Darjeeling's Tourist Information Centre (The Mall; tel. 0354/225-5351 or -4214; www.wbtourism.com/darjeeling; June to mid-Mar Mon-Sat 10am-4:30pm, mid-Mar to May daily 9am-7pm) is helpful and will give you a free map of the area.
Acquiring Your Sikkim Permit in Darjeeling -- Be warned: Getting your Sikkim permit is a laborious process that will last at least an hour. Take your passport to the District Magistrate's Office (off Hill Cart Rd.; Mon-Fri 10am-1pm and 2:30-4:30pm). Fill in a permit application form (remember to have it stamped), then go to the Foreigners' Registration Office (Laden La Rd.; tel. 0354/225-4203; daily 10am-7pm), where a policeman will endorse your form. Finally, head back to the District Magistrate's Office, making sure you arrive before closing time, and your passport will be stamped and the permit issued free of charge. Valid for 15 days, it states clearly which areas you may enter. (Permits are also available from the Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi or from Indian consulates abroad.)
By Road -- Darjeeling is 80km (50 miles) from Siliguri, which is the nearest main transit point. Buses from Darjeeling usually leave from the Bazaar bus stand on Hill Cart Road. Darjeeling is connected by road with Siliguri, Bagdogra, Gangtok, and Kathmandu across the Nepali border. Kalimpong is 2 1/2 hours from Bagdogra as well as Darjeeling.
By Air -- The nearest airport is at Bagdogra (near Siliguri), 90km (56 miles) away. Jet Airways (tel. 033/3989-3333; www.jetairways.com) and Spicejet (tel. 1800-180-3333; www.spicejet.com) have flights to Bagdogra from Kolkata (1 hr.) and Delhi (2 hr.). If you decide to fly to or from Assam, there are 50-minute flights available from Go-Air (tel. 1800-222-111; www.goair.in). A taxi ride from Bagdogra to Darjeeling should take 3 1/2 hours and cost about Rs 2,000 to Rs 2,500. From Siliguri, catch the toy train (8 hr.) or a taxi (2-3 hr.; Rs 1,000) to get to Darjeeling.
By Train -- From Kolkata (Sealdah Station), the best option is the overnight Darjeeling Mail, which is supposed to arrive at the New Jalpaiguri railway station (scheduled arrival 8:40am) in time to connect with the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway's famous toy train. The toy train departs at 9am for the scenic 8-hour journey. Or you can hire a taxi or share a jeep (readily available), directly from the station, for the 3-hour, 88km (54-mile) journey to Darjeeling. Although the toy train runs daily, bad weather may disrupt services. If you intend to catch the toy train out of Darjeeling at the end of your stay, and wish to travel in first class (Rs 247), you must book your ticket in advance at the counter at New Jalpaiguri Station. You can reserve other tickets for major trains out of New Jalpaiguri at the Darjeeling railway station daily between 8am and 2pm.
It's best to explore Darjeeling on foot, and if you need to haul luggage, ask for a porter and pay him well. Taxis are overpriced and unnecessary (with the exception of excursions to places some distance from the town). For local sightseeing tours or even jeep trips to Gangtok and other mid-distance destinations, contact the helpful Darjeeling Transport Corporation (30 Laden La Rd., opposite Apsara Hotel). It's open from 8am until 8pm and can advise you on alternatives if they're unable to accommodate you.
The Most Spectacular Train Journey
A polite voice at New Jalpaiguri railway station frequently announces that "the train is running 30 minutes late, the inconvenience caused is deeply regretted." It's a small price to pay for what must be one of the slowest, most spectacular train journeys in the world. Since July 4, 1881, Darjeeling's aptly named toy trains -- including the world's oldest functioning steam locomotive -- have puffed and wheezed their ways between the hill station and the plains. In December 1999, the railway became India's 22nd World Heritage Site, only the second railway in the world to be so recognized on the list. The trip between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling covers a mere 87km (54 miles) but takes almost an entire day to transport passengers up 2,055m (6,850 ft.). En route, with rhododendron slopes, rolling hills, and Kanchenjunga in almost constant view, you pass through villages with names like Margaret's Hope, and puff past the front doors of homes that range from shacks to quaint red-tiled cottages surrounded by potted flowers. You also traverse a total of 498 bridges and 153 unmanned level crossings. The final stop before Darjeeling is Ghum (Ghoom), the second-highest railway station in the world. For details, visit www.dhr.in.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.