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Gangtok, the capital of the Indian state of Sikkim is a beautiful hill town situated at an altitude of about 1,800 metres, along the Ranipul river. The town offers excellant views of the world's thirds heighest mountain peak Kunchenjenga (8,585 metres). The town is an important centre of Buddhist learning and it has a mystic feel with prayer flags fluttering all around and prayer wheels spinning with Lama's invocation of God. The streets are lined up with brightly coloured pagoda roofed houses and the markets are bustling with friendly and smiling people.
Foreigners, in addition to an Indian visa, must be in possession of an Inner Line Permit to visit the state of Sikkim. Indian missions abroad are empowered to issue a permit for 15 days and the same can also be obtained from the Tourism Office, Delhi, Sikkim Tourism Office, Kolkata and Sikkim Tourism Office, Siliguri on the strength of an Indian Visa. The applicants should provide two passport photographs and photocopies of Passport and Visa details. The permit can be extended for further 30 days of 15 days each. The extension of permits can be obtained from Foreigners Registration Office (FRO), Gangtok and Superintendent of Police of North, South and West Districts.
Further, for those interested in trekking in the interior regions of the state, an additional permit known as Restricted Area Permit (RAP) or Protected Area Permit(PAP) is required. This can be obtained from the Police Check Post and Department of Tourism in Gangtok for groups consisting of 4 or more foreigners subject to the condition that the trekking program is arranged through a registered travel agency.
Gangtok enjoys pleasant weather conditions throughout the year. The maximum temperature during the summers average around 22 degrees Celsius, while during the winters it averages around 14 degrees Celsius. The region also receives heavy rainfall, which usually starts by the end of May and continues till late September. The best time to visit the town is during March-May and again from October-December.
|Avg Max||12.7 °C||14.2 °C||18.3 °C||20.9 °C||21.6 °C||22.1 °C||21.9 °C||22.4 °C||21.7 °C||20.9 °C||17.7 °C||14.4 °C|
|Avg Min||4.4 °C||5.8 °C||9 °C||11.7 °C||13.8 °C||16.2 °C||16.8 °C||16.7 °C||15.6 °C||12.5 °C||8.9 °C||5.9 °C|
|Rainfall||31 mm||76.7 mm||124.6 mm||287.8 mm||528.7 mm||614.9 mm||630.9 mm||565.8 mm||453.4 mm||180.4 mm||39 mm||21.2 mm|
The nearest Indian airport is at Bagdogra, which is around 124 kilometres from Gangtok. 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 Gangtok and the journey usually takes around 4 hours. A helicoptor service has also been started by the Tourism Authorities and this 30-minute journey from the airport to Gangtok cost around 2,000 Rupees. Gangtok can also be reached from Nepal by taking a flight from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur in east Nepal, then drive to the Nepal-India border at Kakarbhitta (35 kilometres), then to Siliguri (37 kilometres) and onwards to Gangtok (110 kilometres).
The nearest railhead is at New Jalpaiguri, which is around 148 kilometres from Gangtok. New Jalpaiguri is in turn connected by train services with most of the major cities of India. Train timings and fare can be checked at Indian Railways website. Private taxis and shared jeeps can be hired from the railway station to Gangtok.
Gangtok is connected by good quality roads with nearby towns such as Darjeeling (4 hours), Siliguri (4 hours) and Kalimpong.
Most of the local transport is centred around the Lall Mall area.
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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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