Best Tips On How to Travel By Train Solo in India Like A Boss

Now you might have heard how dangerous it is for women to travel solo in India, or any person for that matter, but especially if you’re female. The train situation in India can be a little chaotic at times, to say the least. However, have no fear, it’s not like what you see in the movies where dozens of bodies are literally clinging to the side of the train since there’s not enough room in the coach. Traveling by train in India will be one of the most fun and exhilarating experiences of your life!

So, is taking the train a viable option if you’re a female traveling solo in India? Absolutely! You just have to always play on the side of caution and keep in mind as India is a male dominated society, you really have to keep your wits about you as a woman traveling solo. Sometimes it seems especially as a female, you have to suck up a mountain of bullshit, but in the end it’s worth the adventure and excitement India has to offer. So without futher hesitation, let me share with you my best tips for those adventurous hearts traveling all by their lonesome in India.

 

 

You Can’t Just Show Up And Buy A Ticket

 

 

India must have come up with the saying “You Snooze You Lose.” If you don’t book your train tickets well in advance, it could literally be the difference between traveling comfortably in your own seat with a fan at the very least, to being forced to lay down in the aisle with sweaty male bodies sprawled out on top of you. Train seats in India full up super fast, and it’s no wonder since you’re in a country of over a billion people!

Always try and book your train tickets well in advance, since many times I would show up to the train station, only to find out to my dismay that all tickets were sold out for the day I wanted to travel. The most reliable site to you’re your train tickets is the Indian Railway.

 

Don’t think you can just show up at the train station in India – You WILL get stuck

 

If you can’t book your train and have nowhere else to go and are stuck at the station, about the only other option you’ll have is to purchase a General Class seat, which leads me to my next point..

 

Avoid General Class

 

 

Is it as brutal as the locals say it is? Unfortunately I had to learn the hard way on this, since there were times I didn’t book my ticket in advance and ended up with the following two options: Either stay stranded at a shady bus station in the middle of Bihar with all my belongings on me, or hop on the next General Class seat.

 

Look but don’t ask – Digha Beach

 

Since I was already used to taking super long train rides in India, with some of my trips being *26 hours* or more in journey time, I decided to go with the option of General Class, and thought to myself It can’t be all that bad.

Boy, was I wrong. General Class is not for the faint of heart. My General Class experience was a nightmare I’ll never forget..It all started when I reluctantly took the general class ticket while stranded at a train station in Patna, Bihar at 3 in the morning.

 

Staring all around me, never fall asleep on the train!

 

I remember having to wait around for the train for over an hour, all the while some pudgy creep was locked eyes with me as I was sitting munching on my masala kure kure. Other shady men would shoot the predator stares at me, and at times I would just stare right back and mean mug them. Sometimes this works, sometimes they just laughed and kept on staring. Either way you have to be able to hold your ground and not budge when traveling solo in India, and never show your fear, even if you feel awkward and scared inside.

This wasn’t any ordinary stare, however. This was the look of a pedophilic predator, and the scary thing is he looked to be around my age. After what seemed like ages the train finally showed up. It was pitch black inside and steaming like a sauna, with the faint smell of urine lingering in the air. Bodies were piled on top of bodies, and it was as if there were 5 people sharing what should have been meant for one person.

I felt my way around the total darkness, and made my way to a seat to sit next to what I thought was a woman, one of the only women it seemed on that entire train. Sweaty bodies of gawking men stared as I crawled into the corner of a seat, squished up against a family of four and what I thought was a girl next to me. Legs and other extremities were poking out in every which angle, sometimes rolling over my body or poking me in the head. It was steaming hot and the windows weren’t even open, let alone there being a fan or anything else, and with all the bodies piled in the coach the heat was unbearable. The train didn’t set off for another hour, which made the heat even worse since there was no air coming in through the windows.

 

That awkward moment when you’re just trying to enjoy the beach in India – Digha beach

 

I was hypervigilant, and wouldn’t dare fall asleep surrounded by only men. The worst part of all this was I would have to endure 22 hours of this hell. I caught myself falling asleep for what felt like five minutes only to wake up startled to the same creepy stare guy from earlier massaging my feet. I kicked at him in defense, and wanted to get up and slap him but I couldn’t even see him it was so dark.

 

Digha Beach

 

When dawn finally struck what seemed like ages later, my backpack had been sat on my two old ladies and was torn apart, my whole body was aching, and I was in a state of absolute exhaustion. Luckily some military guys noticed me cowering in the corner of the seat and helped me find another seat to myself where I’d be a bit more comfortable. In conclusion, even if you think you’re brave and can rough almost any extreme, please try and avoid General Class at all costs. And trust me, it’s not worth saving a few dollars.

 

 

Know Your Train Classes

 

 

Try and book the highest tier class if possible. With the top tier seat, you can lie down and sleep the whole trip, which wouldn’t be possible if you were to book the lowest class since you’d be packed against a ton of sweaty bodies like a sardine. The second best option is your Sleeper Class, which may or may not have A/C, but at least you will have your own confirmed seat, which is truly a luxury in India. You should preferably choose an upper bunk seat so that you’ll be out of reach of people and their wandering hands walking down the aisles, especially at night.

Make sure you prepare yourself for the annoying dude walking up and down the aisle in the middle of the night screaming “Chaiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!”. You’ll hear it all night and all morning.

 

 

Stuck in the dreaded General Class, someone’s foot is on my leg

 

I preferred going Sleeper Class most of the times, since I could see more of the stunning countryside that way with the open window policy. Nothing will be provided for you, and doors will be open all the time.

Don’t be shocked if now and then you catch eye of a sassy Lady Boy walking down the aisle strutting his stuff, and doing his best to get rupees from all the Indian families shying away, trying to pretend he’s not there. The thing about transvestites in India is it’s a double edged sword: They’re part magical, in that they can either bless or curse a newborn baby, but they’re also known to rebel against their oppressed status in Indian society and blackmail and extort money from people. Who could blame them?

 

 

Always Have Internet Access

 

Being alone in India and without access to the Internet is the LAST place you want to be, trust me. The best way to prevent this happening is to get a SIM card with plenty of data on it in advance, before doing any moving around. I used Vodafone while I was there, but there are many other vendors such as Mobifone, among others where you can get a SIM card.

 

 

Red Fort, Rhajasthan

 

They’ve made the rules more stringent in recent years for foreigners getting SIM cards, so make sure you show up with your passport, visa, and all your documents in order so they can take a scanned copy of your passport and process you to get a SIM card. Don’t EVER give anyone your original passport, under any circumstances, no matter what the reason they need it for.

 

What the top bunker looks like in Sleeper Class

 

Once your SIM is activated, just make sure you have plenty of Internet data so you can do all your bookings well in advance, as not only do trains fill up in India, but so do hotels and guesthouses. India is a country where you really need to know where you are at all times and you can’t just walk around blindly, and without Internet you will be lost.

 

 

Bring Plenty of Food & Water

 

Luckily, there’s an abundance of food and drinks stands at the train stations in India, and you can get just about anything you want, from steaming chai masala tea, to a cold soda, to kure kure chips to snickers (Well it might not last in the heat!).

 

Just be grateful you don’t have to travel like this

 

Sometimes they say a journey will take 16 hours, but when traveling by train in India always add on a few extra hours to that time. It’s important to have plenty of food on you as you may not stop a lot along the way, not to mention the last thing you want to do is get off at the wrong train station in India. It helps that people in general can speak some English or decent level of English, however you don’t want to be caught walking around as a solo foreigner looking like you don’t know you way around, otherwise you’ll be pounced on by all kinds of con men.

 

The open windowed government bus

 

This is no joke, a lot of times I’d be approached by shady guys who thought I was some kind of prostitute from Russia, trying to lure me into their dodgy business to meet their “customers.” Sick, I know, but that’s just the mentality across a lot of India and you have to be able to deal with it while traveling there. You also want to make sure you stay plenty hydrated while on the long train journey, since heat exhaustion is a very serious thing in India.

 

You haven’t seen a real crowd unless you’ve been to the train station in India

 

One thing to keep in mind is that you should NEVER fall asleep on the train in India. There are pervy men who will be staring at you and lusting the whole time, most likely taking photos and videos of you without you even knowing. Just try not to fall asleep and make sure you have enough energy and sustenance in you, so you can avoid taking a long nap and waking up with someone’s hand down your shirt (Speaking from experience).

 

 

Play the Marriage Card

 

Does it help to pretend you’re married to an Indian man while traveling as a solo female in India? Absolutely yes! Unfortunately one of the only legitimate relationships that is recognized in India is marriage, which is why as a woman you’ll frequently get asked questions like “Are you married?” I’ve even had someone walk up to me in a busy market in Delhi and asked me straight up, “Are you a virgin?” You can bet he got a right slap in his face from me! When in doubt, SLAP. This might be considered physical assault in the West, but in India it’s completely normal for a woman to slap a man for indecent behavior.

 

 

Trying on a Lunga sari, Delhi

 

The sad thing is that most Indian guys have only one idea of white women, and one only: What they see in the dirty videos on the internet. Yep, I’ve even had pervs there flash me live porn videos of a white blonde woman on their phone while I drove by them on my motorbike, thinking this would somehow make me want to talk to them. Pretty disgusting behavior, and the sad thing is you know they would never dare do something like that to an Indian girl. The best thing to do is to flip them the middle finger and put them in their place.

 

 

Either that, or you can always wear a burka

 

It always helps to wear some kind of a fake wedding ring on your ring finger so dudes will back off if they think you’re married. However this doesn’t always stop them and even if you claim you’re married to an Indian guy, they’ll come to the conclusion that it must not be the case if he’s letting you travel alone around India. It absolutely helps to pretend you’re married, since if you’re a foreign woman traveling solo you’ll be approached all the time by creepy men trying to take selfies with you and bust your boundaries, or guys who will follow you around and act super stalkerish. Just a word of wisdom, no matter what just keep saying you’re married to an Indian dude and he’ll find you and beat your ass if you keep nagging. Isn’t that right, yaar?

 

Traveling India solo is a mighty brave feat, and if you’ve even contemplated the idea of traveling there solo, kudos to you! What are your experiences traveling by train/solo in India? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments! Don’t forget to you can like and share my article with the social media links. I’d love to keep giving you travel tips and advice, so feel free to Subscribe to my blog by clicking the Subscribe Box on the right. And don’t forget you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

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