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.
Travel Permits for Sikkim
As a traveller, you must be aware of the 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.
ILP/ RAP is needed for Foreign Nationals
PAP is needed for Indian Citizens
30 Days for ILP/RAP
Up to 7 days for PAP
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
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.
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 the capital 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.
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.
Yumthang, Yumesamdong, Thangu/Chopta Valley
Tsomgo (Changu) Lake and Baba Mandir
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.
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.
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.
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
Passport size pictures
(you need to carry multiple copies of the above documents)
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 –
|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.
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.
Yumthang, Yumesamdong, Thangu/Chopta Valley
Green Lake Trekking
Tsomgo (Changu) Lake
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 when exploring 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.
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 🙂