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Permits and restrictions

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Though foreigners need to obtain an Inner Line Permit (ILP) to visit Sikkim, getting one is a mere, if irritating, formality. Permits are available in India at the offices listed below and can also be obtained in advance along with your Indian visa, but agencies abroad charge exorbitant fees. In India Sikkim permits are free. Permits can be instantly acquired at the Sikkim border at Rangpo and there are plans also to make them available at Melli; go to the tourist office for an application form and then cross the road to have it registered by the police. If you’re picking up your permit after arrival in India, you’ll need two passport photographs, and photocopies of your passport and visa details.

Permits are date-specific and initially valid for fifteen days from entry (though at the time of writing this was being changed to an initial thirty days with an extension of a further thirty), normally renewable for a further fifteen days, and can be extended up to a maximum of sixty days. Extensions can be obtained at the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office, Kazi Road, Gangtok (t03592/223041), and are also available through the superintendents of police at Mangan, Gyalshing and Namchi, the capitals of the three other districts. As well as Gangtok and its surroundings in East Sikkim, the general Sikkim permit (ILP) covers all of South Sikkim and most areas in the east and west of the state, apart from most high-altitude treks. Sensitive border areas, like Tsomgo Lake (also known as Changu or Tsangu) in East Sikkim, most of North Sikkim except for Mangan and its immediate vicinity, and all high-altitude treks including the Singalila Ridge and Dzongri, require the additional Protected Area Permit (PAP); foreigners can only enter these areas in groups of at least two accompanied by representatives of approved travel agents who arrange the permits. Some areas, such as Nathu La on the border with Tibet in East Sikkim, and Gurudongma Lake in North Sikkim remain completely off-limits to foreigners.

Offices in India issuing permits

Airport immigration

At the four main entry points: Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai.

Foreigners’ Regional Registration Offices

In Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. Also in Darjeeling.

Sikkim House

12–14 Panchsheel Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi t011/2611 5346.

Sikkim Tourist Centre

SNTC Bus Stand, Hill Cart Road, Siliguri t0354/251 2646.

Sikkim Tourist Information Centre

Sikkim House, 4/1 Middleton St, Kolkata t033/2281 7905.

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