For almost all permits you'll need photocopies of your passport, visa and inner line permit, plus a passport photo or three. Indeed it's well worth getting plenty of such copies and photos for unforeseen eventualities. Even some hotels expect you to provide them at check-in.
Foreigners require an Inner Line Permit (ILP, www.sikkimilp.in) to enter Sikkim (Indians don’t). These are free and getting one is a formality. Bring at least one passport-sized photo and photocopies (plus originals) of your passport and visa to one of the following places:
- entry checkpoints at Melli or Rangpo (permits issued 8am to 7.30pm only)
- Bagdogra Airport's Sikkim Tourism booth (10am to 4pm daily)
- Sikkim House in Kolkata or Delhi.
- Sikkim Tourist Office in Siliguri.
Permits are also available by a more complex process in Darjeeling and, by the time you read this, may be available on arrival at Pakyong Airport.
The lack of a checkpoint at Jorethang is a logistical nuisance meaning no permits are issued and indeed foreigners may not cross to/from West Bengal there.
The standard ILP is valid for 15 days, though longer validity is sometimes provided on request.
Several areas of Sikkim require specific permits, including the following:
These permits should be issued through an approved agent and require that there are at least two foreigners (one foreigner plus one Indian isn't enough).
Some other destinations close to the Tibetan border, including Nathu La and Gurudongmar Lake, are entirely closed to foreigners, though Indian nationals are allowed to visit with approved tours.
High Altitude Treks
Organised by your trekking agent once you have arranged a guide, permits are issued in Gangtok, though some agents in Yuksom now organise a one-day service by sending your details by WhatsApp.
Far North Sikkim
For travel beyond Singhik up the Lachung and Lachen valleys in North Sikkim, foreigners need restricted-area permits. These allow travel up to the Tsopta and Yumthang valleys. Indian citizens need a police permit to travel north of Singhik but can venture further up the Thanggu valley to Gurudongmar Lake, or to Yume Samdong (Zero Point) past Yumthang. Permits can be procured in Gangtok but are only delivered on the morning of departure and the need for a guide is enforced. Applying in Mangan is generally a better option.
For Dzongu (the Lepcha area north of Dikchu) you'll need a special permit, usually organised through your prebooked homestay. While the permit is free, homestay owners incur significant costs copying documents and taking taxis to Mangan to make arrangements on your behalf so will normally charge around ₹500 for the service. Alternatively, arrange your own permit in Mangan.