The Lake District of India, 'Nainital', also popularly known by many as the Switzerland of India due to its picturesque environments and green-blue mountains that almost touch the sky is one of the most visited tourist destinations in India with over a million visitors annually. This is possible as it offers a safe retreat within many places in and around the town. You can also enjoy a long walk at night without any fear however, it is always advisable to have some company and not trail off alone.
Basic knowledge of the area is very important so that you can only add more enjoyment to your vacation around Nainital. Based on our experiences and a few travellers, we have penned down some significant points to note and a checklist for you to remember when travelling to, in and around the Town.
Firstly, though it sounds adventurous to just drop in Nainital, it is recommended to always plan your tours and book it in advance especially during peak seasons to avoid any discomfort and avail good discounts in off peak seasons.
Once your trip is booked, inform your family members or friends about your tour itinerary as it really comes handy during emergencies. Prior to the journey, if you are driving, take a good night rest and start early next morning.
Check your vehicle thoroughly right from your fuel tank, tyres and fog lights if you are travelling in winters or monsoons, wipers, headlights, rear-lights, brakes, oil, coolant, horn, shockers and car spares etc. It is mandatory to carry a headlamp, tools, leaf springs and wooden logs in case the leaf springs breaks down, two chains for rescue purposes, a shovel for snow or muddy areas.
Since most petrol/diesel pumps are closed at 7 p.m. or 1900 hrs in Nainital and other hill stations, ensure your gas tank is full at all times and you carry an extra 2-3 litres of petrol/diesel in a container because you never know when you run short.
Check the weather conditions online or through the weather channel. For information purpose Nainital enjoys 5 seasons in a year and that makes it really essential for you to prepare in advance.
Summer and the peak season begin from mid April to June with the most pleasant weather; hence wear comfortable clothing, shoes, sunglasses and sunscreen lotion. Rains pour from late June to September; hence do carry a raincoat, windcheater and umbrella. Winter sets in from late October to late March with snowfall from December to January; hence woollens are a must. Other than these points, do wear comfortable shoes; Sports shoes and Boots are a good option; however, avoid stilettos and high heeled shoes for ladies unless you are just travelling within the main town or out clubbing at night. Do carry a camera to capture those special moments and a binocular for bird watching and to get a closer look of the beautiful Himalayan Ranges.
Pack a few snacks and sandwiches in case you are stuck in traffic jam or you are slowed down by massive bullock carts that can block the highway and cannot stop over at a food stall. Do not have hard drinks before or during drives. Take a break after every 3-4 hours of driving to refresh especially when you are travelling with a child and avoid driving at night on the highway and if you happen to then do use your car dipper for incoming vehicles. Often people forget car driving etiquette but the whole point is to be able to see the road ahead and be seen yourself.
Do not take a lot of cash in hand as the town is well equipped with Banks and ATMs; however, if you are travelling during peak seasons then do carry some extra cash as the ATMs might run dry. Ensure that you have an identity card on you always and when checking into your Hotel or Resort to avoid any hassles.
For those who are not well experienced with driving on hill stations and speed freaks, it is very important to understand that the roads are twisted, windy and risky, especially when driving uphill, it is mandatory to check your speed limits and do not go beyond 30-40 km/hr and stay to your side of the road especially on blind turns, please do not in any circumstances try to overtake as it can prove very fatal and end up in a very bad road accident. Incidents like these are highly reported on hilly terrains so remember that it is always better late than never.
If you encounter ice, snow or a wet road, do not drop to a lower gear as the wheel will start spinning hence it is better to stick to a higher gear and keep the momentum going. Lower the air pressure to allow better traction on wet or skid zones. Do not use the car sprinklers to wipe your windshield during extreme winters as it can freeze and cause lesser visibility. Always wipe it with a dry cloth. Always keep a good distance between your vehicle and the other especially after you have crossed a river as the brakes become less effective. Keep in mind to use your horn to the fullest at turnings as you can be welcomed with a few surprises.
Toll charges are payable by all before entering Nainital. Tourists driving in from Haldwani or Bhowali need to pay their entry taxes at Tallital and from Kaladhungi taxes are payable at Sukha Tal. Lake Bridge tax rates from 16th March to 15th November and between 1600 hrs to 2100 hrs for heavy vehicles is Rs. 100/- and light vehicles is Rs. 50/- and between 2100 hrs to 1600 hrs for heavy vehicles is Rs. 50/- and light vehicles is Rs. 25/-. From 16th November to 15th March, the taxes between 1500 hrs and 2000 hrs for heavy vehicles is Rs. 100/- and light vehicles is Rs. 50/- and between 2000 hrs to 1500 hrs for heavy vehicle is Rs. 50/- and light vehicles is Rs. 25/-.
Nainital is best enjoyed by trekking or walking across the beautiful picturesque town hence avoid taxis and cabs as the area gets very crowded and uncomfortable and if you had driven in then please avoid playing loud music from your car and park your car at registered parking areas only available in 'The Flatts' in Mallital, Tallital Taxi stand, KMVN Parking in Sukha Tal, your resorts and hotels. Please do not park in the centre of the town or Mall Road as it is considered a violation of law and is a punishable act. The parking rates at Tallital Taxi Stand is Rs. 50/- for light vehicles and Rs. 100/- for heavy vehicles and KMVN Sukha Tal is Rs. 50/- for light vehicles only.
Please abide by the traffic rules on the Mall Road. Heavy vehicles are prohibited to enter the Mall Road from May to June and October from 0800 hrs to 1030 hrs and from 1430 hrs to 2230 hrs and Light vehicles are restricted from 1800 hrs to 2200 hrs and cycle rickshaws from 1830 hrs to 2130 hrs.
It is also important not to misbehave with anyone here as there are over 5 CCTV cameras installed in the town to watch out for such untoward behaviour. Do not encourage Beggars and beware of strangers and do not get into any sort of schemes or anything else they offer. If you are looking for a tour guide or tour packages then it is best to visit the registered travel and tours agencies that are fringed on the walkways of the Mall Road. Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam Limited or KMVN in Nainital organises many tours throughout the year.
When boating in the lovely Naini Lake, the district administration authorities of Nainital has made it essential for all to wear life jackets in order to prevent incidents by drowning and always use the pre-paid booth at the Nainital Boat Club to book your tickets. Do not buy tickets from brokers around the Lake. Do not litter the water and swimming is banned. If you want to enjoy swimming then a few resorts do provide you with such facilities and ensure that you get this information before booking your tour.
When trekking, do respect other people's privacy while you are taking pictures and ensure that you have prior permission in restricted areas. Please do not litter the tracks and trails and do not throw a lit cigarette bud as it is the main cause of forest fires. Dustbins are available at several parts of the town so do use them and do not use Plastic bags or Polythene Bags as it is banned in Nainital.
Ensure to abide by rules throughout your tour in Corbett Park. Firearms and weapons of any kind is strictly prohibited, No pets are allowed, walking and trekking are not allowed but only in certain areas and only with the escort of an expert guide. Please do not trail off on your own as it is strictly prohibited and a punishable act. Driving inside the Tiger Reserve after the stipulated time is not allowed for your own safety and as per the Park rules. Cooking is only allowed within the space provided to you by the authorities. Littering is also an offense and visitors need to carry a litter-bag for disposal purposes. For any excursions, an official expert guide is mandatory. Smoking and any kind of fireworks is strictly out. Fishing is permitted only on prior permission and only outside the Park and Sanctuary and only allowed between 1st October and 30th June. Music players, shouting, teasing, chasing animals and feeding is not allowed. Please stick to your excursion route and adhere to the scheduled timings, avoid using horns and entry into restricted zones as it damages plant life and their habitat area. Accommodation is required to be booked in advance and intimation to hold to the room has to be notified else your reservation will be considered cancelled. Maximum capacity per room is 2 Adults and 2 Children [below 12 years old] but extra bedding can be arranged on prior notification and extra charges. Entry permits needs to be obtained before entering the Park and a clearance certificate is mandatory before leaving. These permits are not transferrable or refundable and entry fee must be paid at every gate entrance or reception. Eating meat and hard drinks are not allowed in the Park and Sanctuary. It is important to wear khaki, olive green, brown coloured clothing or any clothing that merges with the surroundings and avoid any disturbances to the habitat.