Travelling by Rail to Gangtok from Kolkata
As mentioned in earlier tips there are many options to go to Gangtok/ Darjeeling from any part of India. But travelling by train is the best and cheapest way. There are many trains going from Kolkata, Howrah Jn and Sealdah Jn. The best train to New Jalpaiguri ( the major junction station at the foot hills of Darjeeling and Sikkim) is Darjeeling Mail but there are other trains as well which are equally good. Darjeeling mail( dep: 2343 UP daily at 22.05 from Sealdah) is always full, so you may take the fully Airconditioned Express GARIB RATH ( dep: Tues, Thurs, Sat 2517 up at 21.40)from Kolkata station ( the latest and third station of Kolkata city).
From Sealdah Uttar Banga Express dep: 3147 UP 19.35on Mon, Wed, & Sat)), Kanchandjonga Express( dep: 5657 06.45hrs) or Kanchan Kanya Express ( dep: 3149UP 19.35 on Tues, Thurs, Fri & Sun), Teesta Torsa Exp ( dep: 3141 UP 13.35hrs)
From Howrah Jn you may take Kamrup Express( dep: 5959 UP daily at 17.35), Saraighat Express ( dep: 2345UP Super Fast 16.00 hrs).
All the trains have the combination of ACII, ACIII, Sleeper Class & AC Chair Car in Kanchendzonga Exp, AC I in Darjeeling Mail & combination of AC II & ACIII in Garib Rath ( full train is Airconditioned).
The Fare is around Rs.25o for sleeper class to Rs.1800 for AC Ist Class. Now tickets are available on line, please log in to: www.irctc.co.in
All the trains arrive at NJP around 03.00 AM to 08.00 AM, there are numerous vehicles waiting just outside NJP station for Gangtok, Darjeeling, Phuntsoling, Mirik, Pelling. You may select one and travel by your choice, either charter the vehicle or take the front seat by paying for two, or the mid one paying for 4 persons.
The Daily Helicopter Service to Gangtok.
Our VT friends will be delighted to know that now Sikkim Tourism has started daily Helicopter flight to and fro from Bagdogra Airport to Gangtok and back. It is connected with almost every major flight landing at Bagdogra during daytime.
The fare is not expensive, Rs2000/- ( USD$ 50) for one side from Bagdogra to Gangtok and vice versa, with free luggage of 10 kilos.
They also have several other kinds of flight for charter, like The Mountain flight : Rate Rs1200/- ( USD$ 25) PER FLYING MINUTE for 4 persons. In one hour flight the chopper can take you to Yumthang valley or very near to Mt.Kanchendzonga! Besides, they also have Gangtok city tour for 5 persons for a duration of 15mts for Rs.7590/- ( USD$ 190apx).
The flights can be booked by any travel agent or Sikkim tourism counter at Bagdogra airport or at Gangtok.
Contact: Mr.Jon Shankar AGM ( Operations) Sikkim Tourism Travel Division., Mrs. Gita Chettri Asst. Manager, Sikkim Tourism Travel Division. ( Tourist Information Centre, M.G.Road, Gangtok).
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Going to and travelling around in Gangtok
The state of Sikkim and the city of Gangtok is very well connected by Air, Rail and Road. The nearest Rail head is New Jalpaiguri or NJP is about 126 KMs and nearest airport is Bagdogra ( Near Siliguri/ NJP) 125kms. NJP is major or perhaps the largest rail junction in North Bengal or North East. It is very well cnnected with entire North East, Gauhati, Kolkata ( Calcutta), New Delhi, Mumbai, Patna, North India and South India as well. The station is always bustling as trains are arriving in all 24hrs from various directions. In my view travelling by road to Gangtok is the best way to reach the city. There is Helicpoter Service from Bagdogra airport but the timings may not suit you.
Just outside the staition, there is taxi stand for Darjeeling, Panitanki ( Kakarbhita, Nepal), Gangtok, Phuntsoling ( Bhutan), Lava, Lolegaon and various other places. The fare is fixed for all destinations. From NJP to Gangtok the are is Rs150/-( or USD$3 at current exchange rate, really cheap for Westerner) per passenger. It takes about 3.5 hrs to 4.30 hrs to reach Gangtok from NJP depending on the road condition( Please remember driving condition on hills is entirely different from highways). The vehicles are all 10 seater diesel jeeps, they take 10 passengers for a trip. If you want little more comfort you may take the entire front seat ( 2 persons) or back seat ( 4 persons).
In the city of Gangtok for local travelling or sightseeing around you get petrol vans or cars who allow only 4 persons to seat including the driver. The local fare is Rs. 10/- per pax per destination say from Baluakani to M.G.Road a distance of 4kms or you can book the entire vehicle for Rs 40/- ( or USD$1 only!).
For local sight seeing for 7 points or 10 points you get cars for Rs.600/- ( USD$12) to Rs1000/- (USD$20) including journey to Rumtek Monastry and Banjhakhri Falls( both will take about 24+ 15 KMs one way or about 80kms return). Time given about 4-6 hrs or even more! It works out very cheap for Rs.600/- you can travel more than 100kms in hills and use the vehicle for more than 6hrs! The Sikkim drivers are very polite and cooperative as well. ( See pictures)
Generally people who come to India arrive either in Mumbai or New Delhi. Jet Airways is currently the only flight which takes you to gangtok via Kolkata. Also if u are coming by train, Get down at New Jalpaiguri, and buses and taxis will leave u safely to gangtok. In this picture is the New-Jalpaiguri station
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