga, nature and the Beatles!
- Rishikesh cafe guide: 16 cute and hippie cafes
- Mcleod Ganj, Dharamsala travel guide: visiting Little Tibet!
- Guide to Pondicherry travel
- The best cafes in Pondicherry
- Auroville day trip from Pondicherry
- Where to eat in Palolem, Goa
These are my trusted resources:
Getting around by air – it’s easy to get between cities by flight. I use Skyscanner and search by whole month to find the best value dates.
Buses – buses are comfy and efficient. Use 12Go to book.
Trains – these are a good option for long journeys because you have a bed rather than a seat. Use 12Go to book.
For hotels, I use Booking.com – they also have self-catering apartments. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.
Browse tours and activities on GetYourGuide. I also check Viator and Klook in case they have a better price.
For food experiences with passionate local chefs and foodies, check out EatWith.
Pack the latest copy of India Lonely Planet.
Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for UK & Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.
For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and tips!