I have used औरत in some areas of India (Punjab/Rajasthan) and wasn't immediately understood. It might have been my pronunciation ;-), unless another word is more common in some places? महिला maybe? Do some regions Sanskritise more than others?
महिला is really uncommon in casual speech. औरत is what everyone uses. If they don't understand औरत, just say ledij (ladies). Make the e and i vowel sound very very short. Also, one woman = ledij and multiple women = ledij लोग
Everyone will surely understand. :D
Maybe pronunciation :) Also, if you're a man, they may have been wondering why you were talking about ladies.... hmm?
Another word is zanānī.