8 Mumbai Women Tell Us How To Make That Epic Solo Trip Happen
Elita has been blogging for the past eight years on themes such as body positivity, travel, mental health, and well-being. Here’s her solo trip experience:
Why Choose The Destination: I chose Kutch in March/April 2014 after I’d gotten curious about the White Rann. I had travelled to Ladakh and Spiti previously and there was something about barren landscapes that had left an indelible mark on me. I thought I had been wowed over enough, but Kutch proved me wrong.
Places Visited: With inputs from my homestay host, I visited Bhuj, the artisan villages of Bhojodi, Khamir and Ajrakhpur as well as the White Rann, Kalo Dongor and Dholavira.
Memory That Stood Out: Dholavira continues to remain one of the most significant memories from my travels thus far. To walk through the remnants of the Indus Valley civilization site is a humbling experience. You get to see the sheer ingenuity of the human mind in how town-planning was envisioned and executed.
Sites/Travel Group For Tickets: I booked my train tickets from IRCTC’s website. I seldom, if ever, rely on travel agents or groups to make bookings on my behalf. But, I count on inputs from my homestay hosts and usually take it from there.
Your Initial Budget: I’d had 20k as a budget in mind. I definitely didn’t exceed it.
What About Safety: Safety, I believe, is a state of mind. When travelling, irrespective of the destination, I do whatever I would do even in my hometown and be just as careful about my well-being. So if something does not feel right I will not pursue it further. One rule of thumb that I like to follow is to identify my accommodation – at least for the first night. I do all the ‘due diligence’ required to make sure it is a ‘safe’ place. In that sense, Kutch did feel very safe. I trusted and relied on my host to direct me while soaking in my experience.
What Did You Eat There: I chose to eat my meals at my homestay itself and indulged in the local Kutchi cuisine
Trip Cost: INR 20,000
Avni Chinoy is an ad professional who loves to travel. Check out her experience:
Why Choose The Destination: Left with a week between jobs and no friends free to travel, I started looking up ‘safe places for women to travel solo in India’ and Hampi topped almost every list. It seemed fascinating, cheap and close enough so I ended up choosing it.
Places Visited: All I booked was bus tickets to and fro. When I got off the bus at Hospet, I met an auto driver called Coffee (yes, it’s a fake name he’s given himself so tourists can remember him. It’s actually Anand) who took me to a nice guesthouse and told me where I could rent a bicycle from. I got a map of the local sightseeing places and set off. Hampi is divided into ‘hippie Hampi’ and old Hampi by a river, and I went to all the ruins in the old side, where it was a pleasant surprise to find that most of the places are managed completely by women from the nearby villages.
Memory That Stood Out: There are musical pillars. As in, pillars that make music! They’re made from different types of stone, with varying thickness according to the instrument they’re going to sound like. All you have to do is tap them with a stick. Also, viewing sunsets from atop boulders that overlook all of the fields.
Sites/Travel Group For Tickets: I booked bus tickets from Redbus, VRL AC sleeper is the way to go! From Mumbai that was about INR 3,000 return (most expensive part of the trip though) and guest houses charge about INR 500 a night. There’s a lot of amazing Indian and Israeli food places that aren’t expensive. For the whole trip of 6 days, I spent about INR 10,000.
Your Initial Budget: My budget was INR 15,000, but on the one week trip I spent INR 10,000.
What About Safety: I didn’t feel unsafe for a moment, even when I took a coracle trip by myself across the river late at night, with no lights in sight and a 12-year-old boatman for company. Hampi runs on tourism, so they’re very careful that no tourist has a bad experience there. I was asked to watch out for bears at night though!
What Did You Eat There: Lots and lots of Israeli food, amazing pancakes for breakfasts, really good aloo parathas and a mean thaali or two.
Trip Cost: INR 10,000
Rebecca Samervel is a journalist in Mumbai. She travelled to Europe.
Destination: Across Europe
Why Choose The Destination: I always wanted to do a solo trip and I needed to be out of Mumbai. I was exhausted so on a whim, I booked my tickets and flew to Europe.
Places Visited: Rome-Florence-Nice-Barcelona-Madrid. These were on my wish list and thought it would be easier compared to other destinations for a solo female traveller.
Memory That Stood Out: There are too many to highlight just one. I made many friends during the trip and still keep in touch. Best memory was with this Irish roommate who I had just met in Nice. Both of us were travelling solo for the first time and were nervous. We decided to go out for a stroll and ended up having the best night. We saw the sites and spoke about our lives with so much ease. Had a fabulous dinner at an Italian restaurant and got tipsy on their house wine. Then, we met a Romanian waiter who told us how big Hindi serials were there. We came back to the hostel very late and continued partying at the pub downstairs.
Sites/Travel Group For Tickets: I’d used Emirates for the tickets, Booking.com and Hostelworld for accommodation and Busabout, a hop on hop off bus service, to travel around Europe. Busabout also helps with local activities that you can book. Did a ‘sangria and paella’ class and bike tour in Barcelona. Also used officials sites of all the museums/cathedrals/monuments I wanted to visit and booked tickets in advance. It saved me money, time and also standing in unending queues at the actual spot.
Your Initial Budget: My budget was around INR 2,50,000, but I did it in less!
What About Safety: It was absolutely safe. Just took the same precautions and care as I do in Mumbai.
What Did You Eat There: I ate a lot of local food. Pasta and pizza in Italy; Paella, Churros in Spain and on occasion found good Indian and Pakistani restaurants when I missed home food.
Trip Cost: INR 2,00,000
Shirin Mehrotra is a freelance food and travel writer and works as a content strategist. Here are some snippets from her trip:
Destination: Sri Lanka, Meghalaya
Why Choose The Destination: I chose Srilanka because I was looking for a destination that wouldn’t cost me too much and was easy to navigate since I am new to solo traveling.
Another memorable solo trip I went for was in Meghalaya. This was when I was looking for something slightly adventurous.
Places Visited: Colombo, Galle, Anuradhapura and Kandy (Sri Lanka) and Meghalaya
Memory That Stood Out: The best part was meeting solo travellers from different countries at a hostel I was staying at in Kandy. We made random dinner plans and ended up talking till late in the night over glasses of Arrack and beer. We made a WhatsApp group and still interact.
When I was in Meghalaya, my itinerary included trekking, sleeping in tents, kayaking. I made friends for life during this trip.
Sites/Travel Group For Tickets: So for my Meghalaya trip I booked with Chalo Hoppo, a travel company started by 4 young guys who design itineraries for North East. It was a trip where I was supposed to join other people.
The Sri Lanka trip was planned entirely by me. I booked my own tickets and booked my stays via Airbnb.
Your Initial Budget: My budget for Meghalaya was INR 30,000, excluding air tickets (I also took a two- day halt in Kolkata) and for Sri Lanka INR 60,000 including tickets and both the trips were well in that budget.
What About Safety: Both were great in terms of security. In Sri Lanka, I had a creepy tuk-tuk driver in Galle but quick thinking helped and I asked him to leave even though I had hired him for an entire day. But that was about it. Rest of the journey was quite safe.
What Did You Eat There: So in Meghalaya I ate a lot of Khasi food at the joints run by local women. So pork, chicken and fish dishes with daal and rice. Had local rice beer too.
In Srilanka, I ate hoppers, different kinds of bread, rice and curry meals, Sinhalese meals and drank Arrack.
Trip Cost: INR 60,000 for Sri Lanka and around INR 30,000 minus air tickets for Meghalaya.
Oindrilla Gupta is an executive producer and describes herself as someone who likes to ‘weave dreams, seek souls, and fight the turbulence of the twenties’. Here are some snippets from her solo trip.
Destination: Mcleodganj, Dharamkot and Triund
Why Choose The Destination: I was mentally stuck between wanting to take a risk, but also playing it safe. Not all destinations in Himachal are safe, now that I have travelled a lot in that state. My solo tour happened in Mcleodganj two years ago. It’s called the Little Lhasa, and it’s not as commercial as Dharamshala, Manali or Shimla, and there is peace. My core reason for choosing this destination is all the above reasons clubbed together.
Memory That Stood Out: I remember sneakily trying to take pictures of cute monks outside the Namgyal Monastery. But they soon realized that their privacy was being invaded. However, making a puppy face has always worked for me. After this, they not only chose to willingly pose for my travel vlog but also treated me to a brilliant spread of banana pancakes and Tibetan butter tea. I think when you are travelling solo, a little bit of friendliness is more than enough to make you feel safe.
Sites/Travel Group For Tickets: I did not use any travel group to plan the trip. Only used Booking.com for my accommodation at Mcleodganj, and Cleartrip for flight bookings.
Your Initial Budget: My initial budget was between INR 11,000 – INR 12,000. But, I only spent around INR 9,000.
What About Safety: It was very safe. People usually have a notion of North India being unsafe. Somewhere even I believed so. But at least Himachal Pradesh isn’t. My trip was something I’ll cherish for a long time to come.
What Did You Eat There: I thrived, and survived on local Tibetan dishes like thukpa, thenthu, momos. You get 16 chicken momos for INR 60 there. And sometimes I indulged in chai and Maggi. I don’t usually spend too much money on food. But if I do, I make sure that I try the local delicacies of that particular place. Local food, local transport, and local people – that’s how you get to feel the pulse of a place.
Trip Cost: INR 9,000
Mayuri has been a full-time lawyer since 2017. In a whim of life, she left her security blanket of a well-paying job to pursue her dream of solo backpacking out of India for a few months altogether.
Why I Chose The Destination: Vietnam is a perfect mix of city and village. It has all your basic comforting amenities while also having areas abound with nature to explore. It was a good start for me to travel solo to unidentified areas.
Memories That stood Out: Once on my way back from a secluded waterfall in Vietnam, my motorbike had stopped working. I suddenly found myself in the middle of nowhere with no cell service. It was a very panicky situation but I somehow restarted my bike and rushed back home. When I think of it now, it was scary but quite hilarious!
Sites/Travel Groups For Tickets: The Lonely Planet Book is my Bible. I usually try to gain a brief idea about the country and jot down places that seem interesting to me, rather than hopping onto commercialized touristy places. I check on the topography and try to go over unexplored nooks and crannies of the country to get my own special travel experience. Tour operators are a big no-no for me and I treasure my freedom during my travels.
Your Initial Budget: INR 75,000
What About Safety: When it comes to safety, it was always taken as a new experience than a threat by me. A new place will always intimidate you and make you nervous if you’re alone. But take it as it goes. Just do it and experience it.
What Did You Eat There: Vietnam had great seafood and specialises in fresh clams, oysters and snails. Rice and noodles were always a plus one in every meal.
Trip Cost: For a month, including airfare, stay, food and transportation, it cost me around INR 65,000.
Japleen shifted from Mumbai to Himachal Pradesh after a small project in Spiti Valley which changed her life. Living in sub zero temperatures and with her phone not buzzing for a solid month, she decided to quit her job and relocate her life in Bir, Dharamshala. Here’s what Japleen had to say about travelling solo:
Why I Chose The Destination: I usually prefer North India, and Kashmir has always been a bucket list item for me. After I completed a fair bit of Himachal Pradesh, it was the next place to go.
Memories That Stood Out: There was once a curfew and heavy security in Kashmir which built into a tense situation. Me and my travel buddy were really scared and it made us realise that we complain and crib about the most insignificant things in our life.
Sites/ Travel Groups For Tickets: I always ask and depend on the word of locals. I consider them my travel companion to lead me to unknown places. They are the most helpful and always provide information which no website does. The book, Lonely Planet is also my go-to travel guide.
Your Initial Budget: I always try to cut down on my budget by preferring to stay in homestays rather than hostels. While a hostel costs around 4000-5000 bucks, a homestay cost not more than 500. I prefer local food options over hotels and restaurants. What I end up mostly spending on is airfare, which I usually manage with my side freelancing job.
What About Safety: I am a serious over-thinker. When it comes to safety, I always get intimidated and think of the worse, but with time, I realised that different experiences, even the sour ones help you become who you are. Travelling can break your ground reality and build back a foundation which is even stronger. It gives you a whole new perspective in life and you start seeing things in retrospect.
What Did You Eat There: Here’s my secret to adapting to every food item in the country: my very own pouch of Garam Masala! I really liked Siddu, a local bao made with loads of ghee and the traditional Dhaam which included 6-7 carefully curated courses for Himachali weddings. I also rely on homestays first, not even hostels and often cook my hosts Indian food as a gesture of thanks.
Saraah's 1st solo gave her everything she needed to be where she's today. She took her first solo trip in 2018 and that one trip for her was 'life-changing'. An event management professional from Mumbai, Saraah dumped her city life and moved to the mountains with a dream. The dream was to establish her own paradise in the mountains. And today she has her own cafe and homestay where she now lives and gets inspired meeting new people and be an inspiration herself to several other woman in our country.
Destination: Bahu, Himachal Pradesh
Why I chose this destination : I was a crazy nature lover and always preferred isolation over civilization. Bahu is one such paradise I found where I ended up building up my best. Bahu made me realize how nature can heal people in various ways.
Memories That Stood Out: When a solo traveler meets other solo travelers and they start helping each other to build each other - that is what I think is my best memory I have of my solo journey in the mountains. I was all alone putting up things together which is quite a task in the mountains. I was lucky enough to have made solo traveling friends who helped me paint my dreams into reality. We painted & cleaned the property and then ate together. No meal is tastier than what you cook and share with the people after a long day at work
Sites/ Travel Groups For Tickets: Always pick Delhi for your plane ticket, not Chandigarh. The frequency of flights and ticket prices are always cheaper. Also, always book at least 20 days in advance and have your travelling from one place to another sorted before anything else. When on location, you can always change and make fairy-tale like plans and decide according to what feels right. Always have “going out and exploring” as your main agenda throughout the day, and you will have a fabulous travelling experience.
What About Safety: I was a victim of molestation in my childhood which always scared the hell out of me. Solo travelling made me overcome all my fears turning me into a fearless woman today who can and do anything she wants as soon as she decides for herself. A woman is a superwoman once overcomes her fears in life is what I learned from traveling. Mountains are the safest of all as nature only heals and Himachal being dev-bhoomi is quite a spiritual healer. There's surely something in the air that gives you a lot of strength and I think every woman should go for it.
What Did You Eat There: I am a fab cook and a crazy foody. I always have my hands on the local taste and make sure I learn and prepare the same dish with my twists in it. Whenever one decides to travel to Himachal, search for the local cuisine called siddu, rajma chawal and kadi chawal. Meat lovers shouldn't forget to Savour on some mutton momos, mutton soup and meat chawal
Total Trip Cost: INR 20000