Never Smile at Indian Men…and Other Bullshit

(Last Updated On: 15/01/2023)

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Are you thinking about solo female travel in India? Having researched and read so many travel blogs over my travelling lifetime I feel I really want to blog about dispelling some horrendous and detrimental myths there are, particularly about travel in places such as Sri Lanka and  India.

Below are some of the following ‘tips’ that I read before both my solo trips:

  • Wear a wedding ring
  • Never tell anyone you are travelling alone
  • Say you are meeting your ‘husband’ later on
  • Don’t stay in cheap accommodation – it’s for prostitutes
  • Never tell anyone where you are staying
  • Don’t take night trains (as read in Lonely Planet!)
  • Don’t talk to locals
  • Don’t smile at Indian men

Having now travelled solo as a woman in both these countries I can fairly safely say that this is complete bullshit. Don’t smile at people? I met some fantastic Indian guys who are now my good friends. I strongly feel that by never telling anyone we are travelling alone, we are not helping the world – we are playing along with society’s idea that women cannot travel solo. That we should feel scared and we are better off staying at home.

I am not naïve. I have had scary moments all over the world including my home – the UK. But that does not mean for one minute that I feel I cannot travel alone. The same things that happen in India, happen in Thailand and happen in London. While I admit that in every society there are certain uneducated and bigoted members who do not respect women, and there may be more in some countries than others, I do not think we should cower in our apartments and never see the world.

Incredible India

I have wanted to go to India since I was teenager. It took me until age 27 to pluck up the courage to stop waiting for someone to come with me and just go! After everything I read I decided to join a group tour for the first part of my trip. As soon as I was there I felt comfortable enough to travel alone. And I did so for the last 10 days of my trip which resulted in some of the most incredible experiences of the trip: whizzing around the Himalayas on motorbikes, waking up at 4am to see sunrise from a temple, building bonfires on beaches by the side of the Ganga river, attending puja religious ceremonies with locals, rafting, bungee jumping, sharing delicious Indian food…the list goes on.

India Advice

My advice to any female solo travellers wanting to go to India but feeling unable to is…GO! Book on a tour for the first part to help you feel more confident but I would without a doubt feel MORE than comfortable returning alone to travel India, Sri Lanka and many more besides…

Advice I DID appreciate and listened to: Take precautions, cover up, have a plan if you arrive late at night, always lock your doors, don’t wander around alone late at night, stay in busy areas, avoid parks/alleys at night, walk on main roads, take a card from the hotel (mainly advice because I get lost and have a terrible sense of direction!) Here’s my top most useful advice.

What are your thoughts on solo female travel? Are you tired of the world telling you it’s ‘too dangerous’? Not safe? Or do you think it’s justified?

25 thoughts on “Never Smile at Indian Men…and Other Bullshit”

  1. Hey!! India is not that bad but yes because of few guys, your mindset will be right to some extent. But trust me this country is far far better than one’s expectations. Well sorry for inconveniences if you’d have any during your stay…

    1. hey not sure if you understood all of the article…? that’s exactly what it is about. People’s mindsets and how they are rubbish and India is amazing! I had very few problems during my stay and I am in love with India.

  2. Thanks for debunking some of my myths. I’d always wondered if it was really as bad as you read online. So happy to hear you had a positive experience. 🙂

    1. Yay! I really don’t know why there are so many awful online myths. I often feel they are people who aren’t very well travelled in the first place and are possible quite sheltered from unpleasant things that clearly happen in their own countries too!

  3. Thank you for sharing this excellent article! I am planning to travel Asia including India and Sri Lanka, and was wodering wether these countries are safe enough for solo female travellers, but now after reading your post I feel a lot more confident travelling solo in these counties.

  4. Well written :).. Being an Indian, I am quite impressed you have not stereotyped what others say! People who say such ‘typical’ things are those who are not very well traveled and are stuck with their unchanging mindset!

    1. Totally agree and hopefully we can try to encourage people to have a more positive mindset about travelling India! Such an incredible place and I can’t wait to plan my next trip there!

  5. Awesome post. I always feel slightly uncomfortable when reading or hearing that kind of “advice”. It always seems like it’s fuelled, at least in part, by racism. Saying as I have met plenty of despicable dudes in my own country, having this “advice” directed at certain places always seemed weird to me! Yes, of course some places are much more conservative, but that’s what research is for. Thanks for this post!

  6. This is a truly great post. I haven’t been to India myself so naturally I’ve been wonderng about all these “tips” that you listed at the beginning. To be honest India does scare me a bit, but this is very encouraging to learn your experience. I’ll definately visit India and SriLankain a near future 🙂

    1. yeah take some things you read with a pinch of salt! I feel like they are written by people who never leave the house haha! And get freaked if someone looks at them! You definitely get a lot of stares in India but once I realised it was women and kids as well as men it became cultural rather than creepy!!!

  7. Totally agree with you. You have to take some basic precautions and use common sense as we use in any part of the world.
    I wrote a detailed post last week about India travel.

  8. There’s a lot of horrendous advice out there for solo female travellers that do more discouraging than encouraging! I would like to travel to India one day and I like the advice to start off in a tour and then head off on your own for a while once you’ve found your feet there. Glad to hear of your positive experiences.

  9. Honestly, I´ve been harassed in developed countries more than in the developing ones. The wedding ring doesn´t change a thing. However, occasionally, men feel it´s okay to invite themselves along and if I don´t feel comfortable about it, I am very clear about it. I used to be unsure about culture differences, but I simply prefer to ignore 20 messages from “a friend” than to have to suffer through two hours of relationship, sex and marriage talks that somehow happen whenever my husband is not there. Like I just did 😉 Another thing, rather than guide books, I prefer to consult statistics if I can find any online. Gives me some kind of an idea what is more or less likely to happen…

  10. Having born and brought up here, i can safely say smiling at men in the street is a definite no no. When your eyes meet a stranger you must not smile. A lot of the poorer men (which is the majority of the population) take this for an invitation. I don’t know what you are smoking lady, but in your quest to probably not seem racist and get some cookie points in your blog you are making it hard for foreigners to understand what needs to be done to safe. We are a diverse mix sure. But you are more likely to encounter creeps here than not if you are smiling at randomers.

    1. Hi Psb, thanks for your input and interesting to hear your experience was quite different to mine. I can assure you that everything I write and share about is based on my own personal experiences. Thank you for taking the time to also share your own as a solo female traveller in India.

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