From November to March the days are cool and clear and visibility is at its best in the mountains. Nights can be cold in midwinter (December to February) - sometimes as low as 5C in higher areas. April and May are warmer months with hazy conditions, building in humidity until the monsoon arrives in late June. The rain lasts until September, making travel to the more remote villages in Kumaon difficult.
Note: flight, boat, train and bus timetables change constantly, and airlines come and go, so please do not rely solely on this information for your travel planning. Check with relevant companies, or a flight search engine like Skyscanner, first.
There are no international flights to Uttarakhand; most visitors fly to Delhi and catch a domestic flight or a train from there.
From the UK:
British Airways, Air India and Virgin Atlantic fly from London Heathrow to Delhi. Cheaper fares are often available with the Middle Eastern airlines, including Emirates, Gulf Air, Qatar Airways and Kuwaiti Airlines, which fly from London Heathrow to Delhi via their respective hubs.
From the rest of Europe:
Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, Finnair, Alitalia and Swiss International Airlines fly to Delhi.
From Australia and New Zealand:
Various airlines, including Singapore Airlines, fly to Delhi via their respective hubs.
From North America:
Air India operates flights from New York (JFK and Newark), Chicago, Los Angeles, Montreal and Toronto to Delhi. You can also fly via London with one of the airlines mentioned above.
From Sri Lanka:
Sri Lankan Airlines has direct flights from Colombo to Delhi.
Domestic flights from Delhi:
There are frequent flights from Delhi to Dehradun Jolly Grant Airport (DED), as well as some services from Kolkata (Calcutta) and Mumbai (Bombay) - see Jet Airways, Kingfisher Airlines, Air India and SpiceJet. Bear in mind that flights to Dehradun are subject to frequent delays due to fog - we recommend leaving a buffer day before connecting to a long haul return flight.
Uttarakhand has good rail links with Delhi and elsewhere in India - see below or visit Seat 61 for a beginner's guide.
Dehradun and Haridwar have regular connections with Delhi, Kolkata (Calcutta), Agra and Mumbai (Bombay), and weekly services to Chennai (Madras) - check out Indian Rail for timetables. These routes are often served by relatively fast (for India) Shatabdi Express and Rajdhani Express services - first-class cabins sell out quickly so book in advance if you want more privacy than the flimsy second-class curtains offer. But both classes have air conditioning. Booking train tickets can sometimes be subject to a complicated wait-listing process.
Rishikesh is connected to Haridwar by a branch line, with 3-4 trains per day.
BY CAR & DRIVER
If you can afford it and have limited time, we would recommend hiring a car with a driver as the best way to see the country. It's cheaper than hiring a self-drive car, and the drivers usually arrange their own accommodation and food. Be warned: self-driving might seem appealing, but the Indian drivers' way of overtaking each other at breakneck speed on the very narrow roads can be hair-raising, to say the least… Driving is generally slow but the distances aren't huge. Traffic drives on the left. The other main advantage of having a driver (apart from not getting lost) is that hawkers, seeing you are with a local, give you space where they might otherwise hound you.
Travelling by bus is a cheap way to get around, but they can be very overcrowded and uncomfortable. They link all towns and cities, and you can always pick up a rickshaw at the bus stop for short hops to your hotel. There are private and state buses, each with various categories of speed (from superfast, which is slow, to superexpress, which is quite fast) and of comfort (from semi-luxe, which is cramped and hard, to deluxe, which has 1 fewer seat per row, seat padding and air conditioning).
There are taxi-cars, with or without air conditioning, and a large number of auto-rickshaws (noisy but nippy three-wheelers) on the roads. Agree to a rate before starting your journey and make sure the driver has a clear idea of your destination. Fares are cheap with various small extras. Some drivers try to stop off at shops where they get commissions on your purchases, while others fend off all touts and take you straight to your destination.
Almost every non-Indian needs a tourist visa from their embassy or consulate. There are 3- and 6-month multiple-entry and single-entry visas (the cost is the same), and they can no longer be issued the same day - so plan ahead! You will also need a valid passport. For access to certain protected areas (e.g. national parks), you will need a special permit and, often, a guide; these are available locally.
Diarrhoea strikes many visitors - be aware of what, and where, you are eating. Choose fruits that you can peel and avoid tap water (as well as ice made from tap water and fruit and vegetables washed in tap water). If you experience diarrhoea it's very important to replace lost fluids and, in the case of severe diarrhoea, lost minerals and salts (it’s a good idea to go prepared with some oral rehydration salts). If you become ill your hotel should be able to recommend a good local doctor or clinic. You may want to consider carrying an emergency treatment pack including needles and syringes.
It's important to seek medical advice at least 6 weeks before departure as some vaccinations may require more than one injection. Make sure you're up to date with vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus and polio. Vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid are also advisable (note that the current vaccine against cholera offers very low protection and isn't usually recommended). Consider vaccinations against rabies and Japanese B encephalitis if you're planning to stay longer than a couple of weeks. Malaria is present in areas beneath 2000m - your doctor will be able to advise you on appropriate medication. Insect repellent is essential; use one containing DEET.
If you're walking from village to village, make sure you have any medication you need in your hand luggage, as your main luggage will be transported ahead by porters.
Many staff are paid very low salaries and expect to be tipped. In hotels and restaurants, 10% is normal. In other situations, where there is no bill, a few rupees will suffice.