North East India travels were, for me, one of my most awesome adventures to date. It was a journey like no other, a bittersweet challenge, and it gave me some of the most fantastic memories I’ve ever had on the road. As there is limited information on this beautiful underrated part of India, I felt like I had little or no time to prepare for what awaited me there. I was heading into the unknown and all by myself. To say I was scared was an understatement.
But, on reflection, I had nothing to worry about. I hope that there is more up-to-date information available for people travelling there.So, I’ve come up with some North East India travel tips and the things that no one told me before I arrived.
1. That North East India
Travel would be like visiting another world entirely. From the mountains of Arunachal Pradesh to the green forests of Meghalaya, the river islands of Assam and the tribes of Nagaland, you will feel like you’ve been transported to another planet!
I couldn’t believe my eyes when travelling from state to city to tribal land. Some villages looked like I went back in time to the last century and bustling towns that were building up with tall buildings and shopping centres.
2. That it would be entirely safe for travel, before I landed in the central city of Guwahati, I started to browse some travel tips for North East India. The articles I read spoke of the kidnapping of foreign tourists, women not being able to travel alone, road toll rebels on the road and violent unrest in certain states.
It made me regret buying my plane ticket entirely!
I gave my contact details to friends and family, my itinerary and whereabouts and kept people updated. But, I felt a bit silly getting myself worked up so much.
North East India has come a long way in enabling tourists to travel safely. Including limiting the required permits (see below for more detail), allowing tourists to travel freely without supervision and setting up more hotels and guest houses to encourage more tourism there. I was a woman travelling solo, and no one stared at me. I could travel at night alone and felt safe. I was greeted with kindness wherever I went.
3. The transport would be like working out a puzzle
The one thing that is the most time-consuming and will be the undoing of many of your travel plans is the transport options here. Everything is plain sailing in the state of Assam, but once you start travelling into the conditions of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya or Nagaland – that’s where it starts to get tricky.
Sometimes it would take me 24 hours to get somewhere, and sometimes I would arrive at a destination at 1 pm, and the buses were finished for the day. Luckily, I relished a challenge, and it was satisfying to work it out and get moving on the road. You will need to be acquainted with the sumo (a sharing jeep), start to look out for sharing cars, get used to getting up before the crack of dawn, sleep on night buses and get accustomed to massive delays due to the road quality.
4. A smile will be your language of choice
Although we are still in India, not many people speak Hindi or English. Each state or tribe will have their dialects, and navigating around can be tricky, buying bus tickets, ordering food or even booking hotels.It was challenging in Nagaland, where most people speak Nagamese. So, you’ll need to don your best smile and communicate in any way you can. You say that many people speak English, however rudimentary, and will always be on hand to help you.
5. You won’t need as many permits as they say
To encourage North East India travel and tourism, they have done away with a lot of the permits and set new rules where you don’t need to report to the police station to state that you’re visiting, making the whole process a lot less stressful.
You don’t need to register at the police station much (Apart from I did need to in Longwa in Nagaland), but your guest house should be able to advise you on the process. Rules change constantly, so check with your guesthouse owner if you need to check in with the local authorities.
6. It’s completely budget-friendly
Despite the remoteness of the North East, it’s incredibly cheap for food, guest houses, transport and activities. So, it’s perfect for the budget-conscious traveller.
I will list some basic prices in Rupees so you can get a general idea of the cost of travel there;
Guest Houses (private room): 500 – 1500 a night hostel: 200 – 500 rupees a knighthood (Thali, rice, Momos, chow): 75 – 200 rupees per mealTravel (Sumo): 200 – 700 rupeesBus (Coach): 200 – 700 rupeesKaziranga Safari: 500 rupees (4 sharing) 1800 rupees (solo)Living root bridge entry: 10 rupees, 30 rupees with a cameraHornbill Festival: 20 rupees entry, 30 rupees for the camera.
Please give your love to the heaven on earth!!!