Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts

Vacation to Hanoi, Vietnam - Everything about our 7 day trip


We traveled to Northern Vietnam in mid-September for a week, and honestly, cannot wait to return to the country to see other regions.

Halong bay
Halong Bay

Our visit to Vietnam was a very last-minute plan. We'd initially decided on Europe, but with the whole Visa queue chaos going on, we shifted our sights to Asia, and then picked Vietnam. He has had his eyes set on Halong Bay ever since the James Bond movie ( Tomorrow never dies, I think), but he had to convince me a little about how this could transform into a 7 day trip. Being a fan of Vietnamese food, I was super excited to eat though. All in all, it was a wonderful trip and since I got sooo many queries about our trip, I thought I'd document the details before I forget.

If you've read our other travel blogs, you'd know that we like to focus on one city/region and take it slow. We don't like to cram in a lot during our vacations, thus making it hectic. We also do not travel with a travel agent, we like to plan as we go. We spend a lot of time researching what we want to see and where we want to eat (of course). 

So let's start:

This is a long post, so leaving some quick links:

1. Tickets, Hotel, Visa, Insurance
2. Itinerary
3. All about food - What to eat and restaurants we recommend
4. Cost
5. What to buy in Hanoi
6. Important details

Tickets, Hotel, Visa, Insurance:

Tickets - For the first time, we booked our Thai Airways tickets on and we got very competitive rates. Better than the airline itself. However, while the airline has several types of vegetarian options, the vegetarian option on translates to ovo-lacto-vegetarian. So we had to email the airline after we got the tickets to change the meal option to "Hindu Vegetarian" aka no eggs. With that set, we proceeded to book the hotel, visa, and insurance. We had a very comfortable flight with decent food and good entertainment.

Hotel - We've always booked using and we continued with it. A former colleague recommended Somerset to us and we loved the reviews/photos that we saw. We ended up booking the 2 bedroom executive at Somerset Grand Hanoi. The hotel is located in a good neighbourhood. It is a good walking distance from the happening Old Quarter area, but not bang in the middle of it. We liked it, as it meant that the hotel was quieter in the evening and we could pop in for all the fun when we wanted to. The hotel is also conveniently located so that the tour buses can pick you up. Somerset Grand is a service apartment, so you have a full-fledged kitchen for yourself and you also have a washing machine in the apartment to do your own laundry. They also have a good pool area and a gym. There is also a restaurant and a shopping area in the building. We got a room on the 19th floor and the view was beautiful. The apartment was large enough for the 3 of us and we loved the service. 

We never mentioned that it was Raj's birthday, but they set up a surprise with cake, flowers, and a card. It just made our day. So now I'm doubly recommending the hotel to anyone who asks. Most of the tourists stay around the Old Quarter area and you have some very reasonably priced hotels there. Most of the luxurious hotels are a little far away from this area and generally around West Lake. If you book those, plan for a mode of transport to the bustling part of the city - either rent a two-wheeler or book a taxi.

Somerset Grand Hanoi hotel in Vietnam
Somerset Grand Hanoi and view from our room

Visa - Vietnam has an eVisa for Indians. You can go to and submit your details and make the payment. Our visa arrived over email in 3 days. It is a very straightforward form, so you should not have any trouble. Carry a physical copy for checking at the airport. 

Insurance - It always makes sense to travel with Travel Insurance. We suggest checking online on what suits your requirement. We recommend including good medical coverage, especially since you are traveling to a new country.

Vaccination Certificate - Take physical copies of your Covid 19 vaccination certificate so you can get through the checking quickly. We were asked for this at the Thai Airways counters in Bangalore and Hanoi. They also checked for it during our transit in Bangkok at the gate. 

Air Suvidha - For anyone traveling to India, it is expected that you fill out an online health self-declaration form. The airline will share the form details over email with you. Please have it filled out before you board your return. This may be temporary in light of Covid 19. They checked for this at Bangalore airport once we returned. 


At a glance, our itinerary was as follows:
  • Day 1 - Landing in Hanoi and walk around Hoan Kiem Lake/Old Quarters
  • Day 2 - Hanoi sightseeing
  • Day 3 - Ha Long Bay Cruise
  • Day 4 - Ninh Binh Trip
  • Day 5 - Bat Trang Ceramic Village and Hanoi sightseeing
  • Day 6 - Rest day/ Shopping
  • Day 7 - Depart

Day 1 - Landing in Hanoi

We landed in Hanoi on Saturday morning. We had an airport transfer via  Agoda and it was decent. The agency sent us WhatsApp details of the driver and the car in advance. We used the airport wifi to communicate with him and it was seamless. 

Hanoi airport

After a good snooze at the hotel, we used the rest of the day to explore the Hoan Kiem area of Hanoi. The Saturday that we arrived was the autumn festival in Hanoi, so we got treated to some musical concerts and dances. But the lake area is very pretty on any weekend as they close it off to traffic, so you will see a lot of locals and tourists just strolling around. We had some donuts, iced tea, and something like an ice cream around the lake. We visited the Ngoc Son temple which is in the middle of the lake. This is very scenic and you can take some beautiful photos here. 

photos of hanoi - Hoan kiem lake
1 & 2 - Ngoc Sun Temple, 3&4 - Around Hoan Kiem Lake

Photos of hanoi around hoan kiem lake
1 to 3 - Around Hoan Kiem Lake, 4 - St. Joseph's Cathedral

We also used the evening to exchange some currency and purchase a SIM card. You can do both of these at the airport as well. While the sim card charges may be consistent (we did not check the plans at the airport), the forex exchange rate is slightly lower at the airport, as expected. We purchased a Viettel data only sim card which was sufficient for our stay in Hanoi for a week. We exchanged our USD for VND at Jeweller's street aka P. Ha Trung. Lower denomination notes and older USD notes will fetch you a lower exchange rate as compared to a newer $100. 

Then, we headed to book our day trips for sightseeing. While we generally do this before we reach the destination, the week we were set to travel had rain predictions due to a cyclone in the south. So we wanted to book the trips closer to the travel date as we could then plan on days when the prediction was slightly better. 

Day 2 - Hanoi Sightseeing

This day was all about Hanoi. After breakfast, we set out to explore the city on foot. If walking isn't your game, you can rent a two wheeler, book a grab taxi or book a day tour of Hanoi at any of the tourist agencies in the city. Hanoi is a beautiful city with a lot of parks and lakes. We visited the following places:

1. Temple of Literature 
2. One Pillar Pagoda
3. Train street
4. Military History Museum 
5. Tran Quoc Pagoda in West Lake

We glanced at a few of the monuments from outside:

1. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
2. Presidential Palace
3. Quan Thanh Temple
4. St. Joseph's Cathedral

When we went, we were allowed on the train street when the train was passing (3pm). But a few days later, while we were still in Hanoi, there was an incident with a tourist after which the authorities put restrictions around the train street. As per the latest news, the cafes have been closed and tourists are not allowed there anymore. But you can still stand at a crossing and witness the train at 3pm every day.


1 & 3 - Temple of Literature, 2 - One Pillar Pagoda, 4 - Tran Quoc Pagoda

1 & 2 - War museum, 3 - Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, 4 - West Lake

Day 3 - Ha Long Bay Day Tour

We booked our trip to Halong bay via Agoda. We booked the Small Group Halong Day tour organized by Dragon Fly tours. We were picked up from our hotel at around 7.45 am. The bus accommodates around 20-25 individuals. Once all were picked up, we drove to Ha Long Bay. Our guide Robert gave us some background about the language, food, culture, and history of the region. On the way, we stopped at a shopping center for coffee/breakfast and shopping for handicrafts.

Once we arrived at the jetty, he purchased the tickets and we boarded the cruise. It had around 50 people onboard (two bus full). It did not feel crowded, honestly. We had already communicated that we wanted a vegan meal and were provided one. The cuisine is mostly Vietnamese, i.e. - spring rolls, fried rice, noodles etc. The food is served on your table as we begin the cruise. You can purchase drinks on the cruise. After lunch, you can just walk to the deck or the roof and enjoy the sight of the beautiful rock formations.

We then stopped for a kayak or a bamboo boat tour of some caves. The kayak seats 2 individuals and the bamboo boat seats 4-5 and has a person who will row the boat. There is no swimming allowed in the bay.

We then cruised to see the Thien Cung Cave to see the stalactite and stalagmite formations. The day we went there, it was sunny but it had rained the previous day. This mix of weather gave us beautiful weather there and the sight of the light streaming into the cave was mesmerizing. 

After this, we boarded our boat and were served iced tea. We cruised back to the jetty. We then boarded our bus and went to an Oyster farm. Here you can see how pearls are made and can also purchase pearls.

On the way back, the bus stopped at a small shopping mall for tea/coffee. Most of us purchased local snacks here. They were reasonably priced. 

We reached our hotel at around 7.30pm. 

We preferred a day tour, however, you can also book a 2 day, 1 night cruise trip and take in more of the bay.

Halong Bay
1&2 - Halong Bay views, 3 - Us on the upper deck of the boat, 4 - Thien Cung Cave

Halong bay
Halong Bay

Halong bay
1 & 2 - Thien Cung Cave, 3&4 - Oyster Farm

Day 4 - Ninh Binh Day Tour

We booked this tour at Timeline Travel. We were picked up between 8-8.30am from our hotel. This tour bus had around 18-20 people in total. Our guide, Bao explained to us the nuances of the Vietnamese language and a little bit about the tourism industry in Vietnam. We stopped at a shopping center/coffee shop en route.

First, we went to Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of Vietnam. Here Bao, explained to us the feudal history of Vietnam. This is a temple of the Emperor and his family. We spent some time exploring the temple.

After this, we stopped at a bicycle rental place and went for a 30 minute bicycle ride around the village. This was the scariest bit for me as I had not ridden a bicycle in 20 years and well, what they say is true, you never forget to cycle, once you learn. Though I had a shaky start, I managed to bike through the village. The roads are mostly just mud and stones, so it can get a little difficult to bike there when combined with the highly humid and hot weather. Pro tip - Carry a bottle of water with you. We left ours in the bus, and it was a huge mistake. 

The restaurant for lunch is right next to the bicycle rental. So after returning, we headed for lunch. Lunch here was buffet style and had vegan options.

After lunch, we headed towards Tam Coc caves in a bamboo boat. This was the highlight of the trip. The sights are really beautiful. This area is called Halong Bay on land and it is exactly that. Limestone rock formations all along the river. We went through 3 caves on this one hour long ride.

Then we drove to the Mua caves and were given a little over one hour to explore the area. Here, you can either visit the cave or the viewpoint. Almost everyone goes to the viewpoint. There are 500 steps to the top of one viewpoint, the one that takes you to the dragon. When you are climbing the hill, take a moment to view the sites around you, you can see some beautiful rice fields and ponds. The little path from the top of the hill to the dragon is rocky and not very safe. So use your better judgment to climb those few extra steps.

From there we headed back to Hanoi and reached the city around 7.30pm.

We preferred to book a day trip, however, you can decide to stay a few nights in the region to explore it better. 

Ninh Binh
Mua Caves View Point

1,2,5 - Boat ride along Tam Coc Caves, 3 to 4 - Hoa Lu Ancient Capital

Day 5 - Bat Trang

This was an unplanned day. We decided in the morning that we will go to Bat Trang Ceramic Village. We booked a Grab taxi and went to the village. On the way, we saw the mural street from the cab. We strolled through the village and purchased a few ceramics. You can also book a day tour here where you can do some pottery.

From Bat Trang, we went to Hanoi to see the Imperial Citadel and the Hoa Lo Prison Museum. Hoa Lo Prison can be disturbing, so visit only if you can stomach it.

We took it easy the rest of the day. We booked massages and then just strolled around Hoan Kiem lake. The lake area was our favorite as it has people playing music, and some senior folks dancing. It was a very relaxing place. It can make you fall in love with Hanoi.

Bat Trang Ceramic Village

Some glimpses of Hanoi

Some glimpses of Hanoi

1 & 2 - Hoa Lo Prison, 3&4 - Coffee shop, 5 - Currency exchange, 6 - Market

Day 6 - Shopping

This was our last day in Hanoi and we spent the day shopping for souvenirs, and stuff to get back. We purchased some more ceramics, coffee powder, mung bean cake, dried fruit, jackets and some other knick-knacks.

All about food

If you love crusty bread and strong coffee, this is the place for you. The french influence is visible in the bread and croissants all over the city. We love Vietnamese food, so we enjoyed it. 

Vietnam is a meat eaters paradise, but at least in Hanoi, we easily found vegetarian/vegan fare. 

Some Vietnamese foods you should try:

1. Pho - This noodle soup is considered the national dish of Vietnam. It has a flavorful broth with noodles, herbs and may be vegetables like mushrooms. 

2. Bahn Mi - Our favorite of all Vietnamese foods. Bahn Mi is a sandwich made by stuffing a small crusty baguette with pickled vegetables, some stuffing (either mushrooms, tofu, avocado or even falafels), some spread and herbs. 

3. Bahn Xeo - This was a little difficult to find. Bahn Xeo is a crepe filled with some stuffing, in our case, it was thinly sliced vegetables like carrots, cucumbers etc served alongside herbs and rice paper. You are supposed to stuff the rice paper with the herbs, the crepe, and the stuffing and dip it in the sauce and eat. We absolutely loved the one we tried in Hanoi.

4. Fresh rolls / Goi Cuon - Thin rice paper sheets stuffed with fresh vegetables served with a dipping sauce.

5. Spring rolls - These are similar to the fresh rolls, but deep fried and have vermicelli and some other vegetables in them.

6. Che - This is a dessert soup. We had one with cold sweet coconut milk with various toppings. On a hot day, this is the dessert to go to.

7. Coffee - There is no dearth of options for coffee in Vietnam. We tried several ones and absolutely recommend an iced milk coffee. 

8. Croissants - The croissants and other bakery items like danishes and pain de chocolat were absolutely delicious. They mostly have an egg wash over them, so check with the bakery first before purchasing.

For those who do eat egg, Egg Coffee is very popular and must be tried. Draught beer or Bia Hoi is also extremely popular in Hanoi. You will find it at every street corner.

Vietnamese food
1. Banh Xeo, 2. Bahn Mi, 3. Che, 4. Basque Cheesecake, 5. Croissant, 6. Iced Milk Coffee

Vietnamese food
1. Ice cream, 2. Assorted fruits, 3. Avocado Salad, 4. Mapo Tofu, 5. Sweet Potato Danish, 6. Cake

Vietnamese food
1. Stir fried Tofu, 2. Fresh rolls, 3. Donut, 4. Spring rolls, 5. Pho, 6. Mooncake

Vietnamese food
1. Bahn Mi, 2. Pho. 3. Pesto pasta, 4. Mochi, 5. Boba milk tea, 6. Ice tea

Restaurants we recommend:

1. Chay Food  - This eatery may be tiny, but dishes out amazing Bahn Mi or Pate Bread as they call it. Absolutely loved it. Had their Pho and Pasta too, they were good. The Thai curry wasn't what we expected, so I'd give that a pass.

2. The Veg - A nice cafe with good ambience. We tried their Fresh Noodle Rolls, Mapo Tofu, Avocado Kale Salad, and stir fried Tofu with lemongrass. Also tried the Kombucha. The black rice that we chose with one of the meals wasn't to our liking, but everything else was.

3. Vegan Bahn Mi - This comes highly recommended all over the internet. This is a tiny place in a very tiny street. Very easy to miss. We liked the homely feel it gave us. We tried various Bahn Mi here and their dumpling. We liked the Bahn Mi, but they are very light, so you may want to grab more than one.

4. Met Vietnamese Restaurant and Vegetarian Food - We tried the Bahn Xeo here as it was the only one serving a vegetarian version of the dish. Absolutely loved it. Also ordered a curry, which was good too.

5. Anh Hoa French Bakery - For croissants, bread and other bakery items. The plain croissants were amazing. We tried some sweet potato danishes as well.

6. CoBa Bakery - Their coffee with condensed milk (iced) is highly recommended. We also tried their croissant and moon cake. Croissant was amazing, so was the Basque cheese cake. Both these may have egg, so please check before buying.

We also tried Mochi in a little place, Boba tea in a random cafe near Train street, Donuts from a street hawker, Green rice from a street hawker and Che at a little shop near the Dong Xuan Market.


While the Vietnamese Dong is a weak currency, Vietnam isn't as cheap as you would imagine. When they say 50 VND, they mean 50,000 VND. A decent coffee costs anywhere between VND 25,000 to 50,000 which when converted to INR is 85 to  170. So you will be spending almost the same amount you may have in India or more. The exchange rate when we travelled was 1 VND = 0.0034 INR and 1 USD = appx 24000 VND.

Ticket rates will vary depending on when you book them and in what season. It was around 35k round trip per person when we booked. We booked Thai Airways as it was the fastest from Bangalore. Air Asia was definitely cheaper but had a huge transit at Bangkok. Indigo operates direct flights from Kolkata as of today. You can definitely save some expenses here if you book early and select the airline carefully.

Hotel is one place where you can reduce costs. You can choose either a budget or a luxury hotel and that will determine the overall budget of your trip.

The day trips we booked cost us around USD 40 to 50 per person. These rates differ based on which site you book them with or which tour operator you select and what kind of discount they offer. Lunch is included in both these tours. Tips are not included but are expected. 

We spent around VND 130,000 on the various entry tickets per person. Taxi or bike rental is beyond this. 

We usually had breakfast at the hotel and lunch and dinner at restaurants. We spent almost VND 10,00,000 on food per person. A lot of it was on iced drinks as it was very warm and humid when we traveled. This is again something one can save on if you eat in cheaper places and mostly street food. The street food was rarely vegetarian, so we stuck to restaurants that were vegan mostly. Fruits like Longan are cheaper in Hanoi, so you can hoard them. 

The last thing you probably spend money on is shopping, and this is very much within your control. 

At the end of it consider you may need around $300-350 per person for shopping, food, and trips

What to buy in Hanoi

1. Ceramics - You have pretty ceramic bowls, plates, cups, and other decorative items. Buy them either at Bat Trang or at stores across Hanoi city. We purchased cute cups at Cerender Ceramics, while this isn't the cheapest store in town, it had some unique and quirky stuff. We also bought a few things at Authentic Bat Trang. We bought a few things in Bat Trang Ceramic Village too.

2. Coffee - You have a huge choice of coffee, from instant to traditional. You can buy it based on your taste. We also bought the coffee filter there and I like using it for even my regular Indian filter coffee.

3. O Mai - This is a Hanoi specialty. Dried fruit like apricot or plums flavored with spices, lime or ginger. We highly recommend buying from O Mai Hong Lam as they give you a sample to taste and the labels are in English.

4. Jackets/ Shoes/ Bags - A lot of factory seconds outlets are all over Hanoi. The authenticity of the goods is not guaranteed, but if you like something, bargain and purchase. We got good windcheaters for VND 225000 each. It has a North Face label on it, but like I said before, we don't know if it is authentic. There is a shoe street in Hanoi too which is famous for factory seconds and again, the disclaimer applies.

5. Vietnamese Conical Hat or Non La - Buy this just as a souvenir. They come in really small sizes too, just for decorative purposes, which is exactly the size we bought.

6. Mung Bean Cake - We bought the Taro flavor here for folks back in Bangalore and people liked it. So did we. It was mildly sweet. 

7. Rice paper sheets, Nori Sheets, Glass Noodles, Rice, Sauces - If you want to cook authentic Asian food at home, then you may want to grab some of these from any of the supermarkets.

8. Clothes - If clothes/bags and other accessories in wholesale are your game, then step into the Dong Xuan market and go crazy. However, do not forget to bargain.

1&4 - Ceramic, 2 - Mung bean cake, 3 - O Mai

Some other details

  • Vietnam has had a violent past with wars and colonialism, however, the people are warm and kind. We never got scammed here.
  • The language is very nuanced and the meaning of the same word changes based on the tone. So do not attempt to speak unless you know the language. Download the Google Translate app and use it around. We felt this was the most difficult part of our trip as English is not spoken fluently in most places. The tour guide operators are mostly the ones comfortable in English.
  • Tipping is expected, but not mandatory. At least on the various trips we took.
  • In a lot of the tourist spots outside of Hanoi, there are locals who will take your photo and later sell it to you for $1-2. You can purchase it if you want.
  • Hanoi felt very safe to us, we walked until 10pm and were never scared. But use your discretion while traveling at night.
  • Hanoi has smog. This is the worst part of the city and something we never expected. The view was rarely clear from our 19th floor hotel room due to this. 
  • As per the locals, two wheelers do not always follow the traffic rules, so be careful while crossing the streets. It was a lot better than in Bangalore, honestly. If you are riding a two wheeler, follow the traffic rules and be careful.
  • There are a lot of folks on the internet sharing information on how a trip to Vietnam costs only twenty thousand rupees. Be aware that they are mostly not including the airfare in their calculations.

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Travel to North East India - Sikkim

Itinerary, tips, what to shop for, where to eat and things to know before you go for a 10 day trip to North East India including the states of Meghalaya, West Bengal and Sikkim.

The North East has been blessed with natural beauty - the towering Himalayas, the clear rivers, white waterfalls, varied wildlife, diverse fauna, clear blue skies, fresh hilly air, and clouds. Ever since my first visit in 2009, I had been craving to take Raj there. And finally, we made it this year. And we have some more trips planned based on our current experience.

This travel post (like all my travel posts) is divided into 3 parts so that I can detail out our itinerary, the sights to see, places to eat perhaps, our plans and misses, and how I would replan it for the future.

Our overall itinerary:

Day 1 - Travel from Bangalore to Guwahati by flight. Then drive down to Shillong.
Day 2 - Sohra (Cherrapunji) sightseeing
Day 3 - Mawlyngong and Dawki
Day 4 - Drive back to Guwahati. Fly to Bagdogra. Hire a cab to Darjeeling.
Day 5 - Kalimpong sightseeing
Day 6 - Darjeeling sightseeing
Day 7 - Take a cab to Gangtok.
Day 8 - Nathu La Pass
Day 9 - Gangtok sightseeing
Day 10 - Take a cab to Bagdogra. Fly back to Bangalore.

This post details our travel and stays in the state of Sikkim. Read about our stay in Meghalaya and Darjeeling.


Sikkim was one of the last princely states to join the Indian union. It is a small, but very beautiful state located in North East India. Gangtok is the capital city. Located in East Himalayas, Sikkim is home to Mount Kanchenjunga, the third-highest peak in the world. Sikkim shares its borders with Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan.

Sikkim is the first state in India to have 100% organic produce.

View on the way to Nathula

Day 7: Travel to Gangtok

The drive from Darjeeling to Gangtok took us 3hours. The traffic was almost nil as it was a festival day, else, we've been told to expect the drive to take 4 hours or more.
We booked GoZo cabs (highly recommended) for the drive. We were picked up right on time by Mr. Bikash Chhetri (+91 7029706909/7797836186), and driven safely to our destination - Summit Denzong Hotel on Kazi road. The taxi was slightly more expensive as Mr. Chnetri had to be called from Siliguri to drive us, as most of the locals were unavailable due to the festival. But we didn't mind the extra cost as the drive was comfortable.

I suggest not planning much for the first day if you are driving in from either Darjeeling, Siliguri or Bagdogra, as traffic can be unpredictable and you may miss your appointment.
Instead, use this day to book your tours for the rest of your stay in Gangtok.

We reached the hotel at 11am, which was a lot sooner than their check time of 2pm. So, we parked our luggage at the reception and decided to check out MG Road. Read about my review of Hotel Summit Denzong here.  The hotel was a short downhill climb that took us around 10 mins. The walk uphill was a different story. The distance is short, but the hill is very steep and definitely not meant for the elderly.

MG Road in Gangtok is the best MG Road ever! The only word that comes to mind for this road is Cute! It is a wide stretch of road that is blocked for vehicular traffic. It is lined with benches and bushes in the center with shops and restaurants on both sides. Vegetarian and Non-vegetarian food is easily available here. Local food is predominantly non-vegetarian, but there are several North and South Indian restaurants that have vegetarian food. We bought souvenirs, had lunch and checked out the local market at Lal Bazaar. Lal Bazaar is a multistorey local market that has fresh produce on the lower levels and clothes, shoes and other things on the higher levels. There were some unique and indigenous vegetables and ferns available there that I have never seen or tasted. We picked up some glass noodles really cheap.

View from our room

MG Road

Day 8: Nathula, Tsomgo Lake, Baba Mandir, and Flower Show

We chose to go to Nathula pass on our second day in Gangtok. We had prebooked this tour from Darjeeling through Tenzing (+91 9733147740/ 9434257036) from Patola Travels. He was very helpful and organized a Mahindra Xylo to take us around, very comfortable.

Nathula is a mountain pass up in the Himalayas that connects India to the Tibet Autonomous Region. This Indo-China pass was a part of the old Silk Route. It was opened up for trade again in 2006. Only Indian nationals are allowed to the pass, that too, after obtaining a permit from Gangtok. The pass is open for public from Wednesday to Saturday, plan accordingly. The pass is situated at an altitude of 4310m, which is almost half the height of Mount Everest. Due to the altitude, the air is thinner up there. People with hypertension or hypotension may experience dizziness or other symptoms. Talk to your doctor before visiting. Those with altitude sickness may also need medication. If you feel extremely unwell, inform your taxi driver or the army personnel at the pass and they will take you to the closest medical center. The weather at those altitudes is also very unpredictable. When we were there it was 2 degrees C and sunny. But by the time we left, the weather was already getting cloudy and we got rain on the way back. Go prepared for rain and cold. Wear warm clothing, shoes and carry a cap and gloves if possible. Also, carry either a raincoat or an umbrella. It wasn't snowing when we went, but there was snow on the mountain peaks. Once it starts snowing in winter, the pass is open for public only if the weather is good that day and the Army allows you. There have been instances when they have turned back tourists because of bad weather.

This is one place that is more about the journey than the destination. The pass just had 2 buildings, one Indian and one Chinese and a small platform where you can see vehicles entering and leaving. But it does arouse a sense of patriotism when you see the harsh conditions that the Army lives in to protect our borders. Photography is prohibited in certain areas, please respect it, else you may be forced to delete them by the Army. There is a stall where you can buy a certificate that says you were there.

The journey through the winding roads with a row of green hills and clouds below us was breathtaking. At one point you can see Darjeeling, ask your driver to show you. There are lakes on the way - manmade and natural, waterfalls along the road and just plain scenic beauty wherever you turn your eyes. Since we went in October, we saw fall colors and they were so beautiful - shrubs of all colors lined our way - red, green, yellow, orange and brown. That's a sight you rarely see in India. Also, to keep you entertained, Border Road Organization (BRO) has painted witty quotes and proverbs along the route.

There are also Army bunkers and training centers along the way where photography is prohibited, please refrain from clicking photos.


  • Only Indian nationals are allowed to visit Nathula. 
  • To obtain the permit one needs to submit 1 passport sized photograph and a copy of a Government issued ID proof like election card or passport. Aadhar was not accepted, so carry some other document as well.
  • The documents have to be submitted by the agent organizing your tour one day before the planned travel within 10am.
  • The permit is per vehicle as well and we heard that there is a limit of the number of vehicles allowed per day, hence the travel agents have come up with a sharing option. More about that later. Your taxi driver will come with the permit when he picks you up for the tour.
  • Please carry your original document too, the army folks at the booth, ask for it.
  • Private cars/Self-drive cars may not get the permit, please check with at the Tourist Information Center on MG Road. We did see 2 motorbikes though, but we also saw them frown when someone wanted to get a permit for a Zoomcar (I don't think they got it). The roads are narrow and due to landslides in the region, there are parts of the road that literally don't exist, hence I believe the discouragement to non-local folks.

Firstly, I mentioned that the documents have to be submitted by 10am the previous day and we only reached Gangtok by 11am and yet we got the permit. Mr. Tenzing made it possible. We sent him all the required documents over WhatsApp and he managed to get us the permit. He was very resourceful and thus, we recommend him. He got us the permit when the driver, Arjun, came to pick us up. We also paid him then for the tour.

Secondly, about the shared option - the Xylo took us as close as 3kms from Nathula. At this point, we were asked to move to a different vehicle with another family for the short 3km drive and that vehicle had our permit. We didn't mind this as the ride was very short and our cost of the trip reduced to almost 60% because of this. Since the terrain is not very hospitable, small cars are not allowed to go to Nathula, only SUVs and 4 wheel drives are allowed. An exclusive car for just the two of us for the entire tour (including the cost of permit) was around Rs. 9000 when we went. We heard the spike in prices was due to the influx of tourists for the holiday season. Mr. Tenzing arranged the same for us for Rs. 5000. In nonpeak season, the rates may be lower, call up different travel agents before finalizing. The sharing option isn't bad if it cuts your costs.

After the pass, we moved to our designated taxi, the Xylo and continued in it for the rest of the tour. We went to Baba Mandir next.

Baba Mandir is a temple dedicated to a late Army soldier - Harbhajan Singh who died in 1968. The army personnel in the region believe his spirit protects them in the inhospitable and harsh conditions of the Himalayas. There is a canteen near the temple that sells veg momos and tea. There is also a souvenir shop.

A little beyond the parking lot is a beautiful waterfall and a huge white statue of Lord Shiva. The mountains were covered with shrubs of all colors, the waterfall cascaded down to a squeaky clean river and there were clouds moving high up on the mountains. It was a beautiful and calming spot that we just loved!

After stuffing ourselves with the momos and tea, we headed towards Tsomgo lake or Changu lake. This is a sacred natural lake that changes its color with the season. The lake is serene and is surrounded by mountains. The lake is frozen in winter and the mountains get covered with snow. In summer, this snow melts and feeds the lake. You can opt for a boat ride, sit on a yak and take photos or ride the cable car across the lake. The cable car is operational from 8am to 3pm. Let your taxi driver know in advance if you are planning for this. Tsomgo lake is open to foreign nationals as well, but they need a special permit to visit.

We stayed for a short while here as it started raining. We then headed for a lunch of hot Maggi noodles and tea.

Since we completed our tour early, by around 4pm, we asked Arjun to drop us near Whitehall and went to see the flower show. If you are used to large shows like the Lalbagh Flower Show in Bangalore, you may be underwhelmed by this one. But the flowers are different and the ticket is only Rs.10, so no harm in visiting it. From there we walked to our hotel.

Fall colors near Baba Mandir

Shiva statue near Baba Mandir

Waterfall near Baba Mandir

Tsomgo Lake

Tsomgo Lake

Day 9: Gangtok

We decided not to book any tour for the last day of our vacation. We listed down just a few spots that we wanted to see and took a local taxi to them. Since our hotel room gave us a mesmerizing view of Mount Kanchenjunga, we did not plan for any of the viewpoints. Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world, is famous for hiding behind a veil of clours. Remember, how I said that we barely got any view of it from Darjeeling? Sikkim was a little better. We got amazing view of the mountain at 5.30am. By 7am, the cloud cover was back.

We went to Ganesh Tok and Enchey Monastery. While the zoo was right next to Ganesh Tok, we couldn't visit it as it is closed on Thursdays. Plan accordingly.

Things to see/do in Gangtok:

  1. MG Road - Stroll down this pretty road in the heart of the city. Shop/eat while here.
  2. Ganesh Tok - Temple dedicated Lord Ganesh that has a spectacular view of the hills. Dress up in the local Bhaku dress and take pics.
  3. Zoo - Visit the zoo to see Himalayan animals local to the region.
  4. Hanuman Tok - Temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman that is also famous for the view it provides.
  5. Tashi Viewpoint - Offers a beautiful view of Mount Kanchenjunga.
  6. Enchey Monastery - Buddhist monastery in the heart of Gangtok.
  7. Institute of Tibetology
  8. Banjhakri Waterfall
  9. Ranka/Lingdum Monastery
  10. Rumtek Monastery - This is almost 22kms from Gangtok. It is the biggest monastery in Sikkim.
  11. Do Drul Chorten Stupa
  12. Gangtok Ropeway - You can glide over the city in a cable car.
  13. Bakthang Falls
  14. Helicopter rides - You can take a 15mins joy ride in a 5 seater helicopter for 15 minutes. The joy ride costs Rs.9000 for the entire helicopter. You can also book a 1-hour helicopter ride to East, West and North Sikkim. The longer ride seats 4 and costs Rs.18,000. Photography is prohibited.

Flower Show

Ganesh Tok

Dress up in local clothes at Ganesh Tok
Enchey Monastery

Window at Enchey Monastery

Beautiful walking trails

Day 10: Travel to Bagdogra and Fly back to Bangalore

Our flight to Bangalore was from Bagdogra International Airport in West Bengal. The drive from Gangtok to Bagdogra takes around 4-5 hours. We were asked to start at 6am for a 12pm flight to account for the traffic on the way. Luckily we didn't encounter any traffic, however, the bad roads definitely slowed us down. We contacted Mr. Chhetri to book our taxi to Bagdogra. He sent Mr. Gagan (+91 7872709898) to drive us to Bagdogra. We started at 7am and due to the holiday season, we did not get much traffic. Mr. Gagan is a friendly, jovial and enthusiastic person who kept us entertained the entire drive with stories of the region. I highly recommend him and Mr. Chhetri if you want an intercity ride in the region around Siliguri, Bagdogra, Darjeeling, and Gangtok.

If we were to replan:

  • Number of days - 2.5 days is definitely not enough to absorb the beauty of Sikkim. If we were to replan, we'd add in at least 3 more days to the trip and include a visit to North Sikkim at least. North Sikkim houses the beautiful sacred lake Gurudongmar and the beautiful Yumthang valley. To visit these places, you are suggested to stay at Lachen and Lachung respectively. They are 6-7 hours drive away from Gangtok. If you have more days at your disposal, you can visit the char dham replicas at Namchi in South Sikkim or trek through Khangchendongza National Park in West Sikkim, a UNESCO world heritage site. 
  • Time of travel - The ideal time to visit North Sikkim seems to be in Summers when the weather is more pleasant, hence we would plan for that. Also, the rhododendrons would be in bloom then.

What to buy:

  • Buddhist artifacts - There are several shops around MG Road that sell these.
  • Tea - Sikkim has only one tea plantation at Temi in South Sikkim. You can buy this tea at Chai Chun. You can also buy Darjeeling tea here.
  • Wooden masks
  • Crockery with dragon designs
  • Glass noodles, Chhurpi cheese, local vegetables, and ferns.
1) Souvenirs, 2) Chhurpi, 3) Local fern 4) Local vegetable

Where to eat:

  • Nimtho - Famous for local cuisine among locals and tourists. It also has a decent array of vegetarian food on the menu. It was closed for Dashain when we were there, hence missed eating here.
  • Baker's Cafe - Head here for a dose of baked goodies - savory and sweet, They also serve burgers, pasta, teas, and coffee. One of our favorite places to eat and enjoy the view. Their Mushroom Puff was heavenly.
  • Rasoi - Veg restaurant above the Tourist Information Center. The food here was good, however, the service could be improved.
  • Laxmi Sweets Bhandar - We satisfied our craving for Masala Dosa here. Very good dosas here.
  • Roll House - Head over here for a wide variety of vegetarian rolls. Try out their Aloo Dum with Sel Roti, we did and loved it.
  • Taste of Tibet seemed famous with the non-vegetarians. 
  • You will also get momos, chowmein and thukpas in a lot of places and that is considered local cuisine. 
Goodies at Baker's Cafe
1) Rose tea at Chai Chun, 2) Baked goodies from Baker's Cafe, 3) Maggi near Tsomgo Lake, 4) Burger at Baker's Cafe, 5) Dosa at Laxmi Sweets Bhandar, 6) Aloo Dum and Sel Roti at Roll House

Things to know before you go:

  • Sunset happens very early in Sikkim . Expect it around 4-5pm in the winter months. Sunrise is early too, it was sunny by 5.30am in October. 
  • Restaurants close early - 7.30pm to 10pm. Head for an early dinner.
  • Language is not a problem at all. English is the official language of the state and almost everyone speaks Hindi.
  • Google maps may show you that the distance between two places is very short, but be aware that these may be uphill and may involve long steep staircases.
  • Sikkim is India's first organic state, so enjoy your chemical free food!
  • You will need a permit to visit Nathula. See above for details.
  • Weather in North Sikkim and at higher altitudes like Nathula is unpredictable, be prepared for cold and rain. The air around here is very thin, so if you have altitude sickness or blood pressure issues, talk to your doctor before visiting. Young children below the age of 6 are not allowed at Lake Gurudongmar.
  • Roads to North Sikkim may get snowed in for winter. Do not plan these areas for winter months.
  • Gangtok has an airport, but it was closed for commercial operation when we travelled.

Useful links:

Sikkim Tourism Website -
Our favorite website to compare flights -
Our favorite website to book hotel -
GoZo cabs -

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Travel to North East India - Darjeeling and Kalimpong

Itinerary, tips, what to shop for, where to eat and things to know before you go for a 10 day trip to North East India including the states of Meghalaya, West Bengal and Sikkim.

The North East of India has been blessed with natural beauty - the towering Himalayas, the clear rivers, white waterfalls, varied wildlife, diverse fauna, clear blue skies, fresh hilly air, and clouds. Ever since my first visit in 2009, I had been craving to take Raj there. And finally, we made it this year. And we have some more trips planned based on our current experience.

This travel post (like all my travel posts) is divided into 3 parts so that I can detail out our itinerary, the sights to see, places to eat perhaps, our plans and misses, and how I would replan it for the future.

Our overall itinerary:

Day 1 - Travel from Bangalore to Guwahati by flight. Then drive down to Shillong.
Day 2 - Sohra (Cherrapunji) sightseeing
Day 3 - Mawlyngong and Dawki
Day 4 - Drive back to Guwahati. Fly to Bagdogra. Hire a cab to Darjeeling.
Day 5 - Kalimpong sightseeing
Day 6 - Darjeeling sightseeing
Day 7 - Take a cab to Gangtok.
Day 8 - Nathu La Pass
Day 9 - Gangtok sightseeing
Day 10 - Take a cab to Bagdogra. Fly back to Bangalore.

This post details our travel and stay in Darjeeling. Read all about Meghalaya here.


The famous hill station of Darjeeling is called the Queen of Hills. Built by the British to house a population of 10,000, it today houses almost 20 times that including the tourists. Located amidst lush green hills and tea plantations, Darjeeling offers one of the best views of the Kanchenjunga mountain range on a clear day.

This was my second visit to the city and Raj's first. The closest airport to Darjeeling is Bagdogra International Airport in West Bengal. We flew in there from Guwahati and hired a prepaid cab to go to the hill station. Thanks to the festive season, the influx of tourists and locals to Darjeeling had gone up manifolds and the usual 3 hour ride took us 6 hours. The road is steep and has several sharp curves. This is one place I would not suggest a self-drive. It is better to rely on the local folks who know the roads and its turns. Weather is extremely unpredictable and can go from clear to foggy within minutes. We witnessed the change in weather and concluded we would not risk driving here.
Our cab driver, Naveen, stopped at a small place called Zimba somewhere near Kurseong and we enjoyed our best momos of the trip at this tiny little place.  

Unfortunately for us, we chose the wrong time to visit. Durga Puja is a very big festival in this part of the country and it led to all sorts of problems for us. The festival brought in nearby villagers to the city for last-minute shopping, there were equal number of tourists taking advantage of the holidays like us, the local hotel staff and cab drivers were on vacation due to the festive season. Basically, it led to a high demand less supply situation that played to our disadvantage.

We stayed at the Summit Swiss Heritage Hotel in Darjeeling. The hotel is a part of the Summit chain of hotels and is well maintained with courteous staff. While most of the rooms offer a good view, ours did not. Read my review of the hotel on TripAdvisor.

We reached the hotel late in the evening of Day 4. Other than checking into the hotel and stepping out for dinner, we didn't do much. We did, however, book a cab that was willing to take us to see Kalimpong the next day. We struggled to find cabs due to the high demand, low supply situation that the time of the year put us in. I would suggest contacting the hotel in advance and booking your travel through the hotel. While this may work out slightly expensive, it will definitely save you some last minute stress.

Darjeeling Clock Tower

Day 5: Kalimpong

We wanted to start out early, but our cabbie had a different plan. He picked us up from the hotel at 9am. We stopped at a small park with tall trees called Lamahatta to take some pics and felt absolutely insignificant next to the really tall trees. There is also a lake 750m high up in the hill, we skipped visiting it as some of the folks who we met on the way said it wasn't worth the climb.


From there we headed straight to the Lover's Meet viewpoint from where one can see the confluence of two rivers, Teesta and Rangeet. This point is known by various names - Triveni Sangam, Peshoke Viewpoint etc. The two rivers are always of different colors as per the locals, and even after they meet, they tend to carry their individuality for some distance until they finally merge and flow as one river. There are small shops here that sell snacks and tea. We tried the fiery chana chaat and loved it. You will also see the famous Kalimpong lollipops for sale here.

If you decide to go river rafting, then this is where you let your cabbie know. Our cab guy knew one of the organizers and asked him to meet us near the Teesta bridge. From there we were taken to the rafting point. From there we were transferred to a jeep along with the raft and two instructors and went on a bumpy ride to the start of our journey. If you take the raft locally like we did, then you pay the cost of the entire raft immaterial of the number of people in it. It worked out expensive for us. I suggest going for this if you are in a large group and the cost is justified. Try to bargain on the price. Also, the river Rangeet does not really have many rapids, so for most of the journey, it is just calm and feels like regular boating with no thrill. Teesta has rapids and the rafting there is classified into swimmers and non-swimmer areas. You can also go rafting in Teesta from Gangtok. Check out Thrillophilia for good rates if you are in a small group. Keep in mind that this is taking time away from your Kalimpong sightseeing if you combine it on the same say like that. We did that and then regretted doing so.

Lover's Meet - Confluence of River Teesta and Rangeet
Rafting on River Rangeet

After that, we proceeded to Deolo Park to soak in the view of the hills. Unfortunately, by the time we reached the highest point in Kalimpong, it was already 3PM and the fog was setting in. So we got no view, but we did see the park dirtied with a lot of trash - paper plates, spoons, cups etc, just strewn over the hillside. A very sad sight. Outside the park, we also had our lunch of momos and maggi with some really sweet tea.

We then went to the Science Center. This is a very amateur museum of science. If you live in a big city and have visited similar museums or are already in a field of science, this will not amuse you. We entered it and found that our local Visvesvaraya Museum in Bangalore was far more advanced and hence, immediately walked out. Children may, however, enjoy the Science Center.

From there we went to Hanuman Park which has a tall statue of Lord Hanuman.

Post this we visited Mangal Dham. It is a beautiful temple with a lot of art in it. This was one of the only things I felt one should visit Kalimpong to see. Peaceful and beautiful.

View from Deolo Park

Mangal Dham
The Pinewood nursery was closed as we visited Kalimpong on a Sunday. Either way, it is something that should be visited on the way to Kalimpong rather than during the return. It had already turned pretty dark by the time we reached the nursery while returning.

I found that our cab driver was not really interested in showing us the sights, he wasn't even aware of much. To avoid a disappointing experience like us, I suggest you check in advance what sights will be included in the sightseeing. The options of half day and full day tours from Kalimpong seem to be a better option, but may work out only if you stay in Kalimpong for the night.

The good thing about our drive back was that the cab guy knew the road like the back of his hand and brought us in quickly. He knew internal roads in Darjeeling and that helped us avoid the traffic jam.

Other sights to see in Kalimpong:
  • Pinewood Nursery
  • Durpin Dara Hill - Monastery on a hill.

Day 6: Darjeeling

Day 6 was for leisure. We didn't book any local sightseeing. You can reach out to your hotel in advance if you want to book it or to any of the local tour operators. We chose to do neither. We only booked the toy train.

The narrow-gauge train that led to the rise of Darjeeling is known as the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways or more popularly as the Toy Train. The train is used to transport people to and from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling. For the benefit of tourists, DHR also organizes joy rides that start at Darjeeling, take you up to Ghoom and get you back. A joy ride lasts about 2 hours including a 10 minute stop at the beautiful Batasia Loop and a 25 minute stop at Ghoom where you can visit the railway museum.

We booked the joy ride through IRCTC online. Book the tickets from DJ to DJRZ for the joy ride. The rates differ based on the type of locomotive being used for the ride. The steam engine rides cost Rs.1500 as of October 2019 and the diesel engine ride costs Rs.1000. When a better coach is used, the cost may increase by Rs.100 (vista coach). The booking counter at the station is open till 5pm if you want to book it in person.

Back in 2009, when I took the same ride, the view from the train was worth seeing, as we saw the valley. Due to a lot of construction along the road, the view is mostly blocked and there are just a few spots where you get an unobstructed view of the valley. Take this ride only for the experience. It is not every day that you get to ride a world heritage site that crisscrosses through the roads and markets.

Account for delays in the train schedule as the day progresses. Preferably book a morning slot. We had one cancellation and one delay.

After that, we visited the Peace Pagoda in Darjeeling. This is something worth visiting. It is calm and sits majestically amidst tall trees. We walked up the hill (extremely tiring), but I am sure you can hire a taxi somewhere in Darjeeling to visit the same.

We then returned to the market to shop for souvenirs and have dinner.

Batasia Loop

Peace Pagoda

Other sights to see in Darjeeling:

  • Tiger Hills - On a clear day, the sunrise from Tiger hills is beautiful. You can see Kanchenjunga all lit up with the first rays of the morning.
  • Ghoom Monastery
  • Dhirdham Temple - a Nepali style temple.
  • Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling Zoo and Bengal Natural History Museum
  • Tenzing and Gombu Rock
  • Happy Valley Tea Estate

Day 7: Travel to Gangtok

We had our breakfast and started to Gangtok very soon after that. We used GoZo cabs to travel to Gangtok. Book it in advance to get competitive rates. The service was amazing, the cab was clean and on time. We would definitely recommend it.

If we were to replan:

Sadly, if we were to replan, we would remove Darjeeling off our list completely. This is our personal opinion and this is why we would do that:
  • Traffic is harrowing. We don't like getting stuck in 2-3 hour long traffic jams on vacations.
  • Extremely crowded. The hill station is a popular vacation destination for tourists and this has led to overcrowding in the last few years. This is affecting the ecological balance in the area.
  • View is unpredictable - The first time I visited in 2009, the view was spectacular, this time, we never got one due to cloud cover. Most of the things to see in Darjeeling depend on the weather making it extremely unpredictable. 
  • Too many constructions - Where once upon a time one edge of the road offered mesmerizing views of the mountains and valleys, today, the same is covered with buildings and the only view you can see is from in between them.
  • Kalimpong is again over-hyped and there isn't much to take in there as well.
  • Cleanliness isn't a thing - You can blame the tourists for this or the locals, but the twin towns lacked cleanliness. We were upset to see paper plates and single serves spilled over the edge of the hills at tourist spots. They have restrooms in tourist places, but most are ill-maintained.

If you are still keen on visiting the hill station, this is how we suggest you plan:

  • Day 1 - Keep one day aside to reach Darjeeling. Do not plan anything for this day at all.
  • Day 2 - Take the toy train ride.
  • Day 3 - Visit the local sites, if interested, on Day 2 or 3, depending on your train schedule.
  • Include a trip to Sandakphu and Phalut to soak in the view of Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga, and several other peaks. If you are planning a trek, then keep aside 7 days for it. There are several operators in Darjeeling who can arrange this trek for you, or you can check out sites like Thrillophilia who will arrange it too. If you aren't the trekking sort, you can also hire a Land Rover from Manebhajan. More details here. Add 3 extra days to your trip if you plan a trip using Land Rovers.
  • Day 4 - If your next destination is Gangtok, then you can decide to spend one night in Kalimpong. It is on the way from Darjeeling to Gangtok. You can also use this day to do any adventure sports you want. Kalimpong offers river rafting and paragliding.
  • Day 5 - Kalimpong sightseeing, assuming you used Day 4 for adventure sports.
  • Day 6 - Proceed to Gangtok. 

What to buy:

  • Warm clothing - Head to Nehru road to buy jackets, shawls, sweaters, woolen caps and mufflers. 
  • Tea - Darjeeling tea is called the Champagne of teas and is a must buy. Buy it at Nathmulls, Chai Chun or Golden Tips. 
  • Buddhist souvenirs from the market - you will a lot of Buddha statues, bells, prayer wheel miniatures, flags etc. on Nehru road.

Where to eat:

  • Momos on the roadside at Chowrasta or on Nehru road.
  • Taste various types of teas at Nathmulls, Golden Tips or Chai Chun. We tried and bought the rose-flavored tea from Chai Chun.
  • Desserts at Glenary's. We tried the apple pie and the red velvet cake and both were yummy.
  • Vegetarian Thukpa at Lazeez Affaire. Thukpa is a very delicious noodle soup, and it was especially flavorful at Lazeez.
  • Thali at Hasty Tasty. We loved the full thali, we also loved their chole batura. The puri aloo looked amazing too.
  • Try out pasta, pizza and milkshakes at Ross's Cafe.
  • Milkshakes at Keventer's.
L-R from top - 1) Momo and chowmein at Zimba, 2) Desserts from Glenary's, 3) Chana chaat at Lover's meet, 4) Thukpa at Lazeez Affaire, 5) Chole Bature at Hasty Tasty, 6) Pasta at Ross's Cafe, 7) Thali at Hasty Tasty

Things to know before you go:

  1. Darjeeling gets overcrowded during festivals like Durga Puja and Diwali as well as when schools have holidays. Preferably avoid these times to visit Darjeeling.
  2. Weather is unpredictable in the hills, be prepared for cold days and rainy days.
  3. Roads are narrow and steep, it is better to hire a taxi to reach Darjeeling than attempting to self-drive even if it works out a little more expensive.
  4. Traffic jams!! Darjeeling has really bad traffic jams in the evenings because that is when all the tourists are returning back to hotels, arriving from the airport as well as local folks leaving for the day. It can take easily 1 hour to negotiate a distance of 2-3Kms.
  5. Do not trust Google maps if you are driving. It does not list the one-ways correctly, it is better to ask locals for directions.
  6. Since the town is built on a hill, the roads are steep. So while the distance may seem short, be aware of the terrain if you choose to walk someplace rather than hiring a taxi.

Useful links:

Treasure trove of information on Darjeeling -
Our favorite website to compare flights -
Our favorite website to book hotel -
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