Though India has come out of nationwide lockdown, state governments are still imposing their own version of travel restrictions.
From obtaining ePass to COVID negative reports, there’s just too much asking.
Check the video on my Youtube channel if you’re not much of a reader:
In August 2020, I planned a 2-week trip from Delhi to Rishikesh. And out of my experience, I am sharing all you need to know before you travel to Rishikesh or other parts of Uttarakhand, in this blog.
Update September 2020: I had a few friends who visited Uttarakhand in September 2020 and the COVID travel rules have not changed at all after Unlock 4.0 either. Whatever’s mentioned in the article is still very much valid. Read the three conditions written below (under point 1, 2 and 3) and that’s pretty much all you need to know.
Additionally, I am revisiting Uttarakhand (leaving on 20th September) so you can contact me on Instagram if you have any questions. You can also check my regular stories on Instagram for more recent updates on Uttarakhand COVID travel guidelines, or other coronavirus rules you may need to know.
I would also like to mention that Uttarakhand is a very safe place right now, compared to Delhi and other big cities. There are very few coronavirus cases. Also, it is necessary to wear a mask in public. You can be challenged (on the stop) for 100 or 500 Rupees (there are two different challans) if found without a mask.
Uttarakhand Travel Guidelines During Coronavirus
Three major conditions for anyone travelling to Uttarakhand during coronavirus times include…
- Getting an ePass from Dehradun Smart City website
- Having a COVID negative report. (If you are not obtaining a COVID-19 negative report, you will either have to enter into a 14-day home-quarantine OR a 7-day institutional+7-day home-quarantine the basis of where you’re coming from)
- Having ArogyaSetup app downloaded on your phone
If you’re travelling from Delhi to Rishikesh, you will have to show your documents and do registration at more than 2 checkpoints (more than 2 because there were more but I was asked to stop and get my documents checked at 2 checkpoints). The first checkpoint is near Haridwar.
At every checkpoint, there is going to be chaos, confusion, and queues. Consider the chaos very India-like. Those doing the registration will behave coldly and confusingly. No one knows what they are doing.
Having said that, travel only if you’re planning for at least a few weeks of holiday. The hassle is not worth a short weekend trip.
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Covid-19 Negative Report
All travellers coming into Uttarakhand need to have a Covid-19 negative certificate unless they are ready to get quarantined — or they happen to be a VIP.
The convenient option is to get the report from your city and then travel. The report needs to be no older than 72 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 possible to obtain the report at the border checkpoint in Uttarakhand too, but honestly speaking I won’t recommend so. The process can take at least a day (as I was told) and you may have to quarantine yourself until the result is out.
ePass For Uttarakhand
Unlike a COVID negative report, that you can travel without and get yourself quarantined in Uttarakhand, getting an ePass is mandatory.
For the ePass, you will have to register on the Dehradun Smart City 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 can upload your COVID negative report if you have one.
If you don’t have a COVID negative report, you will have to provide details for your hotel/residence in Uttarakhand with a minimum number of days of booking (the basis of where you’re coming from).
Obtain the ePass at least a few days ago. There’s a limit to the number of ePass allowed every day.
Here’s how the Uttarakhand COVID travel ePass looks like…
Getting Quarantine In Uttarakhand
If you have a COVID-19 negative report, you can skip reading this part as you don’t need to quarantine yourself.
If, however, you don’t have a COVID-19 negative report, and…
- You’re coming from a region with a high number of COVID-19 cases, minimum 14-days of quarantine is mandatory (7-days institutional quarantine and 7-days home quarantine). The institutional quarantine can be a paid hotel (many hotels have turned themselves into registered quarantine facility. In Rishikesh alone there are over a dozen hotels that have converted their facility into a paid institutional quarantine centre) or a free-government facility. The home quarantine can be any other regular hotel or a backpackers hostel.
- You’re coming from a low coronavirus cases zone, a minimum of 14-day home quarantine is mandatory. You can book one of the regular (not an institutional quarantine center hotel) hotels and they can act as your home quarantine facility.
Use Arogrya Setu app to find out if you’re coming from a high or low COVID cases region.
Pregnant women, senior citizens and children under the age of 10 are exempt from institutional quarantine, even if they are coming from a high COVID infection region. Instead, they will be required to self-quarantine at home (or a regular hotel) for 14 days.
Can You Travel Uttarakhand Without Covid-19 Negative Report?
Yes, you can.
If you’re not carrying a COVID certificate, you will need to exercise self/institutional quarantine. The certificate is needed only if you don’t want to get yourself quarantined or if you are visiting Uttarakhand for just a few days. I would also recommend getting a COVID negative report if you want to visit a few places in Uttarakhand.
Speaking of my case, for example, I travelled from Faridabad, that, as per Arogya Setu App, is a Green Zone. I booked a 7-day stay in Rishikesh using Booking.com, applied for an ePass and that was it. No COVID negative report was needed.
Had I travelled from Delhi (which is a Red Zone as per ArogyaSetu App) I needed a 7-day booking in one of the institutional quarantine centres in Rishikesh, followed by a 7-day booking in a regular hotel. To avoid this, however, I could get a COVID negative report and travel to Uttarakhand without worrying about getting quarantined at all.
Update September 2020: As per SOP Unlock 4.0, you now need to undergo 14-day home quarantine if you are coming from a green zone. Meaning, rather than 7-days (as I did earlier in August, after Unlock 3.0), after Unlock 4.0 you now need at least 14-days of hotel booking (so that you can exercise 14-day home quarantine to travel Uttarakhand). Check the screenshot below:
Are Hotels Open In Uttarakhand?
Yes, they are. Though some hotels have temporarily become registered quarantine centres, most hotels are functioning as they were before. On a good note, you can also expect most hotels charging a lower price during the pandemic.
Also read: Impact of Coronavirus on the travel industry
Is It Possible To Travel In A Bus?
It is, but with a lot of hassle.
For one, travelling in public transport is not safe at the moment. Secondly, any other state-transport bus isn’t allowed inside of Uttarakhand.
So if you’re coming from someplace in Uttar Pradesh and have caught UP State Transport bus, it will drop you off at the border in Uttar Pradesh. You walk a few metres, enter into Uttarakhand, and catch another bus to inside Uttarakhand.
Also, the frequency of buses is disappointingly low at the moment.
Is It Possible To Travel Inside Uttarakhand?
You need a different ePass for every district you’re travelling to inside Uttarakhand.
If you are staying in Rishikesh, for example, you need an ePass for Dehradun District. Now if you’re going 20km north of Rishikesh, to Shivpuri, you need a different ePass for Tehri Garhwal. And this makes travelling inside Uttarakhand during coronavirus no less a hassle. There are police checkpoints at every important intersections, highways, district-borders.
Though most tourist places in Uttarakhand are open for tourists, including the Char Dham Yatra, the movement is still very much restricted. Also, some tourist destinations like the Valley of Flowers are open with a mandatory COVID-19 report. You can’t just go there and ask the local authority to quarantine you.
I suggest you check the Uttarakhand Tourism website and collect more relevant information about the destination you’re travelling to. Please note that COVID travel rules in Uttarakhand are changing regularly.
As I said above, yes. You will have to do online registration using this link for the Char Dham Yatra. This registration (or the ePass) link is different from the usual ePass for Uttarakhand travel.
It is also mandatory to have the coronavirus negative report no older than 72 hours for Char Dham Yatra.
Please note that these are the current Uttarakhand COVID travel rules or the tourist restrictions due to coronavirus. But these rules are changing every day. It is possible that you read this blog with a firm plan to leave tomorrow and the rules change at 12 in the midnight.
There is a lot of ambiguity and those who want to take advantage of the situation are doing so too. I have even heard an incident where a group of tourists (2 cars, 7 guys from Delhi) travelled to Uttarakhand without COVID negative certificates. When questioned, they bribed the policeman present on the scene and got away.
Additionally, it is hard to guess why the Uttarakhand Government is still demanding for minimum days of a hotel booking or for 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 thought that a min 7-day institutional quarantine will do for those who are coming without a coronavirus negative report when reports around the world are claiming that though it typically takes 5 days, in some cases, coronavirus symptoms are taking as many as 12 days to be visible.
Rather than providing better healthcare facilities, the government is only trying to curb the movement of people, expecting them to stay quarantined and die because of depression, if not COVID. As always, incompetent administration and pointless governing laws are beyond my imagination!
Let me know what you think about the entire situation in the comments below!