Today, I’m sharing with you a comprehensive guide to travel to Uttarakhand during these COVID times.
After I sent my newsletter last week, I realised that trekkers had been on their toes, waiting for Indiahikes to reopen trekking in a safe way. There’s been a sudden rush of registrations, emails and phone calls, with trekkers sounding out their worries to us.
I notice that trekkers are mostly concerned about just one thing — travelling to Uttarakhand and the COVID test required before going there.
So in this post, I’m going to clarify everything you need to know about travelling to Uttarakhand during COVID times.
The Documents Required by the Uttarakhand State Government
There are just 2 extra steps you have to take outside of the regular travel to Uttarakhand.
1. The first is to fill this form, which requires some basic travel information from you. The form is pretty straight forward and requires your address proof, a proof of some travel booking within Uttarakhand (your trek receipt will work here), and your COVID negative certificate
2. The second is a COVID negative certificate, from a COVID test (RT-PCR test) that is done no less than 96 hours before the time of travel.
Let’s discuss the second point.
Getting a COVID Test Done in Your City
The biggest impediment that seems to be holding trekkers back is the COVID test they have to undergo before coming to Uttarakhand.
(By the way, if you don’t go with a certificate, you can still get tested after you go to Uttarakhand, but you’d have to quarantine yourself for 7 days. I wouldn’t recommend this.)
So if you’re planning to trek, get a COVID test done in your city.
Here, I have some relieving news for you. Getting a COVID test is a cakewalk these days. You can go at will, even with no symptoms, and get a test done. It’s not scary. It’s not dangerous either.
I personally went for a COVID test two days ago. I did the same RT-PCR test required by the Uttarakhand government. A lot of my colleagues got tested too, since some of us are headed to Uttarakhand to manage trek operations.
From our experience, I’m sharing a few pro tips to get a COVID test done:
– Find a good government hospital close to you (Doing an RT-PCR test at a government hospital is free. It’s unnecessarily expensive at private hospitals. It is also hassle free. Also, free testing is available in every ward of every major town in India.)
– Go early in the morning to avoid crowds. Before 10 am we have seen least crowds.
– Carry your own pen to fill the form that they give you there.
– Avoid touching anything around you when you go for the test. Apart from the pen, you’re not really required to touch anything. So best to take your pen.
– Wear your mask throughout the time you’re there, take it out only to give them the swabs.
How they do the test:
The test itself is very smooth. It will not take more than 30-40 seconds. They put an ear bud-like stick in the back of your mouth and into your nose for 2-3 seconds and take it out. It doesn’t hurt.
They dip this stick into a test tube, which will have your name and ID pasted on it. It’s good to take a picture of this just for your record.
To give you some more reassurance, I made this voice note of my experience of getting the test in Bangalore. I made this for my office team, but I think it will help you too. Here’s another voice note, which our Trek Leader Tanmay Bain sent, after getting tested in Kolkata.
| Note: The Himachal government just announced yesterday (Sept 16th) that tourists need not take a COVID test before entering Himachal anymore. The Uttarakhand government may follow suit. Just keep an eye on this page for any advisories or updates from the state govt.
Your Flying Experience to Uttarakhand
If you’re flying to Dehradun, things are mildly different from pre-COVID times.
Here too, I want to share some tips with you, based on the experiences of three of my colleagues who have flown from Mumbai, Kolkata and Ranchi.
1. Reach the airport at least 2 hours in advance. This is important because of all the processes the airlines have to go through — sanitizing your bag, giving you Covid safety kits, etc.
2. Download the Aarogya Setu app on your phone. You’re required to show a “green signal” that you’re safe on the app when you’re at the airport.
3. The earlier you check in, the better, to get the right seats. Anyone sitting in the middle seat has to wear a PPE kit. If you’d like to avoid that, make sure you check in at the earliest. The check-in starts 48 hours before the time of flight with most airlines.
4. Take a screenshot of your boarding pass and use it wherever you need to show it. You don’t need to open it from your mail again and again.
5. Most airlines have increased the weight of the allowed check-in baggage. Check with your airline in advance so that you can pack accordingly.
6. Carry your own comfortable mask and sanitizer. Every passenger is given a kit with a mask, a face shield and some sanitizer, but the mask they give can be suffocating, it’s best if you have your own, a mask that you are used to wearing.
7. Take home-cooked food in your own cutlery and eat at the airport before boarding. Avoid eating in the flight, it’s best not to take off your mask and face shield while flying, since you’re in close proximity with many people.
8. Use the washrooms at the airport and avoid the in-flight washroom.
9. While boarding and deboarding, do not rush. The airline will also encourage you to keep distance as you move out. Follow that.
If You’re Not Flying to Dehradun
There are three options you have:
Your best option would be to bring your own car or take a cab.
There’s enough parking space at the base camps. But this could turn out to be pretty expensive. (If you’re going to Brahmatal or Deoriatal, our team can help you with private cabs from Dehradun airport to Rishikesh. Just get in touch with your Trek Coordinator for this.)
Your next option is to take a train.
The Jan Shatabdi and Nanda Devi Express (renamed as Kota DDN Special) are both running. If you’re travelling by train, make sure you take your own food and blanket for the train journey. The pantries are not functional and they are not giving sheets to passengers. Avoid touching anything in the train.
Your third option would be to take a bus.
A few of my colleagues have taken overnight buses over the past few weeks and had a safe experience. The seat next to them was empty. They also travelled by non-AC buses for better air circulation. Of course, here too, always have your mask on and keep a sanitizer handy.
| Note: Whether you’re travelling by car, train or bus, the rules are the same. You need a COVID negative certificate and you need to fill up the form on the Dehradun Smart City website.
Keep in mind that there are several check posts on all highways in and around Uttarakhand. These are check posts where they will check your COVID negative report.
If you’re travelling by your own vehicle or a cab, account for the extra time that it’s going to take at these check posts. According to our latest reports, there is a lot of traffic on the highways as well. So keep around 2-3 extra hours for your travel.
Returning to Your State
Every state has its own set of regulations when people are re-entering. Make sure you read up on your own state’s regulations before entering, the same way that you’re checking the requirements of Uttarakhand.
Outside of small changes, travelling has almost returned to how it used to be pre-COVID times. Whether we like it or not, it has almost become like COVID is part of our lives.
While you are on the trek, we have our 31-point safety check in place. You’re in safe hands.
But while you’re travelling, a lot of the onus is on you to stay safe and keep others around you safe. I hope you always wear your mark, sanitize your hands and follow social distancing norms while travelling.
If you have any doubts, drop in a comment below. We’ll help you out.