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India is a spectacular country and home to historic landmarks such as the Taj Mahal and the Ganges. Every state is truly diverse in term of culture, landmarks and food. Likewise, depending on where you visit, the mindsets and views of the locals differ.
Back in 2017 I spent three weeks in India traveling around Northern parts and had an amazing time.
Should you visit India?
Having already traveled around a few countries in Asia prior to my trip, I was slightly hesitant about traveling as a solo female traveler in India.
Most, of my friends, had tried to tell me horror stories of ‘friends of friends’ being robbed, raped, kidnapped and all sort of fear-mongering tactics you hear in the press. I, however, did my research just like you and went to the internet.
As in all honesty, what is the point of traveling if you don’t take risks?
We don’t leave our house too scared to cross the road thinking we may get run over. We use our common sense and proceed with the action.
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I knew there were lots of other female travelers out there who already achieved what I wanted to accomplish and that was to explore India. Once I arrived in Delhi, I had befriended some backpackers who had made their way up from the South.
The whole time they kept emphasizing about how their experience was completely different. The South in comparison to the North was more liberal. Still confused at the time I ignored it and carried on exploring India’s capital.
The first on my list was to explore the famous red fort in Delhi. First, we entered the gate outside and I was taken back by the magnificent structure. I was used to castles and forts in the U.K however nothing like this. Excitedly, I walked forward closer as I wanted to get a photo.
You’ll probably agree most of us are victims for wanting to post something to ‘the gram’?
At that point, I’d desperately wanted to share with my friends and family that I had arrived. Just as I was about to take a selfie two young boys walked over of aged about fifteen asked if they could jump in the photo.
Being used to the idea of ‘photobombing’ and group photos I invited them into my selfie. I thought. why not it wouldn’t do any harm. Plus it would probably be quite humorous for my mum to see I had befriended some locals. Well, that was my first mistake. As soon that click of the button on my iPhone was finished they wanted selfies on their mobile. Not group ones, just me and them individually. Then, next thing I know some older men try to approach me with their phones for a ‘selfie’.
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I got frustrated and said no. However, by this point, several people were trying to approach me for photos. I also declined. I proceeded on shrugging them off and paid my entry fee into the fort. After paying my entry fee, I went into the red fort and spent a good few hours exploring with my friends. I was mesmerized by the architecture and the structure. As this was the first attraction I’d explored in India.
Inside the Red Fort, there was a pond and a concrete bench. I chose to sit down on that bench. Guess what? It happened again more people wanted photographs with me. I was in shock as in my eyes I was just a tourist. Before I could move away I was bombarded with about 20-30 people wanting photos with me. Families, men, and women. Sometimes I was even handed a baby!
I later discovered this didn’t just occur in Delhi’s red fort. The same thing happened to other destinations I’d traveled to in Northern India such as the Taj Mahal, Amber Fort, Humayun’s tomb, Red Fort in Agra and the India Gate. My friends and I got so frustrated with the attention we started to feel like we became the actual attraction itself.
On one occasion, we asked some Indians at the Taj why they wanted a photo with us. They responded that it was the first time they’d seen white people before.
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Well, readers, that is something for another time as the idea of white privilege and wanting a photo is a topic is wrong on all levels. Put it this way, all of us felt super uncomfortable being viewed differently because of our skin. The way we’ve been portrayed to Indians. When in our eyes, we all felt equals as at the end of the day we were all humans.
On certain occasions at these attractions, some men would try to chance their opportunity and hands would wander to other areas of bodies. I didn’t know if they were trying to steal or simply wanting to have a good feel. This was not acceptable.
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That was one thing I wish I knew about before I traveled to India. Luckily, whilst I was there I managed to find tactics to minimize the attention and also avoid it at times. As well as speaking to other travelers on how to cope with the attention.
Don’t be afraid about traveling to India because of situations like that. Just be prepared. You’re probably thinking about how? Well, here are 6 ways to avoid attention and tips on how to deal with unwanted attention from locals:
Wear appropriate clothes i.e dress conservatively
I’d advise wearing ample clothing that will cover certain areas like your shoulders, above the knee and belly. I’m not saying wear clothing that you can’t breathe in as it’s a very humid country!
You don’t want to be sweating lots. However, try to wear conservative clothing to avoid the least possible attention. Yet, obviously, use your common sense in some areas in India such as Goa you can be a little more open-minded (as it’s a tourist-filled beach destination).
In more traditional regions (fewer westerns cities) it’s best to cover up. However, you can simply do this by wearing loose comfortable clothing such as a t-shirt, long skirts or linen pants. This will prevent not just men looking at you but women. As some may look at you disrespecting their culture.
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Be confident and know when to say so
If a man, a group of men, women, families or simply people approach you for a photo, say no. That’s unless you want one to be taken. You are a human and you have rights. Also, walk away from the crowds and they’ll soon get the hint.
Confidence is key in these situations, forget manners. Shout and create drama so people are aware of what is going on around you. Also in India, there’s policemen and guards everywhere. If you feel uncomfortable, tell the nearest person of authority.
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Take photos or video them
If you find someone wanting to take a photo with you unwelcomingly, a selfie or from a distance. Do it back, give them a taste of their own medicine! Grab your phone make them know what it feels like to be captured unwillingly. This happened to me in India, after a while a few stopped. They even gave me funny looks as to why I was taking their photo, oh the irony.
Use women’s transportation services
In certain areas of the country, there are transportation services tailored for a woman to deal with unwanted attention! In Delhi and Jaipuri, for example, there is a taxi service sakhaconsultingwings with just female drivers. It’s worth carrying out research too in advance of the cities you visit if this service is something you’d this you’d benefit from.
Likewise, when taking trains some have female only carriages. Definitely, excise this use when you can!
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Unless you’re in Goa, don’t roam around at night
Keep safe, in the daytime, you’re around people to be alert of what is going on around of you. At night, it’s very different. Some areas like Delhi, for instance, are not that well lit. You don’t know who is roaming the streets and no one will be there to help you. Goa however is well lit and full of tourists as it’s a partying hotspot.
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Don’t carry expensive valuables on your or show your flashy phone
If you constantly waive your latest iPhone or smartphone in the air you may attract unwanted attention by doing so. As you may be encountering some poor areas and thieves may see it as a potential target to rob you!
India can be an amazing and fun-filled travel destination. That is if you’re cautious enough to look after yourself. Don’t be frightened, these are not scaremongering tactics!
Certainly, carry out your research prior to finding out what areas of the country you’re visiting. If they’re more prone to tourists than others. Then act accordingly! Don’t be afraid to say no and remember your rights not just as a woman but as a human. Most importantly enjoy your time in incredible India!
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Author Bio: Alex, from Extracts of Alex
My name is Alex and I’m from Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. I’ve been traveling the world on and off around four continents since the age of seventeen. Currently, on a pit stop operating from Nepal.
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