I traveled from India to Nepal overland, a very easy journey if timed correctly. But still a part of a great overland adventure route...
updated: ( 2013)
(clicking on a heading will take you to that section)
» What do you need? (officially)
» Do I really need a tour company?
» Overland India / Nepal Routes
» How to cross the border into East Nepal overland
» How to cross the border into West Nepal overland
» How to cross the Sunali border into central Nepal overland
» The Tibet Nepal Route
» Tips and FAQ's
There are a couple of ways to do this trip. I will stick with the main route focusing on India into Nepal as it's the most commonly crossed, with several options to choose from.
For an easy trip: there are several companies in Delhi offering this route via bus. I've known very few people to actually take this option. Try what I've marked out below, it's well traveled for a reason.
Visas are given to nearly all nationality's at the Nepalese border.
Exit stamp out of India.
Photocopies of your passport (available at the Nepalese office)
An onward ticket.
There are many Indian companies offering overland bus trips into Nepal. Either delivering you into Pokhara, or Kathmandu.
Most of these buses seem to be frequented by Indian nationals. They usually take about 36 hours from Delhi. Reports have been mixed about these.
Some people have said they had air conditioning and food all the way. Others have said it was miserable trip with lost luggage and no facilities. I cannot recommend any company here as they change every year.
Take note that India and Nepal have a relatively open border. And nationals of both sides can cross over freely. This does not mean as a foreigner you can!
There are a few well meaning people that will tell you to follow them to the border. There are also many con men saying the same. Quite often you will get to the border only to find you cannot cross there.
Stick to the main routes unless you are certain you are allowed to cross.
Sunali border (most popular choice)
Panitanki border (coming from Darjeeling) (travel warning-Terai region)
Raxaul/Birganj border (coming from West Bengal)
All of the above borders are subject to change.That said, they've been open for many many years. However, in recent years violence at the Terai region has erupts. Seek information on the current situation before embarking on the border crossing.
From Darjeeling take a jeep or bus to Bagdogra, India and on to Panitanki. Or if left in Bagdogra you'll need to get a ride to Panitanki which is the border town.
You may need to hunt down the Indian immigration officer here. Generally a rickshaw man can help you out here for a small tip. Then get stamped out of India.
A rickshaw man will again offer to help you cross the no man's land that is the bridge over the Mahikali River.
Once across you'll be pointed to the Nepalese Immigration office. Get you visa here.
Now you can choose either to get a bus direct to Kathmandu, or go to Dharan for the night. It's about 4 hours away. Kathmandu is about 20 + hours.
Please note that in recent years there has been a lot of political unrest along this border.
You'll arrive at Raxaul train station and outside a host of Rickshaws will be waiting. They'll all know you need the immigration office and will take you there.
Get your exit stamp out of India.
Cross the bridge either on foot, or on a rickshaw to the Nepalese Immigration office in Birganj. Get stamped in.
On both sides of the border you can expect some mumbles for a little "extra". Ignore as you please.
By now someone, or many many people, will have arranged a tour bus to take you all the way to Kathmandu. As always on this side of the border the bus will be leaving "now".
Take your time in choosing a bus. Try to make sure it's actually going all the way to Kathmandu and not changing. Ask some people on the bus via a window.
The journey takes about 8-10 hours.
Take an over night train to Gorakphur. This train leaves Varannasi between midnight and 3am. Getting in around 6am.
Take a rickshaw from the train terminal to the bus terminal or ask him to take you to "Jeep to Sunali"
There are plenty of cheap buses going to Sunali. There are also quite a few morning jeeps going to Sunali. If you are running late, or it's anywhere near 8am, take a jeep for about 100+rupees and save time. It's about 3 hours.
take a rickshaw to Indian immigration. A desk on the side of the road. Get stamped out.
Take the same rickshaw and re bargain for him to take you to the Nepalese immigration office. Or, you can simply walk, it's only five minutes up the road to the right.
Get stamped into Nepal.
Leave the office and get surrounded by people offering buses to Pokhara, Chitwan or Kathmandu. All leave "now!"
Take you time, and don't get conned into paying extra for an air-conditioned bus. Take the phone number of the man selling you the ticket.
Quite often the bus will change over a few times. The journey to Pokhara can take 9-12 hours.
There is only one official border crossing. It's highly recommend you take this border crossing and not any local route.
Full details are listed in the opposite direction on my guide to How to travel overland into Tibet
Try to get to all the borders as early as possible so you don't have to stay overnight at any of them. None are that nice.
Everything will be rushed on the Nepalese side of the border.Take your time in getting an onward bus and avoid paying high prices for "tourist" buses.
Changing money at the border is a near necessity as Nepalese rupees are very hard to buy anywhere outside Nepal.
Ignore the pleas that Indian rupees cannot be changed in Nepal. They can.If you have a lot, save them for a better rate in Kathmandu. But buy enough Nepalese rupees to get you there plus a day. Just in case :)
Buy some food and water at the border, or before. The buses stop irregularly along the way. So don't be expecting any nicely cooked meals along this journey.
Watch your luggage at the borders, and when getting on buses. Never leave it. And, make sure you see it getting put into the bus and strapped in if on the roof.
If in doubt, tip the baggage man a little. And, be friendly to him. He could end up helping you out along the long journey ;)
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