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iXiGOers Dec 09 2012

What tips does one need to keep in mind while visiting Gulmarg?

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Gulmarg, located at an average elevation of 2,650 meter in Kashmir, gets severe snowfall for an average of 3 months and remains snowbound till May. Being exposed as it is to the might of the Himalayan climate and having experienced some aftermath of the political unrest of the surrounding regions, it is better to keep some things in mind while planning your trip to Gulmarg.

  • Plan ahead:

If you're arriving during high season or around major festivals and events, particularly Winter Festival, book as far in advance as possible. During the Winter festival, you are unlikely to get a place to stay. Regardless of the time of the year, it is good practise to book your place of stay before coming here. Ensure that you have a written confirmation from the hotel via mail and carry a printout of it as proof of your booking and the type of room you had booked. Additionally, book the flight/train tickets well in advance.

  • Weather check

Severe snowfall is a feature of this place, especially from November to February. Check the weather forecast before you leave for Gulmarg. You don't want to be snowed in or stranded midway in a new place. Call up the Tourism Office or you could visit www.gulmargsnowsafety.com for a 6 day weather forecast of Gulmarg.

  • Money

Carry sufficient cash with you when travelling to Gulmarg. There are 2 ATMs in Gulmarg but completely depending on them may not be safe. Additionally, many of the hotels in Gulmarg do not accept credit/debit cards. There are plenty of ATMs in Srinagar and Jammu from where you can withdraw money before leaving for Gulmarg. Also, carry plenty of cash in smaller denominations like INR 10, 20, 50 and 100, as you will need it here for sled rides, pony rides, shopping, etc..

  • Travelling by Car

Unless you are very confident of navigating through the icy, slippery hilly terrains of Srinagar and Gulmarg, it is better if you hire the services of a professional who knows his/her way around. But if you are sure, then go ahead. The road trip will be an experience in itself. There are few essential things to keep in mind:

Snowfield conditions can highlight any existing minor faults, particularly in the electrical system. So it is essential to thoroughly check your vehicle before leaving home. Have your tyres, battery, brakes, cooling system, engine and windscreen inspected.

Add anti-freeze to your engine radiator. You'll need to match the amount of anti-freeze to the capacity of the coolant system. If this isn't done and the coolant freezes, the engine will block and radiator may crack, leaving you stranded with an expensive repair bill. Most modern cars use coolant with wide temperature capabilities, but you'll need to check with your service provider if special coolant is needed.

If you drive a diesel vehicle, ensure you use fuel formulated for use in cold conditions, as diesel ‘waxes' at low temperature which blocks the fuel system and immobilises the vehicle.

Ensure you allow enough time for the trip. Weather can change quickly in mountainous areas, with a corresponding effect on the roads and travel speed. In Winters, do not forget to attach snow chains to the tyres or you will find yourself going backwards instead of uphill on your drive to Gulmarg.

  • Clothing

    Depending on when you travel to Gulmarg, make sure you carry ample warm clothes accordingly. If you travel during Winters, be certain to pack that long, woolly overcoat and some sturdy boots. Also carry good snow shoes for comfortable treks and walks in and around Gulmarg. Even if you travel during Summers, make sure to pack a shawl or two and some sweaters and mufflers.

  • General Guidelines

Travelling to Gulmarg, make sure you are carrying some form of identification proof. There are a number of checkpoints on the way, where proof of identity is required. For foreign nationals, Visa is a must to carry with you at all times.

Save the emergency contact numbers in your mobile phonebook. The possibility of having no network reception is there, especially if the weather takes a turn for the worse. If you venture out to ski in the backcountry region, let someone know where you are heading and preferably go with others accompanying you.

Carry a torch, preferably head torch. There are no lights in the village and it gets quite dark and scary at night. Often times the electricity at the hotels will go out. If you're lucky your hotel will have a back up generator.

As mentioned above, there are no hospitals in Gulmarg. Pack a first-aid kit with you including cold and flu tablets, Imodium and electrolyte tablets.

Finally, patience and a sense of humour are a must because you might be waiting around a lot in Gulmarg. You can be waiting for the hot water to come on, waiting for the electricity to work, or waiting for the gondola to start turning. But then that's a part of Gulmarg's charm!

Well, now you are all set for a fun, stress-free trip to Gulmarg!

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