Visiting North East India during Covid times? Here’s what you can expect

By | February 23, 2021
North East India - Umiam lake - Shillong, Meghalaya
North East India – Umiam lake – Shillong, Meghalaya

I recently had a weeklong trip to north east India with a friend and I thought I would share some details on it as it may help a few planning to visit north east. We visited Assam and Meghalaya as a part of the trip and so the details below are limited to these two states only and I’m not sure of other NE states.

Why North East?

They say North East is India’s best kept secret! Well I didn’t know that before the trip.

My Vistara Premium Economy tickets were expiring by feb and so I’ve to redeem them soon. I couldn’t find any other good destinations other than this and also the flight timings, availability all worked out for us for NE trip.

I’ve also been thinking to visit Mussoorie & Rishikesh for a long time but it’s getting delayed for some reason or other. Hoping to go there someday!

Covid test on arrival

Covid test is mandatory on arrival at the airport whether you land in Assam or Meghalaya. 

  • Cost: 1000 INR per person (RAT + PCR)

If you’re landing in Assam and later visit Meghalaya, note that your report should have been taken within 72hrs (RT-PCR) before reaching Meghalaya.

You get RAT result within 30 mins (after which you are allowed to move out of airport – if negative) and the RT-PCR result is sent within a day via WhatsApp.

Altogether it shouldn’t take more than 1 Hr for the airport testing procedure to complete but donot expect a luxurious waiting place in the airport.

Entering back to Assam from Meghalaya doesn’t have any rules.

Safety

Mask? What’s that?

Except at hotels where they follow safety protocols, donot expect locals to wear masks anywhere. You may find some wearing masks in Guwahati, but as you leave the city you could hardly find Assamese wear mask.

Infact wearing mask may make you feel uncomfortable at times 😀

But given that the state is taking COVID tests on entry, I think it’s fine for locals, as long as they don’t interact with tourists. 

Hotel Occupancy

City hotels are running on low occupancy.

For ex, Radisson Guwahati was hardly having 25% occupancy during our trip but I noticed Vivanta Guwahati to be bit busy. That maybe due to Valentine’s Day eve though. Can’t really say!

But the hotels in prime tourist spots gets healthy booking, especially during weekends. Some hotels in Kaziranga were fully booked during the days we were there, maybe partly because Ayushmann Khurrana was there by then.

Tourism

You can see only locals in most places – not much of tourists from other states. 

In Assam you can feel the liveliness in tourist spots because of the population but in Meghalaya you can experience the silence. 

We were only 10 of us in the vast Umiam lake and hardly saw 5 couples at a time in Dawki. Meghalaya felt empty in most places but that’s partly a good thing for us as we were warned about never-ending-traffic at Shillong – which we didn’t come across.

Flights

Guwahati Airport, Assam

Arrival was fine but departure from GUA was a headache. There were LONG queues everywhere: from airport entry to Indigo baggage screening to Indigo checkin.

It took us solid 1 hour to reach the gate after arrival at airport.

Wish I had gone for Indigo Fast forward but as we already spent about 8K for a seat (via points), we felt it’s too much and left lethargically and we paid the price for that laziness at airport by standing and moving inch by inch for an hour.

This was when I badly missed Axis Magnus – it would have been a cakewalk with the concierge service. 

So How’s Assam & Meghalaya ?

Kaziranga National Park, Assam
Kaziranga National Park, Assam

Overall it was an amazing experience to visit North East India at this time. Less crowd, pleasant climate (as of feb 2021) and beautiful places.

It was new to experience the early sunrise/sunset in NE. FYI: Sunrise happens at around 5AM which is one hour before when we see in remaining part of the country.

Not just the time but also the views were one of a kind, maybe because of the wider view angle you get with less buildings around in most places.

Those beautiful sunrise/sunsets around lakes, rivers and in Kaziranga national park were all mesmerising. You shouldn’t miss them!

Have you been to North east India? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Author: Siddharth

I love credit cards, enjoy travelling for free using reward points & airmiles. Obsessed with business class cabins, airport lounges and luxury hotels.

30 thoughts on “Visiting North East India during Covid times? Here’s what you can expect

  1. Akshat

    Thanks for sharing your experience Siddharth.

    How does the meet assist services work exactly? Do you need to pre book them or can you avail on the day as walk in also?

    Reply
  2. Ramesh Kumar

    I traveled to Shimla via Chandigarh to use my 4 vistara business class vouchers, also Himachal doesn’t have any covid restrictions.

    Reply
    1. Siddharth Post author

      A month or so ago I noticed Shimla had highest cases in the state, so buried the plan. Hope the weather was pleasant?

      Reply
      1. Ramesh Kumar

        Yes Siddharth, it’s pleasant whether(low as ~ 1 C in early morning and high as ~12 C in afternoon) and definitely nice place to visit.
        Snow is there at Kurfi(~20 kms from Shimla) but missed the snow fall, which is happening ~10 days ago. Also OLA operational in Shimla, so can get good private cab at low rates like other cities.

        Reply
        1. Ramesh Kumar

          + OLA intercity operational from Chandigarh Airport to Shimla and vise versa.

          Reply
          1. Siddharth Post author

            Good to know. NE trip went quite expensive due to the cab.

  3. Ravi

    Wow!!

    Nice Write up, after reading felt like visiting those places.
    May be one day.

    Reply
  4. NIHAL BASNET

    You should have ventured more inside… States like Manipur is totally unexplored by tourists… You will pinch yourself with amazement asking yourself if you are in heaven or paradise. Anyways good Vlog.

    Reply
    1. Siddharth Post author

      Do you think Manipur + Arunachal Pradesh is good to do in a week?

      Reply
      1. P M

        A week is too short for these two states, or even for Arunachal. I had visited just three places in Arunachal, Tawant, Itanagar and Ziro in two weeks. And we were required to enter and exit Arunachal three times, with three different permites. Road travel takes long time, and there are many many attractions.

        It was a great experience, and worth all the time we spent. That was year 1999 though 🙂

        Reply
      2. NIHAL BASNET

        @ Sid Manipur + Nagaland is possible in a week. As they are nearby and interlinked.

        Reply
      3. ManzB

        I am from GAU.
        Both Manipur & Arunachal are in separate direction and no direct connectivity. Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal is possible. Typically shall take 2 weeks. Arunachal interior areas are difficult to reach and takes time like Tawang etc. For 1 week (8-9 days), Only Kaziranga/ Shillong / Cherra can be covered. Manipur need to be done separately with Nagaland/ Mizoram but will involve lots of Hilly travel by cars.

        Reply
        1. Siddharth Post author

          I was said by the Cab driver that Nagaland is not Safe for travel. Is it so?

          Reply
          1. ManzB

            Lumding is safe, which is the only place closer to Assam and has rail connectivity (incl Rajdhani). Dimapur is safe. In any case if you want to have a better glimpse of that region, you should try to be there during Hornbill festival (1-10 Dec every year) held in Kohima. It is quite safe in major towns nowadays. Since last 8-10 years there is not much insurgency that was common earlier. Hornbill is a major event and totally safe and nowdays lots of tourist throng during this period. Better avoid rural areas of Nagaland and even Mizoram.

      4. NIHAL BASNET

        You can do Manipur+ Nagaland in a week as they are adjacent to each other.

        Reply
    1. Siddharth Post author

      First, the friend is “he”,
      Next, he got a wife,
      Then, they have a kid. 😀

      Reply
  5. Prashant Gupta

    We spend 5 days in Meghalaya. It is the most beautiful state in India. The waterfalls, caves, rivers, mountains, trails etc everything so beautiful.

    Reply
    1. Siddharth Post author

      Cool. I intend to return sometime after monsoon to Cherrapunji‎ for the falls.

      Reply
  6. deva

    Sid..
    really NE is awesome..luckily working in assam.since past 8 months and frequently visiting tourist areas one by one..

    Greenary ,still protected..lot of rain thorughout the year..mountains etc are really mesmurizing….

    beauty of NE is still not known to most…

    Reply
  7. Ashin

    What was the mode of transportation within Assam and Manipur? Did you hire a taxi or rented a car? Or maybe a little bit of public transport as well?

    Reply
    1. Siddharth Post author

      It was Assam+Meghalaya. Hired a cab for a week. It was expensive but no other option I guess.

      Reply
  8. Jayesh

    You should try Sikkim. I had gone with 7 friends for a week, Gangtok being the highlight of our trip. North Sikkim accessible only if the roads are not snow clad in winters.

    Reply
  9. Pavan Gupta

    Hi Siddharth!
    Assam is no longer unexplored NE and is just a smaller version of Kolkata.
    To really explore the hidden gem that NE is, you need to visit Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland etc.
    These places are the real heaven on earth. In addition to being extremely beautiful, the roads are clean, no horns, and people leave shops open on the roadsides as there is no theft (Mizoram)!

    Reply
    1. ManzB

      I agree if you compare Gau with KOL. But no one goes to Gau but further to other areas.
      If you go all the way to Kaziranga, Manas, and upper Assam (Jorhat/ Sibsagar/ Dibrugarh etc) for unending tea gardens plus the majestic Brahmaputra (in many areas you can’t see the other side of the river, considering it as one of the widest river in the world). None of these are in WB. Shillong/ Cherra/ Dawki are good spot in Meghalaya. Arunachal is the Ladakh in the East with more hills and forest in lower regions. Tawang etc are beautiful. Nothing much in other states except lazy/ sleepy towns in hilly areas (glimpse of the same one can get in Shillong). They are good if you want a really sleepy atmosphere with just strolling around lazily.
      Another place easily accesible is Bhutan, but need a permit. You can drive the serpentine road to one of the beautiful country with happy people all around. Youcan fly directly also but then you will miss the typical hilly drive along the forested road.

      Reply

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