What To Keep In Mind When Traveling to Odisha During Covid
While planning for a trip somewhere in India, Odisha is somehow never on a mainstream traveler’s bucket list. This is how the state earned the name, ‘India’s Best Kept Secret. Which is kind of sad, because of all the amazing things this eastern state has to offer. The intricate temple carvings, the rich culture and vast wilderness make Odisha a place worth visiting.
Over 8 months into the lockdown may have left you wanting a change of scenery. Odisha can offer you just that, but is it safe to travel just yet? If you ask us, we’ll advise you that it’s not safe to travel with the threat of Covid still looming about. But if you’re determined to go to Odisha, we can help you plan and travel in the safest way possible.
Getting to Odisha
Traveling to Odisha is now quite simple because the state government has removed most restrictions. Here are the ways you can get to Odisha.
The Odisha Government requires that only asymptomatic travelers make the flight to Odisha.
International passengers arriving in Odisha are mandated to be in 7 to 14 days of institutional quarantine at their own cost, and 7 days of home quarantine. You must produce a coronavirus self-declaration form and register yourself on the state portal.
Alternatively, if you have a report of a negative RT-PCR test taken 96 hours before your journey, you can skip the quarantine. Make sure that you upload said report on the state portal.
Domestic passengers are exempt from quarantine if they’re asymptomatic but are to self-monitor their health for 14 days. Those who are symptomatic will be taken to the nearest Covid care facility.
International and domestic passengers both will be subject to thermal screening and must have the Aarogya Setu app installed on their phones.
At the entry points of railway stations, you’ll be subject to thermal screening and be let inside only if you’re asymptomatic. Keep in mind that owing to Covid, most trains will not have a pantry car. Those that do have pantry cars would only serve pre-packaged food. So you’ll need to check before booking a ticket and also pack your own food, if needed.
For those opting to travel by bus to Odisha, thermal screening at the bus stops will be compulsory and only the asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to board.
Odisha has otherwise removed all restrictions for intrastate and interstate road travel. A good idea would be to travel in your personal vehicle, if you have one. There are two major advantages to this: you won’t be bogged down by the Covid norms, and since you’re in your own vehicle, there is a much lesser risk of Covid transmission unlike in public transport.
However, driving for long distances can get really tiring. So if you’re visiting Odisha with a group of friends/family who can drive, you can switch with them.
Whatever your chosen mode of transport may be, don’t compromise on wearing masks, practising social distancing and regular washing of your hands. Also, they’re mandated.
Places To Visit In Odisha
Widely known as the ‘Kashmir of Odisha’, Daringbadi is a beautiful hill station that is a perfect destination, particularly for the leisurely traveler. This town is nestled in the Eastern Ghats and surrounded by verdant hills with coffee plantations and pine forests which drop down to deep valleys. Also, Daringbadi has the distinction of being the only place in Odisha that has snowfall, though it’s not much. Considering how hot the rest of the state is, it’ll be a wonderful respite from the heat.
You can stay at the locally-run Daringbadi Nature Camp and live life the traditional Odiya way and also get to meet the local tribes – the Kuthia Konda and the Dongri Khond. But of course, keep in mind the social distancing rules.
While relaxing amongst the trees and coffee plantations are definitely the things you can do, the forests and ghats surrounding Daringbadi also offer opportunities for adventure travel. By setting out on treks and safaris, you can experience Daringbadi’s flora and fauna to its fullest, and have a memorable holiday.
Nearest Airport:Biju Patnaik International Airport, Bhubaneswar
Nearest Railway Station: Brahmapur
Road: Daringbadi is well-connected with major cities with public transport and taxis available.
Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves
The history and architecture buff is sure to visit the temples in Bhubaneswar. But a mere 6 kilometers outside the city are two hills – Udayagiri and Khandagiri. These hills are full of ancient rock-cut temples and caves, which are sure to allure them.
The Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves were built in the 2nd century BC by King Kharavela of Kalinga as a place of accommodation and meditation for Jain monks. The inscriptions in one of the caves, the Hathigumpha, narrate the military expeditions of King Kharavela. The Ranigumpha, on the other hand, is a two-storied cave adorned with intricate sculptures that seem ahead of their times.
While the inscription at Hathigumpha mentions 117 caves, only 33 of them still exist. But they still offer a deep insight into the history of Jainism in the region as well as King Kharavela’s life. Despite the proximity to Bhubaneswar, this cave complex is sure to immerse you to a time long bygone.
Nearest Airport:Biju Patnaik International Airport, Bhubaneswar
Nearest Railway Station: Bhubaneswar
Road:These caves are well-connected to major cities. Since Bhubaneswar is close by, you shouldn’t have trouble getting here.
Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary
This 350 sq km patch of wilderness is in western Odisha. As this sanctuary is located between the Hirakud Dam (built over the Mahanadi River) and its reservoir, it is home to a wide variety of both terrestrial and aquatic species.
Monsoons in Debrigarh are heavy and you’ll get to see cascading waterfalls. However, the best time to visit Debrigarh is during the winter months of January and February, when a large number of migratory birds arrive at the Hirakud reservoir, attracted by the large wetland. The bird enthusiast wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to sight and photograph them.
As a wildlife traveler, you may need time to explore the sanctuary properly. So you can even stay overnight by the Hirakud reservoir and experience tranquility. Also, the safari services have resumed at Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary. Keeping the pandemic in mind, it’s preferable to book an entire 4-seater vehicle to yourself so that you can observe Odisha’s wildlife while being isolated from other visitors.
Nearest Airport:Biju Patnaik International Airport, Bhubaneshwar
Nearest Railway Station: Sambalpur Junction
Road:Sambalpur, the nearest town, is well connected with major cities. You can easily hire a cab from here.
Things To Remember
Ensure social distancing always – masks, sanitizers and keeping 6 feet distance from others.
If you’ve developed symptoms of even a regular flu before the trip, it’s best that you cancel it.
Avoid close interactions with unfamiliar people and for transactions, go cashless to reduce risk of infection.
Look for accommodations that are Covid-ready.
Whether required or not, install the Aarogya Setu app on your phone and the Covid self-declaration form.
Covid rules and regulations are subject to change. So make sure that you are aware of the latest rules in Odisha and in your home state.
If you’ve developed symptoms during or even after the trip, inform your accommodation staff so that they can take all the necessary measures to sanitize the place.