The Government of West Bengal has opened the two tourist hotspots for public but with some caveats. Here’s everything you need to know before you decide to head over for your first vacation of 2020.

Darjeeling and Kalimpong are now open for tourists. The Government of West Bengal has opened the two popular hill stations after keeping them off limits to tourists for six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of this reopening plan, the Government of West Bengal has allowed all restaurants and hotels in Darjeeling and Kalimpong to resume business. The exception to the rule, are the hotels that fall in the containment zones.

According to the state government’s regulations, restaurants will have to follow extremely strict social distancing norms and maintain higher levels of hygiene than earlier. Buffets will not be allowed until further notice and everyone in the hotel – guests and staff alike – will have to wear masks and gloves as well as go through temperature checks.

This was taken from the hills above the city on a late afternoon when clouds covered the valleys and the sun broke through in the distance.

The move to reopen Darjeeling and Kalimpong comes in the light of the fact that nearly 15 per cent of the population in the two hilly towns is dependent directly or indirectly on tourism for livelihood. The region itself attracts over 10 lakh tourists annually and the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected the economy of the two towns.

If you’re travelling to Darjeeling or Kalimpong, you will be required to first download the Aarogya Setu App, which will make it easier for authorities to understand if you are healthy. You are also supposed to fill up and submit a declaration from using the Sandhane App, which is developed by the Health and Family Welfare Department of West Bengal. The state government also advises that asymptomatic people monitor themselves whereas the health authorities will decide the quarantine requirements for those showing COVID-19 symptoms on a case-by-case basis.

India, West Bengal, Darjeeling, train station for the toy train from Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Unesco world Heritage

While West Bengal is opening up slowly, the entire state of Sikkim will be open to visitors starting October. However, you cannot just traipse into the state and backpack your way around like you used to. The Department of Tourism of the State Government of Sikkim has a draft proposal ready with strict guidelines on the dos and don’t’s while travelling to, and within, Sikkim.

Only domestic tourists will be allowed into Sikkim and even within those, only those tourists who have a pre-booked or a package tour will be permitted to entire the state. Additionally, all tourists will be required to produce a COVID-19 negative test report at all entry points and at all the checkpoints along the state’s border.