People washing themselves in the river Ganges in Varanasi - Is Varanasi Safe for Solo Female Travellers
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Is Varanasi Safe For Solo Female Travellers? 12 Useful Tips To Keep You Safe

If you’ve been dreaming of travelling to Varanasi, but are wondering “Is Varanasi safe for solo female travellers?” then you have come to the right place. 

Varanasi is the holiest and one of the most vibrant cities in India, famed for its unique open-air cremations which are visited by thousands of both tourists and locals every single day. 

Whilst it was one of the most chaotic cities I visited in India, it was also one of the most magical and one that should 1000% be added to your India itinerary.

Female safety in India has such a bad reputation and it is understandable with just 58% of the female Indian population reporting that they feel safe in India. 

However, I’m writing this guide to ensure that you don’t let the issue of female safety in India put you off visiting this unique and spiritual city as a solo female traveller. 

Honestly, I felt quite safe during my time in Varanasi (even with a slight hiccup which I will explain later in this post).  

And to be honest I felt quite safe overall during my 6-week solo trip through India

I spent just 3 days in Varanasi but feel like I got enough of a feel for the city to understand how to truly keep safe as a solo female traveller in Varanasi (and I’m here to give you all the tips!).

So, is Varanasi really safe for solo female travellers? 

In short, YES but keep on reading below to find out about how to keep yourself safe as a female traveller in Varanasi.

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The subject of safety 

I want first to preface this blog post by saying that safety is a completely subjective topic. 

Whilst I found myself feeling quite safe during my time in Varanasi and India as a whole, I have read and heard of quite a few accounts of women who have not been so lucky during their time in India. 

Whilst yes, some places are off-limits for solo female travellers, I don’t believe that India (or Varanasi) is one of them. 

For the most part, when bad or uncomfortable things happen it can often be a case of the wrong place wrong time and most often completely out of our control (there are both good and bad people in every country in the world). 

For example, the place I have felt most unsafe in all of my travels is Paris, where I nearly got mugged and one of my friends had a very sketchy experience with an Uber driver. 

Paris is probably a city that most people would deem safer than places like India.

I can confirm that my parents’ responses if I tell them I am heading to a European city vs anywhere in Asia, Africa or the Americas is very different. 

So, whilst I do believe that you can keep yourself safe as a solo female traveller in Varanasi, I can’t guarantee that you will have the same experience. 

Please ensure you take some responsibility for your safety and utilise some of the safety tips I have provided below. 

Looking for more India Inspiration? Check out my other guides here.

Is Varanasi Safe For Solo Female Travellers?

How to keep safe as a solo female traveller in Varanasi

To be completely honest, most of these tips are not exclusive to Varanasi, it’s how I practice safety as a solo female traveller no matter where I travel. 

However, there are one or two which you will see below that are specific to Varanasi.

Where to stay in Varanasi

When it comes to choosing where to stay in Varanasi, I highly recommend staying as close to the riverside as possible and also choosing somewhere where you can meet other solo travellers. 

This will be beneficial for you if you want to visit certain places at night and don’t want to risk going alone. 

I chose to stay at Moustache Varanasi located by Assi Ghat. 

This was a prime location and I got to meet other solo travellers who I hung around with occasionally during my time there.

How to dress in Varanasi

In Varanasi, as a woman, you will be expected to dress modestly, especially when entering places of worship such as temples.

However, as the whole city is considered a holy place it’s best to keep yourself covered.

If you’re wondering what to wear in Varanasi I suggest keeping your shoulders and knees covered at all times, opting for a T-shirt and trousers/long skirts. 

I would also recommend keeping a shawl/scarf on you for extra coverage if and when needed.

Don’t walk by yourself at night 

I think as a woman, this one goes without saying, and I haven’t met many women who do this no matter whether they are at home or in a foreign country. 

However, I think it’s still important to add to the list. 

The thing about Varanasi is it’s an extremely busy city with people EVERYWHERE. 

So I actually felt quite safe at night walking through the main part of the city amongst the hustle and bustle. 

However, I chose not to walk down any smaller, less busy streets on my own or along the riverside by myself at night. 

Whilst there are parts of the river that are super busy and lit up at night, there are other parts which are dimly lit and much quieter so I chose not to take the risk. 

If your accommodation is further out of the city, or you’re just feeling uncomfortable make sure to take a tuk-tuk. 

They also have Uber in Varanasi, however, cars struggle to get through the main street due to the crowds of people so they may need to meet you a little further out, which also might not be ideal.

Be firm with people (mainly men)

As a solo female traveller in Varanasi, you’ll probably experience a lot of men coming up to you along the river Ganges. 

I think men see this as an open invitation to come and speak to you as I never experienced this when I was walking with others. 

Whilst most people mean well and are just interested in having a conversation, it can get annoying after the 3rd or 4th time when you just want to get on with your exploring. 

I found that you need to be firm and direct when you want the conversation to end. 

Otherwise, you risk them walking along the river with you, and they’ll be hard to shake off. 

I tried things such as “It was nice to meet you” and “lovely talking to you” as a way of ending the conversation but this never seemed to work. 

Being 100% direct is the best way to end your interaction. 

If some men are making you feel particularly uncomfortable don’t be afraid to draw attention to yourself so that onlookers can help.

Avoid Varanasi during religious holidays

With Varanasi being the holiest place in India, it’s the place to come for most religious holidays. 

Varanasi is busy during the best of times, but during religious holidays it gets particularly more chaotic. 

Two of the main religious holidays I would avoid visiting Varanasi during are Maha Shivratri and Holi Festival. 

Maha Shivratri celebrates Lord Shiva, and if you weren’t aware Varanasi is said to be created by Lord Shiva so it really is the place to be for Hindus during this holiday. 

Holi is another significant Hindu festival celebrated as the Festival of Colours, Love, and Spring and Varanasi can get crazy during this time.

Ironically, I’ve heard several reports of men being particularly disrespectful to women (especially tourists) during festivals where they can remain anonymous in and amongst the big crowds.

Be careful of Bhang Lassi’s

If you’re not familiar with Bhang Lassi essentially it is the classic Indian lassi drink that’s laced with cannabis too. 

It’s legal, and very popular – especially in Varanasi where they are said to be most potent (I didn’t find this fact out until after I had tried it).

Now, I’m not your mum and I’m not going to tell you to not try it. 

You’re a responsible adult and can make that decision for yourself. 

HOWEVER, if you do try it make sure you are in a group with people you trust.

I tried this (with other backpackers from my hostel) and I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for. 

I was expecting a light and gentle drink, but It was super strong.

It hit me like a truck and I was hallucinating on and off for 4 hours.

I did not enjoy it one bit, and wouldn’t get another one ever again! 

So do this one at your own risk. 

Don’t drink alcohol in access

With Varanasi being a holy city, alcohol isn’t readily available.

However, you might be able to find it in your hostels or hotels.

Much like my advice with the Bhang Lassi, avoid drinking alcohol to access, especially if you’re not in a group.

You want to ensure that you’re fully aware and alert of your surroundings and want to avoid anyone taking advantage of you in a potentially vulnerable state.

Catching night buses in Varanasi

One of the cheapest ways to travel around India is to take the night bus. 

If you plan on catching a night bus out of Varanasi I would ask your tuk-tuk or Uber driver to wait with you until the bus has arrived. 

Most of the “bus stops” are random stops on the side of the road rather than a specific bus station. 

I found most drivers are willing to help, and some may ask for an extra 100/200 rupees which is a very small price to pay for your safety.

Stay connected – download an eSIM or get a local SIM

I NEVER EVER EVER travel to a foreign country solo without ensuring I have some access to data. It’s extremely helpful if you are ever lost or are caught in a sticky situation. 

One thing I will always do if I am in a taxi or a tuk-tuk is check on my Google Maps that the driver is going towards the correct destination. Not because I  ever felt truly in danger, it’s just more of a peace of mind thing for me. 

If your phone is unlocked it will probably be cheaper for you to get a local sim (with Airtel being the best network).

However, if that’s not an option for you, there are plenty of eSIM companies out there now for you to download an eSIM. 

The ones I’ve found work best in India are Airalo and Holafly.

Don’t tell strangers where you are staying (or post it on socials until you have gone)

Whilst it’s highly unlikely that someone is going to hunt you down at your hotel or hostel because you mentioned it at a coffee shop, or tagged your location on Instagram, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility and it has happened to women before. 

I had quite a few people along the riverside in Varanasi ask me where I was staying. 

I would politely reply “Over there somewhere” and point in a vague direction. 

Make sure you are extra careful about who you share important and private information with.

Let your family and friends know of your whereabouts

Make sure that you let your family and friends know where you are and where you are staying. 

Not only will this give your family peace of mind, but it will also be super helpful information for them in the unlikely event that anything bad happens.

Google Translate offline

I’ve found that a lot of people in India and Varanasi speak English, however, it’s good to have Google Translate (or a similar app) downloaded onto your phone to help if you’re ever in a situation where it’s difficult to communicate.

Bad experiences in Varanasi as a solo female traveller

I mentioned earlier in this post that I had one slight “hiccup”. 

Whilst I don’t want this to put you off coming to Varanasi as a solo female traveller, I feel like it’s important to share the story so that you are aware of potential risks. 

On my first day in Varanasi, I was walking along the riverside and noticed one particular man. 

I realised after about 10-15 minutes that he was pretty much everywhere I turned, and realised he was following me down the river. 

I moved on just to check I wasn’t overthinking, but sure enough, he was there again. 

I turned around and confronted him and told him to stop following me and leave me alone.

He got the picture because I didn’t see him again (this is what I mean by you need to be firm and direct). 

I want to point out that I never once felt unsafe or intimidated during this situation.

It was around 1 pm and Varanasi is SO busy. 

There were lots of other tourists and friendly locals around who I knew would be able to help me if he did attempt anything. 

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Prepare for your trip as a solo female traveller in Varanasi 

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Conclusion

In short, Varanasi is a special place that allows you to see a truly spiritual side of India. 

While it’s natural to worry about safety, especially for solo female travellers in India, my own trip proves that Varanasi can be enjoyed safely with some care.

Looking back on my time there and across India, I realise it’s important to think about safety while still embracing all the weird and wonderful joys of travelling India. 

Though I felt pretty safe during my visit, it’s smart to be cautious and prepared.

Whilst you’re in Varanasi make sure that you are being respectful of the culture, exude confidence, and stay aware of what’s happening around you. 

Simple things like dressing modestly and avoiding quiet spots at night can make a big difference in how enjoyable your trip is.

While I’m happy to share tips for staying safe in Varanasi, just remember that everyone’s experiences are different. 

I hope these tips help you feel more confident and allow to you make the most of your time in Varanasi. 

Happy (and safe) Travelling

Hopefully, this post has helped to answer the question “Is Varanasi safe for solo female travellers?” 

If you have any more questions please do not hesitate to reach out. 

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