Driving from Delhi to Shimla : Updated October 2013

Been a while since i posted here and what better way to get back at it than to update one of my starting posts and for which i still get a lot of comments ; Driving from Delhi to Shimla.

Have had the fortune of being able to make 2 drives up in the last 2 months , primarily thanks to my interest in driving a new car which i got ūüôā , and happy to report that it’s still a comfortable drive.

In both cases one left at about 6:30 AM in the morning , which is typically 1.5 hours later than my usual departure time , but i had passengers and timings had to be adjusted accordingly.  The first drive was done in August while the rains were still very much present here in Delhi , and the second barely 10 days ago. The update is an integration of observations across both drives. The first one took about 10 hours both directions and the second one was much faster , 8.5 hours one way and 7 coming back. The delay in the first was primary owing to encountering massive thunderstorms which reduced visibility and speed.

Getting out of Delhi is smooth as butter now early in the morning , depending on the road and the area of Delhi one is leaving from , crossing the border can be done in 30-40 minutes now. We now ofcourse have the ring road bypass or the Mahatma Gandhi road bypass which gets one out pretty much just short of ISBT. Signal free and reasonably good tarmac ensures that it takes all of 5 minutes to get to ISBT , which can be a mess depending on your luck. Post this till the Panipat toll there are not too many places where one can encounter a Jam. The entire stretch is in good condition , broad roads , good tarmac , not too many potholes . Traffic or rather traffic discipline is still as bad as its ever been.

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The Panipat bypass looses its sheen for me , while its still far far better than what it used to be , the number of trucks and heavy vehicles plying on it now means reduced speeds and enough overtaking required. To compound the problem , the trucks dont still to their lanes resulting in enough situations where speed drops down to a crawl owing to two trucks side by side with no space , only option is to wait till one of them moves ahead of the other. The Panipat toll is slow , i wish they would pick up a thing or two from the Delhi-Gurgaon toll operators and waiting time would drop drastically , there is a certain air of “laziness” which seems to prevail with everyone taking their own time to move on , give receipts and change. Fortunately the lines are still short enough , or atleast i have not encountered a long one , can take upto 10 minutes to pass the booth.

After Panipat is where everything goes back to the good old days , the stretch till Ambala and a little beyond is pathetic . Part of the 6 laning of the road till Jalandhar, the entire stretch lies in shambles. I believe vendors have not been paid for a while and overtime all work has stopped completely.

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6 lane plan scope : Photocredit : The Tribune

Hence there are quite a few diversions thanks to NHAI not finishing the work on the numerous flyovers which are in different stages of completion.  At any point thus where one encounters a flyover there is a diversion which one must take , the diversions are narrow so traffic ends up moving mostly in a single file. Add rains to it and you will encounter standing water as well.

Karnal is a mess and going through the town can take a good 30 minutes depending on traffic conditions. The main road does not exist anymore since it was dug up and hence we have arteries so to speak on either side which handles the traffic now. These are narrow again , can have lots of standing water , are broken as a result and do not be surprised to find yourself crawling.

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One of the many flyovers in an incomplete state : Photo credit : the Tribune

I try and go past Karnal before stopping for a break so i can get it over and out of the way. There are as always tons of options for food available with old favorites such as Jhilmil Dhaba still present and new ones such as The Savoy , Haveli. Just short of Jhilmil one also has Sagar Ratna now available. Simply too many to name , just slow down and pick anything which catches your eye!

We still have a toll on this road too , and i dont understand why they take money. This is the old toll booth which has been around for donkeys years , what they have done is shifted it a few kilometers towards Ambal , earlier it was less than a kilometer away from Jhilmil. The fee is now 100/105 INR one way , so not cheap at all and given what you have just driven through and will be till post Ambala , i find it hard to justify its existence. Broken down , dirty looking booths with just flat out arrogant guys working in it. If the Panipat guys were maybe a little lazy , these guys definitely are. Long lines a good possibility.

The Ambala Chandigarh expressway is simply fantastic in terms of the overall experience and you get to Zirakpur in no time. Just be careful of people crossing the expressway , even though there are guard rails ; as we know most people will not listen. Occasional cow might be around as well just in case you started to loose the ” i am in India” feeling ūüôā !

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Toll at the Ambala Chandigarh expressway. Photo Credit : Automotive Horizon

Zirakpur is crowded , anyone coming here after a gap of a few years is going to be overwhelmed by the construction which has taken place. Fancy residents and malls on either side of the road. When hitting Zirakpur remember to get on to the service lane and not the flyover. The flyover takes one into Chandigarh city , which earlier was not a problem because a U-Turn was possibly to come back , in fact it was a better option than taking the normal road to Shimla since there was no chance of getting stuck in a jam. Now however the U-Turn is not available and one has to drive a fair bit before being able to turn around. The right turn from the service road to get onto the Shimla road is busy and it can take 2-3 cycles to clear it depending on the traffic and the time of day that one is passing by.

Post this it is a bit crowded for about a kilometer thanks to the hordes of people , buses , trucks standing and moving around but opens up fairly quickly. Now one is on the Zirakpur-Kalka-Panchkula highway which hits the newly opened Himalayan Expressway , or the point at which one can take a left to go towards Kalka / Parwanoo. There is a toll on this road as well , about 30 INR but does not take too long to cross. The entire stretch from Zirakpur to the start of the Expressway can be done in a comfortable 20-25 minutes , and then add another 10 -12 odd minutes to get to Timber Trail. What an achievement!! The old road which used to go through Kalka etc was stuff which nightmares was made off.  Time saving is at-least 45-60 minutes if not more overall.

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Zirakpur РKalka expresway : Photo credit : http://munishchauhan.blogspot.in

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Himalayan Expressway : Credit : http://www.truewanderers.in

There is yet another toll booth at the end of it before hitting Timber Trail. This is entry tax for Himachal. Quite a joke and if first impressions are everything , then this does not put Himachal in a good light at all. Atleast now they have some kind of temporary structures which they call a booth , about a year back they had a few people sitting on stools. Himachal has to be one of the worst states in this country when it comes to understanding Asthetics. A beautiful road which ends on a bad note. (Have a picture , will add it later on )

Other than traffic from this point onwards the roads in good condition overall. The Barogh road is open posts the landslide for a while now and has new tarmac hence quite smooth , the Solan bypass has been fixed up as well and is an equally good option. Solan remains crowded as ever which cannot be avoided as do the other places one passes by such as Kandhaghat.

Happy and safe Driving!

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Driving from Delhi to Shimla : Update July 2012

Managed to make a quick trip up and down earlier this month and thought i would share an update with everyone on the road condition between Delhi and Shimla ,  given that its one of the more popular posts.

The driving has clearly become much easier!

Exit from Delhi is now very smooth thanks to the completion of the flyovers / new tarmac which NHAI was laying down. We managed to get from Central Delhi to Murthal in about 45 minutes , nothing very aggressive with the respect to speeds Рthe time saving came through the fact that a healty 80kmph could be maintained for most of the time given the quality of the roads Рand this at 615 AM in the morning when traffic was starting to build up , leaving earlier say 5-530 AM might shave off another 10 minutes or so.

The entire stretch to Panipat remains as nice and speedy as it has been for the last few years. Disappointed to note that the Panipat flyover (bypass) is clearly not being maintained as well as it should be , while there are no potholes on the road , the surface is not as smooth as it used to be and given that the toll is still operational it should be in a better state.

Panipat onwards is where the speeds start to slow down and traffic starts to build up , there is significant construction taking place and there continue to be many diversions , slip lanes and overall bad roads. This lasts till past Karnal and what earlier used to be a fast stretch has become quite slow.  Add to this the fact that buses etc stop on the slip lanes to pick up/drop off people , it can be quite frustrating.

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Delhi to Shimla by Road : Update as of 28th July 2011

Delhi to Shimla

Just a small update for everyone with regard to the road condition between Delhi and Shimla as it stands as of a few weeks ago
First the good news. The stretch from Delhi to Panipat now is simply awesome ( excluding ofcourse our traffic behavior) , the entire stretch from Azadpur to the delhi border has been done up with a series of flyovers placed as well cutting the time drastically. Wide open roads with very few lights ensure that you can zip through this stretch now , a welcome relief from all the years it has taken for this to be completed.

The bad news. Panipat to Ambala is current a massive work in progress project. NHAI is expanding the road to make it into an 8 lane stretch. Good intentions but it makes for poor driving at this point . The current length of the road has been reduced and there are very few straights now available to build and maintain a decent pace. In many places the stretch is only about 500 km’s before there is a small diversion in aid of a flyover pillar being placed. A bit frustrating if you are trying to push but once ready ( not sure when) i am sure this will be an excellent stretch

The flyover work at Zirakpur is over ( FYI for those not aware – post Ambala the expressway has been fully functional for quite sometime now). Traffic is bad but more owing to bad driving than anything else.

The best part and something i have been looking forward to for years is the new stretch between Zirakpur all the way to Parwanoo. A brand new road , with 5-6 flyovers built in makes it a delight now. I managed the run ( which is approx 30 -35 odd kms) in less than 20 minutes , a far cry from the days when it used to take as much as 45-60 mins depending on traffic.

Once at Parwanoo of course the problems which have plagued this area and further on Kalka continue to exist , but there is a bypass being built now which will come out a little before Timber Trail once  completed ( not sure when) which promises to , if not reduce time, at least make the drive less stressful.

Lansdowne – Part 2 – The town.

Further to my earlier post where i discussed way and means of getting to Lansdowne , i shall write a bit about our general experience in the town itself.

Lansdowne is essentially a cantonment and you get that vibe as soon as one drives into town. On one side its the number of army personnel , military police and vehicles, and on the other a certain level of cleanliness and order which can only be found , atleast in my experience, in cantonment towns. Add the normal qualities of a hillstation i.e weather , greenery, freindly people and you end up having a very delightful and attractive destination.

Upon driving into the town you are confronted with a round about from where one can go either straight or take a left. Going straight for 3 Kms would take you to the museum , 5 Kms would get you to tip n top. Taking a left would take you to the local market beyond which is the Hotel Fairydale and then the lake.

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Lansdowne – Part 1 – Getting there

My wife and i decided to finally take a weekend break. 2 months of hectic work timings and pressures got me to a bursting point… in addition i needed a break from technology – no computers, processors, mobiles, laptops, emails …! Lansdowne was a name which kept cropping up frequently whenever we have planned a weekend getaway over the last year or so and we decided to take this destination up finally , added advantage that its very close to Delhi – 2 nights 3 days was the length of the trip and we got back yesterday.

Getting There

People who know me know what my prime recommendation is here – yep! Driving! There are of course the usual options as well but other than driving or taking a bus the best option , from all perspectives, is talking a Train to Kotdwar which is about 45 Kms short of Lansdowne. 2 trains which run regularly are :-

Mussoorie Express – Leaves Delhi at 1015 PM and arrives at Kotdwat at 0500 AM – all days. Fare upwards of 135 INR.

Garhwal Express -Leaves at 7 AM and arrives at 1420 PM – All days. Fare upwards of 250 INR.

 

Driving time is between 5-6 hours. While going one was not too sure of the road surface and was a bit slow in general which put the total time at 6 hours. On the way back it was faster with the us being back in Delhi in about 5 hours. The trip, on a peppy enough car can be done in 4 hours or so. The toal distance is 260kms. Dont let anyone tell you otherwise. I did a lot of research especially on mapmyindia.com and they were off by about 40 kms. The driving can be broken into the following segments :-

1. Delhi to Ghaziabad to Meerut – The slowest segment. Both these places are very crowded, and traffic discipline is non – existent. Approx distance is about 80 kms. Driving time between 1.3-2 Hrs.

2. Meerut to Mawana to Bijnor – Once out of Meerut you can go up to 80-100 Kmph and cruise on that endlessly. The road is not as big as some of the other highways but has to be one of the best i have ever been on. Next to no traffic, excellent quality…one almost feels like it’s yours alone. Peppy stretch. Approx distance 60 kms. Max 1 hour. The Ganges is crossed shortly before Bijnor. Snaps at end of the post. Continue reading

Travelogue : Ramgarh – Uttaranchal

Good things come to he who waits. Keep repeating this if you find yourself headed to Ramgarh. One of the most notorious drives i have ever been on and the end result was a spectacular 3 day vacation amid one of the greenest places in India and some of the most helpful and friendly people i have ever come across. I will be posting some pictures later as well so watch this space. Currently all the pic’s have been taken from the net.

Getting There 

1. Fly to Pant Nagar which is the closest airport and from here hire a cab or go in a bus.The distance from here is 80 kms. I am not too sure about the cab fares but i am guessing it would be around 1k-1500 INR. Flights would be in the range of  1000 + Taxes per person one way. Jagson airlines is the most frequent (and i think only)  airline to this sector . They have daily flights. Availability can be checked at jagsonairline.com.

2. Train to Kathgodam which is 50 Kms before Ramgarh. Again hire a cab or a bus.

3. Drive – This is what i always do since it allows me tremendous flexibility. While the distance is only 318 Kms ( Less than Shimla) ,if anyone tells you that it will take 6-7 hours , please dont believe them. The road is pretty bad till you enter the state of Uttaranchal and the drive can take as much as 10-11 Hours. The route to follow is :-

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