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Ultimate Travel Planning Hack for North East India

It was already twilight at 04:00 pm on one December afternoon when I got off a bus at Roing, Arunachal Pradesh. People were on their way back from work and restaurants were getting ready to serve dinner. That’s when I realized that there is nothing standard about the Indian Standard Time (IST). I realized that everyday life in the region followed the sun – a must-know fact for every traveler to Northeast India.

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For those who do not know, North East India comprises of eight states – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura. The Himalayas and its waters define the region’s terrain, climate, rich biodiversity, and the peculiar indigenous lifestyles her people follow.

That North East India is bound by Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet to the north, Bangladesh to the south and west, and Myanmar to the east hints at the eclectic mix of cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity. This is where elements of Asia come together to do what they do best – cast a spell.

Abhijeet Deshpande, author of Backpacking North East India: A Curious Journey, lived the North Eastern life during his travels and witnessed the impact of a standard time zone on the region. He shares a perspective.

Why timezone makes India’s Northeast a unique travel destination?

Let us reconsider the above map, only this time with timezones marked on top. Bangladesh and Bhutan are IST+30 minutes, China is IST+150 minutes, Myanmar is IST+60 minutes, and Nepal is IST+15 minutes. Notice how the region of North East India is sandwiched between all these countries and their different time zones.

Now, picture this: Tinsukia, a town on Assam’s eastern border, currently shares a time zone with the nation’s capital New Delhi, roughly 2300 Km west. Whereas Bangkok, which is almost the same distance heading southeast from Tinsukia, is 1 hour 30 minutes ahead of IST.

So when Thailand is about to wake up at 05:30 am, New Delhi is in a dreamland at 04:00 am and Manipur is hitting the snooze button. Look at the earliest and latest times (current IST = UTC+0530 Hrs) for sunrise and sunsets in four state capitals of India and notice how early (04:24 am) Imphal greets the sun.

State CapitalsEarliest SunriseLatest SunriseEarliest SunsetLatest Sunset
New Delhi05:2207:1517:2419:23

Data Source

North East India has adapted itself to this reality, at times making autonomous choices. For instance, tea gardens, one of the region’s biggest revenue earners, follow a British legacy. Their clocks are an hour ahead of the Indian Standard Time.

Share daylight with Northeast India

Many people have highlighted the issue and even demanded a separate timezone for North East India. As the region’s security situation continues to normalize, and focus shifts to quality of life, such demands may intensify. I don’t know whether multiple timezones would bring tangible benefits in the national context. But, how about sharing the daylight while retaining a single harmonized timezone?

DP Sengupta and Dilip R Ahuja, researchers from the National Institute of Advanced Studies, have proposed advancing the standard time by 30 minutes to make IST as UTC+0600 Hrs. Clearly, this would increase daylight hours in the North East India by an hour (30 minutes each in the morning and evening). So, instead of an Imphal sunrise at 04:24 am, it would be at 04:54 am. See revised chart (proposed IST = UTC+0600 Hrs) below. Notice how other parts of India have no significant difference in daylight.

State CapitalsEarliest SunriseLatest SunriseEarliest SunsetLatest Sunset
New Delhi05:5207:4517:5419:53

Data Source

With potential benefits to North East India, questions remain on whether advancing IST by 30 minutes be suitable in the national context.

  • Would a UTC+0600 scenario result in substantial energy savings (due to nationwide daylight saving), and thus provide an economic justification for the move?
  • Would a UTC+0600 scenario offer a positive impact on trade and connectivity initiatives with Bangladesh and Nepal or on the proposed tourism initiative with Bhutan? (These countries are important partners for North East India)
  • Are there synergies that a UTC+0600 scenario might offer with India’s Act East policy?

Unless the response to these and more such related queries is counter-intuitive, there could be a case for sharing the daylight with North East India. But let me not digress too much. Instead, let’s see how travelers can deal with this.

What is the ultimate travel planning hack for Northeast India?

Follow the sun!

If you travel to the least explored North East India, be prepared to start and end your days sooner than usual. In many remote areas, restaurants or eateries offer breakfast and meals earlier than what you might be used to. How about lunch at 1030 am? Likewise, public transport services might start as early as 5 am to get people to their respective destinations before sun down. By 06:30 pm most of the shops shut down and guest houses request you to return to your room by then. By 09:00 pm, for all practical purposes, it is midnight.

In urban areas, on the other hand, while the loss of productivity and the impact on social lives may persist, the fallout for travelers is limited. Beware though, this rural-urban comparison is only for places within the region. With a relatively active night life, while you may dine out until later in the evening, do not expect Northeast Indian cities to stay up late like metros elsewhere in the country. Remember this travel planning tip for India’s northeast and make the most of your days and evenings!

Think Northeast India

Planning to visit? Pick up a copy of Backpacking North East India: A Curious Journey. It covers over two dozen places and attempts to answer the question – what is it like to travel in the region? Give it a read and make your own plans. Buy now!

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Have you been to or live in North East India? What has been your experience and what are your thoughts on the idea of ‘Sharing the Daylight’? We would love to hear from you (please scroll below to leave a comment).

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94 thoughts on “Ultimate Travel Planning Hack for North East India”

  1. organisedmumlife

    I couldn’t get up with the sun, I am up at 5am regardless but especially during winter in Australia it is still dark. I would lose a whole chunk of productive time haha


    1. So true. The productive time is very important and with early sunrises and sunsets, it gets shorter. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Sreekar Harinatha

    I always feel the North Eastern Indian keeps getting overlooked by many travellers. My friends who have been there had so many good things to say about the great place and people. You posts second those opinions!

  3. Young Writers Pro

    Wow! I’ve never been to North East India but its beautiful. Here in South America the Daylight timings are so different that every time I go on vacation I either oversleep or sleep very late. Nevertheless I enjoyed reading your post.

  4. I had no idea the daylight timings were so different. Northern India is so beautiful. I hope to visit again soon.

  5. I have never visited North East India and it’s really lovely to learn more about it! I think India is such an exciting and interesting place, especially with the vast culture and the beautiful history!

  6. I would love to visit India & soak up all the culture, the food & everything India has to offer. I am a night owl though, I like to stay up late & sleep late

  7. thevintagegypsygirl

    Your post taught me so many new things about India and Northeast India respectively. It is so exciting how so many places are neighboring but are all seeing the sun rise and set and various times.

  8. we are planning to visit North east side this year will surely check on to do list. India is incredibly beautiful.

  9. I would love to visit north east India its already in my bucket list. Its a gorgeous place to be . Hopefully soon I’ll be able to go there.

  10. A very interesting read. Time zones, while useful, can also be incredibly without logic, sometimes. I am enjoying your NE India series.

  11. I would love to visit India one day. I had no idea the daylight timings were so different. Thank you for the information.

  12. I have never been to North East India and impressed a lot by the difference in daylight timings. Your article is very useful for everyone who is planning to visit this place. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  13. I have never been to India, or Asia for that matter, so every time I come across and article about that part of the world I really enjoy reading it, because every single time I learn something new.

  14. fashionandstylepolice

    I have never been to India before. And I am hearing about these information for the first time. Sounds amazing. Would love to visit one day.

  15. Blair villanueva

    One thing that I miss living in the province is the opportunity to wke up early and kiss the first rays of the sun. It is a very beautiful feeling. I can’t do that here jn the city.

  16. Lunch at 10:30 thats quite early, I learned something new about my neighbouring country from your post

  17. Never been to this part of the Earth. But it’s fascinating to know something about it. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Personally i think this starting and ending the day early is a healthy habit. It’s a common practice in a lot of european countries too except the really big cities. I have read proposals for daylight savings in North east and i think it makes complete sense. Thanks for providing such valuable infomation about the least explored paradise in india

  19. A very thoughtful post. I especially like the three questions that you have posed at the end of the post. There is definitely a huge time difference between the two ends of India. And I am glad the North East has chosen to make life easier for itself.

  20. This was really interesting! I had no idea about these time zone issues in this area of the world. Thanks for sharing this knowledge!

  21. This is super helpful for me, as I’m leaving Delhi this week to ride my motorbike towards North Eastern States. Knowing the correct timings is essential!!

  22. Oh, I missed India already. I have been to Uttarakhand region and loved it a lot. I can imagine how sharing the daylight better:)

  23. Interesting, I didn’t know that there’s a part in India where you will experience early sunrise and sunset. Learned something from your post.

  24. I’ve never been to Northeast India but it looks beautiful from your pics and now I’ve also learned something new about the time differences!

  25. I just saw some pictures and videos of North East India and it was a huge surprise for me.
    Thank you very much for explaining things that we do not all know. I would love to spend some time in India.

  26. Personally, we love to start our day early because you can get so much done. Its one of the best habits to have. Many of the most successful people talk about it.
    Thanks for sharing this in great detail

  27. I’m an early riser and usually up before the sun. This would definitely throw off my internal clock. Thanks for this post, I didn’t realize this was even an issue.

  28. I’m such a lazy person that this sounds crazy to my ears! 🙂 But can’t say that you are wrong!

  29. Because of the early sunrise & sunset, it would make more sense if NE India would be given its own time zone. It was indeed surprising to see the day light breaking out at 4 AM in the morning sometimes.

    1. Thanks Umang. Another thought is sharing the daylight while retaining a single harmonized timezone and how to go about it.

  30. Yeah, time zones do not often have to make sense – for the regions they apply to, that is. And there is also “daylight savings time”. Did you know that in Europe we are discussing to get rid of it? 😉

  31. Thanks for this post. We plan to visit India but haven’t decided which part. This will be useful information in our planning.

  32. It all sounds very complicated. I have enough trouble knowing what time it is at home, so I don’t think I’d cope with all those timezones very well.

  33. Something unique here 🙂 The idea of sharing the daylight with North East India sounds cool. Though the idea of time zones/daylight saving confuses me 🙂

  34. Yeah, time zones often don’t make much sense. But on the other hand, I love to start my day early because I feel I can do much more things. Its one of the best habits to have.

  35. I found the timezone comparison really interesting. This is what I love about your blog: you have all sorts of new ideas and approaches to refresh destinations many may have covered in a traditional way. Keep it up!

  36. I love reading your blog post. Its always so informative and useful. Alot of information I didn’t know about traveling within in India. Great work.

  37. I had absolutely no idea that there are such timing differences in India! The more daylight the better definitely! Thank you for sharing this!

  38. I haven’t been to India yet, but I would definitely make sure to visit the North as well since it looks so unique.

  39. I didn’t know that you have different timezones in India! I don’t get the different timezones in the same country to be honest although I know that it has something to do with the size of the country and the promixity to the international date line but still…lol.

  40. I would have no idea the daylight savings can be so different in these locations. This post is super handy for those looking to travel between these destinations.

  41. Truly fascinating article!! I learned something interesting I would have never known otherwise. Thanks for sharing! I hope I can get out to this region someday soon.

  42. Very interesting the different time zones within the country…just like USA. In fact, some politicians and academics want to abolish timezones all together for security reasons. I thing NE India and Bhutan should probably have the same time zone since Bhutan is smack in the middle and so tiny. With Nepal, it’s probably too large to share the same so maybe parts of Nepal and NE to share a zone? The residents also have to weigh in on this too.

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