Complete Guide to Arunachal Pradesh – Tawang Circuit – Part 2
This is Part 2 of our Arunachal Pradesh Guide where we detail every aspect of planning a trip to the state. For detailed itinerary and places to cover, please refer Part 1.
The most important thing – Permit
Inner Line Permit (ILP)
In order to visit Arunachal Pradesh, even Indians need an Inner Line Permit (ILP). Obtaining ILP is a pretty simple process. You can either apply for it online or take help from your travel agent. ILP costs INR 100 per person. You need your identity proof(Aadhar/Driving License/Passport/Voter Id) and passport size photograph for applying ILP. All details of the application process, required documents and photo dimension are given on the website where you apply for the permit.
It is also possible to get your permit at designated check posts in Arunachal . But some days these posts are closed and you may not be able to obtain it immediately, hence delaying the trip. So get your ILP before the trip starts.
For foreign nationals (except tourists from Bhutan), a Protected Area Permit (PAP) is required which is similar to Inner Line Permit. The procedure for availing it is different though and a bit tedious in comparison to ILP. PAP can be obtained from All Indian Mission abroad, concerned state authority and in their absence from the Ministry of Home Affairs. Please read more about PAP in the Govt Website.
Along with ILP, another special permit is required for visiting Bumla Pass. This permit can be obtained from DC office in Tawang a day before. Talk to your hotel or homestay in Tawang and they will be able to help you arrange it. ILP and identity proof is required to apply for this permit.
Arunachal is the largest state among the North Eastern states. Also, being a border state, there are designated circuits that tourists are allowed to visit. So decide on the circuit depending on your preference.
Check all the circuits at https://arunachaltourism.com under Destinations Menu. You can always combine places from one or more circuits to make it a longer trip. Out of all the circuits, Tawang is the most visited one. We chose this circuit for the varied beauty it offers, starting from high mountain passes, to a number of monasteries, lakes and waterfalls.
Whichever circuit you may plan in Arunachal, keep at least 8-9 days in hand for a comfortable trip. Because a lot of your time will be spent on the road commuting from one place to the other. We did Tawang circuit in 8 days.
Reaching Arunachal Pradesh
Arunachal has 3 commercial airports, biggest one at Itanagar whereas other two are very small. Only Itanagar airport is connected to some of the major cities in India like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. In case, your city does not have direct connectivity to Arunachal by flight, the alternative is to fly to either Tezpur or Guwahati airport in Assam. And then rent a taxi for your trip to Arunachal.
Helicopter: Helicopter service is available between Guwahati and Tawang and some other places in Arunachal too. Please note that this is seasonal and highly dependent on weather conditions. Check the schedule and fare here.
Nearest railway station is Naharlagun/Itanagar, roughly about 4 hours drive from Bhalukpong. But this station is not very well connected with the rest of the country yet. So you may have to catch a train to Guwahati Railway Station and then start your road trip to Arunachal.
Vehicle for Arunachal Trip
We recommend reserving a vehicle for your entire trip, starting from Airport pick up to dropping at the airport. This gives you the flexibility to make stops on the way as you wish and do the sightseeing as per your convenience. This is the most suitable option for families or people traveling in groups. But for budget travellers, this will be expensive. In that case, you have to rely on the shared Sumos. Do remember that the timings of the Sumos are fixed and they normally start early in the morning. Talk to your home stay and they can help you with the timings and seat booking.
Now coming to reserving a vehicle, we went with Guwahati based Silver Line Travels. The owner Niren Ji is very humble, responsive and his prices are reasonable. We got a Honda Amaze for our trip which cost us INR 30000 for 8 days (including pick up from Guwahati airport and drop at Guwahati hotel). The vehicle was new and very smooth for the long journey. The only hiccup was the attitude of the driver who was very impatient if we spent more time at an attraction. So while booking the vehicle, make it a point to the agency if you need more time at places. Because for some of us, it’s not just about seeing a place, but more about experiencing it.
Best time to Visit Arunachal Pradesh
October – Early November is a great time when the weather is pleasant with blue skies and sunny days. Waterfalls and rivers will be at their best after the Monsoon. But there will be no snow in the mountains or high passes.
Late March – Early May is a good time when you can see some snow as well as greenery. Rhododendrons Bloom abundantly (especially April onwards) during this time.
Our time of Visit: Late October-Early November
Accommodation in Arunachal Pradesh
Accommodation across Arunachal are predominantly Home Stays except a handful of hotels in the major cities (like Tawang). The home stays are pocket friendly and offer excellent opportunity to interact with the locals. We sang with our homestay owner in Shergaon, tasted and understood the rice wine making process and got some amazing recommendations on places of interest. And how can I forget the heart to heart conversation with the most amazing homestay owners in Dirang and that delicious homemade food?
Alternatively, you can also stay in guest houses of monasteries at some places like Dirang and Bomdilla. This is a very unique experience and we strongly recommend it. The prices are affordable too. We stayed in Dirang Monastery guest house (TDL Guesthouse) and honestly it is one of our best stay experiences so far. Sitting in front of the monastery late at night in complete silence or being awed by the night view of the surroundings faintly lit under the moonlight felt absolutely enchanting.
Accommodation booking – Things you need to know
Now coming to the accommodation booking process, here are a few pointers to keep in mind.
- Prebook your homestay at least a month before your trip. The home stays with better location and reviews get booked fast during peak season.
- In Dirang, try and book an accommodation in the Dirang Dzong area. This will give you the opportunity to explore Dirang by foot and enjoy amazing views.
- Many of the home stays are available online for booking on different platforms like MakeMyTrip or Booking.com. But we understood from our home stay owner that if you just book online and do not contact the home stay, your booking may not be confirmed as these sites do not contact the owners most of the time. Also, because of high cancellation rate online, the owners prefer confirmed bookings offline with some advance paid. So book online, but at the same time call the home stay to confirm your booking for which some of them ask a nominal amount as advance.
- Monastery guest houses are not available for online booking. You can call the numbers for the respective guest houses given below for booking.
Dirang Monastery guest house (TDL Guest House): 07640869686
Bomdilla Monastery guest house (Doe-Gu-Khil Guest House): 03782-223232, 9862642199
Budgeting for Arunachal Pradesh Trip
Here is a low-down on the budget for Arunachal Trip. I am not including the cost of flight or train here as it depends on which city you are traveling from.
|Cost (in INR)
|Vehicle for 8 days (We had rented a Honda Amaze)
|Vehicle Charge for Bum La Pass / Madhuri Lake trip (Irrespective of the type of vehicle)
|Accommodation (with double occupancy)
|~ 20000 (2500 avg. per night with double occupancy x 8 nights)
|~ 10800 (1200 avg. for 2 people per day x 9 Days)
|Total Expense For 2 People for 8 nights/ 9 days trip
|~ INR 66200
Food and Where
Do try home-made Rice Wine (prepared by collecting vapours of fermented rice), Butter Tea, Thukpa and Momos when you are in Arunachal. I loved butter tea though this may not suit everyone’s taste buds. Ask your homestay if you want to taste butter tea. Because it is not always available in outside shops due to specific methods of preparation.
Also, Churpi (fermented Yak Cheese) sabji if your taste buds can take quirky flavours. I did not dare try this since I am hyper sensitive to strong smell.
Now coming to the places we ate at, here are a few we absolutely loved and recommend.
Dragon Restaurant, Tawang old market: For delectable local and Chinese food. Loved their Thukpa and Veg Chop Suey. Keep in mind that they take their last order by 7:30 pm.
The Lilac, Tawang old market: One of the prettiest cafes we came across in Tawang. The decor with flowers and little booths is absolutely stunning. We were there for a quick snack and loved it. A perfect place for a coffee date or dinner.
Dharma Coffee House: This cutesy coffee house is just a few meters away from Tawang Monastery. They serve Pizza, Sandwiches, Maggi and some local food along with tea and coffee. We loved the veg Pizza and Fried Thentuk with some refreshing Ginger Honey Lemom tea. But more than the food, we loved the aesthetics of the place and the cute library with many books on Buddhism.
Food Hut, Shergaon (Lamu Zurkhi Homestay): The best thali we had in all of Arunachal. The food was tasty, homely and literally soul soothing.
Packing List for Arunachal Pradesh
- Toiletries: Brush, toothpaste, shampoo, shaving kit, Moisturiser etc are essential as home stays do not provide these.
- A good sunscreen: With SPF 50 or above since the the skin is easily tanned at this altitude
- Hairdryer: The home stays usually do not provide hair dryers. And dusty roads and wind make the hair quite oily and unmanageable. So pack a hair dryer if you need head wash every 2/3 days like me.
- Comfortable Shoes: For all the walking involved
- Room Slippers: A must, especially in Winter since the floor gets chilly
- Winter wear: Thermals, Jacket, sweaters, beanie, gloves etc. You will need a lightweight jacket even during April and October time. November onwards, layering becomes necessary. So pack accordingly.
- Powerbank: For your charging needs during power cuts which are quite frequent. We experienced it in Dirang and mostly in Tawang.
- Masks for dusty roads: This is a must for people with dust allergy. Some of the roads are way too dusty due to ongoing roadwork
- Snacks: For the munching needs on long journeys or cozy evenings
- Camera Gears: For capturing the scenic beauty and moments with family
Interesting Facts about Arunachal Pradesh
- Did you know Arunachal Pradesh does not have a script of its own, but many dialects in different regions? That is the reason why Hindi is widely used across the state for communication. Sometimes, even husband and wives communicate in Hindi when they have different dialects. We got to know about it while talking to our homestay owners.
- Home made Rice Wine prepared by collecting vapours (in a special process) of fermented rice is offered as a welcome drink by locals.
- During Oct-Nov, sunset happens early around 4:30 pm and it becomes dark by 5pm. Also, sunrise happens early and by 5:30 am, it becomes as bright as 7am. So start your days early (around 7:30-8am) to cover the sightseeing points effectively.
- UPI payments work almost everywhere except a few places where internet connection is poor or internet does not work (like Bum La). So keep some cash handy.
- Airtel and Jio mobile networks worked fine in most of the areas.
- People of Arunachal are some of the most hospitable we have met so far. They help voluntarily without keeping any personal interest. So tip is not expected anywhere.
- Markets of Tawang, Dirang etc are good for buying winter wear. But do not expect the prices to be cheap as they bring the items from other places. I found the cost of items reasonable and the shop owners really friendly. Just to give you an idea, a Yak wool shawl cost me INR 500 and a hand knit beanie INR 300.
Arunachal Pradesh was a very different experience for us. To most places, we go with certain expectations that comes from watching pictures or videos on social media platforms. But for Arunachal, we had hardly seen any pics or videos. And that worked its magic during our trip. There were so many pleasant surprises at every turn bringing immense happiness. So go and experience the unspoilt beauty of Arunachal Pradesh, but with a responsible attitude.
That’s it for now. If you have further queries or have anything to share with us about Arunachal Pradesh, do leave a comment below.