To promote tourism in Sikkim, constraints on the entry of tourists in the restricted areas have been considerably relaxed; however visitors should follow the underlying necessary guidelines to have a hassle-free experience while visiting this picturesque state of India.
Indian Nationals intending to visit Sikkim do not require any special permit while visiting some of the unrestricted areas like Gangtok, Yuksom, Rumtek, Pemayangtse, Phodong etc, but visiting certain areas of North Sikkim like Yumthang Valley, Chungthang, Lachung, Yumesamdong, Lachen, Thangu, Chopta and Gurudongmar Lake, it is mandatory even for Indian nationals also to obtain a permit.
Foreign Nationals intending to visit Sikkim can obtain a permit for an initial period of 15 days which is extendable up to 30 days. The permits can be arranged very easily at several places such as Siliguri, Darjeeling, Rongpo and Malli. These permits can also be obtained from Indian Embassy at different places. Foreign tourists have to travel in groups of two or more to visit restricted and protected areas of Sikkim like Yumthang Valley, as they are not allowed to club and go with Indian tourists.
There are however further restrictions on visiting several places deeper inside Sikkim. Both domestic and foreign visitors require special permits to visit Tsongo and Nathula area which is a day tour from Gangtok. Foreigners can only visit Tsongo and not Nathula.
Restricted Area Permit and Protected Area Permit Regime
Sikkim has certain entry restrictions and is under a restricted area regime due to its proximity with neighbouring countries like China. This State is divided into 3 areas based on travel restrictions. Some parts require Protected Area Permit (PAP) while some require Restricted Area Permit (RAP). Therefore all foreign nationals require Restricted Area Permit to visit any part of Sikkim. Earlier this permit was known as Inner Line Permit (ILP). Indians however do not require this but there are other restrictions for all including Indians for few specific places in Sikkim. There are certain areas like Tsomgo Lake, Dzongri etc which are defined as Protected Areas and have special army deployment. Both foreigners and Indians require a Protected Area Permit (PAP) to visit such places. But few protected border areas like Nathulla are not accessible to foreigners at all, while Indians can still visit with the Protected Area Permit.
Restricted Area Permits (RAP) This permit is mandatory only for foreigners who wish to enter Sikkim. It is free of cost. All that is required is a valid Passport along with an Indian visa. With proper documentation, it takes less than 30 minutes to get the permit.
Protected Area Permits (PAP) This permit is applicable for both foreigners and Indians intending to visit protected areas. Solo foreigners are not permitted in such areas. Additionally foreign tourists wanting to go trekking in the interiors of Sikkim should apply for the PAP through tour operators who are registered with Sikkim Tourism Department and the trekking programme should be arranged by them. Photo ID proof like passport, voter’s ID card or a driving license would be the required documentation.