Self Driving Rental or Private Motorbikes or Cars
For Touring Sikkim

 
So you are one who would like to self drive a vehicle in Sikkim - either a car or a bike. While most tourists go through a tour operator and avail a tour package which usually includes a reserved vehicle, hotel, food etc and sometimes even a qualified guide, but there are good reasons to drive a bike or car in Sikkim, whether it's your own or a rented one. 
 
First you can enjoy the pleasure of self drive... those who do can understand this well, particularly driving in the mountains through scenic routes. Second, you have all the flexibility of stopping anywhere for photo-shoot or just relaxing on the roadside to soak in the views. Third, there is substantial reduction in cost because you don't need to pay for the driver and the tour operators cost. 
 
 
 
Self-driving in unprotected areas of Sikkim 
There are several areas in Sikkim that have no restrictions for self drive - either bike or car. For most who are looking for the main essence of Sikkim, these areas would suffice. Foreign nationals require a valid Inner Line Permit for Sikkim which is necessary anyway for them to enter any part of Sikkim as a tourist, while Indians do not require any permits in these un-protected areas. You can either drive your own bike or car, or rent one (rental options are discussed later on this page). 
 
The main unprotected areas in Sikkim includes: 
  • Gangtok in east Sikkim 
  • West Sikkim including Pelling, Yuksom, Soreng, Kaluk, Rinchingpong, Soreng etc 
  • South Sikkim including Jorethang, Namchi, Ravangla, Rabong, Borong, Sikip 
  •  
    Self-driving in protected areas of Sikkim 
    There are several areas in Sikkim which are close to the international borders and are protected for security reasons. Protected areas in North Sikkim includes places like Lachung, Yumthang Valley, Zero Point, Lachen, Gurudongmar Lake etc. In fact the whole area of north Sikkim beyond Singhik (located about 56kms or 2hrs 40 minutes drive from Gangtok) is a protected area. 
     
    Protected areas in East Sikkim includes Tsomgo (Changu) Lake, Baba Mandir, Nathula Pass, Zuluk (located along the historic silk route) etc. 
     
    Self-driving a car 
    Self-driving a car (a 4-wheeler) in any protected area of Sikkim is usually not allowed for tourists. With Protected Area Permit one can get to such areas through registered tour operators of Sikkim who offer tour packages in their own vehicles like Sumo, Scorpio, Bolero etc. The tour operators also mediate to get the Protected Area Permit as part of their tour package. 
     
    Self driven private vehicles are discouraged mainly because of two reasons... first the state government doesn't want tourists to eat into the earnings of tour operators (north Sikkim being the most profitable of all routes). Second and more importantly, self driving can be very risky on those routes particularly when it snows. Exceptions are made by the officers on their own discretion on a case to case basis and it's not easy at all to get the permits for self-driven private vehicles. 
     
     
     
    And if you are lucky to get it (have an army connection?), an undertaking needs to be given on the risks and eventualities thereof, the vehicle must be registered on your own name and it should be an SUV or 4WD vehicle. If you must try your luck, you stand a better chance to get the permits at Mangan (District Administrative Centre) instead of Gangtok (Tourism Permit Office located near MG Marg at the Sikkim Public Service Commission building). 
     
    Should you attempt to do this, you must have enough time in your hand (may be few days), go down to the office, and figure out if you could be allowed, and then go through the documentation process. 
     
    Self-driving a motorbike 
    Bikers however can take bikes to such protected areas on their own and need not go through a tour operator. But there is a stringent and special permit process which needs to be followed for this (for both the bike and rider) and we will discuss this shortly. 
     
    Note: 
    Foreign nationals are strictly not allowed in few specific protected border areas such as Nathula and Gurudongmar lake. Also foreign nationals must be in a group of two or more to get to other protected areas where allowed and must always organize their trip along with permits through a registered tour operator and should be accompanied by a guide (even while self-driving a motorbike). 
     
    Permit for Biking in Protected Areas 
    There are two ways you can go about getting your bike permits to ride in protected areas - 1) You can do it yourself (this option is available only for Indians), or 2) Engage an authorized local Tour Operator to get it done for you. 
     
    In the first case you need to go through all the steps including standing on queues, application process and some heckling ... it can get a little tiresome or annoying for some... usually you need two days to get the initial permit issued by the Tourism Permit Office in Gangtok and then get to the Gangtok Police Check Post for the final travel permit before you start your journey. 
     
     
     
    In the second case, you can avoid all the legwork which are taken care of by the tour operator for a fee. If you send all your papers to the operator in advance, they can get it ready before you arrive in Gangtok and save you from wasting couple of days there to get your permit yourself. 
     
    Note that a biking permit for protected areas is usually issued for up to 7 days. You need to mention the number of days on the application form. For example, you need 3 days to make a return trip to Lachen / Gurudongmar lake (keep an additional day... it does not incur any additional cost). 
     
    Doing It Yourself 
    To get your necessary permits, you need to first visit the Tourism Permit Office located near MG Marg at the Sikkim Public Service Commission building (Address: Sikkim Public Service Commission, Old Tourism Complex, M. G. Marg, Arithang, Gangtok).  
     
    NOTE: Earlier such permits were issued by the Home Department located at the New Secretariat Building (Manan Bhavan) in Development Area of Gangtok. However since 2018 the permit issuance process has been moved to the new location. 
     
    Here you can collect the permit application form. The application forms are issued and duly filled-up forms are received between 10am to 2pm (note that applications are not received after 2pm). If your application is complete, the permit is usually issued next day (either in the morning or afternoon). 
     
    You will need to submit the following documents along with duly filled up application form: 
  • Two passport size photos (including that of co-rider / pillion rider if any) 
  • Two photocopies of Photo ID Proof (Voters ID or Passport) including of co-rider. Note that Aadhar Card, PAN card, driving license etc are not accepted as proof of citizenship. 
  • Two photocopies of Driving License 
  • Two photocopies of bike's Pollution Control Certificate 
  • Two photocopies of bike's Insurance Certificate 
  • Two photocopies of Bike's Registration Certificate 
  • If it is a hired or borrowed bike, you need to produce affidavit of authorization from rental company or the owner respectively and certified by the RTO (Regional Transport Office) of the state where the bike is registered. If you are renting a bike from a company in Gangtok or Darjeeling, the company will take care of this. Otherwise you need to ensure that it is on a proper court stamp paper and notarized in addition to the certification by RTO. 
  •  
     
     
    Note: 
  • Carry all the originals as they may be checked anytime, even while on the journey. 
  • If you have a co-rider (i.e. pillion rider), only one application is required while you need to submit details and documents of the co-rider as mentioned above. 
  • In the application form you can mention your intended places of visit. For example for North Sikkim mention North: Yumthang Valley, Zero Point, Gurudongmar Lake. 
  • You need to also mention the number of days for which the permit is required (Note that you must leave the protected area within the permitted number of days). 
  • The permit form costs only Rs. 10/- and there is no other permit charge for North Sikkim. However for East Sikkim, there is a permit charge of Rs. 200/-. 
  •  
    Having submitted you application along with necessary documents, you need to go back to the same counter next day to collect the Initial Permit which is a yellow piece of paper.Your job is now half done because you still need to get the final permit. 
     
    For getting the final permit, visit the Office of ADGP (Additional Director General of Police), Check Post Branch, Gangtok which is also located in the Sikkim Public Commission Service premises and next to the Tourism Permit Office. There are designated counters here for East and North Sikkim. The counters open at 4pm in the afternoon. 
     
    So visit the Police Check Post office counter and submit the yellow permit (i.e. the initial permit) at the appropriate counter. Don't be surprised to see numerous travel agents trying to do the same for their clients... and they do not usually follow the discipline of maintaining a proper queue. So reach there early to give yourself a descent chance of getting through this step as quickly as possible. But the chaotic situation there would certainly make you think if you should have engaged an agent instead. 
     
    The final permit is issued by the Police depending on the day's road condition, weather, security activities in the protected areas etc. Here they will issue a single copy of the police permit (a white piece of paper) which is the main document you will require along the way. The officer at the counter calls out names and issues the final police permit. 
     
    As soon as you get yours, just go down to the opposite side of the road and make 7-10 photocopies. You will need to submit a photocopy at every check post you pass by along the way. 
     
    Once this is done, you are all set to go :) 
     
    Using a Tour Operator / Agent 
    This is the easiest way to get all your permits without you having to be involved in the entire process. All you need to do is pay for a mediation fee which is usually in the range of Rs. 200 - 300 for a biking permit to either North or East Sikkim. You can however apply for both North and East Sikkim, which would attract higher fees. 
     
    You need to of course send all your documents (as listed in the earlier section) to the agent in advance in order to get the permits done. Usually only the photocopies and passport size photos are enough to get this done while you personally carry all the originals for verification, if required. Most agents only ask for photos of your documents to be sent over whatsapp and that is enough for them to get the permits done. 
     
    This can save you time and the operator can keep the permits ready before your arrival at Sikkim so that you are ready to go without wasting a full day. Since the permits are first checked at Police Check Post at Singhik (about 2 hours 40 minutes from Gangtok), you can also ask the operator to deliver you the permits at Mangan which is located just before Singhik. 
     
     
     
    Bike Rentals for Sikkim &áDarjeeling Tours 
    If you do not want to take the hassle of taking your own bike all the way to Gangtok from your city of residence and then tour Sikkim, instead rent a bike on reaching Bagdogra/NJP/or Gangtok, that can be worked out quite easily. In fact this can be a much easier option because the bike renting company will ensure all bike related papers including insurance, authorization etc for permit are in place. 
     
    Cost of renting a bike would include a security deposit (of about Rs. 10,000 which is refunded if there is no damage when returning the bike), a daily rental charge (of about Rs. 1500 per day), and a one-time insurance fee (of about Rs. 300 which is non-refundable). You will need to pay for the fuel used. 
     
    Here are some of the well known Bike Rental companies who offer bikes on rent for touring Sikkim: 
     
    BB Line Tours and Travels 
    They are centrally located in Gangtok and started bike rentals in October 2016. They offer Royal Enfields (500cc) and can take care of permit process and entry requirements. 
     
    Yama House, M.G. Marg, Gangtok, Sikkim-737101 
    Email: [email protected]; áPhone: 03592-206110 
    Mobile: 9800411100 / 8170015109 
     
    Adventure Unlimited 
    Gautam Shrestha runs this popular adventure company based in Darjeeling (they have offices in Siliguri and Sikkim as well). They are in operation since several years and have earned a good name for themselves in adventure tourism in north-east India. Other than offering Royal Enfield bikes on rent, they also offer organized biking tours in Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal etc. They can also get their bikes delivered in Siliguri or Gangtok. They have their own tie-ups in Gangtok to handle permits. 
     
    Darjeeling Office: 
    Hotel Norling Complex, 142/1 Zakhir Hussian Road, Darjeeling - 734101  
    Mobile: +91-9933070013; Email: [email protected] 
     
     
     
    Self-Driven car rentals for Sikkim &áDarjeeling tours 
    Although self-driving in Sikkim is limited to unprotected areas, there is a lot you can explore as you drive in Sikkim such as Gangtok, the whole of south Sikkim including Namchi, Ravangla, Jorethang and a lot of west Sikkim including Pelling, Temi, Kaluk and more. And almost the whole of Darjeeling can be explored in self-driven car in case you want to combine your Sikkim visit with Darjeeling. 
     
    Indians need valid driving license while foreigners require Inner Line Permit (for visiting Sikkim) as well as international driving permit. Here are some well known companies offering self driven car rentals to explore Sikkim &áDarjeeling: 
     
    Adventure Unlimited 
    The company is well known in the hills and operates out of Darjeeling but also has offices in Siliguri and Sikkim. They offer several makes of cars for self-drive including lessons for hill driving. Car models include Suzuki Gypsy, áSuzuki Eeco, Ford Eeco Sport, Mahindra Thar etc. 
     
    Darjeeling Office: 
    Hotel Norling Complex, 142/1 Zakhir Hussian Road, Darjeeling - 734101  
    Mobile: +91-9933070013; Email: [email protected] 
     
    Zoomcar 
    This is a well known country-wide chain of outlets that offers self driven car on rent. They have an outlet at Siliguri (on Sevoke road, about 8kms from NJP Station, 17kms from Bagdogra airport). They offer various makes of cars at hourly rate including fuel. So if you use more fuel than provided, keep the bills and they will reimburse you when returning the car. 
     
    You can book a self-driven rental car online from their website www.zoomcar.com/siliguri. 
     
    Siliguri Office (Pickup Point): 
    Zoomcar, Ward 41, Don Bosco Colony, Siliguri, West Bengal 734004 
     
     
     
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    Visitors' Reviews/Comments 
     
    Arijit Baidya (May 2019) 
    Sir, we 2 friends are planning for a bike trip to silk route. We will rent bikes from siliguri. Our itinerary is... Siliguri to Sillery Gaon (night stay at Sillery Gaon), day2 Sillery Gaon to Zuluk via Rangpo (night stay at Zuluk), day3 Zuluk to Kupup lake sightseeing (stay at Nathang), day4 Nathang to Rishikhola via Nathula (night stay at Rishi Khola). Day5 back to Siliguri. My questions are: 1) Is this trip is possible? 2) If it's possible from where should we take all the permits? Please help us regarding these queries. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) May 2019 
    It is possible. You should go through a proper agency in Gangtok to get your permits done in advance and deliver them to you in Siliguri. It won't be possible to get all the permits on the go, so better get them done in advance. You can also contact a travel agency in Siliguri to help with the matter. You need to keep all documents (self plus bike) ready for the permits. 
     
    Arindrajit Debsarma (April 2019) 
    I am planning to take a zoom car for a trip from Siliguri to Pelling for 3 days. is that possible (Allowed)? 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) April 2019 
    Yes, you can do that. 
     
    Kiran (April 2019) 
    Hi Raj, I have seen many of your reviews and suggestions regarding sikkim tour and found them very useful. I was travelling to sikkim in May for 5 days with my parents. However I found it very confusing with permitted areas visit, it looks like we have to travel through registered travel agency. Now I am really confused whether to book a self drive car(my initial plan) or go for a travel ageny(I recently contacted one and he was quoting around 38k for 5 day tour excluding hotels).. Please guide me further on further steps. My initial plan on places to visit are: Tsongo lake, Nathula pass, Thangu, Thangu Valley, Gurudongmar Lake, Tso Lhamo Lake, Lhonak, Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary, Zero point. Please suggest. Thank you in advance. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) April 2019 
    Hi, you can not take self driven car to the protected areas you mentioned in your post. You should go through a registered tour operator. 
     
    Shiva Rangan (April 2019) 
    Hello Sir, I am visiting Sikkim with my wife on my own SUV. I want to visit North Sikkim and Tsomgo Lake/NathuLa too on my own. Is it allowed to drive on my own car to these areas? If yes, how and where can I apply for permits for PAP? Thanks in advance for your help. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) April 2019 
    You can not usually take self driven cars to protected areas of Sikkim including Tsomgo/Nathula and North Sikkim. You need to go through a registered tour operator, get permits and use their vehicle. 
     
    Roy (March 2019) 
    Dear Raj, Many thanks for sharing all the valuable information. It was very helpful. Now I'm planning to visit North Sikkim this May, and I was wondering if it's possible to get the permits (PAP) from Kolkata. Also I'm planning on bringing a self drive rental, do you know if that is permitted at North Sikkim (Lachen, Lachung)? Thanks in advance. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) March 2019 
    You can not get Protected Area Permits anywhere other than in Sikkim. No you can not self drive your own car in protected areas like Lachung, Lachen (Motorbike is an exception). 
     
    Jay (March 2019) 
    Hi Raj. Thank you so much for all ththe detail you put into this website. It is extremely helpful. I am just checking on the permits for motorbikes to north Sikkim. We are 2 x Australians, travelling on our own bikes (from Australia) and would like to go to North Sikkim, around Yamthung Valley. Would we be able to get a permit? Or is it for Indian locals only with Indian registered motorbikes? And if it is possible, is there anything else we would require? Like a guide? Or would we be ok to go up on our own. Thanks. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) March 2019 
    Hi, it is unlikely that you will be allowed to take your own bikes (registered overseas) to Yumthang because all foreign nationals are required to go through a registered operator for permits and tours to protected areas and accompanied by a guide. 
     
    Vijay Dhadphale (October 2018) 
    Hey, thank you for detailed article. We (group of 6 friends) are planning to go to North Sikkim. We would like to explore Lachen, Lachung,Gurdogmar lake &ázero point. We will be taking a flight to Bagdogra and then will reach Gangtok. The next day, we will be hiring Royal Enfield Himalayan from Gangtok. My questions are: A. Do we still need to register for Permit with authorized travel agent? B. How many days do we need to cover above? C. Is the the month of May would be good for Bike Ride? Many Thanks Mate :) 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) October 2018 
    Hi, you can get the permits on your own, but it is better to get it done through an authorized travel agent... the process would be much smoother (Sikkim Government encourages that). You need one night stay each at Lachen and Lachung. Month of May is an excellent time to go. 
     
    Manu Prakash (October 2018) 
    Hi Raj, Please let me know whether bike renting agencies will allow me to hire a bike in Gangtok and drop it in Darjeeling or Siliguri. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) October 2018 
    Hi, yes an agency can allow you to do that if they have offices at both places, otherwise not. For example, Adventures Unlimited has offices at Gangtok, Darjeeling and Siliguri, so they can agree. 
     
    Arun (September 2018) 
    Can we take self-driving car like (zoom car) for local sightseeing in Gangtok and drive to through silk route. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) September 2018 
    You can take self driven rental cars for local sightseeing in Gangtok and Darjeeling, however you can not go to any protected areas of Sikkim including Silk Route / Zuluk. 
     
    Rahul Khanna (September 2018) 
    I have planned to visit Gangtok in October last week 2018. Wanted to know that is it possible to visit Zero point by Bike. I have booked bike for myself from Sikkim Bike rental shop. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) September 2018 
    Yes possible with necessary permits. 
     
    Ankit Paliwal (April 2018) 
    Hi Raj, Thank you so much for such informative website. I am planning to visit Sikkim with a self-drive car like zoomcar. My journey includes, Siliguri- Pelling- Gangtok- Darjeeling- Siliguri. I have a little hill area driving experience (Rishikesh-Joshimath, Uttrakhand). I would like to know about road conditions, specially if they are double lane or single. Also does self drive car from Siliguri allowed in Sikkim? I will be hiring local taxi for day tours at Pelling and Gangtok. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) April 2018 
    Hi, it's a single lane road all through and quite narrow at some places. Road condition between Siliguri to Pelling beyond Melli is not good at several stretches. You can self drive at the places you mentioned. 
     
    Lloyd (March 2018) 
    Hello, First of all let me thank you for the wonderful information regarding Darjeeling and sikkim you have mentioned in your website. Me and my Family are planning to visit Darjeeling, pelling and Gantok in next month event thow you have mentioned about the self driving restrictions i would like to confirm about using a zoom car for this trip in which the pik up will be from Siliguri. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) March 2018 
    Hi, you can visit Darjeeling, Gangtok and Pelling on a self driven rented vehicle. 
     
    Rahul Garg (March 2018) 
    Hi Raj... first of all terrific website. Thanks. We are driving down to Darjeeling in a self driven hired car, do you think it will be a problem with your recent update of only WB76 taxi numbers being allowed to do local sightseeing tours. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) March 2018 
    Hi, it should not have a number plate similar to that of a commercial passenger taxi (i.e. yellow plate with numbers in black). Otherwise ok (for example self driven Zoomcar is okay which usually has black plate with numbers in yellow). 
     
    Rahul Garg (March 2018) 
    Thanks Raj, also a follow up question, I am booked into the Central Heritage Resort, I unfortunately did not check on the hotel parking which they do not seem to have. What are the alternates for parking a car in Darjeeling, near to the hotel. Thanks. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) March 2018 
    Hi, public parking is a problem in Darjeeling town. You should ideally take help from your hotel to get parking (talk to them in advance). Central Heritage is on Robertson road. Further ahead at a short distance, beyond the small hotel Alice Villa and near Southfield College (formerly Loreto College), there is some public parking. However it may remain full particularly in high season. 
     
    Vinod (March 2018) 
    Hello Raj, thank you for the wealth of information you have posted on your blog. It helped me so much in planning my trip with family. We prefer self-drive for our tours and did our entire 7 day Himachal tour driving a Ford Ecosport from Zoom. My question is this - can I do the same without any local taxi issues if I drive from Siliguri (both Zoom and Adventure unlimited have rental options) to Darjeeling- Namchi- Pelling- Yuksom- Ravangla- Gangtok (hire taxi for Nathula) - Kalimpong- Siliguri. I have just started my research and will be using all the links on your blog one by one for stay and other info. Thank you again. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) March 2018 
    Hi, you can take self-driven rental vehicle to the places you mentioned. Just ensure that your car doesn't have yellow number plate (as in passenger taxis). 
     
    Vinod (March 2018) 
    Dear Raj, thank you once again for the wealth of information here. This month end I plan to drive from Darjeeling to Yuksom and wanted to break the journey by halting at either Jorethang or Kaluk. Kaluk-Dentam looks like a nice route. Would I be able to drive a 2wd Scorpio in this route comfortably? Any pointers on the time required to reach Kaluk from Darjeeling would be helpful. áThank you so much. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) March 2018 
    Hi, 2WD Scorpio would be okay for this route. Darjeeling to Jorethang (via Tukvar tea garden) is quite bad in patches although this is the shortest route. The route between Jorethang and Kaluk too is not in a good condition, but you can manage with a Scorpio. From Darjeeling, Jorethang takes about 1 hour 50 minutes via Tukvar/Jamuni. Kaluk is further 1 hour 20 minutes under normal road conditions. 
     
    Sudip Majhi (March 2018) 
    I am going to visit Gangtok with my bike for some work. Can I visit Tashi View Point and Bakthang Waterfall Gangtok without permission? Thank you. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) March 2018 
    Yes you can visit. No permission is required for bikes to visit those places. 
     
    Ashad Zaman (February 2018) 
    I was in dreadful tension about my tour in Sikkim, as I'll be on my bike and thinking about the permits. But how you described everything is just beyond thankable.... it relieved all the stress now.... even I haven't found such well details in Sikkim tourism web... Thank you again for making it easy. 
     
    Bhanu Pratap (December 2017) 
    Can I self-drive my car to Lachung and Lachen ? Because I'm planing my tour to north Sikkim till lachung and lachen only on December last. And if the permit is needed can I get those in police check post. Please reply ! 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) December 2017 
    Self driven cars are not allowed in such protected areas. All areas beyond Singhik are protected areas including Lachung and Lachen. 
     
    Shubham Mukherjee (December 2017) 
    Hello Raj. We are a group of 5 people planning to visit tsomgu lake (not Nathula) on zoomcar(self-drive). áAs I have heard that you need to go through a travel agency only. Is it possible to do this trip on zoomcar? Anticipating for your reply. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) December 2017 
    Hi, no you can not take a self driven car to any protected area including Tsomgo lake. 
     
    Monish K Lal (November 2017) 
    Hi Raj, Your detailed efforts have made my life easy in planning the trip to Sikkim. I have a query with regards to renting a bike like Royal Enfield with Sikkim registered bike. I need your suggestion whether its advisable to ride from Gangtok - Tsomogo Lake and Nathula. Will there be any issue in átaking the Sikkim registered rental bikes. Thanks. 
     
    Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) November 2017 
    Hi, there is no issue as such. You need to get a special permit (known as Protected Area Permit) from the Home Department at Gangtok ... so carry all necessary documents. It's better to get it done through the bike rental agency. Once you send them the documents (by email or whatsapp), they can get it done in advance and you don't need to waste a day in Gangtok for the permit. 
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
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