Comprehensive Information for Trekking in Sikkim Darjeeling Nepal Bhutan & Tibet Himalayas.
Sikkim is a small state in the Indian Himalayas which very few people know about. It lies south of Tibet, west of Bhutan & East of Nepal. This small state in the Indian Himalayas is a Buddhist country & is home to the third highest mountain in the world Mt.Kanchenjunga. Till the year 1972 Sikkim was a small kingdom ruled by the Chogyals. Sikkim joined the Indian Sub continent only in the year 1972 and so did away with the monarchy. This small Himalayan state is mainly a Buddhist state. Guru Rimpoche propogated buddhism in Sikkim while he was travelling to and fro between Tibet & Bhutan. Sikkim was closed to the outside world and only latel has slowly opened up to foreign visitors. It shares it’s border with Tibet , Bhutan & Nepal. With 90% of its land mass falls in the Indian Himalayan mountains Sikkim offers great oppurtunities for Trekking & mountaineering Activities.
Singalila National Park located on the Singalila Ridge in Darjeeling District of West Bengal is a part of the Eastern Himalayan Range. It is bordered on the North by Small state of Sikkim & in the west by Nepal. It was declared a National Park of India in 1992 & a wildlife sanctuary in 1986. Singalila Ridge has been long been popular as the trekking route from Manebhanjang to Sandakphu Phalut ending the Trek in Rimbik. The famous Darjeeling Singalila Ridge Trek Route winds through the Singalila National Park. Sandakphu (3636m) & Phalut(3600m) the two highest points in the Singalila Ridge are located inside the Park. Ramam & Siri Khola are the two main rivers which flows through the Singalila National Park. The Park Falls in the Indomalaya ecozone & Thick bamboo grooves, oak, magnolia and rhododendron forest cover the entire Singalila Ridge. The History of human settlement in the Singalila National Park is almost non existant. The few Yak huts that used to be seen has all been evacuated in order to protect the Park from over grazing. Small human settlement on the fringes of the Singalila National Park can been seen.
As per the survey of 2001 Primula, Geranium, Saxifraga, Bistort, Senecio, Cotoneaster and few orchid species inhabit the entire Singalila Ridge. Because of high concentration of Himalayan cobra lilies (Arisaema) which grow here abundantly, Bikhey Bhanjyang in the Sandakphu area is known as the valley of poisonous flowers. Small mammals like the red panda, leopard cat, barking deer, yellow-throated marten, wild boar, pangolin and pika are the main inhabitants of this National Park. Larger mammals include the Himalayan black bear, leopard, clouded leopard, serow and takin. Since the Singalila National Park do not have a large enough prey base Tigers only sometimes wander into the forests.
With over 120 species of rare and exotic birds like the Kalij Phesant, Blood Pheasant, scarlet minivet, satyr tragopan, brown and fulvous parrotbills, rufous-vented tit, fire-tailed myzornis and the golden-breasted fulvetta, this park is a Birding delight. The park is also home to many migratory birds.
The Singalila Ridge is popular among the Trekking community. The 180 Degree views of the Everest & the Kanchenjunga Range draws many to the Singalila Ridge. The Sandakphu Phalut Trek Route remains closed to outside visitors from 15th.June to 15th.September every year because of the monsoons. Besides, the singalila national park is open through out the year. There are Trekkers huts & Private lodges along the Darjeeling Sandakphu Trek route for accommodation.
Formalities for entering the Indian Sub- continent ,Nepal , Bhutan & Tibet
In order to visit India one needs to have an Indian Visa. Indian Visa will be issued by the Indian High Commission / Consulate in your respective country. Since November 2014 The Govt. of India started Issuing EVisa. At present, travelers from more than 160 countries can apply for a tourist e-Visa, business e-Visa or medical e-Visas, depending on the purpose of their visit to India. Travelers who use the e-visa program apply and pay a fee online and receive their electronic visa online before traveling to India. The eVisa issued is valid for a period of 120Days but the visa holder can stay in the Indian Territory for no more 60Days & is double entry visa. The Cost of the Visa is US$137.50 & will be issued within 18hrs for a tourist visa and Two working days for Business & Medical visa.
TOURIST EVISA — WHAT DO YOU NEED?
- Your passport copy in PDF format.
- A digital passport photo in JPEG format.
- A credit/debit card or Paypal account
- Applicant should carry a copy of the Indian visa along with him/her at the time of travel.
- Indian Tourist e-Visa is valid for entry through 25 designated Airports (i.e. Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bagdogra, Bengaluru, Calicut, Chennai, Chandigarh,Cochin, Coimbatore, Delhi, Gaya, Goa, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mangalore, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Tiruchirapalli, Trivandrum, Varanasi & Vishakhapatnam) and 5 designated seaports (i.e. Cochin, Goa, Mangalore,Mumbai,Chennai). However, travelers can exit from any of the authorized Immigration Check Posts (ICPs) in India.
- Indian e-Visa is non-extendable
- Nationals of Yellow Fever affected countries must carry a yellow fever vaccination card at the time of arrival in India, otherwise they may be quarantined for 6 days upon arrival in India. See Yellow Fever countries here
- Applicant must arrive with the same passport which he/she applied for the Tourist e-Visa.
- For detailed information & To apply online for Indian Visa please click on the link here : https://www.ivisa.com/india-visa-application?country=GB
Permits required to visit Sikkim
whole of Sikkim is under restricted area regime due to its proximity to neighboring countries like China. Therefore all foreign nationals require Restricted Area Permit (RAP) to visit any part of Sikkim including Gangtok. This permit is also popularly known as Inner Line Permit (ILP). Indian Nationals do not require this.
National of Pakistan, China, Maynmar or Bangladesh must get a written approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi before the Restricted Area Permit can be issued.
Certain areas like Tsomgo Lake, Nathula, Yumthang Valley, Gurudongmar Lake, Dzongri etc are defined as Protected Areas and have special army deployment. Both foreigners and Indians require a separate permit known as Protected Area Permit (PAP) to visit such places. Nathula and Gurudongmar Lake are not accessible to foreign nationals at all.
Procedure for acquiring Restricted Area Permit (RAP) or Inner Line Permit (ILP).
Restricted Area Permit is applicable only for foreigners. It is free of cost. You must have a valid Passport and a valid Indian visa . With proper documentation, it takes less than 30 minutes to get the permit across the counter.
Restricted Area Permit (ILP) can be obtained at the following places:
- New Delhi – Sikkim House, Panchsheel Marg, Chanakyapuri
- Kolkata – Sikkim House, 4/1 Middleton Street
- Siliguri – Office of Sikkim Nationalized Transport, Sevoke Road
- Rangpo checkpost (on the way to Gangtok or East Sikkim) – issued between 8am to 8pm.
- Melli Check Post (on the way to Jorethang in South Sikkim)-issued between 8am to 8PM
- NOTE: It takes only few minutes if you have all documentation in place.
How long is the Restricted Area Permit (ILP) valid?
Initially it is issued for 60 days. It can then be extended for 30 days at a time. These extensions can be obtained at Foreigners’ Registration Office (FRO) at Kazi Road, Gangtok or at the office of Sub Divisional Magistrates, or even through Superintendent of Police at district head quarters in Sikkim.
Following are the protected areas in Sikkim.
- EAST SIKKIM
Tsomgo (Changu) Lake and Baba Mandir permits are issued at the Police Check Post. For foreigners it is also issued by Sikkim Tourism & Civil Aviation Department.
Permit for Nathula Pass is issued at Police Check Post as well as at Sikkim Tourism Department only to Indians (foreigners are not allowed here).
- WEST SIKKIM
Dzongri & Goechala Trek Permit is issued to both Indian Nationals and Foreign Nationals by the Sikkim Tourism & Civil Aviation Department. All Participants have to go through a registered Agency in order to vail of this facility. The Trekking Permit will be issued to a registered Travel Agency only.
- NORTH SIKKIM
Permit to Indian Nationals & Foreign Nationals who would like to visit Yumthang valley, Yumesamdong, Thangu/Chopta Valley is issued by the Tourism Department and Police Check Post. Indian Nationals can visit Gurudongmar lake while Foreigner Nationals can travel only up to Thangu.
- SOUTH SIKKIM
There is no protected area in South Sikkim. For example no permit is required for Indians to visit places like Namchi, Ravangla, Jorethang etc. Foreigners only need Restricted Area Permit (i.e. Inner Line Permit) to tour & trek South Sikkim.
Documents required for Protected Area Permits (PAP).
- Passport Size Photo
- Voters ID Card
- Adhar Card
- Driving License (Pan Card i9s not valid).
Protected area permit for Senior Citizens & Minors
If you are travelling with your child or infant, then you must carry his or her Birth Certificate. The permit issuing authorities usually check that to determine the age. If the age is less than 5 years, then the permit may not be issued. In fact it is not a good idea to travel to places like Tsomgo, Nathula and high altitude places in North Sikkim with an infant or an aged senior. Lack of adequate oxygen in the air can cause breathing problems.
Note that you are not allowed to self-drive your own or rented car to any protected area of Sikkim. However self driven bikes are allowed with special permits. Read Self driving bike or car in Sikkim to get full information on self driving a bike or car in protected as well as unprotected areas of Sikkim, necessary permits and how to get them, rental options for cars and bikes etc.
Online Issue of ILP for Foreign nationals
A foreign national can get Restricted Area Permit (i.e. Inner Line Permit) online from the website https://sikkimpts.azurewebsites.net/ilp/Register. While filling up the online application form, you will need to choose a Tour Operator out of a long assorted list, enter date of arrival, passport & visa details, your email address, upload your photo etc. Once done, you can self print the permit. There is no charge. However, what you get is known as Provisional ILP. You need to finally get it stamped at one of the border check posts of Sikkim (like at Rangpo). No need for passport photocopies or photos. However this method is not yet finalised. Therefore not advisable.
There is some confusion with the Online ILP (i.e. Online Restricted Area Permit). It is issued only as a provisional permit and requires a registration on arrival at one of the Sikkim check posts. And there is one more issue in this part of the country and that’s ignorance. Some staff and check post guards may be taken by surprise when you show a self printed ILP. They may not have seen one before and you might need all your skills to convince them. So don’t be surprised if they keep checking with authorities to verify and you ending up wasting time.
Foreign nationals will require a regular tourist visa or an e-Tourist visa along with valid passport to apply for a Sikkim permit, i.e. Restricted Area Permit (ILP) and/or Protected Area Permit.
All foreigners should travel in a group of two or more in protected areas wherever allowed. Solo foreigners are not permitted in protected areas. Additionally foreigners should apply for Protected Area Permit through tour operators who are registered with Sikkim Tourism Department.
Foreigners are not allowed in Nathula Pass and Gurudongmar Lake as these two are international border areas. However with necessary permits, foreign nationals are allowed to visit protected areas such as Yumthang Valley, Zero Point, Tsomgo Lake etc.
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Formalities for entering Darjeeling :
Unlike the neighbouring state of Sikkim. Foreign Nationals need to have only a valid Indian Visa to enter and visit Darjeeling Area. No special Permit is needed. Chinese, Pakistani, Bangladeshi & Sri Lankan Nationals are barred from Visiting the Singalila National Park. Foreign Nationals of other countries besides the ones mentioned above can Trek & Visit the Sandakphu Phalut area. No special permit is required to trek in the Singalila National Park. They only need to register at the Foreigners registration office & the Singalila National Park Authorities at the entrance of the Park. Minimum Park fees has to be paid at the park office for entering the Singalila National Park.
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FORMALITIES FOR ENTERING NEPAL
NEPAL TOURIST VISA
- Nepal visa is readily available on arrival at the International Airport in Kathmandu and all other entry points to Nepal.
- 2 passport photos will be required.
- Single Entry visa: US$ 30 per visa (valid for 60 days).
- Multiple Entry visa: US$ 80 per visa (valid for 150 days).
- Nepal Visas are also available in all Nepalese Embassies and Consulates.
- No Visa is required for Indian Citizens to enter and Travel in Nepal
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Nepal Trekking Permit
The Department of Immigration located at Kalikasthan, Dillibazar, Kathmandu (Tel : 977 – 1 – 4429659 / 4429660 / 4438862 / 4438868 Fax : 977 – 1 – 4433934 /4433935 Email : firstname.lastname@example.org Web : http://www.nepalimmigration.gov.np) issues permit for foreign tourists who intend to trek in controlled areas of Nepal. A trekking permit is a must to travel to controlled areas mentioned below. Permit, however, is issued only to groups. Individual trekkers will not be issued trekking permit. But solo trekkers do trek in some areas like the Everest Base Camp area and the Annapurna Area. One will need to pay TIMS( Trekkers information monitoring System) fees of US$20 (if going individually or US$10 through an agency). One can either pay at the Office in Kathmandu, located in Thamel or one can also pay at Lukla before entering the Khumbu area. Likewise there are TIMS offices at the entrance of the Annapurna Area too. TIMS can be paid there too.
Restricted are Trekking Fees :
|S.N||Trekking Area||Permit Fee|
|a. Areas of Upper Dolpa||For the first 10 days US$ 500 per person and after 10 days US$ 50 per day person or equivalent foreign currency|
|b. Areas of Lower Dolpo||Per week per person US$ 10 or equivalent convertible foreign currency.|
|Areas of Upper Mustang||For the first 10 days US$ 500 per person and after 10 days US$ 50 per day per person, or equivalent convertible foreign currency.|
|a. Manaslu Region||From September to November US$ 70 per week per person and after 7 days US$ 10 per day per person or equivalent convertible foreign currency. From December to August US$ 50 per week per person and after 7 days US$ 7 per day per person or equivalent convertible foreign currency.|
|b. Areas of Chhekampar and Chunchet VDC (Sirdibas-Lokpa-Chumling-Chhekampar -Nile-Chhule Area)||From September to November, per person US$ 35 for first 8 days and from December to August per person US$ 25 for first 8 days or equivalent convertible foreign currency|
Areas of Mugu, Dolpu, Pulu and Bhangri
|For the first 7 days US$90 per person and after 7 days US$ 15 per day per person or equivalent convertible foreign currency.|
|Areas of Nar and Phu||From September to November, US$ 90 per week per person and December to August US$ 75 per week per person or equivalent convertible foreign currency.|
|Gaurishankar and Lamabagar||Per week per person US$ 10 Or equivalent convertible foreign currency.|
Thuman and Timure
|Per week per person US$ 10 Or equivalent convertible foreign currency.|
Simikot and Yari (Areas of Limi and Muchu village Development Committee, and area way to Tibet via Tangekhola of Darma Village Development committee)
|For the first 7 days US$ 50 per person and after 7 days US$7 per day per person or equivalent convertible foreign currency.|
Areas of Kimathanka, Chepuwa,Hatiya and Pawakhola VDCs)
|For the first four weeks, US$ 10 per person per week and After four weeks, US$20 per person per week or equivalent convertible foreign currency.|
Kanchanjanga Region (Areas of Olangchung Gola, Lelep, Papung and Yamphudin VDCs)
|Per week per person US$ 10 or equivalent convertible foreign currency.|
(Areas of Kanda, Saipal and Dhuli)
|For the first 7 days, US$ 90 per person and After seven days US$ 15 per day per person or equivalent convertible foreign currency.|
(Areas of Byas VDC)
|For the first 7 days, US$ 90 per person and after 7 days US$ 15 per day per person or equivalent convertible foreign currency.|
a). To get a group trekking permit an application form with other relevant documents should be submitted through any registered trekking agency of Nepal.
b). Trekking fee can be paid in Nepalese currency: Notwithstanding anything written in above, the Indian citizen can pay in Nepalese currency equivalent to US Dollars.
Formalities for Entering Bhutan:
- The Bhutan Visa will not be issued individually. In order to enter & Travel in Bhutan one will need to go through a Travel Agency Registered in Bhutan. The Travel agency will apply for the visa once the itinerary is finalised. The Bhutan Visa will be issued to the Company organising the Trek or Tour. They will pass on the Bhutan visa to you which will be issued 15Days before the start of the Trek or Tour and will be valid for the duration of the Trek Tour.
- Scanned copies of the Passport & Passport Size Photo is all that is needed to obtain Bhutan Visa.
Formalities for entering Tibet :
- If one intends to travel to Tibet through Nepal than the Participant/s needs to go through a Registered Travel Agency and the Chinese Visa will be issued from the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. After the Chinese Visa is issued than the company organising the Tibet Tour will apply for the Tibet Travel Permit.
- If one intends to travel to Tibet through Nepal than please do not bring a Chinese Visa issued by the Chinese Embassy from your country of Origin. In this case the Chinese visa will be cancelled & will be a waste of time & money.
Documents required for availing Tibet Travel Permit & Chinese Visa.
- Copy of the Passport
- Passport Size Photo
- US CITIZEN – US$90 / Person
- CANADIAN CITIZEN-US$70/Person
- OTHERS –US$85 / Person
- Lhasa – Kathmandu – Airfare – US$ 410 / Person ( Subject to Change without prior Notice)
Kathmandu – Lhasa – Airfare – US$ 410 / Person
- NOTE : One will need to be in Kathmandu at least three Days before the start of the Tibet Tour