by Mariellen Ward
India is a great destination for solo travelers. That may seem counter-intuitive to some people, but I have traveled on my own across the country for many years and have always found it to be fascinating, fun, and extremely inspirational.
And, yes, solo travel in India can sometimes be a challenging experience as well.
Solo travel in India can be a challenge
If you plan to travel solo in India, it helps to do some research, find out about the culture and customs, follow some basic precautions, and, perhaps most of all, know where to go.
Below are my top destination picks for solo travel in India, but first, some travel tips to help make your journey as smooth and hassle-free as possible.
Solo travel in India: travel safety tips for solo female travelers
Over the past 10 years or so, India has gained a reputation as an unsafe place for female travelers.
As I’ve been travelling solo in India for many years, my perspective is that India definitely warrants caution and common sense, but I do not think it’s the dangerous place the media would lead you to believe.
Concerns about solo travel in India: The two biggest problems travelers face when travelling India solo are unwanted male attention and getting ripped off.
Many women in India have reported feeling very uncomfortable by men whose behaviour ranges from staring to harassment. Personally, I have been in several very uncomfortable situations because of unwanted male attention. However, I have never felt unsafe or threatened. I listened to my intuition, and got myself out of the situation as quickly as possible.
India is no different in many ways from almost every other destination. To help stay safe, women should find out as much as they can about the destination ahead of time, understand the customs and culture, and carry a working phone (buy a local SIM card if necessary).
Make sure you plan your travel so you don’t arrive at a new destination late at night, and always always always listen to your intuition or gut instinct.
India, of course, has some unique cultural aspects that can make travel challenging in some ways.
For one thing, there are a lot of people, more than 1.3 billion, and you often see far more men than women out in public. It can be unnerving to be one of the only women in a sea of men. Also, staring is not considered impolite, and most of the time it’s completely harmless. On my India-focused travel blog, I share my top 20 safety tips for female travellers in India.
I have personally found that wearing modest clothing in India, and even Indian clothes such as the three-piece salwar kameez, walking with confidence, giving off friendly vibes, and demonstrating curiosity and respect for the culture of India goes a long way to make me feel welcome and safe.
New visitors to India should consider joining a small group trip or hiring a custom tour operator to plan and book their trip.
There’s a steep learning curve to traveling in India, and getting some help while you get your feet wet will make your trip much more enjoyable. As I mentioned above, the biggest danger in India is getting ripped off. I’m sorry to say but there are a lot of very unscrupulous people working in the travel and hospitality sector in India who happily fleece foreigners. These people can ruin your trip.
This is one of the reasons I started my custom tour company India for Beginners. We are dedicated to helping women travel safely and well in India. We design custom itineraries, offer a few small group tours, and hold your hand in India!
8 Best solo trip destinations in India
Many regions of India are wonderful for solo travel, but below are my own top destination choices.
1. Solo travel in Delhi
Capital of India, Delhi is a massive megalopolis that can overwhelm visitors. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying all the amazing things to do and see in Delhi, from ancient monuments to fabulous food to incredible shopping.
The secret to doing Delhi right?
- stay in leafy South Delhi, where most of the expats live
- avoid the touristy areas (especially Pahar Ganj)
- use Uber and Ola apps to book taxis
- take day tours and food tours. A food tour of Old Delhi is not to be missed, and you can even tour Delhi by bicycle.
It’s surprisingly easy to fall in love with Delhi if you know where to go. P.S. Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, is the perfect day trip, just a three-hour drive from the capital and a great solo trip from Delhi.
2. Places to visit alone in India: Jaipur
Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan and one of my favourite cities in India.
Like Delhi, it’s an incredibly historical city, full of tales of romance and chivalry.
There are three magnificent hilltop forts, many royal palaces – some are now luxury hotels – and a thriving arts and crafts industry. Leather shoes, handblock print fabrics, precious gems, and wooden furniture are just some of the specialty items you can buy.
Jaipur is the best city in India for hotels, with a fantastic array in every budget – and you won’t have any trouble meeting other travellers. Plus you will be so busy shopping and sightseeing, you won’t have time to be lonely.
A very small town in the Rajasthan desert, Pushkar is a favourite place for solo traveling in India.
A sacred town that encircles a small, man-made lake, Pushkar is a very chilled place.
There are hippie cafes on the lake with great views of the sunset, and rooftop restaurants and lounges to while away the languid days, plus a bustling bazaar to dive into when you want to feel some buzz – and pick up some of those elephant-patterned harem pants you see all the backpackers wearing.
There’s actually not much to do in Pushkar … and therein lies its charm.
For another interesting perspective on solo travel in India, see this piece on Traveling Alone in India as an Indian Woman.
4. Rishikesh: one of the best solo trips in India
The so-called Yoga capital of the world, Rishikesh is in north India, about a five-hour drive from Delhi. The picturesque location on the banks of the Ganga River, in the foothills of the Himalayas, is part of the draw.
There are literally hundreds of Yoga schools and ashrams in Rishikesh that attract Yoga students and travellers from far and wide.
Inexpensive hostels and guest houses, cafes overlooking the river, and a mind-boggling range of classes – from Yoga to meditation, and from music to dancing – make Rishikesh one of the best solo trips for women in India.
Meeting other foreign visitors is easy, you will see them in flowing Yoga clothes all over town. Tip: Don’t overlook going to the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh, it’s a lush, tranquil place and worth spending a few hours, especially in the morning.
Amritsar in Punjab, north India, is the home of the world-famous Golden Temple. The Golden Temple – real name Harmandir Sahib – is a gurdwara, a Sikh Temple, and the center of the Sikh religion.
Though it is a huge place, the peaceful energy is profound, remarkable, and must be experienced to be believed.
Central Amritsar, recently renovated and restored, is a compact area and can easily be explored when solo travelling in India. There are many guest houses and home stays to choose from, and many incredible foods to try – Amritsar is one of the top culinary capitals of India.
6. South Goa for solo travellers
Goa is probably the most famous place in India for tourists. A tiny, tropical state on the west coast, Goa is known for sun and fun in India.
Divided into two halves, North Goa tends to be much more developed, busier, and more of a party destination. It can also be a bit seedy and unwholesome.
I much prefer South Goa, and recommend it for solo female travel in India. South Goa is greener, more laid back, and much less developed. Quiet beaches like Agonda and Patnem draw a slightly older crowd, people who are more into Yoga, creativity, wellness, and relaxing. There are also lots of offbeat things to do in Goa, from dolphin cruises, to hiking, to visiting old Portuguese mansions.
7. Varkala, Kerala
Kerala is a gorgeous tropical state in south India, right at the very bottom of the country. It’s one of my favourite states and one of the best places for a solo trip in India.
Actually, almost anywhere in Kerala would be good for solo travelers – except the backwaters, which might be boring – but I think Varkala is the ideal spot.
A beach town that ranges along the top of a dramatic red cliff, Varkala has it all. The north cliff is lined with cafes, restaurants, shops, resorts, and boutique hotels. It’s the tourist hot spot. You can dive in and enjoy the ambience, amenities, and meeting other foreign visitors.
Or, you can escape to the south cliff, which is much quieter, with a beautiful beach and the feeling of a local community.
Varkala is also a good place to take some time out of your travels and enjoy the healing vibes. There’s a lot of Ayurveda treatment centres and Yoga shalas to keep you busy as you get fit and healthy.
On the east coast of India in the state of Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry (or Puducherry) is a charming town with a French colonial history.
Colourful houses and cafes line leafy streets that lead to an ocean-front promenade. There are a lot of quaint guest houses to choose from, and plenty to do, from visiting local art galleries to soaking up the sun at nearby beaches.
Pondy is also known as the home of the Aurobindo Ashram. Founded in 1926, the Ashram is located in the eastern part of Pondicherry. Visitors can pay homage to the great saint Sri Aurobindo and his spiritual consort Mirra Alfassa, known as The Mother, at the Samadhi in a tree-shaded courtyard in the Ashram main building.
Pondy is a laid-back place to slow down and enjoy the ambience, and you are sure to find many other travellers doing the same thing.
In 2005, Mariellen Ward traveled to India to follow her dreams and recover from devastating losses. Though Canadian by birth, she has spent years in India and now lives in the country she considers her “soul culture.” With her travel blog, Breathedreamgo, and her custom travel company, India for Beginners, she tries to encourage and help other female travelers to go after their dreams.