May 30, 2018
Are you a about to travel to India as a solo female traveller or considering a tour in North India with other women? If you are looking for some practical, first-hand advice from a woman who recently travelled in India alone, here are some travel tips which might help you.
Glenda McMillan-Andersson, reservations manager with India Unbound in Melbourne, travelled as a solo woman in North India in May. It was her first trip to India in more than a decade.
Glenda’s private tour of India included Mumbai, Varanasi, Jaipur, Ranthambhore National Park and Delhi, and featured activities from city walking tours to tiger safaris, a boat ride on the Ganges and visiting Amber Fort.
Here are her observations about travelling alone as a woman in India, the benefits of private touring and the changes she noticed in India since her last visit.
What was different about India since your last visit more than a decade ago?
The infrastructure has improved immensely in terms of ease of travelling around. Major cities like Mumbai and Delhi have new and efficient airports for example, and India’s airlines of IndiGo and SpiceJet are almost replicas of Virgin Australia, with new aircrafts and good, efficient service. Generally there are better roads, making it more comfortable to get around, and in the cities it’s not uncommon to see smart European cars. English is spoken widely between Indians in the cities, and western fashion is also worn. In terms of communication, there is Wifi almost everywhere and mobile phones are abundant!
How did you feel as a female travelling on your own in India?
Totally safe at all times – I was not hassled at all during my trip. I think the key is travel planning – being on an organized private tour of India. I was met at each new destination by a guide and driver; the guides chatted through my options and we agreed on a schedule for the day; and for all sightseeing I was accompanied by a private guide and specialist in the specific area. When I was out and about by myself I felt totally safe and had the added security of knowing that the driver was never far away. At my hotels, the staff were always friendly and respectful, and in fact, some hotels will allocate rooms close to reception and lifts for women travelling solo in India.
What are your thoughts on food quality and hygiene in India, based on what you have seen and eaten recently?
I was pleasantly surprised at the choice and variety of healthy food options throughout my recent India tour – especially at breakfast. Western food options appear on many of the menu’s, especially in the larger cities; sandwiches, pasta, pizza and delicious desserts. I was also surprised at how often I could find good coffee including cappuccino and espresso! Obviously there was an amazing selection of Indian dishes too!
If you are concerned about the quality of the food, your driver or guide will recommend trusted places to eat. In my instance I had the luxury of foodies with local knowledge – so I had great tips on which are the best cafes and restaurants in India.
What was your experience like having a private driver and vehicle during your tour of India?
I LOVED having the convenience of a private driver and vehicle in India – it made everything so easy and hassle-free. The car was a pristine late model 4WD with air conditioning. Chilled water and snacks were always provided. It also meant the trip was at my pace – we could start the day at a time of my choosing and stop when I wanted to. Having the security of knowing that the driver was never far away was also good. This is an essential component to a relaxed and well-planned journey, especially for women travelling in India.
What were your city/tour guides like? What can people expect from them?
The guides are invaluable for their local knowledge, history, culture and contemporary information. They love interaction and questions. You usually spend 2-3 hours with them on each activity and they definitely look out for you to ensure the pace of the activity is suitable. It was great to have a mix of guides to appreciate and experience their local knowledge and individual perspectives in different cities or locations.The different personalities also kept it interesting along the way!
Any stand out hotels from your trip in North India that you think could be included in a list of India’s best hotels?
My favourite accommodation on this trip was Samode Haveli in Jaipur. (It could have been a villa in Tuscany!) I loved the combination of hundreds of years of history subtly combined with all modern comforts. The property has many artifacts to admire, spaces to relax in, a wonderful indoor-outdoor restaurant and a great pool and spa to retreat to in the middle of the day. In the evening, there’s the candle-lit gardens for cocktails. Samode Haveli was a lovely space to enjoy in the middle of Jaipur and I would highly recommend including it in any travel in Rajasthan that includes a stay in the pink city of Jaipur!
What are the best activities or places to visit in India, based on your recent trip?
My visit to Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan was a highlight. The comfortable drive in my private vehicle (4WD with A/C) through rural countryside to get to the park and my accommodation I really enjoyed – observing the farmers and villagers going about their daily lives, passing camels and bullocks, motor bikes and homemade tractors, and the women of Rajasthan in their striking colourful saris. And then there was the anticipation of the safari and the possibility (or hope) of seeing a tiger! I was fortunate enough to see three tigers during a safari in Ranthambhore – this was a fabulous and most memorable experience!
Any tips for female travellers in India – either solo or with other women?
Think about what is you want from the trip. Talk to an expert on India so they understand your requirements, provide invaluable advice and plan a tailor made holiday. Have the itinerary pre-arranged and pre-booked – you can then leave home knowing that the logistics are taken care of and all you have to do is enjoy your holiday in India. This makes the trip so much more relaxing. And travel lightly!
What advice can you share on what women should wear when travelling in India?
Travel light and leave room for the wonderful shopping! Take advantage of the same day affordable laundry service. Light-coloured linen and cottons are cool and blend in with the locals. Long sleeves and capri pants are ideal for protection from the sun and modesty/respect in religious sites and rural areas. Comfortable walking shoes are a must for being out and about; especially during walking tours where you can encounter cobble-stone streets and laneways. Other items to pack include be a sun hat, a light daypack and a wrap or shawl for the flight and air-conditioned areas.
Do you have any advice for women travellers considering a tour of India who may have some hesitations?
Speak to an expert like India Unbound who specialises in the destination and has current knowledge. Be honest with your apprehensions so that these can be chatted through and addressed. All of our itineraries are tailor made, so we can work through any concerns you may have. You will also have 24/7 support from our local offices in India and our office in Australia during a private tour of India designed by India Unbound.
India Unbound’s Glenda McMillan-Andersson will lead a group tour in North India designed especially for women travellers in April 2019. Accompanied by a local guide, the trip has been created for solo female travellers that wish to join a group tour in India. Glenda will be accompanied by an expert local guide throughout and will visit Mumbai, Varanasi and the Ganges River, Delhi, Agra and the Taj Mahal, and Jaipur. For more details about this women’s group tour in India – contact India Unbound on firstname.lastname@example.org or 1300 889 513