They call it Paradise, I call it Home ©

How Safe Is Kashmir For A Tourist?

In Gulmarg, Kashmir, People, Tourism on 1 May, 2006 at 6:30 am

How safe is Kashmir?

A reader of this blog asked me how safe is Kashmir for a tourist. This question might seem too general but it merits an answer and anyone wanting to visit Kashmir would ask such a question.

How safe is it then really?

Pre 1989, Kashmir was a Paradise in the true sense. Crime was unheard of, a single murder in a year would shake up the administration. Kashmir was very unlike Jammu were murders weren’t so uncommon. Gang wars did not exist in Kashmir, one would never see a drunk lying on a road. Women would return alone, as late as 2 in the night, from a marriage laden with jewellery, without fear. Pickpockets were unheard of. Tolerance has always been a virtue of Kashmiris. People who have been to Kashmir in the past will still recall the beauty of the place and the people. You must be wondering why am I talking about the past. Past is gone, over, done with! It is, to an extent, but not all of it. The conflict is a reality of Kashmir that was thrust upon them, not by the ‘neighbours’ but by the conditions. Let me not dwell into the politics and history of Kashmir. The conflict has not changed the basic behaviour of Kashmiris. The conflict has not changed the hospitality of Kashmiris. The conflict has not changed, to a large extent, the goodness of the people of Kashmir. Kashmir is thus largely safe for tourists. It is not, as might be wrongly presumed, the presence of the army that has made Kashmir safe. It is the presence of the people. I am not trying to glorify the people of Kashmir, I am just trying to put forward a basic trait of Kashmiris that has been, sadly, buried under the blanket of the term ‘terrorists’ – a gift of the Indian government and media to the people of Kashmir. Kashmiri and a Terrorists are synonymous terms in India. But Kashmiris are far from being terrorists.

This is what makes Kashmir safe: the beauty of the land has made beautiful it’s people.

In spite of one of the most dangerous wars being fought, a civil war, tourists have never been the target of militants. Unlike Egypt, Israel and Indonesia where tourists and the public have been the selected targets, in Kashmir tourists and the public have never been the selected targets. Civilians have become prey thousands of times, but a tourist has never been. There have been very stray incidents and most of them have not caused much damage to the tourists.

What about the Al-Farhan Kidnapping?

Al-Farhan, a militant organisation, kidnapped in the early nineties a group of western tourists who were trekking in Pahalgam. They were never found. One should never, I repeat ‘never’ trek into places that are not deemed safe. As late as the year 2000 when I wanted to trek some place in Pahalgam, I was discouraged strongly. So, if you are a tourist and do want to trek, I would ask you to be very cautious about it. If you have to trek, trek in those areas which are safe and you should ask a tourist or a public officer beforehand.

Is Srinagar safe?

Srinagar is, mostly, very safe for tourists. Downtown or the old Srinagar city, on the banks of Jhelum, should be visited. Although it was a very dangerous place in the past, it has become a safe zone now. The attacks in the Srinagar city, though rare, are confined to the civil lines areas or the new city. The Lakes, Nageen and Dal, are safe for stay as well as sight-seeing. The Boulevard, running long the Dal Lake, is safe as well. Only Dal Gate (the start of the Dal Lake) has been targeted at times.

Boulevard running along the Dal Lake
Boulevard.

Outside Srinagar?

The health resorts, Gulmarg and Sonamarg are completely safe with the exception of Pahalgam. Pahgalgam has been targeted in the past as well as recently (injuring seven tourists). Pahalgam could be avoided, if the concern is too much. Gulmarg is thronged by a large number of people, given it’s proximity to Srinagar. Pahalgam is a larger resort and is the starting point for the Amarnath Yatra. Sonamarg falls on way to Ladakh and is a quieter place. The Thajwas glacier can be seen in Sonamarg. You usually have to hire a taxi to be able to reach these resorts. You could though go to a Tourist taxi Stand and enquire whether a single seat is available, in case you do not wish to hire an entire taxi. I am not too aware about other transport options available for tourists. It won’t be a good idea to take the government buses, as apart form taking a lot of time, won’t be too safe either.

What if I get in the midst of an attack?

If you are caught in an attack, move into the nearest shop and lie low till the conditions get better. If there is no shop around move into some other safer location (a nearby lane maybe) or just lie down on the ground. Do not attempt to run away. As a thumb rule follow what people around you do. Having lived in a conflict zone the people have developed an intrinsic response.

People lying on the ground during an attack.
In the line of fire.

Budget travel?

Obtain a Srinagar city tourist map. Bargain well with Auto Rickshaw drivers. Public transport is too crowded and not recommended. Stay in a houseboat in the Dal Lake. Budget houseboats are available and staying in a house boat is a different experience altogether. Avoid hotels that are near Abi Guzar (Lal Chowk, the city center) as they are secluded. Staying near Dal Lake, even Guest Houses in Raj Bagh, would be a nice choice. At the Tourist Reception Center (TRC), there is a Tourist Information Office and a Tourist Police Headquarter for helping tourists. Beware of touts. Their is a houseboat owners association office near Tourist Reception Center as well. Remember TRC, as it is the hub of tourist activities. TRC has a Tourist Taxi stand as well. Youth Hostel is non-functional (most probably) and there are no such options available.

Food?

Vegeterian food is served at various restaurants along the Boulevard. There are some vegetarian dhabas in Sonawar (near Dal Gate). If you are a non-vegetarian, there are a dozens of choices available . Do try out the Kashmiri Wazwaan. Ahdoos Restaurant (Residency Road) has a nice choice of Kashmiri food. Do try the Kanti (mutton cubes fried/cooked in onion), It’s pretty cheap and tastes good. Fast foods are not too much in vague, in case you do want a Pizza, you could try Shamyana Resturant on the Boulevard. Fast Food is also available at Hat-Trick Restaurant (Raj Bagh). Do try the Kashmiri Barbecue (mutton cubes done on charcoal on a skewer) called Sekeh Tujeh, the best in the town is available at Khayaam Chowk (very near Dal Gate). Also do try out Kashmiri bakery, which has a large variety. Have a Lawsah (Kashmiri tandoor bread) with Tea. You will enjoy it!

Moving around?

Local transport is available. Auto Rickshaws as well as public transport (buses, matadors) for moving within the city. Tata Sumos and state run buses for long distance travel.

Money?

You can withdraw cash from ATMs using your Master/VISA Debit/Credit cards. Jammu and Kashmir Bank has a huge network of ATMs in the valley (accepts all Maestro and VISA linked cards). HDFC Bank, State Bank of India and Punjab National Bank also have ATMs in the city. HDFC and SBI is VISA linked. Foreign currency can also be exchanged from the bank or authorised money changers.

Buying?

Kashmiri art and craft shops are located at various locations. The government also runs an Arts Emporium. For Kashmiri Saffron / Almonds / Walnuts / Honey, the shop Amin Bin Khaliq (ABK) in the Polo View market is a good choice.

Internet and accessing kashmir.wordpress.com?

Internet Cafes are located all around the city. Polo view and Regal Chowk have quite a number of cafes and they have cheaper rates than those on the Boulevard. International Direct Dialing is possible. The Dal lake is said to be Wi-Fi enabled. All newspapers and magazines are available. Khan News Agency at Regal Chowk keeps all newspapers and magazines.

Resources?

Jammu & Kashmir Tourism website (at http://www.jktourism.org) though not updated, has well organised information and should be read and referred to before visiting Kashmir. Also do read, the web edition of Greater Kashmir (at http://www.greaterkashmir.com) for an update on the latest conditions in Srinagar and Kashmir.

Is kashmir still safe?

  1. loved this writeup. esp. the first part of it.. which dwells on the past and the nature of ppl.. very well put.. :)

  2. I was working in Kashmir University for 8 yrs before coming to my hometown in Kerala.
    I just love Kashmir and Kashmir’s, very hospitable people, helping, cultured and highly educated, only thing lacking in them is professionalism.
    Safe place for tourists, i think Kashmir has lowest crime rate in India. Except terrorism, that too doesn’t harm tourists.

  3. I m going to kashmir tonight, hope this blog will surely help me.

  4. Sudhir,

    Have a pleasant and safe journey!

  5. Hi I’m Bala from Malaysia.

    I have a good interest in travelling. I have been to India last year to north and south. North i did cover until Manali, i really loved the place and south until Kerala, India is really superb. And now my intention is to visit Jammu and Kashmir. My question is between this 2 place , which is the best, i mean in term of scenaries, mountains, monuments, people and so on. Can i cover this place within 2 weeks. Please recommend on this.And one more thing, how about the safetty at this time of both place.

    Thank you very much,
    Bala.

    • Hai Bala , I think it is safe to visit Kashmir being an travel agent of Delhi I send many people to Kashmir and most of them came back very happy.

  6. who says kashmir is not safe kashmir is lot more safe then punjab i have there on the days of january end this year i started from ludhiana punjab on 25th january with some banks work (i’m working with hdfc bank ludhiana i reached there at 2 pm on 26 th of january at srinagar when i was about to leave i remember my parents my senior officers were giving me instructions that its very dangerous to be there i remained there for a week and to a big surprise that place is beautiful with gr8 people beautiful places like shankracharya,residency road,gulmarg,dal lake etc. i really love that place and would like to be there again and again i trully support u sir that srinagar is totally safe

  7. Lovely writeup!

    Kashmr will remain the same heaven, no matter what!

  8. Lovely writeup!

    I am gonna visit kashmir very soon with my wife. cant wait to go there. it doesnt matter it is safe or not. what i belive is , its as safe as any other place in india.

  9. Dear readers and writers,

    The whole world people eho are interested to vist kashmir.I well come all visiter,tourists from whole world.Hospitality is matto and any gust who visit to kashmir we wll come them from heart.I request to gov,t india and pakistan if all kashmir will unite like before 1947 then all problem will be finish and both gov,t go ahed and take some positive initiative to make this paradise safe.This valley belongs to kashmiri people and they got the right to rule over the kashmir.If any body from kashmir without public suppor cannot rule over the india as in kashmir same rules implemented.We wants to well come any person who wants to visit kashmir.BECASUE ITS SUCH A PLACE CALL PARADISE ON EARTH.i HAVE GOT NO ANY WORLD TO DESCRIBE THE BEAUTY OF KASHMIR.iTS CALL FARRY LAND ALSO.
    GOOD LUCK FOR THOESE PEOPLE WHO WANTS TO VIST KASHMIR.WHEN YOU FINISH YOUR VISIT WE LOVE TO HEAR YOUR COMMENTS.

  10. I have visited Kashmir the heaven last year and I tell you that it is one of the best places I have seen so far.

  11. I have a Kashmiri boyfriend and I live in Mauritius!!! I think Kashmiris are very sincere and nice people and I looooove Kashmir!! It’s my dream to visit Kashmir.

  12. Just wanted to mention that I had these two senior colleagues (well almost the big boss) recently leaving for a trip to India, when they asked me if they should go to Kashmir and “is it safe?”… Such questions at times make you wonder about the quality of life we all live there, I mean when you have to objectively analyse the situation there you come to the conclusion that things are not very good there.

    And yet how conveniently we all forget it when we get up in the morning and rush to get our kids ready for the school bus and in an hour from then proceed to work – be it as a clerk behind that JK Bank counter or as a driver of that TATA 407. We seem to have become totally innure to the hardships. Incidents of grenade throwing, search operations, cordons is a routine of life. Without firing, crackdown, strike, encounter our vocabulary is incomplete. I guess we have grown up to live in such environment and so nothing bothers us any more.

    And that is the real tragedy we Kashmiris face, we never seem to fathom the kind of danger we live in. Next time, someone asks you .. “Is Kashmir Safe?”… Think before you reply.

    Oh yes, my reply to those senior colleagues was very reserved. But, they went ahead with their plans and after having spent a very short duration in Kashmir one of them came up to me and said, “I have travelled far and wide across the globe.. name any country.. I have been there, but I thought Kashmir is the most beautiful place in the world.. At times even more beautiful than Switzerland”, Needless to say I felt so proud of being a Kashmiri.

    Juz A Kashmiri

  13. Hi

    I have been to Jammu and Kashmir this year on 24th july for Amarnath Yatra and Vaishnodevi. I must say its the best place in the world and its really a paradise of the earth. I enjoyed every moment out there, I was so much in love with the place that I will go again and again whenever I will get a chance. I believe people out there are also very good and hospitable. I love Kashmir and the memories of the trip wil be with me in my heart forever.

  14. In the whole of Pakistan I would definitely recommend Kashmir, followed by the other provincial areas. Does any one know anything about Kerala as I want to go there and have been advised it is quite nice and unspoilt compared to Goa.

  15. Kerala is no doubt one of the most beautiful places on earth. Time magazine has come out with a special edition on world tourism “100 places to visit before you die”. Kerala is the only entry from India. My suggestion: take a bus trip from Palghat to Ernakulam. It runs along the coast and is simply magnificent. If you are traveling by train, take small distance meter gauge trains. Avoid BG routes. You will get a much better view and interaction with local people. And do not forget to enjoy Kerala’s famed backwater hospitality.

  16. Nice writeup.. Write more on the temperature and some current updates on Srinagar.

  17. Hi, I am planning to travel to to Kashmir in end Dec 07.

    We will be in Srinagar for 3 days. I am hoping that it will be safe.

    Please could you give us an update on the safety situation on the ground .

    Thanks, Mani

  18. December… wish I could go there! No security problems… Mani please do write your feedback.

    Tips..

    Take some heavy clothes with you because it will be cold, take your cold creams and lip balms if you want to go out and enjoy and not complain about the weather.

    Have Wazwan, Mutton BBQ (a.k.a Tuijj) at Khayyam.
    Have Harrissa (non-vegetarian again) in the chilled morning…mmmm!
    Well Skiing would be in Jan Or Feb end… you have to wait..!
    If nothing you can surely buy some genuine art!
    Or the gold jewelery traditional.

  19. Hi, I and 5 friends of mine – we are planning a snowboarding trip to Gulmarg. And it seems really hard to get any objective information about the real situation in Kashmir. We are still sort of on the decision level wheter we should or should not go to Gulmarg.

    We have already plane tickets from Helsinki to Mumbai and originally our plan was to have a week of skiing in Gulmarg combined with a latter week of beach holiday in Goa. What would your recommendations be?

    Also it amazed me how expensive the hotels are in Gulmarg – the price level is the almost the same as in European resorts. Is it normal or is it more of a rip-off thing and we should just go to the place and do some hard bargaining?

    Well anyways your blog was encouraging one and rather bending our minds toward taking the trip to Kashmir.

    Cheers,
    Dan

  20. Hey Dan!

    There is no way that the hotels/resorts in Gulmarg and Europe are at same level when it comes to price! Check it again brother… its way cheaper that those..!

    Gulmarg is qualifying for 2010 Common Wealth games for Skiing!

    It’s a Skier’s paradise.. I have skied there and man is it awesome…. yeah it is…

    The slopes there are just too good for a beginner as well as for experts.. go and have fun.. enjoy the beauty.. its safe there.. Kashmir and Kashmiris are absolute 5 star in hospitality..

    Do leave your feedback when u come back..!

  21. Aamir:

    Your post gives somewhat misleading impression of normalcy. However much I may love to welcome Dan, I cannot advice him to come here. Things are slightly better but by no means safe.

  22. Dan,

    Thank you for your comments.

    As far as hotel prices are concerned, a decent hotel will cost upwards of US$ 50-60 (which normally includes food as well) during a peak season. There are some very nice hotels in Gulmarg (Hotel Highland is a nice place to stay in). The government has also initiated some Snow Festival, so I won’t be surprised if the prices are high around this time of year. But, you can always check into a hotel on arrival and bargain well. Jammu Kashmir Tourism also does have Huts for rent and that would be a good idea for you since you are a group of five. I guess the rent for a hut for a night should be around US $50. You can get this and all other information on arrival at the airport.

    For latest news, please check Greater Kashmir. For Hotel deals you may have a look at Yatra to get an idea about the prices. For Gulmarg Gondola tarrifs, please have a look here.

    Hope you visit and have a pleasant stay.

  23. Hi

    Thanks For Helpful answers !!!

    I’m Planing my honeymoon in Gulmarg, Srinagar & surroundings.

    Can you please tell me how many days should I plan and can try Skiing because I have never tried that. It will be my fist time.

    And also please suggest whether Kashmir is safe for Indian tourists also??? As I keep hearing news from Kashmir about bomb blasts and all.

    I really wanna visit Kashmir as every year I visit Vaishnodevi but never dared to visit Kashmir and surroundings.

    Waiting for reply

    Regards,

    Vishal

  24. Kashmir,

    It’s been decades and decades since which Kashmiri people have been suffering through this hard time. Every nation who struggles to get the freedom, they achieve their independence, but Kashmiri is one of those nations who gave blood but did not achieve national freedom, why did this happen?

    Because our leadership is corrupt and under pressure.

    Our case which should be known to the whole world is not represented correctly.

    Kashmir history goes 5000 years back and it’s such a place which is full of recourses and Kashmir neighbours have become so much greedy that they ignore human rights, which is badly violated in Kashmir. More then 100,000 Kashmiris have been killed by Indian army, so many women raped, innocent children were brutally killed, old people, Hindus and Muslims alike were killed in Kashmir.

    Who is behind in the creation of this state of anarchy in Kashmir? Is India or Pakistan involved in Kashmir to create a civil war in Kashmir?

    Last 24 years Kashmiri people have united, whether they are Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian; they are united and they are living in Kashmir from generation to generation, they are like one body.

    India and Pakistan should resolve this issue because before Pakistan was created Kashmir was an independent state and Maharaja was ruling on Kashmir.

    When Pakistan was created and from Pakistani side they push their people into Kashmir and India involved its army, since then its huge problem for Kashmiri people and in that case Kashmiri people lost their 100,000 people to get rid those people who are trying to rule them.

    This case is very clear and whole world should take notice.

    According to United Nations resolution, they gave self determination to Kashmiri people but United Nations is use less and did not work independently, USA uses United Nations in a very bad way, USA is trying to rule over whole world through UNO. If this is not a reality then UNO representatives should come forward and clear this matter. What happened in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world were USA use UNO and achieve their interests? Every body knows that.

    It’s clear that no body will help Kashmiri people and if we need a national independence then we should get together and show our oneness and kick out invaders from our soil and that’s the way we become independent, our recourses should be in our control and use on Kashmiri people not other people.

    Think very carefully…

  25. I visited Kashmir over this summer. I went to Leh, Kargil and Srinagar and I never feared for my safety despite reading in the Lonely Planet that traveling to Kashmir was very risky and foolhardy. My brother ( who lives in India) and I ( I live in New York) were driving from Kargil to Srinagar around two or three in the morning and we did get stopped and were asked about our odd time of travel but it was hardly frightning or anxiety inducing. Kashimir is an exceptionally lovely place and I would encourage anyone to go if they have the oppurtunity.

  26. Hi,

    I am always curious about old cities and old cultures. I am glad to have stumbled upon this blog.
    Thank you for the history on the people of Kashmir. For me, it is always the people that matter when I go to a place. I plan to make Kashmir one place that I will visit soon (perhaps this year). Thank you very much for putting up this blog.

    kata

  27. Hi! I’m going to travel around the north of India this summer. I’ve heard and read many positive and negative things about Kashmir. Lonely Planet guides strongly discouraged me form going there, however after reading your comments I’ll definitely go . Is it safe for a girl to go on her own? Hopefully I’ll meet other travellers who will be going there too.

    all best, daniella

  28. Can you please tell me whether it is advisable to travel in the month of July-August, I am planning to visit around 27th July.

    Is it safe to travel to Kashmir?

    Regards
    Ravindra

  29. Does anyone know how is situation in Kashmir now?

    we are going there 1st September and heard today that something is going on again?

    Hanna

  30. […] It is advised not to visit Kashmir and to put on hold any plans of […]

  31. Laila, We are talking about the Kashmir in India not Pakistan. In Pakistan occupied Kashmir there is no problem. Why will there be problem when all the problem makers are sent to Indian Kashmir to create trouble ?

  32. Does anyone know how is situation in Kashmir now?

    And what the situation (safety/whether) supposed to be in the December?

    As I want to plan my honeymoon there in early December.

    Please suggest

  33. Manish
    THe situation now is not good for visitng Kashmir, nothing can be predicted about the month of December. Please have a look at this post as well.

  34. Does anyone know how is the situation in Kashmir now? Seems like it has improved.

    And what the situation (safety/weather) supposed to be in the December?

    As I want to plan my honeymoon there in early December.

    Please suggest.

  35. Can’t wait to go there…am sure it be heaven on the earth…what will be the weather now?

  36. Can’t wait to visit Kashmir…

  37. Look at the people who have commented on how wonderful Kashmir is. They all are tourists who have not been there and are going, or Kashmiri travel agents who, more than anything, want your money. And they will be friendly and wonderful until they take all they can get from you. It is a huge problem, and tourists routinely get stopped by agents of the Indian government investigating scandals and tourist traps. Do not go to Kashmir.

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