Women travelling in India
Travelling as a woman in India can have some challenges, but here are a few tips I've picked up.
If you're a woman travelling to India for business, particularly alone, you may have some concerns. Working with a different culture always provides challenges. Travelling alone and working with a culture which is patriarchal provides a new set of issues to consider.
One of my first positions was working in corporate security consultancy. I learnt a lot about the 'bad' out there and how to be risk aware and look at ways to mitigate situations. Further roles found me working in a marketing or sales environment, in international professional services as well as small service and retail businesses. So I become more people focused, trusting and less paranoid about all the potential evil.
Here are my top tips for single women business travellers in India.
- To a certain extent I have found this depends on the industry you're dealing with. In a corporate environment a smart trouser suit is a safe choice. Try and ensure all shirts or blouses have a higher neck line. Although not necessary, I have found having short sleeves is also advisable.
- Working with suppliers and manufacturers often means trailing around warehouses and clambering up rickety staircases, where skirts aren't a good choice. I have a wardrobe of shalwar kameez which I find indispensable. When air conditioning is rarely an option you need at least one for each day and preferably in cotton. I also have one that is a little more dressy which covers any special invitations such as weddings or business dinners. My favourite brand is Biba www.bibaindia.com. You can find shops in a number of cities as well as online at Jabong
Business cultural guides for India
I've read quite a few in my preparation trips to India. These are my top picks. pictures courtesy of Amazon.com
Food and drink
- If you can, try the local food. I always have an Indian breakfast where possible and have found that the staff at the hotel are delighted. Don't know why but I receive exception service going beyond what is required.
- Most of the Brahman and trading caste are vegetarian and although they will be happy for you to take non-vegetarian (ie meat) there is genuine appreciation if you're prepared to tuck into aloo (potato) and the local lentils/dhal when eating with colleagues.
- I always bring my own water bottle to meetings (very large handbag) and bring it out if a fresh bottle of water is offered to me.
As a woman travelling by yourself this can often be misconstrued. Although many businesses are increasingly working with woman in a professional capacity, you may find some locals in hotels, shops or with taxi/auto-rickshaws may misinterpret this.
- It might seem an obvious thing to say, but never open the door to someone that is not expected - even hotel staff. I have had a very unpleasant experience of hotel staff at midnight knocking on my door. I travel with a little rubber wooden door wedge to provide added resistance to anyone trying to open from the outside.
- Always ask for a room that is on the first floor or above and not next to an escape exit or stairwell.
- Some hotels offer women only floors or wings. Others have rooms with a security camera and monitor inside the room. Most provide special amenities for women, female housekeeping staff and extra security features.
- I often find staying in the best room in a 3* hotel, being a special guest, rather than an annonymous person in a 5* is better.
Transport from Airports
- Most have a pre-booked taxi stand inside the terminal.
- Alternatively see if you can get an airport transfer arranged by your hotel or business contact (many will offer this for free).
- Cities such as Delhi have a good public transport systems.
Booking a tour
Take Your Seat is now linked with India Personal Tours (www.indiapersonaltours.com) as their Australian representatives
These are the main points I have learned. All further suggestions welcome!