Flying into a country stands nowhere as compared to the charm of crossing the border on foot. Well, that and unaffordable flight tickets from Delhi to Paro made me look for options to reach Bhutan by train/road. After a lot of ‘Online research’, here’s how we did it:
- Train from Delhi to Siliguri which should’ve taken 26 hours took 31. Being December, let’s blame it on fog along with the Indian Railways. We arrived at ‘New Jalpaiguri’ railway station around 2:30 PM. By that time; all shared cabs had left, if there were any. So we took a cycle-rickshaw to bus stop for INR 120, because auto-rickshaw drivers were encircling us, haggling for overpriced fares. Getting on the nerves, basically. The rickshaw ride was slow and fun.
- Avoid any train that has an actual travel time of more than 28 hours. All the ‘Rajdhanis’ are better options.
- The moment you step out, cab drivers from all corners will come rushing to grab your luggage, perhaps you as well – offering to drop you everywhere except Bhutan. It’s a real challenge to get past them. Best way – go into a not-responding mode.
- If you want to know about available taxis, head straight to the inquiry counter at the taxi stand.
- Bus from Siliguri to Jaigaon
An hour later, we were at the bus stop only to find out that the last bus to Jaigaon has already gone. Talk about the fun rickshaw ride now!
We saw a bus leaving, and they offered to drop us half-way from where we’ll get another one. Just after getting out of the city, there was a huge traffic jam, because of some gang-fight. Expecting the delay, as well as probability of missing the next bus, we looked for stay options at ‘Birpara’ – where this ride was supposed to end. The 3-hour journey finished in 6 hours. Once we got there, the bus driver surprisingly arranged a taxi for everyone going to/towards Jaigaon. How strangers help you on the road more than some friends would back home will always be an unresolved mystery to me.
- Another way to reach Jaigaon (a more convenient one) is to take a local train from New Jalpaiguri to Hasimara. From there you need to take a taxi for the remaining 20 kilometers. We did this on our return journey.
- Don’t expect buses to be in great condition. They’re just how local buses are in India. No frills. If you’re looking for absolute comfort, take a cab instead.
- Jaigaon to Phuentsholing on foot
Both of these are border towns, the former in India while the latter in Bhutan. After sitting in the taxi, we booked Hotel Satyam in Jaigaon over a call, just because they promised to serve dinner at 11:30 PM. Of course, we were starving. The room had all basic amenities with decent level of hygiene. It is located right in front of the border gate, plus it comes at INR 700 per night. Can’t complain!
Cross the road from your hotel and you’re in another country. That’s how we reached Phuentsholing.
- The permit office in Phuentsholing is open from 9AM – 11AM and then 1PM – 3PM on weekdays i.e. Monday to Friday. On Saturdays, it’s open only for the 1st two hours and remains closed on Sundays.
- By any chance if you get there over a weekend, and can’t receive permit, you can still enter Bhutan and roam around Phuentsholing but you’ll have to come back to India before 8PM.
It is undoubtedly easier to get there if you’re based in one of the eastern states of India. Probably the main reason most of the Indians visiting Bhutan are from West Bengal and/or Assam.
For more information regarding permits, go to the next post.
© 2016, Swati. All rights reserved.