Houseboats of Srinagar
I write this because I myself did not find any reliable advise on houseboats prior to my two week trip to Kashmir. I spent nearly a week in Srinagar in different houseboats. I was with my wife and stayed in super-deluxe categories. Here are my notes -
1) Do not stay in a houseboat. They are not as romantic as I can imagine they would have been a quarter of a century back. Read on to know why...
2) Most of them are in disrepair and have a musty feel to them. Anyone who is claustrophobic or in general cannot enjoy crumbling interiors must avoid them entirely.
3) Most houseboats are now run by the third generation who have grown up seeing how much money can be squeezed out of travellers particularly insecure foreigners. Unlike 25-30 years back when hospitality was a way of life, they are now driven entirely by commercial interests. At best you will get an indifferent host, at worst a rude, domineering and pestering nuisance.
4) Most tarriffs typically include boarding so the prices can be inflated. The food is variable but can often be downright bad. Srinagar has an excellent street food scene and a lot of local restaurants offering sumptuous fare. You will miss out on that if you go with boarding plus lodging on a houseboat. .....other points contd in section
There are several good hotels in Srinagar now unlike a few decades back. Many of them are along the lakeshore and offer great views so there is no pressing reason to go for a houseboat. You are free as a bird. You can come and go when you like and you don't have to deal with vendors popping into your room and you don't have to deal with faking courteousness to a host who constantly makes you feel like he is doing you a favour letting you stay at his place.
Hope this is of help. Srinagar is a very beautiful and interesting place. Enjoy your visit.
PS: I must mention this particular houseboat - Diamond Houseboat - The owner was positively the most evil host I've encountered in my travels thus far.
5) Floating merchants are a constant pestilence. Furthermore your own host will constantly bug you to buy from all the vendors who show up at the houseboat for he gets a hefty commission on all sales. This is positively a nuisance. In two different houseboats I and my wife were woken up in the morning on the pretext that some visitors were there to see us. We were befuddled and upon reaching the entrance had to putoff the horde of merchants with a range of excuses. The quality of service at the houseboat will go down dramatically if you don't buy. With me, this was the reason though we had otherwise been on rather good terms.
6) This is the most dangerous one - you are reliant on your host to see that you can reach the shore at your own convenience. If you fallout with him, you can be sure to be severely incovenienced. In my case, I had to ask for an independent shikara to ferry me to the mainland. Regardless of your relationship with your host, you can be sure your pickup request from the dock back to the houseboat will not be honoured. With one particular owner I had specifically ensured before I booked that to and fro ferry was included in the deal. I used his ferry one single time in the three days I spent at his place.
7) Most houseboats do not have locks. When you are away your personal belongings are unsafe. My wife lost a chain and while she might have misplaced it elsewhere I can't get over my doubts. Some rooms do not even have inside locks so you have no guarantee if someone will not intrude in the night.
8) When you go hunting for a houseboat many owners will pull out a diary and show you edifying testimonials. Don't trust them. I myself wrote one under duress because I was worried they might not transport me to the shore safely with my wife and luggage and then onwards to the airport.