Is it Safe in Kashmir?

The Region is Prone to Civil Unrest

A lovely view of Kashmir

Yawar Nazir / Getty Images

 

Tourists often have reservations about visiting Kashmir in northwestern India. This picturesque region often called "Switzerland of India" is prone to civil unrest and violence and has been declared off-limits to tourists on a number of occasions. There have also been a few isolated incidents, with Srinagar and other parts of the Kashmir Valley being temporarily shut down. However, tourists usually return when peace is restored and can generally avoid dangers by taking precautions and staying in tourist-friendly areas. 

Travel Advisories

  • The U.S. Department of State urges travelers to "exercise increased caution in India due to crime and terrorism." They urge people to avoid the Indian union territory of "Jammu and Kashmir (except the eastern Ladakh region and its capital, Leh) due to terrorism and civil unrest."
  • Canada states tourists should practice serious caution since terrorism is a threat throughout India, and they should avoid Jammu and Kashmir, which have sporadic terrorism and violent demonstrations. This excludes traveling to Ladakh via Manali, and air travel to Leh.

Is Kashmir Dangerous?

Because of the risks of civil disorder and acts of terrorism in many districts of Jammu and Kashmir, the state has a high security threat level and is considered dangerous for travelers. Sometimes violent clashes break out between militants and Indian security forces. The number of rapes are quickly growing, with assaults taking place at tourist destinations and other locations. Kashmir is one of most densely militarized places on earth, with more than 500,000 Indian troops estimated to be deployed to counter any incidents. The substantial military presence in Kashmir may be unnerving for tourists. Plus, repetitive shutdowns and curfews are disruptive.

However, safety depends a lot on what tourists do and where they go, so whether you should visit Kashmir really depends upon your personal comfort level. It is advised to make some local contacts before you get to Kashmir, such as with a reputable homestay or other accommodations where the owner or host is personally involved with guests. Tourists can also connect with a well-known local tour guide who only leads them to safe areas.

Scams in India include taxi drivers offering money to export jewels and carpets; refuse any offer. You may also receive invitations for cheap accommodation or transportation, extended taxi rides, and unwanted tours. Beware of inauthentic tour guide services and train tickets, or ATMs that have been tweaked so thieves can copy your bank card details.

Is Kashmir Safe for Solo Travelers?

Those traveling alone in Kashmir are advised to refrain from walking around at night and avoid the high-crime areas around the inner parts of the city where unrest takes place. You should steer clear of secluded spots and unfamiliar surroundings. Exploring with travelers from your hotels or other accommodations can create a safer adventure as well. People from Kashmir are quite hospitable, so should an emergency occur, you could look to them to guide you to safety.

Is Kashmir Safe for Female Travelers?

Foreign females are often stared at in India, and there is a growing risk of rape. Sexual aggression, serious assault, verbal abuse, and harassment also take place, as may groping. Avoid using public transportation, taxis, and auto-rickshaws when alone and especially at night. Stay in populated and well-lit areas. If you feel unsafe, contact the local police. There is a helpline for women reached by dialing 1091.

In keeping with local culture, women must also take care to dress conservatively, so as not to risk causing offense. This means covering up, and not wearing mini-skirts or shorts. *kashmir

Safety Tips for LGBTQ+ Travelers

LGBTQ+ travelers will benefit from discretion in this conservative country and should avoid public displays of affection. While sex between people of the same sex is not against the law, being gay is not accepted all over India.

Safety Tips for BIPOC Travelers

Kashmir is a predominantly Muslim area, with the remainder of the population primarily Hindus. People from all over the world visit Kashmir and the country of India, so seeing a cultural blend of faces is not a huge surprise to locals, especially in areas tourists frequent. The local people are known to be particularly warm, respectful, and polite. The majority of the time, people of other races will be stared at more than discriminated against. However, some Black travelers have experienced racism in India. Colorism also exists, with some people associating dark skin tones with lower economic classes and castes.

Safety Tips for Travelers

There are various general tips all travelers should consider following when visiting:

  • Be alert to your safety in potential terrorist hotspots like government buildings, transportation hubs, places of worship, schools, tourist attractions, markets, hotels and other sites travelers frequent.
  • In case of an emergency in Jammu and Kashmir, dial 100 for police, 101 for fire, and 102 or 108 for an ambulance.
  • Your belongings should in a money belt or a crossbody bag close to you, rather than in a backpack or the pocket of your pants. When going out, lock your items up in hotel/hostel safes or lockers.
  • To the extent possible, dress like the locals to attract less attention. It is wise to bring warm clothing even for a summer trip. The higher elevations can be chilly and tourists catch colds and flus from the pollution as well.
  • Steer clear of eating street food (especially where the food is uncovered) and drinking the contaminated tap water in India, which can be contaminated. Mineral water, which is safe for drinking, is sold in bottles in Kashmir markets.
Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Department of State. "India Travel Advisory." August 6, 2020.

  2. Government of Canada. "Official Global Travel Advisories." December 8, 2020.

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