Shimla is one of the few hill stations that has its own airport, Jubbarhatti Airport which is around 20 kilometres away from the city. Since the airstrip is quite small, flight landings are a bit rough and bumpy here. There’s just one daily flight from Delhi with Alliance Air and it’s important to note that the airport is not functional throughout the year. Moreover, during summer monsoons, flight cancellations are quite common. Or if the pilots are unable to land safely, they will divert the flight to Chandigarh. When you land at the airport, you can easily hire a cab or taxi to take you to Shimla which is quite close by.
To avoid these problems, a slightly longer but more preferable way to reach Shimla is by flying to Chandigarh or Delhi which are quite close. Once you land at either of these airports, all you need to do is book a cab to Shimla. There are also buses that will ply you to Shimla from Chandigarh airport. The time taken to travel from Chandigarh to Shimla is around 3 to 4 hours and from Delhi, it can go up to 7 to 8 hours by road. If you want to reach Shimla sooner, then it’s best to fly to Chandigarh and travel to Shimla from there.
Shimla has a small railway station inside the city itself but only narrow-gauge trains from Kalka come here. The station is just 1.5kms west of Scandal Point and if you walk uphill from there for around 20 minutes, you will reach the town. Travelling to Shimla by train can actually be quite a memorable experience. The toy train from Kalka to Shimla, which has been famous for over a hundred years, takes around 7 hours to reach Shimla.
The views on this train can be quite spectacular. Green mountains and deep valleys pass your eye while you travel through several tunnels which are both exciting and exhilarating. In fact, there are as many as 102 tunnels and 988 bridges that you will come across on your train trip to Shimla. All these wonderful views and experiences compensate greatly for the extra time it takes to reach Shimla. If you have time to spare, don’t miss it as it can be quite a memorable experience.
The trains leave in each direction around seven times, daily. One thing to remember is that the Kalka Railway Station is a broad-gauge railway station and there are regular trains that connect it to Chandigarh and Delhi. For those planning to visit Kalka from New Delhi, the Kalka Shatabdi is a great choice as it goes via Chandigarh. It doesn’t matter how you travel to Shimla by train, you will have to come to Kalka first.
By Bus - One of the most popular ways to reach Shimla is by bus. As one of the most favoured tourist destinations of India, Shimla sees regular buses from Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Jaipur and Chandigarh. It is well-connected to most such north Indian cities. Travelling from Chandigarh to Shimla is not too much of a distance by bus but if you’re coming from Delhi, then it would be best to take the overnight luxury bus that is air-conditioned. It is a comfortable overnight journey and offers a splendid view of Shimla when you wake up in the morning and open your eyes. Buses to Shimla run either in the morning or late at night. As the timings change every season, it is best to make reservations online before you book your tickets.
By Car - A road trip to Shimla can prove to be quite a fun experience if you have your own car. As the city is well-connected with highways, driving down is a good option to reach Shimla at your own pace. The Ambala route that connects Delhi to Shimla via NH 44, 152 and 5 is the shortest and takes around 7 to 8 hours. Other routes such as the Yamunanagar route can take anywhere between 10 to 11 hours and the Dehradun route which takes 12 to 13 hours are also available. As with most road trips, if you focus on the journey, and not just the destination, you will find that there’s much to see and enjoy. The routes are all scenic and promise many wonderful sights along the way.
Local bus services are available from 7am to 9pm and you can find them typically along the Ring Road. There is also a special bus reserved just for women. For some more local sightseeing options, the Himachal Pradesh Tourism board plies special buses to take you to all the well-known tourist spots.
Another great option to travel around the city is to hire a taxi. For families, this can prove to be the best choice as you can all travel together, to the various famous sights. You can book a taxi for an entire day and it can cost anywhere between Rs.800 to Rs.1500 per day. Local sightseeing done using these taxis can also save money significantly. Do note that vehicular traffic is not allowed in Mall Road and the Ridge, so you will have to walk there. Share taxis are also available for those who want to travel between different points in the city.
Since the Mall Road, Ridge and Kali Bari do not allow any form of vehicles - even taxis - the best way to see Shimla is on foot. These places have some excellent sightseeing spots and it is indeed wonderful to walk around slowly and take in all the lovely sights.
An interesting addition to the transport scene is the lift that is run by HP Tourism. It connects Cart Road, Shimla’s lowest point to the Mall, which is its highest point.