4 Best ways travelling from India to Nepal
Here is a country that will be on many of our itineraries. In this post, you will find all the information you need about travelling from India to Nepal. You may be coming to this magical country for a short side trip, or you might be planning to see it in-depth. Maybe you need a new visa for India or an onward visa for Pakistan. Kathmandu is also one of the best places to organise a trip to Tibet for a sane price. There is a direct road straight from Kathmandu to Lhasa. Or perhaps the hassle of India has become exhausting, and you just need a break.
Nepal is a country quite unlike any other. This completely landlocked country is wedged in between its giant neighbours and is tiny in comparison. However, no other country encompasses such a huge change in altitude. You can come from the hot steamy plains of the Terai to the lofty heights of the Himalayas in just a few hours on a bus. These dramatic changes have given rise to a nation of people whose culture is as rich and varied as its landscapes.
Dripping with biodiversity, Nepal draws in wild enthusiasts from around the globe. You can’t help but be impressed by the sheer scale of the variety of life forms to be found here. The country also has a long and rich history. Whole towns are perfectly preserved and just waiting for you to explore. With so many Nepal activities for us to engage in, it is hard to know how best to fill up your holiday.
This is also one of the most beautiful countries in the world to trek in. With world-famous trekking routes and new routes just opening up. This is definitely one country you can stretch hamstrings in. There is no better way to recharge your soul than a walk in the Himalayas.
Nepali food is also divine. It has always been strange to me that the world overlooks Nepal as a foodie destination when there are so many sumptuous dishes to choose from. From the ubiquitous Dhal Bhat to the humble Momo. Travelling your tastebuds on the local cuisine is a real treat here.
Considering how small Nepal is, there are a lot of ways in and out of this country. However, there are only four methods that stand out as practical for most travellers. Now let us take a look at each in turn, and you can decide what you will suit your needs best. I will cover all the practicalities such as getting there, changing money, onward transport and avoiding as many scams as possible. So let’s get started.
How do you use the Sunauli border crossing?
This is unquestionably the most popular way to enter Nepal, and the process of crossing is relatively pain-free. However, Sunauli is in a dusty, impoverished and downright seedy part of Utter Pradesh. It is a border town with little to offer a tourist. The aim of the game is to leave as fast as you can. It is well connected to other parts of the country, and getting away from the other side is a breeze. Almost as soon as you cross the border to the Nepali side, you can begin to feel things relax a little.
The fastest way to reach here is by public bus or shared jeep from Gorakpur. This is another town with nothing to keep you from leaving, and if you are foreign, it can be tough to find hotels that are happy to let you stay anywhere in Gorakhpur. The bus station is very close to the train station so it is easy to connect. Try and time being here in the morning to travel to Nepal well before dark.
From Delhi, it is straight forward enough to organise a night train that will drop you in Gorakhpur in the early hours. The Tourist Office in New Delhi train station will know exactly what to give you. The staff are super helpful and have access to the tourist quota. For those who do not understand why this is an advantage when you are booking trains, please check out my post on getting around in India.
Many tourists make their way from Varanasi to Sunauli. Public busses make a long and boring trip to Gorakhpur from Varanasi. The advantage of this is you can time when you arrive so you won’t get stuck in the night. It takes 7 hours so you could get an overnight bus to Gorakhpur and happily travel to Nepal by lunch the next day. Alternatively, there are also a few trains, but they arrive at unhelpful times, and even with the tourist quota they get packed out quickly. There is also a tourist office in Varanasi that can help you book tickets, but it is of little help if this is your chosen route.
I can’t stress enough not to buy Into through busses from Dehli or Varanasi to Katmandu. I have used this border at least half a dozen times, and I have never seen any through busses. Despite agencies advertising this everywhere. It is a scam. Booking one of this is sure to be a mistake. Save yourself the disappointment. You will have to change busses at the border and have to purchase a new ticket every time.
When I am making this journey, I usually stop in the rural village of Lumbini. Its the birthplace of the Lord Buddha and today is the epitome of tranquil. It is a far cry from Uttar Pradesh’s hustle. And just a short taxi or bus ride from the border. The most cost-effective way to reach here is travel to Bhairawa from Sunauli and connect from there. It is only 16 minutes to Bhairawa and then one hour from there. Very convenient if you time it right.
Many people cross the border and think they will travel to Chitwan with ease. There are direct buses but I should tell you in advance it is a lot further than it looks on the map. Even if you cross the border in the early morning, you will be lucky to reach there by nightfall. Buses to Kathmandu run throughout the day and unless you turn up in the middle of the night it won’t be hard to find accommodation in the capital.
When you get to the border, you will be met with a wall of potential scams. Just walk towards the border and change your money on the Nepali side. Dont listen to anyone who says you can’t change INR the other side as this simply is not true. There are plenty of places to change your money once you have your visa in your hand. There are a lot of money changers all bunched in together just over the border. Those who do not charge commission will give you a slightly less desirable rate when you change into your NRS. There are also several ATMs around.
When you turn up to collect your visa, make sure you have US dollars ready for payment. If you try and use any other currency, including INR, you will get an awful deal on their exchange rate. The guards seem to be all into making a profit where ever they can. Oh and no you can not use your credit or debit card to pay as they are not excepted.
At the moment, the visa costs for foreigners travellers are as follows:
- 15 days 30 USD
- 30 days 50 USD
- 90 days 125 USD.
This is subject to change at a moment’s notice, So here is the link to the Nepali department of immigration. Check it out for any changes and up to date advise. You can also fill out the online form on the same website and apply for visa 15 days before turning up. Visas will be issued on arrival. Ensure you also have standard sized passport photos, valid identity and a pen that works.
Other than that it should be all smooth sailing. Make sure your passport photo meets the normal criteria from your own country. Your visa will be issued on the spot if everything is in order. Citizens of India do not need a visa and your pass will be valid for up to 30 days.
Trekkers will have to apply for any extra restricted area permits in Kathmandu as your visa does not cover you for access. Double-check if need one as some of the fees are insane. It depends where you plan on trekking in Nepal.
How do you use the Banbasa border crossing?
In the bottom right-hand side of the nation lays the Banbassa – Mahendranagar border. It is a covenant if you would like to visit Bardia, Suklaphanta or Kaptad national parks. You will also drive right past Ghodaghodi Tal that is a beautiful lake and a birding hotspot. It also makes your route through the country more direct and will avoid backtracking. With Nepal’s limited roads, backtracking can be frustrating. This border is definitely my favourite way of travelling from India to Nepal.
Banbasa is yet another uneventful tourist town, and there is no reason to linger here. It is far less stressful than the Sanauli border crossing. When you arrive, get on one of the many battery-powered shared taxis to the border. You will get your passport stamped then you will have to walk to the Nepali border post.
I will also like to note that this route can become badly flooded during the monsoon and should probably be avoided. You will have to consider what month you decide to travel in if this is your chosen route.
Here’s a pro tip for you, save your Indian rupees for the Nepali check post. You will get the best rates here, and I didn’t know that. I lost a lot of money on the exchange because I was unaware. There are ATMs on both sides of the border so withdrawing money is a breeze.
When you get to the other side, you will need to find a rickshaw to take you to Mahendranagar bus stand. From there, you can find frequent connections to other parts of the country, including a monumental journey to Kathmandu that runs throughout the day. Here you will also find genuine international buses that run from Mahendranagar all the way back to Delhi if this is your route back.
How do you use the Panitanki border crossing?
On the same high way the other end of Nepal, you will find the Panitanki-Kakarbhitta border crossing. This time you would be entering through West Bengal. It is useful for those who want to visit Chitwan national park, Ilam, Koshi Tappu wildlife reserve or Janakpur. Again this also makes for an ideal exit or entrance point that avoids pesky backtracking.
While the area is unremarkable, it is pain-free, and you can easily connect onto Darjeeling via Siliguri within a few hours. The border post is close to the bus stand, and you can simply walk across a bridge into Nepal. From there you can apply for your visa and change your money. It is only a short walk to the bus stand that will take you somewhere more fruitful. Buses fan out all across eastern Nepal from here. The bus journey to Katmandu is 17 hours, so ask yourself how much you want to do that in a single day. on the other hand, Ilam is just a few hours away.
This border crossing could not be easier as long as you have your documents and finance in order. You won’t even need any taxis to ferry you between borders. I Walked the whole thing although there are plenty of motorcycle taxis willing to make the journey if you dont feel like it. You can expect the same fee at every border. All the same, rules apply.
Flying to Nepal from India.
This is a popular option. There are many flights to Kathmandu from various cities in India. Companies to check out include Druk Airlines, Air India, Indigo, Royal Nepalese Airlines, Qatar Airways, Malasia Airlines and Thai Airways.
Entering into the airport is a shock as Kathmandu is the nation’s capital and this is the main airport. It’s tiny and disorganised. You will be charged fairly at the immigration desk for your visa. This is not something you will find on the Sunauli border where I have been overcharged the past two times I crossed it. However, you should still pay in USD for the best rates.
When you make it through customs, you will have to get a taxi into town as the airport is far away from the accommodation. This can be difficult as the taxi drivers drive a hard bargain. I have heard of taxi drivers charging more than two thousand rupees into town. Absolutely not! If you can’t get a normal price from the drivers, you can always walk to the road where there are busses. If you dont know the city, this can be perplexing as Kathmandu is chaotic and the busses will be overcrowded. It is an option never the less.
Of course, this is the fastest way into the country, but I prefer land crossings as I have a pet hate of backtracking. However, If your time is limited, then this is definitely your best option.
Other ways to travel to Nepal overland.
There are six border crossings between India and Nepal. I have not included in-depth information for these as they are impractical and rarely used by foreign travellers. The Raxaul Bazaar border crossing in Bihar has been described as downright dangerous. Despite its proximity to Bodhgaya and Kolkata, I do not recommend you take this route.
Unless you are already in Lucknow or Agra and want to go to Nepal, I would not recommend the other two. Busses are slow, and when you get out the other side you will be somewhere that’s impractical to build a route from. However, Nepal Gange is very close to Bardia National Park. The last thing I will add is no matter what border crossing you choose make sure you turn up at a sensible time to ensure someone is actually there to stamp your passport. The last thing you would want is to turn up late in the night and get stuck with no stamp.
Summary of my post on travelling from India to Nepal.
There are many good reasons to visit this enchanting country, and I aimed to help you understand how it all works from the perspective of a man who has made this journey dozens of times. There’s a statement in itself, right? Dozens of times! There will be dozens more as I am fully in love with this tiny country.
Nepal can offer many adventures from trekking the high Himalayas to searching for tigers in the stunning sal forests in the lowlands. It does not matter what month you come to Nepal. There is always something rewarding to do, although it is important to remember that the peak trekking season is between October and May.
When I wrote this article, the Covid pandemic is still in full swing. You will be required to be quarantined for 7 days by the Nepalese government. This will change a lot in the next few months, so I will update you whenever any changes are announced. Obviously, if you are suspected to be Covid positive, you won’t be getting in. Nepal has a much lower quarantine period than most nations and at this point in time that is so valuable.
Whatever your reasons for coming I hope this post cleared up some of your questions and if you have any more, feel free to ask me anything. Leave your comments in the box provided, and I will get back to you. With that said, I will wrap this post up. So until the next time my fellow intrepid traveller’s happy planning.
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