By Eve Willis

India is a vast, colourful and diverse nation. Charm, chaos and culture is around every corner and it is a wonderful place to visit. However, despite the fact that India has become an increasingly popular tourist destination, especially for the female solo-traveller it is not a place to completely forget your inhibitions and let your guard down. Accompanying the religious sights and cultural attractions are the different customs and laws that can seem strange to western visitors but breaking these rules could land you in very serious trouble!

Here are five important laws and customs to know before travelling to India:


  • Public displays of affection can be illegal in some areas if considered a public nuisance, resulting in fines and even up to 3 months in prison. Be aware of your surroundings, and if you are with a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife respect the cultural sensitivities.


  • Respect local dress codes and customs. India is a conservative country and you should cover up when appropriate – carry a shawl with you to do so. Dressing more like the locals will help you avoid unwanted attention and make you feel safer.


  • Drugs are illegal in India and carry hefty punishments. For personal use it can be a minimum of 6 months in prison and if you have enough to be considered trafficking 10 years can be spent in prison. Don’t end up in a Bridget Jones scenario, as Mark Darcy will not be coming to get you out!

  • If you do get into trouble, it is important to be aware that only female officers can escort a woman to the police station – if there isn’t one, don’t go. Also, you have the right to refuse going between 6pm and 6am, and a written request from the magistrates will be required to break these rules.

  • Another important thing to note when in India is the drinking laws, which vary hugely across the country. Consumption of alcohol is prohibited in Bihar, Gujarat, Kerala, Manipur, Nagaland and the union territory of Lakshadweep. The consumption or possession of alcohol in these states can lead to arrest without bail and charges that carry sentences between 5 and 10 years. In Goa, drinking on the beach is now banned and can lead to arrests.

India is an incredible country, and women should not be put off travelling there. However, it is important to remember your surroundings, respect the cultural differences and obey the local laws and customs in order to have a safe trip.