World Nomads Travel Insurance

Gulmarg Travel Tips

Here are some travel tips for Gulmarg. Also see the travel to Gulmarg page for information on how to get there and around.

Is it Safe to Travel to Gulmarg?

In short yes, but the situation can change at any time. Check your government’s website for the latest information but then also check with the tour operators for an interpretation of this. For example, the Australian government website has recommended “do not travel” (the highest warning) to Kashmir due to the possibility of terrorism for over a decade, despite there being no tourist incidents. The local Kashmiris and the Indian military go to great lengths to ensure the safety of international skiers and boarders visiting Gulmarg. Many travellers to Gulmarg have felt completely safe whilst travelling, but you need to be aware of the risks and make your own decision.

The ‘Line of Control’ is a de-militarized border between India and Pakistan, which is 20km away from Gulmarg. Kashmir and Pakistan have been in conflict over the ‘ownership’ of this disputed area since the early 1900s. China is in the mix as well. Wars over this area have devastated the region and its people. During the late 1980s and 1990s, Kashmir was definitely not a safe area for tourists to visit, and since it seems to vary from year to year. There are many troops based in the area, the Srinagar airport in particular has tight security, and the Srinagar to Gulmarg road has had a history of incidents.

Female travellers may feel uncomfortable with the overt ogling one may get from many Kashmiri males. There are very few females on the streets of Gulmarg, so international females can draw a lot of attention that may be unwanted. The harassment can be very intimidating, and it is advised that women should avoid walking alone in deserted areas where possible.

Aside from that, the Kashmiris and the Indian military are very friendly, polite, respectful and helpful people.

Gulmarg Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness in Gulmarg is a potential health concern as the air up high in the Himalayas is a bit thin. Whilst the Gulmarg village is only about 2,700 metres elevation, the Gulmarg gondola tops out at almost 4,000 metres so altitude sickness or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is one major health concern for those on a Gulmarg holiday, particularly for those who reside at sea level. Symptoms may become evident a short time after ascent and may include headache, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, and insomnia. Exertion (ie skiing, boarding, hiking) aggravates the symptoms, and in more severe forms symptoms may include a wet cough, unsteady gait, in-coordination, vomiting, and loss of consciousness. Altitude sickness is not something that should be taken lightly.

Prevention is the best cure. Take it easy for the first couple of days (pause for rests whilst pretending to admire the breathtaking views), increase fluids but not of the alcoholic variety, and avoid sleeping tablets (which is unfortunate if you’ve got insomnia). Acetazolamide aka Diamox is a prescription medicine that can be taken a day or two prior to ascent to speed up the acclimatisation process. Dexamethasone, a steroid, is also a good medication for prevention and treatment. Apparently Viagra is also effective in preventing Acute Mountain Sickness, so long as you can cope with the “side-effects” of the little blue pill! Good luck getting your doctor to prescribe Viagra for AMS!

Treatment for mild altitude sickness includes rest and fluids, with symptoms likely to resolve within one to two days. Descent is a very effective treatment, and for moderate or severe illness, medical treatment should generally be sought. However you would not want to end up in a hospital in Kashmir that features cockroaches, other people’s bodily fluids on the sheets, and a general lack of quality health care. So prevention is absolutely the best cure!

Other Health

There is a high incidence of food-borne, water-borne and other infectious diseases in India. Various vaccinations are recommended including Hep A, Hep B, Typhoid, Rabies and Cholera. Check with your GP, but some of these vaccinations will be required at least four to six weeks before departing.

The one thing that sets Gulmarg apart from the rest of India is that you can drink the water from the taps without major fear of repercussions of the severe bowel movement kind. As a result, food preparation hygiene is also generally far superior to the rest of India. That being said, a few travellers sometimes suffer from “Gulmarg Guts” which is the equivalent of “Delhi Belly”. Pack the Lomotil (or Immodium) and Stemetil tablets with you just in case.

Try to avoid dogs and monkeys around the village and at Monkey Hill, and definitely try not to get bitten. Occasionally snow leopards have been known to leap out at humans, so to escape, you might want to be able to ski or board really fast. Of course there’s also the very occasional “cougar” attack! Visa All travel to India (including Kashmir) requires a visa which needs to be organised electronically at least one week prior to travel.

Language

Many of the Kashmir locals speak English as well as Kashmiri, their native tongue.

Money

The Indian Rupee is king in Gulmarg and it’s best to cash up before arriving in Kashmir. See the Oanda website for the latest currency exchange rates. Tips of 5-10 percent are customary, but not compulsory.

Travel Insurance

Check your travel insurance carefully as some will not cover off-piste skiing. There is a slight risk of being a victim of terrorism, so take out the extra ski insurance to cover these options.

Electrical Adapters

The adapter required is the same as that for South Africa.

Time Zone

The time zone in Srinagar and Gulmarg is GMT/UTC + 05:30 hour.

Ski Gear For Gulmarg

The temperatures in Gulmarg are not super cold, so you probably won’t need to pack face protection. Not having to travel on cold chairlifts much is also a bonus.

As good rental gear is not available, it’s wise to take your own skis or snowboard. For skis you’ll want fat skis of at least 100mm in the waist so that you can float in the powder and not break through any crust.

Snowboarders may require snow shoes or ideally take a split board for more efficient touring.

You’ll definitely need a helmet and goggles and avalanche safety equipment.

You might want to pack a head torch for when the power goes off, or if you want to walk around the village at night.

See the ski trip packing checklist which also includes items for backcountry skiing.
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