Everything you need to know about crossing the land border to Nepal.
Travelling from India into Nepal by land is very simple. The border crossings are well versed in travellers and locals passing frequently through their gates. There are 6 land border crossings between India and Nepal. We crossed the border at the most Eastern land border of Kakarvitta.
On the Indian side, the biggest town nearest to the border is Siliguri. Siliguri is a transport hub, a bustling city with not much going for it other than its travel connections, and is on the road to Darjeeling, Sikkim and Bhutan. NOTE – If you are ever stuck in Siliguri and wondering what to do, head to the Vega Circle Mall for a spot of air con, cinema and a food mall.
Many shared jeeps are regularly departing from Siliguri to the Nepal border. They depart from opposite the Tenzing Norgay bus stand. Most rickshaw drivers should be aware of where this is. We paid 100 rupees each for this 1hour and 30 minute journey. On the approach to the border, you need to stop off at the Indian border to get your departure stamp.
IMPORTANT – You must get a departure stamp before you leave India, so you can enter Nepal. Make sure your jeep driver is aware to drop you at the Indian border.
The process doesn’t take very long and our jeep driver kindly waited to take us over the bridge to the Nepal border. If you don’t get dropped off for whatever reason, don’t panic you just have to walk back or hire a rickshaw from the Nepal side.
At the India Border, you will need:-
A photocopy of your passport and visa.
NOTE – There is a photocopy shop within a 100 metre walk away if you haven’t got a copy with you.
At the Nepal border, you will need:
– 2 passport-size photographs
– $40 (for a 30 day visa)
A spot of administration is required but with no other tourists in sight, the whole process took a total of 20 minutes. We were in Nepal.
TOP TIP – Don’t worry about getting Nepalese rupees before you arrive. You can easily exchange your Indian rupees to Nepalese rupees at the Exchange shop at Kakarvitta Bus Station at a normal exchange rate.
Now how to get to Kathmandu?
A short walk along the street (as you turn right outside of the immigration office), you will find the Kakarvitta bus station and plenty of touts wanting your custom. Don’t go for your first offer, ask about and see whats available. There is a Ticket Office but it wasn’t overly reassuring. It seemed that many of the ticket sellers were legit, it just doesn’t look like it when they are without uniform and desperately bartering with you.
There is a limited range of transport but they exists.
A semi sleeper bus – Tickets cost 1000 rupees each and the journey was estimated to take 16-17 hours.
A seated minibus – Ticket cost 1500 rupees and the journey was estimated to take 12 hours.
Buses leave for Kathmandu around 4pm. NOTE – Cross the border before 4pm or you probably will have to spend the night in a pokey guesthouse in Kakarvitta.
We settled for the semi-sleeper, as it was the cheapest option. We knew it wasn’t going to be a great journey, it was an old bus with no suspension and many of the chairs couldn’t recline. We got some snacks, put our headphones in and tried to get as much sleep as we could.
The roads are predictably very bumpy, the seats are not the most comfortable and you may have the pleasure of watching Nepalese/Hindi music videos or as films. As budget travellers, we put up with these dodgy journeys knowing that we’ll catch up on sleep over the coming days. We nestle into our own entertainment and used whatever could to a pillow. NOTE – If you are travelling in winter, make sure to take a coat or scarf with you. It can get very cold during the night especially if you are sat next to the window!
What’s good about the journey is that the bus stops almost every two hours for food and toilet breaks until around 11pm. Once the sun rises, we stop again for breakfast and snacks until the destination was reached. The pit-stops are local roadside restaurants offering traditional Nepalese cooked food as well as biscuits, crisps, juice etc. We would recommend taking your own food if you don’t want to risk the street food, you don’t want to get ‘hangry’ on a journey like this.
The bus took a total of 22 hours but we got there in one piece. The journey is longer on the approach to Kathmandu due to the heavy build-up of traffic entering the city, so just be patient, you’ll get there.
Return journey from Kathmandu to Siliguri
We did the exact same journey on the return from Kathmandu to Kakarvitta and the process was just as fluid.
Buses leave from the Gongabu New Bus Station in Kathmandu and are scheduled to depart at 3pm. We bought a ticket for 1000 rupees (they tried to charge them more but we said we would only pay 1000). This is a busy bus station where you will find toilets, shops and stalls selling hot food.
Another bumpy and freezing journey in the semi-sleeper bus but at least we knew what to expect and packed way more food.
As we didn’t have arranged transport, like we did it upon arrival into India. We walked over the Mechi bridge from Nepal to India. Again, all visitors must get their passport stamped on re-entry back to India (only possible if you have a multiple entry visa).
On our return to Siliguru, we boarded a local bus. Turn right as you leave the Immigration Office and walk down the street you will see buses parked up. There isn’t many other places that buses can go to other than Siliguri, but double check with the conductor. It cost 20 rupees each. A bargain and much cheaper than the jeep.
All in all, the land border crossing was a simple process. Speaking to other travellers who entered through over border crossings also experienced a fluid process.
Read our ‘What to do in Kathmandu’ blog for where to stay and what to do in Kathmandu.