Himachal Pradesh’s two-third area is under forest cover. The forests provide sustenance to locals, weather buffering, tourism opportunities, wildlife preservation, and so on. To keep a watch over the forest resources, the state forest dept has always moved its personnel across the length and width of the state. The dept has a large network of inspection huts and rest houses that act as temporary accommodation for the staff.
Recently, the HP Forest Dept has created an Ecotourism society to focus on, amongst many things, livelihood generation through sensitive and meaningful tourism. The society also allows online booking of some of the rest houses. Note that all forest dept rest houses can be booked (conditions apply*) by reaching out to the booking offices.
Q. How do I book?
- Visit https://himachalecotourism.org. Click Book Online.
- Click Select Destination. Zero-in on a region/circuit.
- Provide dates. Click Check Availability. The available options are displayed along with tariff.
Q. What is the typical tariff like?
Rs. 480 to Rs. 1000. A few outliers are beyond this range.
Q. How do I find out the quality of the accommodation?
- When you see list of available options on the above step, Click More Info. You can read about the available facilities, see photographs of the place, and locate the place on a map. For example, see the More Info page of Prashar Lake FRH.
- Check online blogs for experiences of past visitors.
- Look for reviews of such places on travel websites like Tripadvisor.
- Look for geo-tagged photos on Google Maps or Google Earth, or just try a Google Image search.
Q. What amenities will be available at the rest house?
Typical facilities are decent parking, amazing location, clean bed, not-so-clean quilt, OKish bathroom and toilets, caretaker, electricity, and paid-for basic food.
Q. What are the related activities that can be done?
Relax’ orchard trip if a fruit plantation is nearby and the owners allow it; trekking; cultural explorations; and assimilating with locals and absorbing their culture.
Q. How to reach any of the rest houses?
Take public transport or drive down. These offbeat places require changeovers to reach. The last mile connectivity may be served through private taxis or on foot. Research/inquire in advance. Personal vehicle can go as far as rough road permits. Road conditions depend on the season.
Q. Whom to call in case help is required?
Nobody! Not to say that the forest dept officials are not accessible but you are choosing a secluded spot that offers serenity over luxuries. It is remote. They are charging peanuts. Such areas may not have good connectivity, including road, electricity, mobile, and Internet. By saying call nobody, I mean that go ahead and enjoy the solitude to the extent you can. When it goes overboard, return to the civilization as well. But do not call anybody, until of course it is a life threatening situation.
- Do not call, if the geyser doesn’t work. The caretaker will provide hot water in a bucket.
- Do not call, if you are out of fuel. You should have calculated, got a full tank when you can. Now seek local help.
- Do not call, when you encounter wildlife. Understand the risks, research about the wildlife in the area, do not venture too far alone. Beyond everything, know that such things happen to local folks all the time and just bear it!
- Do not call, when you face bad service! The same caretaker must have received 5-star rating from some other folks. Either those were accommodating or they did stuck a chord with the caretaker. Either ways, his job is permanent and we travelers are transient. So don’t complain and either learn the trick of stricking a rapport or quietly move on.
- Do call when anything gets out of hand.
- Do call when faced with a life and death situation.
- Do call when a party is stuck due to inclemental weather conditions.
- Do call when health of the children or the elderly folks deteriorate.
Call the appropriate local forest office or the DFO at the contact numbers provided at http://hpforest.nic.in/contactus or local police helpline. Save a few local numbers before traveling to a remote area.
Q. What is the cancellation policy?
100% refund if traveler cancels 3 days in advance. No refunds thereafter. When the dept cancels due to any ‘official exigency’, they provide alternative options during same dates, same rest house at different dates, full refund, accommodation in a nearby hotel, or an adjustment of money in any activities like trekking.
Q. What are the things to know before booking?
- Do not expect good facilities. Be happy if you get them.
- Drinking, non-veg food, bonfires, etc. are not allowed.
- Local caretaker can be eccentric and you’ll have to find a way around it.
- Food may not be available at rest house. If available, it’ll be basic and has to be paid for.
- People of opposite genders may not share same rooms.
- Electricity availability can be an issue.
- Trust the locals about weather. If they suggest leaving the place, don’t take chances.
- Public transport may be flaky or uncertain. One may get stuck if one doesn’t do their due diligence and check twice for options and timings.
Q. At what locations (on a map), can the rest houses be booked online?
If you make your travel plans using a map, then see the available options laid out on HP map. I’ve created it using Google MyMaps and is updated till March 2018. If you notice anything amiss, please leave a comment. Some rest house are not present on the maps, so I’ve added the village bus stop to the map (directions are easiest to get from here). The map is shared here.
Share your experiences of Himachal forest rest houses. Share photos to show the quality of the accommodation.