Premise: It had been quite sometime that we took a trip with my family and during the first half of the year, we chalked a plan to visit Sikkim while we had planned to travel to my native place Guwahati during Durga Puja 2018. The number of leaves we could take were limited and we had to come up with a plan to cover Sikkim on the way from Mumbai to Guwahati. Finally after spending few hours, we were able to squeeze in 6 days for Sikkim during our 11 Days Puja vacation.
I know there have been continuous debates regarding whether you should do North Sikkim or South Sikkim or both but with the constraint of my mother and sister travelling along, we had to pace out the journey as it included long hours of travelling by a car. So we had decided to combine South Sikkim and Darjeeling where the travelling times are less and roads are in better condition.
Mumbai to Bagdogra: We booked our flight tickets from Mumbai to Bagdogra sometime towards the end of March and it costed us Rs. 12680 for two people for an Indigo flight departing Mumbai domestic airport at 7:10 am on 12th October, Friday (booked from Yatra.com). The Gangtok airport was not announced to be open to the public at that time and hence we had to book till Bagdogra.
Bagdogra lies right at the foothills of Himalaya in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. Gangtok is approximately 125 kms away from the Bagdogra airport and the travel time is approximately 5 hours via NH10 with 2/3 short breaks for tea/coffee/snacks. Try and eat light while travelling as the roads are a roller coaster and may make you nauseous. We had booked an Innova through a local contact and were lucky to get an almost new car, a very polite and jovial Hindi speaking Nepali driver.
Pro tip: make sure you hire an experienced local driver as the roads are a bit tricky to drive and it always helps when your driver for the next 6 days knows the place in and out. While it might make sense for you to hire a hatchback or a compact sedan/SUV if 3 or 4 of you are travelling but we decided to go for Innova for a more comfortable and easy journey. We had moderate luggage among the 4 of us. Also, during peak seasons such as during Durga puja, there might a shortage of cabs due to heavy demand so it's advised that you book your cab well in advance to get a good deal. We hired the car for Rs. 4000/day (including driver's food, parking charges, car fuel & for a span of 9-10 hours). So here's the catch, if you want to take the same car to visit Nathula pass, you need to opt for a 'Nathula Package' which will cost you Rs. 7000 for a day from Gangtok. More details later.