As soon as I cleared customs and grabbed my suitcase around 4:30 AM on a cool Tuesday morning at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport I walked past the throngs of people waiting for friends and relatives to emerge through the automatic doors and headed right past the non-sanctioned cabbies who milled around the taxi stand and continuously called out to me, “Ma’am, need a cab? “Ma’am….a cab?”
Of course, there was absolutely no way I would get into one of their cabs. Their cars had no numbers on them. I looked. They were hustling hard for tourists to hop in and earn a few rupees. Seasoned traveler that I am I know it’s important to go to the cab stand at airports no matter where in the world you are from New York City to Rio. Sure, there is a small risk of being swindled into paying more, but it’s far better than trying to save a few bucks with a cheaper cabbie.
After paying and finding my numbered cab, I hopped in the back seat of one of Delhi’s traditional black and yellow taxis and made my way to my hotel slightly before the sun came up in a country I had never been to before. It wasn’t lost on me that I was a woman in the back of a cab in Delhi and that anything could happen. I just prayed that I would get to the hotel and everything would be fine. I had put myself in a vulnerable position. No one could help me then.
Thankfully, everything turned out fine, but I have heard stories where travelers haven’t been as lucky – that they had been robbed by the cabbie on the way to their hotel. Thankfully, nothing like that happened.
After spending five days in Delhi I learned how important it is to be safe. I had not worried about that anywhere else in the world, but Delhi is different. The amount of people has a lot to do with it coupled with being a woman . We have all heard about the horrific rape of the Delhi student who died because of her injuries earlier this year. Here are a few things I learned about staying safe in Delhi from women who live there.
- Don’t go out at night if you can help it unless you have your own car or driver.
- Try not to go out alone – especially at night.
- When using the Metro, ride the women’s cars. I learned this myself with Nicole Melancon after a very uncomfortable 45-minute Metro ride to east Delhi where men gawked at us mercilessly.
- Always hire a hotel driver to take you around town. It’s more expensive, but safer. Safety matters!
- Know where you are going! That is, know addresses and the general vicinity of where you are traveling to.
- Always ride with your windows up in private cars and cabs because people always try to sell you stuff when traffic stops. They may reach into the car or knock hard on the windows.
- Be wary of schemes and swindlers and second think everything. Use common sense. If it doesn’t sound right, don’t do it!
- Always let others know your whereabouts. That means even writing down and emailing cab numbers when you hop in.
- Cover up as much as possible unless you want Indian men staring at you and/ or following you down the street.
- Stay at a nice hotel. We stayed at the Radison Blu Dwarka. It was wonderful, safe, and had impeccable service. Don’t try to “rough it” with accommodations.
I am lucky. I can blend into India very easily, especially if I put a head scarf on. I loved the care and attention and advice the male workers at the hotel gave us. They cautioned us not to walk around the hotel – mostly because it was hot – but also because it could be dangerous for two western women. They helped us secure private drivers and directions. They were great.
The best thing you can do for yourself when you’re traveling is walk fast and with purpose like you know where you’re going even if you don’t. Confidence can repel many who want to take advantage of western travelers.