Despite the state of Sikkim having finally formally joined India in 1975, for a foreigner to go there, you need to apply for a special (free) permit. The state remains a bone of contention between China and India (the last Chinese invasion was in the 1960s) and apparently there is a military presence all along the border.
So off we went to the Foreigners Registration Office in Darjeeling where after a lot of “just wait 2 minutes” had passed, we were given a scrappy form to complete (shared, not even one each) and then with a great flourish and after lots of official stamping, we were presented with an A4 document. However that was not the end of the story sadly but only Part 1 as we were then sent off with only the vaguest of directions to find the District Magistrate’s Office (DMO) to complete the process in a completely different part of town. When asking directions in Darjeeling, it soon became clear that the only permissible answer seems to be an equivocal point and the words “2 minutes” regardless of actual distance or direction! Little bit frustrating in a town where a wrong turn can mean a sharp ascent or descent as it is all set on a steep hill.
Finally we found the DMO and even the right office and after yet more official stamping, we were presented with our official Sikkim permits.
On arrival at the state border, we had to go through a mini passport/permit control and all our passport details were officially recorded in the register although this was one of the few places in India where we didn’t have our passports photocopied. Fortunately this process didn’t take too long as the packed shared jeep was waiting for us to continue our journey to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim.