Holi is one of the most popular festivals celebrated in India and attracts travelers who want to experience the joyous and carefree attitude of its giant color fight. Although the festival of colors is often a great experience, there have been some safety issues surrounding the holiday in the past.
The answer is that Holi is likely safe for travelers as long they are prepared, follow the advice of travel guides and hotel staff, and also pay attention to a few important tips. Keep reading to learn more about Holi's safety concerns and some important tips for staying safe and healthy during the celebrations.
Holi Safety Concerns
Holi is meant to celebrate the pure joy and happiness of the victory of good over evil and while most people take to the streets with that goal in mind, there are some that use the anonymity of the color fight to commit crimes. Every year, there are crimes committed during Holi ranging from petty to more serious.
Holi is also a concern for female travelers. In large crowds during the celebrations, some men feel that they can get away with inappropriate touching. This an issue for both Indian women and foreign travelers. Read our Holi precautions for female travelers below to learn how to celebrate Holi safely as a woman.
The colored powders used during Holi are beautiful, but can also contain harsh chemicals. When participating in the color fight, you will need to protect your skin, hair, eyes, and mouth. You will also need to be careful when washing off the colors because using harsh soaps can dry out your skin and hair.
General Holi Safety Tips
During Holi, people of all ages and from all social classes pour into the streets of India to celebrate and play colors together. Most problems that occur during the festival are caused by people who consume too much alcohol and get too rowdy during the celebrations.
When experiencing Holi in India it is best to celebrate in the early morning and return to your hotel before the celebrations get too rough and the hooligans take to the streets.
Holi safety tips:
- Book your hotels and accommodation well in advance. Holi is a popular time to visit India and hotels can book up quickly. It's never a good idea to arrive in India for Holi without a hotel booked as you may not find one, or if you do find one it may be dirty and unsafe.
- Be vigilant and stay with your group during the celebrations. Holi celebrations often include large crowds where everyone is covered in colors making it difficult to recognize your friends or family.
- Always celebrate Holi in a group. If you are traveling alone, you can join up with a group of other travelers from your hotel or join a Holi tour.
- It's best to find a group of families or women to celebrate with because they will be less rowdy and will take travelers in and protect them from hooligans.
- Don't bring any valuables with you out on the streets during the celebration as they could be ruined or taken.
- Bhang thandai is a popular Holi drink that is laced with cannabis paste. Travelers should avoid drinking it or only drink it in moderation to ensure they don't get overwhelmed or anxious during the festivities.
- It is important to bring a lot of water with you and stay hydrated. Holi takes place in March which is during India's hot season when temperatures often reach above 40°C (104°F).
- Stick with throwing colors and avoid using water balloons or water guns.
- If you have skin allergies or asthma then it is best to avoid Holi altogether.
Holi Precautions for Female Travelers
Before deciding you want to experience Holi in India, it is important to note that the festival of colors can be a dangerous time for women.
During the celebrations, groups of rowdy and intoxicated Indian men can pose a threat. These men are often drunk and take advantage of their features being hidden to get away with inappropriate touching or assault.
Precautions for female travelers:
Always ask your hotel staff or guide for safety advice if traveling alone during Holi.
- Choose a city that has safer Holi celebrations. Pushkar is one of the safest places to celebrate Holi in India. We recommend avoiding Mathura and Vrindavan unless on a guided tour.
- Always celebrate Holi in a group. You can either go to India in a group or join up with other travelers while there.
- If someone acts inappropriate towards you, the best response is to make a scene so that others around you can help.
- Find groups of families or Indian women to celebrate with. If you are celebrating with other Indians it is likely to scare off anyone who may act inappropriately towards you.
- Stay sober and vigilant during the celebrations.
- Consider booking a hotel that offers private Holi celebrations so that you can return and celebrate in your hotel if the color fight in the streets gets too overwhelming.
- Staying in a homestay with an Indian family is a great way to get a more authentic cultural experience and celebrate safely.
- It is important to dress modestly during the celebrations by covering your legs, arms, and chest.
- Don't use public transportation such as buses or metros during Holi.
- Go out into the streets for the color fight in the early morning and return to your hotel before the peak celebration hours.
- Know that celebrating Holi in the streets likely means that men will touch your face, arms, and legs to put color on you.
Protecting Yourself from the Colored Powders
The colored powder used during Holi is beautiful and bright, but creating those brilliant colors often requires harsh chemicals that can dry or damage your skin and hair. In order to protect yourself from the colored powders, it is best to use organic colors and avoid synthetic colors. Organic colors are not only better for your skin but are also much better for the environment.
Your safest bet is to use more reds and pinks as they often have more natural ingredients. Colors like bright purple, orange, yellow, and green are more likely to contain harsh chemicals.
Synthetic Holi colors contain harsh chemicals, it's best to always use natural colors when possible.
How to protect yourself from Holi colors:
- If you can't buy natural colors, you can try buying normal colors from a well-known store with a good reputation as their colors will contain better ingredients.
- Try to cover as much skin as possible with clothing. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts are a good idea. You may also want to wear a scarf to protect your chest and neck.
- Protect your skin and hair by coating your entire body in coconut oil. This will moisturize your skin and also make the colors easier to wash off.
- Cover your hair with a hat, bandana, or turban. Holi colors can dry and damage your hair quickly so its best if you prevent the colors from touching your hair at all.
- Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses. Whatever glasses you wear during Holi will get ruined, so make sure its a pair you don't mind throwing away.
- Keep your mouth closed as much as possible during the color fight to prevent yourself from breathing in too much powder.
- Put a thick coat of dark nail polish on your nails to prevent them from being dyed.
Washing off the Colors After Holi
It normally takes around an hour for each person to wash off all the colors from Holi and even afterward some will likely still stain your skin and hair! In order to make the colors easier to wash off, it is necessary to put a thick coat of coconut or almond oil on all visible skin before the color fight.
Tips for Washing off Holi Colors:
- Use gentle soaps and shampoos. The colored powder will dry your skin and hair so you don't want to use harsh soaps that will dry you out further.
- Always wash with cold water because hot water can make the colors run and stain your skin more easily.
- If your skin or hair are stained after Holi, its best just to accept your new colors and wait until they fade. Taking frequent baths or washing your face over and over can damage your skin and make you lose hair.
- A local recipe for removing Holi colors from your skin is to apply a mask of yogurt and gram flour. These ingredients can be easily purchased at markets in India.
- A common Indian way to reverse damage to your hair is to apply mustard oil to it after your first shampoo. Mustard oil is quite smelly but is full of nutrients and can bring life back to your hair after the harmful chemicals have stripped your natural oils.