Planning tips for traveling to Sikkim

Nestled in the Himalayas, Sikkim became the 22nd state of Indian Union in 1975. The beauty of this place can’t be described in words. Though rampant construction and human activities have taken a toll in some places, it still has many pristine places to visit. In this blog post, I share planning tips for traveling to Sikkim based on my experience.

Route

Sikkim is divided in 4 districts- North, South, East and West and every district has a major city.
Indian nationals can enter Sikkim from anypoint, however, there are certain restrictions for foreigners. If you are a foreign tourist, follow the links below:

http://www.sikkimtourism.gov.in/Webforms/General/Essential%20Information/Entry.aspx

http://www.sikkimtourism.gov.in/Webforms/General/Essential%20Information/FRO.aspx

http://www.sikkimtourism.gov.in/Webforms/General/pdf/RAP.pdf

Map of Sikkim for reference

Budget

We spent around Rs. 2500/ day on an average. This does not include air tickets and reserved cab from Gangtok to Bagdogra airport. I have shared more on prices in sections on transportation, accommodation and food.These planning tips for traveling to Sikkim will help you figure out your budget.

Transportation

Reaching Sikkim

To reach Sikkim, arrive at Bagdogra airport or Jalpaiguri railway station in Darjeeling district. There is an airport in Gangtok as well but I think only one flight from Calcutta flies into and out of that airport.
In Bagdogra airport or Jalpaiguri railway station, you can reserve a cab to go to Gangtok or take a shared cab from Siliguri. A shuttle bus runs from Bagdogra airport, which you need to book beforehand. I clicked a picture at the airport, which I will post here.

I traveled to Sikkim from Kalimpong. To read more about Kalimpong, my blog post Sightseeing around Kalimpong here.

Transportation inside Sikkim

West Sikkim

We took a bus from Kalimpong to Jorethang, the bottom most place on the map. From here, shared cabs ply regularly to Gayzing, the major city in West Sikkim. FromGayzing, you can easily find a shared cab to Pelling. To read about points of interest in West Sikkim, read my blog post 14 places to visit in West Sikkim.

South Sikkim

We returned to Jorethang after visiting Pelling and took a shared cab to Namchi. I explored parts of South Sikkim with Namchi as base. We took a half day trip to Ravangla to see the Buddha Park. To read more about South Sikkim, read my blog post Exploring South Sikkim- Namchi, Damthang and Ravangla.
From Namchi, we took a day trip to Damthang for Tendong hill trek. To read about the trek, read my blog post An enchanting trek through the forest to the sacred Tendong Hill from Damthang.

East Sikkim

We took a cab to Gangtok in East Sikkim from Namchi. To read about sights in Gangtok and day trips from Gangtok, read my blog post 20 Things to do in Gangtok including day trips.

North Sikkim

We booked a 3 days, 2 nights trip to North Sikkim in a shared cab from Gangtok. The places covered are Lachen, Lachung, Yumthang valley, Zero point, Kala Patthar and Guru Dongmar lake. To read about the trip to North Sikkim and requirements for permit, read my blog post A two day conducted tour to North Sikkim.

Mode of transportation

  1. Shared cabs between different towns typically cost between Rs.50 and Rs.150. Local shared taxis have designated routes and you can use them to travel locally. Waiting may be time consuming.

2. Reserved cabs cost a lot more. In my other blogs I mentioned the details for sightseeing in different places.
We reserved a cab from Gangtok to Bagdogra airport due to the flight time but you have the option of taking a shared cab as well. Reserved cab plying locally in towns and cities are very expensive. You might end up paying Rs.100 for a distance less than a kilometer.

3. Walking: The weather is pleasant enough to walk so cover points locally by walking from one place to another.

Though the people in Sikkim are generally nice, some cab drivers may try to scam you, so ensure you make clear where you expect to be dropped and the fare for the same from starting point to end point.

Accommodation

A basic, decent accommodation will cost you anywhere around Rs.1200/day on average. You can find rooms costing between Rs. 1000 and Rs. 2000. I booked through booking.com and airbnb. I have listed some budget hotels/homestays that I stayed at and recommend here.

Recommended hotels/homestays

1) Pelling: Hotel Pine Crest (highly recommended, sells out fast)
21, Tara Palace ( good service, recommended)
Both were located in Lower Pelling.
2) Namchi: Sid’s place(Airbnb, reasonable for the price we paid, less than Rs.1000/day)
3) Gangtok: We stayed in two different hotels and one homestay.
Hotel Green Park (a family run hotel, recommended)
Hotel Tibet (location very close to MG Marg, can get a little noisy due to traffic, recommended)
Shyar Guesthouse (highly recommended, it’s a deal, book it as early as you can, lovely hosts, booked through Airbnb)
If you can loosen your purse strings, there are plenty of resorts and luxury hotels as well.
North Sikkim: All accommodation was arranged in the conducted tour.

Food

Small restaurants on MG Marg offer momos and chowmein for Rs. 40. You can have a full meal for less than Rs. 50 while being seated. There are plenty of bakeries and ice cream shops as well. No matter where you are, you will almost certainly find momos and Maggi. You will easily get North Indian and South Indian food as well.
In North Sikkim, you will be served rice, a vegetable dish, a chicken dish or egg curry, dal and pickle. The food is included in the package.

I hope these planning tips for traveling to Sikkim come in handy when planning your trip.

Richa Jain

I am Richa, from India. Restless by nature, I am fascinated by everything unfamiliar. This is possibly the reason why traveling and reading has always been high on my wish list. I started this blog to document my travel stories and decided later to add book reviews as well. I also realized that planning for long travels, specially when it includes extensive documentation, can be quite daunting, so I decided to include my itineraries and some practical tips that would help in planning trips. Join me on my journeys. Traveling is not the most environment friendly hobby and yet it is essential for city dwellers to get in touch with nature. I have been looking at sustainable options in all areas of my life and can't wait to share them with all.

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