Friday , December 4 2020

How To Get North Sikkim Bike Permit – Step By Step Explained

I recently did a motorbike trip to North Sikkim and got through the entire process of getting permits by myself. Learn How To Get North Sikkim Bike Permit – Step By Step Explained. There are lots of websites which contain outdated information and makes it confusing for the bike travelers about the permit process. In this post I will explain step by step about all you need to know for getting bike permits including where, how and when.

I found North Sikkim to be beautiful beyond my imagination. 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 expedition 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 taking a stop in Kalimpong. 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 in 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.

North Sikkim Bike Trip Route Map - Lachen and Lachung
North Sikkim – Gangtok > Mangan > Chungthang =< Lachen to Gurudongmar Lake & Lachung to Zero Point

Sikkim is a state with 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 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 with take a toll on the fuel efficiency of your motorbike. Roads are maintained by the Border Roads Organization (BRO) and are mostly good except in high altitude. See map for reference. I will explain all the preparations needed for 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 walking only road called MG Marg in Gangtok.

tourism permit office gangtok sikkim
Signboard to tourism permit office

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].

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 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 inspection done on time. For example, if you plan to leave on Wednesday then apply for permit on Monday itself.

sikkim tourism permit new office
Tourism Permit and Check Post Permit offices are located here. Image Courtesy: Arkasubhra Roy.

Permit Officers in Gangtok are very helpful and polite with queries and explanation. 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.

Original Documents that you need to keep with you while applying for North Sikkim and East Sikkim Permit are:

  1. Motorcycle Registration Certificate/Card.
  2. Valid Insurance Certificate for Motorcycle.
  3. Valid Pollution Certificate of Motorbike.
  4. Driving license of Rider.
  5. Valid Identity Proof of Indian Citizenship of Rider.
    [Note: Aadhar Card is not accepted. Read the explanation below]
  6. Valid Indian Citizenship Identity Proof Pillion/Co-rider.
  7. Two or Three Passport Size, Color Photograph for both Rider and Pillion/Co-rider.
  8. If the bike is rented from Agency then a letter of authorization from that registered agency.

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, 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 it as valid citizenship proof as the matter is still pending in the Supreme Court. He had to get his voter ID card whatsapped and we took a print and then photocopy of it and applied. 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 in the permit as it will be a safe option. A minimum of 3 days permit is required to visit North Sikkim route all the way up to Gurudongmar Lake and then Zero Point. So apply for at least 3 days permit. However, I would advise you to add an extra day as it doesn’t cost you anything and gives you flexible options along with peace of mind. So write 4 days in the form. The price of Permit form is INR 10 only. Yes, Ten Rupees Only. However, for East Sikkim which around INR 200 is to be paid as permit charge. There is no additional charge for north Sikkim permit. The data are from 2018 and should be rechecked in forums to get the latest information.

tourism permit ILP RAP permit bike permit gangtok
People and Agents applying for Permits

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. Since the route is remote and wild, they (usually) don’t allow solo-riders. You must join along the group of other riders who come to submit a 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 photograph, 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 11am is incorrect information and was valid for 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 2pm after lunch. At 2pm we got the initial permit which is a Yellow Page (along with a set of all photocopy documents and our passport size photograph) with all the details of the journey and the travelers/bikers. It looks like this:

North Sikkim Motorcycle Trip Permit

The Tourist Officer (Permit) will guide you for the next step but sometimes it gets confusing with so many documents so I have explained the next procedure below.

There is a counter right next to this which will issue your final permit. The counter opens at 4pm in the evening and everyone rushes to get their final permit done for the next day. This counter, which is in same premise is of “Office of ADGP (Additional Director General of Police), Check Post Branch, Gangtok”. There are two or three small windows which is 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 individual permit. So the counter sometimes gets crowded. But don’t panic as the crowd clears very fast.

Stand in 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 question like do you know the route, Is your motorbike fit enough for your safety! We saw that they made one family write a written application as they were traveling with their own vehicle (Mahindra Scorpio – 2 Wheel Drive) to North Sikkim as the police personnel did not want to send them at his own risk as the final permit clearance is with him. Ultimately the police just ensures that your journey should be safe and smooth.

Once this process is done, which is usually in just 30 minutes, you will get the final permit which looks like this:

North and east Sikkim police permit for bike
Second Permit issued by Check Post Branch, Office of ADGP – Take 5 copies of this.

So now keep this white permit paper from Check Post Branch along with Yellow Permit Paper from Tourism Permit Branch that you got earlier and 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 photograph stapled to it. While returning back 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 5am-6am for Gurudongmar Lake > Back to Lachen by 3-4pm> 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 in 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. 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.

Do not deviate from the standard route as entire North Sikkim is a sensitive area with huge Armed Forces presence and deviating from main route is against the law. Fill up your fuel tank in Chungthang. Carry additional 5 liter in hard plastic bottles if needed. Bottled water is not allowed in North Sikkim. Carry reusable water bottle. The entire route is full of huge waterfalls cascading on the roads and making is slippery at times so be careful. Wear proper riding boots or buy gumboots in Gangtok itself. Respect laws and 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/breads/dry fruits and chocolates for yourself. Also keep essential medicines like Diamox (for altitude sickness). I am compiling an exhaustive as well as a summary list for all you need to know before you travel to North Sikkim.

Earlier they used to provide six different envelopes for various checkpoints, but the paperwork has been made efficient and only two main permits are needed. Many websites and blogs have not updated their information and is very confusing and misleading to the new travelers.

Additional Tip: While returning if you want to avoid Gangtok then take the alternate route 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 while introducing you to 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.

Additional Read and Useful Links:-
Sikkim Tourism Official FAQ
Check latest Road Status [Regularly Updated]

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 condition from this video. More videos from the Sikkim motorbike trip is available on the channel.

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20 comments

  1. Very Useful. सिक्किम permit made easy.

  2. Do they give permits for the bike for North Sikkim and East Sikkim together.? Or do we need to come back from North Sikkim and then collect permission for East Sikkim.?

    • From what I understand that you need to come back and apply for other permit. Permits are given only a day in advance which means you can’t cover both routes on the same day. However you can ask a tour agent to get it done for you and it will be ready when you are returning from first leg of journey. I met this guy ‘Vivek’ who said he does these kind of permit related things but I did not take his service. Here is his contact info in case you want to try it 9679900110.

  3. We have similar plans of doing it. Can you please check and advise. I have went thru many travelogues to prepare this plan.

    Day 1 – Morning 10 AM take train to NJP
    Day 2 – Mid night reach NJP. Get the bike ready for next day ride.
    Day 3-Fri – Early morning reach Rongli check post for silk route permit. Continue to Zuluk. Halt
    Day 4-Sat – Nathang Valley, Kupup, Tsomgo lake and halt in Gangtok. Understand Nathula Pass permit is not provided in Rongli, so will skip it.
    Day 5 -Sun – Assume you already have permit thru travel operator, start early to reach Lachen or Thangu (as you suggested in your itinerary).
    Day 6 – Mon – Visit Gurudongmar Lake, thangu valley and halt in Lachung
    Day 7 – Tue – Visit Yumthang and Zero point and return to Gangtok
    Day 8 – Wed – Halt or Visit Ravangla, Yuksom and Namchi, halt. This day is completely flexible.
    Day 9 – Thu – Wed or thursday can be spare day or local sightseeing of Gangtok. Day 8 and 9 can be flexible for rest or local sightseeing or West sikkim visit or if Nathula Pass is not to be missed, will try that.
    Day 10 – Fri – Catch noon or night train to reach Chennai on Sunday morning or noon.

    I have quite a few questions. So apologize for troubling you.

    1. We are transporting the bike. So assume we will be all set to start in the morning, heard the Permit for the Silk route excluding Nathula Pass is very quick. Taking halt in Zuluk because all these planning started first by seeing the pictures of Zuluk. Is it ok to start this way?
    2. For the North Sikkim permits, do we need to be there or say if i book my stay in Gangtok in advance and share all documents, can they collect the permits for me in advance? If i need to get it in person 1 or 2 day is required right?
    3. We are 2 bikes and 3 people, flexible for any month, so from a biker point of view, which are the best months to travel?
    4. Our priority in East and North Sikkim, so if there will be delays in permit we can always exclude the west sikkim plan and continue. But Friday we need to start back to Chennai. Do you think this itinerary is feasible.
    5. What special attention required in a biker point of you? for the bike, riding time, things to carry.
    6. Suppose if we go directly to Gangtok on Friday, again can the tour operator or hotel can arrange permit for East or North sikkim before we reach there? Or if we need to be in person, it the offices are open late on friday and Saturday. Assume we will reach Gangtok only by noon.
    7. Do you have any contact is gangtok to arrange for permits?
    8. Suggest the accommodations, based on your experience. If possible with price.
    9. Last question, If by any change can these be done SOLO. Are permits provided? I don’t want to go all the way up there and just visit Gangtok and come back 🙂

    Await your response and feel free to add any additional suggestions.

    • Itinerary looks good to go. But you need to ensure that you get your permits in advance, if you are not spending time in Gangtok at the start.

      The first problems starts with Bikes being delivered late if you don’t use train cargo services.
      To answer your specific queries:
      1) You should leave early in morning to reach and come back from zuluk. You can’t reach Gangtok via Zuluk route as the road goes through border aea side and you will need permit for Nathula. Also it’s election time so there will be more strict rules I believe.
      2) For permits it better to be there personally. As the officer may reject permit on any ground and you won,t be there to convince him. I saw a case where he was not allowing 2WD Car for North Sikkim. The applicant had to write additional application. Stay for a night in Sikkim at arrival. As while coming back you can skip Gangtok by taking alternate route downhill to Siliguri. If you apply today, you will get permit tomorrow morning.
      3) The North is covered under snow for Winter starting New Year. Check reports for live and predictive weather. The best time is April as the flowers are in bloom covering entire valley. Also the roads are relatively settled and mostly dry. The waterfalls have just right amount of spray. Avoid rainy season as entire north Sikkim is hazardous landslide zone during rainy season.
      4)Yes
      5)Don’t rush, Don’t be fast at curves in mountains. 150cc solo is just enough to get you up there. For an auto experience ride 200cc+. Use pass lights and horn. Carry gumboots, proper riding gear. it gets chilly up there in any season. ALWAYS, ANTICIPATE NEXT 5 SECONDS ON ROAD. Never overtake local public buses as they run with jet engines, quite literally. Take lots of small breaks. Enjoy the scenery around. When you are riding concentrate on road. Carry extra clutch and brake cables. It will be very cold at high altitudes. Literally bone freezing at times. So take proper thermals.
      6) If you reach by noon then you cant apply on that day as the quota for next day is already closed in morning itself.
      7) I have already commented to a query: “I met this guy ‘Vivek’ who said he does these kind of permit related things but I did not take his service. Here is his contact info in case you want to try it 9679900110.”
      8) Please refer to google and mmt reviews for an idea of locality. Get a hotel downhill from Ranka. Its fun to use local taxis to come up the hill and going down as it’s a steep slope.
      9) Yes all this can be done solo. Just go there and stand at the office before it opens. there will be many other solo bikers and groups. Just tag along with them. Note: Get you separate permit but just put name of a corider from other solo or group. I would never ever advise anyone to do this entire stretch solo as it’s really wild and sometimes dangerous. When there is more than one person there is always a possibility of rescue.

      cheers, bon voyage

    • how you managed to Transport the bike if you can share information and price

      • I rode all the way from home. It’s like 500km (8-9 hours including breaks). You can transport your bike through Railway to Jalpaiguri Station and can ride onwards from there.

  4. I am solo rider. What can i do for my permit because you said they don’t provide permits to solo rider.

  5. Hi,

    I am planning on going to Zuluk on my bike with 3 other friends and everything looks fine but I am worries about the permit.

    I am going on my own bike and my friend will do the same. Can I go and get the permit 7 days in advance for all of my friends if I have all the documents?

  6. Hi,
    I read your details explanation and it’s very helpful.
    Please guide me, I will reach Gangtok with my bike and a PILLION rider on 22nd November at 9am approx and will submit for permit on same day for East Sikkim including Nathula. 22nd Nov is Friday. I want visit Nathula on 23rd. Is it possible?

  7. Hellow.
    Your oost is exactly what i was looking for.
    I am from Bangladesh and being a biker i want to travel the routes of sikkim with a hired bike myself,along with some of my rider friends,maybe a group of 8/10 people.
    Would you be so kind to let me know
    1.Foreigners allowed to ride bikes in sikkim?i know that i will get permits for some places and for some i wont(gurudongmarlake,zuluk)
    2.If i get a permit to ride bike,being a foreigner, what documents do i need?
    3.If i allowed to ride bikes,what type of bikes are available and which one should i hire for safe and smooth travel?
    4.Do i need to keep a guide with my team to get access with bikes to various places?

    And what else should i know??
    It would be great if you could reply.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Legally speaking you need to have an international drivers license to ride outside your home country. Usually you can apply for it in your home country before you plan your trip.

      The documents needed are already mentioned in the post. Also you need to carry your original passport and additional photocopies of all the relevant documents. It would be easier for you if you can hire a local guide for the route.
      All kinds of bikes are available but what matters is how experienced are you while driving through bumpy, skiddy and hilly terrain. Anything below 150cc would be insufficient. Bike renting agencies usually prove Bullet (350cc / 500cc), Pulsar (150cc / 200cc) etc. I recommend Pulsar or any 150cc+ bike for an inexperienced rider as Bullet is heavy.
      Being a foreign national and venturing into sensitive terrain it would always be advisable to hire a guide for smooth experience. However it is not compulsory.

  8. a good and detailed writing indeed…
    Thanks rider + writer…
    just keep writing in such a detailed and spcific way…

    best wishes from the core for your next ride…

  9. It is a nice write up.Me and my two other friends are arriving at Siliguri in April 1st week and planning for 8 days in sikkim. Our plan is Siliguri- Zuluk- Nanthang- Gangtok-Dzongu- Lachen-Gurudongmar-Kaalapathar-Lachen-Lachung-Zero point- katao- Gangtok/Pelling-Siliguri
    My questions are:
    1)My friends want to rent an Activa from siliguri and explore sikkim east and north. Is Activa ok for the terrain?And what are all the things needs to be taken care of using Activa?
    2)Do the bike rental agency in siliguri help us with the permits?
    3)We need permit for Dzongu. How to get that and from where?
    4)Are rental bikes allowed in Dzongu?

  10. Hi . Thanks for the informative write up.
    Myself and two other friends are planning to travel sikkim starting in April 1st week for 8 days. Our rough plan is
    Siliguri-Zuluk-Nanthang-Gangtok-Nathula-Gangtok- Dzongu-Lachen-Gurudongmar-Kaalapathar-Lachen-Lachung-Zero point-Katao-Gangtok/Pelling- Siliguri.

    My questions are:
    1)My friends want to explore using Activa. Is Activa ok for the terrain? Things to be taken care if using Activa?
    2) Do the bike rental agencies help with permits?
    3) How to apply permit for Dzongu and from where?
    4)Are we allowed to reach Gangtok if riding thru Zuluk- from Siliguri?
    5)If we have to apply permits by ourselves, Can I apply for permits on behalf of my friends or do they need to be present?
    6) Are rental bikes allowed in all the above said places?

    TIA
    Subhash

    • Congratulations on your plan to visit Sikkim on a bike trip. If you postponed it due to COVID then you can visit as soon as the situation gets normal. Now to answer your queries:
      1) Activa is a good scooter but they are not meant for hilly up-climbs and offroads. To do steep climbs you need more torque in bike. I suggest not to drive into remote areas on activa as it will be extremely challenging because of lack of torque and low ground clearance. However there are many people who have done even Leh-Ladakh on Activa. Remember that safety should always be number one priority.
      2) Yes, if you hire bike from Rental agency they will help with permits. But beware of scams and make sure you get a problem free bike with all clean papers. Cross check registration number and challans on mParivahan app. Take a test drive of at least 5-10km before finalizing. Click photos from all angle to ensure no unwanted claim is made later by the dealer.
      3) Dzongu is a restricted area, so a special permit has to be procured in addition to the Sikkim Inner line Permit. Permit for Dzongu is issued at Mangan, the north District Headquarters. You can also contact Local Registered tour operators for it.
      4) If riding thru Zuluk- from Siliguri, you will be stopped at a checkpost where you will get the instant permits.
      5) You can apply for friend’s permit but will need all required original documents. Please be aware that the officer incharge may also deny permit. But in most cases it gets through without any hassle.
      6) Yes, Rental Bikes from tourism department approved agencies are allowed anywhere in sikkim.

  11. Any suggestions that what should we do, untill we got the Permit..??

    • There are quite a few things to do while you wait to get your permits.
      Go for Cable Car Ride, Go to M.G. Marg and enjoy Local Cuisine or just sit there and people watch, Go to
      Himalayan Zoological Park. If none of these interest you then just ride around or walk and enjoy coffee/tea at local places just outside city. Use any app to meet locals and make new friends.

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