Looking to backpack through India as a solo female traveler. Need itinerary advice!

#1 Feb 1st, 2018, 08:01
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  • beccabananastan is offline
#1
Travelling India has been one of my lifelong dreams, and I finally find myself in a place where I'm able to begin saving up to make that dream a reality! I now come before you beautiful folk to seek advice in forming an itinerary.

Some details:

-I'm looking to stay anywhere from 3 months to a year, depending on finances.

-I hope to find ways to meaningfully immerse in each place I visit (through volunteer positions, homestays, etc) and am definitely not looking to rush from one city to the next.

-I am especially interested in rural, natural areas which provide possibilities for trekking and other outdoor adventures. I am not at all interested in touristy, expat party bubbles.

-I'm excited by food (who isn't?), literature, history, music, yoga and Ayurvedic health practices.

I know these are fairly vague constraints but I'm overwhelmed by the vastness of the country and its multiplicities and would very much appreciate any pointers as to where to begin my travel research!

I plan on doing most of my exploring as a solo female traveler, so would also appreciate any advice to that end.

A million thanks in advance!!
#2 Feb 1st, 2018, 09:28
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Hi and welcome to Indiamike

Since you are in an early stage of travel planning, you best start by getting a good travelguide book like the Lonely Planet and take a good look at it.

The obvious thing is that you always have to travel through cities, even to get to rural areas. Indian cities are often very exciting places, like for instance Varanasi or Kolkata, or also the ones in Rajasthan, so do not be biased too much against them. Also one astonishing fact you come to discover in India is that a rural "small town" can easily comprise 30-50'000 inhabitants, in rural West Bengal even over 100'000. So it is all relative.

One basic question you face at the outset is the one regarding the visa to get. Since you want to travel around it obviously must be a Tourist visa. But on a TV you cannot do volunteering except for a few exceptions. Volunteers normally need a special visa which has its limitations and special requirements, so you best avoid that for your first trip to India. (If you like it, and with your many typical Indian interests like yoga and Ayurveda you undoubtedly will like it) you will come back many times so there is no need to get stressed out about the amount of things to do or to possibly miss.

I am writing on a smartphone so I cannot see if you give the location where you are from. If you are from the U.S. you can get a 10-year-visa which allows you multiples of 180-days-stays. Similar if you are from Canada or GB, the latter with 1-year visa option. If you are from the EU, however, you are most likely limited to 90-days-stays at a time, within a 180 day maximum length visa. So this question affects your travel plans also.

Another criterion is the budget. If you can accept very basic standards, you should calculate with 1200 to 1500 Rupees minimum per day. That is roughly US$ 20 + per day. There are occasions when you need less, like if you go for a meditation retreat or stay at a low-cost ashram, but you cannot rely on volunteering to lower your overall cost. An exception is perhaps if you look at the website of workaway or similar offers. Another way might be to become a member of couchsurfing and see where that gets you. But in that case the safety issue comes into play which you have to look out for.

Experiences and expectations are different. I think in general travel in India requires that you can retreat into your own quiet space which is better served by a room in a guesthouse than one in a private home. YMMV.

Another important point is the time you begin your travelling. If you have only 3 months, the best time is December to March, if you have more time it is October to June, roughly.

I end my long rant with an invitation to look at one place in particular where all your interests are easily available including volunteering: www.auroville.org It is a good place for newcomers to India to start out from and to get familiar with Indian ways of living and doing things. At the same time it leaves you free to explore the surrounding areas, and also accomodates all budgets, even very low ones.
#3 Feb 1st, 2018, 13:28
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#3

Looking to backpack through India as a solo female traveler. Need itinerary advice!

Atala, you can see location etc in Tapatalk if you touch the member avatar. She's in Canada.

I never knew that either! Your comment prompted me to try
~
Life gets aadhar every day.
.
#4 Feb 1st, 2018, 13:41
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Looking to backpack through India as a solo female traveler. Need itinerary advice!

Addressing the questioner...

One practical thing: one stay on a tourist visa is limited to 180 days. If you really want to travel for a year, you will have to spend a little time in another country.

I won't try to advise on travelling around India, because I haven't much. But you mention an interest in music, so I have to suggest that you spend some December time in my home city!

The chennai December music season has no fixed start or end. It gears up in November and runs down in January. The peak is the second half of December for music, and the beginning of January for dance. It offers the opportunity of immersion in our music, mostly Carnatic, the classical music of the South, and its culture. 8am to 9pm. Every day.

And the climate here, hot and humid most of the year, touches on bearable for visitors in December!

Happy travels!


.
Last edited by Nick-H; Feb 2nd, 2018 at 00:15..
#5 Feb 1st, 2018, 17:43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick-H View Post Atala, you can see location etc in Tapatalk if you touch the member avatar. She's in Canada.

I never knew that either! Your comment prompted me to try
Thanks for the suggestion, Nick, but I am not using Tapatalk any more. I find it easier to open IM in Chrome. Even if i did use it I would be scared I could lose what I wrote so far, if I clicked something else in between.

On a laptop that would not be a problem. I usually like to research what I write, or at least confirm e.g. English expressions I am not 100% sure about. I cannot do that on a smartphone because of that same fear of possible loss of what I wrote.

A fear that I had this time was that I could have been logged out because a long time went by from my beginning to write and my ending it. With IM the browser normally "remembers" in such cases (and brings up the "lost" text after using the back-button) on PC that is, but I was not sure if this would also be the case on Android Smartphone. I don't know if on a laptop that is a function of Windows, of the browser used or of IM website. It does not happen with Tripadvisor for instance i.e. text gets lost there easily.
#6 Feb 1st, 2018, 23:55
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oh, ok... I do use tapatalk on the phone for IM, so I don't know what gets left out on mobile chrome. But you could still check the profile if you needed to to.

Let's hope beccabananastan manages to take in some December Chennai, maybe some more dance in Mahabalipuram in Dec/Jan, Pondicherry and Auroville!
#7 Feb 2nd, 2018, 08:13
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Both Atala and Nick-san have covered pretty much the whole things. Let me just supplement it with some caveats.

As a Canadian, you can get a 10 year visa (or so I think), but can only stay for 180 days at a time.

As they have mentioned, you cannot supplement yourself with odd-jobs, just like tourists to Knada cannot casually take jobs. You should make a budget plan. If it is $Z/day - Just double it !!! Appropriate 2ZxNdays and then some. Why ?

India is a populous country but not that vast. Canada is about 3 times in area



Finally, this is your first trip to India, you might get your estimates wrong. Best way to get a sense of India, is to read some well written travelogues and essays. For everything else, there is IM
Last edited by nycank; Feb 2nd, 2018 at 17:58..
#8 Feb 2nd, 2018, 08:37
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For people on a low budget Chennai is awfully expensive. There are not many inexpensive reasonably good quality guesthouses, besides Broadland. And transportation adds to the bill as well. Pondicherry is indeed the better place in that regard.

I have another point to add for OP's preference of rural situations, one perhaps unexpected view-point to consider regarding safety: rural areas tend to be more unsafe than urban ones at night, because in cities you have always markets, and as long as people are out in the streets, typically until about 10 p.m., it is quite safe to be out in evenings, while in rural areas without busy markets or other obvious situations with people around one should be at home after sunset, ideally at least.

Other than that, traveling in India is regarded as quite safe for single female travelers who apply common safety measures like they would in their home countries too. There are many threads here on Indiamike with advice for that.

An exception is if say you want to participate in Holi festivities where males get drunk or on drugs and where touching others with colors is part of the ritual..Groping can also happen in very crowded circumstances like at a railway station or on local buses or subways.

I am not sure how strongly the cultural prejudice "a woman alone is a slut" still prevails. I am also not sure if knowing that is helpful for a woman to face such male chauvinism with strength, self-esteem and determination, in other words not to be affected at all what others might consciously or subconsciously believe.

It is probably everywhere true that boys are brought up differently from girls, but it is good to keep that in mind that this is especially true in Asian cultures, even more so in India where old traditions and beliefs are still kept alive to a large extent. After all, this latter aspect is what attracts most of us to this mystical land, isn't it?
#9 Feb 2nd, 2018, 09:10
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I've spent quite a bit of time traveling around India as a solo woman. There are some annoying touts and aggressive beggars, but that's not a gender-specific issue.
I never felt unsafe because I'm a woman.

My best advice: when you arrive, go to Fabindia and buy a wardrobe. It'll be climate-appropriate, conservative without making you feel like a cultural appropriator, and reasonably well-made. When I wore clothes from there, people thanked me for being respectful of their culture (which I found odd to hear, even if it was my intent).
#10 Feb 2nd, 2018, 18:11
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Originally Posted by atala View Post For people on a low budget Chennai is awfully expensive. There are not many inexpensive reasonably good quality guesthouses, besides Broadland. ... ...
Expensive is a rather elastic term. For hotels, London and Singapore are awfully expensive. Now place Chennai in the same picture and five-star luxury becomes ridiculously cheap!

Hotels and guesthouses in the Rs.hundreds, apart from Broadlands, and maybe a handful of not very savoury places: no not many... but plenty for a thousand or three. When I last looked, for instance, New Woodlands was under 5K for a small room.

Budget can mean so many things. Some have a need to make a small amount of cash go as far as possible; others enjoy the opportunity to experience luxury hotels they could not afford in other countries. Some want a bit of both!

Regardless, music in December Chennai is a unique experience. A few hundred extra per night on the hotel bill should not deter!
#11 Feb 2nd, 2018, 18:57
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick-H View Post Expensive is a rather elastic term. For hotels, London and Singapore are awfully expensive. Now place Chennai in the same picture and five-star luxury becomes ridiculously cheap!

Hotels and guesthouses in the Rs.hundreds, apart from Broadlands, and maybe a handful of not very savoury places: no not many... but plenty for a thousand or three. When I last looked, for instance, New Woodlands was under 5K for a small room.

Budget can mean so many things. Some have a need to make a small amount of cash go as far as possible; others enjoy the opportunity to experience luxury hotels they could not afford in other countries. Some want a bit of both!

Regardless, music in December Chennai is a unique experience. A few hundred extra per night on the hotel bill should not deter!
Under 5K for a room in New Woodlands. That shocked me quite a bit as I paid 2000 for a Standard Double in 2012; so i checked on booking.com. There it is available for Rs 2300, in February, outside the concert season; and a single room for Rs 1300. That is still quite affordable. What a relief, it is way under 5K
#12 Feb 3rd, 2018, 00:44
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#12

Looking to backpack through India as a solo female traveler. Need itinerary advice!

Hey thanks! Somehow I had 4k-something in my head! Sometimes it's nice to be wrong.
#13 Feb 3rd, 2018, 05:40
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Back to some points for OP, for whom I hope she will come back to say how she feels...

Homestays: can be expensive if AirBnB type. Other than that: Being hosted by traditional Indians in rural area i.e. village style, can mean a lot of intrusion into your private life. A guest is treated "like a god" and must eat before everyone else. That has as consequence that the whole family may stand around you and watch you while you eat. I was once in a situation where I got constant comments on the sequence I should have taken the various dishes. If you keep something for the end of the meal because you like it, it can be interpreted as you did not like that dish, and not get that again next time...

Another thing that can happen is that friends and extended family are invited to come inspect you ... which can result in a lot of "getting stared at"... Depends how often farangs come to that village. Someone who likes a lot of attention may enjoy this kind of situation though.

Trekking: OMG, don't do that alone in India. Maybe in Pokhara, Nepal, possible. If you stay more than 179 days, you have to leave the country for at least a day, so Nepal offers itself as a good option, or also Sri Lanka if you are down South. In that case Kandy is a good place to look for or higher up in the hills there.

Ayurveda: if you mean learning A. Then it is better done by reading books (Vasant Lad, Svoboda et al. Frawley is difficult, just additive material collection). I have done several courses, quite a useless affair. Traditional Indians do not know how to teach.

The best way of learning Ayurveda is finding a good practitioner and assisting, esp taking pulses side by side. Ayurveda is strong in diagnostics, but very weak in remedial respect. It is good for lifestyle balance, not so good for critical intervention.

A good place for learning Ayurveda is Pune. Tilak Ayurveda College. If there look for Dr. Nanal practice. He developed a protocol for potential bypass patients who cannot afford the surgery (which is useless anyway).

If you look for treatment, google Ashwinidham. I have heard good things about them from a German yoga teacher lady, and another long-time India traveler.

Kottakal in Kerala gets good reviews, but that appears to be for older patients with specific complaints.

Personally I have never seen any effect from much-hyped Panchakarma, or stuff like Triphala or Chyavan Prash. Perhaps they have their value for locals, or people with very unbalanced lifestyles.

As to individual practitioners while in Delhi visit the Triguna sons. Easy to google the exact address. It is opposite Nizamuddin railway station, a major station in Delhi. You can just show up early in the morning one day. You will get preferential treatment, but should be early, 7-8 a.m. many people waiting. You do not need to buy what they recommend, but if you want it will be around Rs 2000 per month for 3-5 preparations.

Another even better practitioner (because she is paying more personal attention and time to patients) is Dr. Dolkar, a Tibetan lady. She has a Facebook page. Also in Delhi.

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