Road travel to Srinagar - safe?

#1 May 10th, 2012, 19:42
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  • Laurendo is offline
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I'm heading to Leh this year, going via the Manali - Leh highway. I will probably return by road too, and was thinking about going back via Srinagar. However the UK foreign office advises against all but essential travel to Srinagar, and then only by air. However I have seen lots of threads on here about people making this trip, so is it dangerous after all?

I am female and will be travelling alone.

Here is what is says on the fco website, for your information:

We advise against all travel to or through rural areas of Jammu and Kashmir, other than to Ladakh, and against all but essential travel to Srinagar. If you intend to travel to Srinagar then you should only travel there by air, and you should check the local security situation before doing so. Despite an overall decline in violence in Jammu and Kashmir in recent years, there is a high risk of unpredictable violence, including bombings, grenade attacks, shootings and kidnapping. In some border areas there is the danger of land mines. If, despite this advice, you decide to travel to or remain in this region, you do so at your own risk. Review your travel insurance policy, security arrangements and be aware that the level of consular assistance that we can provide in Jammu & Kashmir is extremely limited.

There is also a risk of kidnapping. Militants took an Indian journalist hostage in 2006. Be aware that the long-standing policy of the British Government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers.

Recent incidents include:

22 March 2012: One person was killed and at least 19 injured when a car bomb exploded in Bijbehara town.
25 October 2011: Three security personnel were injured in grenade attacks on security outposts in Srinagar.
11 December 2011: A policeman was killed and three others injured in an attack on a senior minister in Srinagar's Nawab Bazaar area.
2 June 2011: Three militants were killed in a gun battle in Sopore.
17 May 2011: A policeman was shot dead by militants at Sopore.
8 April 2011: Moulvi Showkat Shah, a well-known religious leader, was killed in an IED explosion in central Srinagar.
October 2010: Curfew restrictions were sporadically imposed. Schools, colleges and shops were frequently closed due to curfew and strikes. There was a heavy security force presence. An improvised explosive device was found and defused outside a police station on 18 October.
June-September 2010: Around 110 people were killed and hundreds injured in recurring clashes across Indian-administered Kashmir between stone-pelting protestors and security forces. 17 people were killed and 130 others injured in clashes on 13 September alone. All major towns in Kashmir including Srinagar, Anantnag, Budgam, Baramulla and Sopore were affected. Curfew was imposed for extended periods across Kashmir, including for a two-week stretch in September. Movement of traffic in cities and highways was affected, telecommunications services were occasionally disrupted while school, colleges and shopping establishments were closed during protests and when curfew restrictions were in place. Air services to Srinagar were briefly suspended.
6/7 January 2010: Three people were killed and nine injured when terrorists attacked police and entered a hotel near Lal Chowk in central Srinagar.
#2 May 14th, 2012, 11:14
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Originally Posted by Laurendo View Post I'm heading to Leh this year, going via the Manali - Leh highway. I will probably return by road too, and was thinking about going back via Srinagar.
If you plan to do this , do it in the other direction . Massive advantage in doing the low route first with one night in Kargil and basic acclimatization in Leh etc before hitting the 5000+ passes on the Manali-Leh road.

As to if one should do it : at the moment the Vale seems relatively quiet ( even though the FO list is not complete - see my sticky ) , so I wouldn´t worry much over using this route. Committing to buying an air ticket to/from Srinagar - not really comfortable with that idea.
#3 May 14th, 2012, 14:06
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Laurendo, i'm female and i'll be travelling the same route in june, as i have many times in the past.

No one can give you an assurance on security - all I can say is that as a rule, despite the hype about 'most dangerous place' etc., kidnappings are rare

Foreigners are not targeted (it did happen in the early nineties, but not anymore)

Indian tourists continue to go in large numbers despite a couple of grenade attacks in 2009(?) - not because they're braver than you or i, but because such targeted attacks are the exception rather than the rule

as long as you stick to the tourist circuit - srinagar, gulmarg, pahalgam - there should be no problem

as has been pointed out many times on this forum, you just need to keep your eyes and ears open - the same rules as would apply in any other place would apply here if you're a woman travelling alone

having said that, kashmir is safer for a woman than most places.(its not the paradise its made out to be, but its safer than say, delhi..)
#4 May 14th, 2012, 14:22
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Originally Posted by doksanomo View Post ... despite a couple of grenade attacks in 2009(?)
Srinagar has not had a single grenade free year in the last two decades : this years first incidents were the two police stations targeted in mid-February.

Targeting tourists was a key element in 2006 ( second year in a row the Tourist Reception Center was targeted) , the year after two tourist buses were bombed in Srinagar , in 2008 .. the Amarnath conflict was not good for tourists either. No spontaneous reactions to 2009. During the long 2010 curfews the Army escorted tourists to the airport , that also was closed for a short while.
#5 May 14th, 2012, 15:20
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Originally Posted by vistet View Post Srinagar has not had a single grenade free year in the last two decades : this years first incidents were the two police stations targeted in mid-February.

Targeting tourists was a key element in 2006 ( second year in a row the Tourist Reception Center was targeted) , the year after two tourist buses were bombed in Srinagar , in 2008 .. the Amarnath conflict was not good for tourists either. No spontaneous reactions to 2009. During the long 2010 curfews the Army escorted tourists to the airport , that also was closed for a short while.
i didn't phrase that right vistet, laurendo, i meant two 'targetted' grenade attacks on tourists - in the last seven or eight years i can't recall any other incident where tourists were specifically targeted.

as for the tourist reception centre, it was a high profile event - one would do well to stay away from such events, as also from independence and republic day events in regions like kashmir and the north east .

that's the kind of advice you'd get from locals too if you're travelling there, so as long as you listen carefully, you'll be fine.

the point i wanted to put across was that in a conflict zone no one can guarantee anyone's safety - yet it'd be a shame to be frightened away by the travel advisories that some countries put out
#6 May 14th, 2012, 15:36
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Originally Posted by doksanomo View Post
as for the tourist reception centre, it was a high profile event - one would do well to stay away from such events
The TRC has been targeted a number of times over the last decade : I assume you mean the Peace Bus battle of ´05 , when it was badly damaged by fire as well . It was targeted again next year with grenades - no way of foretelling that. See the earlier 2006 link.

It was rebuilt on a new location last year.

Quote:
Originally Posted by doksanomo View Post ..in the last seven or eight years i can't recall any other incident where tourists were specifically targeted.
High number of incidents in 2006. The "specifically" tag ..... hand grenades is not precision warfare , so we probably won´t ever know what the intended targets were in Pahalgam 2008 for example.
#7 May 14th, 2012, 16:29
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Originally Posted by vistet View Post The TRC has been targeted a number of times over the last decade : I assume you mean the Peace Bus battle of ´05 , when it was badly damaged by fire as well . It was targeted again next year with grenades - no way of foretelling that. See the earlier 2006 link.

It was rebuilt on a new location last year.



High number of incidents in 2006. The "specifically" tag ..... hand grenades is not precision warfare , so we probably won´t ever know what the intended targets were in Pahalgam 2008 for example.
Yes i mean the muzaffarrabad bus, 2005

Kidnapping incidents like the orissa one just don't happen in kashmir. Despite the tourist inflow and despite the longevity of the conflict, targeted attacks are rare.

As for cross fire or ending up as a grenade casualty - despite all precautions if you get caught in one - that's just bad luck.

one needs to see it in context - where these attacks happen, in which parts of the city, under what circumstances..

Normally if a tourist gets stuck in srinagar during an agitation, hotel owners advise them against venturing into the old city - the downtown area..most tourists in any case do not venture beyond lal chowk - its dal lake, the gardens, gulmarg, pahalgam and back, although in more normal times, its perfectly safe to do so

but finally a sense of security is a very personal thing - what may be safe for me may not be so for someone else. So any new traveller should only decide after taking into account newspaper reports, the opinion of other frequent travellers and, the most important, the advice of locals
#8 May 14th, 2012, 17:11
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Originally Posted by doksanomo View Post
As for cross fire or ending up as a grenade casualty - despite all precautions if you get caught in one - that's just bad luck.
Maybe not safer than Delhi , then. Not a reason to get terified , but definitely a reason to keep track of the news - first hand. And maybe avoiding faffing about in the old town after Friday prayers as a newcomer , with untrained local radar.

Quote:
Originally Posted by doksanomo View Post one needs to see it in context - where these attacks happen, in which parts of the city..
You mean like Shalimar Gardens , Dal Lake , and the Pahalgam hotel ?
#9 May 14th, 2012, 18:04
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Originally Posted by vistet View Post Maybe not safer than Delhi , then. Not a reason to get terified , but definitely a reason to keep track of the news - first hand.
You're right, laurendo's question had to do more with general safety than what its like for women specifically. But since she specified she's a 'female solo traveler', I wanted to reassure her that 'as a woman' i'd feel a lot more unsafe in delhi than in kashmir (or in the north east for that matter)

A friend of mine had a bad experience - a groping - on the boulevard once.

Another time, I was shaken because a man followed me all the way down residency road on a deserted evening.. my reaction was, "i don't believe this is happening! how can this happen in kashmir?!"

An over reaction on my part, i realised later, given that a woman faces much worse on indian big city roads on a daily basis!

Quote:
Originally Posted by vistet View Post And maybe avoiding faffing about in the old town after Friday prayers as a newcomer , with untrained local radar.
that's a good point
#10 May 16th, 2012, 08:05
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Me and my girlfriend visited Kashmir in Feb. We went to Ski in Gulmarg. We were told same by the Foreign Office but it was just the precautionary measures just like the daft " 'elf and safety" measures here. Nothing to worry about anything. You will get lots of help and support on your way. But its always wise to be cautious.

I would say my gf was dressed more modestly which actually does help a lot. Saves your from those unwanted stares and attention.

People are very helpful esp with foreign tourists. It is easy to travel to Srinagar by plane. Will shorten your travel from 24 hours to 3 hours. I would rather fly from Delhi to Srinagar and then take a cab to Ladakh. If you book your tickets wisely you will manage to fly for about 50-70 quid (Rs 3000 - Rs 5000). I paid Rs 2900 for mine but it might depend on the season. and if you travel by bus/cab you will spend upto 30 quid (Rs 900 coach from Delhi to Jammu, Rs 500-600 Jammu to srinagar plus Rs500 food and other expenses which is total of Rs 2000) . So keep on browsing on yatra.com or makemytrip.com and find some good deal on air tickets to kashmir and save yourself time plus the journey between delhi to srinagar can be very tiring and then if you leave for Ladakh straight after you reach srinagar you will be knackered. Spend more on air tickets and it is surely worth it as you will see more of srinagar and can unwind in and house boat on Dal Lake.

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