Self Driving Motorbikes & Cars In Sikkim


Why Self-drive in Sikkim?

So you want 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 self-drive a motorbike 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 operator's cost. 

Unprotected Areas of Sikkim

There are several areas in Sikkim that have no restrictions for self drive - either for 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 unprotected 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 etc 
  • South Sikkim including Jorethang, Namchi, Ravangla, Rabong, Borong, Sikip 

    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 in Protected Areas

    Tourists are encouraged to visit the protected 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 necessary Protected Area Permits as part of their tour packages. 
    Self-driven private cars in protected areas 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 for the operators out of all destinations in Sikkim). Second and more importantly, self driving can be very risky on those routes particularly when it snows.  
    Having said that, it is possible to self-drive in protected areas of Sikkim. Permits are issued by the officers on a case to case basis. There are several stringent requirements... the vehicle must be registered on your own name (your RC/Smart Card should reflect that) and it should be an SUV or 4WD vehicle. 
    For North Sikkim, you can usually get your permit faster at Mangan (District Administrative Centre) instead of at Gangtok (Tourism Permit Office located near MG Marg at the Sikkim Public Service Commission building). You must have enough time in your hand (a full day or two), go down to the office, and then go through the documentation process. 
    You will of course need to carry passport size photographs for all individuals, valid Photo ID proofs (like Passport or Voter's ID card), vehicle registration (smart card), Driving License, etc. You can also engage an authorized operator of Sikkim to handle the permit process at an additional cost. 
    If you want to approach the Zuluk route through Rongli (instead of from Gangtok), you can get your permits at Rongli Bazaar check post. If you plan to exit via Gangtok, you can also get your permits for Tsomgo lake and Baba Mandir, but not for Nathula Pass. 
    Note that, for Lachen/Gurudongmar, permits will be not given unless your vehicle has high ground clearance. Cars with low ground clearance can not negotiate the road. Similarly, while approaching Zuluk (Silk Route) through Rongli, while you can self drive the entire circuit covering Zuluk, Nathang Valley, Kupup, Tsomgo Lake and exit via Gangtok, but unless you have a vehicle with enough ground clearance, permit will be issued only up to Longthu or Nathang Valley and not for the entire route. 
    Self-driven cars are not allowed to visit Nathula (you can however drive to Tsomgo Lake and Baba Mandir). Self-driven vehicles are also not allowed at Tso Lhamo lake, you can take your car up to Gurudongmar Lake. Besides these two places, you can apply for permits for the other protected areas in North and East Sikkim. You will need some army connections if you want to visit Nathula and Tso Lhamo in your own car. 

    Self-driving a Motorbike in Protected Areas

    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. 
    Foreign nationals are strictly not allowed in few specific protected 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 of Sikkim

    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 (this option would work for both Indians and foreigners). 
    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 but 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 the 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 &áGurudongmar lake from Gangtok (keep an additional day, it does not incur 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. 
  • 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 must 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 your 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 :) 
    For North Sikkim Permits, you can optionally go down to Mangan which is the District Head Quarters of North Sikkim (about 2 hours 45 minutes drive from Gangtok and on the way to Lachung or Lachen). Visit the District Administrative Centre to get your permits (try to reach early). There is usually much less rush here for the permits. There are good chances that you will get your permits on the same day and proceed further. 
    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 3 hours 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, and instead want to rent a bike on reaching Bagdogra/NJP/or Gangtok, that can be done quite easily. In fact, this can be a much easier option because the bike renting company will ensure that 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

    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 to rent cars. 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, Suzuki 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] 
    This is a well known country-wide chain of outlets that offers self driven cars on rent. They have an outlet at Siliguri (on Sevoke road, about 8kms from NJP Station, 17kms from Bagdogra airport). If you are landing at Bagdogra, there is also a pick up service. You give them a call after landing and wait near the Central Bank ATM outside the airport building. 
    A car with a driver will come and pick you up in 15 minutes and take you to Zoomcar site nearby (2.5 kilometers from the airport). You need to complete a few formalities and then you can drive your car out. You need to follow the same process on your return (i.e. bring the car back to the Zoomcar site and they will drop you at the airport). 
    Zoomcar offers various makes and types of vehicles at hourly rate including or excluding fuel. For both options, depending on number of days (or hours) you book the car, there is a maximum limit to the total distance (in kilometers) which is included in the rental rate beyond which an additional per kilometer charge will also apply. If you go for 'inclusive of fuel' option and use more fuel than provided, keep the bills and they will reimburse you when returning the car. 
    You can book a rental Zoomcar online from this Zoomcar Siliguri Site 
    Siliguri Office (Pickup Point): 
    Zoomcar, Ward 41, Don Bosco Colony, Siliguri, West Bengal 734004 

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    Visitors' Reviews/Comments

    Sageev (April 2024) 
    Hi, we are group of 5 planning to visit Sikkim in last week of April. we are planning to hire Zoomcar from Bagdogra. I have a couple of doubts here. 
    1. If Zoomcar provides Yellow in black number plate [which is ideal for self drive rental car] if it is allowed in Protected areas in North Sikkim like Lachen, Lachung, Yumthang, Zero point etc. Which is the best way to travel there for group of 5 in case not allowed as I am planning to book accommodation on my own. Also I usually explore on my own to enjoy their culture, food, etc. 
    2. Whether road to Lachen and Gurudongmar lake is open right now. I saw in couple of articles it was closed. Can you give us any update if is open 
    Thanks in Advance 
    Raj ( April 2024 
    Hi, self-drive rental cars are not allowed in any protected areas of Sikkim. Since you are not using your own self-drive car, the only other option is to go through a tour operator in Sikkim. If you have decided on specific accommodations in a protected area like in Lachung, you can work that out with the operator. 
    Lachen-Gurudongmar Road is closed at present, and it's unlikely to reopen in April. 
    Jigar (March 2024) 
    Hi, We have booked self drive Zoom car (WB passing - white number plate) from Bagdogara Airport for our Sikkim Trip - last week of April 2024. 
    Can you please help in understanding what all the permits needed to take Zoomcar to protected areas like North Sikkim (Lachung, Lachen) and East Sikkim (Changgu lake, Nathula Pass). I assume, Gangtok local sight seeing and West Sikkim (Pelling) shouldn't be an issue. Thanks. 
    Raj ( March 2024 
    Hi, self-drive rental cars are prohibited in all protected areas of Sikkim. Zoomcar or for that matter any self-drive rental car company should only use black number plates with yellow engravings which indicates a commercially rented self-drive vehicle. 
    If you are getting a vehicle with a white numberplate, it likely means that the vehicle belongs to a different private owner and Zoomcar is using it in their business without bothering about what the law demands (I have heard about several such cases earlier). You being party to it, could be held equally responsible. 
    Kishor Rautela (April 2023) 
    Thank you for the details Sir. For North Sikkim you have mentioned that we can take the permit from Mangan as well because it's less crowded, do we have any such option for East Sikkim as well ? as agent is asking 3000 Rs just for 6 Days permit. Another doubt is... can I take permit for bike which is registered on my Mother's Name ? I can carry all my mother's documents as well, if required. Please answer. 
    Raj ( April 2023 
    Hello, For protected areas in East Sikkim, you can get the permit yourself in Gangtok... you can go through the 'Do It Yourself' section. 
    In order to drive a bike which is registered in someone else's name, you need to get an affidavit from the official owner stating no objection and all details of the bike... it has to be done on a court stamp paper, then certified by RTO where the bike is registered, and then notarized by a notary. 
    Thejasvi Voniadka (January 2023) 
    Hi Raj, I got mixed opinions about taking zoomcars to Sikkim. I understand we are not allowed to take rental cars to protected zones - North and East Sikkim. We won't be doing that. However, I also saw some reviews that say you cannot roam around or go sightseeing in rental cars even in unprotected areas. Is that true? In other words, can I freely travel across all unprotected areas of Sikkim in Zoomcar? I have Pelling, Yuksom, Namche, and Gangtok in mind. 
    Raj ( January 2023 
    Hi, In principle, there is no issue in self-driving a Zoomcar in the unrestricted areas of Sikkim. However, it is possible that sometimes the local taxi unions may interfere, although the police or any government authorities won't likely cause any hurdles. Although such incidents are not common, one can potentially land into such a situation when the taxi union thinks that you are driving a usual commercial taxi with a yellow number plate which is registered outside the state. Such outside commercial taxis are not allowed for local sightseeing in most parts of Sikkim at present. 
    A proper self-drive commercial car like a Zoomcar should have a black number plate with yellow letters on it and not the reverse like that of a commercial taxi. However, Zoomcar has introduced the 'Host by Zoomcar' scheme through which they have now started pooling cars from even private and other commercial operators. As a result, you may get a private car (with a white number plate) or a commercial vehicle (with a yellow number plate) with black letters on it... and when you get one with a yellow number plate like that of a regular taxi and it has 'WB' on it to show it's taken from West Bengal, it can potentially trigger confusion among the taxi unions... you will then need to reason it out with them... some of them may not have even heard of Zoomcar. 
    Is there a possibility that you may be stopped even if you are driving a Zoomcar with a proper black number plate? Likely not. But, depending on the place, some taxi unions may be more sensitive and can ask questions. 
    So, is there a way to ensure that you get a Zoomcar with a black number plate? Unfortunately not, because the entire booking process is online through their app. You can try to call up Zoomcar and see what they say. 
    Animesh Barman (December 2022) 
    Hi, thanks for previous info, I've enjoyed the Pelling tour. Now I want to travel upto Aritar lake via Rangpo. Do I need permission for self driven own car WB registration. Up to which place towards Zuluk, I can travel with my own car without any permission or easy permission. 
    Raj ( December 2022 
    When you approach Zuluk, you will need special permits for your self-driven own car and the riders beyond Rongli Bazaar, and these permits are issued solely at the discretion of the authorities. From Rangpo, take the route through Rorathang, Rhenock up to Rongli Petrol Pump, and then divert to Aritar, Rreshikhola, Pedong, Algarah and then Kalimpong completing an entire circuit... you won't need any permits. 
    Harshit Dixit (September 2022) 
    Hi. Thank you for this information. Quite helpful. We are 2 people planning to travel to north Sikkim for 5 days in our own car. We contacted multiple travel agents but no-one is ready to help us for permits. Can we get permit on our own from Gangtok or Mangan? We are 3 days in Gangtok - Sunday, Monday [Diwali] and Tuesday. Would the permit offices be closed on Sunday and Diwali? Should we get permit from Gangtok or Mangan? 
    Raj ( September 2022 
    Hi, permits for self-driven cars to North Sikkim are issued at the discretion of the officers and are not quite common. You stand a better chance in Mangan. However, the Mangan permit office is usually closed on all public holidays. In Gangtok, the permit office remains open on all 7 days, but on Sundays and holidays it usually operates on reduced hours (7 am to 10 am). 
    Dhiraj Jaiswal (May 2022) 
    Thank You Raj Sir for all the information you have given in the website. I would like to know can we take our private bolero to visit Pelling, Ravangla, Namchi and Gangtok (in and around). Do I need to take any permit or pass for vehicle or person? 
    Raj ( May 2022 
    Hello, yes you can take your own vehicle and there is no permit required for the places you mentioned if all in your group are Indian nationals. Carry photo IDs. 
    Rahul Mukherjee (April 2022) 
    Hi Raj- Thanks for outlinning everything in detail. I am planning to drive my SUV from Gangtok to Lachen and stay there for 2 nights. Next morning after arrival i plan to drive to zero point and on the way back spend time at Yumthang valley and then go to Katao and finally return to Lachen hotel. Is this a feasible plan? What time should I start and is it ok to visit Katao in the afternoon- any issues you foresee? 
    Raj ( April 2022 
    Hi, do you mean Lachen or Lachung? If it is Lachung, then the drive plan from Lachung is doable but you should start quite early. 
    Saurab Chatterjee (March 2022) 
    Hi Raj, very useful article and well explained - Thanks! I am planning a bike trip to North Sikkim and shall pick up my permits from Mangan. Would you kindly list the check-posts I would require to submit the Permit copies? I am concerned that if I miss any, the next check-post would block me from going further. 
    Raj ( March 2022 
    Hi, the check posts will depend on the route you take (Lachung/Lachen etc). Don't worry, you won't miss any check post, nobody does... you will see several other bikers and vehicles at the check posts, or otherwise, the police/army men would stop you anyway. 
    Sonam (February 2022) 
    Hello, I would like to know if there is any possibility to drive a Sikkimese car in Sikkim by a foreigner? if yes what are the procedures? Because I'll be spending more than 2 months of stay. 
    Raj ( February 2022 
    Hi, as a foreign national, you can rent a Sikkim registered car in Sikkim if available and drive it, the problem is there may not be such a self-drive rental available in Sikkim. You can surely rent a bike there. You can also rent a Zoomcar but they are in Siliguri and will provide West Bengal Registered cars. 
    Prabul Chandran (December 2021) 
    Hi there! Good info on your site. And more than that, your answers to the questions to other readers are gold mine of info. I am riding my motorcycle from Darjeeling to Pelling. I see a small bridge just west of Jorethang, simply called "Bengal Sikkim Border Bridge". I dont want to ride all the way to Melli for the entry to Sikkim. Is there any restrictions for Indian motorcycle rider to enter through this Bengal Sikkim Border Bridge? Thanks! 
    Raj ( December 2021 
    Hi, the bridge you are referring to is a suspension bridge over Rangbhang river which connects Darjeeling hills with South Sikkim. There is no restriction as such for Indian riders... carry your photo ID, which may be checked at the check post before the entry to the bridge (known as Rammam Check Post). This route from Darjeeling through Tukvar tea gardens, Jamuni and several other villages up to the bridge is quite scenic but is in a pretty bad condition at several sections, but should be doable on a bike. 
    Animesh (December 2021) 
    Can I travel with self driven own car with WB registration. I want to plan for tour Jalpaiguri- Namchi- Ravangla- Pelling- Yuksom- Pelling- Jorthang- Jalpaiguri. Do I need any permission for own car, if yes, how I can get the permission. Family have 2 adult, 1 child. 
    Raj ( December 2021 
    There is no separate permit required for a self driven car for the route you mentioned. 
    Rajvinder Singh (March 2021) 
    Hello Sir, I went through your thread where you have mentioned that Permits for self owned vehicles are very difficult and can be tried at Mangan. Is this possible at New Delhi office or Sikkim House? Alternatively, Can you refer somebody who specializes in getting such permits? Can pay him extra if that helps. With regards. 
    Raj ( March 2021 
    Hello, the permits to protected areas of Sikkim are issued/endorsed by Indian Army check posts in Sikkim... unlikely that you will get it at Delhi Sikkim House... you can call them up and check. Your only other option is to try and do it yourself at Mangan... you won't likely get any agency help on such a matter.... all agencies get permits to conduct tours on their own transports. 
    Abhijit Sinha (January 2021) 
    Hello Raj, Your posts are very informative. áPlease provide below additional info for my planned trip in Feb 2021. I plan to drive into Darjeeling or Gangtok - 3 adults and 2 kids (5+ and 10+ age). Haven't finalized in which order, please suggest. Total duration of stay expected to be about a week. 
    I plan to drive a sedan with JH number and then use a local tour operator for local travel. áDo I need any special permits? I read something about stay being allowed only at Govt. approved hotels. How do I get info about such hotels. Thanks. 
    Raj ( January 2021 
    Hi, you can visit the places in any order... doesn't really matter when you have your own car. You won't need any special permits in Sikkim unless you visit protected areas such as Tsomgo/Nathula, North Sikkim etc. 
    I suggest you go through the following link in details and understand the current guidelines/restrictions in Sikkim (Darjeeling is relatively restriction-free other than having to wear masks and keeping social distancing): New Sikkim guidelines for tourists
    Ankita (November 2020) 
    Hello sir, I have came across many blogs and information but you have hit the nail. It's beautiful narration with all required information and details. I have some doubts regarding our travel plan. 
    We are planning to visit Darjeeling and Gangtok during Diwali holidays i.e. 13th November 2020 to 17th november by our own hatchback car. We have a Covid situation at our hand to tackle along with kids aged 6, 3 and 21 months old toddler. Could you please suggest if its good to visit Tsmong lake, Nathula, Lachen, Lachung. Should we skip Lachen, Lachung? We have planned 1 N Darjeeling áand 2 N Gangtok. Can we visit Darjeeling and Gangtok by our own vehicle or public transports and hired vehicles are recommended.? 
    Up to which point is it safe with kids? Mandatory things to be carried out due to recent situation (Covid tests or pre Hotel bookings and registering them to government). Where to get Permits. Please do reply. Thank you in advance for help. 
    Raj ( November 2020 
    Hello, Children below 5 are not allowed (and permits not issued) in high altitude places in Sikkim such as Lachen/Lachung and even Tsomgo lake/Nathula. You should avoid those places with your small kids. You can self-drive to Darjeeling. However 1N in Darjeeling and 2N in Gangtok are too less time to justify the visit... in any case you won't have time to visit North Sikkim in such a short time. 
    Sikkim is presently asking tourists to stay in health &ásafety compliant hotels (as certified by Sikkim Government) and use the services of only compliant tour operators. And all should have Sikkim Travel Cards. Know about getting Sikkim permits here
    Shubham Kirange (November 2020) 
    Hi, Greetings! I am planning a trip to Sikkim in December, Could you please let me know if we can take hired Zoomcar from Siliguri to North Sikkim (till Lachung). Thanks for your help. 
    Raj ( November 2020 
    Hi, no you can not take a Zoomcar to any protected area in Sikkim including Lachung. 
    Pallavi (August 2020) 
    Hi Raj.. really a very informative blog I have found in comparison to all others. It can help travellers a lot and making their trip a lot easier. I have my own 4wd SUV (private Odisha number plate) which I would like to use for entire Darjeeling-Gangtok-North &áEast Sikkim trip with a group of 4-5 members. This includes all the places you have highlighted-both non-protected and protected areas. 
    Please note that the question is just general and considering all conditions are just normal and post pandemic Covid-19. I am asking this question on behalf of my husband who is an excellent knowledge of driving and is a pro. With him, we have successfully completed our trip to Leh-Ladakh and all places like Khardung-La, Nubra valley,Rohtang pass etc. 
    Raj ( August 2020 
    Hi Pallavi, Your question is quite broad. Both Darjeeling (the district) and Sikkim have numerous destinations... I suggest you go through the relevant sections of my website to get a good understanding of the places first before you make a tour plan. 
    In Sikkim, there are restrictions in self-driving a vehicle in protected areas... permits may not be always issued to tourists for several such places. Similarly, self-driving to Sandakphu (of Darjeeling district) may not be allowed by the Land Rover Association in Manebhanjan. It depends on their discretion and in most cases, permissions are refused. 
    I also suggest you go through Sikkim Permits to understand the permit process in Sikkim. 
    Note that roads in many parts of Sikkim (as you go into the interiors) are in bad conditions. You should keep adequate spares, should there be any breakdown. Other than in the main townships, there is practically no automotive repair service available in Darjeeling and Sikkim, neither any support system. So your group should be skilled to handle such issues. 
    Partha Sarathi Paul (February 2020) 
    Hi Raj, could you please tell me that is it possible to visit the sacred place (Gurudongmar lake) on my bike. We are planning a trip to the Gurudongmar lake in May this year on our bikes. With all the research I didn't find anybody visited that place on motor bike and thus before further planning we need some useful guidance. 
    Raj ( February 2020 
    Hi, it is possible to visit Gurudongmar lake on your bike. You can get the permits (both for yourself and the bike) at Mangan. Carry all the required papers, photo ID proofs and photos. Plan to stay overnight at Mangan because the permit process might take a while. Also refill the tank at Mangan because you won't get any petrol pump ahead. Carry 10-litres of extra fuel for each bike. The road conditions are quite bad for most parts... so avoid pillion riding. 
    Prathamesh Wakade (December 2019) 
    Hi Raj, Thanks a lot for the detailed information covering all the aspects of tourism. I want to ask if self driven Zoomcar hired from Bagdogra will be allowed in Gangtok town or not considering the restrictions for WB vehicles? In one of the forums on internet, I saw they are allowed but appreciate if you can confirm this. 
    Raj ( December 2019 
    Hi, self-driven rental cars like Zoomcars are allowed in non-protected areas of Sikkim including Gangtok. 
    Pathak (November 2019) 
    Hello, A very informative page and also it's nice to see you respond to comments. I'm planning to travel in this December from Bagdogra to Darjeeling to Pelling to Gangtok and then back to Bagdogra. My intention was to book a zoom car from Siliguri and move about in the non-protected areas of Sikkim by the self driven zoom car. Is that acceptable or even that is not permitted by Sikkim Govt? Thanks in advance. 
    Raj ( November 2019 
    Hi, you can use self driven Zoomcar in Darjeeling and non-protected areas of Sikkim. Make sure that your hotels have parking areas because public parking in Darjeeling and Gangtok as well as in main town of Pelling would be quite difficult to get. Use the main routes between places... road conditions of the shorter or inner routes of Sikkim are horrendous and you may have a very difficult time to negotiate. From Rabangla to Gangtok the route goes via Yangyang and then Singtam.... some stretches of the road can make you regret your decision to self drive. 
    Raviteja (November 2019) 
    Dear Raj, Firstly thank you for all the great posts and guidance. We are a group of 14 people, frequently self driving around the Himalayan region. We are very keen on self driving in the east and north Sikkim. I understand that the chances are bleak, but would really like to understand if there is any chance of hiring self drive cars in Sikkim. 
    Raj ( November 2019 
    Hello, you can rent Zoomcars (at Bagdogra airport or Siliguri) and self drive to unprotected areas of East Sikkim such as Gangtok but not in protected areas such as Tsomgo/Nathula. In North Sikkim you can go up to Mangan or at the most Singhik but not beyond to protected areas. But having visited much of Sikkim in recent times, I would advise you to self drive to the main township areas... the road conditions in much of inner Sikkim is horrendous to say the least and at some places have become quite dangerous to negotiate. 
    Calvin DMello (August 2019) 
    Good Day, A friend and I are planning to do a self drive trip through Sikkim, from Siliguri to zero point and back. I wanted to enquire about the permits required to do so. We are both Indian Citizens and will be renting a car from Siliguri for this using zoom car. It will be a 6day trip. I would really appreciate your help in any information you can provide us on this matter in regards to 1) is self drive allowed on a rented car to zero point, 2) how do we obtain a permit for north Sikkim. 
    Raj ( August 2019 
    Hi, self driven rented cars are not allowed in protected areas of Sikkim including Yumthang and Zero point. 
    Saurabh (June 2019) 
    Sir, we (4 adults + 2 kids) are planning a trip to Darjelling (1 night), Pelling (1 night) and Gangtok(3 night), starting from 16th June. Is it advisable to hire a self driven car (zoom car). Can we take the car to most of the tourist spots? Could you please help me with this. Thanks in advance. 
    Raj ( June 2019 
    You can take the car to all the tourist spots that are accessible to a regular taxi. 
    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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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.