Travelling tips for women

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#1 Sep 6th, 2004, 21:50
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  • Digital Drifter is offline
#1
This is going to be a long post on what you should and shouldn't do in
India, geared especially towards woman travelling singly or with
someone. I believe there are very few posts which address this issue
and I'll try to lay all the cards on the table and it's going to be
stark!

First, don't come alone. Period. India, travelling alone is a hit or
miss affair; Every time I read stories in the paper about women being
assaulted, I cringe & there's this sinking feeling in my heart, as if
I was personally responsible. I'm not trying to excuse the crime here
but the combination of poverty, education and mis-translation of
cultural cues ALWAYS sends the wrong signals throughout the country
whether it's in J&K or in TamilNadu.

By mis-translation, take one example. Most English movies screened
here are the usual ones along with lots of pr0n. As an aside, a lot
of the arthouse(especially those other than English) movies are shown
in seedy cinemas because of the umm... controversial content? :-)
What impression does the cumulative impact of BayWatch, pr0n and hit
movies create in a society where there is a overt division of sexes?
To put it bluntly, the thinking is along the lines of; all foreign
women are of loose morals otherwise why would they travel alone?

What follows is a long list, feel free to observe it at your will.
Your mileage might vary.

a) Wear long sleeved dresses, preferable ones which *don't* which show
the inner garments. Your best bet is cotton dresses from Khadi
emporium which offers good ones for women or salwar kameezes. Being
covered also helps against sunburn. Please don't take this to an
extreme & end up burqa-like, the idea of modesty differs from *your*
standards by a large margin. For heaven's sake, don't go around in
shorts! This suggestion will seem ludicrous in cities when you see
hip Indian girls make you look positively Victorian! But if you have
any idea of the kaleidoscope that's my country, one brush does not an
experience make.

b) Don't take the aisle seats in buses, you're better off with the
window seats, less likely to be brushed against. If you're travelling
with a companion, again, take the window seat. In Tamil Nadu, usually
the front and the left seat lanes are reserved for women in the city
buses(they would be marked with pictures of women on the wall above
the window). Please ask the conductor or the bus driver for a seat if
you can't get one, they'll usually oblige. If the bus is crowded, get
in the front, & stay among women, you're less likely to be groped AKA
"eve-teasing"(one aspect of it). If you still get groped, scream and
raise hell especially in the bus(for that matter, anywhere)! That
usually does the trick as the perpetrators are cowards.

c) To avoid hawkers, wear sunglasses AND keep walking. When asking for
directions or simply talking to someone, take them off and converse.
It's disconcerts a lot of people as they can't discern emotion.

d) Forget about smoking or drinking in public, it only fuels the
stereotype; do it in the privacy of your room or in a bar where you
can see other women do it. If you're the person who's into drugs &
rave scenes, this advice is certainly not for you. As far as I'm
concerned, you're already too far out and too addled to bother with
the brain being deep-fried and all that. Being spaced out in your
country is one thing but getting stoned out here is <shrug>...is way
out of my league for rational behaviour & discussion. BTW, rest
assured, I'm not into the morality of your actions.

e) Restrooms. Few and far between; dirty is an understatement. So
ablutions should, nay MUST be planned and bladder control world
records will be set....by you. Every day! Men have it easy. Ask your
companion!

f) Lock your rooms and case(as in check the windows, doors etc) out
your rooms before you do anything naughty. When you answer the door,
revealing attire does not send the right message, especially to room
boys who are the grapevine in any hotel. Comprenez vous?

g) Inform someone, anyone, of your days' whereabouts. This is not Big
Brother; like you, the hotelier likes trouble even less; so it's in
your best interest to let people know you're off to the Taj & will be
back by eight o' clock in the evening. That way, someone's got a
vested interest in knowing when you'll vacate the room and will
suitably panic if you don't turn up. The other side being it gives
someone enough time to raid your luggage, eh? Seriously, everytime my
friend gets inside a taxi/cab, she'll loudly state that she'll call me
from her house once she reaches home. She doesn't but that was for
the cab driver and not for me.

h) Smart thing is to join the ladies queue for train/bus tickets and
procure tickets for self and companion; it's faster and safer.

i) Haggle everywhere and preferably take an Indian with you. While
the negotiation will be between you and the seller,it will prevent you
from getting ripped off. Ask the guide upfront about reasonable
prices. One chap told me this in Agra;(I don't speak Hindi though I
can u'stand snatches of it) He said, he can tell me the price ranges
of souvenirs but he can't step in for me because he's a guide and
he's got to meet the same hawkers everyday and so can't take up
cudgels on my behalf. The flip side is, they could be in collusion
which you wouldn't have figured out till you compared prices!

j) Cleanliness. Keep at it everyday. It's hot, humid and dusty,
great combination for getting a tropical skin disease and the itches.
Bathe(as in shower) and bathe again; Urinary tract infection are among
the most common afflictions for women here in India. As an aside(I
keep coming up with these off-beat stories, don't I?), some doctors
are circumspect about telling the menfolk about UTI of their wives
because they end up suspecting their fidelity with disastrous
consequences; more so if he's a drunkard and a low income earner.


k) Women can also pick, steal and spot an opportunity. Take a look at
the mug shots when you go to the nearest police station.

l) Pan-handling. If a gaggle of them come at you, sure they all look
sweet and all in need of help, don't lose you TCs, money-bag et al. in
the distraction of making them deliriously happy handing out cash and
candy.

m) Get yourself a mobile phone(pre-paid or pay as you go as it's
called in Europe). It helps.

o) Don't do anything your mother wouldn't do! This advice is moot as
you're already in India. :-) This is mentioned for the sake of
completeness.

p) Overt friendliness *will* be mis-construed! The attitude to adopt
will be that of the women in Poirot detective dramas currently being
shown on ITV but a lot softer. You don't have to murder & scheme of
course, that's er... optional.

q) Talk to Indian women about safe ways of doing things. You'll get
to make friends as well as help for things you'd be embarrassed to ask
anyone else.

r) Beware the foreign friend syndrome. In all innocence, you might
become zoo exhibit 'A' to an Indian who'll proudly announce to his
friends and foes alike about his newly acquired ' Foreign Friend'!
Down that path lies ersatz stardom, embarrassment, personal questions,
loads of good food, laughter, fun and even more chances of becoming '
Foreign Friend' to strangers. We are like this only!

s) Read the newspapers everyday. We have this habit of having
riots/mayhem/carnage/strikes/hartal because someone abused a
leader/broke a mosque/ burnt a temple/assaulted the bus driver/ road
accident/government increased taxes/lowered taxes/ declared that some
tribe/community is *not* backward enough(you read that right). That
means that day is free for all in every sense of the word, so please
don't get caught in one. Unfortunately, it's a bit like the weather
forecast by your favourite newscaster, we don't know when it'll break
loose.

Hell, by definition was created here. We do more by apathy than by
intent.

t) & what did you mother say about accepting food from strangers?

u) If you're single and in a bar, someone will make a pass at you.
The Good, Bad and the Boorish. Laugh at the last 2, they'll forever
remember it and won't ever try that again. Invasion of physical
space is a crime, so create a scene if they act up. "don't touch me!"
loudly enough will give you time till the next sozzled idiot comes at
you. Pub scene in UK but with less tact & grace!

Not withstanding all these dire warnings, it's not so bad as its
written. Just take all the precautions you'd take in, say New York,
Soho, Glasgow, Amsterdam but the fact that the blokes are shouting,
staring and gesticulating in four different languages and you *might*
be the object of the problem requires additions to the rule book.
India is a crazy place, best for people who don't like order in their
lives.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Brighton; took 3 trains to reach there
without doing much of planning or anything. One of the most
antiseptic trips I ever took. Nothing happened. Was there for the
weekend, went to the beach, saw a crowd sun-bathing on the beach like
stranded whales; wandered through a couple of shops selling the same
knick-knacks. & to think I saw a heaving mass of people doing the same
lemming like activity....I made back to my place in the dead of the
night none the wiser for my experience.


It takes very little to go from SNAFU(Situation Normal ALL F**ked Up) to
FUBAR(F**ked Up Beyond Recognition)

cheers,
Digital Drifter

p.s these are not absolutes, feel free to scorn them. You know where
to send bouquets & brickbats, I suppose.
#2 Sep 6th, 2004, 22:07
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#2
Oh, this is great! I am a middle aged woman travelling to India alone in less than 2 months. I won't be visiting nightclubs but will be in taxis, trains, and buses. Probably staying in small hotels or guesthouses would be the best. Or possibly homestays if possible. Any suggestions for Northern India...Delhi, Agra, Amristar, Dharmsala, Pushkar, Jaisalmer, Jaipur, Udaipur and points in between?
#3 Sep 6th, 2004, 22:35
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#3
All pretty good advice digital drifter but beware all reading this, much of this portraits the worse case scenarios during a trip around India.
So don't panic you may run into one or all of these problems as a woman traveller in India but equally you may not experience any of these things.
digital's advice is sound but these are by no means the norms, simply things that may go wrong on trip to India. Waiting for or expecting all these things to transpire may well have an impact on your enjoyment of a trip around India, keep things in perspective and Enjoy!!
Would you agree with that assertion digital??
That said you are now aware of the various scams and mindsets of some rogue Indians and are therefor better equipped to avoid such scenarios!!!
Cheers digital drifter!!
#4 Sep 6th, 2004, 22:51
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#4
That was a mix of common sense(which is neither) suggestions and worse case scenarios that I was pointing out. Others have rightly said, it's not that bad as it's written out to be. As a general rule of thumb, you're safe in a crowd except that you don't know who whacked your purse! :-) Relax.

All I was trying to say was: be alert.

Don't know how the threading works on this forum but this was meant for Kailas

cheers,
Digital Drifter
Last edited by Digital Drifter; Sep 6th, 2004 at 22:58.. Reason: target of post: kailas
#5 Sep 6th, 2004, 23:03
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#5
Quote:
Originally Posted by digvijay A lot of times out of
a-) Sheer frustation at the nature of indian men
b-) Sheer love for the "innocent" foreigners
c-) Too goody goody heart
d-) Sadness at Indian couple scene
e-) Feeling miserable about not being able to get a guy who would pay for an excess baggage al the time

[...]
cheers
digvijay
ummm...was this list targetted at my list? I mean, in the sense of, the order of replies don't tally with mine. or have it got it all wrong.

cheers.
Digital Drifter
#6 Sep 6th, 2004, 23:05
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#6
I feel better already! Being cautious always pays off. I have travelled five time in South America and had 2 incidents. That always makes one wary. Any suggestions on anything else?
#7 Sep 6th, 2004, 23:09
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#7
Can I really scream or yell at someone for groping??? What about a shove or a slap in the face? Once in Nainatal I tried on a jacket in a store and the store keeper while helping me tried to grab my breast. I just walked out of the store. Wish I would have yelled!
#8 Sep 6th, 2004, 23:13
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#8
Quote:
Originally Posted by cyberhippie All pretty good advice digital drifter but beware all reading this, much of this portraits the worse case scenarios during a trip around India.
So don't panic you may run into one or all of these problems as a woman traveller in India but equally you may not experience any of these things.
digital's advice is sound but these are by no means the norms, simply things that may go wrong on trip to India. Waiting for or expecting all these things to transpire may well have an impact on your enjoyment of a trip around India, keep things in perspective and Enjoy!!
Would you agree with that assertion digital??
That said you are now aware of the various scams and mindsets of some rogue Indians and are therefor better equipped to avoid such scenarios!!!
Cheers digital drifter!!
Well, I certainly am not asking you to turn tail and head for the hills. As Digvijay pointed some of the things are equivalent of SOP (Std. Operating Procedure) i.e. it's the same where ever you travel but combine that with the testiness which you get into in the heat & dust, you're looking at a situation where you pay money for no fault of yours. You have been gamed. Then again, chuck the advice out of the window and go for it. It's bound to get screwed up anyway and you might as well enjoy it.

cheers,
Digital Drifter.
#9 Sep 6th, 2004, 23:25
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#9
Quote:
Originally Posted by kailas56 I feel better already! Being cautious always pays off. I have travelled five time in South America and had 2 incidents. That always makes one wary. Any suggestions on anything else?
Keep photocopies of important paperwork. You can renounce your religion but Babudom does take kindly to lost or missing paperwork! Keep the photocopies stashed away in different places. Just in case.

Take all your vaccination shots. We don't want your keeling over after you take first food bite, do we? It also helps if you have a cast iron stomach which take anything(foodwise) but few people of made of such stuff.

cheers,
Digital Drifter
#10 Sep 6th, 2004, 23:36
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#10
Quote:
Originally Posted by kailas56 Can I really scream or yell at someone for groping??? What about a shove or a slap in the face? Once in Nainatal I tried on a jacket in a store and the store keeper while helping me tried to grab my breast. I just walked out of the store. Wish I would have yelled!
I'm sorry to hear about that. You should have done what your instincts told you to at that point in time. Invasion of space is criminal irrespective of location and culture. Whether to yell, punch and give a ringing slap is left to your level of aggravation. Indian women get it right on when they say

"seruppu pinchudum" which is in Tamil. Translated 'you're asking for it buster... with slippers'. Hard to convey the exact emotiveness of the invective. Learn Tamil!

One of the best ways of making sure that this kind of thing does not happen again(as told to me by a girl) irrespective of culture is to feign exaggerated jumpiness at the slightest touch. That sends a message to all who are just around you and those who plan to grope that when you really scream, the offender is already on the defensive.

Cheers,
Digital Drifter

At this rate, I'm going to end up teaching self-defense courses for women!
#11 Sep 6th, 2004, 23:47
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#11
Definitely will have copies of all documents! I will be travelling with a debit card from my bank but may get one in Delhi besides. Vaccinations are up to date. I am looking at taking a prescription with for TD. It is the prescription rifaximin which is an antibiotic. Then there is the question of which malaria med. to use. I haven't been bit by a mosquito in over 3 years but it only takes once...so I hear. Last time in India I only took mefloquin(msp) for 3 of the 6 weeks. Had awful dreams. I'm not big into meds.

My biggest concern at this point is in getting from point a to point b. Train reservations and the like.

Thank you for the advise. I need all the help I can get. (Can't we all)
Cheers,
Laura
#12 Sep 7th, 2004, 01:04
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#12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Digital Drifter Keep photocopies of important paperwork. ... Keep the photocopies stashed away in different places.
....one of them being the web : Scan key documents (passport, TC numbers etc. ) before leaving home and email them to yourself. I┤ve never had any use of this myself , but it makes me worry less ( not that that I do that a lot anyway).
#13 Sep 7th, 2004, 01:42
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#13

An online briefcase!!!!

Just an elaboration on the great idea put forward by vistet a yahoo briefcase.
Here you can store all your personal details in one easily accessable "online brief case" for double protection you can upload a passworded zip file!!
Not my idea an old one put forward by good ole Midnitetoker!!!
Here's the link!

yahoo briefcase
#14 Sep 7th, 2004, 06:17
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So....really....honestly speaking.....am I crazy? I want to spend 6 weeks alone in northern India. Granted, I have been before, but with a group. This time I want to see other sites but not with a group. Right now I am trying to decide on whether to go to Dharmsala and nearby areas for a week or spend all my time near Jaisalmer, Bikaner and then the camel festival in Pushkar. Decisions, decisions. Weeks of relaxing in one area could be great but seeing more has its advantages. Any suggestions?
#15 Sep 7th, 2004, 09:39
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>>I am looking at taking a prescription with for TD. It is the prescription rifaximin which is an antibiotic. <<

TD? What is this and are you taking meds for it in advance of catching whatever-it-is?

>>Then there is the question of which malaria med. to use. I haven't been bit by a mosquito in over 3 years but it only takes once...so I hear. Last time in India I only took mefloquin(msp) for 3 of the 6 weeks. Had awful dreams. I'm not big into meds. <<

I took Doxycycline; it's cheap and I had no side effects, including "sensitivity to sunshine." Your mileage, of course, will vary.
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