SIKKIM/DARJEELING : A BASIC TRAVEL INFO Print
 

Sikkim a former Himalayan Kingdom, has been a State of India since it merger in 1975. Located in the Eastern Himalayas, it is wedged between the Kingdoms of Nepal in the west and Bhutan in the east. With an area of 7,096 sq. kms it has a rectangular shape measuring about 114 kms from north to south and 64 kms from east to west. The elevation varies between 300 mtrs to 8500 mtrs. The greater Himalayas form a natural boundary with Tibet and the Singalila range with Mt. Khangchendzonga (8545 mtrs), the third highest peak in the world , runs north to south separating Sikkim from Nepal. On th eastern front the Chola range borders with Tibet and the Pangola range further down separate Sikkim from Bhutan. Finally, the vast plains of Bengal open out in the south to form a horseshoe picture of the high ranges bordering Sikkim.

The two major rivers, Teesta and Rangit, flow from north to south creating deep gorges which divide Sikkim into three longitudinal strips. The valleys in the north are wider at Yumthang (3600 mtrs) and Lachung (2700 mtrs) which are easily accessible by road. These Rhododendron areas deep in the northern mountains are inhabited by Lachungpas, who have preserved and maintained their unique culture and a society governed by a traditional village council- "Dzomsa".The Teesta and Rangit rivers also offer the thrill of riding the wild water and angling for some local variety of fish.

 

 

Passport & Visa Formalities

Sikkim is a part of India. U.S. citizens require a valid passport and valid Indian visa to enter and exit India.  Visitors, including those on official U.S. Government business, must obtain visas at an Indian Embassy or Consulate abroad prior to entering the country, as there are no provisions for visas upon arrival.  Indian Embassy and Consulates in the U.S.  have outsourced the visa application process to Cox & Kings.

Please click Cox & Kings  for details. If you need a help in applying for the visa, Click Visa Agent. 

Besides the Indian visa, a tourist  must obtain inner line permit (ILP) to visit Sikkim, the permits can be obtained through Third Eye Travel with the help of our partern in Sikkim on the strength of an Indian Visa. A permit is issued  for initial period of 15 days duration on the spot without any delay provided photocopies of Passport and Visa details along with two passport photos of applicants are made available then and there. 

* While travelling in Sikkim get your passport stamped at all check posts.

 

Weather & Clothing

Due to sharp variance in the topography and the fact that the State is closer to the tropics, the climatic conditions also vary from tropical to the alpine.Mid June to September is generally considered as summer/monsoon when the precipitation is maximum between 130 cm-430 cm. The maximum temperature ranges between 55ºF-90ºC and the minimum between 45ºC - 60ºC.

October and November loosely form the autumn season with clear blue skies and lush green hillsides after a long monsoon. The winter stretches from December to February with the minimum temperature falling between 0ºC - 9ºC and maximum from 13ºC - 28ºC.

March to May is the spring season with warm days and cool nights. All seasons except the summer  monsoon season is good time to visit Sikkim.

Clothing:

Summer - Light Woolens

Winter- Heavy Woolens  

Health & Immunization

Contact your physician and consult before you leave for the trip. Your doctor is the best source of information about immunizations and medicines; he knows your medical history and is in touch with local public health officials. Ask and follow his advice in medical matters regarding the trip. Vaccination requirements and recommendations do change frequently, so each traveler should check with their physician or a traveler’s clinic for the most up to date information. Recommended vaccinations: Typhoid Fever, Gamma Globulin, Tetanus-diphtheria, Polio, Measles and Malaria.

Water Borne Diseases All visitors to Sikkim & Darjeeling are strictly to be advised not to drink tap water and unwashed vegetables and fruit Untreated water, uncooked vegetables and fruits can cause hepatitis and gastrointestinal diseases. Most hotels and restaurants serve boiled and filtered or even treated water, but it is always safer to stick to bottled mineral water. You must carry your own water bottle and iodine tablets if you are traveling to remote areas. On the trek, we provide you the boiled water which is safe to drink.

The Centers for Disease Control provides an International Traveler’s Hotline offering recorded messages or faxes on current health risks. Call 877 394 8747 or visit cdc.gov/india  for suggested immunizations and food/ water precautions For other health-related inquiries, call 404 639 3534 (8 a.m. 4:30 pm EST).

Customs & Declarations

All baggage is subject to inspection upon arrival.

The use or trafficking of any and all drugs- narcotic and psychotropic substances-carries heavy penalties and long jail terms under Indian laws. Do not carry into or out of the country bags and packages that you did not pack yourself.

Money, Credit Cards & ATM

In India, the unit of currency is the Rupee (Re) consisting of 100 paise (P). Exchange rate may vary and  currently   $1 = 55 Indian rupees.  You can exchange currency at the most hotels in the major cities and the international airports. Major credit cards are accepted at the city hotels and the wildlife lodges accept cash only. Keep small denominations for it will come in handy for small purchases or for tips.  

ATMs are in Gangtok, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Siliguri and foreign currency & travellers cheques  can be exchanged in the banks in these places.

Credit Cards are accepted in hotels, restaurants and major stores.

Culture & Etiquette

The people of Sikkim can be ethnically categorized into Lepcha, Bhutia and Nepalese. The Lepchas are considered to be the original inhabitants of Sikkim who practiced nature worship and lived off the forest. With the coming of the Bhutias, this tribal community was overwhelmed culturally and religiously. Lepcha culture and ways of life can be seen in some villages even now.

The Bhutias, Buddhist by faith are said to have come from the eastern region of Tibet sometime in the 14th century. They found the land warm and fertile and named it "Dema-zong" or the "Valley of Rice".

Moreover, Sikkim was very prominently mentioned by Guru Padmasambhava (the great 7th century Buddhist saint who strengthened Buddhism in Tibet) in his scriptures, as a very sacred place. It was also in consonance with his scriptures the first "Chogyal" or the religious king was consecrated at Yuksom in 1641. Since then the Namgyal Dynasty ruled Sikkim uninterrupted till 1975.

The Nepal community is a generalized term for the many castes and sub-communities like Brahmins, Chhetris, Newars, Kamis, and Damais, who are Aryans in origin and the Rais, Limbus, Gurungs, Magars, and even Sherpas who are basically Mongoloid. This community came into Sikkim from 19th century though the Limbus are said to have come much earlier. They were more agriculturists unlike the Bhutias who were mainly dependent on animal husbandry back home or the Lepchas who were forest folks. The fertile valley was terraced to grow paddy and maize and later cardamom as a cash crop.

The ethnic Sikkim is best seen in the villages rather than the towns, which have become more cosmopolitan in demography and culture.Buddhism has had a deep impact since time immemorial in history when Guru Padmasambhava traveled to Tibet. This has manifested in 200 monasteries and holy shrines. The oldest amongst the monasteries is the one at Dubdi, about an hour's walk from Yuksom. But Pemayangtse monastery has been more prominent due to the privilege bestowed to the Chief Abbot to coronate the successive Chogyal. In recent time, the Rumtek monastery is widely known as the seat of the Kagyupa sect and also the head quarter of the worldwide Karma Kagyu centre. The Bhutias are Buddhist and so are most the Lepchas. The Nepalese are Chiefly Hindus but many people in the villages, regardless of their religion still have strong beliefs in the spirits which are said to inhabit the mountains and hills, rocks and caves, streams and rivers and even trees and forests which are to be appeased by the "Jhankri" or the "Bongthings".

Miscellaneous

Upon arrival at the airport or border,

When you arrive at the airport or border, someone from our local supplier will meet you at the airport who will be displaying your name. You will be then transferred to your to hotel.  In case,  because of earlier or delayed flight, if you do not  see anybody to pick you up, then give a call to the local tour operator listed on the “Local Operator’s Contact Detail” which is in the information package you have received from us before you left U.S.

Telephone, Email & Wifi

There are good facilities of telecommunication in cities. Internet in the public places are cheap and easy, however, the internet speed may be slow. Wifi is available in most of the hotels these days in Nepal except in lodges in mountains.

Wifi are available in most of the hotels in the cities.

Eating out

There are very limited restaureants outside the hotels. Your meals are included in the tour unless it’s stated.

Taxes and other Charges

Taxes and other charges are usually included in the cost or otherwise stated.

Shopping

When you purchase any handicrafts in Sikkim & Darjeeling,  you must keep receipts until you leave Nepal. The airport customs will ask for the receipts of the purchased stuff, and they may confiscate the stuff you are not able to produce the receipt.

If you are thinking of purchasing any products, which you cannot carry with you, then think twice before you purchase it. The salesman or guide may tell you that they would pay the shipping charges to your address. However, besides the shipping charge, you must understand that there are other charges involved at your end, which they may not be aware of, such as destination charges, custom clearance fees, warehouse fees and other fees. By the time, the product reaches your home; the chance is high that you will also receive a bill for all the other charges, which might be higher than the cost of product itself. So, unless you are very sure about these charges, shipping anything home is not suggested.

Tipping

Though Tipping is optional, the city guide, drivers, trekking guide, cook and porters expect the tips. 

Below is a general idea about the tipping to the guides and Sherpa crew. This is to be divided by the number of people in the group. In the group of 5 or more people, a couple of dollars more per person would be nice.

City guide:                 US$ 10 per day                                                                                             Tour Car/Bus Driver    US$ 8  per day