Last Updated: Mar 9, 2017 

Permits required to visit Sikkim

 
Unlike the neighboring state of West Bengal where Darjeeling is located, Sikkim has certain entry restrictions. In fact the whole of Sikkim is under restricted area regime due to its proximity to neighboring countries like China. And therefore all foreign nationals require Restricted Area Permit (RAP) to visit any part of Sikkim. This permit is also known as Inner Line Permit (ILP). Indians however do not require this. 
 
If you are a national of Pakistan, China, Maynmar or Bangladesh, then it gets a little more difficult to enter Sikkim. You must get a written approval from Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi before the Restricted Area Permit can be issued. 
 
 
 
And there are other restrictions for all including Indians for few specific places in Sikkim. Certain areas like Tsomgo Lake, Dzongri etc are defined as Protected Areas and have special army deployment. Both foreigners and Indians require a separate permit known as Protected Area Permit (PAP) to visit such places. But few protected border areas like Nathulla are not accessible to foreigners at all, while Indians can still visit with the Protected Area Permit. 
 
How to get Restricted Area Permit (RAP) or Inner Line Permit (ILP)? 
Restricted Area Permit is applicable only for foreigners. It is free of cost. You must have a valid Passport and an Indian visa. With proper documentation, it takes less than 30 minutes to get the permit across the counter. 
 
Update January 2015: A foreign national can now get Restricted Area Permit (i.e. Inner Line Permit) online from the recently launched website www.sikkimilp.in. While filling up the online application form, you will however need to choose a Tour Operator out of a long assorted list, enter date of arrival, passport &ávisa details, your email address, upload your photo etc. Once done, you can self print the permit. There is no charge. However, what you finally get is known as Provisional ILP. So what does that mean? Read the section on Foreign Nationals below for clarity. 
 
Restricted Area Permit (ILP) can be manually obtained at the following places: 
  • New Delhi - Sikkim House, Panchsheel Marg, Chanakyapuri 
  • Kolkata - Sikkim House, 4/1 Middleton Street 
  • Siliguri - Office of Sikkim Nationalized Transport, Sevoke Road 
  • Bagdogra Airport - Sikkim Tourism Counter on arrival 
  • Rangpo checkpost (on the way to Gangtok or East Sikkim). 
  •  
    NOTE: It takes only few minutes if you have all documentation in place. 
     
    Note: Nationals of Pakistan, China, Maynmar or Bangladesh must get prior approval from Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi before they can apply for the RAP permit.  
     
    How long is the Restricted Area Permit (ILP) valid? 
    The stay period has been extended. Initially it is issued for 60 days. It can then be extended for 30 days each. These extensions can be obtained at Foreigners' Registration Office (FRO) at Kazi Road, Gangtok or at the office of Sub Divisional Magistrates, or even through Superintendent of Police at district head quarters. 
     
     
     
    How to get Protected Area Permits (PAP) 
    This permit is applicable for both foreigners and Indians to visit protected areas. All foreigners should travel in a group of two or more in protected areas wherever allowed. Solo foreigners are not permitted in such areas. Additionally foreigners should apply through tour operators who are registered with Sikkim Tourism Department. 
     
    You will need to carry a Photo ID proof like passport, voter's ID card, driving license etc. Note that PAN card is not accepted.  
    Based on your place of visit, here is how you can get the Protected Area Permits: 
     
    EAST SIKKIM 
  • Tsomgo (Changu) Lake and Baba Mandir permits are issued at the Police Check Post. Foreigners can also get it at Sikkim Tourism &áCivil Aviation Department. Easiest is to apply through a travel agent or tour operator one day in advance. 
  • Nathulla: Permit for Nathulla Pass is issued only to Indians (foreigners are not allowed here). You can get it at Police Check Post as well as at Sikkim Tourism Department. You should apply one day in advance. Most tourists get the permits through travel agents or tour operators who organize the trips. 
  •  
    WEST SIKKIM 
  • Dzongri &áGoecahala Trek: Permit is issued to both Indians and Foreigners by the Adventure Cell of Sikkim Tourism &áCivil Aviation Department. Trek operators can get the permits. 
  • Singalila Trek from Sikkim: Same as above. 
  •  
    NORTH SIKKIM 
  • Yumthang, Yumesamdong, Thangu/Chopta Valley: Permit is issued to both Indians and Foreigners by the Tourism Department and Police Check Post. Most get the permits through tour operators. 
  • Gurudongmar Lake: Indians can get the permits at Police Check Post while foreigners can get it from Sikkim Tourism Department but only up to Thangu. The tour operators can get the permits. 
  •  
    SOUTH SIKKIM 
  • Namchi, Ravangla: No permit is required by Indians. Foreigners only need Restricted Area Permit to tour &átrek South Sikkim. 
  •  
    Self Driven Vehicle or Bike to Protected Areas 
    Usually vehicles from registered tour operators are allowed in protected areas of Sikkim. If you are however planning to drive yourself to a protected area like Tsomgo or Nathula, it is possible to get a permit for your own vehicle as well. You need to visit the Home Department located at the New Secretariat Building in Development Area of Gangtok, and meet the Joint Secretary (phone: 03592-204751) or Additional Secretary (phone: 03592-203450) for the necessary vehicle permits. Carry all documentation including your vehicle papers, photo ID etc. You should at least keep one full day in hand at Gangtok to get this vehicle permit done. 
     
     
     
     
    Note for foreign nationals 
    1) There is a whole host of confusion with the Online ILP (i.e. Online Restricted Area permit) which is issued only as a provisional permit and supposedly requires a registration on arrival (no real clarity on this). And there is one more issue in this part of the country and that's ignorance. Some staff and check post guards may get bewildered when you show a self printed ILP. They may not have seen one before and you might need all your skills to convince them. So don't be surprised if they keep checking with authorities to verify and you ending up wasting a lot of time. 
     
    So the bottomline... I personally don't think the online ILP is yet a matured offering. The Sikkim government website re-directs to another site which is privately operated. It may seem the Sikkim website is hacked (actually it's a State Govt / Private joint initiative which is not clarified anywhere on the website). It's better to avoid it and get your proper ILP done on arrival at Bagdogra airport at the Sikkim tourism counter. It takes only a few minutes.  
     
    Remember, the security guards at the remote mountain terrain in Sikkim are vastly separated from modern world. They are mostly busy protecting the border territories with China, Bhutan and Nepal in harsh conditions. They will always be skeptical when you approach such areas as a foreigner, and on top of it when you show a self printed piece of paper claiming that you have a right to entry, you can well imagine the kind of reactions you may get. 
     
    2) Foreign nationals will require a regular tourist visa along with valid passport to apply for any permits for Sikkim which includes both Restricted and Protected Area Permits. e-Tourist visa won't work. This is what indiavisaonline.gov, a government body offering online Indian visa service clarified by email "... As per extant instructions e-Tourist visa is not valid for restricted/protected areas. If you want to visit Andamans, Darjeeling and Sikkim so you have to apply for regular tourist visa and permit for visit Andamans, Darjeeling and Sikkim."... Updated February 2016 
     
     
     
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    Visitors' Reviews/Comments 
     
    Prabhakar Krishnamurthy (March 2017) 
    Hello Raj, Great website with lots of information! áThank you. Regarding obtaining ILP. áMy travel agent told me the office at the Bagdogra Airport. áI called a number that Justdial provided for Sikkim tourism in Bagdogra and person who answered said they only provide helicopter service and directed me to Siliguri or Darjeeling to get the ILP. Can you please clarify? 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) March 2017 
    Hi, the helicopter booking counter at Bagdogra airport is different from the Sikkim Tourism office (which is basically a stall) in arrival hall. You can get your ILP done at the Sikkim Tourism office. They also have a webcam and can take your picture required for the ILP. 
     
    Mukul Purohit (February 2017) 
    Hi Raj, First of all thanks for the excellent website and that too up-to-date. I with my wife and two kids plan to visit Gangtok from Hyderabad in May. All are Indian citizens; me and my wife have necessary government issued photo I-cards, butthe kids (age - 7,9) don't have any govt issued card. So my question is that what documentation would suffice for them? School I-card, Birth certificate (which generally does not have a photo). Or we need to get some document for them. Thanks. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) February 2017 
    Unless you are visiting protected places like Tsomgo, Nathula etc, your kids won't need any ID cards. Otherwise take both school and birth certificates, in case asked. 
     
    Alwynne Lamp (December 2016) 
    I'm a little confused about the solo travel requirement. Does it mean that even with a tour guide, one must find someone else to travel with.Or, does it mean a foreigner travelling on their own in Sikkim must organize through a tourist agency and therefore the guide is the second required person? Please clarify. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) December 2016 
    In protected areas of Sikkim, foreigners themselves need to be in a group of two or more, and can not go there solo. Foreigners are however not allowed at all in some protected areas such as Nathula Pass and Gurudongmar lake. This is a requirement of Home Ministry, Govt. of India.  
     
    Additionally you need to arrange your travel to these protected areas through a Sikkim Govt. registered travel agency because only their vehicles are allowed in such places. Separate guide is not mandatory unless you are trekking to places like Dzongri/Goechala etc. Registered travel agency's vehicle, driver and two or more in your own group of foreigners are all that you require for the protected areas.  
     
    However you can travel solo to places in Sikkim which are not earmarked as protected areas, such as Gangtok, but you still require the ILP (Inner Line Permit). 
     
    Brigitte &áIvo (November 2016) 
    Hi, We do not exactly understand if it is allowed for foreigners (2 pax) to ride (by bicycle) the road from Gangtok - Kupup - Reshi after obtaining a PAP on their own, meaning without guide or support vehicle. Can we get the necessary PAP without going through a travel agency? We would appreciate it very much if you could clarify the situation. Thank you very much for your help! Kind regards. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) November 2016 
    Hi, foreigners are not allowed beyond Tsomgo lake on that route. So you can not go further towards Nathula, Kupup and then come down via Reshi in West Bengal. Foreigners also need a guide from a Sikkim registered agency. 
     
    Priyanta (May 2016) 
    Hi... I am traveling in a group of 8 to Sikkim. I only have adhaar card and PAN card...no Voter ID, passport or driving license.. In such a situation would it restrain me from entering Sikkim and the protected areas that require permits? Thanking you in advance. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) May 2016 
    Hi, Adhar card is now accepted for issuing permits to Nathula and other protected areas in Sikkim, but not PAN card. 
     
    Sonal Taneja (April 2016) 
    We would like to travel to Tsomgo lake, Nathula pass and Yumthang valley in our personal vehicle next week. Pls let us know are permits issued to personal vehicles? Can permits be issued in advance? Can we travel to these places in our personal vehicle from Lucknow, UP? Many many thanks. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) April 2016 
    Usually the vehicles of Sikkim government registered tour operators are only allowed in protected areas such as North Sikkim and Nathula. However a personal vehicle like SUV may be allowed. It requires a vehicle fitness certificate from the permit issuing authority (office of IG Police, Check Post, Gangtok) and also a local guide needs to accompany. Vehicle fitness certificate requires vehicle inspection, and therefore can not be done in advance. Visitor's permits can be however taken in advance through operators by sending them all required documentation. 
     
    Nasheed Zaragoci (April 2016) 
    Hello, Many thanks for all the very useful and well-researched information you provide. In the 3rd week of April, I am planning to take my family to Darjeeling and Gangtok. I and my mother are Indian passport holders, but my husband and my two children are foreign nationals with OCI and PIO cards. My question is - to only see Gangtok and not the restricted zones do they still need any permit? If yes, how is it to be arranged? Thank you in advance. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) April 2016 
    OCI and PIO are considered foreigners and all permits applicable for foreign nationals will also be applicable for them in Sikkim. For Gangtok, they need Inner Line Permit (i.e. Restricted Area Permit) which can be obtained at Bagdogra airport. 
     
    Mudit Mangal (April 2016) 
    Sir, is there any way of obtaining the permits for Nathula from Darjeeling? Actually I am worried about not obtaining the passes in 1 day after reaching Gangtok because of the April rush. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) April 2016 
    Nathula requires a Protected Area Permit which is issued only at Gangtok. This is because the pass may not be issued at all on certain days due to border sensitivity, army restrictions, prevailing road &áweather conditions etc. In such a case you should try to visit on some other day. So the permit or visit is never assured. However if you have a day at Gangtok, you should get the permit, if available. The only way to get it in advance is to send required documentation to a registered tour operator, who can get it for you. But even if you get it in advance, any restriction on the day of journey will still apply. The permit however remains valid for few days. 
     
    Manoj (March 2016) 
    Hi, Are the permits for the Lachung tour and the Nathula pass issued separately? And how much time does it take for each of the permits to be issued? Thanking You 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) March 2016 
    Separate Protected Area Permits are required for Nathula and Lachung. But you can get them together from the Sikkim Tourism office in Gangtok. Tour operator or even the cab driver can get the permits if you provide all required documentation. During high season you should be prepared for half a day (preferably in the morning half) if you plan to get the permits yourself or through the tour operator. So you must plan to stay in Gangtok for a day to get the permits if you apply on arrival. If you do not have time, you should get them done in advance through an operator before arrival. 
     
    Indranil (March 2016) 
    Hi, I am an Indian citizen, but my wife and minor son are both foreigners and OCI as well. If I plan to visit any restricted area like Tsongo lake together, can we travel together as a group of us 3 only ? If no then what are our options of visiting the restricted places? What permits would be required in that case? 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) March 2016 
    You can travel together, but OCI is treated as foreign national, and so permits applicable for foreigners would be required for your wife and child. You must go through a govt. registered tour operator of Sikkim and they can handle all the required permits. 
     
    Rajaie Razali (February 2016) 
    Dear Raj, I am a tourist from Brunei and myself together with my mates (2 altogether) are planning to visit Darjeeling end of February. Is it possible if we get entry permit to areas of Sikkim without any itinerary arrangements with any tour guides? 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) February 2016 
    Hi, you can get the Inner Line Permit yourself from Bagdogra airport or Rangpo check post on the way to Gangtok. However for north Sikkim (like Lachung/Yumthang etc), you need to apply for Protected Area Permit one day in advance. You can't go there yourself. You can go only through a Sikkim govt. registered tour operator. So better to apply through one of them. You can engage with the operator once in Gangtok, but you need an additional day to get it done. If you don't have time, you need to contact a tour operator before arriving, send required documentation and get the permit arranged. Foreigners are not allowed in some border areas like Nathula, Gurudongmar etc. 
     
    Santosh Raj (December 2015) 
    Me, my wife and 3 children along with my wife's brother and his wife are planning to visit Sikkim. My wife's brother is married to an Indonesian and both reside in Singapore and do have the permanent residence cards. Can we be allowed to visit the protected areas along with my brothers wife. Kindly advise us. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) December 2015 
    NRIs and Foreigners are not allowed to visit protected areas like Nathula. They can however visit Tsomgo lake with permits. 
     
    Sugee Kamat (October 2015) 
    Dear Sir, My only worry is if our AI flight gets delayed from its scheduled 1pm arrival. I hear Bagdogra permits closes at 4 pm and Melli at 6 pm. Do you see any other way Sir? 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) October 2015 
    Tourism and other kiosks in Bagdogra usually remain open until the last flight arrives and passengers leave the airport. So permit at Bagdogra should not be a problem. There is no flight arriving after 3:30pm, so the counter on normal days gets closed by 4pm. Melli counter will close as scheduled. 
     
    Brian Crowley (June 2015) 
    Hi Raj, Update on this - the helicopter was cancelled, but there is an office at Bagdogra airport that issues permits for Sikkim. áThey weren't interested in my online permit. áAlso I didn't have to provide photos, they used a webcam, but I guess other places may differ. 
     
    At Rangpo there was actually a signboard advertising the online permits, but inside the officer said it's a waste of time, just makes work (I think it's just not yet fully hooked up). 
     
    The other thing I was told is that due to some irregularities, the Sikkim government has stopped issuing permits through outside organisations, now they are only issued at Sikkim tourism offices and border checkpoints - not at immigration and not at FROs (though FROs within Sikkim will do extensions). Hope this helps. 
     
    Janssens Elke (June 2015) 
    Dear sir, We are planning a trip to Sikkim this year and we already made our itinerary, but my question was: how is it possible to extend your ILP when you're still trekking, I mean if after the 15 days you are still in the mountains? Isn't it possible to obtain an ILP for 30 days at once from the beginning? Thank you kindly for your answer. Kind regards, 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) June 2015 
    Approach an FRO or State Tourism Office within Sikkim with a government registered tour operator who is organizing your trek, they can make exceptions based on your trek itinerary. 
     
    Rohit (June 2015) 
    I am traveling to Darjeeling by my own car and would like to know that any special permission is required for taking my car to Gangtok. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) June 2015 
    Private vehicles do not require any permits for Gangtok. However private vehicles are not allowed in protected areas such as Tsomgo, Nathulla etc. For protected areas, you will need special permits for vehicles. 
     
    Jip Tan (September 2014) 
    Hi Raj, I read quite a lot in your forum. Appreciate your contributions advising people who are interested in visiting this region of the country. I am from Singapore and would be travelling during my business trip here from Kolkata in November. As I am travelling alone to Darjeeling-Sikkim for 8 days, below are few questions hope you can help me on: 
     
    (1) From Darjeeling, is it advisable to go to Gangtok first like most did, or I can head for Pelling first then Gangtok later? 
     
    (2) At Pelling, I would also like to go to Dzongri. Does this require another permit? Can a solo traveller be allowed at the tour agencies? Is one day tour enough for Dzongri and back to Pelling? 
     
    (3) For Tsomgo Lake, can I just join any other 2 persons to meet the requirement of at least 2 persons to go? 
     
    (4) Does travelling to Lachung-Yumthang Valley also need additional permit to travel north? Does it also require at least 2 persons to go? What will be the temperature roughly in the North in November? 
     
    (5) Last, is 8 days enough for me to venture to the above districts? 
     
    Thank you very much. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) September 2014 
    Hi, You can head for Pelling first. However, get your RAP (Restricted Area Permit, aka Inner Line Permit) before visiting any place in Sikkim. You can get it in Darjeeling from Foreigners Registration Office near State Bank of India on Laden La Road. You must carry your passport with valid Indian visa and photos (if required). 
     
    Solo foreigners are not allowed in any protected area in Sikkim including Dzongri, Yumthang. Tsomgo etc. Foreigners should be in their own group of two or more. If you are travelling alone, the tour/trek agencies may be able to combine other foreigners to make the minimum group size. One day is not enough for Dzongri. A separate permit is required for all to visit Yumthang ... you can get that at the check post or Sikkim Tourism office. 8 days is okay to visit the places you mentioned except Dzongri, but will be very hectic.