Shared Taxis From Bagdogra & NJP To Darjeeling/Gangtok
Finding a shared taxi outside New Jalpaiguri (NJP) railway station and traveling cheaply to Darjeeling and Gangtok is usually not a problem. However the real problems here are two-fold... 1) You need to reach NJP between 7am to 3pm to get one. Occasionally during high season you might find a shared taxi even later. And 2) The vehicles which are of makes like Sumo, Manidra Max etc, are usually old, worn out and in poor condition. Sometimes I seriously doubt if they are really road worthy.
At Bagdogra the situation is even worse... there are no shared taxis at all. And that is because the taxi association would like to cater to hundreds (if not thousands) of privately operated reserved taxis waiting to pick up passengers who book cabs through pre-paid counter at the airport. It is also a fact that most passengers (particularly families) travelling by flight prefer to take a reserved taxi for the sake of privacy and do not even consider a shared taxi. Well, that makes sense.
But how about the lone budget travelers or couples travelling on budget? There are fairly large number of them visiting Darjeeling, Gangtok and other places in the hills. Do they still have to ride a below-par shared vehicle from NJP and get no option at all from Bagdogra other than a full taxi?
Well, unfortunately there has been no option for them either at Bagdogra or NJP. But now there is an option to get a shared luxury taxi from Bagdogra as well as Siliguri (10 minutes from NJP by Auto)... but you must book that online in advance. I have discussed this option later on this page.
Conventional Shared Taxis
As I mentioned, these are large vehicles like Sumo, MAX etc and not in great condition. They are available outside NJP station and usually take passengers to Darjeeling or Gangtok. They are also available at several Siliguri stands (the main one is located opposite to Tenzing Norgay Bus Stand on Hill Cart road, Siliguri).
They are the cheapest when it comes to per person seat fare in a vehicle. But there is a reason for that... they dump 10 persons in a vehicle other than the driver. You will be literally squeezing in for space all through the 3-4 hours of journey (depending on your destination). Luggage is kept on the roof. Locals primarily avail these for regular commutes, but tourists are also welcome (ones at NJP are mostly availed by tourists).
These shared taxis do not actually have any fixed timings (although they usually operate between 7am to 3pm). The vehicle waits for passengers and starts as soon as it's full. Locals get off and get on along the way. You can also book two seats for yourself if you want to travel little more comfortably, but there is always some encroachment given the human pressure in that overloaded vehicle.
They drop you at fixed designated places at your destination (for example Chowk Bazaar motor stand at Darjeeling lower town, Vajra Cinema Hall at Gangtok etc). You need to manage from that point up to your hotel... your choices then are either to walk with your own luggage, take a porter, or take a local taxi up to your own hotel. The last option of taking a local reserved taxi can rip you off.
This type of shared taxis are however not available at Bagdogra airport, although unofficially some drivers can be seen negotiating with passengers to work on a shared fare.
Indicative fares are given in the last section of this page.
Luxury Class Shared Taxis
Innovative good sense has prevailed in a group of local young men from the north-east. Since the beginning of 2017, they have started operating a shared taxi service with a few luxury vehicles with makes like Innova, Innova Crysta, Xylo etc. Each vehicle takes up to 5 passengers on a per person rate, and the ride is quite comfortable as you can guess, at the same time affordable.
Using their website (wizzride.com), you can book a shared taxi from either Bagdogra or Siliguri, specify your destination, arrival date, pick up time, number of seats required, mobile no. etc .... and it will take you to a nice screen where you can even choose one or more of the available seats from a seat map. Then you need to mention your name, email etc and confirm the booking... simple!
But wait! There are some caveats too...
They do not yet have a pickup from NJP station directly. This is perhaps because they also cater to the locals and Siliguri is a convenient pick up point for that. You need to go down to Siliguri (10 minutes from NJP by auto or 20 minutes by rickshaw) where the pick up takes place.
How do you ensure that you get one such shared taxi as soon as you are out of the airport arrival hall or reach Siliguri without having to wait? Well that's surely a dream which the company would love to fulfill one day. But for now, there are specific timings (quite regular though for Gangtok... almost hourly, and somewhat okay for Darjeeling). You may not have to wait too long. You can check the timings on their website.
What if your train or flight is late and you arrive after the vehicle's scheduled departure time? Well, there is no straight answer to this... if all the bookings are from the same flight or train, then the vehicle might perhaps wait for a while... but remember they take return bookings also. Which means there could be passengers waiting at the other end... so they may not even wait. Then what do you do?... call them up over phone and see if anything can be worked out mutually. You might even be lucky to get a seat in the next car (if available though).
They have several pre-designated drop off points along the way which is great (e.g. you can get off at places like Kurseong, Sonada, Ghum etc that come on the way to Darjeeling and pay even a lower fare). They also have several pre-designated drop off points within Darjeeling and Gangtok... so while booking, how do you know which one is near your hotel? Looking at the names of the drop off points I feel that only the locals can guess which is where, not the tourists.
Then what do you do?... Call them up before you book and figure out which drop off point is nearest to your hotel.
Having taken a drop, what do you do if your hotel is still some distance away? Having reviewed the list I can say you should be able to find a local taxi (reserved or sometimes shared) to bridge the last mile gap to your hotel, you may even find a porter to hand carry your luggage if you are willing to walk. If nothing works out? God help you! But this is a problem even for the conventional shared taxis which you get from NJP and Siliguri.
Having said all this, I still think that Wizzride's low affordable shared fare in a luxury class vehicle far out weighs its disadvantages. It's certainly worth giving it a try if you are looking for a shared taxi from Bagdogra or even NJP railway station (via Siliguri).
Update December 2018: Wizzride is also now available on the Bagdogra Airport to Jaigaon/ Phunthsoling route effective 2nd of Jan, 2019 to assist people travelling to Jaigaon and Bhutan. Apart from the Wizzride Shared Cabs, Wizzride also provides an online platform with cab services offered by various reliable and reputed travel vendors for Full Reserved Car and Local Sightseeing. It's much like how MakeMyTrip provides a comparative booking facility for air travelers to choose from a wide range of Air flight Service providers. Wizzride intends to bring this facility in the intercity cab booking as well.
Wizzride Contact Info
Shared Taxi fares (Fare updated: July 2018)
Conventional shared taxi
One way fare (NJP to Darjeeling): Rs. 150 - 175/- per seat
One way fare (NJP to Gangtok): Rs. 200/- per seat
Wizzride (Luxury Class Vehicle)
One way fare (Bagdogra to Darjeeling): Rs. 474/- per seat
One way fare (Bagdogra to Gangtok): Rs. 712/- per seat