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Travel Permits for Sikkim 2019

Permits for Sikkim are a prerequisite if you wish to visit this beautiful North-Eastern state of India. Certain regions of the state have been marked as protected, and all visitors are required to obtain permits to enter these areas.

Sikkim is bordered by three countries namely Bhutan, Tibet and Nepal which makes its location strategically very important. Therefore, a traveller needs special permission to visit the state and the protected parts of it.

All visitors (including Indian citizens) need Protected Area Permit (PAP) to visit certain protected areas. In addition to these, foreign nationals need an Inner Line Permit (ILP) or Restricted Area Permit (RAP) to enter the state.

Nestled in the eastern Himalayas, Sikkim is blessed with rich biodiversity, wonderful landscapes and equally amazing people. If I had to describe Sikkim in a line, I would say Sikkim as truly a treat to the eyes and the soul. By procuring the mandatory travel permits for Sikkim, you will be able to explore the exquisite beauty, this place has to offer.

restricted areas map sikkim

The current map has been taken from Google maps. The locations I have marked on this map are only indicative and not exact.

Travel Permits for Sikkim

As a traveller, you must be aware of mandatory travel permits for Sikkim. Having prior knowledge will help you understand things better. In this blog, I will share with you the important aspects of obtaining travel permits for Sikkim, that you must know before visiting the state.

Given below is a brief overview of the permits that a traveller needs to visit and explore Sikkim.

Types of Permits

ILP/ RAP: Inner Line Permit or Restricted area permit for entering the state.

PAP: Protected Area Permit for visiting the protected areas.

Required by

ILP/ RAP is needed for Foreign Nationals

PAP is needed for Indian Citizens

Validity

30 Days for ILP/RAP

Up to 7 days for PAP

Fee

ILP/RAP- Free

PAP – Upto INR 200

Mode of Application

Online and Offline for ILP/RAP

Offline for PAP

Documents and ID’s required

For ILP/RAP –Passport, Visa, Passport size photographs

For PAP – Identity proof (Pan Card/Aadhaar Card/Voter ID), Passport size photographs

Extension of ILP / PAP

An extension is possible for 30 days.

Extension of PAP

Not allowed

Why does Sikkim Expect Travelers to have Permits?

Sikkim is bounded by international borders. Sharing its borders with Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan, Sikkim’s location is important both sensitive and strategic. Therefore, security concerns in the region are high. Hence, it becomes important for travellers to obtain a permit.

This permit regime is somewhat similar to that in Ladakh, where Indian citizens need an Inner Line Permit and foreigners need  Protected Area Permit to visit the restricted areas.

permits for sikkim

Certain Places in North Sikkim and East Sikkim lie extremely close to the international borders. Only Indian citizens can obtain a Protected Area Permit for such locations. Zuluk in East Sikkim is one such destination, where only Indian visitors are permitted. 

Sikkim Permits for Indian Citizens

Unlike Arunachal Pradesh, where even Indian citizens are required to procure an Inner Line permit, Indians don’t need a permit to enter the state of Sikkim. You can visit several places including Gangtok, Namchi, Jorethang etc., without a permit. However, certain areas of the state are marked as protected and for visiting these areas a visitor needs to obtain a Protected Area Permit or PAP.

It is important to remember that you need a separate Permit for each destination. You have to apply separately for each one of them.

Which Places in Sikkim need a Protected Areas Permit (PAP)?

The protected areas of Sikkim are generally areas that lie on the international border. Some of the important travel destinations that need a permit have been marked in the map above.

South Sikkim

If you are an Indian National, you do not need a permit for visiting the south of Sikkim. This includes visiting places such as Gangtok, Namchi, Ravangla, etc.

North Sikkim

Yumthang, Yumesamdong, Thangu/Chopta Valley

Gurudongmar Lake

East Sikkim

Tsomgo (Changu) Lake and Baba Mandir

Nathula

West Sikkim

Dzongri & Goecahala Trek

Singalila Trek from Sikkim

Documents needed for PAP for Sikkim

Separate PAPs are needed for each destination, so keep multiple copies of the documents.  In order to obtain these permits for Sikkim, you need the following documents:

  • Passport size pictures of the visitor
  • Photo ID proof which has an address. (PAN Card is not valid)
  • School ID or Birth certificate for children below 5 years
  • Aadhar Card for kids over 5 years of age

How to get Protected Area Permits for Sikkim?

The protected area permits for Sikkim can only be obtained in person. There are two ways you can travel within Sikkim. One is that you use public transport or rental cabs. The other way is that you ride a bike. The procedure of obtaining the PAP for both these is different.

Although I used the former means, a friend rode his bike across Sikkim and I will also elaborate his experience here.

Protected Area Permits for Sikkim when Travelling via public transport or cabs/taxis

If like me you are not travelling in your own vehicle, you need to obtain protected area permits for Sikkim through travel agents. These permits are issued by the police department. Although I got my permits from Gangtok, you can also obtain these from other police checkposts.

In my case, I went to a checkpoint in Gangtok and they directed me to a nearby travel agent. I filled up a form with my details and attached copies of the documents. Later I submitted it to the check post. The cost of the form is around 200 INR. Submission fee is around 20 INR per destination.

You need to submit the form in the morning so that you may receive it later in the evening or early the next morning.

If you want to save time, you may forward all he documents to a travel agent/ tour operator beforehand. They will get the work done before you reach Sikkim.

The trekking permits in West Sikkim is issued by Tourism Department after obtaining a valid permit from Ministry of Home Department, New Delhi. I would suggest you get it through a recognized trekking or travel agency.

bike permits for nathu la

Bikers can self drive to the protected areas of Sikkim after obtaining a valid permit from Gangtok. These destinations include places such as the Nathu La Pass. The procedure for these permits is different than that for other visitors using taxis or public transport. 

Motorcycle Permits for Sikkim for visiting the Protected Areas

A lot of travellers wish to explore Sikkim on a bike. If you are one of those, the procedure of getting the permit is different from the earlier one. The main permit is issued by the Tourism Permit Office located near MG Marg at the Sikkim Public Service Commission building in Gangtok.  You need to know that the motorcycle permit Sikkim can only be obtained from this office.

Motorcyclists need the following documents for obtaining protected area permits for Sikkim:

  • Passport Size Photographs of the rider and the co-rider (Keep at least 4 copies)
  • ID proof of the rider and co-rider (if any)- You need a nationality proof such as Aadhar Card, Voter ID or Passport.
  • Driving Licence
  • Registration of the bike
  • Valid Pollution Control Papers or PUC
  • Valid Insurance Papers of the Bike
  • If you have hired a bike, you need an authorisation letter of the owner or the authorisation certified by the RTO of the concerned state- the office will tell you where to get the format. This authorization has to be done in a prescribed format and needs to be notarized.
Along with the originals, you also need to keep photocopies of the required documents. I would suggest you keep multiple photostat copies of all relevant documents.

Although it is not required, most motorcyclists get their permit through travel agents. This way is much more convenient and you can avoid spending an extra day in Gangtok. The travel agents charge somewhere around 200 -300 INR per person for getting you the permit. In this case, you need to send your relevant documents to them beforehand and once they have the permit, they will hand it over to you at Mangan north Sikkim.

However, if you are keen on obtaining the permit yourself, you need to follow the procedure below:

Step 1: Obtaining permit from the Tourism Permit Office, Gangtok

Fill up the form you get from the Tourism Permit Office located near MG Marg at the Sikkim Public Service Commission building.  Attach the relevant documents and submit them. The office will process it and submit you the permit along with copies of documents that need to be submitted along the way.

Cost: Free

Try to do this early morning so that you may receive it later in the evening or early morning the next day.

The office receives applications on all working days between 10 am- 12 pm

Step 2: Submit documents at Tourism Office Police Checkpost office in Gangtok

You need to submit one set of documents you received to the Police Check post office which is also located in the Sikkim Public Commission Service premises.

You will be handed a receipt. This receipt will have your name, co-rider name, bike number, areas to visit. If you want to visit both the North and East Sikkim, you need to get a photocopy of this receipt and resubmit it. The office will then add the details of the second region.

Make multiple copies of his receipt as it will be submitted at various check posts on the way.

Cost: 20 INR for North Sikkim and 200 INR for East Sikkim

Step 3: Ride towards your desired destinations

Carry all the permits and receipts and head to your destinations in North or East Sikkim. Stop at the police checkpoints and make sure you sign and submit the required documents

The whole process of obtaining the permit for bikes will take up to one and a half-day and a lot of hassle and running around. Most riders, therefore, choose to get it done from a tour operator or travel agent.

Sikkim Permits for Foreign Nationals

Since Sikkim’s location is sensitive and strategic, foreign nationals need a permit to visit the state. There are two sets of permits that they need.

ILP/RAP: Inner Line Permit or Restricted Areas Permit

Required to: Enter the state.

Cost: Free

Travel Agent: NOT NEEDED

Validity: 30 Days

Extension: Can be extended

PAP: Protected Areas Permit

Required to:  visit the protected areas of Sikkim

Cost: 200 INR

Travel Agent: NEEDED

Validity: Up to 7 Days

Documents required for PAP and ILP/RAP

Valid Passport

Valid visa

Passport size pictures

(you need to carry multiple copies of the above documents)

 

permits for sikkim

Foreign Nationals can visit the unprotected parts of Sikkim with an Inner Line Permit/ Restricted Area Permit. These unprotected areas of Sikkim include most places in South Sikkim and a few others in West Sikkim including visiting the capital city Gangtok

Inner Line Permit or Restricted Area Permit for Foreigners visiting Sikkim 

In order to enter Sikkim, a foreign national need to obtain an ILP or RAP. You do not need a travel agent to get this permit.  With an ILP a Foreign national will be able to cover the places in South Sikkim and certain other unprotected places in the West Sikkim. This includes visiting places such as Gangtok, Namchi, Ravangla, etc.

How to get an ILP/RAP for Sikkim?

The permit can be obtained online as well as offline. To get the form online visit this website. Fill up all the details, complete the verification process and print the ILP. When you enter Gangtok, present this at the check points.

Offline the permit is issued by the following offices:

New Delhi

  • Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, Lok Nayak Bhawan
  • Immigration Offices at the Airport
  • Assistant Director – Tourism Department, Sikkim House, Panchasheel Marg
  • Resident Commissioner, Government of Sikkim, Sikkim House
Kolkata

  • Assistant Director – Tourism Department, Sikkim Tourism Office, 4/1 Middleton Street, Kolkata
  • Immigration Office at the Airport
  • Deputy Secretary/ Under Secretary, Home Department, Government of West Bengal
Mumbai

  • Immigration Offices at the Airport
Chennai

  • Immigration Offices at the Airport
West Bengal

  • Deputy Commissioner, Darjeeling,
  • Deputy Director, SNT Complex, Siliguri, Tourism Department
Sikkim

  • Melli Police Check Post, Assistant Director– Tourism Department, Melli, South Sikkim (ILP issuing time is from 8 am to 8 pm every day).
  • Rangpo Police Check Post, Assistant Director, Tourism Department, Sikkim Tourism Office, East Sikkim.
  • Pakyong airport near Gangtok.
  • Burtuk Helipad near Gangtok.
All Foreigners Registration Offices
All Indian Mission Abroad

Note: The citizens of Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Myanmar and Nigeria need to get prior approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs, in New Delhi before getting the permit.

How to get an Extension for ILP/RAP Sikkim?

The ILP/RAP can be extended for a period of 30 days at a time. However, this should not exceed a total stay of 60 days in Sikkim. The extensions can be done at the Foreigners’ Registration Office (FRO) at Tadong.

Zero point sikkim

Sikkim is undeniably one of the most serene travel destinations in India. However, there are some protected regions that are not accessible without a permit. Zero Point or Yume Samdong is one such destination. It lies in the Yumthang Valley in North Sikkim.

Protected  Area Permit for Foreigners visiting the Protected Areas of  Sikkim 

Certain areas in Sikkim are designated as protected areas. If you as a foreign national wish to visit these areas you need a Protected area permit.

While the protected area permits for Sikkim for foreigners are issued by the Tourism Department and Police Check Post, the trekking permits for Sikkim are issued by Adventure Cell of Tourism & Civil Aviation Department of the government of Sikkim.

Which places in Sikkim need a Protected Areas Permit (PAP) for Foreigners?

The protected areas of Sikkim are generally areas that lie on the international border.

North Sikkim

Yumthang, Yumesamdong, Thangu/Chopta Valley

Gurudongmar Lake

Green Lake Trekking

East Sikkim

Tsomgo (Changu) Lake

West Sikkim

Dzongri & Goecahala Trek

Singalila Trek from Sikkim

How Foreigners can obtain Protected Areas Permits for Sikkim?

It is mandatory for foreign nationals to get a PAP through a government registered travel agent. You can find a list of these agents here. The agents will take care of the permits for you. If you want the permits ready by the time you arrive, just forward your documents to them beforehand. These include a valid Visa and Passport and your Passport size pictures.

Permits for Sikkim: Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few frequently asked questions about permits for Sikkim:

Can I be denied protected area permits for Sikkim? 

Yes, you may be denied a permit if the weather conditions are not ideal or there is a security issue.

Are private cars allowed in Sikkim?

Private cars are allowed in the unprotected areas of Sikkim. You can drive your private car in Gangtok and other unprotected areas.

What is the age limit for visiting Gurudongmar Lake?

Age 8 years and above are allowed to visit the lake. There is no upper age restriction.

Where do I get a Nathula pass bike permit?

You can get it from Gangtok. I have described the process above.

Do I need a trekking permit in south Sikkim?

No, trekking permits are not needed in South Sikkim. Even foreign nationals can trek in South Sikkim with an ILP/RAP.

Can a foreigner travel solo in the protected areas in Sikkim?

No, a foreign national has to be in a group of two or more to travel around in Sikkim

Is it mandatory for foreigners to get a permit through a travel agency in Sikkim?

If you are visiting Protected Areas, you need a Sikkim Tourism registered Travel Agent.

Can I obtain a north Sikkim permit online?

As of now, there is no provision of obtaining a protected are permit online.

Inforgraphic- permits for Sikkim

A brief summary of travel permits needed for travelling to Sikkim. Pin this to your Pinterest board for later reference.

Sikkim is a beautiful travel destination that has a lot to offer to travellers. Don’t let the requirement of a permit sway you from planning a visit to the region.

Although I have tried to explain all there is to know about the permits in Sikkim to the best of my knowledge. Did I leave anything unanswered or you have something to add? I would be happy to hear. Please go ahead and tell me in the comment section below.

Happy Wayfaring 🙂

Divya Sarjolta is an Economics Major and a Gold Medalist. She hails from the beautiful town of Shimla and is a Himachali by birth. She enjoys exploring life to the fullest and has pursued quite a lot of backpacking trips around the country. Two things Divya craves more than anything else is good food and travel. She leads her life on the lines of Oberyn Martell from Game of Thrones, “It is a big and beautiful world. Most of us live and die in the same corner where we were born and never get to see any of it. I don’t want to be most of us.” So, explore while you can! Reach out to her on Quora or Instagram.

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