I visited Darjeeling in the beginning of April and spent five days there. Located at an altitude of over 2000m, this beautiful misty hill station is nestled in the Lesser Himalayas of West Bengal, and is quite an autonomous district. Renowned world over for the subtle flavour and aroma of it’s tea, Darjeeling is replete with locally grown brands and is a must visit hill station for tea connoisseurs.
When to travel?
This is something that I always ponder upon and so I am attempting to answer it here. April to May or June is a good time to visit, however this year was quite rainy and chilly. Again Darjeeling isn’t exactly famous for sunshine and has quite a reputation for being dreamy and misty, so I recommend being 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.
How to reach there?
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:
1) Booking a private cab to Darjeeling: It will cost between Rs. 2000 to Rs.2500.
2) Shared cab 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.
Useful tip: 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 until 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 pr person from the airport to Darjeeling Mor and Rs 150/person from Darjeeling Mor to Darjeeling.
3) Shuttle bus from the airport: Now I was not aware that this option is there until I saw an ad 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. The first part is from the Darjeeling Railway station till the clock tower or Chowraasta and the other part is Chowraasta and above.
The first part is quite abuzz with lots of shops selling everything under the sky and is quite crowded. A constant stream of vehicles and people crowd the streets. There are a large number of hotels and eating joints as well.
The second part is more 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.
I stayed in a guesthouse called Mountain Homestay and though it may seem a little far, the host is wonderful and the scene from the terrace is stunningly beautiful and the breakfast, included in price, is delicious. I haven’t been paid for recommending the guesthouse 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. There are some points of interest outside the city as well which you can only visit by hiring a cab. There are some places like Kalimpong that can be visited as day tours or spending 2-3 days there. You can hire a shared cab to Kalimpong if you plan on visiting for longer or you can hire a cab to see it all in one day. To read about Kalimpong, click on the link below:
To read about the local sightseeing spots in Darjeeling and how we covered them, follow the link below:
Where to eat?
You will be spoilt for choice in Darjeeling. No matter what your budget is, there are plenty of eating options available. From pocket friendly street food 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 blog post , 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.