India

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on July 10, 2006. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: Jessica Labrencis and RaeJean Stokes, vacation package, women's travel.

India

India has been popular with backpackers for years, but now both business and leisure travel to India is beginning to boom. U.S. carriers are consistently adding service to India, and low-cost carriers within the country have sprouted up to make traveling long distances easier.

India is not for the faint of heart—there are crowded, dirty, and poverty-stricken areas mixed in with the beauty of places like the Taj Mahal. Many travelers who have been refer to the difficulties and rewards of visiting India when they say, "Once you've been to India, you can travel anywhere." This can be intimidating for a woman who hasn't been there. But, more than one female traveler I spoke with recommended the country as a destination where women can feel safe, and with some careful research or the help of a knowledgeable travel agent, a trip to India can be the experience of a lifetime.

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Phyllis Stoller of the Women's Travel Club immediately recommended India when thinking about women-friendly places she's visited. She described several "great experiences with locals," including sharing photos of her baby with local women, who were "so appreciative, so nice." Stoller also noted that in India, women are generally respected, and may hold important jobs in the tourism industry, such as managing hotels or manning the front desk. And, many locals, particularly in popular tourist areas, speak English.

Travelgirl's Stephanie Oswald says that "people think [India] is so far away and underdeveloped, but in the last four years, it's become extremely luxurious." According to Oswald, the safest way to experience India is to work beforehand with a tour operator or travel agent specializing in India who can recommend local drivers and hotels. Stoller and Oswald both suggest saying in three- or four-star hotels for safety's sake.

Oswald mentioned that as a blond American woman traveling alone, she did attract attention. Indian tourists wanted to have their photos taken with her, an experience she described as jarring but understandable. Vendors in markets were also aggressive in selling their goods, but Oswald says, "it wasn't that I was singled out because I was a woman, or an American ... They were just doing their jobs."

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