- TRAVELS AMIDST
A PANDEMIC: WINTER EDITION
Travelling, for many of us, is a quick escape route from a crap–load of our problems, as it helps bring in a lot of much–needed positivity, and also helps relax our minds. Travelling in winters has its own charm—especially if you’re travelling close to Christmas. You get to experience not only extreme joy and euphoria everywhere you go, you also get to witness a little natural beauty called snowfall and so much more.
However, this year has been challenging for all of us. This pandemic (no thanks to you, COVID–19) has created this vacuum in our lives that we never knew could possibly exist. And as we slowly approach the end of the year, we, the travel enthusiasts – or just about anyone in need of a much–deserved long fucking break – could really use a much–needed time–out.
That said, travelling this year has been made into a task itself, what with the several guidelines that have been issued by the government. First of which, is the mandatory usage of the Arogya Setu app, which has been made a must if you wish to travel to what are some of the most popular holidaying destinations of this country. These guidelines shall be put to effect December 2020. They clearly state that each traveler, regardless of where they’re coming from or going to, needs to follow the rules and regulations of central and state government; social distancing is mandatory and one needs to abide by the rules and regulations. Even after all of that, there are only some specific essential activities which are allowed in the Containment Zones. To top that, extra precautions are to be taken for persons who are above 65 years of age; pregnant women and children below the age of 10 are advised to stay in home. Keeping all these things in mind, you can travel to, and explore, places to relax and feel free from the isolation and stress you might’ve been going through all this time.
Below, I have listed a few places you can visit this winter season and future winters:
1) Goa: India’s small beach state that has world-class resorts and services, regardless of whether you are in town for business or on vacation. There is a beachfront resort located on Candolim Beach which adds many more resorts where travelers can have their own unique experiences each. You can travel to Goa keeping into consideration these guidelines: All the travelers need to show the RC-PCR malicious certificate. If it is not available then passengers have to take a test that’ll cost them Rs. 2000, and they have to stay in institutional quarantine for 14 days. Bookings of the hotels if not approved by the Goa Tourism Departments aren’t considered valid. You can travel by flight; the Air India airline is quite economical. If you wish to travel by bus, you have the Borivali Station in Mumbai that is the departure point for the Goan bus route that ends at the Mapusa Bus Stand in Goa.
2) Shimla: also called the “Queen of Hills” because of its snow-capped Himalayan Mountains and green land, Shimla is one of the most exciting and most–visited cities of India. It has been the center of attraction for tourists far and wide; hence the snowy city can be reached easily by flight. Though, if you want to, you can also travel by train (which has officially resumed as of last week during the festival season), which is another easy way to reach Shimla; Kalka Shatabdi, Paschim Express, are two of the many express trains that’ll take you to the city of snow. You can also go by bus or by cab. Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) has introduced sanitized buses for travel. But, you will need to carry a COVID-19 certificate as per guidelines.
3) Manali: One of the most famous tourism–centric towns of India located in Himachal Pradesh, this town has regions that are simply picture–perfect and is filled with several adventure-worthy spots; to sum it up, it’s the perfect spot for your winter vacation. So far, the government has opened Manali for tourists, but certain regions of this town are still out of limits. You’ll need to seek some help/guidance from the local people if you intend to vacation this season. Hotels can be booked, but only those that have been cleared and marked safe as per government guidelines. You can get here by train, or bus, or by flight. Kalka Shatabdi, Paschim Express, the express trains that take you to Shimla, can also get you to Manali.
4) Mussoorie: A hill station located in Uttarakhand, Mussoorie has a lot of tourists coming each year from all parts of the world, especially in the month of December as the weather is really something to be experienced. To get to Mussorie, you have to first travel to Dehradun; thereafter you can book a cab or a taxi to the hill station, and the journey on those wheels is approx. 3 to 4 hours. One thing to be made sure of, even if for the sake of caution, is that you must be careful with the drivers – make sure they are following the guidelines of safety and security to the T. If you’re not used to taxis or cabs, you can also use the airway, which are admittedly the easier and safer mode of transport for places like this.
5) Kerala: Situated along the Southwestern Malabar Coast, Kerala is renowned for its geographical features and culture. It’s the most brilliant tourism–centric region when it comes to wildlife exploration and diversity. As per the guidelines, you can visit this state only if you have a valid COVID-19 Negative certificate – the negative being an indication that you aren’t infected or even a carrier. If you wish to visit, but haven’t had the resources for testing where you came from, you’ll have to get tested first thing as you enter the state. If you’re using the airways, make sure it’s safe. If you’re more comfortable with the railways, the Rajdhani, Duronto, and the Superfast Express are highly recommended for your travel as they are some of the fastest trains to Kerala. And, there are a total of 8 major stations throughout the state, namely, Kasaragod, Ernakulam, Kottayam, Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha, Kozhikode, Tirunelveli, and Kollam, so commuting won’t be so troublesome either, all you’ll need is to book a cab or taxi from these stations to reach your desired destination. It’s more or less the same route if you wish to take the airways too; you book a cab to your desired destination once you land at the Kochi International Airport. However, caution is advised, as the roads get somewhat damaged in December. In such cases, sticking to National Highways 14, 47, and 49 is highly recommended as they will connect you directly to Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
6) Sikkim: Almost sandwiched between Nepal, China, and the Seven Sisters of North-East India, Sikkim is one of the most beautiful parts of the country, known especially for its capital, Gangtok. Though it’s an Indian state, the local language is predominantly Nepali. Guidelines over here are a little stricter than the other destinations listed above. If you wish to go here, you’ll be required to have been tested a minimum of 72 hours prior to your arrival and are also required to always have their COVID-negative certificate with them. Not only that, it is also mandatory for visitors, be it Indians or foreigners, to get themselves a ‘Travel Card’. Modes of transport mostly consist of the railways – the nearest stations being Jalpaiguri and Siliguri that directly connect you to Sikkim. Airways are available too, but since Sikkim doesn’t have airports, you’ll have to first fly to Bagdogra, West Bengal, and then book a vehicle to Sikkim. And that journey takes approx. 5 hours. And of course, at this point it should be understood without explicit mention – safety measures are to be strictly followed.
7) Meghalaya: Known far and wide as ‘the Abode of Clouds’, Meghalaya has been a traveler magnet for years. Mesmerizing and beautiful sights upon sights, it’s been one of the most sought–after destination for travelers. Its capital, Shillong, in particular, has a fan–base of its own. And since it’s the winter, let me tell you, there’s probably no better place you’d want to visit in December. If you wish to visit, you can climb aboard the train that’ll take you to Guwahati, Assam, since much like Sikkim, Meghalaya also doesn’t have those proper direct transport facilities. Once you’ve dropped at the Guwahati Junction, you can hail a bus or a cab to reach Meghalaya. If you wish to take the airways, your go–to arrival point would be the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, from where you can take…that’s right – a bus or a cab, to your desired destination. And of course (for the last time), thanks to the pandemic, precautionary measures are in motion all the way, on your end, as well as your booked vehicle of choice, be it the cab or the bus, both of which are to be appropriately sanitized according to the guidelines of the Government.
To sum up, I would like to say that travelling during the winters, especially in December, can help refresh your mind and rejuvenate your body and soul beyond your imagination. And as you can see, there are places aplenty to choose from with the right planning and budget this year, and pretty much every year to come. What do you say? If you ask me, I think we all deserve a break, however big or small it might be, to overcome everything we’ve gone through this year. And I hope you all will take the necessary measures towards your safety and of others too. Stay safe. Stay healthy – mentally, physically. And have a safe journey ahead. Safe travels!
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