Is it safe to travel in North East India? This question may be on the minds of those considering a vacation in the region. The short answer: North East India is safer than you think. Abhijeet Deshpande, author of Backpacking North East India: A Curious Journey, has traveled to all states of the region and encourages you to visit these, sooner than later.
Travel Advisories for North East India?
Unless it is about a clear-cut combat-zone, or other life-threatening events such as a natural calamity, a travel advisory hides more than it reveals. While an official notice serves an important purpose, often the perception it creates about a place, outlives local conflict. You might want to take a travel advisory with a pinch a salt, especially when it targets a region, that is rapidly transforming and is largely peaceful, such as North East India.
For those who do not know, North East India comprises of eight states – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura. The Himalayas and its waters define the region’s terrain, climate, rich biodiversity, and the peculiar indigenous lifestyles her people follow. That North East India is bound by Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet to the north, Bangladesh to the south and west, and Myanmar to the east hints at the eclectic mix of cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity. This is where elements of Asia come together to do what they do best – cast a spell.
North East India is Peaceful
A local argument rarely involves visitors to a region. That said, concerns that impeded travel to this glorious region are becoming a thing of the past. Concerns that used to be real are moving to the realm of mere perception. Strife that once plagued the region is quickly receding and, is limited to a handful of specific remote areas, especially along the international borders. Avoid them. Though unlikely, but if at all, your travel might be affected by bandhs or peaceful shutdowns (resulting in nothing more than delay of a day or so). If tourism can flourish in Ladakh, despite a high-decibel political unrest in the neighboring Kashmir valley (both in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir) and an absence of all-weather access roads, there is no reason why the largely peaceful North East India should lag.
North East India is Fun
A Sporting Region
Did you know that North East India has gifted the sport of Polo to the world? If you follow the country’s sporting action, you would know that North East India is home to many iconic achievers – be it archery, combat sports / martial arts, gymnastics, soccer, or others. The region boasts of a unique sporting culture. It is common to see arenas packed to capacity – be it local, state, or national and international events. You are likely to find folks rooting for their favorite team in pretty much every city. So, when you are in the region, look up the calendar for Indian Super League’s NorthEast United FC or catch a game of polo. Feel the energy. Its different!
Whoever says North East India sleeps early probably does not know the time it wakes up! A common Indian Standard Time (IST) has a peculiar impact on region’s lifestyle and most of North East India follows the sun. So, if you plan to go out drinking, it is recommended to start relatively early in the evening. Visit pubs in Shillong or experience the karaoke-culture in Gangtok. The region offers venues to party, loud sporting action under the floodlights, or even quiet dining experiences in the lap of nature. If you want to include any of that in your vacation, you are indeed spoilt for choices. Besides, North East India is a well known destination for music festivals and events. There’s more to the region than meets the eye.
Who doesn’t like bagging a few souvenirs on the way back home? Well, North East India invites you to indulge a tad bit more than just in souvenirs. Explore the world’s only market that is run exclusively by women in Imphal or walk the classy Mahatma Gandhi Marg and its local shopping neighborhoods in Gangtok. The region is well known for colorful motifs and for setting fashion trends. North East India is also a hub for handicrafts such as products made from kauna or water reed. Pick up stunning accessories, trendy bags, clothing, footwear and more.
North East India is Safe for Tourism
North East India is declared safe for tourism and is hosting an ever increasing number of footfalls every year. The arrivals, both domestic and international, have roughly doubled over the past decade or so (estimated from: 1 and 2). If you delay that visit, you lose. You lose out on the near exclusive access to some of the greatest marvels on earth and some of the best places that the country offers.
So, the next time you come across a travel advisory or a naysayer, just remind yourself this – North East India is a collection of eight highly diverse states – not just two, three or four, and that it is safe to visit. North east India’s innate charms have remained under-explored for far too long. Travelers, who overcome their hesitations, might find gems such as Dzükou Valley all to themselves! Importantly, the incredible hospitality of the region makes sure that visitors take back the choicest of memories.
Planning to backpack this least explored region of India? Look up How to backpack North East India?.
Think North East India
Need anecdotal evidence? Pick up a copy of Backpacking North East India: A Curious Journey. It covers over two dozen places and attempts to answer the question – what is it like to travel in the region? Give it a read and make your own choices. Buy now!
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