Is India ready to travel again?
July onwards the state governments in India have started lifting lockdowns and easing out travel restrictions in a bid to restore the severely impacted tourism industry. While many will argue it’s not safe to travel, some have already started planning (or at least thinking) about their much-needed travel break in another city or state. Unfortunately, the fear of catching the virus is still quite high as the COVID19 pandemic is still raging (India recently overtook Russia’s coronavirus count to become the third worst-affected nation in the world).
Even though the visitors, as well as the businesses, are desperately waiting to travel, there is still a lot of confusion regarding the Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) for the Tourism and Hospitality sector and different quarantine rules for different states. Some states have mandated tourists to carry COVID19 negative test report; others are asking tourists to go in for 7- 21 days’ mandatory quarantine even if they want to visit just for a few days. All this is making the travellers and businesses jittery to return to the new normal.
Despite the confusion, the travel and tourism industry is in full war mode preparing to welcome tourists back. And, even people bored with locked down have started searching for nearby safe short road trip options. There’s no doubt when it’s time to travel again; they will visit again. And hopefully, that time is not too far. While we should have a positive outlook towards tourism, we shouldn’t forget the three key factors that will influence their travel booking behaviour:
- In most likelihood, they would avoid spending public transportation to get from one place to another. Therefore, short trips to destinations to which they can drive in their private vehicles will be favoured.
- The demand for smaller boutique properties that are secluded, out in nature, and away from crowded cities is bound to go up
- Hygiene will be the most crucial element of the service, followed by the property design, activities and the overall experience that minimises the virus spread.
Keeping the above factors in mind, we looked at safest places to visit in India which are near Delhi, are ideal for a self-drive road trip and are taking all required safety steps prescribed by the Tourism Ministry to mitigate COVID19.
Atali, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand
Distance: 273 km (Approx. 6.5 hours) via NH334
Go for: an action-packed nature holiday that’s 100% safe
The holy town of Rishikesh has been the undisputed Yoga capital of the world since ancient times and has been attracting people seeking spirituality from all parts of the world. In addition to its spiritual appeal, Rishikesh has earned another tag in the last one and a half-decade – being the Rafting Capital! The shores of Ganga are hemmed with camps and retreat-like resorts that offer a host of adventure and spiritual activities.
Where to stay
If you are missing the adrenaline but don’t want to compromise on safety, choose Atali Ganga, India’s first Activotel, which is one of the most awarded hotels in Rishikesh. Just drive for 30km away from the humdrum of Rishikesh on the Badrinath Road in the middle of reserved forest to reach Atali Ganga.
The property houses 22 well-appointed luxurious, independent cottages set amidst greenery all around. The cottages offer panoramic views of the Ganga and valley and are serviced by the extremely hospitable staff. You have an option to either laze around at the property or walk on the powdery white beaches or go for adventure sports like River Rafting, Kayaking, Wall Climbing, Mountain Biking, Yoga, Birding, and Hiking among other actions.
Quarantine Rules for Uttarakhand
If you are coming from another state, you will have to upload your RT-PCR test report from ICMR authorised labs, reflecting that have tested negative for COVID-19 on their official state website. For more details, check this report.
Chail Hills, Himachal Pradesh
Distance: 335 km (Approx. 7 hours) via NH44
Go for: a rejuvenating mountain getaway that was once the capital of the King of Patiala
Whether you are looking for a weekend break or a more extended stay, Chail Hills is a great choice to relish the lush greenery and breathtaking views of a valley that is called a hiker’s paradise. You’ll feel like you have entered a different world when you’ll hike and camp in dense forests of Chail Hills. You can choose your adventure s per your taste and stamina. If you would like, you can visit the world’s highest cricket ground and the Chail Wildlife Sanctuary.
If you are a history and architecture buff, a visit to the Victorian era ‘Chail Palace’ is unavoidable. Once the summer retreat palace built by the Maharaja of Patiala during British Raj, today it stands as a heritage hotel.
Where to stay
For a safe, secluded and home-like comfortable experience, choose Banjara Mountain Retreat. Perched at 5100 feet near a pine forest, the retreat offers the choice of Swiss Tents or Cottages. You even have a Swimming Pool set on the edge; all overlooking the Ashwini River Valley. One thing that separates Banjara from other accommodation options is their trademark warm hospitality and delectable food.
Quarantine Rules for Himachal Pradesh
Tourists can visit Himachal Pradesh with prior hotel booking of at least five days, and a negative Covid-19 test report from an ICMR approved lab. Such tourists will also have to register online with the state government before entering the state. For more details, check this report.
The Bori-Satpura Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh
Distance: 904 km (Approx. 16 hours) via NH44
Go for: a serene, untouched wildlife escape
If you love driving and don’t mind driving for slightly longer to be with the wild and the wildlife, a trip to Bhopal, Bori Sanctuary and Satpura Tiger Reserve is highly recommended.
Despite being the oldest forest reserve in the country and offering some spectacular views, the Bori-Satpura Wildlife Sanctuary is relatively unexplored and doesn’t see as many visitors as its counterparts such as the Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Pench, and Panna Tiger Reserves.
Although animal sighting could be a little tough compared to the poster boys of Madhya Pradesh Wildlife Tourism, here, you can savour the raw and awe-inspiring nature, while not wanting to deal with cumbersome crowds. Situated in the Mahadeo Hills of the Satpura range in the southern parts of the Central Indian Highlands of Madhya Pradesh, the Bori-Satpura Tiger Reserve is blessed with the unique landscape – deep valleys, narrow gorges, cascading waterfalls and rich vegetation.
Less human activity and untouched wilderness have resulted in the park having one of the largest wildlife densities in India – close to 50 mammals and 30 species of reptiles – sheltering tigers, sloth bears, leopards, wild dogs, giant squirrels and a variety of other Central Indian species of birds and animals.
Where to stay
Jehan Numa Hotel group has beautiful hotels, retreats, lodges and camping sites at all three locations (Satpura, Bori and Bhopal) where you can enjoy the nature and wildlife at its best without the danger of catching a virus. Their newest offering Bori Safari Lodge located a couple of km away from the Bori Sanctuary is built on a 7.5-acre farmland estate and features eight well-appointed ensuite rooms. What I love the most about Jehanuma properties is their renowned mouth-watering cuisine. Luckily you can enjoy the same at all their properties. Guests can transfer between Bori Safari Lodge and Reni Pani Jungle Lodge through the park doing a game drive or by boat from the Tawa Reservoir.
Quarantine Rules for Madhya Pradesh:
According to a story by ANI, a 14-day quarantine (seven days paid institutional quarantine and seven days home quarantine) is a must for international travellers arriving in the state. Those displaying severe symptoms will be admitted to dedicated health facilities. Domestic passengers will be quarantined only if they are symptomatic.
Have you been to any of the above places? If yes, how was your experience? Given the current scenario, do you think is it really safe to travel in India during the pandemic? Once you are ready to travel again, which destinations do you think are the safest to travel in India?
What precautions should you take while travelling during the coronavirus disease outbreak?
1. Wash your hands with soap or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser frequently, particularly after contact with respiratory secretions.
2. Always wear a mask when moving out of your home
3. Avoid eating out in public places, and follow proper food hygiene practices. And, if you have to eat outside, maintain social distancing and eat freshly prepared food that you are sure about the hygiene.
4. Disinfect your car and anything that you come in contact with while travelling.
5. Travel light and book your stay at those places only where proper hygiene measures are taken, and chances of coming in contact with others are low.
Further reading – Published in
- Mail Today, India Today – Consumed by wanderlust?
- Covid19: is Sweden’s no strict-lockdown approach right or wrong?
- Why Laos is the safest country to visit in South East Asia after coronavirus
- Flooded Future: can the sinking Maldives be saved?
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All the views expressed above are my personal views and the images used are provided by the above-mentioned brands. Please do not copy anything without written permission.