Reaching Kashmir by air is quite popular. The Srinagar airport is an international airport, but it mainly serves domestic flights from a number of cities such as Delhi, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Bangalore, Mumbai etc. An important thing to remember is that Srinagar Airport has strict security measures. To reach it, you have to travel beyond a 1.2km security barrier. Although the airport is not too far from the city, it’s a good idea to come here before time as there are many long queues for luggage and body screening that must be completed. Airlines such as IndiGo, Spicejet, Go Air and Air India fly to Srinagar regularly.
There are prepaid taxis that take you to the airport from the city. Another possibility to get to the city from the airport would be to take the free shuttle bus to the security gate outside and from there, you can try and get an auto. Curfews are common in Srinagar so reaching the airport on time can be a struggle. Also, even if you do manage to reach early, you might have to wait outside as you can go inside only three hours before the flight departure. During winter months, it’s common for flights to get cancelled routinely.
Kashmir has two other airports as well – Jammu Airport, a domestic airport that serves Jammu and is 8kms away from the city with bus, taxi and car rental options to reach the city and Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport, another domestic airport that serves the city of Leh.
By Bus - Kashmir is connected to other cities and states by a network of state and private buses. From cities like Chandigarh and Delhi, there are bus services that take you to Srinagar. Srinagar is connected to Jammu via the National Highway 1-A. State road transport corporation buses from various states have private deluxe buses which travel to Kashmir. In Srinagar, there is a J&K SRTC bus station where you can board your bus. Buses often arrive early in the morning or late at night and if you are planning to arrive by bus, then do remember this before you finalize your travel plans. Sometimes, the buses are not very comfortable, and your journey might feel too cumbersome. Especially if you are coming from Delhi, the bus journey can go up to 24 hours! However, the buses are quite cost-effective which makes them popular. There are government buses as well which take you to Srinagar. Once you reach Srinagar, You can find the best places to visit in Kashmir such as Jammu, Pahalgam, Gulmarg as there are buses from Srinagar that take you there.
By Car - You can take a taxi or a rental car to Kashmir, typically to Srinagar. The roads are well-connected to both Jammu and Srinagar. You can choose from taxis or jeeps to travel to Kashmir. It is often recommended to book a taxi for multiple days as it turns out to be more economical in the long run. Do note that travelling from Srinagar to Jammu takes nearly ten hours. However, old hands at travelling in Kashmir often advise that it’s a good idea to keep a margin of 5 hours at least as there can be traffic on the highways which might affect your travel time. Bad weather can also affect travel time and cause delays and traffic jams.
Travelling to Kashmir by train means you have to take a train to Jammu Tawi Railway Station in Jammu which is the only railway station in Kashmir. Although Srinagar too has a railway station at Nowgam which is around 10kms away from the city, it covers just a few cities such as Baramulla, Anantnag, Qazigund and Banihal. It is not yet linked to the Indian Railway network. To reach Kashmir from other cities, Jammu Tawi is better as it is well-connected to numerous Indian cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow, Kanpur, Udaipur, and Pune. Numerous trains come here regularly and some of them include Delhi Anand Vihar-Katra Special Express, Lucknow-Katra Special Express, Pune-Jammu Tawi Jhelum Express and several others. After you reach Jammu, you can take a bus or hire a taxi to reach Srinagar if you so wish. However, this is not a good idea as it can take nearly 8 to 10 hours to reach Srinagar from Jammu by road.
If you are in Srinagar, then there are buses run by JKSRTC and other private organisations which you can use to get around the city. Buses come at regular intervals and the tickets don’t cost much, so this is a good idea. Jammu too has local buses, but these are crowded and it’s not very clear where they are headed, so you need to ask locals about the buses. These are not very good options for tourists as locals are more used to them.
There are autos in Srinagar which can be used for short distances. However, do be warned that they don’t run on meters and rates are not fixed. Sometimes, you can hire autos per hour, and they will take you around the city on short tours. Jammu too has autorickshaws which follow the same principle. No meters but a fixed rate that has to be decided before the passenger gets inside the auto ideally. It’s also a good idea to negotiate the amount before the ride begins.
In Srinagar, it’s possible to get taxis. They are not very frequent, however. You can also choose to get a rental from a travel agency where they rent out cars. There are several such places from where you can hire cars and explore Srinagar easily. In Jammu, there’s the Special Tourist Taxi Association which offers taxis for hire. It’s also possible to take a 2 -3-hour tour to go around some of the famous tourist places here.
Both Srinagar and Jammu have minibuses which can be used to get around the city. In Srinagar, there is a minibus stand in Lal Chowk. From here, you can visit various places such as Hazratbal, Shalimar Bagh, Dal Lake and other such tourist spots. Jammu also has minibuses which cover various places and suburbs. Routes are fixed, so ask before you get on one. Also, minibuses are often crowded and can be bothersome for those who are not used to travelling in such vehicles.
The sight of the colourful shikharas as they glide over the Dal Lake is something that’s hard to forget. While not really a mode of transport, tourists can hire shikharas for an hour. The boatmen will take you around the lake for just Rs.500. They will also provide you with entertaining titbits about film shoots that have taken place here for no extra charge! The Dal Lake also has several gorgeous houseboats and you’ll also get to see Kashmiri people from close quarters as they row the shikharas, selling you all manner of things, from kahwa to trinkets.
Walking is a popular way to get around Srinagar. Most of the tourist places in the old city can be approached on foot. There are a few restaurants and shops here as well. If you don’t mind walking, then you can see some beautiful and interesting sights. Many people also opt to go on trekking expeditions from Srinagar.
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