Guide To Traveling To Himachal Pradesh During Covid
When India went into lockdown to combat the rising threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry that was affected the most was the travel industry. Travel as we know it has ceased to exist in the country. Now that the country is opening up slowly, the travel worthy places are once again allowing access to travellers and tourists, but only under certain conditions.
Himachal Pradesh is one of the states that has started encouraging this kind of travel to boost their economy which is dependent on travel and tourism to sustain itself. Here’s everything you need to know about traveling to Himachal Pradesh during covid.
Himachal Regulations & Guidelines
Nearly all regulations have been lifted by the state, so the only thing that the visitors have to keep in mind is that they have to adhere to the social distancing guidelines while they are visiting the state.
Every tourist is required to install the Aarogya Setu app (which has been instrumental in tracking the COVID cases effectively) on their phones.
People travelling to Himachal Pradesh from a red zone like Mumbai or Pune have to apply for an e-pass. (apply for a vehicle permit e-pass as well if you will be taking your own vehicle)
People arriving in the state from red zones can also be asked to home quarantine for 10-14 days.
For a more in depth look at the regulations and guidelines, the Himachal Pradesh tourism website offers a comprehensive set of documents that you can read through before you plan your trip to the state.
Getting To Himachal Pradesh
The most issues you will face while attempting out of state travel during the pandemic, is during the actual transport. The availability of public transport is limited, and is encouraged only if travelling is absolutely necessary.
There are no direct trains going to Himachal from most of the country, so you’ll have to figure out the best way to travel to Delhi and take one of the 5 COVID special trains into Himachal.
Flights flying to Himachal Pradesh are extremely sparse and they are mostly reserved for those who need to travel as opposed to those who are traveling of their own volition.
Roadways are the best way of travelling during this pandemic. The state has recently cleared travel for its inter-state bus service, for people who are looking for an affordable transport option. You are going to have to find out if one such bus is travelling to Himachal from your state.
Even though the bus service has made it simpler for people to travel to the state once again, it is still advisable that you use private vehicles to travel, since you will significantly reduce the chance of potentially contracting the coronavirus.
Things To Keep In Mind When Traveling
Travel during a pandemic comes with its fair share of risks. You have to take all care possible to avoid coming in contact with people who are unfamiliar to you. Here are a couple of things you need to keep in mind while travelling.
Travel Alone Or In Small Groups
Try to travel alone if possible. If the number of people increases, so do the chances of contracting the virus. Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code (which dictates that more than 5 people cannot gather in one place at the same time) has been implemented time and again to combat crowding.
It is a good idea to keep the size of your group less than 5, so that you comply with the law automatically.
Use Private Transport
Using public transport to travel right now carries a certain level of risk with it, since it is impossible to figure out if any of your co-travellers could be carriers of the virus. Using private transport is a relatively safer bet, since you already know the people who you are travelling with and are aware of who they have/have not come in contact with in the 15 day period before the date of the travel. Which brings us to point 3.
Recheck For Infection
The best case scenario would be to get yourself and your co-travellers tested for the coronavirus. Until very recently, a negative COVID test, and a 14 day quarantine period was compulsory for people trying to travel to another state. In case you decide not to get tested (even though we recommend you do it as a safety measure), be sure to check and see if you or your co-travellers are exhibiting any symptoms associated with the infection. Talk to your fellow travellers and try to ascertain whether they have come in contact with any COVID +ve person in the last 15 days. You should take up the initiative to travel during this time, only if you have taken every precaution to prevent the possibility of contracting the virus.
Reduce Contact Based Transactions
Since minimising interaction is the ultimate goal, you can start off by doing the following.
i) Book every stay in advance via online transactions. ii) Pay for meals and other shopping items using UPI or other online wallets
Things To Carry When Traveling
Alcohol based hand sanitizer
Washable and reusable masks
Multiple changes of clothes (Avoid doing laundry)
Smartphone with Aarogya Setu app, and UPI payment app (Internet is required)
Covid Negative Certificate (Better to be safe than sorry)
Things To Do In Himachal When Traveling During Covid
The coronavirus primarily spreads through physical contact. In that case crowded places and popular tourist spots become a potential hotspot for the spread of cases. Avoid places that are always crowded, like the Mall Road in Shimla, Solang Valley in Manali etc.
Here’s what you can do instead.
Paragliding in Bir Billing
Bir Billing is a small village some 65km away from Dharamshala. It is remote enough to not attract too many tourists,and the paragliding itself is an individual activity (although you will have a guide with you while paragliding).
Trekking is a great way of ensuring that you don’t come in contact with many people. Luckily, Himachal Pradesh has many great treks of varying difficulties. Try opting for the less popular ones since you are bound to run into more people on a popular trek route. Try the trek routes that are away from tourist hubs like Manali. Here are 3 that are good relative beginners. 1) Kheerganga Trek, Kasol 2) Indrahar Pass Trek, Dharamshala 3) Triund Trek, Mcleodganj
You will most likely run into fewer people in Kasol,Mcleodganj, and Dharamshala than in hubs like Manali and Shimla.
If you are a more experienced trekker, then you can go trekking on slightly more challenging routes like:
Sar Pass Trek, Kasol
Prashar Lake Trek, Mandi
Don’t forget to carry tents, sleeping bags, food and water supplies and plenty of thermals to keep yourself warm. You will get plenty of opportunities to stargaze during nighttime
Given the current circumstances, there has never been a better time for indoor vacations to become the norm. By keeping the travel part of travelling to a minimum, you will automatically reduce the chance of spreading or getting the virus. Luckily, areas like Kasol have some fantastic homestays, and isolated resorts that you can choose from.
Here’s a few we recommend
The Himalayan Village
Make sure to do your own research and check if these places are adhering to the safety protocols properly, before booking.
While it is still discouraged to travel for leisure during the pandemic, a certain part of the economy depends on it. People in states like Himachal Pradesh, depend on the tourism sector for a livelihood. In such cases, it becomes the prerogative of the traveller as well as the host state to ensure that the arrival of the guests is not putting people in undue danger.
If you follow the rules and guidelines issued by the state, and vehemently stick to the physical distancing act, then you can use your traveling enjoy yourself as well as do some good.