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Tourist Permits in Northeast India: A Complete Guide

If you are familiar with the NE, you must be knowing already that you need tourist permits in Northeast, at least to enter some of these states if not all. However, it can be a confusing excercise. Some states need it, some don’t. Rules and regulations are different for each and everyone. It is also different for Indian and foreign tourists. So, here is a comprehensive guide to getting your ILPs in various states of NE.

How to Get Tourist Permits in Northeast India?

What is ILP?

These are tourist permits in Northeast that is required to visit certain states. There are specific rules and regulations for obtaining the same. It is something like getting visa for a country but don’t get alarmed, the processes are much simpler and at least for tourists it is a mere formality.

ILP vs PAP vs RAP- What’s the Difference?

You may have come accross various terms in this context, like Inner Line Permit (ILP), Protected Area Permit (PAP), and Restricted Area Permit (RAP). There are some small differences but in general, I suggest you don’t get confused by the names as all of them are tourist permits in Northeast. The purpose is the same, to have some control over people visiting certain areas. In short,
Inner Line Permit (ILP) is for the Indian tourists visiting certain states of the Northeast.
Protected Area Permit (PAP) is for foreigners (non-Indian citizens) to visit these states of Arunachal and Sikkim.
Restricted Area Permit (RAP) is and additional permit required for foreigners (non-Indian citizens) to visit certain areas of Sikkim.
PS: Do note that RAPs are also needed to visit some other frontier areas of India but I am restricting the discussion to NE.

Why ILP is Required?

The origin of such restrictions are due to historical and geopolitical reasons. As mentioned already, these areas have been historically and cuturally different from the rest of India. Also, they are located in the sensitive border region surrounded by several other countries (During the Indo-China conflicts of 1962, the People’s Army crossed Arunachal and reached Assam, before declaring ceasefire). Also, insurgency exists in many parts of the region, as various ethnic groups over the years have tried to assert their identity with armed struggle. Although the situation as comparatively calmed down over the years, some formalities and restrictions are still observed.

Is it hard to get an ILP?

It is not hard to get an ILP or any other permit as a tourist as tourism is generally encouraged and no one wants to make them unhappy. So, as a tourist you should not have much problem. However, if you are seeking the permit for some other purposes including business, rules can be stricter and frankly I am not the right person to explain the same.
Also, there may be some additional criterias, especially for foreign tourists, which is discussed in the next section.

Additional Criteria for Foreigners seeking Permits

There are some additional issues for foreigners seeking PAP
  • Solo Travel is generally not encouraged for foreigners. They need to be in a group, which means “at least two people together“. If you simply go alone, they will turn you down in your face. So, you should either actually be in a group or at least find travel mates to apply together.
  • They need to provide visa and other details at the time of applying (Charges are also usually higher for foreigners).
  • In spite of everything, certain areas in Sikkim are still off-limits for foreign nationals (More about it in the Sikkim section).

Which NE states need ILP?

The rules are different for Indians and foreigners and sometimes they are even counterintuitive to the point of being hilarious. For example, in some states foreigners don’t need permits anymore but Indians do!
  • Indians need ILP for Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, & Mizoram.
  • Indians need special permission to visit some areas of Sikkim although you don’t need ILP to enter the state.
  • Foreigners need PAP for Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.
  • Foreigners still need some additional permits to visit certain fronetier areas.

Which NE states DON’T need ILP?

As of now,
  • Both Indians and Foreigners don’t need any additional permits for Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Manipur.
  • Indian’s don’t need any permits for Sikkim (except special permits in some areas).
  • Foreigners need PAP for Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. Interestingly, the requirements were eased for them in Nagaland, Manipur, and Mizoram a few years ago. So, they can now visit those palces without any permits while even Indian tourists need to get ILP!

Doesn’t Manipur need ILP?

No. There may be some confusion in this regard because earlier Manipur required PAP for foreigners. But that requirement has been removed. As of now, neither Indians, not foreigners, need any permit for Manipur. If Indian tourists are travelling by the road to Imphal via Dimapur-Kohima, they will have to pass through Nagaland. However, as long as you don’t stay in Nagaland, you will be fine.

ILP Process for Indian Tourists

Arunachal ILP

There are various ways to get the Arunachal ILP.

  • You can nowadays get it done online. It is called eILP and it is the easiest thing for tourists. It was not always so. It has been newly launched. So, consider yourself lucky.
  • You can visit the designated offices at various major cities for Arunachal ILP. These offices are located in the major cities of Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati and Shillong, and also at some smaller places in Assam near the Arunachal Border including DIbrugarh, Tezpur, Lakhimpur, and Jorhat.
  • Also, some of the entry gates of Arunachal, such as those at Bhalukpong and Roing offer on the spot ILPs for a short duration (However, to be safe, I don’t suggest this one).

Nagaland ILP

You need to apply for ILP at New Delhi, Kolkata, Shillong, Guwahati or Dimpaur offices. Online services are not really functional as of now. However, the good news is that at least for tourists they are not very strict. EVen a friend or tour operator living in one of these cities can get these done for you. All you have to is to mail them a copy of your passport photograph and ID.

Mizoram ILP

Mizoral ILP can be taken from the at the designated offices at New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Guwahati (Assam), Shillong (Meghalaya) and Silchar (Assam). You need to provide 2 passport photographs and a copy of your ID.

ILP can also be obtained on arrival at Lengpui Airport, which is the only airport in the state near Aizawl. Same documents as above will be needed although teh rate is a bit higher for this.

Sikkim Permits

While you don’t need ILP for Sikkim, you need to acquire a special permit to enter certain frontier areas of Sikkim. However, again this process is not very strict for tourists and even your tour operator can get it if you provide them a scanned copy of your ID and Passport. Forlloing areas in Sikkim need permits.

East Sikkim: Tsomgo (Changu) Lake, Baba Mandir and Nathula Pass.
West Sikkim: Dzongri and Goechela Trek and Singalila Trek
North Sikkim: Yumthang Valley, Yumesamdong, Thangu, Chopta Valley, Gurudongmar Lake, Katao. Also, a visit to Dzongu requires a special permit obtained from Gangtok and Mangan.
South Sikkim: Destinations in South Sikkim does not require any permit.

PAP for Foreign Tourists

Tourist permits in Northeast for foreigners is called PAP in Arunachal but in SIkkim the term ILP is also used. As usual, don’t get confused by the names and focus on the task.

Arunachal PAP

Foreign tourists need PAP to enter Arunachal. You can get them made in Delhi, Kolkata or Guwahati offices. However, the most hassle-free way is to get them done through a registered tour operators. I found a list of such registered operators in Arunachal here. However, I am not sure how updated this list is. It costs $30 to apply for the same. As far as I know, the online eILP, which is available for Indian tourists, is not available for foreign tourists as of now.

PAP & RAP for Sikkim

Foreign nationals can get RAP for Sikkim at designated offices in Delhi, Kolkata, Siliguri, as well as Bagdogra Airport, which is in Bengal but is the nearest major airport to Sikkim. Permits in Sikkim are generally free of cost.
They can also take help of registered tour operators to get this done.
Apart from the general permit, you will still need additonal permits to visit the protected areas
  • Foreigners need PAP for places
    • East Sikkim: Tsomgo (Changu) Lake,
    • West Sikkim: Dzongri and Goechela Trek and Singalila Trek
    • North Sikkim: Yumthang Valley, Yumesamdong, Dzongu
  • Foreigners are NOT allowed to visit Nathu La & Gurudongmar Lake under any circumstances
  • If you want to go trekking, that still requires a seperate pemrit
All these additional permits you cna get from the designated office in Gangtok but that takes teh whole day. So, it is better to pay a local tour operator to get this for you while you go local sightseeing in Gangtok.

Reporting for Foreigners in Manipur & Mizoram

In Manipur and Mizoram, while there is no need for any permit, Foreigners are supposed to register themselves at the designated Foreigners Registration Officer (FRO) of the State within 24 hours of arrival.

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