Important Tips For Your Sikkim Road Trip

by Manoj Keshwar on 04 September 2017
tips for sikkim road trip

To ensure that your Sikkim road trip is as enjoyable as possible, we have compiled a list of important tips to help you prepare for all possibilities.

Hotels and Camps
Please carry your ID, which is to be provided during check in at all hotels, at all times. Your booking will be under the name of Viktorianz. It’s also a good idea to carry business cards with your address and phone number/s, which will assist hotel staff to check you in speedily.

Vehicles
The use of vehicles in Sikkim is strictly as per the itinerary. For any sightseeing at Darjeeling, there will be a local West Bengal Registration vehicle for use.

There will be an oxygen cylinder in the vehicle for emergency use.

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
If you are planning to travel to GurudongmarTso, be advised that AMS is a possibility. The trip commences from Lachen, which is at an altitude of 2750m (or 8838 feet) above mean sea level. Your travel on the day of the tour will be up to 5425m (or 17,800 feet).

Similarly, although less of a concern, Nathula and Baba Harbhajan Mandir are at an altitude of 4310m (or 14,140 feet). However, you can descend quickly to Gangtok, which is less than two hours away.

The most common symptoms of AMS are: headache, disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, nausea, coughing, breathlessness and lack of concentration.

Your guide will make use of an Oxygen Saturation meter to determine your health. Use oxygen during both the ascent and descent as advised by the guide/tour leader.

If you notice any warning symptoms (such as headache, nausea, dizziness and fatigue), immediately take a break and descend. If you are at high altitude, discontinue the tour and descend to Lachen without any delay.

A few things to keep in mind for better acclimatization –

  • To adapt to the low atmospheric pressure, you need to give yourself time for proper acclimatization. So, relax on the day prior to your tour to GurudongmarTso and Nathula.
  • Some preventive medicines do aid acclimatization and treat altitude sickness. The most popular is Diamox. Please check with your family physician for their recommendations.
  • Don’t physically exert yourself too much during the ascent. Low levels of oxygen could lead to fatigue in an instant and make it very difficult to catch your breath. It is best to return to a lower altitude ASAP.
  • Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol at high altitude.
  • Keep yourself well hydrated.

Cash and ATMs
Carry the appropriate amount of cash with you at all times. Cash is needed for the purchase of commodities, services or souvenirs at most places (other than Gangtok). Credit card facilities are available at all hotels (and also at Gangtok).

Identification
You need to carry proof of ID (drivers license, voter ID, Aadhar Card etc), which you may be required to present at certain check posts to obtain inner line permits for North Sikkim and East Sikkim (GurudongmarTso and Nathula Tours).

Local Culture
Refrain from any activities that are against the norms of Buddhist culture, which is very conservative. Do not wear shorts and sleeveless tops, especially in monasteries, mosques, temples and gurudwaras. The norm is to wear a collared t-shirt.

Please do not take photographs of local people without seeking permission, nor of (or within) any religious building and of any religious ceremony. 

Smoking is banned in any open place in Sikkim. This is strictly monitored and implemented, especially for tourists. Be advised that there are CCTV cameras, even in small towns and hamlets.

Traffic is rigorously policed. Please adhere to the law.

Sikkim is very clean; Gangtokhas even been awarded the cleanest city award. Do not litter – there are stiff fines for violating the law.

Please note that bottled water is prohibited in the Lachen and Yumthang valleys.

Communication Facilities
The mountainous area prevents seamless communication. Data, 3G and so on are rare, except for inGangtok. Voice communication is also patchy, so SMS will be your best means of communication.

Early Morning Timing.
Due to a combination of high wind speeds and fog/low clouds, which makes driving dangerous, authorities have laid down time limits for driving to Guru DongmarTso and Nathula. If you delay driving out there, chances are that you may not be permitted to proceed after the checkpoints.

Miscellaneous 
As plastic is officially banned in Sikkim, avoid the use of plastic bags.

Must Carry Items

  • A sun hat, sunscreen and a pair of good quality sunglasses with sufficient filter-factor to protect against the sun’s ultraviolet rays
  • Basic toiletries
  • Along with regular clothing, pack light woollens for road trips to GurudongmarTso and Nathula. Always carry a windcheater
  • Walking shoes with comfortable soles/sneakers
  • Necessary medicines, allergy pills, antiseptic, anti-nausea pills, bandages and other prescribed medications
  • Camera, spare batteries and mobile chargers
  • Chocolates, candies and dry fruits
  • ID cards