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India? (love to hear your solo traveler's point of view)

India? (love to hear your solo traveler's point of view)

Old Aug 18th, 2007, 08:24 PM
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Amy
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India? (love to hear your solo traveler's point of view)

I'm looking into India for next year, and I've been reading quite a lot, including the great www.indiamike.com website. But I'd love to hear any accounts from Fodorites on being a solo female in India. I've been alone in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and many other places, but it certainly does seem that India is unique in both its assets and liabilities!

I'd have to go sometime between June and August (yeah, I know that's bad!) and would spend a week in the South and two in the North, at this point; there are associates that I am visiting in the South (and I'd like to spend some time in Kerala) and I'd like to see the Golden Triangle and Varanasi as well.

Thanks for any advice or anecdotes!
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Old Aug 18th, 2007, 08:42 PM
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I, solo female, spent ten weeks traveling round India on an Indrail pass. You can read my trip reports at www.wilhelmswords.com/asia2001. I'm happy to answer any questions. If you're thinking about riding the train (and you absolutely should!) take a look at seat61.com.
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Old Sep 5th, 2007, 10:42 AM
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I, too, would love to go solo to India but have not got up the courage yet. My son went a few years ago and he syas that I would attract a lot of unwanted attention (even tho in late fifties,)I am a lot different to an Indian woman in her late fifties, especially in rural areas.
Would love to hear of other women my age who have tackled it.
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Old Sep 5th, 2007, 10:58 AM
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Any westerner, anywhere in Asia, will attract attention. I don't think it's particularly bad in India (likely worse in parts of China), and I was female, early fifties, when I went.

You can reduce attention by dressing appropriately (i.e. long pants/skirt, covered shoulders). You can reduce it more by wearing local dress (salwar suit, I didn't think I could manage a sari), which also has the merit of being better suited to the climate.

I just turned sixty, but definitely want to go back. Next year or the one after, I hope.
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Old Sep 5th, 2007, 03:39 PM
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Although I took a group tour last fall to India, I did spend time wandering on my own around the various cities. I'm fairly independent and have travelled alone before but was really intimidated in India. A solo western female draws so much attention that it took me 2 weeks to get used to it. I compare it to being Britney Spears in a supermarket, where everyone just literally stops what they are doing and stares at you - no smiles, just stares. Just be prepared and although it can be tough, sometimes you have to be firm and borderline rude. I would walk 50 feet and have, no joke, 5 men come up and insist on helping me in some fashion.

Having said all of this, I would not think twice about going back and doing more solo exploring.
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Old Sep 5th, 2007, 05:19 PM
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hlsam - that's not because you're female. That's because they want to sell you something - rickshaw/taxi ride, guide services, souvenirs, you name it...
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Old Sep 6th, 2007, 06:23 AM
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In some cases yes, but not everyone was trying to sell. Many just stare.
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Old Sep 6th, 2007, 06:28 AM
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I guess stares don't bother me that much. After all, I'm usually staring right back! Persistent sellers, on the other hand, do get on my nerves after a while.
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Old Sep 6th, 2007, 07:05 AM
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More on stares. After you've had a small Chinese child break out in terrified howls because his parents wanted him to get close enough to the foreign monster to have his photo taken, you start to realize just how different you look to the locals! (They never did get the photo.)

In the west we're accustomed to having a group of people display a rainbow of hair colors, but, without hair dye, everyone in Asia has black hair - even grey hair is rare. Why wouldn't people stare? (And you really notice when you travel the silk road to China's far west, where the Muslim minorities live, and a few red haired kids show up!)

Things have improved. Travelers to China in the early days (seventies and eighties), wrote about being surrounded by groups who didn't just want to look, but touch as well. Didn't make any difference whether they were male or female, either.
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Old Sep 7th, 2007, 10:21 AM
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Now there's something I have never seen: a red-haired Asian person. I saw an Asian woman with Albinism once in NYC.
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Old Sep 7th, 2007, 11:45 AM
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Actually, dyed red hair is developing some popularity in east Asia. The red-haired children were in Asia, in the sense that they were in Xinjiang province, China, but they belonged to one of the Muslim minorities. Photo here: kwilhelm.smugmug.com/gallery/2559509#134764174
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Old Sep 11th, 2007, 10:35 AM
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Missalg, one of the last Conde Nast Travelers had a pull-out section of sorts on India and how best to see it (granted, their budget is a bit more extensive than mine!) It was interesting reading and something you might want to look at.
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Old Sep 11th, 2007, 12:24 PM
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Thanks, amyb (and the rest who responded, too!) I'll be sure to check that out...although, to be honest, I stopped subscribing to that mag for just the reason you mentioned: they're WAAAAAY above my budget.

I'm really looking forward to this trip, and hope I can do it in 2008.
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Old Sep 12th, 2007, 07:41 AM
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Good luck planning, you always manage the best trips from what I read!

The article is here for those who are interested:
http://tinyurl.com/2l5dvm
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