How to reach Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

How to reach Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

I see that you are looking to do something unusual. It is not that common for people to look to travel to someplace as remote as Arunachal. And to tell you honestly, it is pretty hard to reach. Just reaching Tawang takes 3 days and expect the same while returning back. But if you are sane enough, go ahead and take this trip. It’s a whole other side of the Himalayas, literally!

Now there are so many places that you can travel inside Arunachal itself. I haven’t been to those yet, but Tawang is the most popular route. The connectivity to Tawang and beyond has also increased considerably in the past. So you will find enough amenities on the way too.

But you will need a lot of information for this trip. And unfortunately, it’s not talked about enough. So here is all you need to know to plan your travel to Tawang (route) inside Arunachal Pradesh.

Beautiful view of Tawang town with monastery in the background
Beautiful view of Tawang town with monastery in the background

Popular Tawang Itinerary

Day 1: Guwahati – Tezpur – Nameri National Park (optional)

Day 2: Nameri National Park – Bhalukpong – Dirang

Day 3: Dirang – Tawang

Day 4: Tawang Sightseeing

Day 5: Tawang – Bum La Pass – Tawang

Day 6: Tawang – Bomdila

Day 7: Bomdila – Guwahati

If you wish to extend this trip you can branch out your plans from Bondila towards Itanagar, Ziro or even Kaziranga in Assam. But travel details for those routes are not in this article.

Alternate Route

Here is an alternate route that goes directly from Guwahati to Bomdila and onwards.

Day 1: Guwahati – Orang – Bomdila

Day 2: Bomdila – Tawang

Day 3: Tawang Sightseeing

Day 4: Tawang – Bum La Pass – Tawang

Day 5: Tawang – Dirang

Day 6: Dirang – Orang – Guwahati

There are certainly fewer stops on this route if you are okay to miss out on some places on the popular route. But you can do this journey more quickly.

Read more about our travel itinerary to Tawang in detail in our blog

How to travel to Tawang Route

There are several ways to do this. But do not rely on public transport if you have a tight itinerary. Public transport is available, although much less frequent. But then be prepared for delays, inconsistent breaks and sudden changes of plans. This will work best if you are planning to travel slow and are flexible with options.

Private Vehicle/Guided tour

This is what I took to Tawang. I rented a private car/taxi for the complete trip. A driver/guide picked us up at the airport and took us to all the tourist spots with a pre-defined itinerary all the way to Tawang and back till the time we left from Guwahati Aiport.

Most tour packages also include booking your hotels. But if you want to select your hotels yourself, you can always choose to book a vehicle only. Our driver was seasoned in the tourism industry and he pretty much was our tour guide too. 

Our ride for the trip
Our ride for the trip

A day tour from Tawang to Bum La Pass (local sightseeing) will need you to hire another local taxi from Tawang with special permits. But apart from that your guided tour will take care of everything else.

The guided tour companies also take care of getting the Inner Line Permit (required for travel inside Arunachal) but you can do that on your own too.

You don’t have to take a guided tour to Arunachal as a mandate. But Arunachal is another version of remote. And unless you are a seasoned traveller with a lot of time in hand, you may find yourself exasperated by the lack of transportation options and bad road conditions.

The standard price of a private taxi on this route is between ₹4,000 – 6,000 per day depending upon the vehicle and the weather. The prices increase slightly during the winter months. This includes the fuel, parking and driver charges.

I booked my guided tour using a travel agency called Tusk Travel. While the prices were slightly on the higher side, I found the services very warm and welcoming. They accommodated our requests for a customized itinerary and changed hotels that we were not happy with during the tour. I will recommend them (this is not paid ad).

However, you can also find some great guided tour options online that cater to every budget. Check out these websites:

https://www.paradisenortheast.com/

https://www.tourmyindia.com/states/arunachalpradesh/

https://www.thrillophilia.com/places-to-visit-in-arunachal-pradesh

Our Driver and Tour Guide, Mr. Kamal Tamang
Our Driver and Tour Guide, Mr. Kamal Tamang

Private Transport / Motobikes

Now I am far from an expert here. But you can still do the trip using your own vehicle or biking all the way to Tawang. It is actually fairly common to see motorcyclists doing this tour in a group. Needless to say, it is extremely demanding if you count in the uncertain weather and the road conditions.

If you are a seasoned rider and are already acquainted with Himalayan terrain and weather, then I cannot tell you much. Except for the fact that pack for sub-zero temperatures for your excursion to Bum La pass.

The population in Arunachal is way sparser than other regions in India, so don’t count on repair shops. Carry your backup gear. But I will strongly suggest that you do this trip in a group. Check this blog out for more details on it.

Check out these tour packages that offer bike trips in groups:

https://thedreamridersgroup.com/tawang-guwahati-10days-premium.php

https://redpandaadventures.com/?tour=enchanting-tawang-north-east-india

Self-drive car rentals are not so popular in Guwahati. So it can be hard for you to find one. Check this website out that claims to provide car rental for outstation locations:

https://www.fufugadi.com/

If you decide to drive a car yourself, think several times before you claim yourself to be confident enough for these roads. The roads can look like these on Google Maps. 

Roads to Tawang on Google Maps
Roads to Tawang on Google Maps

And like these in real. I am not trying to dissuade you, but I don’t like to lose my readers either 😛

Roads to Tawang in real
Roads to Tawang in real

Public Transport

The third and the last option is to do this on your own but using the public transport inside Arunachal. It’s not so bad, to be honest, but you must be patient.

You can break this journey down to many legs (as below) if you don’t wish to sightsee places as you go. But it will mean that you will spend a few hours each day travelling

Note: – A lot of information below is based on research and can be circumstantial (it is 2022 now). Please call, check or confirm beforehand if the same services are available when you travel. 

Guwahati to Tezpur OR Guwahati to Bomdila OR Guwahati to Tawang – You can cover the distance between Guwahati to Tezpur by bus or a shared sumo. You can get an ASCT (Assam State Travel) bus from Paltan Bazar to Tezpur for ₹200 but you may have to wait a while for the next one. The journey takes around 5 hours.

If you are landing at Guwahati airport, you can also get a shared taxi to Tezpur directly at the airport parking. Or you can get a city bus to Paltan Bazaar from the airport. The ticket costs around ₹90 and takes 45 minutes for the city bus ride.

It is always better to pre-book your bus online. You can use redbus.com or any other aggregators online to book or check for a bus ticket. But most of them are not listed there.

For Bomdila, you will be able to find shared sumos from Paltan Bazar too but they leave at 5-6 am in the morning and get booked fast. So call or book them a day in advance at the ticket counter. The journey takes 15-16 hours of travel time and the fare is around 750/- per person. Make sure you have a hotel booked at Bomdila since it will be late by the time you reach and things close there soon.

In fact, there are buses and shared sumos that go all the way from Guwahati (Paltan Bazaar) to Tawang. But they run for almost 16-20 hours continuously, cost around ₹2000 and can be back-breaking. Again, they start super early in the morning and get full soon so check the availability and book a day ahead.

If you aren’t in a hurry to reach Tawang, I suggest you break your journey for a bit of sightseeing.

Tezpur to Bomdila/Dirang OR Tezpur to Tawang – There are buses from Tezpur to Bomdila/Dirang available at the ASCT Bus depot early in the morning and start at 5-6 am in the morning. The tickets are available at the ticket counter only. It would be best if you buy a ticket a day in advance.

If not, you can certainly find shared sumo to Bomdila/Dirang or at least to Bhaukpong. Bhalukpong is right at the entrance of Arunachal Pradesh and you will be able to find shared sumo to Bomdila/Dirang or even Tawang from there. However, again like all other routes, sumos start very early in the morning between 5-6 am. So make sure you enquire about your ride a day before. The fare is between 550-750 per person.

Shared sumos are also available from Tezpur directly to Tawang between 4 am to 8 am. They run from near the ASCT Bus stop and take between 15-16 hours to reach. The fare range between 1000-1100 per person. Make sure you have a hotel booked in Tawang since, by the time the sumos reach Tawang, most places are closed in.

Buses inside Assam
Buses inside Assam
Sumo Booking Counter in Bhalukpong
Sumo Booking Counter in Bhalukpong

Bomdila/Dirang – Tawang – If you have broken your journey in legs, then this should be your last one. It is easy to get shared sumo from Bomdila/Dirang to Tawang. A bus starts from Bomdila at 5.30 am and costs around ₹300 and takes 10 hours to reach.

On the other hand, shared sumo costs around ₹500 per person and takes around 8 hours to reach from Bomdila to Tawang. You can check for one with your hotel owner and maybe they will be able to directly pick you up from your hotel as well.

Dirang is nearer to Tawang and you will be able to cut 3 hours of the journey if you start from Dirang. However, there is no difference in the transportation cost. Same options run from Dirang too. Shared sumo from Bomdila to Dirang costs ₹150/- per person.

Trains in the area – A train station is available at Bhalukpong but only one local train runs to this station once every day. The local train runs from Rangapara (Rangapara North Junction Station) at 11.55 am and reaches Bhaulkpong station at 1.20 pm.

To reach Rangapara, you can take other local/express trains from Guwahati or Tezpur.

How to go around in Tawang

Tawang, a small town once has grown into a sprawling city of considerable size. I wouldn’t say there are a lot of places to visit inside Tawang city. But the ones there are, you can even walk to some of them (can take a while) if you are living in the middle of the city. I am assuming that you have all the time in the world and you are looking to explore things slow.

But there are quite a few places outside the city for which you will need local transportation. If you are already making this journey using a private car, then you will already cover these tourist attractions like Sela Pass, Jung Falls and Jaswant Garh war memorial on your way to Tawang.

If you are using public transport, then you may want to hire a local cab to spend time at these places. You can also find many tour operators inside the city (check out the taxi stand at old markets) that offer tour packages for Tawang sightseeing that you can enjoy it alone or with other travellers.

Bum La Pass Excursion – Regardless of how you travel to Tawang, you will have to hire a separate cab in Tawang to take you to Bum La Pass. Neither your private taxi nor your private vehicle can make that journey due to military restrictions.

You will need to rent a local vehicle for this tour that will not only cover Bum La Pass but a few other tourist attractions like Sangetsar Lake (better known as Madhuri Lake) and a few more.

A private vehicle will cost you ₹5,000 for the trip and that will last for 5-6 hours. You can also get a shared vehicle for ₹1,500 that you will need to share with 4-5 other people. You can book this with any tour operator in the city or check with your hotel who will book a vehicle/seat on your behalf.

However, do this at least a day before since the driver will need to get a permit made for you before you start.

Our local ride to Bum La
Our local ride to Bum La
Driving through snowy roads
Driving through snowy roads

Permit Needed to visit Tawang

For Indian Citizens – All you need is an ILP or Inner Line Permit to travel inside any place in Arunachal Pradesh that you will need to mention while applying. The ILP is valid for 15 days and you can apply it both offline and online.

The cost to acquire an ILP is ₹100 per person if you opt for the regular process (which takes 1-2 working days). However, you can also apply for a tatkal ILP for ₹400 per person that you will get within hours of applying. You can apply it on their official website online.

You can also apply for it offline in New Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Shillong, Tezpur, Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur and Jorhat at their respective offices in these locations

For Foreign Travelers: Foreign travellers must apply for PAP or Protected Area Permit before they can enter Arunachal Pradesh. Even so, if you are a solo traveller you can only visit the Tawang stretch, Itanagar and Ziro. To access other areas of Arunachal, you need to apply for a group permit with at least 4 members.

The permit is valid for upto 17 days and costs ₹3,500 per person (as of 2020). The permit can take upto 2 days to process. This cannot be done online and you will have to visit one of the designated offices to get this done. You can apply it yourself in one of the following offices:

1. Deputy Resident Commissioner Office of Arunachal Pradesh in Guwahati

2. Resident Commissioner Office of Arunachal Pradesh in New Delhi

3. Deputy Resident Commissioner Office of Arunachal Pradesh in Kolkata

You can also do this via an agency online but they will charge on top of this amount. You will need to fill out a form and give your passport and Indian visa for a copy.

I hope the information above helped you to plan your trip. If there have been any recent changes, consider sharing those in the comments so that other people can benefit from the information.

Important Notes for the Journey

Packing: Make sure you pack well for the journey. As you will proceed, the weather will change every few kilometres. What will feel like a humid-warm day in Assam around Tezpur will quickly change into cold showers on the way. You will probably find some snow near Sela Pass which is extremely cold and then things will get a little warm again before Tawang.

So make sure that you have layers. Wear full pants. You don’t need body warmers since it will be warm in some places. But you will need an umbrella, a thick jacket, warm socks and covered shoes at times. Keep them handy.

Food: There are a few places on the way where you can halt for meals. But if you are prone to motion sickness, eat very very light. I hardly have any motion sickness, and I skipped my breakfast as we drove on. It was a good decision. The roads are very as mountainous as it gets. Pack something for hunger pangs but keep it light. Buy some candies/mint/sour toffee to suckle on.

Internet Connectivity: The Internet is patchy in most parts and it will disappear completely for long durations of time when you are travelling through the wilderness. Airtel works better than any other network. Jio (or most other networks) doesn’t do very well here. Again it’s 2022 so things may change.

Cash: Most people will prefer cash since there are hardly any digital transactions as you start ascending. That may change as well in future. But keep cash handy. There are ATMs in most towns and villages but you will have to go out of your way to withdraw money. Many places in Tawang accept cards though.

Medical: There is a decent hospital in Tawang and then there are a few emergency units in most places (many of the army). But carry your medicines. Mountain sickness and dizziness at high altitude is common among tourists. Make sure you have the emergency number for a hospital/clinic if you are travelling with children/elderly. Drink hot water when this starts happening.

Safety: Arunachal Pradesh is very safe. So even if you are a single woman and travelling with the locals, things will be okay. That being said, make sure you have some backup to call if stuck. Since the area is heavily militarized, you can always get some help from the soldiers in the area and they are usually happy to help.

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