How to plan a budget trip to Darjeeling

Here I have been answering viewers who plan to make a short trip (2-3 days) to Darjeeling at a cheap affordable budget that includes accommodation, food, transports and sightseeing tours. 
Hi Raj, I am Siddharth from Bhopal (M.P). I've read mostly all the contents you have written about Darjeeling and truly appreciate from the heart as it has been really helpful for me till now as I am going to explore Darjeeling for the first time in my life. 
My situation is a bit similar to yours when you went for the first time. I am 31 in age and would be travelling alone to Darjeeling and would be reaching Siliguri in November 2012. After I reach NJP/Siliguri, I am completely blank about the situation regarding my stay in Darjeeling as I am not aware of the lodging and fooding cost, what is minimum required. I am in a very tight budget and really feeling helpless to make an itinerary about how much it will cost me for two days stay. 
To be very honest, I have a budget of around Rs. 2.5K to 3K in my pocket just for Siliguri to Darjeeling and really don't know whether it's sufficient or not. So if possible, please help me out with this issue. If you can suggest me some accommodations, tours with contact information, I'll be very obliged to you. Waiting for your Reply. Thanks a lot for reading. 
Siddharth Mukherjee (October 2012) 
Hi Siddharth, 
If you want to fully optimize your trip on cost, then visit Darjeeling during the low season. For example July 1st week to September 1st week is a good time for a cheap vacation in Darjeeling. This is when hotel, transport and tour rates get slashed significantly. You can get hotel rooms at attractive rates. 
In any case, follow the guidelines below for the cheapest possible vacation in Darjeeling which includes hotel stay, food, transport, sightseeing tours etc. However this does not include the journey up to Siliguri/NJP and return. Depending on where you are coming from, you need to avail a train or a bus to first reach NJP or Siliguri. I am ruling out flight due to higher cost. 
1. If you reach NJP by train, then take an auto-rickshaw to the Siliguri main bus stand (i.e. the Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminus at Hill Cart Road). From Siliguri take a bus to Darjeeling. Rate Rs. 50-80/- per person Via Hill Cart / Mongpu. 
2. Alternatively take a shared Jeep from Siliguri (opposite the bus stand). Rate Rs. 150/-. Jeeps leave more frequently. Try not to waste time at Siliguri while waiting for a bus. You should try to reach Darjeeling by day time. 
3. You can try the Tenzing Norgay Youth Hostel at Zakir Hussain Road (next to Hotel Broadway annex). It's a bit out of the way and requires an uphill walk (of about 15 minutes from Gandhi road). But the hostel is generally good with large rooms and attached toilets. You will get a room there for Rs. 300-500 per night. The views from some of the rooms here are excellent. 
There are couple of other cheap but decent stay options in Darjeeling. Check out good hotels for backpackers. for information about all these including the Youth Hostel. However these hotels are typically suitable if you are travelling single or with friends, although you will also find some staying with spouses. 
4. If you are travelling with family and looking for real cheap accommodations, then look into the Cheap Holiday Homes which are usually run by the staff welfare associations of banks. These are open to outside guests as well. But number of accommodations can be limited. So you must book well in advance. One or two of them also give you self cooking option which further helps in reducing the food cost while eating healthy. 
5. On a low tourist season, you can just turn up, find a cheap hotel and negotiate the rate further. But for that, you need to reach before it's dark, as most budget hotel owners or managers hand over the charge to a care taker / waiter after 7pm or so. They won't be able to extend much discounts. The usual check-in time is 12 noon in Darjeeling. There are exceptions though in few hotels. 
6. Next morning, take a 3-point tour in a shared jeep (Jeeps start early in the morning around 3:45am from Clubside stand on Gandhi Road). This tour covers Tiger Hill sunrise view, Old Ghoom Monastery and Batasia Loop. 
Later in the day, take the 7-point half day tour on a shared jeep (tour availability is subject to getting minimum number of passengers). The shared jeep rates are quite low. These two tours will give you a good flavor of Darjeeling and its tourist attractions. Note that you will need to keep separate provision for entry fees to some places like HMI/Zoo etc. Check out Darjeeling Local Package Tours for tour details and rates. 
7. Next day spend some time at the Chowrasta Mall and take a walk along the Mall Road... you will get lovely view of Kanchenjunga from some of the view points facing the snow range (on a clear day of course). The walk along the mall road and around the observatory hills amidst pines &árhododendrons is quite special and one of my own favorites. Walk up to Mahakal Temple on Observatory hill from the Mall road. 
You can then walk down to Bengal Natural History Museum, and later in the afternoon spend some time along Nehru Road doing some shopping and picking up small less expensive souvenirs. For cheaper buys, visit Chowk Bazaar
8. There are plenty of options for food at cheap prices. Sonam's Kitchen serves breakfast and snacks up to 2pm. Kunga is great for cheap Tibetan and Chinese food, Hasty Tasty serves nice &ácheap vegetarian north &ásouth Indian food. Visit Penang's on Laden La road for cheap but delicious Nepali food. You will find information about all these budget eateries in Cheap Restaurants. And if you are looking for Bengali food, check out Bengali Restaurants
9. On the final day for your return, take a shared jeep or bus from Chowk Bazaar back to Siliguri for your return journey. However if you have some money left before you leave, take breakfast at Keventer's (at the open terrace). Don't go for the sausages, rather go for the meat loaf. This will give you the final touch of Darjeeling. 
Best of luck!! 
Raj ( October 2012 
Respected Sir, 
The reviews &ádiscussion about Darjeeling is very interesting to me. I want to go to Darjeeling since my childhood, but now I am in my 40's and I want to fulfill my dream and my daughter' also. So, i want a suggestion from you, please i am in a lower middle class family so you could understand that budget is a very important matter to me. So, Sir, please give a suggestion for total costing of Darjeeling Tour for 5 days from Kolkata. I am very grateful if you could help me about this matter, please, please, please. Thanking you, 
Debi Das (March 2014) 
I do not work on tour budgets as it depends on an individual's requirement and taste. You may consider the following factors while working out a minimum possible tour budget for Darjeeling: 
1) Take a rocket bus from Kolkata, instead of a train or other transport. That will be the cheapest and you can directly reach Siliguri main bus stand instead of NJP had you taken a train. 
2) Take a bus or shared jeep from Siliguri main bus stand for Darjeeling. Bus will be cheaper but number of runs are limited. 
3) Stay at a cheap holiday home run by bank staff welfare associations. Try to book a self cooking type unit so that you can cook yourself and reduce cost on food. Book well in advance because such accommodations are limited and usually on high demand. You will get information about such holiday homes in the link below: Budget holiday homes 
4) Local sightseeing tours (like 3-point, 7-point etc) are available on shared jeeps that operate on per person rates (subject to getting minimum number of persons). You will get such jeeps and the timings from the Clubside stand (at Gandhi road) or Chowk Bazaar stand. That will be the cheapest way of doing sightseeing in Darjeeling. You can cover both Tiger Hill sunrise and other good attractions of Darjeeling through these tours. Note, some tourist places &árides like HMI/Zoo and Ropeway have entry charges, which will be extra. 
5) For toy train ride, instead of taking the 2 hour joyride, take the morning toy train (around 10:15am) that leaves Darjeeling station for Kurseong. The second class seat tickets are very cheap (about Rs. 20/- per seat) but the experience is almost similar to that of joy rides. The only difference is that this train is run by Diesel engine and not by the old traditional Steam Engine. The tickets for this train are sold only across the counter. So reach the station by 8am and buy the tickets. Go up to Ghoom, get off and come back to Darjeeling by a shared jeep.  
Note that if you can do without the sunrise from Tiger hill, then you can cover the other two points in a 3-point tour by this train. This train too goes via Batasia loop which is one of the points in 3-point tour. And then it goes to Ghoom station where you should get off. From Ghoom station, you can walk to Old Ghoom Monastery which is another point in the 3-point tour. Although this is a bit long walk, but doable. This way you can save cost of the 3-point tour. 
6) In order to do cost effective shopping, walk down to Chowk Bazaar market (closed on Thursdays). You will get all sorts of shops and stalls to buy cheap knick knacks, spices &átea, and even clothes to take back home. Another place to buy woollens and jackets is the Bhutia market which has been shifted to a narrow lane leading from the Chowrasta Mall just few yards away from hotel Sunflower. 
If you follow all the above, it is possible to complete a 4-night (5 days) tour of Darjeeling from Kolkata within an overall budget of 8,000 to 10,000/- for two persons. 
Raj ( March 2014 
HI RAJ SIR, I'm a student,and i wanna fulfill my dream of going to Darjeeling and enjoy trekking. Let me tell you sir its because of your articles and posts, my enthusiasm has doubled and i m feeling confident about going there. So as my 3rd year exams get over, I will be gong to Darjeeling. Please do reply. Me and my 3 friends would be going there and each one of us has a maximum budget of 3.5k to 4k sir.  
Sir my question is that, can we stay 2 nights and 3 days at a cheap hotel and cover the 3 point, 5 point and 7 point tour that you have described so accurately? Sir my second question is that please tell me the cheapest trekking cost in Darjeeling covering sandakphu or singalia or phalut trek(any one of those). Sir my last question is, if due to any coincidence, my friends are not going with me then what should be the proper and cheap budget for me (is 4k enough excluding trek tours? Sir I come from a family of limited means, as my father had expired in 2010. I have been working part time and saving money since then, and that is why money is my first concern. So please do reply to me. It would help me and I will always be grateful to you. 
Rahul Choubey (May 2014) 
Hi Rahul, 
It's possible. Book a room in a cheap holiday home run by bank staff recreation club (note that the youth hostel is currently closed). Take local sightseeing trips in a shared jeep. 
For Sandakphu trek, go to Manebhanjan (you will get shared jeep from NJP/Siliguri). You will at least need to take a porter (will cost 500 per night). But you can avoid porter charges if you do a round trip trek for 2 days or less. In that case from Manebhanjan, trek up to Tonglu on day-1. Stay in the trekkers hut (Rs. 250 per night). Then next day trek back to Manebhanjan via Tumling. .... it's a nice 2-day trek. 
Raj ( May 2014 
Sir , 
I would like to draw your attention. I and my friends are planning to go out for a trip to Darjeeling by the end of December and enjoy the scenic view of the mighty hills. But being college students we are on a fixed budget and expense as well. If you kindly suggest us some hotels and spots and also guide us about the trip it will help us to enjoy the vacations both ways. Your co-operation in this regard is expected and will be highly appreciated. 
Looking forward for a reply. Thank you 
Ruchi Das Roy (November 2014) 
Here are some suggestions to minimize your budget while enjoying a decent vacation in Darjeeling. 
TRANSPORT: Take shared jeep from NJP to Darjeeling and same way back. Currently only Rs. 200/- per person one way. 
HOTELS: You can find several good budget and low budget hotels under the menu option 'Budget Hotels' in my site. 
TOURS: Instead of taking local tours by cabs which can be expensive, you can walk down to several places like Mahakal Temple at Observatory hill (20 minutes from Mall), Bengal Natural History Museum (few minutes walk from Mall), HMI/Zoo (about 30 minutes walk from Mall), Happy Valley Tea Estate (30 minutes walk from Mall), Dhirdham Temple (near Darjeeling station and about 25 minutes walk from Mall), Bhutia Busti Monastery (35 minutes downhill walk from Mall) etc. For 3-point tour which covers sunrise view from Tiger Hill, Ghoom Monastery and Batasia/war memorial, you will get shared jeeps from club side stand (on Gandhi road). They operate on per person rate and quite cheap. You are unlikely to get shared jeeps for other tours unless you find others looking for similar tours on shared jeeps. They need minimum 10 persons for such tours. 
For the ropeway (Cable car), walk down to Chowk Bazaar motor stand and take a shared Jeep to the ropeway station at Singhamari (Rs. 10/- per person). For the toy train ride, instead of taking the regular joyride (which is quite expensive), take the morning commuter toy train to Kurseong which leaves Darjeeling station around 10am. Get off at Ghoom and return by a shared jeep. You will pass by Batasia and get a similar experience. It's much cheaper. 
Raj ( November 2014 
Hello Sir, We are three college students, planning our trip to Darjeeling, Lepchajagat and Gangtok spanning over 6 days. Would like to know estimated cost (student friendly) and if there are bikes/scooties available for rent for local sightseeing? Any other suggestions for cheap hotels, food, shared taxis/buses would be extremely helpful. Thanks in advance and keep up this fabulous work! 
Sumit Jhanwar (October 2015) 
Good day Sumit, 
Shared jeeps are available between Darjeeling and Lepchajagat, and also between Darjeeling and Gangtok. In Darjeeling you will get them from the jeep stand at Chowk bazaar. You can also get bikes (but not scooties as they are not suitable for mountain rides). The operator 'Adventures Unlimited' rents them (located at Zakir Hussain rd, off Chowrasta). They won't be very cheap... you need to negotiate hard. Shared Jeeps and buses would be cheapest modes of transport in the hills. There are buses between Siliguri and Darjeeling (four services daily up &ádown from Tenzing Norgay bus stand, Hill Cart Road) and also between Siliguri and Gangtok (from SNT bus stand, Hill Cart Road). 
For budget eateries in Darjeeling, go through my site menu option 'Eating Cheap' . For cheap lodging, you can consider Alice Villa, or go through my page Darjeeling hotels for backpackers
Raj ( October 2015 
Cheapest modes of transport in Bagdogra, Siliguri and NJP 
Thanks for creating this blog post / page really informative and everyone who have left comments that has helped me choose the cheapest mode of transport. 
Travel date: 7-15th Oct,2017 
Since I was the travelling alone... my experience. 
Note : Siliguri has good Jio 4G, Vodafone 4G and Airtel 4G connection. 
  • No Meter system in transports, all work on fixed pricing, talk to locals to understand the pricing. 
  • Auto (Best) - Cheap and fastest, as it connects major areas - Diesel Fuel - Max 11 people including driver 
  • Rickshaw - Slowest and travels within 1-2 km inner roads of city - Tri-Cycle - max. 2 people but it is mostly overloaded -  
  • Toto - Slow - Electric Rickshaw - Bit pricey as compared to Auto Rickshaw  
  • Bus - Safest, Cheap and Time consuming at times - But I love bus as you get to interact with people and know the best place to visit and how to travel cheap to places safely. 
    1. Bagdogra Airport to NJP: (19-20km) 
  • Option 1: (Safest) - Pre-paid Taxi - Rs. 450 
  • Option 2: (Safest) - OLA cabs - AC will cost  
  • Option 3: (Trust your instincts and use Google map) - Shared cab - Bargain (Rs. 250-300/person) - Max Occupancy - 3-4 people in a car - Just outside Bagdogra exit gate on the left side you will find shared cabs 
  • Option 4 : Cheapest mode - Rickshaw + Bus á: 
  • Bagdogra Airport entrance to Bihar More - Rs. 100/ Rickshaw (2-3 people Rs. 50 each) - Looks similar to Mumbai Rickshaw  
    Walk till Main road for 10 min and get Electric Rickshaw(Toto) or Auto (Diesel) [Red color ones] - Negotiate price approx. Rs. 10-20/ Person as it is just 2km to Bihar More  
    - Bihar More to Venus More/Siliguri Town (Near Bhojohari Manna Restaurant) via Bus (Also, check if the bus goes to NJP) - Rs.15-20/person  
    - Pradhan Nagar to NJP (Auto) - Rs. 20/person 
    - Sevoke and Hill Cart Rd. Junction to NJP (Auto) - Rs. 10-15/person 
  • Option 5: Only Bus - (Cheap and safest of all) - Never explored - Probably less frequency to/from Bagdogra Airport  
    2. Hotel Vinayak to Bagdogra Airport : (15km) 
    Outside Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminus entrance on main road - there are lot of buses going to Pani Tanki (for Nepal)/ Bihar More - Rs. 15-20 
    2 options : 
  • Bihar More to Airport entrance- Rs. 100/ Rickshaw (2-3 people Rs. 50 each) - Looks similar to Mumbai Rickshaw Or Travel to Main road  
  • OR 
  • Electric Rickshaw(Toto) or Auto (Diesel) [Red color ones] - Negotiate price approx. Rs. 10-20/ Person as it is just 2km. will drop you on the main road and just 10 min walk to Bagdogra Airport 
    Brian (October 2017) 
    Hello Sir, I'm planning a three day trip to Darjeeling in January month and had planned itinerary as per your guidelines by reading all your posts. 
    Day 1- Observatory Hill/ Mahakal temple 
    Day 2- 3 point tour and 7 point tour 
    Day 3- Rock Garden and Ganga Maya Park 
    Since I'm a student and will be staying in a hostel and I'm on tight budget, please tell me the approximate cost required for trip. And also tell me where should I change my itinerary plan. And Thank you in advance, you are doing a great job already and in true sense helping people by your website 
    Pranchi (December 2017) 
    Your itinerary is okay. Cost depends on your modes of travel, stay and food. Unless you provide specific info on these, it's not possible to comment. 
    Raj ( December 2017 
    Thank you Sir for your reply. Since I'm on a low budget, I will be taking shared Jeep particularly for sightseeing tours and will be staying in a hostel. Hostel yet not decided, maybe in Youth Hostel. Since I'm going in a peak season I just wanted to confirm the maximum approx cost required for the trip. According to me Rs. 6K - 7K is Maximum amount. So is that fine for a 3 day trip?  
    Pranchi (December 2017) 
    2nd week of January onwards it's a low season in Darjeeling. You can negotiate hotel rates. Unfortunately shared jeeps for sightseeing tours (particularly 7-point and Rock Gardens) are usually not available then due to lack of demand. You can however visit some nice attractions like Batasia Loop, Ava Art Gallery, HMI/Zoo, Ropeway etc by taking local jeeps at Chowk Bazaar motor stand. They ply to different places in shared basis and you can take a drop along the way and get back by catching one returning to Chowk Bazaar. You can also walk to several attractions like Mahakal Temple on Observatory Hill, Peace Pagoda/Japanese Temple, Bengal Natural History Museum etc. You can then manage within Rs. 6-7K.  
    Raj ( December 2017 
    Dear Raj, It is great pleasure reading your travel articles.Also very helpful for anyone visiting Darjeeling. Thank you so much for this great work - truly, so many tourists and travelers like me is benefited from your work. 
    I (31) and one of my friend (25), both male - are to reach Darjeeling on 25th Apr 2018, morning. We shall start journey back home, Kolkata, on á28th Apr 18 night. We both are áamateur photographers, visiting Darjeeling for the first time and really want to have some best shots of nature &álandscape. 
    We wish to complete our short trip within a budget of Rs6000/- per head (excluding train fares) for the complete tour. 
    Given our objective and budget, could you kindly suggest an accommodation (keeping in view, the locational advantage or nearness to spots like Tiger Hill/or other places within Darjeeling you consider are great for photographing the Himalayas). 
    Thank you again, 
    I. Saha (March 2018) 
    Hi, Darjeeling is a small town and most points within the town limits are in walkable distances. So you can pick up any low budget hotel. But you may require to travel distances (the route to Mirik and beyond up to Tingling view point is very scenic with several tea gardens). You can also consider staying in a budget hotel near Chowk Bazar taxi stand (if stay quality is not high in your agenda). This will let you easily avail the buses and shared taxis. You can also look into International Youth Hostel located near Darjeeling station and see if the price fits your budget. The chowrasta (mall) is also at a walkable distance from these places. 
    Raj ( March 2018 
    Hi Raj, 
    We are a team of 7 planning to visit Darjeeling during October, precisely after 9th October. I have made a base plan of 5 days and I need your expert advice on it. We plan to reach NJP from howrah by morning after which we plan to take a car and go to Darjeeling via Mirik so that we can cover Mirik too. After reaching Darjeeling we plan to stay there for the day and do some local sight seeing. 
    The following day we leave early for Tinchuley, cover the sight seeing and stay overnight. The third day we leave early for Pedong from Tinchuley and cover lava-lolegaon too and stay overnight at Pedong. The fourth day we will watch the falls, rivers and tea gardens in Pedong. The 5th day we leave Pedong and reach NJP and catch train depending on time. 
    I wanted your approval on this base plan and I also wanted to know if Ravangla and Samsing could anyhow be included in this trip. Since we are students we have a little tight budget which is 6k per person including travelling, staying and eating. Please let me know if we can cover everything within this budget and also kindly guide us through hotel/homestay booking and car hiring if you can. 
    I love your articles and I think they are very comprehensive. It'll be very kind of you if you can guide us through this. 
    Olivia Samanta (May 2019) 
    Hi, your base plan is okay and you should be able to manage it within your budget if you spend prudently (choose home stays or budget hotels and spend prudently). You don't have time for Ravangla (which would take 3.5 hours one-way from Pedong) unless you skip Pedong on 4th day and move to Ravangla early in the morning. 
    Raj ( May 2019 
    Hi, the only site abut Darjeeling which provide almost all information about the place. I am planning to visit Darjeeling on 1st to 3rd of September. Just wanted to ask that would it be more risky to visit in September? I am planning to visit with me friends. And our budget is 6000 per person. We will stay in an average hostel. Would 6000 be enough for 2 nights stay in Darjeeling, including train and inside travel cost. If possible please reply, your advice will be of great help to me. Thank You. 
    Pranchi (August 2019) 
    Hi, first week of September falls within the official monsoon season in Darjeeling (June 15 to September 15 is the official monsoon period), although monsoon often gets extended. So expect occasional showers. The only risk is of landslides which is not uncommon, so be within the town limits and do not stray around in the outskirts. Otherwise it should be okay. Stay for 2-3 days @Rs. 6000 per person is quite doable provided you stay cheap in twin sharing basis, eat at budget eateries, make use of shared taxis, walk as much as possible and do not indulge much in shopping. Toy train joy ride is expensive, instead try to avail the passenger train from Darjeeling to Kurseong or NJP, which too takes the same route and is a lot cheaper (get off at Ghum and get back by a shared taxi). Use shared taxi from NJP or bus from Siliguri to get to Darjeeling and return. 
    Raj ( August 2019 
    Hi Sir, 
    I am planning a trip itinerary to Darjeeling from Kolkata for the month of May 2022. Below is the details of my trip itinerary to Darjeeling, please could you confirm if it's good to go: 
    Day 1 - I reach NJP station early morning and take a shared taxi to Darjeeling. Reach by afternoon and roam around the Darjeeling mall. 
    Day 2 - I book a cab for early morning ride to Tiger hill, Batasia loop and Ghoom monastery. Then come back to hotel have breakfast, then travel to 7 points. 
    Day 3 - leave for Mirik and roam around there and then get back to NJP for my return ride. 
    Now as I am not sure if for day-2 I can find any shared ride to Tiger hill, Batasia loop and Ghoom monastery or the later trip to 7 points so I am considering it as a cab ride. Then also I have no idea how much all of this would cost me? As I checked in a online solo travel group and found they are charging almost 10k excluding train or flight travel. So can I expect my plan to work out within 8/9k? 
    Please suggest as I am going in a off season how well am I going to enjoy and also if my planning is ok to go and what is my costing estimate. 
    Thank you 
    Soumya Ghosal (March 2022) 
    Hello, your plan is okay. However, the month of May is in the peak tourist season and all rates will be at their highest. So, if you want to make a low budget trip, then this is the wrong timing. 
    If you manage to get low budget accommodations and shared vehicles for the local sightseeing trips, then you may be able to limit the cost within Rs. 8-9K (excluding train/flight fares). But, the availability of shared taxis for the local sightseeing trips (as planned on day-2) depend on prevailing demand. You can check at the taxi association kiosk on Gandhi road (near the upper club-side stand) regarding its availability. If not available, you will need to keep an additional provision of Rs. 3.5K for the local sightseeing by reserved small cab. You will however get shared taxis for the transfers between places. 
    Raj ( March 2022 

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