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It's an amazing country, but we experienced a lot of unwanted attention in India

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Anne-Marie McCarthy

Anne-Marie McCarthy

Anne-Marie McCarthy

I was lucky enough to backpack through India in 2012 and spent two weeks in Goa.

I was lucky enough to backpack through India in 2012 and spent two weeks in Goa.

India is amazing to experience and the scene of many life-changing adventures.

It also comes with a unique set of challenges for female tourists.

I travelled with a group of four friends - three women and one man - and while we never felt physically threatened, there was definitely a lot of attention, and occasional harassment, towards our group.

Some of it was funny (a lot of people want you to hold their babies and take pictures with them).

But some was more insidious. We normally dressed very conservatively but were told by other travellers it was okay to wear a bikini in Goa as it was so full of westerners.

After five minutes on the beach and some blatant photography, we learned otherwise.

Then when I was enjoying bobbing in the strong ocean waves (while fully dressed), it took me a couple of apologies to realise that it wasn't an accident that I kept bumping into the men behind me. They were constantly moving to ensure I would.

I also met a girl who was groped by a staff member while staying at the hotel.

There was also plenty of unwanted attention directed towards all genders; people trying to overcharge you or persuade you into shops. It can be a tiring experience.

There are some sensible precautions you can take. Dressing conservatively helps and I found wearing a cheap wedding band was a great way to end unwanted advances.

Of course, the presence of our male companion was enough to stop the worst of the attention.

It's extremely unfair to female travellers; we deserve the freedom to travel by ourselves in safety, but you have to be practical and take care of yourself. Normally I'm all for solo travel but I wouldn't recommend it in India.

India is a country of extremes and while I had a couple of negative experiences, I also met some of the friendliest, most welcoming locals too and made incredible memories; dancing in the Indian Ocean, camping out in the desert and driving a tuk-tuk through city streets.

One day I'll return for more, but when I do it will be in a group and with a little knowledge of self-defence.

Irish Independent