India // Kolkata & West Bengal //

Moving on from Siliguri

By air

Indian Airlines, Jet Airways, Kingfisher and the budget Air Deccan fly from Bagdogra airport to Kolkata, Delhi and Guwahati; Druk Air flies to Bangkok (Tue & Sat; w http://www.drukair.com.bt) and also connects with Paro (Bhutan) (Wed & Sun). Direct flights from Bagdogra to Kathmandu are planned for the near future. For tickets, try Heat Flexi Holidays, 34 Bidyasagar Rd, Khalpara (t 0353/250 4631) or Travel & Rental, Sevoke More (t 0353/253 8749); Jet Airways has its own office in the Hotel Vinayak, Hill Cart Road (t 0353/243 1495).

Helicopter flights to Gangtok (daily 1.30pm; Rs2200) and Pelling (Mon only) leave from Bagdogra weather permitting, with a maximum baggage allowance of 10kg. The sole Siliguri agent is the Tourist Service Agency (TSA) in Pradhan Nagar, the lane opposite the bus terminal (t 0353/251 0872).

By rail

All major trains, most terminating or starting at Guwahati, use NJP Station, not Siliguri. Reservations can be made at NJP railway station or the Central Railway Booking Office (daily 8am–4pm), Bidhan Road, near Kanchenjunga Stadium in Siliguri. The best train to Kolkata is the Darjeeling Mail #2344, which terminates at Sealdah, while the most convenient for Delhi is the efficient Rajdhani Express #2423 (25hr 30min), which also passes through Patna with connections for Gaya and Bodhgaya; the Rajdhani #2435 (Mon & Fri) stops at Varanasi, while on other days take the Rajdhani #2423 and change at Mughal Sarai.

By bus

Overnight “luxury” buses to Kolkata (12hr), such as the Rocket Bus and Royal Cruiser, are cheaper than the train (Rs900 for a/c), and have the advantage of depositing you in Esplanade, near the central Sudder Street area. However, the roads are dire, so be prepared for a severe rattling. Standard buses run from Siliguri to Kolkata, Patna and Guwahati, although the train is far more comfortable. Frequent buses also travel to Chalsa and Madarihat, convenient for the wildlife sanctuaries.

To Darjeeling and Kalimpong

The easiest way to get to Darjeeling is by shared Jeep. These depart from in front of NJP Station, and Sevoke More and Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminal in Siliguri, where Jeep transport syndicates have their own ticket booths and the prices are fixed. Taxis to Darjeeling depart when full, take 3–5 hours and cost Rs100 per seat. For a bit more comfort, take two seats up in front or a whole taxi (negotiate with returning taxis for reduced rates). Other options include the Toy Train, or a bus from Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminal. Shared taxis to Kalimpong (Rs90) depart from Panitanki More across the bridge while buses to Kalimpong depart from around the Bus Terminal.

To Sikkim

Regular buses and shared Jeeps run to Gangtok (Rs120) from around the bus terminus in Pradhan Nagar. Sikkim Nationalized Transport, opposite the bus terminus (daily 6am–4pm; t 0353/251 1496), runs bus services to Gangtok (departures 9.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm & 1.30pm; Rs110), and other points in Sikkim. Get a Sikkim permit from Sikkim Tourism next door; shared Jeeps are also obtainable here; a reserved Jeep costs Rs1220.

To Kathmandu

To reach Kathmandu in Nepal, travel to Panitanki, the crossing (24hr) on the Indian side of the border, and use a cycle rickshaw (Rs30) to get to the Nepalese side at Kakarbitta (7am–7pm). Shared taxis (Rs70), regular buses from the terminal or outside it (from Rs20) and taxis (Rs600) travel to Panitanki, where you can pick up a Nepalese visa for US$30 in cash. The advantage of pausing in Kakarbitta is that it gives you a greater choice of onward buses to Kathmandu (17hrs). For a lot more luxury, take a flight from Bhadrapur (25km and a 45min taxi ride from Kakarbitta) to Kathmandu with Buddha Air or Yet Airlines. Flights can be booked through Siliguri agencies or at Kakarbitta itself.

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