Flights & getting there
Bagdogra Airport is 14km west of Siliguri. Seven Indian airlines provide multiple daily flights to Bengaluru (Bangalore), Delhi, Guwahati, Kolkata and Mumbai. Drukair has a couple of weekly flights to Bangkok and Paro (Bhutan).
Five-passenger helicopters (₹3500, 40 minutes) travel daily from Bagdogra to Gangtok at 2.30pm in good weather. Some days there are extra flights. The Sikkim Helicopter Service office at the airport will sell tickets on the day if any are available, but it's much better to book in advance through Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation in Gangtok.
A prepaid taxi stand at Bagdogra Airport offers fixed fares to many destinations including Darjeeling (₹1860, three hours), Kalimpong (₹1410, three hours), Gangtok (₹2080, five hours), Panitanki (Nepal border; ₹485, 45 minutes) and Jaigaon (Bhutan border; ₹2510, 4½ hours), allowing you to bypass Siliguri completely. Prices indicated are to the local jeep stand; a hotel drop will cost a little more. The fare to Siliguri Junction station is ₹460 (an autorickshaw is ₹250). Make sure you prepay the full fare and are not just given a ticket and left to pay the driver yourself – who will probably try to double the fare.
Wizzride offers transfers in comfortable five-passenger Innova cars to Kurseong and Darjeeling (per person ₹500 to ₹600), and Gangtok (₹700 to ₹800). You can book and pay online: the site accepts foreign cards.
Crossing to Bangladesh: Siliguri to Chengrabandha
A number of private bus companies in Siliguri run daily air-con buses direct to Dhaka. Shyamoli, 1km north of the Tenzing Norgay Central Bus Terminus, has one departing at 1.30pm (₹1200, 18 hours). Book a day or two ahead. You’ll need to complete border formalities at Chengrabandha, opposite Burimari, Bangladesh, and you'll need a Bangladesh visa (obtainable in Kolkata or Delhi).
Buses also run about hourly, 5.30am to 5.30pm, from the Central Bus Terminus to Chengrabandha (₹30, 2½ hours).
Crossing to Bhutan: Siliguri to Phuentsholing
Bhutan Transport Service runs buses to Phuentsholing inside Bhutan (large/small bus ₹120/150, five to six hours) at 7am, 12.30pm and 2pm from the Howrah Petrol Pump stop on Burdwan Rd (from the Central Bus Terminus, go 800m south on Hill Cart Rd, then fork right and go 200m). You can also take a private bus at 7am, 9am, 1.30pm or 4.30pm from the Central Bus Terminus to Jaigaon (₹170, four hours) on the Indian side of the border, where you clear Indian immigration. A taxi to Jaigaon from Siliguri or Bagdogra airport costs around ₹2500.
Non-Indian nationals need visa clearance from a Bhutanese tour operator to enter Bhutan.
Crossing to Nepal: Siliguri to Kakarbhitta
For Nepal, local buses to the Indian border town of Panitanki (₹30, 1¼ hours) stop on Hill Cart Rd outside the Central Bus Terminus every few minutes from about 7.30am to 5.30pm. There are also shared jeeps (₹120, one hour, 5am to 6pm) departing when full from the Siliguri Panitanki Kakarvitta Stand on the far side of Hill Cart Rd. From the junction where the buses drop you in Panitanki, it's 500m to the Indian immigration post, then a further 1km to the Nepal immigration office in Kakarbhitta (Kakarvitta). For nearly all nationalities, Nepal tourist visas are available on arrival (15/30/90 days US$25/40/100, payable in US$ or Indian rupees); you must provide one passport photo.
Most North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC) buses, and some private buses, leave from Tenzing Norgay Central Bus Terminus. Further private bus offices are outside on Hill Cart Rd.
The NBSTC has departures to Darjeeling (₹110, 3½ hours) every 30 or 60 minutes, 6.30am to noon; Kalimpong (₹110, three hours, six daily); Mirik (₹90, three hours, four daily); Malda (₹200, 7½ hours, frequent); and Kolkata (AC buses ₹650 to ₹900, 15 hours, 6.30pm, 7pm and 7.30pm). The Hilly Region Minibus Owners counter in the Central Bus Terminus has buses (not minibuses) to Kalimpong (₹110, three hours, frequent 6am to 4pm), Kurseong (₹70, 1½ hours, about hourly, 6.30am to 4pm) and Gangtok (₹180, 4½ hours, frequent 5am to 4pm).
Rayan/Network runs a daily 4pm bus to Guwahati (₹450, 13 hours) from its office 125m north of the Central Bus Terminus. For Patna (AC ₹480 at 6pm, non-AC ₹400 at 7pm, 12 hours) try Gupta Travels, just outside the Bus Terminus. Deluxe air-con Volvo buses for Kolkata (₹1200, 15 hours) leave between 5.30pm and 7.30pm from this company and many other agencies. Non-air-con coaches cost ₹450 to ₹500.
Sikkim Nationalised Transport (SNT) runs buses to Gangtok (₹150, 4½ hours, every 30 or 60 minutes 6.30am to 3pm) and other Sikkim destinations from the SNT terminal, 200m southeast of the Central Bus Terminus. You can get your Sikkim permit at the Sikkim Tourist Office in the terminal or at the border at Rangpo.
Jeep & Taxi
An efficient if somewhat cramped way of getting to the hills is by shared jeep, with departures when full until about 4pm. Several jeep stands are dotted along Hill Cart Rd:
Darjeeling (₹150, three hours) Look in front of the petrol station 100m north of the Central Bus Terminus or in front of Hotel Conclave, 300m south of the Central Bus Terminus.
Gangtok (₹400, four hours) There are a couple of stands almost opposite the Central Bus Terminus.
Kalimpong (₹150, three hours) Head to the Panitanki More stand, 700m along Sevoke Rd from Hill Cart Rd (₹30 by autorickshaw from the Central Bus Terminus). Jeeps depart from 7am to 4pm.
Kurseong (₹100, 1½ hours) Depart from in front of Hotel Conclave and from Darjeeling More junction on the NH27 (old NH31), 1.5km northwest of the Central Bus Terminus.
Mirik (₹120, 2½ hours) Leave about twice an hour from the plaza in front of Siliguri Junction train station.
Shared and chartered jeeps for all these destinations also leave from NJP train station.
Chartering a jeep privately costs roughly 10 times the price of a shared ticket. A recommended option for XL-sized travellers is to pay for and occupy the front two or three seats next to the driver.
Wizzride offers transfers in comfortable Innova cars to Kurseong, Darjeeling and Gangtok from central Siliguri, as well as from Bagdogra airport.
The central Siliguri Junction station has far fewer trains than New Jalpaiguri (NJP), 6km to the southeast. All trains mentioned here except the toy train to Darjeeling depart from NJP only.
Delhi The 1.15pm 12423 Rajdhani Express is your best and quickest bet (3AC/2AC/1AC ₹2255/3105/5015, 21 hours). Alternatively, board the 5.25pm 12505 North East Express (sleeper/3AC/2AC ₹625/1635/2375, 26 hours).
Guwahati The 1.30am 12424 Dibrugarh Town (DBRT) Rajdhani is easily the fastest daily service (3AC/2AC/1AC ₹1010/1345/2110, 6½ hours).
Kolkata The 5.30am 12042 NJP-Howrah Shatabdi is the fastest of many services to Kolkata (chair/executive chair ₹1070/2120, eight hours, Monday to Saturday), via Malda. The 8pm 12344 Darjeeling Mail (sleeper/3AC/2AC/1AC ₹350/920/1300/2180, 10 hours) is an overnight option.
Patna The easiest Patna train to get tickets for is the 2.50pm 13245 Capital Express (sleeper/3AC/2AC ₹280/755/1085, 13½ hours), though it only goes on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and arrives at an unsociable 4.15am.
Barring monsoon landslides and other unscheduled stoppages, the historic narrow-gauge Darjeeling Himalayan Railway runs one daily 'toy train' from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling, departing at 8.30am and taking seven hours to cover the 88 uphill kilometres (seat ₹1295) – twice as long as the trip by road. It stops at Siliguri Junction (departing 9am, ₹1105 to Darjeeling) and Kurseong en route.