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<Sikkim Visitors Information>
 

In Sikkim, foreigners must trek in a group of at least two. Trekking permit is granted only to groups registered through a bonafide agency. Also note that permit issuing authorities as well as several essential services remain closed on official holidays, Sundays, and second Saturdays of the month.

Frontier Formalities:
Sikkim Inner Line Permit
The Sikkim Inner Line Permit can be obtained together with your Indian visa from Indian missions abroad but do note that is usable only if you are entering via the Rongpo check point and heading into Gangtok.

Visitors entering Sikkim via Melli or Singla-Jorethang should email us printable scanned image files of their passport details, in order to arrange your entry from these checkpoints.

Sikkim Inner Line Permit is initially valid for 15 days but can be further extended for the duration of your itinerary once you are inside Sikkim.

Trekking Permit
In Sikkim, foreigners must trek in a group of at least two. Trekking permit is issued only to groups registered through a bonafide agent. No trekking permit is required for Kalimpong and Darjeeling treks.

Trekking permit for the Goecha La, Dzongri and Singalila treks can be obtained at short notice and within 24 hours
but North Sikkim Treks: for areas such as. Green Lake, Yumthang, Lachung, Lachen, Chungthang and Upper Dzongu (Tholung and Kishongla) require at least 2 months for the application to be processed.

Restricted Area Permits (for Touring)
In addition to the Inner Line Permit, entry into North Sikkim and Tsangu Lake require a Restricted Area Permit (easily arranged within a day). However, for the Gurudongmar Lake excursion, please note that 2 weeks time is required for processing the permit.

Should your visit include trekking and entry to Restricted Areas, please ensure that you bring along several passport-size photos. These will be required in the application forms.

Climate:
Varies with altitude. Cold during winters from November to February. Sunny and bright from March to mid-May. Thereafter rainy and damp till October with moderate temperatures.

Gangtok Temperatures
Summer - High : 21°C / Low :13°C
Winter - High :13°C / Low : 5°C
Rainfall : 3894 mm.

Best time for travel to the region :
March - late May
October - December

Clothing:
Informal, except for special occassions. Around towns and monasteries, women are advised against wearing shorts and skimpy tops. Similarly, men are advised to be attired in full pants and shirts with sleeves. Warm sweaters or jackets are essential for mornings and evenings throughout winter and early spring.

Access:
Nearest Airport: Bagdogra
Flight from Calcutta - 45 minute
Flight from New Delhi - 2 hours

Bagdogra-Gangtok via road : 4.5 hours
Bagdogra-Darjeeling via road : 3.5 hours

Bagdogra-Gangtok via air : 30 minutes
Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation operates a helicopter service using 5 seater Bell 206 Long Ranger aircrafts.

Nearest Airport of Nepal: Bhadrapur
Flight from Kathmandu - 45 minutes

Bhadrapur-Gangtok via road : 6 hours
Bhadrapur-Darjeeling via road : 5 hours

Major Urban Settlements:
Gangtok (pop. 50,000)
Darjeeling (pop. 100,000)
Kalimpong (pop. 20,000)

Transfers
While touring the hills of Darjeeling and Sikkim, much of your travelling hours will be spent in vehicles every day. However, the monotony is offset by the sights and spectacles of the changing scenery as you move along. Each guest is offered a window-side seat to enable a good view of the countryside on such drives.

The infrastructure for tourism in this region has not developed to a high degree due to the low volume of visitors. Although the hotels we use are the best in the region, they do not match modern international standards. The same can be said of the vehicles available including the condition of the roads.

The essential requirement for enjoying a tour of this region is to come with a flexible attitude, a sense of humour, curiosity, and an enthusiasm to see new people and places. Most importantly, be prepared to expect the unexpected. Come with the spirit of adventure and a positive outlook, and we will make sure that you have a very pleasant experience.

Health and Safety
Your enjoyment of the tour depends on your health. Foods in the hotels we use are absolutely safe. Do not drink tap water. Ask the hotel to provide boiled and filtered water or better still, drink only bottled water.

We do not stock prescription drugs but our guide will have a first-aid kit with remedies for common ailments. General antibiotics and various medicines can be bought off the counter in most towns if you have a doctor’s prescription.

If you feel you have a medical problem during the course of the tour, please consult our guide. You may find a quick solution or he/she may be able to advise you on the best course of action.

Security
Statistically, Sikkim has the lowest crime rate in all of India. The vast majority of the hill people are friendly and trustworthy. However, in crowded places you should be careful of pickpockets. Rest assured that the chances of getting mugged are practically non-existent but a petty thief may ruin a perfectly good holiday. Please do not leave your hotel doors open when you go out. Deposit all valuables at the hotel reception, or carry them with you.

Shopping/Tipping
As all meals and transport are paid for, you need not carry much loose money. Just keep enough for bottled water, drinks and for buying souvenirs. While shopping for souvenirs please take the help of your Leader/Guide, especially if you are looking for genuine items or need to check their prices.

Tipping is not mandatory but has become an accepted practice. The field staff do expect something at the time of your departure.

Cultural Consideration
As in most Asian countries, people from the West may find it difficult to fully comprehend the practices, traditions and rituals involved in the everyday life of the people of this region. A seemingly innocent act could turn out to be something offensive to the local inhabitants. When in doubt, do not hesitate to ask. Ask before taking a photograph, entering a temple or home, touching a baby or even a water tap. The following guidelines should help:

Greeting
One normally greets with hands folded saying "Namaste". It is considered impolite to shake hands and should never be done with the opposite sex. Saying namaste is proper way in greeting elders, priests, monks and people of status. Generally, children and common folk would be either too shy or too bewildered at your appearance to muster a greeting. If you feel this is the case, greet them and you will receive a warm, somewhat surprised greeting in return.

Body Language
The people here believe the body is sacred and there are several taboos. As the left hand is used to cleanse oneself after a visit to the lavatory, it is deemed improper to use it for other acts such as eating. The most polite way to give or receive is to reach out with the right hand while touching the right elbow with the left hand. A more common way is to extend both hands together. When seated, it is impolite to show the soles of the feet and particularly rude to point them in someone's direction. Never step on or over a person. A person’s body is considered cleanest at the head becoming progressively dirtier down at the feet. Therefore patting children or people on the head is considered offensive. Touching a stranger of the opposite sex, even on the shoulder or hand is easily misinterpreted. Please refrain from doing so. Also avoid hugging or kissing your companions in a public place, as this is considered rude.

Dress Etiquette
While the proposition of acquiring a good tan from the tropical sun on your holiday is a good idea, it is advisable that you do not wear dresses that are too revealing during the times you are travelling.

Some of the hotels we use do insist upon a dress code at the dinner table, and you will be advised accordingly. Other than that, you may choose to attire yourself in casual comfortable clothing.

While visiting shrines and entering one, shoes and all articles made of leather should be removed. It is also advisable for ladies to be attired appropriately.

Photography
Photography is generally not allowed inside monasteries but ocassionally there are some that give you the privilege for a certain fee. Before taking photographs of people, please ask. Village folks, especially the elders still believe that taking photographs shortens one's life span and many are reluctant to pose for a photograph.

 
In A Nutshell:
Area 7,096 sq. km
   
Location Approx 27 ° North 88 ° East
   
Climate Tropical, Temperate and Alpine
   
Population 541,000
   
Urban Population 10%
   
Literacy Rate 70%
   
Languages Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Limboo, Magar, Rai, Gurung, Sherpa, Tamang, Newari, Hindi & English
   

Mountains & Peaks:

28

   

Glaciers:

21

   

Lakes and Wetlands:

227

   

Rivers and Streams:

104+

   

Flowering Plants:

4500

   

Orchids:

450 +

   

Rhododendron:

36

   

Bamboo:

20

   

Ferns and allies:

362

   

Tree Ferns:

9

   

Primulae:

30

   

Oaks:

11

   

Mammals:

144

   

Birds:

550

   

Butterflies:

600 +

   

Fish:

48

 
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