Some of my most memorable stays in Himachal Pradesh have been at the HP PWD Rest Houses. Often located at the most scenic place in town, away from the crowd and with large enough rooms to put most deluxe rooms at mid-range hotels to shame.
Even though service depends on the mood of the caretaker, whose willingness to serve can depend on the expectation of a tip. They aren’t half bad and considering you’re paying just a few hundred rupees a night (usually Rs. 480 a night for non-Himachali tourists at the time of writing), it is a better deal than most if not all the hotels.
Of course, showing up at a PWD Rest House without booking is putting your faith entirely in the hands of the caretaker.
A grumpy one might turn you away, a kind soul might allot you the room and charge you according to the policy, while an enterprising one would pocket the room rent and let you in on the condition of leaving at daybreak so that he doesn’t get caught by his superiors.
Hence it is best to book the guest house in advance, even though it can even be done on the same day as well (during office hours) if you know where you’re going to end up and have access to phone and internet while on the move.
Of course, booking a PWD Rest House is pretty easy these days.
- The first step is to find out the contact details of the E.E. responsible for the rest house you’re trying to book. This can be done using the following link, http://hppwd.gov.in/Rest%20Houses.htm.
- Next, you need to contact the E.E. over the phone. They will either take down your details and do the booking for you or ask you to email the details on their official email id (mentioned in the above link.)
- If you had to send an email to confirm your booking, then make sure to call after some time and confirm with them the booking. Do not wait for an email confirmation, else you might end up waiting forever.
- In case the phone listed on the website does not work, it is best to send an email and see if you can get a response. If you don’t get a response, then you’re out of luck, unless you’re able to source the phone number from somewhere else. In which case, please mention it in the comments below for the benefit of fellow travelers.
Of course, it sounds more complicated than it actually is. Usually, you can get a booking done in a matter of hours. Thanks to the often helpful nature of HP PWD Officials.
Booking done, here are few things to keep in mind:
- Since these Rest Houses are made for the official purpose, hence you won’t be allotted all the rooms at the rest house. Usually, one room is kept reserved. The caretaker might open it at his own discretion if he feels you really need it and he does not expects anyone to show up. Of course, in case someone does show up, then you will have to vacate the room, even if it is in the middle of the night.
- Room bookings can be canceled if there is a large contingent of officials or politicians arriving on the same day. Although chances of this happening are extremely slim, still it is a possibility nonetheless.
- The caretaker is in no way obliged to serve you food and tea. You’re officially permitted to use the kitchen and utensils after paying a nominal fee (generally Rs. 30 per night.) However, you have to bring your own rice, flour, oil, vegetables etc.. Having said that, at most rest houses, caretaker does cook for you and you have to pay him extra for that.
- Don’t expect amenities like TV etc. at these rest houses. Though those located at or near large towns can have these. However, most don’t.
- Please treat caretakers with respect, they are government servants and more importantly, human beings and deserve to be treated with respect.
- And whatever you do, please do not leave a mess behind.
At the end of the day, HP PWD Rest Houses offer a unique opportunity for travelers to stay in a budget yet beautiful place and are safer than most budget hotels since they are manned and run by government employees.