Dharmalaya FAQ for Visitors & Volunteers > About Dharmalaya > What do I need to know about safety for women and girls?
Female travellers are advised to be vigilant when travelling anywhere in India, and as much as possible to avoid travelling alone, at night, or in dark or crowded places. The safest ways for women to travel in India are by plane or by train (preferably in the upper classes, which are less crowded and generally somewhat more secure), or by car with a known and trusted driver. If you must travel by bus, then choosing a reputable private bus company is strongly recommended, as there are many incidents of inappropriate behavior toward women on government buses. Please be aware that there is an alarming number of cases in which women travelling by public transportation in India (especially at night) have been subjected to varying degrees of inappropriate or violent behavior by male passengers, and in many of these cases the other passengers have failed to provide support when needed. For this reason, we really can’t recommend travelling by government bus or the lower classes of the trains in India until a larger cultural shift takes place.
For all female travellers, and especially for those travelling alone, we strongly recommend travelling by plane, train (upper classes only, e.g. 2nd AC or executive chair car), or private transportation with a known and trusted driver. You can either fly to Dharamshala (Gaggal airport) or take a train to Pathankot, and then take a taxi or daytime bus on from there to Bir. (See the Bir Portal for travel tips.)
The town of Bir itself is generally much safer than most places in the plains of India, as the people here are remarkably gentle and respectful. Still, women staying in Bir or the surrounding area are advised to follow two safety rules of thumb that are a good idea anywhere in South Asia (which most local women also tend to follow, as a cultural norm): Don’t go out alone late at night, and steer clear of men who have been drinking alcohol.
Once at the Dharmalaya Institute, women can rest assured of being safe and well respected. Dharmalaya and the surrounding village area is a peaceful place with gentle, respectful people. Here, everyone (male and female) regards women as daughters, sisters, and mothers, to be respected and protected, so we feel confident saying you should not have any unpleasant encounters here. (Just be aware that, whenever you leave Dharmalaya to go somewhere else, you should take a friend along with you and not travel alone or at night, just like anyplace else in India.)
The Dharmalaya community takes the safety and security for women very seriously. We have separate accommodation for females only, and our staff members are instructed to do everything that can be done to keep our campus safe. In the unlikely event that any of our guests might encounter an uncomfortable or inappropriate situation, we urge everyone to report any such incident to us so that we can take the appropriate action to ensure both safety and comfort.
Last updated on 1 Apr, 2015 by Dharmalaya Institute