In order to explore Sikkim without any interruption, proper permits are required as the state comes under restricted area regime due to its closeness with the borders of China. Basically there are two types of permits - Restricted Area Permit or Inner Line Permit (for Foreign tourists) and Protected Area Permit both for Indian and Foreigner tourists.
Restricted Area Permit
Restricted Area Permit (RAP) is applicable for only foreign nationals, it is also known as Inner Line Permit (ILP). This can be applied from Sikkim Tourist Office in Siliguri or Sikkim House in Delhi and Kolkata, the process takes less than 30 minutes to get the permit across the counter and it is free of cost. You can also apply for RAP in check posts at Rangpo which remains open from 8 am to 7:30 pm.
However, you can get Restricted Area Permit online and after filling up the form, you can print and get it stamped at one of the border check posts of Sikkim. This is known as Provisional ILP and it does not include you to show your passports and visa. You can fill the form - https://sikkimpts.azurewebsites.net/ilp/Register In addition, if you are a national of China, Myanmar, Pakistan, or Bangladesh, written approval from Ministry of Home Affairs or Government of India, must be issued before applying for RAP.
Protected Area Permit
Protected Area Permit is applicable for both Indian and Foreigner. It is further advised to travel in a group of two or more in protected areas and foreigners should apply through registered tour operators linked with Sikkim Tourism Department.
Permits for automobiles
If you are driving yourself in the protected area of Sikkim, you are to obtain permits for the vehicle as well. You have to go through the Joint Secretary or Additional Secretary for the necessary vehicle permits at the Home Department in the New Secretariat Building in Gangtok. ID’s like vehicle papers will be asked to carry on the vehicle permit process. However, vehicles from tour operators are allowed in protected areas.
Documents and ID’s needed for PAP and RAP
1. Passport (photocopies with original)
2. Passport-sized photo In addition, you can also carry -
3. Voter's ID card (photocopies with original)
4. Driving license (photocopies with original)
5. Aadhaar card (photocopies with original)
Note: Pan Card is not accepted.
The validity is for 15 days, if you happen to stay for longer, it can be extended for 60 days. This can be obtained in Gangtok at the Foreigners’ Registration Office (FRO), Sub Divisional Magistrate's Office or through Superintendent of Police.