Here are some tips to help you make your way around the Bir area on foot, by bus, by taxi, or on bicycle.
Orientation to the Bir Area
First of all, if you aren’t familiar with the locations of the various villages and landmarks in the greater Bir area, see our Greater Bir Orientation to get your bearings.
On Foot: Walking Paths
The Bir area is so charming that one of the joys of getting around is doing so slowly, out in the open. The many villages and fields of greater Bir are interconnected by webs of walking trails. Do yourself (and the environment) a favor by getting out and walking as much as you can.
Approximate walking times:
- Between Bir proper (Upper Bir) and Tibetan Colony: ~20-25 minutes
- Between Chowgan Chowk and Tibetan Colony: ~10 minutes, along Chowgan Rd
- Between Bir proper and Ghornala: ~40-60 minutes on forest trails
- Between Tibetan Colony and Ghornala: ~50-70 minutes
- Between Tibetan Colony and Sherab Ling: ~50-70 minutes on forest trails, or around 60-80-minutes if walking along the road.
Buses: Up & Down the Hill
Buses ply the main north-south Bir Road fairly regularly, connecting Bir proper (Upper Bir) to the Bir Road turnoff on the NH20 (the highway). Following is an outline of the Bir Road bus route, showing the main stops. (If your destination is between two of the main stops, you can ask the driver or conductor to drop you off at any point along Bir Road.)
- Bir bus stand (Upper Bir main bazaar)
- Kotli (a village just below Bir proper)
- Upper Chowgan Road turnoff
- Chowgan Chowk* (intersection with Chowgan Road a.k.a. Colony Road)
- Bir Road market (at the turnoff from highway NH20)
* Note: the closest bus stop for the Tibetan Colony is at Chowgan Chowk, from where it’s around ten minutes to the Colony, give or take, on foot.
White compact taxis are usually in adequate supply in the Bir area, except when there are major events in town, at which time they can become scarce.
Where to Find Taxis in Greater Bir
- Bir proper: At the Upper Bir bus stand, in the centre of the main Bir bazaar.
- Tibetan Colony: In front of the bank in the small square in the centre of the colony.
- Central Chowgan: Sometimes one can find a taxi or two sitting at Chowgan Chowk, the intersection of Bir Road and Chowgan (Colony) Road. If not, the Tibetan Colony is the closest (but a local shopkeeper could save you the walk by calling one).
- Bhattu: There is often at least one taxi in the parking lot at Sherab Ling Monastery. If not, ask someone in the office or the shop to call one for you.
- Ghornala: There is no taxi stand in Ghornala, but taxis can be arranged by phone.
Taxi Fares in Greater Bir
SPECIAL NOTE ON TAXI FARES: All prices are subject to change, but in India the rate of inflation is even higher than in many other places, and this particularly true for fuel prices. So, if your taxi driver happens to ask for 10-20 rupees more than the prices listed here, please don’t assume you’re being cheated: It may be the case that the standard rates have recently increased due to inflation and we simply haven’t updated this list yet. If unsure, ask politely if your driver will accept the lower price. If not, there’s a fair chance the going rate has gone up (and, if so, please post in the comments to let us know so we can keep this list updated).
That said, here are the going rates in as of early 2012:
- Between Upper Bir and Chowgan/Tibetan Colony: 5 minutes, Rs 50-60
- Between Bir Road and Chowgan/Tibetan Colony: 5 minutes, Rs 60-70
- Between Bir Road and Upper Bir: 10 minutes, Rs 90-100
- Between Upper Bir or the Tibetan Colony and Ghornala (for the Dharmalaya Institute): Rs 100 one-way or Rs 150 return
- Between Bir or the Tibetan Colony and Bhattu (Sherab Ling): Rs 100
All of Bir’s roads and many of its walking paths are also suitable for mountain biking. A few tips for cyclists:
- Always yield right of way to pedestrians, cars, and everything that moves. Locals aren’t used to cyclists and usually wouldn’t know what to expect, so it’s much safer to err on the safe side and always yield the right of way to others.
- Roads and paths in the region are more likely to have debris and other potential causes for flat tires. Keep tools and a spare tube with you if possible.
- If riding on the walking paths through the fields, don’t be tempted to let the stunning views keep your eyes off of the road in front of you. The walking paths often have breaks in them for irrigation channels, and it’s all too easy to look away at the wrong moment and hit one of those gaps… ouch!