- Wolfgang Fobo
Aktualisiert: 27. Feb. 2019
Before getting there, you need to apply for a PAP (Protected Area Permit). You can apply for a PAP in the Residents Commissioner Office in Guwahati. A straightforward procedure is described in the website https://www.lostwithpurpose.com/pap-guhawati/.
Now, I would like to share with you my experience in doing so. The location somewhere in Dispur district near G.S. Road was shown on my digital map maps.me. So I could direct the taxi driver until we reached the office. Alternatively, if you have no digital map downloaded, you can tell the taxi driver „Hotel Shoolin Grand“, and when having reached that hotel, you cross the road, walk some 50-100m into that direction of traffic then turn left into that side road. You can already spot that Office which is located after some 100m on the right side.
I filled in the application form just as described in https://www.lostwithpurpose.com/pap-guhawati/, passed a copy of my passport and another one with my visa. Paid 50 USD without receiving a receipt, and was advised to wait for a week. Now comes the good part: you need not be back for picking up the permit, but it will be sent to your email account. Once you have it, print lots of copies. Only for reaching Ziro I had to provide 3 copies of my permit. And wouldn’t I have already printed 2 of them, I would have run into trouble, because at the border they already collected the first copy, and with the remaining one I could make lots of fotocopies. You never know when you will run out of copies, and downloading them from the internet and printing when you are requested to supply one will not work. And is cumbersome anyway to find a stall that provides this service, while copies (Xerox, as the Indians say) are almost everywhere available.
My permit was valid for 4 persons, one of them me. So it still applies that you have to apply as a group, but you need not travel in that group.
The permit depicts all places that you are allowed to visit, and given the frequent checks by police, the authorities seem to take it serious.
And it gets even better. The officer, a Mr. Manab Kakati, told me that I even would not have to personally show up at the office, but could submit my docs via email to him. He mentioned to use his personal email address which is firstname.lastname@example.org. How to settle the payment needs yet to be figured out with him. Because I applied in person, I did not check this way, and even using his personal email address sounds a bit mysterious to me. But nevertheless I would try out, should there be a next time. This saves you another day in Guwahati, which, at the hand of the traffic jams over there, cannot be appreciated highly enough. And anyway you have to wait a week and go to see other places. Why not waiting at home, prior to leave?
The road to Ziro has seen better times. Originally fully asphalted, it is now a curving around potholes, some quite deep. The road also displays of smooth sections, albeit short. But worst are the frequent land slides that bury the road underneath. Often these landslides are not cleared but a path is created over this rubble and mud, narrowing to a single lane. And you proceed at snails speed. The total journey from Itanagar to Ziro thus took about 4 hours.
I stayed in the Ziro Palace Inn, which is one of the more upmarket locations out there. With Ziro not yet frequented much with foreign tourists, I opted for English speaking support, clean rooms and good food. All is there, it’s a home away from home. To be added with a big BUT: but you must be able to find it. It is not there where indicated in the digital map, taxi drivers in Ziro do not understand English or do not know the name. Eventually I made it. This hotel is located perhaps some 3-4 km further down the main road which you have to follow. And before you reach Old Ziro (the village with the military air strip at the right side), a green sign points right. You follow that sign, after a couple of 100m another sign turning left, and there you are. The place to be.
The only complaint I had was the dog who constantly barked between 2.30 and 4.00 am. Nobody cares. This being India, the people here are probably hardened by the daily noise and do not see the problem. I am not even sure whether the hotel manager even understood my suggestion to do something for a silent night of tourists. He shrugged shoulders.
But apart from that minor grievance everything worked out best. With his support I could get back using a shared taxi to Itanagar, picking me up from the hotel. And he organized a local taxi driver who showed me around. You could not do that alone, here in the remote but beautiful countryside you need to know whom to call, and pick you up. Otherwise you get stuck.
Ah, and before I forget: in November 2018 there was no WiFi available. You usually get Airtel 2G, sometimes 3G. And slow. Yes, it seems to me you cannot have both.
Being off the beaten track while keeping fully connected.
Some suggestions when traveling to the Northeast, taken from my experience:
take sufficient cash. It happened to me that my MasterCard was repeatedly not accepted, even not in ATMs. And money changers I saw only at the airport of Guwahati (and Delhi of course). With MasterCard I could not pay my hotel neither in Aizawl nor in Ziro.Have a spare day available. It happened to me that a local flight from Aizawl to Guwahati was simply cancelled. So I had to wait for the next day to get onboard. JetAirways seems to have a reputation for such unforeseen circumstances, when it comes to local flights.Download a digital map for all the regions or states that you intend to visit. So you can be a guide for the taxi driver (or check whether he follows the direct way). But as I mentioned above, it happened to me repeatedly that hotels were not at the location that the digital map displayed.Buy an Indian SIM at the airport. I did that in Delhi. This set me back 800 INR and after being registered I could surf the internet almost without limits. And WhatsApp calls are for free anyway.