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Women travel solo, off the beaten path

Zubeda Hamid
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It’s seen as unsafe and hands are wrung every time it’s suggested but that doesn’t seem to have stopped it. On the contrary, the number of women travelling solo, both within India and abroad, is on the rise, say travel agencies and portals.

A survey conducted by MakeMyTrip.com in May revealed that 44 per cent of women leisure travellers in the country have travelled alone, of which 70 per cent had toured within the country and 10 per cent had gone abroad.

“Over the last few years, we have seen queries and bookings from women travellers increase significantly,” said Mohit Gupta, chief business officer (holidays), MakeMyTrip.

Shibani Phadkar, senior vice-president of Thomas Cook, said the company had seen a 15 per cent increase in the number of solo women travellers from Chennai since last year.

“The rise in these numbers has prompted us to offer personalised itineraries which include spa and wellness programmes, classes with top chefs and retail therapy at couture houses,” she said.

Other indulgences and services include art classes, meditation sessions, various tasting sessions and, for group women tours, a woman tour manager and women agency representatives to handle any crises.

While getaways and relaxation trips are popular, so is backpacking and tours of spiritual destinations.

City-based freelance architect Avanti Pethe for instance, is an avid backpacker. Armed with a Lonely Planet guidebook, she has travelled across Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, visited Delhi and Leh, used local transport and stayed in budget accommodation.

“My family was very supportive. I have had great experiences wherever I have gone,” the 25-year-old said.

Solo travellers make up five per cent of the Yatra.com’s total bookings, said president Sharat Dhall. “While at present, there are more male single travellers than women, the latter segment is on the rise,” he said.

Reasons for the rise include increasing incomes and paucity of time to coordinate holidays with others, experts said. Goa, Ladakh, Rajasthan, Rishikesh and Kashmir are popular destinations, agencies said. In the south, Ooty, Kodaikanal and Coorg were sought-after said a representative of SBLT Holidays, Chennai.

Thailand, Dubai, Macau, Europe, Malaysia and Singapore are the hotspots abroad.

Age is no bar to solo woman travelling: 77-year-old Vasanthi Sankaranarayanan has travelled alone since the 1980s. “I have gone on group tours as well, but travelling solo has certain advantages – you are free to see and do what you want,” she said.

The septuagenarian has fond memories of travelling and making friends across England, Italy, Greece, Philippines and Australia.

“The main thing is,” she said, “you should be fearless.”

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