What To Keep In Mind When Traveling To Shimla During Covid
Nestled at the foothills of the south-western Himalayas is the hill station of Shimla. The city is filled with the architectural grandeur of the colonial era and surrounded by greenery that makes way for a brilliant gold-and-red during fall while being blanketed by snow in the winter. It’s an absolute no-brainer why Shimla is one of the most popular hill stations in India.
After months of sitting at home during the Covid lockdown, surely you want to escape the four walls of your house and enjoy the snow in Shimla? If you do, we can totally relate to it. But is traveling to Shimla during Covid safe? Well, traveling anywhere during Covid has its share of risks, but you can make it as safe as possible if you follow all the Covid precautions.
Below are the various ways you can travel to Shimla:
Getting To Shimla During Covid
Covid restrictions in Himachal Pradesh were relaxed in a bid to boost tourism. But with a resurgence of cases in the state, the rules have become stringent.
Update As Of May 06: Himachal Pradesh is currently under a lockdown slated to end by May 16, but the state’s borders continue to remain open for tourism thus far. Since April 16 2021, people coming from Punjab, Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh need to have a negative RT-PCR report not earlier than 72 hours.
Shimla Airport is the closest to the hill station, which is about 22 kilometers from the city. But it isn’t a major airport and not too many flights land here. The more popular choice is the Chandigarh Airport, 125 km and a 4-hour drive away.
International passengers will have to submit a Covid self-declaration form at least 72 hours prior to departure. The 14-day home quarantine is mandatory for them. However, institutional quarantine may be avoided by submitting a negative RT-PCR test result (taken within 96 hours before departure). Do note that these rules can differ from country to country, and several flights entering India stand canceled in the wake of the second wave.
Domestic passengers, on the other hand, do not need to submit a self-declaration form or Covid test unless they’re from the aforementioned states.
Both international and domestic passengers will be thermally screened upon arrival and must have the Aarogya Setu app installed on their phones.
At a distance of about 96 kilometers, Kalka is the nearest major railway station near Shimla that is connected to major cities. However, owing to Covid precautionary measures, most trains won’t have a pantry car, so you’ll have to bring your own food. Once you reach Kalka, you can hire a cab to Shimla.
But if you’re enthusiastic about train travel, the famous Shimla-Kalka ‘Toy Train’ has just recently resumed services since the Covid lockdown. You can hop on board and enjoy the scenery as the train winds through the hills and valleys.
The buses entering Shimla are to operate at 50% occupancy in a bid to encourage social distancing. If you can, travel in your personal vehicle so that you’re isolated from other people, which isn’t possible in public transport. It will be expensive and also exhausting, so it’s best to travel with someone who can also drive so you can take a break.
Places To Visit In Shimla During Covid
Kalka To Shimla Train
As you must have guessed, this is more about the journey than the destination. You’ll get to experience the beauty of Himachal Pradesh by gazing out of your window.
The Kalka-Shimla narrow gauge railway line was built between 1898 to 1903. Of course, most of the route goes through the mountainous terrain of the Himalayas. It’ll be a slow mode of transport — about five to seven hours to complete the journey that is 96 kilometers long. But you’ll be blessed with breathtaking views (when you’re not in the 102 tunnels along the way, that is!). Traveling on the Kalka-Shimla Toy Train means you’ll be winding your way through pine forests and get to see the many villages in the Himalayan valleys. The railway stations you cross along the way are tiny, but beautiful and still depict British architecture.
Keeping in mind the tourist crowds that arrive in Shimla via Kalka, there’s the Shivalik Express luxury train which doesn’t have any stop between Kalka and Shimla. But if you want to travel like a local, you can board the Himalayan Queen. At the same time, always wear your mask and keep your distance from others.
This picturesque waterfall is located a mere 7 kilometers from Shimla Railway Station. However, while the place is easily accessible, you’ll have to make your way downhill through the Glen Forest to reach Chadwick Falls. Alternatively, you can also get down at Summer Hill Railway Station and trek your way towards the waterfall.
Yes, visiting Chadwick Falls during the monsoon or just after it means that you’ll get to see the waterfall in full spate – cascading down from a height of 86 meters. However, it doesn’t mean that the waterfall dries out in the other seasons, but the flow is a lot more mellow. Considering that the water is from the Himalayas, you can be assured that it’ll be very cold! Also, getting away from the main city would mean that you’ll be away from people, which is great when you’re traveling during Covid.
Please note that the road leading to the forest trail towards Chadwick Falls is also quite narrow. If you’re in your personal vehicle, you need to drive very carefully.
This tiny hill station is located about 14 kilometers from Shimla, and is one of the most sought-after destinations near Shimla. What makes Kufri an ideal vacation spot is that it remains beautiful all year round and is quite developed for tourism. So you can get accommodations that are prepared for Covid.
If you want to experience life in the velvety-green hills, you can visit in the summer months. The nature lover, for instance, should visit the aptly-named Green Valley near Kufri to gaze upon the birds and animals going about. Make sure that you have a camera with you to capture and immortalize the vista. Or you can hike up the Mahasu Peak and if you’re lucky, you could even see the Kedarnath Dome in the distance.
On the other hand, visiting Kufri during the winter months means that you get to see a picture-postcard town with pristine snow. And what’s more? Apart from making snow angels and throwing snowballs, you can even get in touch with your adventurous side in Kufri. Skiing is one of the activities Kufri is best known for and the hill station has among the best ski runs in the state. Whether you’re a seasoned skier or just giving it a try, zooming down the Himalayan foothills on skis is sure to get your adrenaline pumping.
Things To Remember When Traveling During Covid
With all the travel restrictions being eased and the frustration of being stuck at home, you may consider traveling to Shimla during Covid. However, the pandemic is still around. So you’ll need to keep in mind the below points to be as safe:
Follow social distancing norms always. You must wear a mask and keep 6 feet distance from others. Also, wash your hands regularly.
Avoid traveling even if you develop any flu-like symptoms.
Those below 10 and above 65 years of age are more prone to contracting Covid, so they should avoid travel.
It’s safer to travel with as few people as possible, preferably in your personal vehicle.
Avoid interacting with strangers and for transactions, insist on cashless methods wherever possible.
Book your accommodation in hotels/resorts that are Covid-ready.
Install the Aarogya Setu app on your phone, and carry the coronavirus self-declaration form with you.
Covid rules are subject to change depending on the number of cases. So remember to update yourself with the latest travel rules of Himachal Pradesh and your home state.
If you develop symptoms before or after the trip, seek help immediately and inform the accommodation staff.
Is Shimla Safe For Tourists?
Yes, Shimla is safe for tourists, in terms of crime, safety and the number of Coronavirus cases. But currently, the Covid pandemic has brought travel to a standstill.
Which Is The Best Time To Visit Shimla?
The months of May to June and December to January are the best to visit Shimla. May to June is the summer season and temperatures remain pleasant, while the winter months of December and January cover the ground in sheets of snow.
How Can I Travel To Shimla?
You can fly to Chandigarh and then drive or take a taxi or bus up 4 hours to Shimla, or if you’re lucky, you can get a flight to Shimla airport. You can also take a train to Kalka and then take the toy train up from there, or drive up.
A Guide To Traveling To Shimla During CovidTraveling To Shimla During The Coronavirus Pandemic