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Darjeeling is probably the main tourist destination in West Bengal and certainly the most famous of the old colonial hill stations. Situated in the eastern Himalayas at an altitude of 2,128 metres above sea level, its cool and fresh atmosphere attracts many visitors to escape the sweltering heat of the plains, especially during the summers. The town is well known internationally for its tea plantations and for fabolous views of the world's thirds heighest mountain peak Kunchenjenga (8,585 metres). Reach the town is an experience in itself, as tourists can take the famous UNESCO World Heritage site listed Darjeeling Himalayan Railway or 'Toy Train'. This train still runs on steam from New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri to Darjeeling and makes for a charming activity in itself. The narrow guage railway built by the British and completed in 1881 is a really great way to take in the scenery and watch the world go by at a nice relaxing pace.
The centre of town is a mixture of bustling local markets and winding streets with shops selling everything from trekking gear to jewellery and camera equipment to the famous Darjeeling Tea. There are also plenty of good restaurants and roof top cafes affording views across the town to rolling hills and on a clear day, the Himalayas beyond.
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The nearest airport is at Bagdogra, which is around 93 kilometres from Darjeeling. Bagdogra is connected with Kolkata, Guwahati and Delhi by regular flights operated by Indian Airlines and Jet Airways. Buses and Taxis are available from the airport to the city centre
The nearest railhead is at NewJalpaiguri/Siliguri. The narrow gauge scenic 'Toy train' is the best way to reach Darjeeling from Siliguri. Train timings and fare can be checked at Indian Railways website.
Regular buses connect Darjeeling with the nearby towns such as Bagdogra, Siliguri, Kalimpong and Gangtok. Shared taxis and mini-buses are also available from Siliguri and the journey takes around 3 hours and costs around Rp150-200.
Jeeps and taxis can be hired for excursions to the surrounding areas.
The best way to explore the city and its vibrant markets is on foot. The fresh air and the cool climate will make the walk all the more relaxing and enjoyable.
There is a good selection of restaurants serving delicious North Indian food (mainly vegetarian) as well as Nepali momos and Chinese Chow Mein. However, if you are craving the comforts of home by the time you reach Darjeeling, it is also possible to get a steaming hot cup of tea and a huge piece of cake in one of the bakeries or tea rooms left over from the old colonial days. Just what you need after a morning walk through the plantations!
The best drink recommended is Darjeeling tea. Darjeeling Tea is widely and universally acknowledged to be the finest tea, because its flavour is so unique that it cannot be replicated. Connaisseurs will assert that without Darjeeling, Tea would be like wine without the prestige of champagne.
|Snowlion Homestay||27/A, Gandhi Road, Darjeeling||Hostel||88|
|Bellevue Hotel Darjeeling||P O Box 28, The Mall, Darjeeling||Tibetan Hotel||-|
|Old (Main) Bellevue Heritage Hotel||1 and 5/1 Nehru Road Chowrasta The Mall||Hotel||76|
|Cozy Nest Homestay||128 gandhi road behind compuset centre||HOSTEL||92|
|Hotel Seven Seas||17 nb singh road Darjeeling 734101 West Bengal||HOTEL||-|
There's good coverage over most of India for Internet cafes. However, following the recent terror attacks in Mumbai and some other cities, all internet cafes have been instructed by the authorities to maintain a register and note down the identification details of all persons using internet. Sify iWay is a reliable and cheap cafe with over 1,600 cafes over India. iWay also allows you to open a pre-paid account that you can use all over India. Whenever you have Internet access probably the best and cheapest way to call family and friends at home is software that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet such as Skype.
Wifi hotspots in India are, for most part, limited. The major airports and stations do offer paid wifi at around RS.60-100 an hour. Delhi, Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai are the only cities with decent wifi coverage. At Mumbai airport, you get to use WiFi internet free, for an hour or so.
See also International Telephone Calls
The country code for India is 91. To dial outside the country from India, prefix the country code with 00.
The general emergency number is 100 (emergency response police & fire), while for ambulance you should dial 102 or 112, though some regions have 108 for this emergency. 108 is used in in the Indian states of Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Goa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha,Assam, Meghalaya, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. 108 can be called for medical, crime, fire, or any other emergency from any phone.
Local phone numbers can be anywhere from 5-8 digits long. But when the area code is included, all landline phone numbers in India are 10 digits long. Cellphone numbers usually start with '9', '8', or '7'. Toll-free numbers start with 1-800.
If staying longterm it is probably wise to think about investing in a mobile phone. You'll possibly need to provide a photocopy of your passport and itinerary, so come prepared. Make sure you arrange it upon arrival in a big city, as it can sometimes be difficult to organise with language barriers and such in more regional areas. You can buy a cheap nokia for about RS.1,200 with a pre-paid plan. Airtel is a good carrier to think about as they have great coverage, and constant offers for cheaper calling. To recharge, most shop vendors with phone carrier signs can do it via their own phone. You give them your mobile number, they put it in their phone and you'll both get messages as to whether or not the recharge has been successful. Also, if possible, buy the phone in the state where you do the most travelling as the charges are higher in the states where you did not originally buy the phone.
Over the entire country there are plenty of public phones, even in the middle of the countryside. Although most of the time these phones are not very well maintained and have horrible connections. Therefore remember when using one of these public phones one must be extremely patient.
For international calls from payphones, you'll have to visit a reputable internet cafe with a phone-booth. Mobile phones are usually a better and cheaper option.
India Post is the national postal service of India, and on their website you find details about prices to send postcards, letters and parcels, both domestically and internationally. For most postcards to send internationally, it is better to visit the post office before writing on the card as you may need quite a few stamps. Parcels must be taken to a tailor, he will then sew it up in white linen. Make sure he seals it with red wax, otherwise the post office may refuse to send it or try to get you to pay them to do it. Sewing up a parcel should only cost RS.50 to 200. In general, post offices are open from 10:00am to 1:00pm and 1:30pm to 4:30pm in most bigger towns and cities, though there are regional variations and some might keep longer hours or be open during (part of) the weekend as well. Ask around.
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