Security fears dog many foreign tourists
Long list of dont’s: Foreign women visiting the Taj city say they follow an advisory , like not venturing out alone, not wearing short skirts or revealing clothes and always sticking to a group. Most of them say they would not come here alonelucknow Updated: Apr 09, 2018 14:36 IST
The negative publicity that India has attracted of late about rape and molestation of women has led to foreign tourists becoming extra cautious, wondering whether it is safe to visit the country as a solo traveller.
Retired teacher from England Edna Rhodes, 74, part of a group visiting the Taj, is composed and confident but she too shares the concern as she advises travellers to come in groups.
“We were advised to avoid revealing dresses and opt for clothes which covered us. Short skirts were out. However, I find no harm in such an advisory. Those coming from abroad have their own culture but they should respect the traditions of the place they visit.”-Sheelagh Stewart from Scotland
Edna Rhodes and her friend June Alldritt enjoy travelling but are also in a group.
“I find myself much safer visiting places, including India. One needs to study about the place being visited and your safety depends on yourself. I am enjoying India and find it as safe as anywhere else,” said Edna but this may be because she is in a group.
Sharing her views with HT in a discussion on women’s security here on Friday, Edna felt no special threat here but admitted that a tourist should come well prepared, avoid unknown places and remain in a group, more so if she is a woman.
Sheelagh Stewart from Scotland, another tourist , admitted that she was advised to not venture out alone and visit India as part of a group, assisted by a guide who was well acquainted with locals.
Resting at the sand stone seat at Taj Mahal, Stewart talked about other precautions advised before coming to Indian cities, including avoiding western dresses.
“We were advised to avoid revealing dresses and opt for clothes which covered us. Short skirts were out. However, I find no harm in such an advisory. Those coming from abroad have their own culture but they should respect the traditions of the place they visit,” said Sheelagh Stewart who has already visited Delhi, Jaipur and Varanasi.
“No, I would never come alone. I would always prefer a group with a local guide... the news I read about the Irish girl being killed in Goa scared me, prompting me to be more cautious.”-Joan from Abu Dhabi
Margaret Phillipson from the United Kingdom was rather liberal when talking about Agra and said that women were ‘unsafe’ across the globe. This was not something specific to India. Being the senior most among the group of 17 women and 5 men, Margaret admitted that it was ‘scary’ to move alone as a tourist and so they did not take any chances but followed the instructions of the guide while remaining in the group.
Joan, a teacher in an Abu Dhabi (UAE) school, said that the group had heard about an Irish girl killed in Goa and this scared them.
“When coming to India, we were advised to remain in a group and to be careful about dressing. So most of the members of our group chose to wear Indian attire, women opting for sarees and men for kurta and pyjama,” she said.
“No, I would never come alone. I would always prefer a group with a local guide. A shopkeeper in Agra suggested we buy Indian dresses and we found it sensible. This Indian dress makes us part of the local crowd and we feel comfortable,” she said.
“Coming from another Asian country, Abu Dhabi, India was not so strange but the news I read about the Irish girl being killed in Goa scared me, prompting me to be more cautious. Even the guides told us to not move out alone,” she said.
“Security is an outcome of various factors and orderly traffic system allowing hassle free movement for tourists can be one of the measures for making travelling safer.”-Heidi Spoljaric, Germany
A guide from Haipur, Rakesh Kumar Sharma, who joined the discussion, admitted that there was a cultural gap between tourists and a totally new city. He expressed concern over growing road protests and increasing liquor consumption, saying these were as factors which made tourists feel insecure.
“The language barrier also needs to be addressed properly to make the visitors feel more at home,” he said.
Heidi Spoljaric, a German dressed in a traditional Indian ‘salwar kurta’, said India was no different from any other nation and one could not indict India on law and order situation.
“Security is an outcome of various factors and orderly traffic system allowing hassle free movement for tourists can be one of the measures for making travelling safer,” said Heidi.
“A tourist should come well prepared, avoid unknown places and remain in a group, more so if she is a woman.”-Edna Rhodes, England
“More women staff at places visited by tourists can bring in the required change and make women travellers feel comfortable,” suggested Gary Rhodes, a male member in group. In fact, he was rather surprised as to why there were different queues for men and women at tourist spots which forced them to go separately while touring a place. He said foreign tourists, both male and female, should be allowed to stand in the same queue as they wanted to stay together.
Rajeev Tiwari, who leads Travel Federation of Agra and is president of ‘Parytan Mitra’ a body constituted to extend legal and strategic assistance to tourists having complaints, said, “Earlier, we had many solo travellers, including girls, coming to visit our city. The girls were mostly students and carried tour guide books in hands. They were omnipresent, even venturing to remote places and going near to monuments and markets.”
“It is ‘scary’ to move alone as a tourist and so we follow the instructions of the guide while remaining in the group.”-Margaret Phillipson from UK
“These sights are rare now and women coming to the city of Taj Mahal come as part of a group which has a plan chalked out, mostly for a day’s stay in the city. We have to face loss of business and must admit that this is because we have failed to instil confidence in women visiting our nation.”