When traveling to the border areas in the Himalayas, you need to pay special attention to the permits required for that region. For Sikkim, we got amazing support from Karma Tenzing, a Royal Enfield rider and owner of the a really nice hotel called 100 Petals in Gangtok. 100 Petals sits at the higher end of the spectrum. But for bikers Karma offers a heavily discounted rate. If you are riding to Sikkim, I strongly recommend that you hook up with Karma.
The permits for Sikkim are a little complicated. Unlike Arunachal Pradesh, you can’t get them online. So you need someone there to do the ground work for you. Otherwise you need to waste a day or two to get stuff done yourself when you get there.
The way I understand it, there are two parts to the Sikkim permit. You need to first apply to the Home Ministry with your documents and that of our vehicle, if you are using your own. The Home Ministry issues you a letter describing your itinerary with the names of places and the dates when you will be visiting there. They also give you a bunch of copies of this letter marked for various police check posts along the way. We had planned to visit North and East Sikkim. So our letter said exactly that.
Now here comes the complicated part. On the day of your travel, you need to go to the Police Permit Cell in Gangkok and wrestle with all the other tourist taxi drivers to submit this letter from the Home Ministry. After filling up a form and submitting it, you return after half an hour to get a permit from the Police. But the police don’t give you a permit for your entire itinerary. In our case, they gave us a permit only for North Sikkim because that’s where the Home Ministry letter said that we would go first.
You then need to make a number of copies of this Police permit to hand over to each check post that you come across. And there are quite a few of them. Initially I made five copies thinking that they would be more than enough. I ended up searching for a xerox machine when I reached Lachen on a cold and rainy night. Luckily I was able to find one.
After returning back from North Sikkim, we had to do the drill again. We had to go back to the Police Permit Cell in Gangtok in the morning and apply for a permit for East Sikkim. I’m not sure what happens if you change your itinerary in the middle. I hope the Police are considerate and issue you the permit for your changed itinerary.