Are you planning a trip to Kashmir this year? If yes, then I can guarantee you that you are going to have an experience of your lifetime. But, before you travel, have you gathered enough information about the things to do or don’ts in Kashmir? If you haven’t done that yet then you have come to the right place. Let’s check out the things you must remember before going to Kashmir.
Kashmir had always been on my bucket list. Probably it is there on every Indian’s bucket list. This year I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to travel to Kashmir. And, I had one of the best times traveling across the true Paradise on Earth.
But while traveling in Kashmir I experienced that there are a few things that every traveler must know about Kashmir. Or, you might end up having some unpleasant experiences. But don’t worry. Go through the below list that will clear your doubts about the things you need to know before going to Kashmir.
#1. Prepaid Sim does not work in Kashmir
If you are an Indian( non-resident of Kashmir) or a foreigner, your regular prepaid mobile sim card is not going to work in Kashmir. Due to safety purposes, the Indian government only allows a postpaid network to work in Kashmir.
This is an important fact to know before traveling to Kashmir. Postpaid networks of Vodafone, Airtel, and Jio work fine. I would recommend you to carry a Jio postpaid sim card as in most of the places Jio network was available. Vodafone is the worst of the three. It gave me a terrible time in Pahalgam as it didn’t work at all.
So, before arriving in Kashmir you can talk to your trip moderator or driver for arranging a local sim card for you. Or it’s better to travel to Kashmir with a postpaid sim card.
#2. WIFI does not work well in Kashmir
Internet connectivity in Kashmir is comparatively poor than many other hill stations in North India. If you need Wifi while in Kashmir get that clarified with the hotel owners. Not all hotels or houseboats provide you with a Wifi.
Wifi speed is very poor in Kashmir. So, if you are only depending on hotel wifi you might find yourself in trouble. So, it is advisable to carry at least one postpaid connection with a group of tourists.
#3. Shared transport is not available
Traveling solo in Kashmir is a problem as shared transport in Kashmir is not frequently available. It makes solo traveling costly.
Public buses and shared taxis are not available frequently. Though cabs are available at the airport and Srinagar taxi stand which you can book for longer hours. In the Pahalgam market taxi stand, you can hire cabs to visit places around Pahalgam. You can find cabs for Gulmarg from the Tangmarg check post.
But, if you are traveling with friends or family, it is advisable to book a cab for your complete tour. It may cost you a few extra bucks but it will be really helpful to have a driver with you who will be your help as you will find many tourist traps in Kashmir.
#4. Reach Srinagar airport 2 hours before the departure of the scheduled flight
If you traveling from Kashmir by air then during a departure you must reach Srinagar airport at least 2 hours before your scheduled departure time.
Though it is mentioned for every domestic flight in India to reach 2 hours before the departure time you can still board a flight if you reach at least 45 minutes before. But the departure from Kashmir is a must-to-do.
It is advised to do so as you would have to go through two more extra layers of checking. The check-in baggage is scanned and tagged at the Airport entrance and given to you. Then you can enter the airport with your baggage. But now, you cannot open your check-in baggage.
It is done to ensure the security of the passengers. As Kashmir is a highly sensitive zone the government of India imposes these extra sets of precautions.
#5. Beware of tourist scams in Kashmir
Kashmir is a dream destination for many of us. But many people have an unpleasant experience in Kashmir as they got scammed. Yes, you heard me right, Kashmir is full of tourist traps that you may not be aware of.
There are many traps like the “I will take you there scam”, “Shikara ride scam”, “Baisaran valley pony ride scam”, “Slaze-ride scam”, and “Gulmarg tour guide scam”.
But if you are aware beforehand you will be able to protect yourself from unforeseen problems. For this reason, having a local driver cum guide helps.
#6. Do not buy anything in Shikara
There is nothing more relaxing than an easy Shikara ride in the Dal lake. Watching the sun rise and set on the Shikara is a pleasure to cherish forever. But we are not alone in our Shikara ride. You will find a bunch of local traders getting close to your Shikara on their ferries.
No, don’t worry they are not harmful but the problem is that they are relentless. They will not leave you easily until they get to sell you something. But, do not buy anything from them. You might be thinking why? What’s wrong with helping these poor local vendors?
The big problem is that most of these sellers will scam you and you wouldn’t even know. Firstly, they will ask you for some absurd price. Or they will ask a very low price which you would not be able to say no to. And, in most cases, you will get fake products. So, it’s better to avoid buying from these small sellers.
Note: I am in no way against these small sellers. I was very much intrigued by their lifestyle around Dal lake. But I have seen many people getting conned in that. So, I am just trying to help you out. Even during one of my Shikara rides, the ferryman asked us “Sir, do not buy anything from them, when they get close we cannot help you even if we know what’s wrong.”
#7. Carry Sunglasses, Sunscreen lotion
You must carry a pair of sunglasses( preferably refractor glasses), Sunscreen lotion if you are visiting Kashmir. The weather is very dry in Kashmir valley and there is a high chance of getting sunburn.
In Gulmarg, while there is snow covering around there is a high chance of getting a sunburn. You must put on your sunscreen lotion and refractor glasses if you are visiting Apharwat peak by Gondola. That would be helpful.
#8. Say “No”
In Kashmir, you will be approached by a hundred touts throughout your journey. But, that does not mean you should agree to all of them. You would find many sellers approaching you for selling saffron, Pashmina shawls, wooden works, etc. Put them off by saying “No” if you are not interested.
In Gulmarg, almost 20 people approached me asking to take a Slaze ride. They will say that you will not be able to walk through the snow. That’s a big lie. A Slaze is a piece of a wooden platform that is pulled by rope while you will be sitting on it. They will push you to your limits but stay firm to your answer and say “No”. And always confirm the rate before taking any ride.
#9. Always bargain
If you are poor at bargaining then you may find yourself in deep trouble. They will quote us an absurd price. I can remember I got the same showpiece from a store near Gulmarg at INR 50 that I didn’t buy at INR 300 from Meena Bazar.
In Pahalgam, we were asked for 2500/ per person for the Baisaran valley horse ride. We started bargaining from 800/ person and ultimately finalized at 1100/ person. You can see the difference. So, always try to bargain as hard as you can.
Though I cannot blame them completely. Tourism is their main source of income. What they will make during the peak season will help them during their off-season. It’s the same with every place in the country.
#10. Carry dresses according to the season
You must carry your dresses according to the season you are visiting.
In Kashmir, Summer from May-Aug can be extremely hot. But you will find it much cooler during the night. So, you can just carry regular clothes along with a thermal.
During winter, when it snows during Dec-Feb temperature drops below 0 °C. You must woolen thermals along with winter jackets. And don’t forget to carry water-repellant gloves.
You should always carry waterproof shoes along with you. It would be good if that is high ankle or You can carry separate gaiters alongside.
#11. Carry an original ID card
You should carry any one of your original ID cards which has your address and photograph( preferably Voter ID, Aadhar Card, Passport, Driving License, etc.) They may not allow photocopies.
#12. Check Covid-guidelines before traveling to Kashmir
There are no quarantine rules or swab tests at the Srinagar airport. You don’t have to show your RTPCR test reports too. For Indian residents, you will only have to show your double vaccination report. Please carry a printout of your vaccination report.
Note: Covid related guidelines change frequently. So, check government websites for more details before your visit.
#13. Hiring a Kashmiri driver helps
J&K police are strict and will do repeated checks here and there. As we all know that Kashmir is always on high alert, they will check everyone they suspect. If you are arriving from outside Kashmir with a non-local driver you will face more checks.
As they want you to be safe they will not allow a non-Kashmiri driver on unknown routes after dark. But they will allow local drivers who are aware of the surroundings much better than anyone else.
#14. You need to hire a cab from Pahalgam to visit Aru, Betaab, and Chandanwari
You need to hire a cab from Pahalgam Taxi Stand even if you are coming with your car. I found this to be a bit strange practice but I can’t help it. The local taxi union does not allow other cars to go beyond that point. So, we had to hire that. It is what it is.
The good part is that the Pahalgam taxi rates are pre-determined and you can book separate types of car as per your need. You don’t have to bargain like everywhere else.
#15. Carry your medicines, power bank, and enough cash
Kashmir is still far away from modern cities. So, you won’t get medicine shops or ATMs outside Srinagar that easily. So it’s better to carry enough cash and required medicines. You won’t see many shops having POS machines available.
Though they have digital payment options like Gpay, Phonepe, etc. available with them nowadays. As the network is unstable in Kashmir, it is better not to solely depend on digital payment options.
You should also carry a power bank with you as it could be required to keep your phone charged.
#16. No liquor shops in Pahalgam and Gulmarg
There are no liquor shops available in Gulmarg or Pahalgam. There are very few even in Srinagar as alcohol consumption is not popular among the localities due to religious beliefs. Though tourists are allowed to consume alcohol. But if you are planning to have some, you may find it difficult to buy some in Pahalgam, Gulmarg, or Sonmarg. So, buy accordingly in Srinagar or bring some along with you.
Note: Yes, tourists are allowed to consume alcohol. But, you should not go overboard while drinking and disrespect the local culture. Always be courteous towards their religious beliefs.
#17. No OLA, Uber/ Zomato, Swiggy
Ola or Uber cab services are not available in Kashmir till now. So, please be careful while you are roaming around places there and late-night outings are not at all advisable due to safety reasons.
Services of food delivery apps like Zomato, and Swiggy are not available in Kashmir. But, I don’t think you would need that in Kashmir. This place is a food lover’s paradise and you can get amazing street foods in food joints in Srinagar. Going local is the way to enjoy it.