I have spent more than four months at home. The last trip (to Mumbai) seems years ago. The economic losses are close to a trillion dollars in the travel industry alone and countries have started opening up. In fact, Barbados is even letting you stay for a year! There are no flights out of India right now for leisure travellers and international borders are closed, so travelling in India is coming up as the alternative.
Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Kerala are focusing on domestic crowds, all with their own policies for quarantine, social distancing and safe travels. As much as I’d like to just do the drive to Jaipur, it’s a risk that I’m not willing to take. I believe you shouldn’t either.
Let me explain.
Numbers Are Rising
In India, we have hit 15 lakh cases, with as many as 50,000 positive cases in a day. Our fatality rate is 2.25% with 34,193 deaths, but it’s far from over. As seen in Australia and China, a second wave is a big possibility.
The risks are too high for travellers, even if you do follow every rule in the book. As much as we’d like to go back to things as they were, we can’t close our eyes and forget about it. It’s real, it’s happening and it’s far from over. By travelling in India right now, we are making a life or death decision not just for us, but also for people around us.
Where Will You Stop?
I was chatting with Sumitra Senapathy, founder, WOW Club, for a travel story. She is planning a road trip for up to 10 women travellers, from Delhi to Binsar in the next few weeks. She pointed out that the distances are not exactly two-three hours in India. In Mumbai, a friend wants to drive to Goa for work and it’s going to be a task to plan 12 hours on the road–where do you stop to pee? You may pack on your food, but you will need to get out and go to a restaurant/motel/hotel on the way for a bathroom break. In these times, when it’s scary to go to the grocery story, it can be daunting to get out of the sanitised bubble of your car. Plus, many places on the way will be shut. Indian travellers who have taken trips have reported that there are various checkpoints everywhere that delay you and we’ve already caused traffic in the hills!
Road Trips Are Stressful
Especially right now. Every little detail would have to be planned. How many masks? Gloves, face shield and sanitisers? Airbnb or hotel? Where to stop on the way? Do you have all the papers? Do you need a COVID-19 negative test result? Is institutional quarantine mandatory? Do you self-isolate on arrival? Everything depends on where you’re going and there are many, many rules to follow.
I don’t want to make you anxious about the thought of travelling in India, but be realistic and think if it’s really worth all the hassle.
Do Locals Want You?
Well, if the border is open, locals can’t do much other than object on social media, but is it fair to them? You could be taking the virus with you, or bringing it back home. The states are already overwhelmed and you will add to it. In remote areas, hills and villages, they will not have the resources to treat you, even if you get a fever or altitude sickness, let alone COVID.
There Are Other Ways To Help
We’re between a rock and a hard place right now because it’s economy vs healthcare. Our medical staff is knee deep into cases, but at the same time, restaurants, hotels, airbnbs, tour companies and all the people employed in the sector are facing massive losses and layoffs. But right now, staying safe should be our priority unless there’s an urgent need to be somewhere. If you do want to help, buy vouchers, book experiences, gift gift certificates that will last you months. Know a local restaurant that’s going under? Start a crowd-fund campaign and urge travellers to pitch in. Love a bookstore in another city? Check if they can courier and pay for shipping. An artist you really want to visit? Commission something for later, sign up for a workshop, or just hook them up on Etsy. People are being innovative, so if you really want to help, find a way without physically endangering yourself or them by travelling in India.
Still think you need to get out? I understand that. Make sure you take every precaution and read the protocols of your home state and the city you’re visiting. Check if the hotels/homestays are running on low capacity and following social distancing practices. Most of all, remember, safety first!
Featured image: Unsplash