Shillong Travel guide

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Shillong (शिलांग) is the capital and largest town of Meghalaya state.

Understand


Shillong was the capital of Assam, but after the state was split into Assam and Meghalya (meaning 'the abode of the clouds'), it became the first capital of the newly formed State of Meghalaya. Located in undulating pine covered hills, the city has a milder climate than tropical India. The city centre is 1496m above sea level and currently has a population of around 270,000. Home to several waterfalls, it is also known as the Scotland of the East. The British legacy is still visible in the architecture and food habits of the population. The Assam style houses with slanting roofs, large number of windows and wooden floors look like a piece of art (and happen to be a very good idea, considering Shillong lies in an area where rains and earthquakes are very common).

Shillong receives heavy rainfalls during monsoon and the rainy season usually lasts longer than in the rest of India. An umbrella is, therefore, a necessity when packing your bags. Although people avoid the rainy season, it is generally the time when the city is clean (rains wash the streets of all garbage) and waterfalls are in full strength.

Most of the Shillong population belong to the Khasi tribe, who are predominantly Christian. There are significant Assamese, Bengali and Nepali minorities. An interesting aspect of Khasis are that they are a matrilineal society - the mother's surname is passed on to the children and the youngest daughter inherits the ancestral property. The head of the family and clan is still the man and the system functions only to protect women from discrimination. However, this has evolved with time and cross-culture marriages where the definition of the society as a matrilineal one is also changing. This is not be confused with 'matriarchal' societies.

Get in


By plane

Shillong Airport ({{IATA|SHL}}) is in Umroi, about 40km from Shillong (also known as Barapani Air Force Base or Umroi Airport). It is a small airport with flights via Alliance Air (operated by Indian Airlines) to/from Calcutta on certain days of the week. A bus operated by M.T.D.C runs from Airport to Shillong market.Taxis are also available. However, flights to Umroi are only from Calcutta and generally are cancelled at the last minute due to inclement weather. Guwahati Airport, which is 3 to 3.5 hours from Shillong, is a much better option.

Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport ({{IATA|GAU}}) in Guwahati (104km from Shillong) is connected to rest of India with regular flights. Shared cabs (small cars from the airport, and larger Tata Sumos from Guwahati town centre) are available from outside airport connecting to Shillong. The rate (as of October 2016)is INR 500 per passenger from Guwahati Airport to Shillong and reportedly takes 3 hours. The cab drops you off at the police post in the Bazaar from where you can get a ride to almost any part of Shillong. En route from Guwahati to Shillong, you'll probably stop mid way at Nongpoh to freshen up and get some refreshments. Nongpoh is also a good place to pick up bamboo pickles and other condiments. Please note that the road from Guwahati to Shillong has been widen and are in a much better condition now. than it was few years back.

By train

There are no rail lines in Meghalaya. The nearest railway station is Guwahati, 105km from Shillong (reportedly taking less than 3 and a half hours via taxi), and very well connected with all the major cities of India.

By bus

The main interstate bus stand is located right next to Guwahati railway station. Buses are run by Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) and Meghalaya Transport Corporation (MTC). Many privately run buses also run between two cities but they leave from Paltan Bazar area and cost around INR70. Private buses might be better built but are occasionally crowded and have more stops enroute. Buses usually take around 4 hours with a mid-way stop at Nong-poh.

Tata winger service is run by MTC from airport to Shillong (police station in the bazaar). The cost per head is INR400 as of January 2014. (Contact nos. Guwhati airport counter - 09085712619. Shilong counter - 09774009248 )

Shared taxis are available from Paltan bazaar area which is adjacent to the railway station. These are generally SUV sized vehicles (Tata Sumo & Mahindra Bolero) shared between 8 people. They take around 3 hours to reach Shillong from Guwahati. The cost for a SUV vehicle is INR170 as in October 2016 and midsize car like Swift desire is INR 300 as in October 2016

There are 2 exits from Guwahati Railway Station. The main exit is the North exit. To catch a bus or cab to Shillong, take the southern exit from the Guwahati Railway Station. To take the southern exit, first you have to take the northern exit and come out of the station. This will take you to the parking lot. From the parking lot you have to take a foot over-bridge. This over-bridge is built over the Guwahati station and will take you to the southern exit without entering the station again.

Get around


The best way to go about in Shillong is on foot. The city itself is small and can be easily covered walking and exploring hills and people.

By bus

For places within city limits, city buses are good options. There are two kinds of buses that pass from Shillong - city bus and bazaar bus. City buses are what tourists should use. Bazaar buses are for villagers coming to Shillong to sell their products. Most of times they carry vegetables, fruit, poultry, etc, along with people. City buses are notoriously slow. Drivers move their buses from the bus-stop only when the bus gets packed or another bus arrives. Many times you will find that walking will take you earlier to your destination. Bus tickets are at most INR5 for one journey.

By taxi

Black and yellow un-metered shared taxis ply within city limits. These are faster and are always shared; rates may vary from INR 10 to INR 50 maximum. Being shared taxis, drivers often pick up additional passengers en route to the same destination, in order to make a better fare. If one decides to negotiate the "hire" of a taxi, however, the driver will not pick up any more passengers (or stop roadside to find more) but the fare will be significantly higher than if one had just hailed the taxi as it passed by.

For sightseeing it is a good idea to hire a taxi cab for full day. The fares should be fixed before travel. Hotel staff will be able to give you an idea of reasonable rate.

Much of the infrastructure is basic and many roads outside city are in bad shape due to heavy rains and poor maintenance, but within the city the roads are quite good. Although the city traffic ranks second in the country in terms to vehicles to population ratio, Mumbai being first, it is very slow and disciplined unlike most of India.

See


Do


Cave exploration

There are many naturally beautiful caves in Shillong, Meghalaya. Tourists can explore the caves, where they will have to pass through dark and murky interiors.

Buy


Iewduh is the largest open street market in north-eastern India. It has large sections dedicated to local fruits, vegetables, honey, fish etc. As a tourist, one can get a very nice picture of local life in here.

Traditional bamboo handicrafts and woollen handmade shawls are most popular buys. Additionally art-crafts made of wood and bamboo funitures are popular. Bamboo shoot pickles are quite favourite of the tourists. Please visit the Meghalya Govt. Handicrafts Showroom "Purbashree" located in police bazar.

Shillong is one of the fashion capitals of India,it has innumerable number of shops selling top quality brands from India and abroad. The well known ones are RAPs Apparel in Raps' Mansion MG Road,Style Craft, Uncle Shop, In-Fashion, Broadway Collection, Selection Centre, in Police Bazar,and also the glory plaza which is famous for foreign clothes.

Eat


There are a variety of restaurants. Most of the better ones are in Police Bazaar area. Chinese, Indian and Tibetan foods are popular and even khun ksew. Service is poor in most places except those that are professionally managed. Besides, most eating places close early (before 9PM) so don't be caught hungry.

Bamboo Hut in RAPs' Mansion MG Road is one of the famost hangout and also the CITY Dhaba near Earl Holiday Home.

One should definitely try Momos (steamed Tibetan dumplings filled with cabbage and pork) They come as small momos and big momos and are very popular snacks.

Shillong has a pre-dominantly Christian population. While pork, chicken and fish are easily available in restaurants run by local Khasis, beef isn't as abundant in restaurants. Cleanliness also remains a issue in smaller food-outlets.

Khasi and Tibetan recipes use very little spices (including salt) unlike cooking style of rest of India and emphasis is on boiling or roasting rather than frying in oil.

For Indian snacks, one can try Delhi Mistaan Bhandar in Police Bazaar which some think has the best jalebis in the world. It should be mentioned though, that Delhi Mistan has been in the local news several times in hygiene related incidents, notably when a patron found a cockroach in her food. The staff are also notoriously lethargic, so be prepared to wait up to half an hour just to be able to place your order. In short, stick to the freshly made jelibis since they are worth it, but avoid anything else here.

Apart from these, the hotels mentioned below have restaurants that have their own charm. Ginger and Sky Grill at Hotel Polo Towers Shillong, Kenmore at Hotel Knight Inn Shillong serving delectable craft cuisine, Royal Heritage has a nice restaurant. Sip & Dine at Hotel Alpine Continental have excellent restaurant.

Drink


It is a drinker's paradise. Because of the tax structure on alcohol in this state, you will be hard pressed to find cheaper drinks anywhere else in India, if you are the type who buys liquor from a shop and drink in your hotel room.

If you like pubs and clubs, then Shillong has quite a few of them.

Nightlife is generally at its peak on Fridays and Saturdays. Sundays are very, very dull.

Sleep


Shillong has options for all kind of travellers. Most of the hotels are located in and around the Police Bazar which is the noisy, crowded city centre of Shillong. Hotel Polo Towers and Royal Heritage have locations that are more relaxing. Backpackers might want to check the Youth Hostel near Office of Chief Telecom Officer (CTO Complex). Internet reservation is available only in few starred hotels.

Budget

Mid-range

Get out


There are many interesting places for outing from Shillong.

For visiting these places, cab(generally small) are available at Police Bazaar. It is recommended to negotiate before hire.

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