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If you’re like me, then you look forward to participating in some of the festivals that a country has to offer.
Holi for me was the ultimate tick off on my bucket list. It had been my dream to throw colours since I was a little girl and the fact that I was in India to do this was even better.
I got a lot of mixed reactions when I wanted to travel and celebrate on my own which concerned me;
- “You’re going alone?”
- “I wouldn’t go out, it’s not safe as a woman”
- “It’s not safe, this is India after all”
My excitement soon turned into me winding myself up over the fact I wouldn’t be safe. To the point where I was even tempted not to go!
But, I had a little pep talk with myself and thought “if I don’t like it, I can just leave and hide in my hotel”.
So I decided to get involved and I’m so glad I did. This festival was one of my favourite experiences of my nine months spent in India.
The music, the colours, the dancing, the vibe and the feeling. It was all amazing!
Celebrating Holi if you’re in India in March time is a must. But, if you do any research it is extremely important to keep safe, especially as a woman.
So, having been there, I have thought of 15 honest Holi Festival tips for female safety in India to help us girls out!
The 15 essential Holi Festival tips you NEED to know
1. Find people to celebrate with
I was planning to travel solo for Holi but a lot of my Indian friend’s advised me against it.
At first, I didn’t get it, but after experiencing it I can see why. It’s more fun when you’re around friends and other people and it makes a lot more sense to have people to dance with while you’re here!
As they say, safety in numbers and if you have people that are looking out for you it makes you feel more comfortable.
Luckily, I had a few friends from Pushkar and so had some locals who knew about the area and looked out for me.
You will get a lot of people that approach you, especially as a woman. So, it’s better to attend as a group.
If you’re travelling solo, why not head to some of the hostels and make a few friends while you’re here? That way, you’ll have some buddies to go to the festival with.
You could also join a Holi tour which will give you the same sort of ‘local’ experience but in a group!
2. Avoid places which are far too crowded
At first, I wanted to celebrate Holi at Mathura or Vrindavan, the birthplace of Krishna and his playground.
Holi is the festival celebrating the eternal love of Krishna Radha and so it would have been great to experience it there. But, I was advised by many of my Indian friends that it would be far too crowded.
Plus the fact I was going at it alone, it wouldn’t be as safe.
Holi is celebrated differently across the country. Not all places throw colours.
This was something that I specifically wanted in celebrating and so was recommended to pick Rajasthan.
Anyone from anywhere in Rajasthan will tell you that their city is the best place to celebrate.
3. Wear old clothes and cover-up
I hate to break it to you but your clothes are going in the bin after this festival.
They will get absolutely trashed with colour. I was tempted to keep my white Kurta and wash it out as a ‘Holi souvenir’ but it was just too dusty to pack in my case and take home.
Make sure you wear old clothes or things you don’t mind getting ruined.
Most shops around Holi will sell cheap white clothes for you to purchase so it may be worth buying disposable stuff that you can bin after the day is over.
Ensure you cover up most of your body to avoid getting your skin completely covered in colour.
Being a woman who mainly travels solo in India, I cover up a lot anyway; especially my legs. This also will bring you less attention.
For the festival, I wore a white kurta and white leggings with flip-flops I didn’t mind getting dirty.
My friend also asked me to grab my socks from my hotel room but I didn’t have any – so it was pink feet for me!
4. Cover your eyes
I honestly couldn’t believe the amount of colourful powder or ‘gulal’ to locals which were being thrown around, it was crazy. It completely rains colour!
I was getting colour in my eyes, nose, mouth, hair, ears, and pretty much every part of my body was getting covered in colour.
I was in my element and loved it. However, it is important to protect your eyes.
The gulal will get everywhere and I mean everywhere.
Although most people selling gulal will sell natural colour, there are a lot of sellers who will sell cheap chemical powder too. This is the stuff you don’t want getting in your eyes.
5. Boys will touch you…but not in that way
Yes, you will have people touching you. It’s a given. With that many people crowded around dancing, you’re going to touch someone eventually!
You will also have boys touching you, but not in the way you think.
Although I cannot deny that it can and has been unsafe for women with boys thinking it’s a free for all and to cop a feel in the name of Holi, I was lucky in the way I didn’t have anyone touch me in a way that I deemed inappropriate.
You have to remember that you’re in power here, if you don’t want to be touched or it crosses your boundaries – tell them to back off!
The best bet is to cause a bit of a scene. 9 times out of 10, this works for me.
Most of the touching I had came on the bottom of my chin and face (like the below picture) and in the end, I had a massive pink Holi beard!
I also had a little boy hug me and rub his face into my tummy. But, nothing more than that.
6. Don’t be afraid to say NO!
Like the point above, you’re not obligated to do anything that crosses your boundaries.
You know what it is that crosses the line for you, so don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself.
If you don’t want to dance with someone, you don’t have to. If you don’t want to throw colours anymore, stop. If you don’t want someone to touch you, tell them no!
Of course, I understand it’s not always as easy as all that and it’s different for every situation.
But, you shouldn’t have to stand for anything which you feel makes you feel uncomfortable. No questions asked.
7. Keep hydrated
This is important. If I had known this beforehand, I would have stocked up some water before I entered the crowds on the day.
The heat, the dancing and the constant rainfall of powder that I was ingesting made me cough uncontrollably until I eventually got used to it.
Make sure you have a bottle of water with you and keep hydrated. You’ll need it.
8. Take a break if you need it
Holi starts early in the morning and continues non-stop until the afternoon.
That’s a fair few hours of constant dancing, colour throwing and in Pushkar, super loud music.
At some point you’ll need a break, so make sure you take one. The best thing to do at this point is to go up!
There are plenty of restaurants that provide aerial views of the action so you can watch from above and enjoy.
9. Keep your wits about you
Like in any country or place when you are travelling it’s best to keep your wits about you.
Make sure while you’re having fun with all the colour, you keep an eye out for those that want to cause trouble.
To be fair to those around me, I was in good hands. A fight broke out right behind me when I was dancing in the crowds and in a second, I was grabbed out the way. I was so thankful.
Another reason to attend with people you know. Anything can happen at any point and in a crowd like that things can easily turn sour.
So, just make sure you remain vigilant.
Saying this, it was a really good crowd at Holi festival and most people look out for each other to make sure everyone was having fun.
10. If you don’t want paint on you, don’t go out!
Seems obvious, but I’m totally serious. If you don’t want any colour on you, don’t go out.
Even when you go upstairs to watch from above, you’ll still get some revellers distributing some pesky colour.
There is so much colour during Holi, the air is saturated with it and it’s absolutely beautiful!
But, this may not be for everyone. Especially if you have sensitive skin or asthma etc.
Your best option, if this is the case, is to stay at your hotel or to attend one of the hotel’s private Holi parties which will have far fewer people and it’s more controlled.
11. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
In Pushkar, there were plenty of volunteers who were there to assist tourists who were visiting for Holi.
In fact, there were dozens of them in the crowds and watching from above.
Throughout the festival, they were keeping watch to ensure that women were safe and to stop any fighting which may have taken place. I was really impressed with the security at Pushkar Holi Festival.
As soon as they spotted any behaviour which endangered tourists, the music would stop and the person would be removed.
A warning message would be called out to warn everyone not to touch foreigners and women.
It was comforting to know it was being handled well and they were looking out for tourists.
On the day, if you feel threatened or if anything happens you’re not comfortable with, there are plenty of security, officials and locals who will be there to help you. Just ask.
12. Protect your skin and hair
It’s important to protect your skin and hair from the gulal.
Locals recommend putting some natural oils in your hair and face beforehand to make sure that the colour washes out easily.
I wish I had done this as after Holi, my hair was as dry as straw!
My face was also bright pink as you’ll see below. Even though I wore my scarf around my head, at one point someone poured a whole bag of powder on me! So, I was absolutely covered in red powder.
It took a few washes to get out. Safe to say my hotel wouldn’t have been impressed with the shower being stained pink!
13. Protect your electronics
A lot of the time, water is thrown to make the colour stick. You also don’t want any powder damaging your electronics.
So, make sure if you are planning to have your phone or camera with you, keep it well wrapped up!
In fact, to be extra safe, I would leave your phone or any electronics you don’t want to get ruined in the hotel.
I took my GoPro which is a waterproof sports camera so I knew it wasn’t going to get damaged.
I also kept some rupees in a waterproof bag inside my little cross over the bag to keep them safe. Better to be safe than sorry!
14. To remove colour…do as the locals do
Although this is a shameless Snapchat selfie, you can see just how red my face got after the festival!
This is the result of around 100 ‘Happy Holi’ wipes of powder on my face. My pink Holi beard.
All the locals will say ‘your face looks like an apple’ and they weren’t wrong. Before the festival, it’s good to make sure you put some oils or moisturiser on your face to protect it from stains.
That way it’s easier to remove after the party is over. The locals will swear by using some curd and gram flour to remove the colour.
It’s also not recommended to use hot water as it will make the colour run.
Unfortunately, I didn’t know these little nuggets of info and so I just scrubbed until my face was sore!
It took a few days to completely wear off, luckily I wear double wear foundation so that covered the majority of it up. In the end, it looked like I got some sunburn.
15. Enjoy it Holi Festival!
This is the most important tip of all, remember to enjoy it.
It’s all too easy to check the news and media about things that have gone wrong and a lot of people will warn you not to even leave your hotel on the day.
But, I think life is just too short not to get involved and have fun!
I, myself was super nervous before I got there. But in the end, it was one of the best experiences I had in my nine months in India.
I would have kicked myself if I didn’t go out and throw colours.
I’d like to thank the organisers of Pushkar Holi Festival for a fantastic Holi.
So, grab some friends, grab some gulal, get your groove on and have a fantastic time!