January 28, 2020
If there is paradise on Earth, then Shimla is probably it. Several generations of tourists swear by its stunning landscapes that are a veritable feast for the eyes. Going to Shimla and exploring its nooks and crannies is like taking a step back in time, away from the noise and chaos of the big cities. A Shimla holiday is certainly a hot favourite among couples and families looking for a long summer break.
But there are some Dos and Don’ts you need to know before you book your Shimla holiday. Presenting, in no particular order, these are our safety and travel tips for enjoying Shimla tourism and all that it offers:
* Know a few home truths before you leave: Though Shimla is quite safe for all tourists, the huge numbers of tourists from all over India and the world has necessitated stricter border and intra-city controls across the board. It is not uncommon to see policemen patrolling public squares during festivals or events where there is a large assembly of people. You might be asked to show your personal ID proofs if you are a foreigner, or if you look lost and need directions. Always keep your PAN card/Aadhaar card/driving license in your wallet in case you are an Indian national, and a signed passport and visa copy if you are not. Your hotel or resort will also ask you to show an original ID proof, so keep it with you at all times.
* Pick the right time to visit: Shimla is essentially a summer retreat, so the summer months between April and June are the best times to visit Shimla. But be prepared for lots of crowds everywhere, from shopping places to the tourist points. If you would rather do Shimla tourism during less crowded times, you could pick a time slot in the monsoon or winter seasons. However, both are not recommended for safe tourism – the monsoon season reduces most streets to slush, and trekking and walking trails can become quite hazardous.
* Mind the roads: Despite heavy tourist influx in this beautiful State, it is inexplicable that Shimla tourism has not yet done much to rectify the condition of its roads. It is understandable that roads carved out of mountains will be winding and quite narrow, but most roads in this town are also riddled with potholes. Several stretches also do not have safety railings despite the presence of hairpin bends and sharp turns. If you are planning to drive in Shimla, be extremely vigilant of the road conditions. It helps to be careful when it snows and rains, when the roads are damaged the most. Keep all emergency numbers and your family contact details handy when taking a Shimla road trip. Also, the thumb rule is not take the wheel when you have taken drinks, and to not allow another of your party or your hired cabbie to drive when intoxicated.
* Try street food, but…The whole point of exploring Shimla tourism is to do what the locals do. But some things that the locals do, like eating on the street side for example, may make you sick. Residents will warn you against consuming cut fruit sold on the street, or drinking tap water. So eating food uncovered and exposed to the dust and traffic is a strict no, but eating hot noodles cooked after you ordered them is fine. You are likely to develop pesky stomach infections that may ruin your holiday, so stick to food that has been cooked and served hot, and buy bottled mineral water instead of drinking local unfiltered water in small restaurants.
* Be friendly but keep your distance: Shimla tourism comprises a large number of solo travellers, both men and women. It is common to see backpackers heading to local hostels looking for accommodation. Local establishments and even the residents are quite welcoming of all tourists. You will find that the residents are quite friendly, and you are expected to be friendly, too. Smile, be polite and say ‘Thank you’ and ‘Please’ when asking for assistance. But also exercise some amount of reserve if you are alone, and especially if you are a woman. Your friendly demeanour may be taken for overtures, which might make you uncomfortable and land you in a spot.
* Travel safe: In recent years, there have been sporadic complaints of tour operators not showing tourists all the spots as promised, or taxi drivers taking short cuts through deserted jungles and bylanes instead of the main road. In any case, driving on unfamiliar roads after dark is a bit of a risk in Shimla. Make sure your taxi driver sticks to the main roads (use Google Maps to keep tabs on the road being taken) and finalise the travel tariff beforehand to avoid disputes on arriving at your designated point. Women are cautioned against hiring autorickshaws or taxis to travel alone at night. Shimla tourism authorities issue warnings for all tourists to be safe on the roads, so it is important to heed these warnings.
* Take permissions beforehand: Certain monuments like ancient temples or structures with a heritage grade require permissions before tourists can enter. This is true of visitors from certain countries, but not Indians. However, it is better to make a note of any permissions required for taking photographs – a Shimla travel guide can help you with where to apply and fees to pay – before you enter these places.
* Carry medicines and skin lotions: Though the day time temperatures are quite mellow even in the summer months, you must still apply liberal amounts of sunscreen lotion before stepping out. We would also recommend stocking up on moisturiser to beat the dryness in the chill air. Besides these, please carry extra stocks of any medication you may be currently using, because you might not find the same medicines in Shimla if you run out of them. Additionally, general tablets for headache, body pain and stomach infections are a must on your travels.
* Go shopping: There is really no point to Shimla tourism if you don’t shop at the various markets and shops that the hill station has to offer. Shopping is fun here, because you get certain types of clothing and trinkets that you wouldn’t get anywhere else. For instance, Kullu sweaters and hoodies are a local speciality, and they make for excellent gifts as well. The following are some markets you can check out in Shimla: Mall Road, Lakkar Bazaar, Tibetan Market, Himachal Emporium, Lower Bazaar, Ram Bazaar and Minchy’s, to name a few. Ask your resort how to reach these markets and how much you should pay for the items you want to buy. Also, bargain hard even in the off season, when prices are low.
* Tipping at clubs and restaurants: Like in most places in South East Asia, it is not mandatory to tip the wait staff at clubs, hotels or restaurants in Shimla – but you are looked upon favourably if you do. A 10% tip is considered acceptable if the service and food/beverages have been to your liking. However, do check the bill for the ‘Service charge’: this is a charge that the establishment has already levied on your bill. If there is a service charge on the bill, you don’t need to tip additionally. Do not tip in small coins – it is considered rude. Some establishments also explicitly mention that your tip will go into the common pool – in this case, leave the tip and don’t ask your waiter to pocket it.
* Make a list of what you wish to see: Yes, you are in fantastically beautiful Shimla that seems like a veritable heaven on Earth. But are you certain that you wish to see every possible tourist spot? If you’re looking for a laidback vacation, then you can cover a few spots and spend the rest of the time relaxing at the resort, or taking a desultory walk on Shimla Ridge . On the other hand, you might want to see everything because the thought of exploration makes you happy. In the latter case, we recommend these spots: Kufri , Mall Road , Jakhu Temple , Christ Church , Tattapani River, Bantony Castle, Scandal Point , Green Valley , Theog and Anandale, to name just a few breathtaking spots of many. Basically make a list of things to do in Shimla and the essential places to visit in Shimla, and you can proceed from there.
* Book a good resort: The best way to ensure a great holiday is to book yourself into a wonderful Shimla resort. Here are two great suggestions: Club Mahindra Kandaghat or Club Mahindra Mashobra Resorts in Shimla. Both resorts are highly recommended by past visitors, and you will find your stay comfortable, serene and joyful. Both Club Mahindra properties offer stunning locales, superlative service and all the amenities needed to have a great holiday. Plus, their on-site restaurant in Shimla offers several cuisines, while the children have a separate play area to keep them occupied.
Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India Ltd. (MHRIL), a part of Leisure and Hospitality sector of the Mahindra Group, offers quality family holidays primarily through vacation ownership memberships and brings to the industry values such as reliability, trust and customer satisfaction. Started in 1996, the company's flagship brand ‘Club Mahindra’, today has over 250,000 members , who can holiday at 100+ resorts in India and abroad.