The concept of 'shared taxis' is unique to this hill station. You can hail the cab anywhere and everywhere and damn the traffic regulations. The taxis ply along major routes of the city with commuters getting off and on along the way. You tell the taxi driver your destination and depending on whether or not he is going thataway, he may nod or say yes.
Normally about 8 commuters are made to fit into a taxi (yes a Maruti 800). Be prepared to be totally sandwiched, something like the black and white keys of the piano or harmonium. One sits on the edge of the seat, the next one wedges his/her bottom to the back of the seat, and so on. Don't be too suprised if someone sits on your lap or you are made to sit in someone else's lap. It has happened.
If you sit in the front, don't be astonished if the driver tells you to shift the gear while he pushes the clutch. You see, he's sitting to the extreme right and just can't reach the stick. With 4 commuters in the front (including the driver), he someone manages the steering wheel. Don't worry. With all the traffic jam, the taxi won't be in top speed. The best option? Walk and walk and walk. It's good fun and healthy and the best way to explore any new place.
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It takes about 4/5 hours to reach Shillong from Kolkata, the nearest large city from North East. Although there is an airport in Shillong ( Barapani airport 40kms from city) the flights are a few and most erratic.The airport is also small. Air India operates direct flight to Shillong thrice a week. The airport is mostly used for military purpose and for helicopter service. But now it is getting popular among the tourist also. From Kolkata there are several flights operated in a day by Jet, Jetlite, Kingfisher, Goair, JetConnect, Indian Airlines, Spice Jet. Entire North East flights are subsidised. So you can get a very good bargain by travelling by air. You may get a seat for as low as Rs2000/- ( USD45) from Kolkata to Guwahati. To your surprise you will find almost all the flights are full to the capacity!
The state capital of Assam, Guwahati has a a large and modern airport ( 120kms from Shillong). From Guwahati you can travel by bus or car or shared taxi. It takes about 3/4 hours to reach Shillong from Guwahati depending on the mode of transport. The road is beautiful and does not have very high or low ends or hairpin bends. But the traffic is heavy on this hilly road.
The city of Guwahati is very well connected from Kolkata and Delhi by air. There are more than 10 flights a day from Kolkata to Guwahati. Since, travel to North East part of the country still remains a problem with difficult roads and very little rail line, people prefer to travel by air to Guwahati and then by road to their destination.
See video: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/vv/350d/
See Video-II : http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/vv/36b3/
- Jungle and Rain Forest
Contrary to the belief that the city of Shillong does not have proper transport facility ( I read some tips in VT), I found it is not only battle ready but has more than adequate transport for the locals as well as for the tourists!
Yes, the city of Shillong does have yellow/ black taxis for the city traffic ( See pictures) and several types of vehicles for seeing around. Not only this they have separate stands for Sumo ( Large tourist vehicle), Tata Indica ( Small vehicle for the family) and multi tier parking lot as the vehicles are many in the small city! I found the fares are also very cheap compared to Kolkata, Guwahati and Bombay. I paid Rs.40/- ( USD$0.95) for a city journey of nearly 4 kms, that's really cheap for the hill town. Not only this after using several taxis and talking to the drivers, I found they are very polite, jovial, decent, English and Hindi speaking, helpful lot of people!
An opinion , Khasi people are surely tourists friendly people!
The taxis can be arranged by the hotel or you can hire them for local sight seeing, or visit to Cherrapunjee, Elephanta falls etc. A trip to Cherrapunjee should be done with in Rs1000/- to Rs1200/- or USD$ 25 for four people for the day. Please use your bargaining capacity while fixing the taxi by yourself or take the vehicle from the stand where fare chart is pasted on the notice board.
- Jungle and Rain Forest
The "Night Super" or "Day Super" buses run from all major towns in North East India and connect all major towns. The main providers of the best service among all are Capital Travels and Jagannath Travels agencies. The buses are very comfortable. Given that the journeys along hilly, zig zag up and down narrow roads can be very tiresome and hectic, go for the buses of these two agencies only. If you want to see the scenic views of North East India, opt for the Day super buses (generally 5 AM departure and 5PM arrival at destination) so that you pass through the places during the day time.
Here's a photo of a truck driver (proud of his truck) who wanted to be photographed with his truck in return for a photo of us that he had taken in our camera in the scenic hilly background of Ladrimbai (the refreshment stop for buses of Shillong to Silchar route).
If you are in Gauhati, the best way to visit Shillong is take a shared taxi/Tata Sumo vehicle from Gauhati (a lot of them are available at Paltan Bazar area) to Shillong. The scenic view is beautiful. The journey takes only 2 to 2.5 hours and costs you only Rs. 90/-. But be prepared, the car will be very jam-packed.
Pls mark some impt tips abt getting around Shillong Town:
1. Local sight seeing can be done in a fully booked Taxi costing Rs 600. It takes arnd 4hrs to see all impt points.
2. Local taxis are not avlbl near hotels if you are staying in a resort type acco.
3. There are no metered Taxis here. Normally, a km or 1/2 mile ride wld cost you Rs 10 in a shared Taxi.
4. Very difficult to hire a taxi frm main market area due to overcrowding. So, carry a map and prepare to walk at times.
5. Try and use the hotel taxi facility even though it might be little expensive.
6. Do not toodle off in a taxi in the late hrs, you might end up being looted.
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Frm my personal experience, I found there are 2 ways to get to Shillong frm Dhaka.
Option 1 :
* Take a bus frm Dhaka to travel to Agartala. There are daily buses leaving frm Dhaka to Agartala if you book through Shyamoli Bus service. The good part of this bus trip is that they wld take care of all immigration req at border and you do not hv to offload yr baggage frm bus. The return trip costs Taka 600. The buses leave at 9am and reaches Agartala by 3.30pm. There is no service on Sundays.
* Frm Agartala, there are 2 options to get to Shillong. You cld either hire a bus which wld take arnd 12-14hrs ride to Shillong. Also, pls note the buses leave early morning only as you need to be accompanied by Police escort van to get out of Meghalaya state. Another convenient but little expensive option is to go to Gauhati by Air and then take a 4hr taxi drive to Shillong. The flying time between Agartala-Gauhati is 1/2hr. We boarded Jet Airways leaving Agartala at 3pm and were in Shillong by 8:30pm. Taxi frm Gauhati to Shillong wld cost you Rs 1200 if reserved fully.
* Hire a ride frm Dhaka to Sylhet by Bus costing Tk 300-Tk450 /person. There are many buses leaving to Sylhet frm Dhaka. The journey is abt 5hrs in total.
* Hire a shared Taxi or a fully reserve taxi to Tamabil border frm Sylhet. Fully reserved taxi wld cost anything between Taka 1200 -1500.
* Cross the border on foot.
* Hire a Taxi frm Tamabil Border ( Indian side) to Shillong. Fully reserved Taxi wld cost Rs 1000-1200. The jorney time to get to Shillong frm here is approx 2.5hrs and it is a picturesque drive during the day.
* Agartala hotels are not very good. The best hotel there can be voted as Hotel Rajdhani costing you a room for abt Rs1200-Rs1700.
* Manned Rickshaws are the best way to get arnd Agartala.
* While crossing borders remember that the border offices close at 4pm.
* You hv to tip everybody at border offices.
* You hv to pay Travel Tax of Taka 300 / person while immigrating frm Bangladesh to India.
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