Well, for me this is a civil way of saying “Shimla sucks”. That’s how much I hated it during my trip to Spiti. I was so glad that we planned to have Shimla as only a stopover. Despite being a fanatic of greenery and hills, I don’t think I would return to Shimla for these reasons.
#1 Aggressive disrespectful and absolutely uncivil touts
We, me and my friend Subbu, just got down at Mall Road at night at around 10:30pm only to be surrounded and then, hounded by a bunch of aggressive touts. They refused to leave us alone even for a minute irrespective of what we do and what we don’t do. One of them also drunk. Subbu is a very brave lady and I admire her immensely. I was deeply hurt when I saw fear in her eyes for a second. Among all these touts, one elderly porter helped us. My only source of confidence through all this was, low crime rate in Himalayas.
For women traveling on their own, if you are reaching Shimla at night, I strongly recommend making prior arrangement for cab and accommodation.
#2 Congested city, extreme traffic jams, small roads and very poor parking facilities
Ok, I am a resident of Hyderabad and I am used to traffic hassles. But Shimla is on a different scale. The roads are too small to handle traffic and there is no way to widen roads in this Himalayan state capital. Parking facilities are very poor. We had to keep driving for around 30 minutes to just park our vehicle. All this, and continuous flow of tourists from Delhi and Chandigarh, ensures that the city is always very congested, noisy and chaotic. Frankly, I hardly got any city vibes.
View from car
As if a representational warning of what Shimla is going to be, we got stuck in a long traffic queue before entering Shimla.
#3 Impatient people
An obvious consequence of #2 is impatient people. Reduce your vehicle speed or worse, stop your vehicle for a couple of seconds, that’s it, you would hear an extremely unpleasant loud continuous honking of horns from several vehicles. Cop, if present, would start rushing in your direction to shoo you away and keep traffic moving.
#4 Not much of beautiful scenery
For all these efforts put into tolerating and handling Shimla, the city doesn’t return much to her travellers; except maybe some significant drop in temperatures when compared to Chandigarh and Delhi. On our first morning, I eagerly opened the curtains to take a look at the valley only to find this:
The picture is more beautiful than the actual scenery.
I can imagine Shimla being stunning maybe two decades ago. But now sadly, I can handle Shimla only as a stopover at best.
#5 Hapless cops
Another obvious consequence of #2. In Hyderabad and Bangalore, I can reliably ask cops for directions. They usually respond well. But in Shimla, the poor cops just can’t help tourists. They are too busy handling the impossible traffic situation.
#6 Difficult to navigate through small steep roads
During my very brief stay, I found it difficult to navigate through the ups and downs of Shimla hills. Google Maps work only to some extent. Our hotel Treebo was on an elevation and Google navigation stopped only at main road. Google Maps did not work in the elevated maze of small roads.
Some roads are so steep and so small, that the only to reach is by walk.
#7 Lack of cheap reliable public transportation
There are only taxis and buses. Buses are cheap but you should walk through the ups and downs of the hills to reach bus stop, and wait for the bus. Taxis are expensive and cannot reach everywhere, thanks to small steep roads. Nothing else works; except walking around.
Given all these reasons, we just couldn’t stay beyond what’s really needed in Shimla. While returning, we felt it was much better to take a 19-hour drive than pause at Shimla. I heard that Shimla is good and beautiful in winters. But I will go elsewhere for a peaceful winter vacation.