Five Safe Places to Visit in South India
It's understandable that some tourists would feel a little uneasy about visiting a new country with completely different traditions to their own for the first time.
In this hub, therefore, I'm introducing five safe places to visit in India when you're new to this country.
No place in the world is absolutely safe, however. So below the description of each recommended place you'll also find some safety tips applicable to that location.
Varkala - One of the Safest Tourist Places to Visit in India
Varkala is one of the safest, if not the safest, places to visit for tourists new to India.
It's the place of extraordinary beauty, and that's one of the greatest reasons visitors come here.
This beach town has many narrow winding sandy roads filled with coconut trees on both sides, leading you to open mini-coconut-plantations that are actually the front-yards of the people living there!
Locals have a really uplifting and peculiar taste of decor.
You will find many beautifully designed houses with traditional wood-carved verandas.
Locals paint their homes in bright colors such as pink, green, yellow or purple!
But this perfectly fits the overall sunny and tropical flower-filled landscape, already colorful even without the human intervention.
The tourist part of Varkala is situated on a quite high (in some areas) cliff.
That's where all the shops and restaurants are located.
If the weather isn't too hot, walking along the cliff is pleasurable and gives you a breathtaking view of Varkala beach.
The sunsets are extraordinary there - sometimes I see tourists standing in groups to take pictures of its magnificence!
Another great thing about Varkala is the food. Keralan food is one of the healthiest and tastiest foods in India.
In quite a few local eateries you can find local sweet snacks made from completely natural ingredients and steam-cooked.
You can also find many local eateries offering:
- Parotas, which is a traditional pancake-chapati-like side dish. You can eat it on its own though - at least I do!
- Coconut and cashew-nut based vegetarian curries cooked in coconut oil.
- Excellent beef fry - beef bits fried in coconut oil and local spices.
- Great fish fry - freshly caught local fish fried in traditional Kerala style, served with lemon and green chili.
- Masala dosa - a healthy vegetarian dish made with soaked rice, lentils and fenugreek seeds filled with a spicy potato filling.
...and many other local delicacies offered at a low price.
Below I have listed safety tips for visiting Varkala. You may notice that I've listed more of them than for other mentioned places, but that's only because I know Varkala very well, so I naturally list more things to be aware of.
Varkala Safety Tips
- Don't engage with beach boys, room staff or waiters on a personal level - they will definitely try to chat you up if you're single (it doesn't matter if you are male or female). They're after your money or some other benefit from you - please read tips No. 6 and 8 of this post to learn more.
- Stay away from the cliff during monsoon time - since there's no rail or fence around it, it can get quite unsafe. The cliff is slowly deteriorating year by year, and sometimes big parts of the land collapse during monsoon time.
- Don't walk late in the evening through the helipad area to reach the local beach - that's the main car parking space right before the main entry to the Varkala cliff. Late evening it's frequented by local men who may be drunk. Some assaults against women were reported in that area.
- I advise against yoga or massage practices there due to new visitors' misunderstanding about what these practices in India stand for. Please read my post about yoga dangers to understand this more in detail. When it comes to massage, most of it is unprofessional or done by men who have more than your health in mind, if you know what I mean!
The Second Safest Place to Stay in India - Fort Kochin
Fort Kochin used to be a fishing village before it became a Portuguese and then Dutch colony.
Now it's a major tourist hub that attracts travelers because of its welcoming people, the colonial feel of certain houses, and the fact that it's a really safe place to visit.
The island has a nice feel about it - when you walk down its colonial streets it feels peaceful and the walk is enjoyable due to the fact that the streets are clean and there are only a few passers-by around.
Kochi has several good places to eat, and the nearby Ernakulam city is good for some serious shopping.
In Fort Kochin you can find quite a few churches, though those are the Roman Catholic ones - they worship the idol of Mary, as Romans have retained their Babylonian religion through the guise of being Christians, thus incorporating pagan worship details into churches.
Fort Kochi also has some cultural shows, but I don't advise watching them since Kathakali actors and traditional martial arts students allow demon spirits to come through them in order to perform better. This is known in Kerala as a good thing, though demon-possession in the West isn't seen in the same way due to obvious reasons.
This is dangerous even for those who sit and watch the show, but most people have no understanding of such things and think it's just a fun entertainment.
Having experienced these spirits myself, I beg to differ.
So if you stay away from such traps, Fort Kochin can be a nice place to visit.
There's also an air-conditioned bus service taking you to the airport, which is convenient if you fly from Cochin International Airport.
Kochin Safety Tips
- Beware of mosquitoes. Some places, especially in the evening, might attract a generous amount of them, so make sure you apply diluted lemongrass oil on your skin or have some other protection against insects. Don't leave your hotel windows open in the evening and at dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
- Avoid talking with people who randomly approach you. These are the ones who target tourists every day in order to get commission or make money from them in some other way. Or maybe they just want to develop a relationship with you in the hope that you'll help them to leave India - doesn't matter if you are a man or woman.
The Third Safest Indian Travel Destination - Alleppey
Alleppey, also called Alappuzha, is another safe choice for new visitors to India.
It has stunning backwaters and beautiful beaches.
Although most tourists decide to rent a houseboat to explore the backwaters, a lesser known and safe activity is to get a local bus to one of the nearby beaches.
Buses in Alleppey are usually not crowded, but do keep an eye on your belongings if you use this public transport option.
Alleppey buses will give you an unforgettable experience of this town, since they will take you through scenic villages filled with lush greenery, and you will get to witness a truly traditional village life.
Alleppey Beaches are picturesque - on your right I've included a picture of an empty beach I visited for you to see its beauty.
Many stunning beaches are empty or have some local fishermen. Since the public road is close, this makes those beaches quite safe to visit even if you are alone. But, of course, for extra safety, it's better to visit them with some other person, especially if you are a woman.
Alleppey Safety Tips
- Avoid food poisoning by eating in places popular with tourists or locals.
- You may spot water snakes in backwaters, but they are harmless, according to locals.
- Wear generous amount of oil or lotion to protect yourself against mosquitoes - backwaters attract a good deal of them.
The Fourth Safest Indian Travel Place - Panjim
Panjim, also called Panaji, is a clean and beautiful colonial town located in the state of Goa.
Although Goa is known for its parties, beaches and nightlife, this place has a totally different feel to it. It's more suitable for long walks, admiring church architecture and shopping.
Panjim has several good bookstores and quality clothing stores such as Fabindia.
Whilst it's located in the state of Goa, it abounds in restaurants offering Keralan cuisine - arguably the best cuisine in India - having such dishes as masala dosa, idli and appam.
People living in Panjim are likely to leave you alone, in a huge contrast with many other places of India where a foreigner feels like the centre of attention.
This could be a good thing, or a bad thing - it depends on whether you like to stay low profile or like to be noticed! Though for most people who've been exploring India for a while, being not noticed is a welcome change!
Panjim Safety Tips
- Refuse to allow anyone to clean your ears! Some men may approach you offering their ear-cleaning services. A traveler reported that they carry dirty ear buds and then show them to be your own, in order to charge you more for such cleaning.
- Goa is becoming famous for organized crime, and although it's more applicable to beach areas then to towns such as Panjim, do stay aware.
The Fifth Safest Destination in India - Trivandrum
I just love the old name of Trivandrum. It's this - Thiruvananthapuram. Can you pronounce it fast?
It's the city where I have rented a house for six months, and I've been visiting it for the last four years.
I fell in love with this city because of its...
- beautiful lush greenery (it's one of the greenest cities in India),
- non-intrusive people (though not always!),
- clean surroundings,
- the ease of living due to a large choice of shops and restaurants.
Trivandrum is great for buying traditional clothing and materials, as it abounds in shops selling such items.
This city, however, offers only a few western-style cafes, so you might not be able to get your perfect cup of latte or cappuccino there.
There are only two good coffee shops in the city - Cafe Coffee Day and Cherries and Berries. Others are only average, and even those are few!
Trivandrum has many ice-cream parlors selling truly good quality ice-cream - with real pieces of fruit and quality milk.
Look for Baskin-Robbins outlets or places advertising Italian Gelato to taste the best ice-cream in the city.
Many, but not all, rickshaw drivers are honest and will turn on a meter by themselves as soon as you step into their vehicle.
The city is well-planned (to Indian standards, that is), so it can be pleasurable to just drive through it and see its lush greenery and beautiful buildings.
Although I've been living in Trivandrum for six months, each day I felt like a tourist, because there was always something new to see, as the city is huge and every street is very different.
Trivandrum also home to a few good hospitals - an important facility which some places of India severely lack.
Trivandrum Safety Tips
- Don't engage with any men who randomly approach you - this happens rarely in this city, but you do get approached sometimes. These men see you as an easy target to get some money from you or to benefit from you in some other way.
- When using a rickshaw, ask drivers to turn on the meter. They must do it by law, but sometimes they refuse in order to cheat newcomers. If they refuse, take another rickshaw.
- Don't go out when it's late. It's a city, not a tourist hub, so you'll find nothing to do, and you may attract some unwelcome attention.
Based on my own experiences of living in India, I've shared with you the places where I wouldn't be afraid to take someone totally new to India.
Please Take This Short Poll!
Which place, from the list, would you like to see most?
But although the mentioned places are safe, no place in the world is totally problem-free.
So whether you decide to visit my mentioned places or other places in India, please always keep an eye on your personal belongings and don't talk with people who approach you on the street.
Also, make sure to read my other Top 10 Safety Tips When Traveling Alone in India. Although the post is written for women, most points apply to men too.