I am pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from Carol, a member of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Carol is from Australia, and submitted the following report about her trip to Varanasi. Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!
Solo Travel Rating: 2 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult. Please see chart below)
Languages Spoken: Hindi, English
Costs at Destination: Cheap-Reasonable (local transportation, dining, tours, events, and attractions)
Reasons to Visit Varanasi
I thought there would be streetlights. Instead, I had to follow the sound of voices, hoping there were no steps or uneven ground as I made my way just before dawn to the starting point for my first group walking tour in India, at the morning Aarti ceremony to wake Mother Ganga in Varanasi.
Daybreak gradually illuminated the misty, cold river bank where braziers burned in front of monks making smoky offerings and chanting prayers unchanged for centuries. With the the low visibility, typical of wintertime India, our guide postponed the obligatory boat trip on the iconic ghat-filled river until later (note many tour companies do not). Instead, he took us to witness the morning routine at a local temple, watch wrestlers doing their warm-up exercises, and then to enjoy a very welcome and warming chai drink with beanie and blanket-clad local gents as they chatted about the morning news.
That same afternoon I joined a group food tour and we were soon lost down a maze of narrow alleyways to sample the tasty snacks, sweets, and desserts made by local family businesses–totally different from what you get in the West. I particularly enjoyed the ritual of saving washing up by smashing the terracotta food vessels (to be recycled). Then we went up some steep steps to a rooftop vantage point to watch flower sellers negotiate for their marigolds and fragrant rose petals, all hidden away behind the teeming, noisy Varanasi streets.
For a solo trip to Varanasi, local tours are a very cost-effective way to cover a lot of ground and meet similarly minded travelers. My tip for Varanasi is to stay as close to the river as possible, as that’s where the action is, otherwise you'll wonder what the fuss is all about.
I traveled around India by plane with pre-booked hotel taxis from the airport, which gave me a sense of security. Roobaroo Walks in Varanasi offered the walking and food tours that I took and I stayed right on the Ganges at the Hotel Ganges View, both of which I would highly recommend.
Solo Travel Destination Rating System
Safety – 2 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)
Language – 2 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)
Navigation – 1 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)
Culture – 3 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)
Average Rating – 2 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult)