10 Honest Tips for Solo Female Travel in Varanasi

solo female travel guide to varanasi

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Varanasi was my first stop in India as a solo female traveller. I’m not gonna lie, I was terrified!

I made sure I had a nice hotel as an ‘oasis’ to stay in and was almost tempted just to remain inside its walls and not leave save a boat ride on the river Ganges!

But, I’m so happy that I gave myself a little pep talk and I went outside and embraced this crazy, awesome, roller coaster ride that is Varanasi – the Hindu city of the dead.

A lot of women are worried for their safety when travelling to Varanasi and I can see why. It’s a pretty insane place.

Open Cremations happen daily, it’s hot, busy and it’s out of this world.

But, although it’s not easy as a female travelling solo here, it is doable and this guide will show you how!

Don’t worry cause you’ve got this girl. Here’s an honest solo female travel guide to Varanasi!

solo female travel guide to varanasi

Is it safe visiting Varanasi as a solo female traveller?

This is probably the burning question, so I’ll cover this one first.

Yes, it is safe to travel to Varanasi as a solo female traveller as long as you take the right precautions like you would in any other place you travel alone.

Don’t go off with strange guys offering direction or drinks, don’t go out at night alone, make sure you have a means of transport.

Don’t try the ‘special lassi’ by yourself – all box standard things we girls need to remember in any country (obviously the special lassi isn’t in EVERY country but you know what I mean).

Of course, it’s not deniable that this is India and the media paints it as a dangerous place but this is a holy city where most people come as a pilgrimage or for a families funeral.

So, respect the place and what it represents and you shouldn’t have any issues (I’m going to go into these points below).

solo female travel guide to varanasi

10 tips for solo female travel in Varanasi

1. Avoid a visit during festival times

Festival times like Dev Deepawali, Diwali and Holi can be where borders are crossed.

Indian boys hang around in large groups and feel that it’s okay to cop a feel in the name of the festival.

When I celebrated Holi, it was almost like a competition for boys to want a foreign girl to celebrate with.

Obviously, this is NOT okay and not a justified reason but it does happen.

Boys will touch your ass or boobs as a dare or to muck about.

Don’t feel shy in causing a little scene when this happens, shout, holler and tell them to back off. I find this works 90% of the time.

You shouldn’t have to deal with anything less than what makes you feel comfortable.

I would personally not recommend celebrating these festivals in Varanasi as a woman alone, Rajasthan is a much safer place for that.

To see my female safety tips for Holi festival see here. I celebrated in Pushkar alone and had the best time!

solo female travel guide to varanasi

2. Don’t make this your first stop in India

On reflection, it was a crazy decision to make Varanasi the first place to visit in India.

It’s literally throwing yourself in the deep end and could scare you. It’s pretty much a big slap in the face of the ‘real india’ for sure.

Open cremations, bulls, dogs, monkeys, sadhus and the constant scams can get overwhelming.

But, It’s not the end of the world if it is. Just come with an open mind, do some research and put a game face on.

solo female travel guide to varanasi

3. Dress conservatively

In India how you dress is pretty important and a deciding factor in how much attention you will get.

In Varanasi, wearing revealing clothes is a big no!

Shorts, skirts, strappy tops and revealing outfits are not appropriate.

When you’re passing the burning Ghats on the Ganges river, you’re pretty much-attending someone’s funeral. So, dress conservatively.

Also this way, less guys will stare and think you’re asking for attention (not my opinion, but it’s now Indian men think – trust me).

solo female travel guide to varanasi

4. Guys will approach you

This is a given anywhere in India. If you’re alone, it’s like an invitation to them.

Like you have a big ‘talk to me’ neon sign above your head.

It can get tiring and now after 12 months of being here, if I’m not in the mood, I just ignore instead of being polite.

Some days, I just can’t be bothered with the same questions.

“Where you from?

What’s your name?

How long are you here for?”

Ugh.

I love meeting local people and do everywhere I go. But, you will just know when it’s seedy.

solo female travel guide to varanasi

5. Watch out for scams

Something like 40% of people in Varanasi have permanent employment so poverty, pickpocketing and scams are everywhere.

My advice would be to use common sense, organise your own tours and shopping and haggle hard.

Obviously, as you’re alone the price will be higher for boat tours and transport so it may be worth buddying up with someone here.

Plus, being more hard ball with your negotiating skills is imperative to getting a good price.

I cover a lot more detail of scams and how to avoid them in my article ’13 travel safety tips for Varanasi you need to know before you visit’.

solo female travel guide to varanasi

6. Don’t try Bhang alone

Bhang or Bhang Lassi (also known as special lassi) is edible cannabis mixed into a yoghurt drink.

A mind-altering drug which can cause hallucinations.

Some solo travellers have told horror stories of trying it and getting a bag or money stolen.

I would be hesitant in trying one unless you’re in a group.

Always go to a government-approved shop. If you even have any doubt or fear before trying it, I wouldn’t bother. It could have a lasting effect.

solo female travel guide to varanasi

7. Be careful going out at night alone

An obvious solo female travel tip but a time old way to keep safe. Don’t go out at night alone.

The dark, narrow alley ways in Varanasi are a labyrinth in the day and even more confusing in the night. It can be so easy to lose your way.

I also found by the river side there were so many hawkers offering hash, tours and stopping me for a chat. It just felt dodgy.

After the Ganga aarti in the evening, I headed back to my hotel as it felt a lot safer.

solo female travel guide to varanasi

8. Consider a tour guide

The only reason why I finally started to enjoy my trip to Varanasi was because of my tour guide Ravi.

At first, when I was heading outside I flat out refused to even talk to him fearing the worst.

But, then I dropped something, he picked it up, we got talking and he ended up showing me around.

He knew all the places I wanted to go, explained to me what Varanasi was about, protected me from charging bulls, got me a front-row seat for the night aarti and introduced me to all sorts of fortune-tellers, babas and sadhus!

I just felt safer and more relaxed.

Although you don’t necessarily need a guide, I would highly recommend one. Even just to have someone to talk to, ask questions and share the experience.

This way you’ll remember the trip and have someone to take photos of you to prove you did it!

Update: You can contact Ravi on +91 6394134742 or babu@hotmail.com for tours

solo female travel guide to varanasi

9. Don’t forget – this may turn out to be your favourite stop of all

Although I was terrified of visiting Varanasi alone, it was a feeling of liberation after I did it.

I travelled here as a solo female traveller, survived and I ended up having the best time.

It ended up being one of my favourite stops in India and I will and have kept coming back.

I think people hear about cremations and seeing bodies and just totally discount Varanasi.

But, I think that if you arm yourself with an open mind, you will find it’s not so scary.

It’s actually quite spiritual, enlightening and an experience you will never forget.

solo female travel guide to varanasi

10. And finally…You’ve got this!

Never forget that you are stronger than you think. Be brave, bold and open to new experiences.

See the beauty and inspiration in Varanasi and it will repay you with the most awesome memories.

Don’t worry, don’t overthink, just accept this weird and wonderful city for what it is.

Namaste. Om Nama Shivay!

solo female travel guide to varanasi

Want to read more on Varanasi?

Amazingly, I now have a total of four honest and informative travel guides and tips for Varanasi!

You can read more by clicking on the links below;

Travel tips for Varanasi, the oldest holy city in the world

What it’s like visiting the Varanasi cremation ghats

13 Varanasi travel safety tips, important things to know before you visit

solo female travel guide to varanasi

Heading to India? Read more of my articles

How to spend one day in Delhi

The ultimate Rajasthan itinerary

A first timers guide to Jaipur

A photography guide for Jaipur

A complete guide for Manali

Why you need to visit Shimla

Exploring Leh Ladakh

One week Kerala Itinerary

North East India bucket list

Things to do in Dharamshala

Top tips for the Taj Mahal

My complete guide for Rishikesh

Visiting the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh

Things to do in Hampi

Save this solo female travel in Varanasi guide for later!

Varanasi 4 1

51 thoughts on “10 Honest Tips for Solo Female Travel in Varanasi

  1. zinia says:

    Hi Sophie….thanks a lot for sharing your solo travell experience in varanasi.I am an delhi based girl planning for a solo travel in varanasi on 26th jan 2018.can you pl share the travel guide Ravi contact number.
    stay blessed and happy:)

    • Sophie Pearce says:

      Hey! Thanks for reading :) Varanasi is totally awesome and safe if you’re vigilant like anywhere else. Sure, its +91 8052326794! I hope you have an amazing time and safe journey!

  2. barbaralevinvin says:

    Hi Sophie! Thank you so much for sharing. I will also be traveling solo to Varanasi and appreciated this post. I will also contact your guide :) I was wondering where you stayed and if you’d recommend it? Or would you recommend a hostel? Thank you!

    • Sophie Pearce says:

      Hey! No worries and thanks for reading and your feedback! Definitely contact Ravi as he’s awesome :). I stayed in the Hotel Brijrama palace and, I’m not gonna lie, it was pricey! I was working as an expat in India back then so could afford it. But I’d say if you’re on a budget, there is a Zostel in Varanasi. It’s a hostel thats to European standard. I’ve stayed in a few and they’re really good. If you’re travelling alone here, it may be worth joining up with other travellers, even just to share the experience and reflect etc. Varanasi is the sort of place that blows the mind! Have an awesome trip! Sophie x

  3. Morgan Teresa says:

    It is a very advantageous post for me. I’ve enjoyed reading the post. It is very supportive and useful post. Solo traveling is not easy. I am happy with your information about Varanasi Guideline. I would like to visit the post once more its valuable content.

    • Sophie Pearce says:

      Thanks so much! Glad you liked the post and I hope it helps in your trip to Varanasi ???? Safe travels. Sophie x

  4. Arie says:

    Why anyone would even bother to travel to such a dangerous disgusting dump I will never understand.
    India, by the way, is very very dangerous for women. Gang rapes are on the rise and solo female travellers are an excellent target. Don´t do it girls unless you´re druggies and can´t resist bhang or other similar stuff – but then you deserve whatever comes your way.
    I find India to be one of the most disgusting countries on earth.

    • Sophie Pearce says:

      Hi Arie, can I please ask if you have ever been to India?

      Of course, it’s not unknown that gang rapes happen but I would say that if a woman wants to travel there on her own she is welcome to do so and in my own experience having lived there for over a year, I would say it’s completely safe. I think that it’s slightly insulting to refer to those people that want to travel there as ‘druggies’ and they would deserve what comes their way. No woman, ever, should be subjected to disrespect whether they do drugs or not.

      I feel quite sorry for you that you feel that way but I think that if you travel there you will educate yourself on the country and see that it’s full of kindness, warmth, colour and inspiration.

      Thanks, Sophie.

  5. selin says:

    Hey Sophie! Your post and the way you handled the hater is amazing. I’m going to travel to Varanasi, Bodh Gaya and Amritsar in two weeks solo, know nothing about these places and your post really helped! You rock, thanks :)

    • Sophie Pearce says:

      Ah, thank you so much and thanks for stopping by! Wow, that sounds like an epic trip! I loved Amritsar but haven’t been to Bodh Gaya. I’d love to know what it’s like. Have an epic time. Sophie x

      • Vikash says:

        Hi Sophie,

        I am 33 male from India itself, Darjeeling.

        I’m a 1st time solo traveller. Completed almost all Bihar’s tourist places including, Patna, Nalanda, Vaishali, Rajgir and finally in Bodhgaya.

        Going to Varanasi tomorrow and landed to your article. .I must say excellent. I am little or totally introvert kind of guy, probably thats why it took me whole 33 years to travel alone. .but here I am today. .:)

        Any suggestion for a good peaceful near ghat guest house at Varanasi please. I wanted to stay in dorms (Hostel) but I think I will avoid it.

        Keep up the good work. All the best.

        • Sophie Pearce says:

          Hi Vikash, wow I’ve always wanted to go to Darjeeling! I’m heading back to India soon so am going to head up to North East again. Ah thank you and I’m glad you liked the article. Varanasi is incredible and I hope you had a good time? That’s amazing you went there solo! I’m so happy you’re taking the leap to go alone. I’m not sure about a peaceful ghat house I’m afraid, Varanasi is a 24 hour type of city and most of it is quite noisy with prayers and aarti going on early morning and late at night. But, I would say a hotel further back towards Cantt would be more peaceful. Thank you. Sophie x

    • Selvia says:

      Hi Sophie.Thanks for sharing.This is my second time to Varanasi.So this time I wanna explore Varanasi with my husband.your blog realy awesome.

      • Sophie Pearce says:

        Hi Selvia, thanks for reading! Ah, that’s great you’re going there for a second time. I find every time I go back I see something new. Sophie x

  6. mumtaj says:

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  7. Morgan Teresa says:

    Actually, I am planning for Varanasi trip. I am asking my friends for Varanasi trip suggestions. Many suggestions I get to my friends but I am not satisfied and now I am searching on google and I get your blog. I am reading your blog and really happy with your blog because you shared the perfect guide about Varanasi travel. I agree with you and I like your suggestions. Thanks!

    • Sophie Pearce says:

      Ah that’s great! I’m glad my post was able to help you out. Have an amazing time in Varanasi and thanks for reading! Sophie x

  8. clive says:

    Hiya!

    Does Ravi have an email address?

    I really could do with a guide when I’m in VSN later in the year!

    Thanks so much Sophie

    Best from Ireland.
    C

    • Sophie Pearce says:

      Hi Clive, Not that i’m aware of! I can message him for you on social media with the dates etc? I’m sure he’s available on Whatsapp! Let me know. Thanks, Sophie x

      • Clive l says:

        Hey!

        Thanks so much for coming back to me. I’d be there from 26-28 August; even one day might be enough. I’ll try him on WhatsApp though!

        Cheers
        C ;)

  9. Bharat Taxi says:

    Very interesting post. Varanasi is religious & spiritual city. Ganga Aarti of Varanasi is famous across the world. It is the good place to visit and seeing the ghats and temples.

  10. Sonam Pandey says:

    Nice Blog! Varanasi is the most attractive place to visit. Very nicely written and information provided is quite helpful. Thanks for sharing Such great Information.

  11. Harikrishna says:

    Hi Sophie, nice blog, great pics The mobile number of Ravi your guide is not connecting. What are the good budget hotels you recommend at Varanasi which should be atleast 5 km away from, River Ganga A group of ladies (our relations) are going to Varanasi next week. Thank, All The Best for all your Great Tours.

    • Sophie Pearce says:

      Hi Harikrishna, Thanks for reading and your feedback. I will try to get in touch with Ravi and ask him for his new number. In terms of the hotel, what age are the ladies? There is a Zostel in the area which is like a hostel set up or Banaras Paying Guest House, Teerth Guest House, Ganpati Guest House, Shivakashi Guest house, Palace on Ganges – many for you to choose next to the Ganga, but next to the river is noisy as generators go all night! Hope this helps and have a good trip. Sophie x

  12. Hari Krishna says:

    thanks a lot Sophie Mam, they are 35-40age group. They are looking for a Hotel which is NOT Near Ganga, atleast 3to4 km away from the River…….

    • Sophie Pearce says:

      Ah okay, then I would recommend that they stay in the Cantt area of Varanasi! It’s extremely quiet and only a short tuk tuk ride to the centre. I stayed at Hotel Tridev which was 2000 rupees with breakfast https://www.hoteltridev.com. They have an offer on right now. Or, MakemyTrip always have good deals and saves money. Hope this helps! Sophie x

    • AsHRIYA DEVNATH says:

      thank you so much ma’am for writing this article … actually me and one of my female friend both are planning to visit this place on this 26 dec … just saw your blog and it’s really helpful …

      • Sophie Pearce says:

        Hi Ashriya, I’m so happy you’re planning on visiting Varanasi soon! It’s definitely an enlightening place and I’m sure you’ll have a great time. Sophie x

  13. Andreas says:

    Thanks for the info/tips on Varanasi. I am ‘over the hill” 70+ who has travelled much in USA and Europe (I lived in 5 countries over 10 years as research worker for governments). I have been wanting to travel to India but have been a little intimidated due to age and non-Euro destination. Of course, Vranasi is the big draw—as is Agra and Jaipur. Yes, it am retiree on a budget. I like the open, balanced approach you have. It is really the only sensible way to see things as they are. I like getting a sense of how it is to be/live there, where ever I go. It is good, you got out into the world. Life has much to offer those who are open. What suggestions do you have, please, for solo “older” traveller?. Thank you.

    • Sophie Pearce says:

      Hi Andreas, no worries and I hope you enjoy Varanasi! Kudos for you for travelling in your 70s that’s so inspiring and I hope that one day I will be rocking travel when I’m that age. You will be fine in India, there’s lot’s of cheap transport if you don’t want to walk but it’s easy enough if you do! In Varanasi, I would 100% book a guide and go on a sunrise boat ride to see the Ganga and the city wake up with the pilgrims washing in the morning. I would also see the Aarti at night. You can explore the markets and some of the temples in Varanasi. It’s a 24 hour city so if you don’t want noise, I would stay away a little from the Ganga in the Cantt area. It’s quite far from the river but it’s quiet. Or, if you don’t mind the noise, stay near the river in one of the guesthouses. There’s many! Blue Lassi is incredible and there’s also the Buddhist Sarnath which is a quick excursion away. Have an incredible time! Sophie x

  14. Linsey says:

    I have tried to contact Ravi but his number is not coming up on the Wassup app. Do you have any other contact information for him? I am going to Varanasi in February with 5 women.

    • Sophie Pearce says:

      Hi Linsey, I have a few people who are trying to contact Ravi. I’m also trying to contact him and find out some up to date details so when I get through, I will let you know. Sorry! Sophie

  15. Naru Mani says:

    Hi Sophie, thanks for sharing your experience and helping other co travellers. Thanks to movies and societal influene some men are too nasty, if anything is fishy immediately one should contact the local police without hesitation and be strong towards them in one’s reply and try to leave from their immediately. Smiling back and replying to a nasty men (which you don’t know in priori) is a green signal for them to trouble. Tourists must always carry a mobile phone and power bank full of charge in the beginning of the day so that in case of emergency they can contact for help, also save all local emergency numbers.

    • Sophie Pearce says:

      Hi Naru, thanks for your suggestions and yes I would definitely encourage women to call the tourist police. There is also a women’s helpline that can be contacted at 1090! Sophie x

  16. Natalie says:

    Hi Sophie,
    Thanks for your article. I am currently in India and have been trying to muster up the courage to travel to Varanasi. Your post has definitely reassured me, and I am planning to go within the next month! How did you reach Varanasi? By train? From where? Thank you for all of this great information.

    • Sophie Pearce says:

      Hi Natalie, I’m so happy my article is encouraging you to go! I loved Varanasi but you do have to go with an open mind and just try to be vigilant. The first time, I reached Varanasi by plane and then took a transfer there but this way takes too long. You can take an overnight train from Delhi to Varanasi. Or, an overnight bus/train from Agra too! I took an overnight sleeper bus from Agra the second time I went and it took around 12 hours. I’d say a train would be more comfortable. If you want some top tips for booking trains, see my post here. Or, take a look at Redbus.in here. I Hope this helps and have an amazing time! Sophie x

    • Sophie Pearce says:

      Hi Usha, as Ravi wasn’t an official tour guide there wasn’t a set rate. But, I paid around 2,000 rupees! :) Thanks, Sophie

  17. Dimitra says:

    Hello Sophie and thank you for taking the time to write these amazing articles. I’m traveling to India for the first time and initially I will be with friends in Rishikesh for 10 days for Navratri but then I will spend 20 more days solo. I thought to make Varanasi my second stop and I wanted to ask you how many days would you stay there, and if you have an updated contact number of Ravi, that would be helpful. The 2,000 rupees was a daily charge, right? (Just to have an idea). Thank you so much, looking forward hearing from you!

    • Sophie Pearce says:

      Hi Dimitra, that sounds like an amazing trip! Varanasi is definitely a stop you need ot make on your travels through India. I would recommend 2/3 days there really. 2 may be enough haha! Yes Ravi gave me an updated number recently actually (still need to update the post which you’ve reminded me -thanks!) +91 6394134742 and email is babu@hotmail.com too! Have a great trip- you’ll need to discuss fee with Ravi :) but it’s around that yes! Have an awesome time Sophie x

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