Planning to travel Himachal Pradesh during COVID-19 and want to know about coronavirus travel restrictions imposed by the government?
In this blog, I will discuss with you all that you need to know before planning a trip to Himachal during COVID times.
Update (16 September 2020): As per the reports, seven months after imposing travel restrictions to curb Covid-19 spread in the state, the government Tuesday lifted all coronavirus restrictions for tourists to travel Himachal Pradesh.
The decision was taken at a late evening meeting of the state cabinet.
Earlier, tourists visiting Himachal needed valid hotel bookings, an epass and a Covid-negative report issued by an ICMR accredited lab, not older than 72 hours. But now, nothing is required.
It is only Spiti Valley and the region of Kinnaur that still remains closed for tourists. All other regions and districts in Himachal Pradesh has no COVID restrictions for tourists anymore!
See the issued directive below for Spiti Valley…
See the issued directive below for Kinnaur…
So, whatever’s written in the article below is not valid anymore. But I still suggest you keep reading to get a better idea of how Himachal Pradesh changed its COVID travel rules, with time!
Before I start, I want to tell you that between Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, it is easy to travel Uttarakhand at the moment. So if you have the luxury of choosing between the two destinations and don’t want too much hassle, I suggest you travel to Uttarakhand. I have discussed later in the article why Uttarakhand COVID travel rules are comparatively than Himachal Pradesh.
Please refer to the table of contents below:
Himachal Pradesh Travel Guidelines During COVID
Three major conditions for anyone travelling to Himachal Pradesh during coronavirus times include…
- Getting an ePass from HP Government website.
- Having a COVID negative report no older than 96 hours.
- Having ArogyaSetup app downloaded on your phone.
- Have a hotel booking for at least 2 nights.
If you’re travelling from Delhi to Manali or Delhi to Dharamshala, you will have to show your documents and do registration at more than one checkpoint.
For Delhi to Manali, for example, you will get a checkpoint at Swarghat, then one at Mandi and one at Kullu. It is also possible that you will be asked for your documents at the Green Pass checkpoint located a few kilometres before you enter Manali.
At every checkpoint, please expect the usual Indian chaos and confusion, with those doing the registration functioning in periodic episodes of complete bewilderment. There will moreover be tourists trying to enter Himachal Pradesh without a COVID negative report or an ePass, adding more to the confusion.
Having said that, travel only if you’re planning for at least a one week trip. The hassle — of getting a COVID negative report for Himachal Pradesh and wasting hours at different checkpoints to get yourself registered — is not worth a short weekend trip.
Many people are also planning long staycations, and moving to the mountains with their entire work-setup. I think it makes sense to do so. Even if it’s a holiday, I would personally not visit the state if I am not travelling for at least 10 days. As I said above, the hassle is not worth a short weekend trip or a 3 nights Delhi to Manali road trip.
All travellers or tourists entering the state of Himachal Pradesh need a mandatory Covid-19 negative certificate.
You need to obtain a report from your city and then travel. The report was supposed to be 72 hours old, but in a bid to make the process simpler after the Unlock 4.0, the rule was changed in September. It is now (as per 14 September when this blog was written) possible to enter Himachal Pradesh with a COVID negative report no older than 96 hours.
It has to be an RT-PCR test report (with COVID-19 result as negative) from an ICMR authorized lab. The cost of the report, if done from a private lab, is around 2500 Rupees. It is, however, also possible to get the report from a government institution for free.
Please note that the COVID travel rules or the tourist restrictions due to coronavirus keep changing every now and then. It is possible that you read this blog and plan to leave tomorrow and the rules change at 12 in the midnight.
COVID ePass for Himachal Pradesh
For the ePass, you will have to register on the government of Himachal website. Provide your contact details and other particulars such as where you are travelling from and where you will be staying while in the state. You will also have to provide details of your vehicle.
The government is encouraging people to travel only in a self-driven vehicle. However, if you’re taking a taxi, the Himachal Pradesh government has relaxed quarantine norms for taxi drivers. If your taxi driver is returning within 24 hours, he won’t need a COVID negative report.
Obtain the ePass at least a few days ago. As far as I know, there is a limit to the number of ePass allowed every day.
You are required to carry a hard copy of your Himachal Pradesh ePass.
Himachal Pradesh Vs Uttarakhand: Easy To Travel During COVID
As I mentioned above, Uttarakhand is easy to travel during COVID than Himachal Pradesh, due to comparatively lenient coronavirus travel restrictions.
For Himachal you need a mandatory COVID negative report, for Uttarakhand, you are exempted from it if you agree to undergo quarantine.
For Uttarakhand, if you’re not carrying a COVID certificate, you will need at least 7-day hotel booking (if you’re coming from low coronavirus cases region or a green zone as per the Arogya Setu App). The certificate is needed only if you don’t want to get yourself quarantined or if you are visiting Uttarakhand for less than 7 days.
If you are coming from a high-infection region, you can still come to Uttarakhand without a COVID negative report, if you agree to undergo a 7-day institutional quarantine followed by a 7-day home quarantine (which can be any hotel you have pre-booked).
Where Himachal demands a mandatory COVID negative report, Uttarakhand gives you the freedom to not have it and rather exercise self-quarantine. This particularly works in favour of people planning a long workcation/staycation.
Additionally, where despite having a COVID negative report, you still need a minimum 2-days of hotel booking in Himachal Pradesh, for Uttarakhand, there is no minimum hotel booking required if you are carrying a COVID negative report.
Read more: Uttarakhand COVID-19 Travel Rules
Can You Travel Himachal Pradesh Without Covid-19 Negative Report?
Also, please note that it has to be an RT-PCR test report (with COVID-19 result as negative) from an ICMR authorized lab.
The cost of the report, if done from a private lab, is around 2500 Rupees.
It is also possible to have a free test from a government institution.
Are Hotels Open In Himachal Pradesh?
Yes, they are.
You will easily find a place in big towns like Manali and Dharamshala and Shimla. It is in small villages like Cheog, or someplace in Hallan Valley, that locals are more scared and reluctant to having tourists around them.
On a good note, though, you can also expect most hotels charging a lower price during the pandemic.
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Is It Possible To Travel In A Bus?
I don’t really recommend travelling on public transport at the moment.
For one, inter-state transportation to most places in Himachal Pradesh is not functioning. And if it is, the frequency of buses is disappointingly low at the moment.
The state government is moreover discouraging tourists to take public transport at the moment.
Is It Possible To Travel Inside Himachal Pradesh?
You need a different ePass for every district you’re travelling to inside Himachal Pradesh. Use the same link I shared above and select ‘within state crossing interstate barriers’ from the drop-down menu on top.
If you are travelling from high containment zone, you may need another COVID negative test to travel inside Himachal Pradesh — one district to another district. If you are travelling from the low-containment zone, you won’t need another COVID test.
Before Unlock 3.0, a few districts were totally closed for tourists (I think Narkanda district was totally shut down if I am not wrong) but the government has now allowed interstate movement everywhere.
You will, however, still need to get the Covid-19 monitoring and contact tracing done at different checkpoints. Also, make sure you obtain the ePass for the district you’re travelling to.
Though I am regularly updating this blog with recent news, rules regarding Himachal Pradesh COVID travel restrictions are changing every now and then.
Having said that, I strongly recommend you check the Himachal Pradesh Tourism website once for any recent information I might have missed.
There is a lot of ambiguity about the rules, and those who want to take advantage of the situation are doing so too.
Additionally, it is hard to guess why the Himachal Pradesh Government is still demanding for minimum 2 days of a hotel booking or for a COVID negative certificate from travellers when the central government has ordered state governments to not put any travel restrictions after Unlock 4.
It is moreover funny why the decision-makers are asking for a minimum 2-day hotel booking when reports around the world are claiming that it takes up to 5 days for the coronavirus symptoms to surface. In some cases, the symptoms can take as many as 12 days to be visible.
The justification of these rules is beyond my imagination!
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That’s all in this blog.
You can contact me on Instagram if you have any questions relating to Himachal COVID travel restrictions. You can also check my regular stories on Instagram for more recent updates about the topic.