Do I need a special permit to visit Sikkim, Darjeeling and North East India?
Sikkim is still a restricted area and one still requires a special inner line permit to enter Sikkim along with your Indian visa. You only require a valid Indian visa to visit Darjeeling, Assam and Meghalaya, whereas a special inner line permit is required to visit Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Manipur. Foreigners are still not permitted to enter Nagaland and Tripura.
You may obtain the Sikkim permit from the Indian missions at your respective countries and have it endorsed on your Indian visa informing them that you will be travelling to Sikkim or on your arrival to Siliguri which is about 10 minutes drive from the nearest airport Bagdogra. If you are still unable to get your permit to enter Sikkim for any reason, you may get a temporary two days permit at the Sikkim-Bengal border (Rangpo) and extend it at Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. We shall however provide you with all the necessary assistance on your arrival to Bagdogra. You will require to have a passport size photo.
Do I need a trekking permit and do I need to be in a group?
If you are planning to go trekking in Sikkim, then you will require a trekking permit. The Government of Sikkim also requires you to be in a group of minimum four people and travelling through a recognized agency and will issue permits to such groups only. We can however arrange for a group of two also but under special cases only. You will also require a separate passport size photo for your trekking permit. We will take care of your trekking permit when you join one of our trekking tours.
How do I get Sikkim and Darjeeling?
a) By Air: If you want to go from Kathmandu you can take 1 hour flight to Bhadrapur or Biratnagar and then take about 6-7 hours bus ride to Sikkim or Darjeeling. If you want to go from India then the nearest airport is Bagdogra near Siliguri in West Bengal. It is connected by daily flights from New Delhi and 6 flights from Calcutta (excluding Thursdays) every week. It is 115 kms from Gangtok and takes about 4 1/2 hrs. Recently a 4-seater helicopter service from Bagdogra to Gangtok has started and takes about 20min.
b) By Rail: The broad guage railway station is New Jalpaiguri, near Siliguri. The Dadar Guwahati Express is the only direct train from Mumbai. From Calcutta, it is easily accessible by both rail and road. From Delhi, the New Delhi-Guwahati Rajdhani passes through New Jalpaiguri. (Please check railway schedules as they are apt to change)
c) By Overland trip: You can travel by bus to Kakarvitta from kathmandu and then bus or jeep to Gangtok or Darjeeling. From Silguri there are regular bus to Gangtok and Darjeeling which takes about 5 hours. If you are planning a visit Bhutan, you can combine the trip with extensions to Sikkim or vice versa.
What is the best time to visit Sikkim? Does it snow in Sikkim?
There are 3 seasons for visiting Sikkim.
a) Summer: Summer is from mid-April till the end of May after which the monsoons break at the beginning of June. This is the time when the rhododendrons are in full bloom in places like Yumthang, Varshey (West Sikkim-2 day trek) etc. The skies are fairly clear with occasional showers. This is one of the best times to go on treks.
b) Autumn: This is a great season when the skies are clear and the mountains are preparing for the winter months ahead. The snow clad peaks should now be visible with the air at its cleanest after 4 months of torrential rains.
c) Winters: This is the season for those who dare. A visit to Yumthang Valley in winters offers an awesome panorama of a wilderness under a sheet of snow. Tsongo Lake is frozen solid and remains that way till Feb-March. Even in early April one can frolic in the ice in Yumthang and Tsongo, although it doesn't normally snow there in April. But be warned, it's really cold out there!
Note: Avoid visiting Sikkim from mid-June to 10th September due to heavy rains and occasional landslides. However, the high rates of discounts offered by hotels and the sparse crowd in the monsoons are incentive enough for the intrepid traveler.
What kind of accommodation is available?
There is a wide range of hotel available in Sikkim especially in Gangtok, Darjeeling and Silguri. Beside these places accommodations are basic in Sikkim. On our most of the tour we use best possible hotel in town but please check it out once before you book your trip.
What kind of food is there to eat on treks?
Our cooks are trained to provide a choice of local dishes and western cuisine. Each meal consists of a minimum of five items. In the morning you are provided tea or coffee served in your tents, hot water in bowls to wash your face. Breakfasts consist of oat meal with milk and sugar, local Tibetan bread/toasts with eggs (fried, boiled or scrambled) boiled potatoes. Lunch: Rice, noodles, bread and plenty of fresh organic vegetables. Dinner: Spring rolls, vegetables, rice, noodles, fruits. We always provide safe boiled water or Sikkim tea to fill in your personal bottles before you start your trek. While in the city we eat at the hotel.
What are the available modes of transport and what is the condition of the roads?
Within Sikkim and Darjeeling jeeps are the most popular form of transport. Most jeeps are Mahindra Commander 4 wheel drive, but there are also a limited number of Sumos. We provide Minibus when the group is above 10 persons. Among all the hill stations and tourist places in the Himalayas, Sikkim has the best roads. Roads are maintained by the Indian Army.
Which places should one visit in Sikkim and Darjeeling?
Most people do a tour of the golden triangle comprising Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Gangtok. With more time and an adventurous spirit, both West Sikkim and North Sikkim are a treat to visit.
What do I need to bring to go trekking?
You will require a good sleeping bag, a warm jacket, a raincoat, a water bottle, few pair of cotton socks, a pair of long underwear and a good pair of hiking boot. And finally you should have a strong spirit of adventure and a healthy attitude towards a new culture and environment. For more details about the equipment please visit check list.
Is there a discount for groups?
There certainly is. For group bookings we will be pleased to offer a special discount. Please let us know about it.
Are their any entry restrictions or permissions needed?
Foreigners need a permit to enter Sikkim, however we take care of your all the permit when you travel with us.
What are the telecom facilities?
You can dial STD from Gangtok and even Pelling and Yuksom which are about 150 kms from Siliguri/ NJP. Only from North Sikkim phones are not readily available.
What are the languages spoken?
You can communicate in English & Hindi and Nepali.
What about landslides?
Sikkim is a landslide prone area and in the monsoons many parts of Sikkim are cut off. The repairs are taken care of by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), who does a great job of clearing the roads as fast as possible. With the border close by, it is also imperative from the defence point of view to keep the roads as clear as possible. `Transshipments' across landslides are common and can be an adventurous experience!
What shopping can I do there?
First and foremost are the handicrafts. Reliable shops are the Govt. Institute of Cottage Industry in Gangtok or the Dalai Lama Trust Fund shop in the basement of Hotel Tibet. These are also available in other shops, but browse around for an idea of prices. You can check out the canvas wall hangings, thankas, prayer wheels, Tibetan carpets, rugs and jewellery, particularly the exquisitely carved dragon sets in silver and gold inlaid with precious stones, which are unique to Sikkim. Sikkim tea and cardamom are other good buys.
What about adventure sports?
For the outdoor buff, Sikkim offers a wide circuit of trekking routes. River rafting on the Teesta and the Rangit rivers is also an option. Recently, helicopter flights to Mt. Khangchendzonga have also been started from Gangtok. Please let us know for more details.