Is it Safe for a Girl to Travel Alone in India?
A Guide on What to Wear and Not to Wear When Travelling in India
Are you planning to travel to India and explore its culture accumulated from 4,500 years ago? Or maybe it’s just to simply visit the famous Taj Mahal? Either way, after packing up your essentials you’ll soon come to the question, “What do I wear?” Please read this important article which answers the question: “Is it safe for a girl to travel alone in India”.
When travelling to a new country with hard customs, you are required to oblige to these customs to show respect to their culture. Females should have the luxury to wear what they want and when they want to. As a part of gender sensitivity, wearing whatever a girl wants is their right. However, this idea of gender sensitivity does not always cross cultures quite well. Especially when you are the one visiting into their country. So, is it safe for a girl to travel alone in India? It will be after you read this article!
I. Gender Sensitivity
Being gender sensitive is understanding and being considerate of the needs of a particular gender to avoid sexism. This helps us reassess our attitudes and beliefs on gender stereotyping. However, some cultures have customs on how people should dress to respect their beliefs and traditions.
II. India and Its Culture, Customs, and Etiquette
The Republic of India is a country in South Asia. But don’t underestimate this country’s attractions and social processes as it is the 7th largest country at 1,269,346 square miles and is the 2nd most populated country with more than 1.2 billion inhabitants. Its currency is called Indian rupees (represented in the symbol ₹). As of August 2020, one U.S. dollar equals to 74.93 Indian rupees.
Since India has been established as a country for around 4,500 years, it was the home of one of the oldest civilizations. Under its old and diverse cultures includes diverse religions (i.e. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, etc.) and even diverse cuisines! India does not have a universal cuisine that the entire population can agree on. The cuisine of the southern part of the country is completely different with the northern part. India not only deals with antiquity but also a massive land size. This means that the climate and geographical features of India is diversity too! It is usually tropical or sub-tropical, but it also has winter and summer monsoons.
The traditional clothing of Indian women is the unstitched, silk saris (saree or sharee) which is usually wrapped around the waist, with one end draped over the shoulder to cover the midriff. It is comfortable to wear and it adheres to religious etiquette. It was only for Hindu tradition, but it then became a trend in the Indian’s religions. Traditional Indian clothing differs between areas of the country. Bright colors and shiny jewelry have recently been a trend to add in the usual sari. However, not all Indian women are required to wear this. In urban areas, it is common to see both men and women wearing more Western-influenced clothes. You now know which areas to go to wear your usual OOTD. So, there might not be a strict dress code when in the country, but in mosques you need to cover your head as it is strict tradition.
Customs and Etiquette
Indian etiquette is influenced by British and Asian cultures. Women normally adopt a respectful toward men, especially to their husbands and fathers-in-law.
Men often stay with their birth families until their own fathers die and they start extended families of their own, while women will leave their homes once they marry and become part of an extended family. Most females in India leave their families at a young age and a family’s caste and location have a lot to do with when a girl will be married. With parental consent, however, many families follow their religious laws and cultural traditions and arrange marriages for girls based on caste, religious beliefs, and astrology. Brides usually wear red on their wedding day because it symbolizes prosperity, luck, and fertility. Also, red is a traditional favorite just as white is in the western part of the world. Married couples are strongly encouraged to stay together and to work through all the issues they face rather than separate or divorce.
India has this caste system where society is divided into castes that can reach all the way up to twenty or thirty castes within a village! There are many caste symbols because each caste tends to have its own subculture. Now, can you imagine how many distinct cultures India has? That’s one culture per caste in each village that is made up of 20 to 30 castes! Hence, their caste can then be identified by to the way they dress, their personal names, the way they speak a local dialect, the deities they worship, who they are willing to eat with publicly, the location of their housing, and their occupations. All of these indicators can pinpoint what the Indian’s place is in the highly hierarchical caste system.
As you have read, India is filled and now oozing with diverse cultures, traditions, customs and etiquette. For you to simply waltz in there with no clue of their culture will probably lead to you to stick out in a crowd or worse, disrespect their traditions. But fear not as you have already reached halfway of this article that’ll help you avoid such situations! The other half involves knowing what to wear and not to wear in certain areas of India and specific times of the day.
III. What Female Tourists Should Not Wear When in India
The reason there is dress codes in India is for all female’s safety. There had been news of kidnapping and sexual assaults of females in New Delhi back in 2017. But this was only because these females wondered the deserted streets at night in revealing clothes. Now for the main question that we are here for is, ‘What to wear in India’ to have a safe trip will travelling and explore this majestic country? Well, let us first check what you should not wear!
- Don’t wear Short Shorts
The streets of India are not accustomed to people wearing shorts, so it is best that you wear jeans or pants.
- Don’t Wear Miniskirts
The Tourism Minister of India firmly encourages females to not wear miniskirts as this attracts male attention. In comparison to the usual covered up females, wearing skirts and shorts would be distracting. Although there are some saris that are a bit revealing like bellies sticking out from saris, as well as open backs due to tiny blouses under the sari, India in general is conservative. However, you can wear skirts that reach the knee or below it. As long as it is not the stick-to-the-skin type.
- Don’t Wear Leggings and Yoga Pants
Just like shorts, leggings and yoga pants are too stick to the skin even if they don’t show skin. If you still want to wear them or if you have no choice, then I suggest that you wear a long blouse or top that’ll be long enough to cover your crotch and butt area.
- Don’t Wear Tops With Plunging Necklines
As I stated, Indians are conservative. So, exposing cleavage goes entirely against that. Revealing clothing in public will not only attract attention towards you, but it’ll send a message that you clearly did not read the memo on Indian culture. Therefore, disrespecting their customs. Now, you don’t want to approach this foreign country on the wrong foot so stick to blouse with a closed or very minimal cleavage.
So, can females wear shorts, miniskirts, leggings, yoga pants, and tops with plunging necklines in India? You can because it’s not a law but do your best to not wear these for your safety and to not disrespect their culture. To summarize this section, don’t wear anything provocative and revealing.
IV. What Females Tourists Should Wear When in India
Now that we’ve gone over the don’ts, let’s move on to the dos. If you are a female looking for a guide and a few tips before you venture into a land filled with cultural customs and etiquettes, let me give you a head start. The appropriate clothes to wear by female tourists in India are:
Indian Ethnic Wear
It’s not required for you to wear the traditional saris, but if you do, it’s the same as bowing down to show the locals your respect to their culture. That is quite some plus points to getting around the country in the clothes that have been initially only for Hindus.
Fully Clothed Outfits
Yes! You can wear your regular jeans and tee and no, you won’t be sticking out of the country like a sore thumb when you do. Females don’t wear saris all day you know. The younger Indian females tend to wear western clothes. However, there are times that you can wear tight-fitted or revealing clothes. Going in nightclubs. But it most certainly will not be appropriate to wear them for a trip around churches, markets and the Taj Mahal. Additionally, all the cities in India that are used to tourists are more lenient on the dress code. What you should be worried about is visiting rural areas and villages that are accustomed to traditional clothing all year round.
- Shirts as they are the most simplistic clothes that you’re sure you can wear anywhere in the city.
- Tank Tops or Sleeveless Tops because the town folk are used to exposed arms due to the design of the saris.
- Crop Tops because the locals are used to exposed bellies of all kinds, may it be thin or pot bellies.
- Jeans for the same reason as the shirts- it is the most simplistic clothing that’ll be accepted anywhere in the country.
- Shorts and Skirts to and below knee to avoid attracting unwanted attention and disrespecting Indian customs of being conservative.
- Jewelry on top of outfits as it’s the recent trend in India. In fact, Indian housewives own 11% of the world’s gold! So, adding to that percentage won’t do any harm.
If you fear that your top is too revealing when you arrive at a place in India, make sure to keep a scarf in your bag or on you to easily blend in and cover the top part of your outfit. It is usually worn like a sash, but you can also use it to cover your shoulders.
V. Main Takeaways
It is important to be gender sensitive to avoid sexism, but we also must respect other Indian customs and traditions on how people should dress. Female Indian clothing is the traditional saris that is worn like a sash to cover the midriff. However, it is common to see both men and women wearing Western-influenced clothes in the city.
There still are rural areas that tend to be more traditional in terms of fashion. That is why you, as a female tourist, should not wear anything provocative and revealing (i.e. shorts, miniskirts, leggings, yoga pants, and tops with plunging necklines) for your own safety and to not disrespect Indian culture. On the plus side, what you can wear are fully clothed outfits, shirts, tank tops or sleeveless tops, crop tops, jeans, shorts and skirts to and below knee, jewelry, scarfs that can be worn like a saris, and, of course, the Indian ethnic wear – the saris.