1. Do I need special Permits to visit Sikkim? And Special permits for Darjeeling, Kalimpong or Dooars?
To visit Sikkim, one needs Inner Line Permit (ILP). This 15 days permit can be requested and endorsed at the time of getting your Indian visa from Indian Consulate abroad. Note that you cannot get Indian visa upon arrival. However, even if you do not get this ILP permit, we can also easily obtain it at the entry into Sikkim at Rangpo check-point, at no charge. You will need passport
and passport size photos. This ILP permit allows one to visit Gangtok, all District Headquarters- Geyzing, Namchi and Mangan, Sub-Divisional Headquarters - Soreng, Ravangla and Pakyong, Rumtek, Pemayangtse, Phodong, Khecheopalri Lake and Tashiding. This 15 day permit can be extended in Gangtok. For visiting areas like Tso-mgo Lake, Chungthang and Yumthang Valley in North Sikkim and the trekking areas in west Sikkim, additional permit is required from Department of Tourism. This permit is called Protected Area Permit (PAP) and it can be obtained through local tour operator.
2. What is the best season to visit Sikkim, visit Darjeeling and visit Dooars ?
In general, the best time to visit Sikkim, Darjeeling or Dooars area is from late Feb till May and from October till Nov. However most places in the region is also good for travel in winter months. For Duars, from autumn and throughout winter month, till about March, it is the best time to visit being in the plains. Places such as Kalimpong and Gangtok are also at lower elevation of
around 4-5000ft and so it is cool but not extremely cold in winter. The day temperature is usually above 55F. These places never receive snow fall and winter is blessed with clear skies, affording good views that is rare in summer. So to sum it up, if you can avoid the summer and monsoon from June till mid September, rest of year is good for travel in Sikkim, Darjeeling and Duars.
3. When is the best season for trekking in Sikkim, Darjeeling or Dooars area?
Trekking in Sikkim for routes such as Dzongri / Goechela and in north Sikkim, the season is quite short. You can trek either in spring, between late March till May or in the fall in October. The trek from Darjeeling on Sandakhphu trail along Singalila ridge is also best when done during the same months but since it is much lower in elevation, it would be fine to trek till the end of November.
The treks from Kalimpong and those in the Dooars is best done from October till early March.
4. What type of food is served during the trek?
During the trek with camping, our cook will prepare fresh food every evening and in the morning. During the day, depending on the situation, hot lunch is prepared or cold sandwich with juice, eggs are served. Dinner menu comprise of soup, rice, bread (sometimes in the form of roti), dal (lentals), some vegetable and cured meat dish (well cooked), followed by a dessert. Before the dinner,
there is usually some snacking, appetizer, tea and beverages with local bar. Each evening, the menu will be complemented by momo (dumpling) baked potatoes and hot pie and others. Breakfast usually include cereals, oat porridge, eggs, and sometimes, sausage or beacon. Sometimes in place of toast, a Puri or Tibetan bread is prepared.
5. What about water on the trek? Is it safe to drink and how do find water?
Water is boiled and or treated with iodine for safe drinking. Iodine is 100% effective in killing the bacteria in water. You have to bring you own sturdy bottle (about one liter). On the first day you should fill up water from your hotel before setting out on trek. Along the way, the guide and provide iodine to treat your water. At the campsite, the water is boiled and you can ask the guide to fill up your bottle. If you choose and for your own satisfaction, you can bring your own water filter pump or iodine. Fill up the bottle with fresh spring water from the mountains and treat. We urge you to drink plenty of water on the trek.
6. What happens if there is an emergency on the trek?
Wind Horse prides itself on being prepared for any emergency situation. Our local guides are trained in first aid and can deal with most of the basic ailments that occur during a trek. Should emergency occur, we can contact rescue helicopters and best hospitals in the region. However we highly recommend travel and medical insurance that also cover emergency evacuation
7. Why should I travel with Wind Horse Tours & Travels in Sikkim, Darjeeling and Duars area?
There are many reasons. We are located everywhere in the region providing you access to local offices; being close to area where you travel to or from or via. We have been operating for over 12 years with same team and partners (for the most part) and the way we have set up ourselves, we expect to be around and pass it down to our children someday. We are well known in our region, setting higher standards for other operators to compete. Yet we are small, because each of our locations is independently managed by local partner, which means, you will receive personal care in your travels with us. We go above and beyond to make sure your experience is an enjoyable without compromising on the service, quality of our guides, reservation staffs involved, accommodations that you stay, transportations used, crews provided and most of all, we believe that our success and happiness come from yours first. What our guests have said about us is truly the testimony.
8. Which currency is used in Sikkim ?
The units of Indian currency are the Rupee and Paisa (100 Paisa equal 1 Rupee). Paper money is in denominations of Rupees 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000. Coins are in denominations of Rupees 1, 2 , 5 and 10. There are no restrictions on the amount of foreign currency or travelers checks that can be brought by the tourists in Sikkim. However a Declaration form need to be filled
(only for the amount which is more than USD 10,000) on the arrival at the Indian airport. By filling up this form you can also get your money exchanged back in the original currency without any problem. The Money should be exchanged only through authorized money changers. You may ask our guides and they will tell you the right center or place to get the money exchanged. Please note that no Indian currency can be imported or exported, except for travelers checks. Travelers checks can be changed into rupees at any bank in India. Be aware that it can take several hours to cash travelers checks in small towns. Try to deal with large banks in large cities. Don't accept large denomination notes, because they will be difficult to change, and don't accept damaged or torn notes, because merchants will refuse them, especially in small towns. Keep a supply of small change. Very often taxi drivers and vendors will say that they don't have change.
9. Can I pay in Euro, US Dollars or through credit cards in Sikkim and Darjeeling?
All the major currencies including Euro, US Dollars and Pounds are accepted in Sikkim and Darjeeling. All the major credit cards like Visa, Master Card and American Express are also accepted in the main hotels and restaurants.
10. What are the timings of the post office and other administrative offices in Sikkim ?
The post offices and banks are open from 1000 to 1630 hrs from Monday to Friday and from 1000 to 0100 hrs on Saturdays. The administrative offices are open from Monday to Friday from 0930 to 1700 hrs and 1000 to 0100 hrs on Saturdays. All the offices and banks are closed on Govt. holidays.
11. Is there any thing important while visiting monasteries and temples in Sikkim ?
The visitor should keep in mind that they are not visiting a museum but a religious place. Visitors are expected to wear dresses that do not expose their body too much. Visitors should remove their shoes and sandals before entering the monasteries and temples and should not eat, drink or smoke. The mural,
paintings and other religious objects and decorative parts should not be touched. One should photograph only if this is allowed as per the guidelines (like avoid flashlights). Before photographing the inner chamber of sacred temples, be sure to get permission. It is not permitted to have the picture of main deity in some temples. Wind Horse Guides will assist you more on about the behavior and general customs within the temple premises.
12. What kind of accommodation is available in Sikkim and Darjeeling?
In the main towns like Darjeeling , Gangtok and Kalimpong there are wide range of available option, in west Sikkim apart from one or two hotels/ Resorts rest are comfortable, neat & clean but not luxurious. In North Sikkim being remote area most of the hotels have rooms which are- Basic, neat & clean with attached bathroom. Check hotel list in our website which we recommend and use for our guest.
13. How safe is traveling in Sikkim ?
Sikkim is comparatively a safe state to travel. Crime rate against foreigners remain low. However especially to our female guests we recommend not be alone on the road after late evening just to be on the safer side. In case you need any help you can call the police at 100 and Ambulance at 102.
14. What are the telecom facilities?
In the main towns like Gangtok, Kalimpong, Darjeeling there are numerous telephone booth and cyber cafe.Only from North Sikkim phones are not readily available.
15. What are the languages spoken?
The local language is Nepali and Bhutia. You can communicate in English & Hindi.
16. Can foreign tourists visit Nathu-La pass , the India - China border?
As of now Nathu-La is open only to Indian nationals on specific days i.e Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday. However, Foreign tourists can visit Tsangu lake which is on the way to the Nathu- La Border (just before 12 km). Keeping Inner Line permit as a base a special permit is required to visit
the Tsangu lake.
17. What is the Best time to see Rhododendrons of Sikkim in bloom?
The best time to see Rhododendrons in Sikkim is Third week of April till mid May.
18. When is the best time to see the orchids of Sikkim in bloom?
There are nearly 500 different species of Orchid which blooms at different time, but, by and large March end to Mid May has the most bloom concentration of orchids.
19. As a border state, how safe is it to travel in Sikkim?
We can say it is one of the safest states in India. It has the lowest crime rate and Terrorism is almost nil.
20. How far is Assam from sikkim and Darjeeling?
Assam is very far from Sikkim and Darjeeling. It is about 850 kms away.
21. Is Darjeeling Himalayan Railway still operating?
Yes, the Himalayan Railway of Darjeeling which is more than 150 years old is still functioning. Visitors can take a short ride on toy train (steam engine) which is about 14 kms to and fro journey from Darjeeling to Ghoom and back. Those who are interested for a long ride can board on toy train (Diesel engine) which goes to N.J.P station - one way journey 87km 6 - 7 hrs which is near Siliguri.