The Sikkim Entry Permit: A Guide For Foreign Nationals

When I was researching about Sikkim, I had thought the only things that I needed to read up on were places of interest, accommodation and transport logistics. Easy peasey, right? Typical travel planning stuff. However, right from the get go, every travel article on Sikkim mentioned about having a permit to enter Sikkim.

In my mind, applying for permit or anything that is government-related in India equals Big Hassle. And that’s the last thing I needed to deal with when travelling in India. Applying for the travel visa from Malaysia isn’t too bad – visa processing takes only three business days – but I abhor the long queue to hand in the documents. So, I had assumed it would be the same thing when applying for the Sikkim entry permit but I was wrong. It was actually easy and fast.

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Why the bureaucratic formalities?

Sikkim is a landlocked north-east state of India, and borders with the Indian state of West Bengal to the south, Nepal to the west, Tibet to the north and east, Bhutan to the east. Due to its proximity to China and the fact that its land border with Tibet is wide open, the entire state of Sikkim is under restricted area regime. Hence, all foreign nationals require the entry permit i.e. Restricted Area Permit (RAP) or also known as the Inner Line Permit (ILP).

What is the Restricted Area Permit or Inner Line Permit?

The entry permit is a piece of paper containing your passport data and is valid for 15 days. Upon entering and exiting Sikkim, your passport and the permit will be stamped – it’s like crossing international borders but you’re still in India.

During your travels in Sikkim, you must keep this entry permit with you at all times, in the event you need to produce for identification purposes.

How to apply for the entry permit?

There are a few ways to apply for the entry permit, but I’m only familiar with the following three ways based on my own personal experience and observations.

1. Upon crossing Sikkim state border by road en route to Gangtok (state capital) or East Sikkim: At Rangpo checkpost.

2. In Darjeeling: At the District Magistrate’s Office.

Prior to the District Magistrate’s Office, you have to apply for the permit at the Foreigners’ Registration Office.

sikkim entry permit darjeeling foreigners registration office apply sikkim permit

Then you bring the application form and your personal documents to the District Magistrate’s Office.

I applied for my permit in Darjeeling with guidance from my guesthouse host who offered to walk with me to these two offices. I reckon you probably won’t need your accommodation hosts to walk with you but should you need guidance, I’m pretty sure your hosts would be able to assist you as they are very familiar with the Sikkim formalities and many travellers often stay in Darjeeling en route to Gangtok.

sikkim entry permit darjeeling district magistrate office apply sikkim permit

3. At the time of Indian travel visa application

I remember seeing this on the visa application form. Although my travel dates in Sikkim were more or less fixed, I chose not to apply for the permit from the India visa centre in Malaysia just in case there were some changes to my travel dates while travelling in India.

What documents do I need to produce when applying for the entry permit?

1. Passport & Indian travel visa
2. Two copies of the passport and visa.
3. Two passport photos.

I brought three copies. There’s a high likelihood that you will be travelling to other parts of Sikkim apart from Gangtok, thus your travel agency or travel representative requires another copy of your passport and visa and passport photo.

Should you forget to bring an extra copy, don’t fret because there are many Xerox shops available to make another copy. However, do bring more than two passport photos.

Any fees or charges for the entry permit?

No fees or charges. It’s free of cost.

Do I have to wait a long time while the permit is being processed?

No, it’s a quick process especially at Rangpo, only ten minutes if there are not too many foreigners in the queue.

However, my experience in Darjeeling was a little longer because the district offices are only opened after 10am or 10.30am. And it’s a 15 minutes’ walk between the Foreigners’ Registration Office and the Magistrate’s Office (because of the steep uphill walk). By the time it’s done, it would be mid-day. Having said that, it isn’t too bad a process especially if you are in Darjeeling for a few days, so you have plenty of time to kill.

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Since Sikkim is under restricted area regime, there are certain areas within the state which are defined as Protected Areas and have special army deployment. As a result, these areas could be off-limits for foreigners, or foreigners require a separate permit called the Protected Area Permit (PAP) to visit those places.

You do not need to apply for the PAP but your travel representative will help to apply for you as long you produce your entry permit (RAP/ILP). Hence, the RAP/ILP is THE document that you must have in order to enter and to travel in Sikkim.

Are you planning a trip to Sikkim? If so, is this guide helpful for you?

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17 comments

  1. hi thanks for writing this – was trying to figure out how to get the permit. by the way, were you travelling alone? and the car from the airport or train bagdogra, did you arrange it earlier or you got it once you arrived. is it better to go to gangtok first or to darjeeling and then to gangtok? thank you for your time

    1. Hi, yes, I was travelling solo during that trip. I arranged with my guesthouse in Darjeeling to have a driver pick me up from Bagdogra airport and to drive me to Gangtok a couple of days later. It might be better to go to Darjeeling first because Darjeeling is 2.5 hours’ drive from Bagdogra whilst it’s a 4-hour drive to Gangtok. Hope this helps πŸ™‚

      1. Thanks so much for replying. I’m planning to travel solo but saw the foreigners need to be in at least a pair note so got worried. You got the permit at the border right? How long were you there? Do you mind if I ask how much did the transportation roughly cost per day?

        1. The last time I was in Sikkim was in 2015. As per regulations then, travelling solo is ok up to Gangtok, the state capital of Sikkim. However to travel to other places in Sikkim, regulations require foreigners to travel in groups – at least 2 persons. You can check with blueskysikkim.com a tour operator in Gangtok who has many foreign guests booking travels with them. They should be able to assist you in finding another foreigner to travel with. I used their services to get to Changu Lake – pls see my post https://www.katpegimana.com/destinations/india/snowing-at-changu-lake/ – there are workarounds.

          For more questions, pls feel free to email me at katpegimana@gmail.com

  2. Thank you. Really appreciate this post. Bercadang nak pergi this october.
    Means kena apply normal india visa dari malaysia dan sampai sana baru apply entry permit to sikkim.boleh kan. πŸ™‚

      1. Untuk apply normal visa di malaysia kalau letak visit place sikkim ada problem x? Sbb nak aply permit di sana. So if letak time kat malaysia kena apply dr malaysia ke?

        Ada contact reliable agent di sikkim?

        Tq.

        1. Hi Nisa,

          Tak ada problem kalau tulis Sikkim dalam borang visa di Malaysia. I didn’t tulis Sikkim dalam borang visa saya bila saya applied dari Malaysia kerana dulu saya nak travel dari Kolkata ke Darjeeling baru sampai kat Sikkim. I wasn’t sure when was my exact travel dates in Sikkim, sebab itu saya applied Sikkim permit dari Darjeeling.

          You boleh cuba Blue Sky Tours & Travels based in Gangtok, Sikkim (blueskysikkim.com) – recommended by my host mother and also I used their services for the day trip to Changu Lake. What’s your travel itinerary in Sikkim? You pegi terus ke dari Malaysia (KL-Kolkata-Bagdogra?) If you have further questions, pls feel free to email to me katpegimana@gmail.com. Terima kasih ya! πŸ™‚

    1. Oh your son is studying in Gangtok? It is indeed a beautiful state. Actually I wish I had planned my trip better because I only visited Gangtok and Changu. Never got the chance to explore especially North Sikkim. Perhaps this might be a reason to go back to Sikkim again.

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