After a number of viral incidents and the “Boycott Murree” campaign of 2018, it has become quite clear to the rest of Pakistan, that there are some unmentioned rules to be followed while in Murree. If you are planning to visit the hill station anytime soon make sure you have the following points in mind to guarantee a smooth visit.
Rule #1: Always ask the price, FIRST
Now to some this probably doesn’t even hold much importance. We pick out a packet of our favorite chips, park our car or might take a picture without inquiring its price. In Murree that’s not a wise decision. You must always remember to ask first. Here the locals have grown accustom to the regular influx of visitors so they can sometimes see us as little bundles with dollar signs on them – you know, like in the cartoons – making them change their mind to charge a ridiculously over-the-top price.
Rule #2: Nothing is for free
For example, you could be enjoying a ride on a chairlift and see men in the distance taking your picture with a single DSLR (which you never really agreed to, by the way) who pop up out of absolutely nowhere demanding the fee for having taking such a remarkable shot. Speaking from experience, it’s really odd to find your picture and then be forced into paying a fee of their choice just to make sure they delete it. So yes, to avoid the conflict gently convince them of how you never agreed to whatever they are demanding payment for. When in Murree expect to get many friendly services but of course always remember nothing is for free. That’s a good rule to live by anyway though, right?
Rule #3: Ask for permission
When in Murree, ask for permission. If it isn’t already obvious, you must expect them to charge you for it. Even so, asking for permission is a healthy habit and, well, it’s common courtesy. Politeness and good manners go a long way. Whether you find yourself in front of a grand hotel or small roadside eating spot, ask before you want to use the washroom or park your car. Chances are they would want you to buy something as they have reserved these facilities for paying customers only.
‘For any normal visitor all these restrictions don’t make sense. I mean is it really difficult to facilitate someone for the sake of humanity? With the limitations of the topography of the area, providing facilities such as hot water or even simple water, for that matter, is very costly in itself. Although that gives us a little perspective of why they apply such restrictions, which may not seem so bad, but how they manage to communicate this to their customer is most important. Communication accounts for a majority of recent incidents, like the coffee shop incident of September 2020.
Getting back on topic… our rules.
Rule#4: Ignore all vocal marketing
No matter how much someone insist on parking your car in that convenient open spot, don’t park unless you intend to stay/eat/shop at that particular hotel/restaurant/ shop. The moment you reach a popular and, of course, crowded area such as the Mall Road, a fleet of men will rush towards you guiding you and giving you helpful instructions to park.
If you think it’s a good parking spot, before actually parking you have to apply Rule #1. Ask the price. We’re not kidding. Ask if you can park without staying/eating/shopping, if they agree confirm the price of parking. More often than not, they won’t allow it. If they do and you haven’t settled on a price you may return to a parking fee of Rs. 2000. Wouldn’t it have been better to just follow Rule #1?
Rule#5: Avoid Aggression
In case you forget any of the above or you find yourself in an unprecedented situation, aggression will take you nowhere. It is better to ignore or remain calm while conversing with the locals. For instance, if you find that you’ve been charged Rs.1000 for a single plate of fried pakoras, screaming at the staff will cause you more hardship. After a while many onlookers will gather and you will be surrounded. We’re not saying they should be feared, however, some situations are best left ignored and some things are best left unsaid.
We’ve covered the rules you need to follow, and as simple as they sound they are more help than you can ever imagine. Be that as it may, we still have a tip for additional help.
Tip: It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it
Sometimes the way or manner of speaking weighs out way more than the actual statement that has been said. Perception has become a huge part of how we decide the tone and overall experience of an interaction. The natives of Murree have an entirely different manner of interacting with one another than the nearby inhabitants of say, Islamabad, which is predominantly the main factor for many conflicts over the years. Visitors not aware of the locals and there way of speaking might take the tone and wording to be harsh and offensive whereas the local might not have intended it to be that way.
Give them the benefit of the doubt for the fault in their language, and agree to disagree.
Last but not least, if you can’t handle it try not to visit the overly crowded parts of Murree. With the massive number of domestic tourists (especially in the summer and when it snows), who wouldn’t want to make some extra money, am I right?