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Old 7th November 2011, 00:36   #1
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Default Calcutta-Bhutan-Calcutta road trip queries

We want to go on a road trip to Bhutan from Calcutta during the 1st week of December. I have been to Bhutan before, but that was at a very young age. I remember the places Phuntsholing, Paro Valley and Thimpu. I have the following queries -
1. Is there any other place that we can visit?
2. Will 7 days be enough for a Bhutan trip?
3. How are the current road conditions from Calcutta to Siliguri and then Siliguri to Phuntsholing?
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Old 7th November 2011, 01:02   #2
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Default Re: Calcutta-Bhutan-Calcutta road trip queries

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Originally Posted by BlackPearl View Post
We want to go on a road trip to Bhutan from Calcutta during the 1st week of December. How are the current road conditions from Calcutta to Siliguri?
The current condition of NH 34 is horrible. The highway authorities are pointing towards the state government citing land acquisition problem while the state government is blaming the highway authorities. But few days ago I have read in the newspapers that some patchwork is going to be started immediately.
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Old 7th November 2011, 12:18   #3
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Default Re: Calcutta-Bhutan-Calcutta road trip queries

I know a guy called Rana Adhikary, probably a member here, who has done Calcutta Darjeeling Pelling recently. The road is so bad that despite starting at around 5 am he could reach only as far as Maldah on day one. He reached Maldah at 7 or something like that !! Think twice.
I would seriously reconsider the decision to go to Bhutan on a road trip from Calcutta.
To answer your other question - in Bhutan you could go to Punakha too. Seven days in Bhutan is okay for 3 towns - Paro, Thimphu and Punakha. But you should go by plane, unless you want to torture yourself.
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Old 7th November 2011, 14:12   #4
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Default Re: Calcutta-Bhutan-Calcutta road trip queries

NH34 is absolutely in tatters, don't even think of taking it. A recent trip added to my growing frustration with the state WB roads are now in.

Some days back a newspaper article said that Mamata had to travel that road, and now she's given flak to PWD to repair it urgently . If that trash has any bearing, and if you're determined to take your car, I suggest postpone the trip to next year.
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Old 7th November 2011, 14:17   #5
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Default Re: Calcutta-Bhutan-Calcutta road trip queries

There are so many places to visit in Bhutan.

In 7 days you can cover Thimphu, Paro , Cheli La (half a day trip from Paro), Wangdi and Phunaka.

For the last to places you need to extend your permit at Thimphu.

With the permit issued at Phutshoiling, you cannot go beyond a certain point after Thimphu.

Road conditions:

Kolkata - Siliguri : It was extremely bad during october.

Siliguri - Maynaguri - Phutshoiling : Many bad patches before Maynaguri, good roads except for a few patches after Maynaguri.

Siliguri- Sevok - Malbazar - Phutshoiling: Longer, but better roads. I am not sure regarding the Siliguri to Sevok section, but the rest of road is good and fast.

Phutshoiling - Thimpu/Paro : A section of the road through the mountains is being discarded and a new section is being built along the Thimphu river. 2 laning is complete in all other sections and are extremely good and fast.
The entire journey takes 5.5 hours and is very scenic. Therefore, please cover this section during the day.

Make sure to obey traffic rules in Bhutan, there are fines for violations.
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Old 7th November 2011, 15:28   #6
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Default Re: Calcutta-Bhutan-Calcutta road trip queries

Hi there, sounds like an exciting trip. I have been living in siliguri since 2008 and in Dec 2009 myself and 5 others had gone to Thimpu/paro on our motorbikes. Our schedule was as follows and kms given are approximate.

Friday: 6am start: Siliguri-Phuntsholing-Thimpu. 390kms, Arrival time 10:45pm.
Saturday: Thimpu local sight seeing in two hired taxis.
Sunday: 8:30 am start: Thimpu-Paro. 65kms, arrival time 11am. then local sight seeing.
Monday: 9am start. Paro-Phuntshilong. 190 kms. Arrival time 8pm. Delayed due to a puncture on my friends bike.
Tuesday: 10am start. Phuntshilong-Siliguri. 200kms. Arrival at 6pm due to lots of stops.
(It took us 5 days from Siliguri itself to do the trip which included very little sightseeing)

Since we were on our bikes, the ride itself was an adventure, so we did not have that much of a desire to go out sight seeing in detail. But since you will be in a car with others who will just be sitting idly, I am sure they will be eager to discover bhutan. So 7 days is by no means enough. Looking at your schedule of 7 days, lets break things up with input from the above posts:

Day1: leave Kolkata in the morning. Stop for the night due to bad roads as mentioned above.
Day 2: Arrive at siliguri sometime in late morning. head straight to Phungshilong. Stay there.
Day 3: Get permits and leave for thimpu at 12 noon. Reach thimpu by night.
Day 4: Sight seeing in Thimpu
Day 5: Leave for Paro in the morning and do local sight seeing in afternoon
Day 6: Leave for Kolkata, you might reach till Malda or near abouts. Stay there.
Day 7: Arrive in Kolkata.

So as you can see, with your schedule, you will only be able to spend 1 day each in Thimpu and Paro, and this is not enough for these two places if you want to see it all. There are day trips you can take from these two cities as well and it is strongly recommended that you do them to be able to feel like you have visited bhutan.

P.S. There are countless travelogues mentioning Bhutan including mine in the travelogue section, pls do have a look there as well. The main highway to Thimpu from Phuntshilong was being widened when we passed through there in 2009 so the roads were in terrible condition back then. But I hear things have improved considerably since then.

Good luck with the planning of the trip.

Last edited by amrisharm : 7th November 2011 at 15:30.
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Old 7th November 2011, 20:17   #7
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Default Re: Calcutta-Bhutan-Calcutta road trip queries

Check out my travelogue on my drive to Bhutan:
https://sites.google.com/site/hvkuma...rivingholiday8

YOu can plan the following route:
Siliguri-Phuntsoling-Thimphu-Paro-Punakha-Wangdue-Trongsa-Jakar-Mongar-Trashigang-Samdrup Jhonkar-Rangiya-Guwahati/Siliguri

Apart from the bad state of NH34, keep the following things in mind:
- Keep time to get permits at both Phuntsoling & Thimphu
- Winter is a bad month to visit Bhutan, shorn of its greenery, too cold and chances of dislocation in the road to East Bhutan
- Facilities are rather limited,m but you seldom have to do advance bookings, tour operators over-charge, betetr to make your own arrangements
- Once out of East Bhutan, all roads in Assam/WB leading from Rangiya area to Siliguri are terrible

Keep at least 4-6 days for Bhutan. You can do the full trip in 7-10 days ex-Calcutta.
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Old 8th November 2011, 02:51   #8
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Default Re: Calcutta-Bhutan-Calcutta road trip queries

Quote:
Originally Posted by rahul4640 View Post
The current condition of NH 34 is horrible. The highway authorities are pointing towards the state government citing land acquisition problem while the state government is blaming the highway authorities. But few days ago I have read in the newspapers that some patchwork is going to be started immediately.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sudipto-S-Team View Post
I know a guy called Rana Adhikary, probably a member here, who has done Calcutta Darjeeling Pelling recently. The road is so bad that despite starting at around 5 am he could reach only as far as Maldah on day one. He reached Maldah at 7 or something like that !! Think twice.
I would seriously reconsider the decision to go to Bhutan on a road trip from Calcutta.
To answer your other question - in Bhutan you could go to Punakha too. Seven days in Bhutan is okay for 3 towns - Paro, Thimphu and Punakha. But you should go by plane, unless you want to torture yourself.
@Sudipto Da and rahul4640, thanks for the advice. I am not too concerned about the road conditions from Calcutta to Siliguri as I had done a trip in 2006 when the road condition was horrible. I had taken an alto and it took me almost 8 hours to reach Malda from Bakreshwar. The road after Malda was however quite good at that time. I have heard that there is a better route now through Bihar though it is a bit longer. Does anybody have any idea about that? The main point of the trip is to go by car, so no trip if it is not by road

Quote:
Originally Posted by predatorwheelz View Post
NH34 is absolutely in tatters, don't even think of taking it. A recent trip added to my growing frustration with the state WB roads are now in.

Some days back a newspaper article said that Mamata had to travel that road, and now she's given flak to PWD to repair it urgently . If that trash has any bearing, and if you're determined to take your car, I suggest postpone the trip to next year.
Thanks @Aniket.It will be difficult to get extended leave next year, so it has to be during the first week of December.

Quote:
Originally Posted by black_panther View Post
There are so many places to visit in Bhutan.

In 7 days you can cover Thimphu, Paro , Cheli La (half a day trip from Paro), Wangdi and Phunaka.

For the last to places you need to extend your permit at Thimphu.

With the permit issued at Phutshoiling, you cannot go beyond a certain point after Thimphu.

Road conditions:

Kolkata - Siliguri : It was extremely bad during october.

Siliguri - Maynaguri - Phutshoiling : Many bad patches before Maynaguri, good roads except for a few patches after Maynaguri.

Siliguri- Sevok - Malbazar - Phutshoiling: Longer, but better roads. I am not sure regarding the Siliguri to Sevok section, but the rest of road is good and fast.

Phutshoiling - Thimpu/Paro : A section of the road through the mountains is being discarded and a new section is being built along the Thimphu river. 2 laning is complete in all other sections and are extremely good and fast.
The entire journey takes 5.5 hours and is very scenic. Therefore, please cover this section during the day.

Make sure to obey traffic rules in Bhutan, there are fines for violations.

Quote:
Originally Posted by amrisharm View Post
Hi there, sounds like an exciting trip. I have been living in siliguri since 2008 and in Dec 2009 myself and 5 others had gone to Thimpu/paro on our motorbikes. Our schedule was as follows and kms given are approximate.

Friday: 6am start: Siliguri-Phuntsholing-Thimpu. 390kms, Arrival time 10:45pm.
Saturday: Thimpu local sight seeing in two hired taxis.
Sunday: 8:30 am start: Thimpu-Paro. 65kms, arrival time 11am. then local sight seeing.
Monday: 9am start. Paro-Phuntshilong. 190 kms. Arrival time 8pm. Delayed due to a puncture on my friends bike.
Tuesday: 10am start. Phuntshilong-Siliguri. 200kms. Arrival at 6pm due to lots of stops.
(It took us 5 days from Siliguri itself to do the trip which included very little sightseeing)

Since we were on our bikes, the ride itself was an adventure, so we did not have that much of a desire to go out sight seeing in detail. But since you will be in a car with others who will just be sitting idly, I am sure they will be eager to discover bhutan. So 7 days is by no means enough. Looking at your schedule of 7 days, lets break things up with input from the above posts:

Day1: leave Kolkata in the morning. Stop for the night due to bad roads as mentioned above.
Day 2: Arrive at siliguri sometime in late morning. head straight to Phungshilong. Stay there.
Day 3: Get permits and leave for thimpu at 12 noon. Reach thimpu by night.
Day 4: Sight seeing in Thimpu
Day 5: Leave for Paro in the morning and do local sight seeing in afternoon
Day 6: Leave for Kolkata, you might reach till Malda or near abouts. Stay there.
Day 7: Arrive in Kolkata.

So as you can see, with your schedule, you will only be able to spend 1 day each in Thimpu and Paro, and this is not enough for these two places if you want to see it all. There are day trips you can take from these two cities as well and it is strongly recommended that you do them to be able to feel like you have visited bhutan.

P.S. There are countless travelogues mentioning Bhutan including mine in the travelogue section, pls do have a look there as well. The main highway to Thimpu from Phuntshilong was being widened when we passed through there in 2009 so the roads were in terrible condition back then. But I hear things have improved considerably since then.

Good luck with the planning of the trip.
Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
Check out my travelogue on my drive to Bhutan:
https://sites.google.com/site/hvkuma...rivingholiday8

YOu can plan the following route:
Siliguri-Phuntsoling-Thimphu-Paro-Punakha-Wangdue-Trongsa-Jakar-Mongar-Trashigang-Samdrup Jhonkar-Rangiya-Guwahati/Siliguri

Apart from the bad state of NH34, keep the following things in mind:
- Keep time to get permits at both Phuntsoling & Thimphu
- Winter is a bad month to visit Bhutan, shorn of its greenery, too cold and chances of dislocation in the road to East Bhutan
- Facilities are rather limited,m but you seldom have to do advance bookings, tour operators over-charge, betetr to make your own arrangements
- Once out of East Bhutan, all roads in Assam/WB leading from Rangiya area to Siliguri are terrible

Keep at least 4-6 days for Bhutan. You can do the full trip in 7-10 days ex-Calcutta.
Thanks @ black_panther, amrisharm, hv sir. How long does it take to get permit in Phuntsholing? I looked at a website and it mentions that we need to have passports. Is there any other document required? One more concern is, will it be a problem to get permit if the car is not in my name?

Last edited by BlackPearl : 8th November 2011 at 02:54.
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Old 8th November 2011, 05:46   #9
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Default Re: Calcutta-Bhutan-Calcutta road trip queries

@hv sir, an awesome travelogue. I did not go through it when I had last posted. Now that I have gone through it, I know most of the answers. Only question remaining is - will it be a problem to get permit if the car is not in my name?
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Old 8th November 2011, 07:24   #10
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Default Re: Calcutta-Bhutan-Calcutta road trip queries

Here is my travelogue on Bhutan done just a month after HVK's.
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...en-dooars.html (Wet Bhutan and Green Dooars)

With seven days at your disposal this is going to be a very rushed tour and will look somewhat like this. I think someone has already done it here.

Day 1 - Siliguri (assuming you can make it)
Day 2 - Phuntsholing (start really early) and then onwards to Thimphu after permits (don't start after 11 am if you get delayed. The last bus to Thimphu leaves at 1. You could consider following it in a desperate situation)
Day 3 - In Thimphu (get permit for Punakha)
Day 4 - Paro (maximum 1.5 hour's drive)
Day 5 - Punakha (four hours at the most with stop in Dochula)
Day 6 - Phuntsholing and then onwards to Siliguri (might involve a little evening driving)
Day 7 - Calcutta

There is one risk - if you cannot get the permits for yourself and for your vehicle quickly in the morning at Phuntsholling don't take the risk of going to Thimphu that same day. Night driving is not allowed in Bhutan and you will get stopped in any one of the innumerable check points on the way to Thimphu.
In that case you can drop either Paro or Punakha - both are equally beautiful. I would probably drop Paro because every Tom, Dick and Harry can go there in a plane ;-).
But I would still think twice before going to Siliguri in a car right now.
Two tips for Bhutan -
If you are a smoker carry your own cigarettes in Bhutan and don't smoke anywhere in public, including on the roads. It is a punishable offence.
Switch off your mobile a few km before P'ling and get a Tashi Cell SIM from Phuntsholing upon arrival. The entire process takes 15/20 minutes.
Best of luck
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Old 8th November 2011, 08:38   #11
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Default Re: Calcutta-Bhutan-Calcutta road trip queries

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Originally Posted by BlackPearl View Post
@hv sir, an awesome travelogue. I did not go through it when I had last posted. Now that I have gone through it, I know most of the answers. Only question remaining is - will it be a problem to get permit if the car is not in my name?
NO, I don't think that the car has to be in your name, just that you have to show all the original documents at the RSTA.

...and passports are not required, but it will help in getting permits faster since for any other document (except driving license, assuming it is in English, or Election Card) will require attestation by the local Indian consulate. Make sure you are there in Immigration Office at 9 am sharp so that you get the earliest chance to apply for permits (later on in the day, the worker crowd gets too much), which you can get in 30-60 minutes depending on load. The RSTA permit formalities should take you another 30-60 minutes. There is no corruption, just be polite and your work will get done fast.

Sudipto S-Team, are you sure about the timing restrictions at check posts? I asked around, they told me there aren't any and vehicles go at all times of day and night.
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Old 8th November 2011, 09:51   #12
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Default Re: Calcutta-Bhutan-Calcutta road trip queries

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sudipto-S-Team View Post
Here is my travelogue on Bhutan done just a month after HVK's.
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...en-dooars.html (Wet Bhutan and Green Dooars)

With seven days at your disposal this is going to be a very rushed tour and will look somewhat like this. I think someone has already done it here.
Thanks Sudipto Da for the link to the travelogue, I will go through it tomorrow.
I have made one mistake at my opening post, I should have mentioned that 7 days are only for Bhutan. I should have 4 more days at my hand, so total trip of 11-12 days.


Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
NO, I don't think that the car has to be in your name, just that you have to show all the original documents at the RSTA.

Sudipto S-Team, are you sure about the timing restrictions at check posts? I asked around, they told me there aren't any and vehicles go at all times of day and night.
Thanks HV sir. How can I find out if night driving will be alowed or not?

Last edited by BlackPearl : 8th November 2011 at 09:52.
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Old 8th November 2011, 10:00   #13
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Default Re: Calcutta-Bhutan-Calcutta road trip queries

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Originally Posted by Sudipto-S-Team View Post
There is one risk - if you cannot get the permits for yourself and for your vehicle quickly in the morning at Phuntsholling don't take the risk of going to Thimphu that same day. Night driving is not allowed in Bhutan and you will get stopped in any one of the innumerable check points on the way to Thimphu.
In that case you can drop either Paro or Punakha - both are equally beautiful. I would probably drop Paro because every Tom, Dick and Harry can go there in a plane ;-).

Best of luck
Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
NO, I don't think that the car has to be in your name, just that you have to show all the original documents at the RSTA.

...and passports are not required, but it will help in getting permits faster since for any other document (except driving license, assuming it is in English, or Election Card) will require attestation by the local Indian consulate. Make sure you are there in Immigration Office at 9 am sharp so that you get the earliest chance to apply for permits (later on in the day, the worker crowd gets too much), which you can get in 30-60 minutes depending on load. The RSTA permit formalities should take you another 30-60 minutes. There is no corruption, just be polite and your work will get done fast.

Sudipto S-Team, are you sure about the timing restrictions at check posts? I asked around, they told me there aren't any and vehicles go at all times of day and night.
Speaking from personal experience, My friends and I, we reached the Last check-post before reaching Thimpu (40 kms before thimpu) at roughly 10pm. And they did not mention anything about night curfew. The checkposts along the way stop and check your papers no matter what time of the day it is. And even if they dont stop us, we have to register ourselves in those check-posts (sign in and sign out on the way back).

If you miss registering at a checkpost, the officially fine is Rs.10,000 Bhutan Currency. This is what we were threatened with when we missed a checkpost while exiting Paro.
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Old 8th November 2011, 10:00   #14
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Thanks HV sir. How can I find out if night driving will be alowed or not?
Simple, go to the Bhutan Govt web-site, search for the RSTA (Road Safety & Transport Authority) telephone number, call them up - they are very friendly and will help you with the info.

It will be a tragedy to drive at night, you won't enjoy the place. I think the worst case scenario of you getting the permit late at Phuntsoling, you can still make it to Thimphu before 9. BTW, my friend has driven to Thimphu late in the night and was not stopped. AFAIK, the only section I notice night drive restrictions was in the Samdrup Jhonkar-Trashigang sector.

Please bear in mind that facilities in BHutan are poor during winter and it is best you call up hotels in outlying places in East Bhutan beforehand to check if they are open.
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Old 8th November 2011, 10:17   #15
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Default Re: Calcutta-Bhutan-Calcutta road trip queries

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackPearl View Post
1. Is there any other place that we can visit?
Never ever miss Phobjikha Valley.


Quote:
3. How are the current road conditions from Calcutta to Siliguri
A night journey takes now around 14-15 hours instead of the usual 10 hours, daytime it takes almost 2 days nowadays.

Go via Panagarh-Dumka-Purnea-Dalkhola-Siliguri - this is the new route for private car owners and still Siliguri journey can be done in 12 hours.

Last edited by adc : 8th November 2011 at 10:20.
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