The Background Story
So, the WhatsApp group named ‘Backpacking to Bhutan’ comprising of two of my sisters and I was created within no time. Well yea, the suddenness of the plan to visit Bhutan made it even more exciting.
We were all set to visit the country that India shares a friendly border with. Bhutan is acclaimed for its being the only country across the globe that is negative on carbon footprint.
The story that follows is about the travel lessons that we learned the hard way as we were not adequately prepared!! But yea, for you they come as the tips for traveling alone and also for traveling to a destination with extremely cold weather.
We booked the air tickets to Bagdogra from where we planned to take a taxi to the border, that is, Jaigaon and then further to our first destination, that was Thimpu. Clothes, shoes, camera, goggles, eatables (and pepper sprays) all packed, and we were all set to be enthralled by the beauty of Bhutan. (Check here the story about how we landed at Sikkim while we had all plans for Bhutan!)
We checked into Indira Gandhi International Airport at 8 AM on the beautiful sunny morning of 27th October, 2018 with excitement of an ‘all girls trip’ at its peak. After filling up ourselves at the lounge, we boarded the Jet Airways flight to reach the tiny Bagdogra airport at 11:30 AM.
After alighting from the flight, we collected our baggage and moved towards the pre-paid taxi booking counter.
We had an option to take a bus or a taxi to Jaigaon and being all by ourselves, we decided to opt for the latter option. While we were trying to figure out the ‘best deal’ for the taxi, one of the taxi drivers very humbly asked us if we intended to stay at the border for two days. We were surprised at his question and said of course no! Pat came the reply, ‘To phir kya karoge? Bhutan immigration to Saturday Sunday band hota hai.’ (what else would you then do because Bhutan immigration is closed on weekends).
Oops!! Needless to say, we did not believe him and thought of it as a prank as we were not sure to take his taxi. Just a minute later, another person came up with a similar statement leaving us appalled. Frantically, we started googling and well yes, Bhutan immigration actually remains closed on weekends! Whoa what a surprise! We rushed to the Druk Air counter only to find it closed (there was actually a lock at the counter) while also crashing all our dreams to reach Bhutan before Monday.
With the realization of this truth, we boarded the bus for Siliguri to explore options in that vicinity. Of course, the name of the WhatsApp group also changed and now was ‘Jaana tha Bhutan‘. With only four days in hand, Darjeeling and Sikkim were apparent choices. We interacted with fellow passengers apart from resorting to google baba to figure out the better option. By the time we reached Siliguri on our 45 minutes bus ride, Darjeeling was already off the list.
We banged upon a travel agent right at the bus stand and after exploring viable options for East and North Sikkim, decided upon the North. Next was food at Shere Punjab and boarding a 6.5 hours shared taxi to Gangtok embarking our unplanned journey to Sikkim all the way humming ‘Jaana tha Bhutan pahunch gaye Sikkim samajh gaye naa…haha’ 🙂
11 Travel Lessons Learnt- Tips for Travelling
Check for the Rules!
Honestly speaking, we never imagined that Immigration to a country could ever be off on any day. But yes, it did happen. So always better to cross-check beforehand! Wonder if anyone else out there would have met such surprises!! Check for the Rules- the first tip for traveling!
Its always safe to carry thermals (you would surely love them at temperatures like minus 11 degrees even if you might detest them otherwise) woolen caps, an umbrella, gloves, waterproof shoes/boots while traveling to a location where it might be cold or rainy or snowy.
Always spare a part of luggage for snacks (especially if one is a vegetarian like me!) as food might be a real challenge at certain places.
It can actually be a good idea to carry some basic medicines along even if one might be in the best of health and would never need them.
A sanitizer is a must. There were places where the water was frozen. So, washing hands was not much of a choice!
For those whose feet freeze like mine, making space for a heating pad would be rather wise.
If traveling to Sikkim, do carry reusable water bottles with you. Beyond a point, you can carry mineral water bottles neither are they available anywhere for sale.
Be prepared to go without bath for a day. The reason could be extreme cold or maybe unavailability of electricity or geyser or maybe both! And hush-hush… it’s okay… We just keep it as a tip for traveling to extremely cold destinations 🙂
Towel and Pillow Cover
Going forward, I would always like to carry a towel and a pillow cover especially while traveling to remote locations (in particular if you are finicky about hygiene).
A book would be a good company as banking upon mobile phone entertainment to kill time might not be possible owing to erratic network availability.
Carry enough cash as not a single place we visited accepted cards or any options like Paytm!
Always be ready for surprises and never quit the idea of traveling 🙂 Adventures are soul-stirring after all.
Hope these tips for traveling turn out useful 🙂 Stay tuned!