Often referred to as Phuentsholing's little sister due to the similarity in architectural style and the fact that both towns are on the border with India, Samdrup Jongkhar has, in fact, little of interest to tourists. Even the dzong is new and lacks the charm and artistic treasures of the traditional dzongs. However, the town is a very clean and pleasant place with an eclectic mixture of Bhutanese and Indian shops, restaurants and hotels, so it is worth a look around if visiting the area.
Via the northern route. S/Jongkhar is a three day bus ride from Thimphu, and the nearest direct services terminate in Trashigang and Mongar, where travelers will need to spend the night before departing on a different bus the next morning (consider purchasing an onward ticket on arrival as buses on the final leg of the journey are often full). Prior to that, there is a one night stop in Jakar, but it is the same bus that continues the next morning. The most comfortable buses are the small Japanese coaster buses, which operate as far as Mongar and Trashigang. If there are no seats available on the coaster buses to either Mongar or Trashigang, consider taking one as far as Jakar (to where there is a more frequent service), and then purchase an onward ticket on an ordinary inter-district bus from there.
Via Assam. The border at S/Jongkhar was reopened in 2008, but travelers heading to the Eastern districts must come with passes or visas issued in either Phuentsholing or Thimphu. Guwahati is the nearest airport to S/Jongkhar.
This compact little town is easily covered on foot.
Zangtopelri Lhakhang is a new monastery located across from the entrance to the dzong. Even though made of cement and lacking the character of older monasteries, Zangtopelri is perhaps S/Jongkhar's only tourist site.
Shopping. Just past the border gate is an Indian market called Mella Bazaar. Here, there are an array of stalls selling goods at much lower prices than in S/Jongkhar and some specializing in Assamese and northern Indian food. The chaos and noise is quite a contrast to the peace and harmony that exists just the otherside of the gate in Bhutan.
If you are staying long term in Bhutan, S/Jongkhar is the place to purchase Indian made clothes and dry food items. However, these things will be of little interest to tourists. The town does not have any gift shops, even in the hotels.
South Indian cuisine. Hotel Shambhala on the main street offers a simple but authentic selection of South Indian dishes - dosa are a speciality.
Cakes and pastries. Pema Bakery located in the bazaar area has a small, but good selection of bakery items.
The town has no tourist class hotels.
Hotel Peljorling, Tel:+975 7 251-094 - on the main street is one of the town's best hotels. All rooms have attached bathroom and cable TV - single: 250Nu, double: 350Nu.
Hotel Shambhala, Tel:+975 7 251-222 on the main street. All rooms have attached bathroom and TV - single: 250Nu, double, 350Nu.
T.L.T. Hotel, Tel:975 7 251-470, 251-069 - located near the town's market. All rooms have attached bathroom and TV. local rate: 400Nu, tourist rate: 1,300Nu - the rooms in this hotel are not bad, but certainly not worth the tourist rate. If they won't offer a more realist price, try another hotel.
Friends Hotel, This hotel has got decent clean rooms. An attached bar serves Bhutanese liquor and some Bhutanese food plus regular Indian food along with a selection of Chinese and Tibetan food.
Assam and Phuentsholing. Border opens at 7AM to allow vehicles to travel through Assam to Phuentsholing. There are no buses and you'll need to be at the border crossing around 6AM to get a ride (just ask drivers - no need for thumb waving). The journey takes about ten hours. It is necessary to visit the Indian foreign check post at Darranga (5 km from S/Jongkhar) early in the morning or the evening before to get your entry stamp.
Deothang A hill station like town about 18 km from S/Jongkhar.
Bhangtar, an area inhibited by many Bhutanese of Nepalese descent. The clean river and wide valley offer a good place for a picnic and swimming (though not in the rainy season).
Guwahati is 110 km (a three hour drive) from S/Jongkhar. There is no direct bus, and due to safety considerations the journey must be made by an Indian registered vehicle, which can be hired for between 1,300Nu to 1,800Nu for the day.
The road between Darranga and Rangiya which is 55 kms from Guwahati is very bad at stretches.During winter do not travel after sun set as the fog is very heavy and night time driving becomes hazardous
The area code for S/Jongkhar is 07. When calling from overseas, dial +975-7-XXXXXX
If your vehicle is having problems, then you are in luck. S/Jongkhar has one of the best vehicle repair shops in Bhutan: Pema Khangsar Motor Works. Tel:251028 - located on the main road into town from the north, near the entrance to the dzong.