Although the situation in Kashmir is calmer than it has been for twenty years, it is still essential to check the current state of affairs with reputable media sources before travelling – w kashmirtimes.com is a good local resource. No tourists have been directly targeted since 1995 but if trouble is flaring up, then you will have to endure a very heavy military presence and may even run the risk of getting literally caught in the crossfire or an act of terrorism. You should not necessarily be put off by government advisories, however, as these tend to be extremely cautious and Kashmir has remained on the list of no-go areas even when at its most peaceful.
Once you are in Jammu and the Kashmir Valley, you will find that security is taken very seriously and the vast majority of tourist sites, such as temples, mosques, museums and forts, are heavily guarded. You are usually prohibited from taking bags or electronic items inside; tokens are given when you check them but if you are not comfortable about leaving possessions like cameras or mobile phones in the cloakroom, then it is better to lock them in your hotel. Both Jammu and Srinagar airports have extra-high security and passengers are often not allowed into the terminal until a certain time before departure – usually two hours but occasionally less. Sometimes no hand luggage is allowed on board, so it is best to check in advance.
The other potential pitfall to be aware of is the variety of scams perpetrated on unsuspecting tourists by unscrupulous Kashmiris, especially in Delhi’s Paharganj area or Jammu. It is best to take with a pinch of salt any advice about safety in Kashmir (or the lack of it) from people who approach you. Some make out you will be in danger without a guide and then try to sell a tour costing hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. These people should be avoided at all costs, as should agents trying to sell you rooms on houseboats. At best you will be overcharged and in the worst case you will be seriously ripped off.