Settling Down & Living in Darjeeling

Hi Raj, It's a rather unusual request you might be getting. I am looking at moving to Darjeeling for good and making a life there. A single woman, aged 28. I am looking for a trustworthy and safe environment to be in and feel that Darjeeling is the place to be. 
I work in a telecom MNC now and I am looking at leaving the Corporate World and getting closer to nature. A job of managing a Home Stay / Restaurant or anything on those lines are opportunities I am looking for. I do not have any contact points in Darjeeling, hence asking you for your guidance. Hope you will be able to direct me to the right place from where I can take over.  
Thank you, Sreeja S (January 2013) 
Hello Sreeja, At the outset, let me convey my appreciation for your daring thoughts of switching out of the Corporate world to be closer to the nature. Having made a similar move myself, I know how fulfilling that could be if you can really make it. Now coming to your question of moving to Darjeeling and settling down there. Well, I can only give you my personal views and try to show you some ways of how some others have done it. 
First, about your safety concerns... Darjeeling has seen a surge of tourists over the last couple of years. Earlier to that, there used to be continuous disturbances and political turmoil in the hills. Since the new government has taken over, a treaty has been signed to form the GTA (Gorkhaland Territorial Administration), a body which is in charge of the administration of Darjeeling district. Since then political stability has been somewhat restored and life has started coming back to normalcy. 
But the sufferings and lack of business, jobs, development and infrastructure for decades has left deep scars in the hills which will take time to heal. However, for now there seems to be a change. Well, whether it's going to be permanent or how long would it sustain, only time will tell. 
In general, there is no safety issues these days in Darjeeling. In fact even during the bad times, I have hardly heard any safety concerns with the women in Darjeeling. The locals (mostly Nepalese) are friendly and peace loving. Unless one pushes the limits too much, I don't think safety should be a concern here. But, I would always recommend that one stays within the town limits to avoid any odd circumstances. 
When you say managing a homestay or a restaurant, do you mean owning and managing one? Or managing someone else's business? 
I won't like to sound negative here ... but the fact is in Darjeeling, most if not all of the small/medium businesses are managed by the owners themselves and their families. Over the years the economy has pushed them to latch on to whatever properties they have and try to survive out of them rather than expanding their businesses. 
The only exceptions are the large hotels and resorts (only handful in number). These luxury hotels would of course employ persons having professional experience in hotel management. 
So net to net, getting jobs in Darjeeling is very difficult for an outsider, if not impossible. This is because the locals themselves are starved of jobs and mostly have their families working in the tea gardens. 
If you like to buy or build a commercial property in Darjeeling hill town, it would almost cost a fortune these days. However, there are options available to lease a property for 3 to 9 years. For that you will need to get hold of a local real estate agent to broker a deal for you. 
Remember, since you will need to pay the annual lease amount to the owner, there will be heavy pressure on you to run and make profits out of the property in order to sustain. In that case, it could become a full time commercial business. If that is what you are looking for, then you can either search the net for an agent, or I can try to contact few of my friends to help with any information they can. 
Having said all this, I know of a single lady (a New Zealander) who once came to Darjeeling, fell in love with the place and decided to make it her home. She has been living in Darjeeling for several years since then. So what does she do? She had experience of working in restaurants and bakeries. She knew how to make great cakes. She decided to make cakes and deliver them to local homes herself. 
Today she is known as the Cake Lady in Darjeeling making some of the best and most delicious cakes I have ever tasted. While she still lives in a rented apartment, she has built a small team to support her business. 
You may like to get in touch with her (name Helly) and understand all that goes in behind building a life in Darjeeling and that too for a single woman. She has first hand experience of that and can perhaps give you invaluable insights into living in Darjeeling. She knows me well and I have created a full page article on her life in Darjeeling where you will also find her contacts. Take reference to my name and website. Here is the link: The Cake Lady 
Wishing you the very best in your efforts to get to where you want to be... 
Raj (January 2013) 
I can't begin to tell you how happy it made me to see a reply from you! Thank you so much for taking time to write to me and more than anything being so resourceful. You, truly are the best ambassador of Darjeeling. 
I was meaning to say looking after someone else's property or business (homestay or restaurant etc) but after your advice, it looks rather impossible. Thank you so much for the lead on Helly, I am sure to read up your post on "The Cake Lady" and get in touch with her to know how it works. 
Meanwhile, would you feed me in on what are the kind of jobs / opportunities that could come up where I can work? I am a quick learner and if need be I could send you my resume so that you could see if there is something I could take up there. 
Again, I cant thank you enough for responding to me. 
Thanks and Regards, 
Sreeja S. (January 2013) 
Dear Mr. Raj, 
I was reading about the thread where somebody was thinking of moving to Darjeeling. You talked about safety and other issues - this was a single female person in question. 
Well, what would you say to a western family willing to spend a year or so in Darjeeling? 
Me and my husband are both scholars of South Asian studies and we have 3 kids. We have not been in India since we met each other there 12 years ago. Now we are thinking of going back, and based on all of our experiences we are seriously thinking of Darjeeling. We have studied also Tibetan Buddhism, thus the area interests us. 
Would it be possible to find a little house to rent? Have a reliable nanny to help around? And I wonder how are the schools in Darjeeling (kids are 8 and 11 and the youngest is still under 3) - there is few of them, School Mount Hermon looks ok, do you know anything about the schools? Is there any other western families living in there? 
More then anything I am wondering about the general safety. Now, it seems hard for me to believe that India would have gotten so much worse during the last 20 years (when I was there alone for the first time) -- but, then again, I am reading about the rapes, kidnappings etc... Is this only the media that is now casting the news globally (as in past the news stayed more local), or has something elemental changed in India? 20 years ago I was, besides young, also somewhat foolish at times - yet nothing ever happened, or threatened to happen to me. 
Other then that, we have both traveled and lived in India earlier - it is the children that make the decisions harder... Any tips, contact info, etc. is welcome! 
Maija Butters (July 2013) 
Please consider the following as my personal views only: 
While I have seen several individuals from western countries living in Darjeeling, I don't think there are any western families resident here at present. Most of the resident individuals have taken breaks in their professional or academic careers, and now teaching in schools attached to Buddhist monasteries. 
However I don't see any logistics issues for western families either should you want to live in Darjeeling for sometime. Getting a rental accommodation, a nanny for domestic help etc will not be a problem at all. Darjeeling has several good schools including Mount Hermon (co-educational), Loreto Convents (girls), St Josephs's (boys), West Point (co-educational), St Pauls (boys) etc. So even that won't be an issue. Of course the schooling systems in India are different from western countries which may require some adaptation. 
However I would like to make you aware of the fact that the political stability in Darjeeling district as a whole has been quite vulnerable over the past many years. There has been Gorkhaland movement for past several decades seeking an autonomous administration of Darjeeling separate from the state of West Bengal. But Darjeeling was never allowed to separate. 
As a result there has been several agitation in the hills over the past. The fall out of that has been strikes resulting in closure of businesses, stores, and establishments including schools and colleges for indefinite periods of time. And such political instability has resulted in lack of development and crumbling of infrastructure. It will take years if not decades to re-build that. 
Although in recent times (for the past couple of years) after the new state government has taken charge, the political stability has somewhat been restored, but it is still in tenterhooks. As I had mentioned in my article, the administration of Darjeeling is now managed through GTA (Gorkhaland Territorial Administration). But Darjeeling still remains as part of West Bengal. There has already been couple of hiccups with such arrangement. So this is one area you may like to asses further and think through. 
Another area that you may like to consider is the cultural gap and adapting to that. Indians and more so the simple natives of the hills are in general very inquisitive and may often seem to be interfering and over friendly. However having visited India earlier, you may already know a bit about that. This should not be a problem with the kids though. In Darjeeling, virtually nothing works in time. Most commitments made by locals are meant to be flexible. There are chances that you may yourself end up changing your own habits when you return :) 
Now coming to safety issues... Darjeeling has remained as one of the safer places in India. And talking about India as a whole, I don't think there is any fundamental change in the country other than some shifts taking place due to its major leap forward as a developing economy. In a country with world's one of the largest populations (some 1.3 billion), such incidents of crime which you mentioned, although thoroughly condemnable, are stray cases. I agree that Indians are very sensitive and any atrocious incident which comes on the surface are not spared very easily. They draw large scale media attention these days. 
As I am writing to you, a large group of villagers have reached Delhi to meet up with the Governor to get a solution to such problems from recurring in their locality. People are more sensitive now than ever. In fact if you look at the world crime rate by countries (just search in google), you will see that India is relatively a far safer haven compared to the United States, UK and several other major European countries. Having said that, do not push the limits, like any place in the world, it does get unsafe beyond a point. After all, we do not live in an ideal world, and Darjeeling is no exception. 
Raj ( July 2013 
I have just seen the page in which you answer to several persons wishing to move to Darjeeling. That encourages me to ask you as well. I would like to ask you a few question and would be very grateful if you could answer some of them in the same way I see you have recently done with other people, while I would on the other hand fully understand if you cannot or have no time for it. 
1. Weather. I am very sensitive to that and this is possibly the main problem to find another place in Asia since the extreme heath followed by long rains I have experienced in India in previous visits would damage my health or rather make me very unhappy. 
How hot, how rainy can it be there in Darjeeling ? (these details may be tiresome to write about for you, but perhaps you could copy some information on that). I am looking (and in fact had found here in the middle heights of the Eastern Himalaya) for a place that is never really too hot (though I guess that one or two months of heath I can afford or avoid by travelling outside) not too wet (the same as before). 
The middle heights of the Eastern Himalaya where I have lived until now meet this requirement. Does Darjeeling, too ? About cold in Winter I do not worry (am European). 
2. Costs of living, specially rentals (two rooms, or a big room and a storage one, would do) and food. ... As for rentals, I am talking not about expensive or big ones, as said a big room would do, and I have got used to live in the outskirts or periphery of towns, at times in airy farms, perhaps including villages close to places with more services. 
Concerning food I mean ordinary meals prepared by ordinary people in whatever little eating place, or food I myself can buy (in this case rather prepared or dry food as I am a bad cooker). What would be your estimates ? I do not know if that may surprise you or you will see this as normal, but the fact is here I live usually for 1600 yuans (200 euros, 250 USD) a month all included (except visa and medical costs), my rental within this amount now is 400 yuans a month for 2 modern rooms in a renovated farm (50 euros), and my food costs me some 30-40 yuans a day (3.5-5 euros), which is a bit excessive for local costs and has to do with the fact I cannot cook well and must eat outside or buy prepared or cold food, otherwise it would cost me half of that. 
3. Visas. I need to know what are the legal conditions nowadays to be able to stay long periods if not permanently there. Apart from what the law may say (which I do not know) please ad whether there are, like here, other possibilities that allow to stay there by playing with the law - e.g. rotating different kinds of visas, paying some agency to obtain them in contact with the police, and the like. My passport is Spanish though that passport and the language is the only Spanish thing in me since I was born in that country but (besides coming from a mixed cultural background) I left it very early in my life and never came back. For administrative and visa purposes however I am Spanish. For the case India has some special ways for people in late life, notice I am in my 50s and coming to what in the West is the age of retirement (some countries grant visas to retired people easily). 
4. Medical facilities. I guess there is some hospital in the town. But rather than installations I would be interested in knowing the formation and level of medical doctors there. Otherwise if the facilities and their knowledge is poor, how is the connection with some near place to deal with common medical problems ? can a town with better facilities and more knowledge be reached in a reasonable time and cost from there ? 
5. Rather than as a means of life, as my own interest I would need some activity. I have been a teacher much of my life (I was also a world traveller and a bit of an adventurer but I guess this is long over). My specialties were history and some religio-philosophical traditions including mainly Buddhism (though not specifically Tibetan Buddhism, rather Indian Mahayana and then Chinese Ch'an\zen), Persian Sufi mystical literature, and some questions of comparative religion and philosophy. That I taught in the frame of a specialty on 'Mysticism in world religion" for many years in Northern Europe with some invitations also in France, Spain etc., I have also taught Taoism at a beginners level. 
Besides I master many languages and in fact in a country like this it has been that what I have been teaching to people recently. English has too many teachers, but I can teach French and Spanish, German (though that is perhaps too difficult for most young people to learn here in Asia) and Norwegian (too small a language, of course). So:  
A) do you think there are some possibilities for me to organize there teaching to foreigners on the mentioned mystical and philosophical traditions or on general problems under the point of view of the traditions of wisdom of the world ? lacking that possibility, what about general history, philosophy and culture with weight on Asia ? 
B) do you think that somebody among the foreigners there or those who contact you from abroad would be interested in cooperating in that ? or in taking such tuition ? and  
C) apart from this perhaps rather unpractical possibility, do you think I could teach languages or cultural topics to native people in Darjeeling ? 
D) is there some college, university, private school or the like ? 
E) You mention somewhere teaching going on in monasteries. Do you think there is some possibility to teach Buddhism or other matters in them, though I am no monk and in a way should teach it like an outsider, not a practitioner, that is only as a matter of philosophy and cultural history ? 
That are the most important matters. A few secondary questions follow: 
6. In case I arrive there with not much preparation and without money, could I find some activity to ensure me a survival until I arrange things better at the start ? Unfortunately given my formation and my age this excludes hard physical work. On the other hand my language knowledge and other aspects may have some use for tourism, agencies, consultancies, hostels... 
7. Is there an easy crossing into Nepal from there, can one get Nepalese visas in that border, and how long would it take to Katmandu by bus or train ? (I would ask the same about Bhutan but I have always heard that country is closed to all but the very rich who pay for an extremely expensive trip). 
8. how far is Calcutta by train or bus ? 
9. I have an enormous library (15,000 volumes, some 2000 here, the rest in Europe, all of them academic). Would it be easy to move it there in the sense of 1. no problems with bringing books into the country and to move them from a big town upon arrival to there in a cheap way, and 2. storing them in a dry way in that town. Of course if you have some original suggestion about any use for these books (since they are more than all days of life I may have left together) there I would hear it gladly, for instance they may substantiate the creation of some school or institute, or of a library. 
10. Is internet free there, and are there places to use it or at least to connect wireless (I do not like having connection at home as one ends surfing instead of reading, writing or thinking). Is connecting with foreign radio channels possible ? 
11. Can one obtain there reading material such as Western newspapers and books  - or Indian ones but in English or other Western languages and with similar quality - ? (as for the first, newspapers, I mean there in some places, available for purchase, as for the latter I mean if I can buy such in some big town not too far, or at least get them easily by post from within India or from the West). 
12. What is the prevailing language and culture of Darjeeling ? Indian or Tibetan ? and does most or at least enough people speak English ? 
13. Can you provide similar information about places in Nepal and Ladakh, too ? 
14. Can you put me in touch with foreigners living there or those who ask you about moving there 
I think that is all I can think of now. As it is a lot I would be happy if you just answer to the most central matters conditioning a possible moving to Darjeeling. 
Thank you indeed for any help with my questions, and tell me if I can do something for you in exchange. All the best to you from 
Anton (August 2013) 
Dear Anton, 
Here are my comments to your questions: 
1) Weather 
Darjeeling is never too hot. In fact in peak summer (May - July) it remains quite pleasant. The average temperature during summer varies from 17-19 deg celsius although the high can reach around 25 degrees. During winter (November to Feb) it can be very cold and the average temperature can range from 2 to 9 degree and the low can get to zero. You will find detailed information about weather in the following article: Darjeeling Weather 
2) Cost of Living 
If you consider only house rent and food, you should be able to manage with your current level of spending ($250 UDS per month). But as expectedly, that would require a very modest and lowkey living. You will spend about Rupees 5,000-6,000 per month on house rent (small house with two rooms) and about Rupees 9,000 on outside food (consider 1$ = Rs. 60). 
3) Medical Facilities 
There are municipality hospitals in Darjeeling that are low cost and run by the state government. However quality of treatment and facilities are sub par, leave aside the quality of doctors. There are a few private clinics as well plus doctors who are available on call. 
But again being a small hill town, the quality of treatment is basic and should not be relied on for any complex or chronic treatments. Having said that, there are few well stocked pharmacies in Darjeeling where you will get virtually all medicines that are required for usual ailments. In case one requires a specialist's attention, Siliguri township (almost like a city, but very crowded though) is only 3.5 hours drive. There are shared jeeps available that ply regularly at nominal per person rate (rupees 150). You can also get a bus or a private taxi for Siliguri. 
4) Visa 
A foreigner can usually come to India either on a tourist visa (valid up to 6 months), or on a business/employment visa which is issued for a period of up to 5 years max(US citizens can however get a business visa for up to 10 years). But the latter requires lots of documentation and endorsement which may be difficult for you to get under the circumstances. 
For example an employment visa would require a job offer by an institute or establishment against specialised skills & expertise etc. So an easier entry can be through a tourist visa and while on tour, you can look around for an opportunity for employment and plan a long term stay. But this will require you to come with a kitty of cash which can help you sustain through the period. 
However playing with the law is not advisable at all as that can get you to serious trouble here. While there are some from neighbouring countries who indulge in such practices, but sometimes that result in grave consequences. 
5) Making a living in Darjeeling 
As I already mentioned, it's unlikely that you can make any earning right away. You will need backup funds to support yourself for sometime (may be few months) and explore opportunities. I have received inquiries from foreigners regarding basic courses in Buddhism combined with meditation retreat etc. But not many to make a living out of that and even if you plan something along that line, it'll take time to build up such awareness. After all the flow of foreign tourists in Darjeeling is not very high, and locals are not interested. 
Another option is teaching in schools that are attached to monasteries. There are few such schools that teach Buddhism like the one attached to Dali Monastery in Darjeeling. You can meet up with the head monk and discuss your interest. They do take foreign teachers. There are regular English medium schools and colleges in Darjeeling and some of them are of high standards. You can also apply there with your bio-data for a teacher's job in a regular subject like English or history. But most require graduation degree in B.Ed to qualify, however there are always exceptions. 
Another area sounds quite interesting to me... you mentioned that you were a world traveller and took interest in history. You may already know that Darjeeling is steeped with history since the British colonial days of 1800s when the British started setting down here for lucrative tea plantations. The hill town also became a health resort. 
Many historical monuments, churches, buildings and other landmarks bear the stories of that era. And many foreign tourists actually come to Darjeeling to explore that history. Unfortunately there is hardly anybody who is capable of conducting a heritage and history tour of Darjeeling. 
So if you take interest in learning and uncovering the history of Darjeeling and conduct walking tours, this can be potentially a good area to make a living in Darjeeling. If you eventually do so, I can help promoting that through my website :) 
6) Some more points of your interest 
Callcutta (now called Kolkata) is overnight journey from Siliguri (the nearest city/township) by bus or train. Actually the main railway station is at New Jalpaiguri which is a twin city of Siliguri (3.5 hours by road from Darjeeling). Trains take about 11-12 hours to reach Kolkata. There is also an airport (at Bagdogra) close to Siliguri that connects Kolkata by flight. 
Bringing large volumes of books: You may need to bring them through an international courier. I don't see any problems. But that might incur substantial cost. 
You can buy western books and magazines at the Oxford Book Store located at Darjeeling Mall, but you won't get western news papers. You can also subscribe to western magazines. But why do you need to buy news papers? They are all available and accessible free online (i.e. over internet). 
But internet access is not free in Darjeeling. There are internet cafes which charge 30 rupees per hour for using internet. But if you have a laptop of your own, you can go down to the Nathmull's Sunset Lounge located at the Mall (main town center), buy a cup of tea and surf the net free on their wifi internet. 
Most in Darjeeling speak Hindi (the Indian national language) and can also understand English partly. Many can also speak English or at least manage a conversation. 
Hope this helps! 
Raj ( August 2013 
Update 2014: The entire Chowrasta Mall is now wi-fi enabled and it's free. 
Update 2016: Due to lack of maintenance and funding, the chowrasta wi-fi mostly remains unusable. 
Thank U so much for your answers to all. Me, my husband and my 5 years daughter are moving to darjeeling next month but i want to know about life there like cost of living and renting a small house coz we have great dane dog with us. I would like to know how to transport my household things coz i have nearly 20 boxes, 1bike, and dog. I have heard of water problem there so how do we get it? Please kindly answer me. Thank u. 
Renchen Choezom (November 2013) 
Water in Darjeeling is supplied from Senchal Lakes located above Ghoom/Jorebungalow. The twin lakes capture spring water which is then transported through conduits to large overhead tanks in Darjeeling town and then distributed to homes through underground pipes. But unfortunately that water supply is not enough for the rapidly growing population in Darjeeling. 
The lake and the tanks were designed for only 15,000 people, whereas the current resident population in Darjeeling town well exceeds 1,00,000 and another 30,000 odd floating population (tourists) get added during the high season. So you can well imagine the level of water scarcity that exists in the hill town particularly during the dry months of December through May. So storage, sparing use and purchase of drinking water is the general practise in Darjeeling. 
I don't know where you are relocating from. If from outside India, you can move your stuffs in a cargo ship to Kolkata and then transport them to Darjeeling by arranging a truck or a professional Mover & Packer. If from another location in India, then get hold of a Mover & Packer for ground transportation. 
I have already answered some of your other questions in my article. 
Raj ( November 2013 
Hi Raj 
I stay in Kolkata. I plan to buy a piece of land in Darjeeling hills (not Kurseong or Kalimpong ) and build a cottage with full view of mountains. This is to be away in a secluded spot ( may be in or around the villages ) but should be accessible to a place to buy basic provisions. I have been to Darj town a couple of times. Is this feasible and how to go about it ? contact a broker ? Thanks and Regards 
Bikash Nandi (November 2013) 
It is possible to buy a land or property in Darjeeling hills. As an outsider your first step should be to rent an apartment or a house in Darjeeling and stay there for a few months. This will help you make a fair assessment of the lifestyle against your expectations, cost and other implications, and also give you an opportunity to work through the local brokers. 
If you talk to local property owners like some of those who own and run hotels, they can also direct you to the right persons and places. In order to rent an apartment or a house in Darjeeling, the best approach is to put up an ad in the classifieds. 
Note that there is virtually no land available in proper Darjeeling or its near vicinity. Almost all land has been already developed, except a very few that may be available on resale. However developed properties, houses and apartments are often available on (re)sale. Land measures are in terms of poles (one pole is about 272 sq ft). 
Raj ( November 2013 
Hi Raj 
I plan to visit Darjeeling for a long-term stay sometime from October 2014. I have enough capital to keep me going so won't have to work, I think. £40 sterling per week, would this be sufficient? All I shall need is one large room with private washing and cooking facilities. 
Health: I was planning to tour India back in the 70s but never made it. Cholera/ Typhoid and smallpox jabs were required then. With smallpox finished can you tell me what innoculations I need? Is there any malaria up at those heights? 
How easy is it to renew the tourist visa? 
How pricey/extensive is the Oxford Book Shop and do they sell second hand books? Any public libraries about in that area? 
I like walking. How safe is it outside of town? 
How easy is it to open a bank account and what would be the best one for international transactions? The disparity between UK and Indian economies means that living is cheap over there but, when I am on a retirement income (from April 2017), say £100 per week, how much tax will I have to pay as the personal allowance in India must be low. 
Thanks for your help Raj and look forward to hearing from you. 
John Paul in Broadstairs, Kent (April 2014) 
Hi John, 
£40 per week should be okay for day to day living, assuming you live in a simple apartment and cook for yourself. But if you indulge in eating out, visiting places frequently and other recreational activities, or have health related problems, then it's not enough. 
I haven't heard of any case of malaria in Darjeeling ... luckily there are no mosquitoes there. But due to change in climate, I have seen many locals catching cold or running viral flues these days. You don't need any innoculations as such.  
Renewal or extension of tourist visa is not easy, and getting back to back visas is very difficult if not impossible. The tourist visa is usually issued for 3-6 months (there are exceptions though, for example with foreign tourists from USA who may be issued multiple entry 5-10 years tourist visa with maximum continuous stay of 6 months at a time). 
But once your visa expires, you will usually need to leave India, go back to your home country or a neighbouring country like Thailand, and re-apply. In fact sometime back there was an act introduced requiring a minimum gap of  2 months before a foreign tourist could apply for an Indian visa again. This has been scrapped for most except for nationals of Pakistan, China etc. However repeated application of visas do get rejected. 
Oxford Bookshop is good. They are the only book store that have nice books on Darjeeling. Haven't seen them selling used books though. Deshbandhu Government District Library is located at 5 HD Lama Road (nearby). It has rich collection of books on history of Darjeeling, Himalayan region, tea, tourism and timber, and also on flora & fauna of the region. 
Foreign tourists can open a Non-Resident (Ordinary) Rupee (NRO) bank account (current or savings). It can be opened up to a maximum period of 6 months after which it gets closed. You can transfer money from UK to this bank account and withdraw cash locally or issue cheques. It's easy to open such account. You need Passport and few other documentations. 
It's quite safe in and around Darjeeling. You can freely walk around and nobody will bother you. 
Foreign tourists do not pay any income tax in India. Service charges are usually applied when you transfer money from UK to Indian bank. 
Raj ( April 2014 
Raj, can't tell you how many times I have consulted your wonderful site whenever I visited North Bengal. Thank you! 
Now I have decided to stay at the hills for 6-9 months and check for myself, if I am ready for a longer duration. I have a settled job, so no tension over any job requirement but will need regular internet access, so have decided Kalimpong as the place to settle. But on the net I can't find a single classified advertisement for renting a flat. Can't even get an idea about the possible cost of living/rent in Kalimpong. Could you please tell me about some broker or any knowledgeable person? That would be a great help as feeling totally helpless about how to proceed right now. 
Lastly, my company has agreed to allow me to work from the hills instead of coming to the office in Kolkata. I am sure no other company in my profession would agree to this. So don't want to miss this opportunity and regret later in my life. Hope you can understand how important any reply from you would be.(As stated on the "Contact Me" page, you definitely can, but would feel highly obliged if you don't publish this last paragraph) Thank you. 
Ranajay Banerjee (May 2014) 
Unfortunately brokerage or real estate dealing is still not an organized sector in Kalimpong and Darjeeling towns. So you will actually need to go down there for few days, stay in a hotel or lodge, hang around in the market area, talk to a few taxi drivers and local shop keepers who can then point you to the right person or direction. Very few people actually stay on rent in Kalimpong or Darjeeling. So it may not be easy to find an apartment or house on rent easily. 
Another option is to look for home stays where some property owners offer part of their extended houses to tourists/outsiders on a daily rate which includes meals and basic services. It's somewhat like a PG accommodation but works on a daily rate. Such rates are often quite reasonable and affordable. You can also approach a budget guesthouse or a small hotel and negotiate on a monthly rate. Regards, 
Raj ( May 2014 
Raj, Your effort and posts on this site are amazing. At least it does not make me feel that I'm the only one with plans to move to Daj. I had been there years ago and it has been the only place where I am able to find solace, the weather, the people, the food etc. I am a single mum who is planning to move and am looking at schools, preferably residential for girls (4 yrs). 
Loreto Convent is my preference and I welcome any suggestions on others available. I request advice on a decent hotel to stay which would help with travelling to schools and advice on how to get to the hotel from Bagdogra. I'm planning a visit this July. I've read that finding a job should take some time and hence plan to look at that as well as flats to rent either in Daj or Kalimpong. 
Rebecca A (May 2014) 
Loreto Convent is a good school and so is Mount Hermon (co education). Having no idea about your budget for hotels, it's difficult to suggest one. In the lower mid range, you can consider Hotel Golden Heights Enclave (on Gandhi Road), in 3-4 star category, Hotel Viceroy (also on Gandhi Road) would be very convenient. Regards, 
Raj ( May 2014 
Hi Raj... I have travelled to Darjeeling many times both as an adult and a young boy. Each time I re-discovered the place. I would like to settle down in the mountains and make a living there as I have grown tired of Kolkata and the kind of life style associated with big cities and the social attitudes of urban people.. In fact I have been learning Nepali since the past few weeks and aspire to speak it well in year or two.  
I am really keen on buying a house in close proximity to darjeeling or kalimpong main town and in a scenic location for the purpose of personal stay as well as letting out to tourists during the peak seasons for the sake of recovering my investment and provide for my stay there. Since my experience and knowledge of Darj is restricted to that of a tourist, I think you could help by throwing light on certain doubts in my mind. 
Is it at all possible ( i mean legally ) for non hill residents to purchase property in Darjeeling?? Also, I have been going through some real estate classifieds and found that the real estate prices in Kalimpong are relatively lower than Darjeeling in spite of the fact that Kalimpong does not suffer from water crisis. I am looking for a five or six bedroom bungalow that I could easily let out to tourists during the peak seasons as I cannot afford to invest so much just for the sake of pleasure. I wonder if the tourist foot prints in Kalimpong are good enough to ensure me some profits and provide me with the means to live there. Also does Kalimpong attract less tourists throughout the year due to its warmer climate? 
Is real estate available in the scenic suburbs of darjeeling town at reasonable prices? 
The last but not the least, are the local people of darjeeling and Kalimpong friendly to the idea of Bengali people looking to find business opportunities there. I ask this due to the existing political tensions pertaining the formation of a new state. Having said this, in my opinion the population of Darjeeling is perhaps the most honest, friendly and easy-going that I have ever come across. 
Please help with whatever information you can. Hope to hear from you soon. And also thanks a lot for running this website that has helped me previously on countless occasions while planning a trip. Regards, 
Swaroop Majumder (May 2014) 
Hi, Here are my comments: 
1) Buying real estate in Darjeeling is technically feasible. But practically there is not an inch of ground left in the main township areas that are available for sale. You will mostly need to bank on resale or redeveloped properties rather than building a house of your own on a bare land area. For that you will need to go far out of the town center of both Darjeeling and Kalimpong. 
2) Kalimpong real estate would be more economical and that's because of the relatively lesser tourist demand. Although it's a great place but for wrong and inadequate marketing, Kalimpong has become more like a transit place where tourists stay only for a night on an average. But one real disadvantage of Kalimpong is its lack of tea gardens which almost every tourist looks forward to while visiting the area. 
3) If I were to plan a relocation to Darjeeling or Kalimpong, I would not start with building a property. I would rather try for a rent or a home stay to start with, get used to the life and understand both way acceptability over a longer period of time and then take the next step. In general, people of Darjeeling would have no issues to accept an outsider as long as they are not jeopardising their livelihood in anyway in terms of jobs or business. As long as there is no such conflict, you should be fine. 
But running a property on commercial purpose for part of the year is a different ball game. Unless you know that sector well enough, you should think 10 times before planning on it. You would be better off planing your sustainability and recovery through other means. After all you would like to do some work and not continue to keep an idle mind :) 
Raj ( May 2014 
Hi Raj, seek your help on providing your insights and views on the below:- 
1. I have run a 10 room hotel @ Darjeeling in 2003-2004 on an annual lease basis. Hence have some idea on how it works. 
2. I am contemplating an early retirement and try out a 10 to 12 room boutique hotel experience around Darjeeling. 
3. I am looking at a real comfortable high class lodging and dining in line with what you get in Europe. Small inns with good comfort. 
4. Look forward to your advise on: 
Your overall view and advise on the plan and its feasibility. Approximate annual lease range for a suitable property. Your suggestion on the place...outskirts or proper Darjeeling. Thanks and regards 
Rishi (August 2014) 
I think a small but classy boutique hotel can do well in Darjeeling. Although desirable, it'll be difficult to get such property within the proper town area. You will need to scout around and try your luck. Villa Everest is one such hotel which has 11 rooms, located in proper town area and doing consistently well. But it's run by the owners. 
My concern is that boutique hotels that are leased are likely to find it very difficult to compete with similar such hotels run by owners themselves. Because in such a hotel you will need to focus a lot on details, and after paying up hefty annual lease and factoring in prolonged off season low occupancy rates, I don't know how feasible it would be to do that and sustain.  
One of my friends has taken up the Tamang's property in 2011 on 6 years lease. It's located about 3kms from the town. The hotel is known as Rhododendron Dell. They have made a lot of investments towards renovations to make it special (I was there then). While it's running reasonably well, not sure if they can make good money in 6 years after having recovered the capital invested. 
So I guess there is a lot to think and mull over before you take a plunge. You would know that in lease hotel while you must keep your cost low, at the same time you can not compromise on quality if you want it to make a good name for itself. And in a boutique hotel the challenges will be even more. But if you can manage all aspects, have unique value proposition, price it correctly and have the proper marketing strategy to attract the right clientele, it is doable.  
1 to 5 kms out of town is fine... but the location itself must have its own value. It's a wrong strategy when a hotel highlights how easy it is to reach the town center from its location. Tahagata Farm, although one hour away and located in Mineral Springs along Lebong Cart road, runs so well because it has been able to mesh its location with its value proposition, is not dependent just on attractions of Darjeeling town center, and been able to draw its target clients who are mostly foreigners. 
I can not comment on the lease range as it varies on location, property and terms of lease. 
Raj ( August 2014 
Hello Sir, 
I want to settle down in Darjeeling, in a safe yet relatively desolate place. Which places would you recommend and what would the rental per month be approx. Also, since I cannot cook, what facilities could I avail for my food requirements, i.e. other than eating out frequently. For instance, is there a system like tiffin service or home-food delivery available, as it is in Mumbai. Thanks 
Yogesh Singh (October 2014) 
There is hardly any desolate place within proper Darjeeling... for that you will need to go to the outskirts or to a nearby village area. One such place could be the village Mineral Springs on Lebong Cat Road which is about 40 minutes by drive from Darjeeling town. There are some small homestays run by villagers. Long term rentals are not quite common in Darjeeling particularly in villages. You will need to negotiate a long term homestay rates. 
In proper Darjeeling town, apartment rentals are possible but you will need to go through a local broker. The rent will vary depending on your requirement, but generally in proper Darjeeling town you can get a one-bedroom studio (unfurnished) with kitchen and bath for about Rs, 5000/- a month. There is no home-food delivery service in Darjeeling. Either you cook yourself or keep a local cook. 
Raj ( October 2014 
I am a physician in the USA and want to semi-retire in Darjeeling. Do you think I would have any option of part-time work there? I have 30+ years of experience, work would not be to generate a large income but rather to care for the local people. How can I find out about a visa that would allow part time work? I am well educated and qualified. Thank you. 
Deborah Agles (November 2014) 
Employment opportunities in Darjeeling are very limited. Most educated locals relocate to major cities to get jobs. However if you can be self employed like a practicing physician with the intent of serving the locals, then it could be possible to live in Darjeeling for a while. I say 'while' because permanent abode or residence in India is usually not offered to foreigners. 
Darjeeling has lacked proper medical practitioners and facilities since long. So this is certainly one area where Darjeeling needs help. Indian Consulate office in US has recently outsourced the visa processing to Cox & Kings Global Services. You can contact them for the applicable visa, period of stay allowed and associated restrictions. For example Business visa can be issued for 6 months to 10 years for US citizens producing appropriate documentation. 
I would however suggest that you make a visit to Darjeeling (unless you have already done so), get a feel of the place and its people before taking such a decision. The experience can be radically different from what you may imagine. Just the mountains and climate should not be the only consideration while taking such a decision. 
One more thing... For foreigners, there are specific guidelines to be a registered (i.e. licensed) medical practitioner in India to be eligible to work or practice in the field of medicine. So you may like to contact the health department or other sources for further information. 
Raj ( November 2014 
Hi Raj, 
I know you are bombarded with tons of questions every day. I will understand if you choose not to reply to this. However, I am keeping my hopes up. It will really mean a lot to us - me and my wife. I am essentially from Shillong, Meghalaya, working now in a bustling city of India. As being from a small town yourself, you can well imagine the hollowness we feel in the chaos of a large city. 
We wanted to know about the reality of settling down in Ghum or similar other smaller sections of Darjeeling. The ultimate goal is to create a small more or less self-sustained eco-friendly home for ourself and our dog. We may open it up for homestays but that is for later. We would like to give up our fast paced life in return for the sleepiness of Ghum. 
We wanted to know the following: 
1) I know it is largely variant, but if you were to hazard a guess, what would be the cost of land in places like Ghum for say 1/2 acre to 1 acre? Is that even feasible? Or is land less abundant there? If so, a ball park figure for 5000 sq feet? We'd like to start dropping coins in our tins sometime now :) 
2) We don't just want to come and be visitors. I plan to learn the language, preferably before I settle down, mix with locals, become a local, help the community - in this regard, how open is the society towards welcoming new immigrants? If it helps, I am a Bengali with North East descent. 
3) Sometime, I'd like to open a homestay or eco tavern here. While I donot need it to become our soul bread earners, I'd like it if it grew enough for me to involve local help, create small job opportunities, give back whatever I can. How are businesses like these accepted in the region? 
I really hope you get back to me! As you can probably see, it can well be a life changer for us. Waiting! 
B Debnath (April 2015) 
Land price in Darjeeling area is mostly measured in a unit known as pole (one pole = about 272 sq. ft.). The price will vary widely depending on how close or far you are from the township or main settlement of the area. In Ghum area it can range anywhere from Rs. 250/- to 1,500/- sq. ft (guessing). 
The local communities in Darjeeling area in general will be initially cautious on the way they and you deal with each other. But eventually if they understand that your intents are for their benefits, which can take a lot of time, they can accept you as one of them and come forward to help in anyway they can. But till that faith is established, you can expect them to be skeptical although they might put up a smiling and friendly face. 
There have been many outsiders including Bengalis and even Marwari families who have been running businesses there for generations and are very close to the local community. But their current generations get the advantage of what their earlier generations have done and additionally new generations have grown up together with their peers from the local community... so they became friends anyway from schools or otherwise. 
So you can not compare your case with them. Having said that, I am aware of several Bengalis who have established their hotel business in places like Srikhola, Rimbik, Neora Velly etc (all in Darjeeling district) and have immensely helped the local economy. They have done it in a hard way and through patience. Your case would be similar to theirs. 
But before you take a plunge, look into other factors including harsh weather conditions in some places in winter (forget about guests, can you yourself sustain?), actual possibility of getting necessary flow of guests (i.e. occupancy rates) in a place like Ghum (one won't like to stay there just because the name of the place sounds so romantic), local political interference which you need to deal with, etc etc. Good luck! 
Raj ( April 2015 
Hi Raj, 
Hope you are fantastically well! Kudos to you for all the in-depth information on Darjeeling!! I have a query of a different nature...firstly, would you be able to help me out on what's the best and smoothest way to transport my dog to Darjeeling from Delhi and second and most importantly, would you know of and if there are any good vets in Darjeeling?? 
I am looking to move there and I feel I will be able to figure everything else out thanks to your forum and website but it is imperative that my dog/baby has a great hands-on vet! And how do I get him to Darjeeling from New Delhi? Would highly appreciate your, 
Radhika (September 2015) 
I would use a pet transfer service (just search on the net). There are no good vets in Darjeeling. You should plan to take your pet down to Siliguri (about 2.5 hours drive). In fact, that's what one needs to do even for human beings. There are no good medical practitioners either in Darjeeling to treat human beings for serious ailments. 
Raj ( September 2015 
Hi Raj, 
Was going through your posts and realised that you would be the best person who can guide me through. I am coming to darjeeling during end of this month. I have a son who is about 3 and a half year old. I am relocating and Basically its for him. 
Please suggest a good school and a proper place to rent a house or apartment. Please also give me a idea about the basic expences of living there. I am an MBA from IIMB. Do you think i will be able to start a small business there or its advisable to search for a job.... Awaiting your response. Thanks and regards 
Kasturi Basu (January 2016) 
Hi, you can look into St. Joseph's for schooling or Mount Hermon. A residence along Lebong Cart Road within walking distance from either Chowk Bazaar or Singamari Bazaar would be convenient for the above schools. Getting a job in Darjeeling is difficult, opportunities are limited and preference is always given to locals even if that means compromising with skills. 
Setting up a business is possible depending on what you want to do. Other than hospitality, tourism and local trading, there is not much business opportunity anyway. I have already indicated cost of living in sections above. I personally think that you should be covered to meet your running expenses (for example by way of interest earning from your savings etc) before you relocate to Darjeeling, rather than hoping to do something once there. The second approach might jeopardize your son's academics. 
Raj ( January 2016 
I work in an IT company in Kolkata. Before that I worked as a German and English language Tour Guide in western India. I have lived and studied in Germany 4 years. I want to work in Hills as Tour Guide in season where I take break from office and get close to nature. Do I fit in? I would like to complement to your efforts in Darjeeling. I love that place. Thanks! 
Siddhartha (June 2016) 
I doubt the tour operators will let an outsider be a guide. All tour guides are locals and it's a core profession in the hills where livelihood is not easy. They won't want to set a wrong precedence and start jeopardizing jobs for their own community. But if you are yourself organizing tours in the hills from outside Darjeeling, you can always come and go as a group. Many foreign tour operators do that. 
Raj ( June 2016 
Dear Mr Raj, Hello! 
I have been reading you exhaustive information about Darjeeling for quite sometime now and believe me I am a big fan of yours. The information provided by you is very enriching and helpful for everyone. 
I am married to a local resident of Kurseong who also happens to be a senior serving army officer. I started visiting Kurseong since the last 10 odd years and somehow fell in love with the place. Hence,like others, I too wished to settle down there. However, as rightly pointed out by you, which I too didn't realize earlier, for an outsider to settle down there, issues of acceptance are indeed rampant and many. 
Notwithstanding all this, we bought a piece of land in Deorali and have managed to complete the construction in the last two years. The place is on the main road just ahead of the Deorali bazaar. It is our intention of settling down there after my wife's retirement and do some social service - I have also spoken to the Principal of the school next to the Mandir there for teaching English and computers - who has readily agreed to it. 
Presently, my wife who was to retire in the next couple of years has suddenly been selected for further promotion which means that she will not be retiring for the next 5-6 years. As such, both of us have concurred that after having spent so much in the construction of the house there, keeping it locked for so long a period would not be sensible in any way. Hence, the queries. 
1. We would like to run the house as a Home stay or a Holiday Home - 3 rooms with attached bathrooms, open kitchen and dining room. What are the formalities required to do so? 
2. You have received a lot of queries from tourists both local and international about renting of vacation homes - both on a short term and long term basis. How suitable would this be and what are the formalities required to be fulfilled if I want to give it out on rent? 
3. What are the prospects if I were to give it out on lease to someone who wants to run it as a home stay or a holiday home and the formalities for the same? 
I know you remain occupied a lot. We shall be very grateful if you could spare some time at your convenience and respond to my queries. Please do also note that being a Delhite, I have had to undergo a lot of hardships and resentment from the locals but also have had the patience to handle them and work things out and bring my dream house to fulfillment. Would be highly obliged for your feedback and your assistance. Thanks in advance. 
Samir Sachdeva (July 2016) 
The concept of homestay in the whole of Darjeeling hills (including Kurseong) is somewhat like an extension of a local home where the local family is residing. Tourists actually want to experience the local culture & food other than having a homely environment. So to position your house as an independent homestay while your family stays away would be inappropriate. 
For a homestay, you will require sustained marketing through booking agencies to keep it viable in a place like Kurseong where tourism is not high (but many school students during admissions & their visiting parents like to stay close to the schools). There are a few successful homestays in Kurseong though. 
In leasing, the problem of sustained occupancy shifts to the person taking it on lease, but your property may not be well taken care of or even be misused. Running it like a guesthouse may be a better option, particularly if you can attract the school crowd. I can not comment on formalities. Several state government clearances are likely involved. 
Raj ( July 2016 
Hi Raj, excellent and very informative web site, Thank you for all your input.. Please if you have time? can you maybe answer a few questions. 
Is there a public Swimming pool in Darjeeling ? Or if not a usable pool otherwise ? i.e Hotel, Spa, School or alternative ? What is the internet situation in Darjeeling  ? 
Is there a decent 3G Mobile signal and is 4G Planned ? 
Kevin (September 2016) 
Hi, there is no swimming pool in Darjeeling. Water remains very cold all through the year and due to power situation, heated pools do not exist. 3G is available in Darjeeling town and few other surrounding places, and it's quite reliable. 
Raj ( July 2016 
Dear Raj, 
Let me come to the point direct and succinctly.  
I would like to stay for about a year in Darjeeling...taking a break from hectic life. Am Malaysian. 
1. Is it possible to get a rental house/condominium for twelve month rental - fully furnished with two rooms, bath, kitchen for self cooking in Darjeeling? 
2. How much (a ball park figure will do) in total for the accommodation, and a maid to come in daily from morning to evening to do cooking, housekeeping and laundry? 
I am a writer, so I can be anywhere in terms of jobs. And have sufficient to fund myself without having a ''real'' job in Darjeeling.  
Thank you in advance and looking forward to a reply from your good offices. 
With warmest regards, 
Narinder Pal Singh (November 2016) 
Getting a fully furnished house or condo would be difficult, half furnished can be easier... usually rental apartments in Darjeeling are mostly bare. But to get one closer to your liking, I suggest you plan the initial few weeks in a homestay. This will give you an opportunity to interact with the homestay owners' family and you can seek their help to find an appropriate rental accommodation for yourself. You may not otherwise have a clue on how to go about it. 
A 2-bedroom bare apartment can rent from INR 8-12K per month depending on location. More central the location, higher will be the price. Expect 3-6 months advance security deposit. One maid is unlikely to do all the work at home as you mentioned. Assuming two maids, it could cost you about INR 5-6K per month. 
Raj ( November 2016 
Dear Raj,  
Greetings! It is beyond my words to express how happy I was to come across this site. I'm a 26 year old single woman currently pursuing my B.Ed. I and my friend, who is also a single woman and doing her B.Ed were thinking of settling in Darjeeling while working as teachers in schools there. Do you think it is possible to land up school-teaching jobs there being outsiders? And even if we do get jobs, is it possible to start a life over there with the earnings? We would love to get a reply from you. Thanks a lot. 
Samita Das (January 2017) 
Hi, a short answer to your question is ... possible but won't be easy. 
While locals are given preferences in all jobs, it is also a fact that Darjeeling lacks adequate local human resources who are well qualified for teaching jobs. I am aware that there are several teachers in Darjeeling from other states. 
Once you get a job, there is no problem in living there as any other citizen. 
Raj ( January 2017 
Hello Raj 
I have been reading your replies thoroughly and it has been highly informative. However, we all have our own questions, so really sorry to bother you if I sound a bit redundant here.  
So I have lived and worked around the world in several countries (I am an Indian citizen) but Darjeeling always always and always fascinated me. So considering the fact that I am a psychologist and have been an English tutor at various good institutions, what would be chances to settle down at Darjeeling?  
Now looking even further, if I don't fit anywhere in the aforementioned prospects, what small business could I start to sustain myself and also provide employment for 8-10 locals? Looking forward for your reply. Thank you. 
Dr. Herschel  (February 2018) 
Hello, although Darjeeling and Kurseong both have a number of good schools, over the years they have been giving preference to local teachers to ensure local employment. Earlier they used to hire many teachers from outside... they still do but mostly on exceptions. So this may not be a very hopeful option I am afraid, but still worth applying. 
Prospect for a job as a Psychologist is even lower because Darjeeling lacks and seems to be least interested in proper hospitals and medical practitioners... this has been a long drawn problem. You can consider a private practice... but considering the local culture, this may not be viable as a full time occupation... at least initially. 
So your 3rd option of running a business involving local employment would be the best option. While I personally believe that building a business where your passion lies is the best way to go, from a practical point of view... two small scale businesses run reasonably well in Darjeeling and both require good investments. First, a good food store or an eatery. One thing that Darjeeling seriously lacks and I would personally love to see... is a good food store that comprehensively stocks and showcases various local & traditional food products of Darjeeling... this can attract both tourists and locals, thus eliminating the seasonal factors of tourist flow. There is virtually no such store in Darjeeling which specifically focuses on this theme, and I wonder why. 
Second, a homestay or a small boutique hotel. But this would be a seasonal business like any hotels here. For both hotel or food store, you need to find a leased property because owning a property in proper Darjeeling these days is practically ruled out. You need to come and stay in Darjeeling for sometime, contact a local broker and get things in place. 
Hope it gives some food for thought. 
Raj ( February 2018 
Hi Raj, 
I was reading all your replies thoroughly and its been highly informative from all aspects! I need your valuable suggestion as I am going to take a big decision, I think you the right person to put some light. 
I am looking for to settling down to Darjeeling to live my life. I have been to Darjeeling couple of times and Darjeeling is my love! Each and every time I had been there I wanted to be there forever and leaving everything else. but that was practically never possible thinking about how I would run my lively hod,about women safety etc. I am a single women of age 30. 
Currently I am working in a MNC and I am planning to leaving my job and this corporate world and settle there forever in Darjeeling in lap of nature. Can you please suggest what kind of profession I can adopt there. I am into Finance and accounting as profession, and as an added advantage I can cook very well( other says). I love baking and very innovative int his section.  
I am seeking for your guidance in all aspect. 
Antara P (June 2018) 
Hi, settling down in Darjeeling for an outsider is not easy by any means, but not impossible. In reality the professional qualification here becomes practically immaterial because of limited opportunities. Almost the entire economy here is based on tea and tourism. Almost all tea companies with gardens and factories in Darjeeling operate their finance & accounting activities from their back-offices in Kolkata (barring few exceptions), only the physical tea related activities of plucking, processing & packaging are carried out in the hills. Rest of the economy banks on tourism products & services including hotels, homestays, eateries and tours which are mostly run by the locals with local staff. There are of course several schools and few office establishments... but for all practical purpose you can count them out for any real opportunities. 
If you still want to find a way of living through this maze of local activities, first you need to be ready to self support yourself for 6 months - 1 year. Since you are a single lady, I suggest you initially live with a local family at a home stay in a central area, understand their culture and try to develop a network within the local community. For all you now... an opportunity might pop up on its own as you get deep into their social system. They need to feel and develop trust that you are one of them. You can't survive there without support from their social system. 
Since you have good culinary skills, at one point in time you may like to run a kitchen for innovative bakery products... get in touch with some of the good confectioners and bakery outlets like Glenarys, Keventers, Nathmulls and even the local CCD... and try to create a business model and a small brand of your own. Rest is up to your imagination. But if you do pursue and reach a point when you can start on your own... let me know... I can perhaps give you the required visibility within the tourist and local communities through my website. 
Raj ( June 2018 
Hi Raj, 
Thank you so much for taking time and replying! All the information are really so very helpful and much needed! 
When we are really fed up with the corporate life's excessive stress, our practical thinking goes for a toss for time being. Thank you once again for lightening up on the employment possibilities and ideas at Darjeeling. With a strong feeling that you are the best person to suggest anything and everything about Darjeeling, can you please help me little more. As there are several schools in Darjeeling and nearby like Kurseong, possibilities are there to get a school teacher job with no experience in teaching? 
I really don't want to earn big bucks rather don't want to die regretting that I did not try something I wanted to do so strongly from heart. If teaching in a school is something very difficult to get, can I think of other options like trying for a bank job or contacting some bakery over there and assisting them? 
I would be really honored and grateful if you can take little more time to reply. Thank you again and again! 
Antara P (June 2018) 
Hi, yes you can contact the schools (who usually require B.Ed degree along with specialization & experience for teaching jobs), as well as the bakeries. But due to limited open opportunities, you may need to indefinitely wait for your turn... please remember, for jobs, locals and known resources are usually given preference. But it may still be worth trying... your skill profile might just be that someone is looking for. Although I don't want to sound negative, very few are actually able to settle in the hills with a job these days... that easy route is hardly available now. Ones who are able to do it, usually go on to create some job opportunities for the locals. 
Raj ( June 2018 
Dear Raj, 
I found your website very useful, and since I and my wife have never been to Darjeeling, (although we come from Kolkata) we are now inspired to make a trip next time we are in India (we are NRIs), sometime in January 2019... We are wondering if Mirik or Kurseong could be suitable as a retirement home for us. What kind of infrastructure and services (like medical care) are available etc. Apologies for this question which is not directly related to the topic of your site, but if you can give me some idea, it'd be very helpful... We are of course looking forward to enjoying these beautiful spots during our next trip. 
Thanks a lot for such excellent informative site. 
Kanti (August 2018) 
Medical services like hospital facilities are basic in the hills. For serious illness you need to go down to Siliguri. Infrastructure at both places are similar and limited.... there are banks & ATMs, 3G mobile towers (not very reliable though), taxis are the main transport although there are buses as well. Kurseong additionally has toy train track passing through it and there are trains that originate at Kurseong itself and connect Darjeeling. Electricity supply is sometimes not enough... one needs an inverter/generator at both places. 
Choice of place depends on your priorities... both are subdivisions of Darjeeling district. Kurseong is full of tea estates and well spread out in the hills. The main market is larger with better household shopping options. Mirik is relatively small and centered around the lake, but getting a lake view residential accommodation is unlikely. There are several tea estates just outside Mirik though. 
For road connectivity... Kurseong is connected to the plains through the National Highway (Hill Cart Road), Rohini Road as well as Pankhabari road. Mirik has mainly one route... the other one is a long detour via Ghum and then through Hill Cart Road. 
Hope this helps! 
Raj ( August 2018 
Hey Raj was going through one of your articles about there being no proper backpackers accommodation in Darjeeling, on this context I had a question, though a potentially outrageous one I am afraid , but first I must convey how much I have always loved reading all your articles in this site. Your impeccable knowledge of North Bengal and specifically Darjeeling never fails to amaze me ! These have helped me plan my trips countless number of times, so a heartfelt thanks. 
As to my question, me and a few of my friends were contemplating opening a backpackers hostel in Darjeeling,  having stayed put in some of the hostels across India we were wondering how this concept would hold up in this charming little town that we have always been so fond of. As also noted by you the dormitory accommodations currently available in Darjeeling are very limited and not very up to the mark, being travel enthusiasts ourselves nothing would make us more happy than making a living by building a happy place for travellers to meet and enjoy their stay comfortably, that too in a place that we so adore. 
However we do have our apprehensions given the political tensions prevalent in the region and also if an idea like this would flourish given the already stable hotel sector there. Would be great to know your views on this. I know you receive innumerable queries all day and answering all of them might not be possible, but I really would be very grateful if you could take some time out and provide your valuable insights. 
Bidisha Majumder (August 2018) 
Well the idea sounds good... just few points to ponder before you jump in... 
  • Solo back packers usually make short stays in Darjeeling... a night or two. Most move on to higher reaches like Sandakphu and Sikkim to trek and explore virgin areas. So you should factor that into your occupancy plans. 
  • Home stays are picking up in Darjeeling, thick & fast... earlier this wasn't a popular concept in Darjeeling town. This is a serious competition to conventional backpackers' accommodations. Being run by local families as extensions to their own houses, these have added advantages such as offering homely stays at low budget yet clean & nice, home made cheap food, ability to experience local culture by staying with local families, and getting local tour insights from the owners. Rates are low because this is an extra source of income for the family... they don't mind going the extra step. The value for money would be hard to match by commercially run hostels. 
  • You can not practically get a ownership property in Darjeeling these days... so you need to lease a property and pay a hefty lease fee... you should have sustainability and enough money in your pocket for your business to crystallize and get to a break-even point. 
  • Political scenario seems to be okay now. However you need to employ local staff in order to ward off any local political interference. You will have 5-6 months of real business and be prepared to run vacant for the remaining 6-7 months... that's how tourist seasons are in the hills here. 
    I didn't want to sound negative, but having said all this, there is actually a good potential for backpackers' hostels in Darjeeling. Other than just cheap & clean stays... you need to additionally focus on 'experiences' to make it real value for money. But betting your life on it and making it the only source of earnings would not be wise in my opinion. Good luck! 
    Raj ( August 2018 
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