When you’re travelling in South East Asia, the majority of backpackers you meet are fairly young. But the majority of those travelling alone are in their mid-twenties. It’s reasonably rare to see gap-year students alone, especially once you step off the main tourist circuit. This is particularly true of young women travelling alone. And that’s just what I saw on my travels in Thailand and Cambodia. In India, to see a teenage girl travelling alone is almost unheard of. To be honest, travelling solo in India really deserves a post of its own. Another time. But here are a few things you’re likely to experience, both good and bad, as a young solo female traveler.
I wouldn’t have taken back a second of my travels last summer. Although I definitely had some lows to match the highs, travelling solo did amazing things for my confidence and sense of direction after leaving my first university course. Although I only I turned 19 towards the end of my stay in India, I wouldn’t say that being so young had any detrimental effect on my travels as a whole.
I’ve been living in India for more than six weeks now. It doesn’t feel like anywhere near that long! Although the vast majority of people have been lovely and welcoming, there have been a few times, particularly out in the city, where I’ve been really ticked off by people’s attitudes to me. Especially as a young woman travelling alone, it’s important to be aware of possible scams and avoid being taken in by people waiting to exploit your ignorance of local behaviours.
It’s my first experience of being an ethnic minority; I’m starting to appreciate the discomfort which many immigrants to the UK must feel; especially in the not-particularly-diverse South West of England, where I live. Although the nearby tourist spots of Rishikesh, Haridwar and Mussoorie are full of foreigners, I’ve yet to see another white person in the local area. I stand out everywhere.
Clearly, I have it remarkably easy. I’m living in a safe place, and the exchange rate from GBP to Indian Rupees is extremely favourable. I’m by no means rich, but the assumption is that all foreigners are. And we are, comparatively. Coming to India from the West puts you in a very good position in terms of expenditure, but that doesn’t mean you should let the scams slide! Some things are just downright annoying.
I’m not claiming to be an expert on Couchsurfing. It would be enormously presumptuous of me to think that I can speak with authority on something I’ve done only a couple of times. But although my first couple of Couchsurfing experiences were very positive ones (as I hope all my further ones will be), I know that not everyone is so lucky, and so based on my stories and those of others, I’ve compiled this little list to make your first Couchsurfing experience as great as mine was!
I first used the Couchsurfing website when I was in Germany, and stayed in Munich for a couple of nights before flying home after my first Workaway placement (post on this to come later). I found my host about a week before I was due to arrive in Munich at the end of March, and everything went very smoothly! I then used the site again to find a host in New Delhi towards the end of my travels in India.
In Munich, I stayed with a young couple, and my host was lovely and very accommodating; she came and met me at the bus stop after my late-night train to Munich, which saved me a lot of faffing around and probably getting lost! Not only was she a great host, but she also came with me on my trip to Neuschwanstein Castle with some other international friends living in Munich!
Without further ado, here are some tips to make sure your first Couchsurfing stay is the best it can be!