from India to Nepal overland, a very easy journey if timed
correctly. But still a part of a great overland adventure
route... here's how you can do it..
» 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 Sunauli border into central Nepal overland
» The Tibet Nepal Route
» Tips and FAQ's
Introduction to traveling overland to Nepal
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.
Due to the pandemic borders were frequently closed for non-Indian/ non-Nepali. However, in 2023 these borders are now open. Do check with your nearest embassy before trying to cross.
What do you need to travel into Nepal?
Here's a list of what you need:.
(1) Visas are given to nearly all nationality's at the Nepalese border.
(2) Exit stamp out of India.
(3 ) Passport photos.
(4) Photocopies of your passport (available at the Nepalese office)
What you do not need
(1) An onward ticket.
Do I really need a tour company to travel into Nepal overland?
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. However, the national Indian carrier Uttar Pradesh Road Transport Corporation www.upsrtc.com & www.redbus.in have been rated with mostly positive expereinces. Getting a ticket is tricky and the best option is through a travel agent and accept they will add a commision.
The Overland India Nepal Routes
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.
South Nepal: Sunauli border (most popular choice )
East Nepal: Panitanki border (coming from Darjeeling) (travel warning-Terai region)
West Nepal: 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 erupted. Seek information on the current situation before embarking on the border crossing.
How to cross the East Nepal Panitanki border from India overland
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.
Cross the border: 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.
How to cross the West Nepal Raxaul/Birganj border from India overland
A train to Raxaul 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 Nepali Immigration office in Birganj. Get stamped in. Yes, as with all Nepali border there is a visa on arrival for most nationalities. Do read more on getting a Nepali tourist visa on arrival.
On both sides of the border you can expect some mumbles for a little "extra". Ignore as you please.
Getting to Kathmandu or Pokhara: 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 or Pokhara and not changing. Ask some people on the bus via a window. There are usually tourist buses for around 600 rupees or Deluxe buses for 900 ruppes (better option as they have A/C).
The journey takes about 8-10 hours.
How to cross the Sunauli border (central Nepal) from India overland
From Varanassi: Take an overnight 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 Sunauli"
There are plenty of cheap buses going to Sunauli . There are also quite a few morning jeeps going to Sunauli. 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.
At the Sunauli border 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 Nepali 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 your time, and don't get conned into paying extra for an air-conditioned bus unless you really want to. Take the phone number of the man selling you the ticket.
If you are in Nepal to travel and explore, then you might want to consider visiting Lumbini (brithplace of the Buddha) which is very close by and take a rest there for a night or two.
Quite often the bus will change over a few times. The journey to Pokhara/Kathmandu can take 9-12 hours. Lumbini is just 45 minutes away.
How to cross into Nepal from Tibet overland
From Tibet: 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
Avoiding scams & some tips for traveling from India to Nepal overland
What time should I arrive at the borders? 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.
Is transport a problem at the borders? Everything will be rushed on the Nepali side of the border.Take your time in getting an onward bus and avoid paying high prices for "tourist" buses unless you are actually stepping into the bus at the border and it is nice (usually they will send you off in a local bus promising A/C when you arrive).
Can I change money at the border? Changing money at the border is a near necessity as Nepali rupees are very hard to buy anywhere outside Nepal. Money changers are everywhere.
Is it true that I can't change Indian Rupees in 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 Nepali rupees to get you there plus a day. Just in case :)
Can I get food along the way? 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.
Will my luggage be safe? Watch your luggage at the borders and when getting on buses. Never leave it alone. 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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