you're traveling by train in second class/no airconditioning,
request a berth in the "ladies' compartment." This is an
area of the train compartment restricted to females, and
men respect the privacy of women traveling alone in that
section. If there are no berths available in the ladies'
compartment, it's not the end of the world. But remember
that it's very uncommon for a woman to travel alone in India
and you might experience hassles. My advice is -- just be
firm, and avoid having conversations with men who are traveling
alone - this is generally a sure invitation to sexual harassement.
Families, on the other
hand, are a great source of conversation - not to mention
the invitations to join them when they open up their home-cooked
meals. Don't think that you're being polite by refusing
their invitation to eat with them - you're not, they really
want to feed you.
Ed. note: I suggest
you really trust your gut feeling about any strangers offering
food. If you're comfortable go ahead and enjoy the goodies.
However, it's worth mentioning that solo women travellers
have been drugged by accepting food and drink from strangers
who befriend them on trains. They wake up to find their
money and belongings gone.
conditioning and locked doors, please...
You'll have a much more
comfortable journey if you travel by second class a/c (air-conditioned).
It's about double the price of traveling non-a/c, but still
very cheap by Western standards. And the compartments are
much, much cleaner. Also, if you're traveling a/c you can
often get a private compartment (coupe), which can be a
blessing. Just remember to lock the door when you're inside;
otherwise, people will sneak in from the cheaper compartments
and the conductor is absolutely useless at getting someone
out of your compartment (conductors are usually easy to
bribe). Generally, if you find yourself with unwelcome visitors
travelling alone, please...
If you find yourself
alone in a compartment full of men, it is perfectly acceptable
to switch with a man who is alone in a compartment with
women. Just ask nicely, using the terms "lady traveling
alone", and "gentleman"; he'll usually agree.
bargain with a poor man...
Remember that coolies
(unskilled laborers) and rickshaw drivers barely make a
subsistence living. Yes, bargaining is a way of life in
India. So, bargain with a richer merchant instead of a poor
man who carries heavy bags all day, or with a skinny driver
with a life expectancy of 40. Who cares if he's charging
you a little more than he would charge an Indian? It's only
an extra 50 cents for you, and for him it's a meal to feed
you're invited home...
I met some wonderful,
warm women in India who freely invited me into their homes.
Do accept such invitations - it's a lovely experience to
be a guest in someone's home, and you can learn a lot about
India that way. If you'd like to bring a gift, fruit, candy
or a little present for the children in the family are highly