"How to travel to North East India", "Where to travel in North East India".. these are few common questions people ask before travelling to North-East India. Answers to those questions are available on the internet but there are few other things which no one will tell you. We have mentioned a few of them which you should keep in mind before travelling to North East India and it will definitely help make your travel a sweet journey.
1. Every Northeastern state is different from the other. Some of the States require a permit just to visit, depending on who you are. There are three categories of permits based on visitors.
a) Foreigners do not need to get RAP (Restricted Area Permit) or PAP (Protected Area Permit) to visit Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland. They just have to register at the Foreigners Registration Office (FRO) of the particular State within 24 hours of arrival. They have to carry a passport, visa and other documents. However, to visit Arunachal Pradesh, requires a PAP.
b) But for Pakistan, Bangladesh, China and Afghanistan nationals need a clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs to visit the four Northeastern States of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland.
2. The North East is known for its rich cultural and traditional attire, with beautiful woven cloths, shawls, dresses and headgears. However, don’t be surprised if you don’t see people wearing such traditional clothes when you reach there! We usually wear them only on important functions and occasions :)
3. Try not to involve yourself with locals asking stupid questions like what do you like to eat, do you consider yourself Indians etc. They are normal people like us and you end up pissing off someone for no reason.
4. Avoid monsoons. Well! During monsoons, North East is much more beautiful than the rest of the year. Still, it is advisable to avoid monsoon as travelling from one part to another might be an issue considering landslides.
5. Don’t Pee in Open - You never know when you come across a holy landmark or a sacred tree or a tombstone erected for a local legend. Peeing in open may invite huge fine from the local authorities and you can get into trouble.
6. I'm sure this must be obvious, but I think it needs to be mentioned. Be aware of the vast racial and cultural differences of the NE people from that of the rest of India. Don't express shock or surprise when you see them or even try to imitate their language mockingly, we'll find that gravely insulting. At the same time if you take a genuine attempt to speak in the local language (maybe through a translation app on your smartphone) they'll quickly bond with you. Also, do not be surprised if you see many indigenous people who aren't of the mongoloid race. Not everybody from the NE has mongoloid features, so don’t ever ask them questions such as, “How come you don’t look like a NorthEasterner?” That is as offensive as asking the ones with Mongoloid features, “How come you look like a Chinese?” No matter how we look, all of us are extremely proud and protective of our respective heritages.
7. Don’t rely much on credit cards. In fact you can leave them at home if you want. Take some cash with you, along with your debit cards that you can use to withdraw from the ATMs.
8. Depending on what time of the year you're planning to visit and which State you're planning to visit, plan your clothing carefully. Some places are extremely cold in winter while others are hot and humid in summer.
9. Be Polite to the people there. You will notice, that the people of the northeast are some of the most well-behaved people in the whole of India. So avoid the Delhi way of speaking things.
10. Also read up on the seasonal festivals of the different States, those are the best times for tourists to visit. Some of the popular ones are the Hornbill festival of Nagaland, Bihu festival of Assam, Autumn festival of Meghalaya, Athurium festival and Chapchar kut festival of Mizoram, the occasional rock concert and music festivals in vibrant Shillong and so on. And in the case of Mizoram, I personally know a few tourists who unfortunately visited Aizawl during Christmas season :) Bad timing indeed, because everything shuts down during this period for 2-3 weeks. Traffic is closed throughout the city during the day (no vehicles allowed on the roads) as the entire city comes out to do their Christmas/New Year shopping or celebrate Christmas with carols and parades. Visit Mizoram during this period only if you want to experience this unique feature.
11. Strikes are common, confirm local authorities and taxi drivers before planning your travel.
12. Moreover, brace yourself for a contrast time difference. Keep in mind that the Northeast lies on the eastern side of Bangladesh which itself is 30 minutes ahead of India. It’s fair enough to say that the Northeast is at least 1 hour ahead of IST, but since we follow IST, sunrises and sets very early. A large majority of the population would be well asleep by 7-8 PM and the streets dead quiet, even in the centre of the city. Get ready for that.
13. Although don’t need to tell you about the different food cuisine you’ll find in the North East because that is an obvious situation at any new place, just want to mention about the timing/frequency that most people are usually not aware of. In many Northeastern places like Mizoram, they do not have a concept of “lunch”. They eat just two main meals a day - breakfast and dinner, which are both extremely heavy. “Lunch” consists of just a simple tea break and maybe light snacks. So brace yourself not just for a cuisine change but a timing change as well.
14. Keep in mind that there is Total/Partial Alcohol Prohibition in the three states of Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland . This means you won’t find alcohol (that easily) at these places, and you are not allowed to carry booze with you while entering these three States. I mean, you can of course, but if you get caught, it’s not going to be a very pleasant experience for you. And yes, the security at some of the check-gates are extremely vigilant due to the insurgency issue in some regions.
15. Be nice to the locals :) Smile, be polite, and don't be loud! Northeasterners are usually very quiet, shy and soft-spoken. Most people are extremely helpful in assisting tourists when approached politely.
Content Credits - Kima de Mizohican