Located at an altitude of over 2000m, Darjeeling is an autonomous district in Lesser Himalayas of West Bengal. This charming town is famous for its misty weather and has been made popular by movies. It is renowned world over for the subtle flavor and aroma of Darjeeling tea. Replete with locally grown brands, it is a must visit hill station for tea connoisseurs. In this practical travel guide to Darjeeling, I have included all the information that will help you in planning your trip to Darjeeling.
When to travel?
As the weather in these areas is so capricious, no practical travel guide to Darjeeling will be complete without mentioning the seasons. April to May or June is a good time to visit, however, it was quite rainy and chilly even though I visited in April. Again, Darjeeling isn’t exactly famous for sunshine and is reputed for being dreamy and misty. I recommend that you come prepared with a jacket and an umbrella. June to September are rainy months and you may come across landslides. It must be green, beautiful and tranquil at the time though. October till March is the winter season, a nice time to visit the mountains and contemplate.
How to reach?
You can take a flight to Bagdogra or can take a train till New Jalpaiguri.
If you have taken a flight till Bagdogra, you have the following options:
Book a private cab to Darjeeling
It will cost between Rs. 2000 to Rs.2500.
Take a shared cab from the airport to Darjeeling Mor, 13 km from the airport, and another shared cab from Darjeeling Mor to Darjeeling. A number of cab drivers would hustle around you and ask for high prices.
Always ask your guesthouse owner about the price that you should be charged in order to avoid paying exorbitant prices. There would still be times when you would not have a choice but it is important to be aware.
I traveled with my mother and the cab driver charged us Rs. 800 for the trip to Darjeeling. We were transferred to a shared cab that takes 10 people and the cab driver gave the Sumo driver Rs. 300 for two people to Darjeeling. You should pay Rs 200-Rs 250 per person from the airport to Darjeeling Mor and Rs 150/person from Darjeeling Mor to Darjeeling.
Shuttle bus from the airport
Now I was not aware that this option is there until I saw an advertisement posted at the airport. You can read the details in the picture that I have posted below. You can book a cab to Darjeeling for Rs. 599 and a cab to Gangtok for Rs. 749 by booking beforehand at www.wizride.com
If you use have used this shuttle, please let me know in the comments below how your experience was.
If you are travelling by train till New Jalpaiguri, you can either take a cab, a shared cab or you can take the toy train from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling station. You may need to book it beforehand, specially during the peak season.
Where to stay?
I will divide Darjeeling in two parts based on my limited knowledge of the city.
Darjeeling railway station to Clock tower or Chowraasta
The first part is from the Darjeeling Railway station till the clock tower or Chowraasta. It is crowded and abuzz with shops and street vendors selling everything under the sky. A constant stream of vehicles and people crowd the streets. It has a number of hotels and eating joints.
Clock tower or Chowraasta and beyond
The second part is comparatively peaceful and scenic and everything that you expect. However, if you aren’t comfortable with walking, you may need to take a cab as the ascent becomes gradually steeper in many places. There are places in this upper area where only a reserved cab can go and they charge exorbitant prices, so keep these factors in mind before you book a place.
Where I stayed?
I booked the Mountain Homestay, a local guesthouse through booking.com. Though a little far, we had a wonderful stay there. The host was kind and hospitable and recommended places to visit and how to reach them. The views from the terrace were stunningly beautiful and the breakfast, included in price, was delicious. This is not a paid promotion, but I have decided to recommend the places that make for pleasant stays and provide good service.
How to travel around?
You have the option to walk or you can hire a cab for sightseeing around the city. You can read about it in my blog post things to do in Darjeeling. There are some points of interest outside the city as well which you can only visit by hiring a cab. You have the option of taking a day-trip to Kalimpong from Darjeeling or spend a couple of days there. Read my blog to know more. For Tiger-Hill trek and day-trip to Ghoom, read my post by clicking on the link.
Where to eat?
You will be spoilt for choice in Darjeeling. No matter what your budget is, there are plenty of eating options available. You can choose from pocket friendly street food vendors offering momos, chowmein, pakoras, sweet corn, boiled eggs, burgers and dishes made from chicken(if you are a meat eater) to budget restaurants and high end eateries. We ate at Hasty Tasty, a pocket friendly eating joint on the road to Chowraasta two days in a row, and enjoyed our meals there. Your order will however take quite some time to get ready. I heard some other good reviews about Glenary’s and Keventer’s near clock tower from fellow tourists. These are vintage restaurants that offer some good views, so you can check them out as well.
How much did I spend?
I traveled with my mother and we found a nice, clean room with breakfast included for around Rs. 1500 or so through booking.com. GST was additional. We walked to most places and took shared cabs to other places, ate mostly street food and spent around Rs 11000 in 5 days. This includes the fare price for attractions. This does not include air fare till Darjeeling or cost for onward journey.
I have tried to answer most questions related to planning a trip in this practical travel guide to Darjeeling, however, if you have any other questions, feel free to ask in the comment section and I would try my best to answer them for you.