Jaigaon is a city in the northern plains of West Bengal, India. It is a trading post for cross-border business with Bhutan. Unless you are planning to enter Bhutan or have an interest in construction material, there is no reason to visit Jaigaon.
As India does not allow the development of towns on international borders, Jaigaon sprang up illegally. Although the town now has legal status, there has been little or no attempt to smarten it up, and it remains a dusty, litter-strewn place full of companies selling construction material and shops marketing cheap clothes.
This article also covers Hasimara, a picturesque little town surrounded by tea plantations that is 15 km from Jaigaon and can be reached from the town by auto rickshaw — shared around ₹30-40, reserved no more than ₹180 — or bus from Jaigaon bus station, as of January 2023.
The culture of Jaigaon is influenced by the town's diverse population of people from throughout India and Bhutan. The demand of Indian and Bhutanese consumers from nearby Phuentsholing has led to the development of the service sector in various fields.
Jaigaon's cultural diversity can be seen in its food and clothing. Various segments of Indian culture are represented, and the town's proximity to Bhutan has influenced locally available commodities.
There are regular buses from Siliguri, and the journey takes around four hours. The Bhutan buses travelling from Siliguri and Kolkata also make a stop here.
- 1 Hasimara railway station. is the nearest train station to Jaigaon - a twenty to thirty-minute auto ride. The station is on the main Siliguri to Guwahati line and is located in New Hasimara, which is a few minutes drive beyond Old Hasimara - passengers should inform auto drivers that this is their destination when negotiating the price of the journey. Trains stopping at Hasimara include Kanchankanya express (13149) from Kolkata (Sealdah station), Rajdhani Express (13248) from Patna and Mahananda Express (14084) from Delhi as well as numerous regional and local trains. The journey to Siliguri on a local train takes around four hours and costs ₹60.
Around ₹30-50 for a shared and approx ₹300 for a reserved auto from Hasimara Station - the back of the station (cross the railway tracks). It will be slightly more expensive from the front area. The journey to Jaigaon takes around 20-30 minutes. When negotiating the price, travellers entering Bhutan need to inform the driver that they want to get down at Jaigaon Immigration Office. Otherwise, the driver will drop the passengers at Jaigaon Bus Station, which is a 10-15-minute walk from the town, or he will ask for extra payment when told to drive to the immigration office.
Phuentsholing is just over the border and only a gate divides the two towns.
The town is small and can be covered on foot, though an autorickshaw is recommended for the journey from the main bus terminal, which is located slightly out of town. Jaigaon lacks quality infrastructure, and during the rainy season the streets are muddy and difficult to negotiate on foot.
See and do
- 1 Bhutan Gate. A traditional-style Bhutanese gate, used as a gateway between India and Bhutan.
- Gurudwara, New Hasimara.
Bhutanese religious and cultural items can be bought cheaply at several stores along the main road if you turn right at Bhutan Gate. Strange artefacts from Bhutan and the nearby villages surface here from time to time, there is nowhere in particular to look but keep your eyes out for antiques!
- Asian Book Distributors, J.P. Centre, N.S. Rd, ☏ . As a supplier of book stores in Bhutan, AB Books is an excellent place to pick up titles on subjects related to Bhutan and Buddhism and at much cheaper prices than over the border.
Eat and drink
Tibetan-style cuisine, such as momos are popular in Jaigaon. However, good Bhutanese food is relatively hard to come by as most people would rather just walk across the border. Certain hotels listed at the Sleep section also have restaurants for non-guests.
- 1 Hotel Devi, N.S. Road, ☏ , . Could be a better place to have freshly cooked food, it has a very cozy homely environment.
- Hotel Kasturi, near Bhutan Gate. Rooms are clean and moderately well furnished. Rates are moderate.
- Hotel Prasant, Shah Building, N.S. Road, Distt. Jalpaiguri,, ☏ . New hotel with 35 rooms, Mobile: 91-92312-75394,
- 2 Hotel Satyam, next to Bhutan Gate (right side on exiting), ☏ , . One of the better budget hotels in Jaigaon. It also has really good and cheap Indian veggie food. Some outdoor seating on the 2nd floor offers interesting views of the chaos below.
While Jaigaon has a reputation for crime and drug dealing, as a border town, there are a high number of police patrolling, and so it is perfectly safe to walk around in the day. However, precautions should be taken at night, especially in dark alleys. Still, despite its reputation, there have been no reports of foreign tourists being assaulted or robbed in the town and crime is primarily confined to local disputes.
- Banks in Jaigaon are not authorised to change foreign currency.
The office is next to the cinema hall 1 Indian immigration office:
- entering the town from Siliguri or Hasimara, take a left at the fork in the road (there is a statue at the junction and a large sign for "Alipuduar Police"), the immigration office is a few minute's walk on the left.
- from Phuentsholing, take a right after exiting the gate. The immigration office is a five-minute walk on the right.
The office is open seven days a week, but only from 9AM to 6PM.
- All foreign nationals, except citizens of Bhutan, are required to get their passport stamped at the immigration office when either leaving or entering India. Those entering from Phuentsholing should ensure that they have an exit stamp in their passport when leaving Bhutan.
- Bhutanese citizens require an entry and exit stamp (from Bhutan) in their passport only if they plan to exit India to a third country. For domestic travel inside India, a Bhutan ID is legally enough, though beyond Siliguri this is often not known, especially by hotel staff, and so it is advisable to carry a passport.
- Siliguri - the major city in the region, and home to international standard shopping complexes, restaurants, and hotels. Bagdogra Airport is in Siliguri. There is no public transport (train or bus) leaving for Siliguri from Jaigaon/Hasimara from late afternoon, and so travellers should be prepared to leave by 3PM at the latest.
- Thimphu - the capital of Bhutan is a five-hour drive from Jaigaon.