The best time to visit is from October to March. You’ll get the best mountain views during November and early December. Mid-December to late January can bring low temperatures (often dropping below zero in higher areas) and fog. February to April is warmer and drier, but expect some cloud. June to September brings the monsoon, but even outside those months Sikkim receives some of the heaviest rainfall in the Indian Himalayas, so you should be prepared for wet and misty conditions at any time.
NB, please do not rely solely on this information for your travel planning.
SIKKIM: BY AIR
There are no direct flights to Sikkim. You'll need to fly to Delhi, Chennai (Madras) or Kolkata (Calcutta) and then catch an internal flight to Bagdora in the neighbouring state of West Bengal.
From the UK: British Airways, Air India, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, Gulf Air, Qatar Airways and Kuwaiti Airlines.
Within Europe: Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, Finnair, Alitalia and Swiss International Airlines.
From the USA: Air India.
From within India: with Jet Airways, Air India and SpiceJet.
By train: See Indian Rail for fare information and timetables, or visit Seat 61 for a beginner's guide to rail travel in India.
BY CAR: If you want to travel by road it's worth hiring a car (a 4x4 is preferable) and driver who knows the area well.
BY BUS: Travelling by bus is a cheap way to get around, but they can be very overcrowded and uncomfortable.
BY TAXI: There are taxi-cars, with or without air conditioning, and a large number of auto-rickshaws (noisy but nippy three-wheelers) on the roads. Fares are cheap with various small extras. Some drivers try to stop off at shops where they get commissions on your purchases, while others fend off all touts and take you straight to your destination.
Almost every non-Indian needs a tourist visa from their embassy or consulate. There are 3- and 6-month multiple-entry and single-entry visas (the cost is the same), and they can no longer be issued the same day - so plan ahead! Note you may need a permit and a guide to visit nature reserves and national parks; these are normally available locally.
The most common health problem for visitors is diarrhoea. It's important to drink a lot of bottled water (tap water isn't safe to drink) and to be aware of what, and where, you are eating. Choose fruits that you can peel and avoid fresh salads (or wash them yourself with purified water) and ice made from tap water. Be cautious of ice cream, cold milk and undercooked fish or meat. If you experience diarrhoea it's very important to replace lost fluids and, in the case of severe diarrhoea, lost minerals and salts (it’s a good idea to go prepared with some oral rehydration salts). If you become ill your hotel should be able to recommend a good local doctor or clinic. You may want to consider carrying an emergency treatment pack including needles and syringes.
It's important to seek medical advice at least 6 weeks before departure as some vaccinations may require more than one injection. Make sure you're up to date with vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus and polio. Vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid are also advisable (note that the current vaccine against cholera offers very low protection and isn't usually recommended). Consider vaccinations against rabies and Japanese B encephalitis if you're planning to stay longer than a couple of weeks. Sikkim is largely free from malaria, but it is present in neighbouring states and most other areas of India, so ask your doctor to advise on whether anti-malarial medication is needed. Mosquito bites are common, so insect repellent is essential; we recommend using one which ontains DEET.
If you're walking from village to village, make sure you have any medication you need in your hand luggage, as your main luggage will be transported ahead by porters.
Many staff are paid very low salaries and expect to be tipped. In hotels and restaurants, 10% is normal. In other situations, where there is no bill, a few rupees will suffice.