Do's and don'ts for safe travel in India
As concerns over the safety of female tourists in India escalate, we offer a list of do's and dont's for those travelling independently in the country.
A number of attacks on tourists in India have led to questions over the safety of women travelling independently in the country.
In the latest incident, a 32-year-old woman from London was forced to leap from her hotel balcony to avoid the advances of the manager of a hotel near the Taj Mahal. On the same day, the Indian parliament passed a bill containing harsher punishments for rapists, following the gang-rape and murder of a student in Delhi last December. And last week, a 39-year-old Swiss cyclist was also gang-raped in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
"It is clear that both local and foreign women are worried," said Gill Charlton, the author of our Beginner’s Guide to India, following a recent visit. "The newspapers now carry a daily rape story, further fuelling fears."
As a result, she said women were taking greater precautions to prevent “Eve teasing”, as sexual harassment is known in India.
“It is one of the reasons local women wear the dupatta, a long scarf that hangs over the chest,” she added. “The problem is largely due to the proliferation of internet porn, the availability of illegal home brews, and the rise in the number of uneducated single men - with no hope of finding a wife - moving to towns and cities away from their family nexus.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office website advises caution when travelling in India, even when part of a group. Its advice states: “Reported cases of sexual assault against women and young girls are increasing; recent sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas and cities show that foreign women are also at risk.”
Gill Charlton, also Telegraph Travel’s consumer editor, has compiled a helpful list of do’s and don’ts for independent travel in India and advised women to remember that they are never alone.
“Opportunists will be watching your behaviour - and not always with good intentions,” she explained. “Western women have to realise that they cannot behave as they do at home.
“Educated local women rarely walk in the streets after dark and are curt with male strangers and hotel staff who try to engage them.”
Do's and don'ts for independent travel in India
Ask your hotel or guesthouse to book a taxi or auto-rickshaw for transfers to bus and rail stations, especially after dark.
Use the pre-paid taxi counters at airports and pay up for smarter air-conditioned vehicles.
Even if you don't have a hotel booked, behave as if you do. Ask to be dropped off somewhere in particular and take it from there.
Make sure your room has a proper bolt on the inside of the door. I used to travel with a rubber doorstop to foil intruders.
Delhi seems to have a growing problem with Eve-teasing so use the women-only carriage on the metro and walk with purpose.
Stay off the street after dark. Take a taxi or rickshaw to a restaurant as Indian women do.
Wear skimpy or revealing clothing. This includes strappy tops, long see-through cotton skirts (regarded as underwear by Indians) and shorts or cut-off trousers. A long tunic over loose trousers is recommended.
Be too friendly with men who approach you at tourist sights or with hotel staff. Instead strike up conversations with the women. Even on trains it is rare to see an Indian woman talk to a strange man unless she is with her husband.
Confront staring Indian males. It is seen as a come-on. Instead avert your eyes down and away. This signals that you have no interest in further interaction.
Accept alcoholic drinks from strangers. Indian women rarely drink in public - even in hotel bars - so beware any man who invites you to do so.
Walk in the countryside on your own. If you must, always have a mobile to hand and a speed-dial number to call for help. Use it - even to make a fake call - as soon as you start feeling uncomfortable.
Natalie Paris Telegraph.co.uk