The past decade of turmoil has left traces in the Valley. Its important that you register with the Foreigners’ Registration unit of the Tourism Department. The registration counters are at Tourist Reception centres at Srinagar Airport, Srinagar City, Gulmarg, Sonmarg, Phalgam and other places.
In case of an emergency you can contact the nearest tourist police office or police station. The emergency number of the Police Control Room is 100.
Please be aware that the amount of military presence in the valley can be quite overwhelming for some. You will encounter soldiers with semi-automatic weapons guarding the airport, which may look like a heavily fortified place in a conflict zone before you finally step into the Terminal building. Soldiers will be seen all around the city and outskirts. Also, journies by taxi or bus to any famous tourist spots such as Pahalgam or Kokernag may get uncomfortably delayed due to the passage of long military convoys.
Kashmir valley has a great scope for adventure tourism. There are many high altitude alpine lakes with no access by any transport. These lakes include Vishansar Lake, Nundkol Lake, Tarsar Lake, Gadsar Lake, Satsar Lake and so on. Many trekking units organise and operate trekking packages to these mountain lakes at affordable rates.
The official state language is Urdu, though the most commonly spoken language in the Vale of Kashmir is Kashmiri or Kashur. The younger generation speaks English quite well. Most of the sign-boards and directions are written in English. English is one of the official languages of the government apart from Kashmiri, Urdu, Gojri and Dogri. Hindi is also widely spoken across Kashmir.
Kashmiris are considered very hospitable people. The Amarnath Yatra in which Hindus annually visit a cave situated deep in high altitude mountains in Pahalgam supposedly the abode of Lord Shiva has been going on peacefully for more than a hundred years and Kashmiris have been known to provide all help to the yatris, sometimes even braving harsh mountain weather which is not that rare considering it's a high altitude pilgrimage. In 2006 a campaign of grenade attacks in Srinagar claimed the lives of six tourists and wounded forty on July 11. The targets included a tourist bus and the Tourist Reception Centre. A similar attack on May 31 against a tourist bus wounded 21. An explosion in a tourist bus in Shalimar Gardens on 29 July 2007 claimed six lives and wounded twenty one.
In the summer of 2008 a controversy arose in which Kashmiris resisted the transfer of land to the Amarnath Shrine Board created by the Government of India, fearing dilution of the Muslim majority demography of the state. Although no tourist was harmed by any of the protestors however, during this time, a grenade attack in Gulmarg killed one tourist and injured five.
During the peak of militancy in 1995 which has largely abated now a Norwegian tourist, Hans Christian Ostrø, and five other western tourists were kidnapped by an unknown terrorist group, Alfaran. John Childs, an American managed to escape. However Ostrø was tragically beheaded. The other tourists have never been found since and are presumed dead. However, mainstream separatists denounced this act and terrorist organisations based in Pakistan denied any hand in the executions. A recent book by award winning investigative journalists Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark- "The Meadow" points to a Pakistani hand in the abductions and killing of Ostro and the later killing of the rest of the hostages by Indian security agencies.