Last Updated on January 10, 2021 by motologs
I recently did a motorbike trip to North Sikkim and got through the entire process of getting permits by myself. In this blogpost you will learn how to get a North Sikkim bike permit – Step By Step Explained. There are lots of websites that contain outdated information and makes it confusing for bike travelers about the permit process. In this post, I will explain step by step all you need to know for getting bike permits including where, how, and when.
Background for this road trip
I found North Sikkim to be beautiful beyond my imagination. With this informative website in mind, I have been doing quite a lot of bike trips across Northern India and particularly in the Himalayas. So far I have done two 5000km+ motorbike expeditions and many 1000km+ motorbike trips some of which were also in Nepal and Vietnam. This time I choose Sikkim. This trip was going to be a total of around 2000km. I have made trips to Darjeeling so decided to skip it this time and head to Gangtok after making an overnight stop in Kalimpong.
Infographics for North Sikkim Permit
I will skip the irrelevant details and keep this post specifically about getting permits for North Sikkim or East Sikkim and some additional tips. To start with I would like to tell you that forget about all the permit terms like Inner line Permit (ILP), Restricted Area Permit (RLP), etc as they will just confuse you and are of no use. Simply put, you need a permit if you want to visit North Sikkim and East Sikkim. North Sikkim is shown below on the Map. East Sikkim includes Tsomgo Lake, Baba Mandir, Nathula India-China Border, Zuluk – Old Silk road with beautiful hairpin bends.
How To Get North Sikkim Bike Permit – Step By Step Explained
Before you take a trip to Sikkim, take a look at possible route options which will facilitate and help you plan your road trip and journey. There are not many alternate routes in the mountain though.
Sikkim is a state with a sensitive International Border, particularly with China. The tourism in the North and East Part of Sikkim is highly regulated and monitored. If you have looked at the Sikkim Map you will understand how close is the North and East Part of Sikkim to the China Border.
North Sikkim includes Road to Chungthang from Gangtok from where there are two separate roads for Lachen (leading to Gurudongmar Lake) and Lachung (leading to Yumthang Valley, Yumesamdong, and Zero Point). Make sure you fill up your fuel tank in Chungthang as there were no petrol pumps further up on the way. The distance is not a lot, but constant high altitude climbs take a toll on the fuel efficiency of your motorbike. Roads are maintained by the Border Roads Organization (BRO) and are mostly good except at high altitudes. See map for reference. I will explain all the preparations needed for the North Sikkim Trip in another post.
Gangtok itself is a small town surrounded by hills and situated on its slope. If you are good with your legs, then you can just walk around from one place to another. For those who can’t, there are plenty of local taxis plying around in all directions. The main Taxi stand is called ‘Ranka’ taxi stand and is situated very close to the famous walk-only road called MG Marg in Gangtok.
Earlier permits for North Sikkim and East Sikkim were issued at the Manan Bhavan, Gangtok. This information is old and most of the websites and blogs did not update new information which leaves most of the travelers and bikers confused. The permits are not issued at Manan Bhavan anymore. [Manan Bhawan was originally a cultural center but has been standing in as an administrative complex now].
Location and Documents for Permits
All the permits are issued in same premise so you will not need to wander from post to pillar to get your permits. Ensure that you carry original documents to hassle free approvals.
Location for obtaining Permits
2018 onwards, All tourism-related permits, including bike permit is now issued at the Tourism Permit Office near MG Marg located on the premise of Sikkim Public Service Commission. Take the stair downwards (from MG Road entrance) and you will find Tourism Permit Office. [Address: Sikkim Public Service Commission, Old Tourism Complex, M. G. Marg, Arithang, Gangtok]. Here is the link for the exact location on Google Maps. Make sure that you apply for the permits a day in advance, keeping one day in hand to collect the permit and get all other formalities and inspections done on time. For example, if you plan to leave on Wednesday then apply for a permit on Monday itself.
Permit Officers in Gangtok are very helpful and polite with queries and explanations. You will not need any travel agent or middleman at all. The process is very simple and you just need to follow the steps as I have explained below.
Documents Required for Permit
Original Documents that you need to keep with you while applying for North Sikkim and East Sikkim Permit are:
- Motorcycle Registration Certificate/Card.
- Valid Insurance Certificate for Motorcycle.
- Valid Pollution Certificate of Motorbike.
- Driving license of Rider.
- Valid Identity Proof of Indian Citizenship of Rider.
[Note: Aadhar Card is not accepted. Read the explanation below]
- Valid Indian Citizenship Identity Proof Pillion/Co-rider/Co-travelers.
- Two or Three Passport Size, Color Photograph for both Rider and Pillion/Co-rider.
- Letter of authorization when the bike is rented from a local bike-renting agency.
How to get North Sikkim Permits
North Sikkim permits involve two steps. You will need both Protected Area Permit and Check Post Passes when you are traveling on your own bike or car. Both are issued in the same premise but at different counters.
Process for Protected Area Permit
Take three sets of Photocopy of all these original documents along with passport size color photographs and group them into three separate sets. Take all these documents and go to the counter at Tourism Permit Office. Tell them that you need a form for Motorbike Permit. They will give you a blank form in which you need to mention the details asked. You will have to fill in your Name, Co-riders’ name, ID card details, Motorbike Details and Model of Bike, the intended number of days to visit, and the proposed route. In our case, the pillion only had his Aadhar card with him. The permit officer refused to entertain Aadhar Card as valid citizenship proof as the matter is still pending in the Supreme Court. He had to get his voter ID card through WhatsApp. We printed it, took photocopies, and applied again. It worked. However, make sure you carry either a copy of your Passport or Voter ID card with you. Aadhar Card, Pan Card, or Driving License is not a valid citizenship proof.
Note that you must return before your permit expires. You can add an extra day to the permit as it will be a safe option. A minimum of 3 days’ permit is required to visit the North Sikkim route all the way up to Gurudongmar Lake and then Zero Point. Hence apply for at least 3 days permit. However, I would strongly advise you to add an extra day as it doesn’t cost anything and gives you flexible options along with peace of mind. So write 4 days in the permit form. The price of the Permit form is INR 10 only. Yes, Ten Rupees Only. However, for East Sikkim which around INR 200 is to be paid as a permit charge. There is no additional charge for the North Sikkim permit. The data are from 2018 and should be rechecked in forums or comments below to get the latest information.
After you fill the form, submit it back to the counter along with two sets of all the photocopies that I mentioned earlier and two photographs each of rider and co-rider/pillion if any. Considering the route is remote and wild, they (usually) don’t allow solo-riders. You must join along with the group of other riders who come to submit their permit form or should have a pillion rider. Solo-riders in expedition groups are allowed.
After you submit the form along with all photocopies and photographs, you will be asked to come and collect it the next day in the morning. Some websites claim that it will be done the same day if you submit before 11 am is incorrect information and was valid for the older permit center at Manan Bhavan.
After applying for a permit, we went to the counter the next day morning and we were asked to come back at 2 PM after lunch. At 2 PM we got the initial permit which is a Yellow Page (along with a set of all photocopied documents and our passport size photographs) with all the details of the journey and the travelers/bikers. It looks like this:
The Tourist Officer (Permit) will guide you for the next step. Sometimes it gets confusing with so many documents so I have explained the next procedure below.
Process for Check Post Permits and Pass
There is a counter right next to this which will issue your final permit. The counter opens at 4 PM. Everyone rushes to get their final permit done for the next day. This counter, which is in the same premise is of “Office of ADGP (Additional Director General of Police), Check Post Branch, Gangtok”. There are two or three small windows that are clearly marked for Permits for North Sikkim and Permit for East Sikkim.
Note that even the normal tourists going on an organized tour to the North Sikkim or East Sikkim have to apply for a permit. Either by themselves or usually through agents for an individual permit. So the counter sometimes gets crowded. But don’t panic as the crowd clears very fast.
Stand in the queue and wait for your turn or just put your paper that you got from the previous permit counter on the relevant window and they will keep it below the bunch of other applicants. When your turn comes, the police officer will gently shout your name. They may or may not ask any questions like do you know the route? Is your motorbike fit enough for your safety! We saw that they made one family write an application as they were traveling on their own vehicle. The vehicle was Mahindra Scorpio – 2 Wheel Drive. The in-charge police personnel did not want to send them at his own risk. Final clearance for permit stays under his authority. Ultimately the police just ensure that your journey should be safe and smooth.
Once this process is done, which is usually around 30 minutes, you will get the final checkpost permit which looks like this:
So now keep this white permit paper from Check Post Branch along with Yellow Permit Paper from Tourism Permit Branch. Take at least 5 copies of them. You will have to submit a photocopy at various checkpoints on the route. Also, they will stamp it as you cross checkpoints. Keep original with you along with a set of all the documents and photographs stapled to it. While returning the last check post will keep the original with them.
Checklist and Route Option for North Sikkim:
When you go to North Sikkim follow this route:
Gangtok > Chungthang > Stay overnight in Lachen > Leave 5 AM – 6 AM for Gurudongmar Lake > Back to Lachen by 3 PM – 4 PM > Leave for Lachung > Stay overnight in Lachung > Leave early morning for Yumthang, Yumesamdong, Zero Point > Back to Lachung > Stay overnight in Lachung > Leave next day or the day after for Gangtok.
Here is the first part of your journey on the map below. Reach Lachen by evening and take a rest. Leave early morning to Gurudongmar and come back by early evening and Leave for Lachung the same day.
Once you reach Chungthang, head towards Lachung and stay there overnight. I strongly suggest you spend a day in Lachung itself. It’s absolutely beautiful with the mountains standing tall right in your face and waterfalls cascading through it. The next day morning leave for Yumthang Valley and Zero Point. Return by early evening for safety. Follow the map below for Chungthang to Zero Point route map.
Important Points to Remember on North Sikkim Road Trip:
Do not deviate from the standard route. The entire North Sikkim is a sensitive area. There is a massive presence of Armed Forces and deviating from the main route is against the law. Fill up your fuel tank in Chungthang. Carry an additional 5 liters in spill-proof hard plastic bottles if needed. Bottled water is not welcome in North Sikkim. Carry a refillable water bottle.
The route is dotted with high waterfalls cascading on the roads and making it slippery at times so be careful. Wear proper riding boots or buy gumboots in Gangtok itself. Respect laws and the environment. Do not take photographs in Military Areas. Don’t ride in a hurry. Food is expensive and usually tasteless in North Sikkim. Carry some cakes/bread/dry-fruits and chocolates for yourself. Also, keep essential medicines like Diamox (for altitude sickness).
Read List of Meds for a road trip.
Earlier they used to provide six different envelopes for various checkpoints. The paperwork has been made efficient and only two main permits are needed. Many websites and blogs have not updated their information and are very confusing and misleading to new travelers.
Additional Tip: While returning if you want to avoid Gangtok then take the alternate route. It is called Singtam-Dikchu Road which goes down along the river Teesta. Leave the NH 310A which will take you back to Gangtok. This will save you quite a lot of time and distance. Singtam-Dikchu is a new scenic route along the river. Here is a link to the alternate route while returning to avoid Gangtok.
With Permits for North Sikkim and East Sikkim done, Also read about the other things that you should be preparing for this adventure & beautiful trip.
COVID Related Update, Restrictions and Information for Sikkim
Note: In view of COVID-19, there are certain restrictions for travel to Sikkim. You can find the relevant information in the link here: COVID Related Permit Requirements for Sikkim.
Update, January 2021: Most restrictions have been lifted and tourists are being allowed. Motorbike trips are being permitted with a pillion. Four Wheelers are also being allowed.
Don’t forget to scroll below and read the comments. There are many informative responses that will help you plan your Sikkim Trip and Permit process. Leave a comment if there is any query or doubt and we will respond ASAP.
Here is a video while I was going to Yumthang Valley from Lachung. Yumthang is around 26 kilometers from Lachung. You can get a general idea about road conditions from this video. More videos from the Sikkim motorbike trip are available on the motologs youtube channel.