Although most visitors fly into India, it is possible to travel overland between India and Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Myanmar (Burma). The overland route from Nepal is the most popular. For more on these routes, check for up-to-date information on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum (www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree) or see the Man in Seat 61 (www.seat61.com) go to the Train Travel in India page and click on the Europe to India overland link.
If you enter India by bus or train, you’ll be required to disembark at the border for standard immigration and customs checks.
You must have a valid Indian visa in advance, as no visas are available at the border. (Note that Indian e-Visas are not valid at land borders; they are valid only at designated airports and seaports.)
Drivers of cars and motorbikes will need the vehicle’s registration papers, liability insurance and an international driver's permit in addition to their domestic licence. You’ll also need a Carnet de Passage en Douane (a customs document), which acts as a temporary waiver of import duty on the vehicle.
For travellers wishing to visit Tibet from India, the only way to do so is to exit to Nepal and then enter Tibet through the border crossing at Kodari as part of an organised tour. Alternately, you could fly to Lhasa from Kathmandu.
For the latest paperwork requirements and other important driving information, contact your local automobile association.
There are four main land crossings where foreigners can cross between Bangladesh and India, all in West Bengal or the Northeast States.
Heading from Bangladesh to India, you have to prepay the exit tax, which can be done at a Sonali Bank branch (in Dhaka, in another big city or at the closest branch to the border).
Exiting Bangladesh overland is complicated by red tape – if you enter the country by air, you'll require a road permit (or ‘change of route’ permit) to leave by land.
To apply for visa extensions and change-of-route permits you'll need to visit the Immigration and Passport Office in Dhaka.
Some travellers have reported problems exiting Bangladesh overland with the visa issued on arrival at Dhaka airport.
Overland To & From Bangladesh
|Kolkata–Dhaka/Petrapole (India) & Benapole (Bangladesh)||Regular daily Kolkata–Dhaka buses; twice-weekly train via Darsana border post.||Obtain in advance. To buy a train ticket, Darsana must be marked on your Bangladeshi visa.|
|Siliguri–Rangpur/Chengrabandha (India) & Burimari (Bangladesh)||Regular Siliguri–Chengrabandha buses, then bus to Rangpur, Bogra & Dhaka. Also direct daily Siliguri–Dhaka buses.||Obtain in advance.|
|Shillong–Sylhet/Dawki (India) & Tamabil (Bangladesh)||Jeeps run from Shillong to Dawki. From Dawki, walk (1.5km) or take a taxi to Tamabil bus station for regular buses to Sylhet.||Obtain in advance.|
|Agartala–Dhaka/Agartala, 3km from border (India) & Akhaura, 5km from border (Bangladesh)||Akhaura is on the Dhaka–Comilla and Dhaka–Sylhet train lines. There are 3 weekly buses from Agartala to Dhaka.||Obtain in advance.|
From Kolkata to Dhaka
Bus Buses from Kolkata advertised as going to Bangladesh actually run to Benapol (international checkpoint), where you walk across and board another vehicle operated by the same company on to Dhaka. Shohagh Paribahan has five morning 'Dhaka' services (non-AC/AC ₹900/1550, 14 hours). Green Line has three AC buses to Benapol (₹400), all leaving by 7am. Connecting tickets to Dhaka cost Tk1200 (about ₹1000).
Train For Dhaka in Bangladesh, the 13108/13109 Maitree Express (AC chair/1AC ₹756/1259, eight hours) departs Kolkata (Chitpore) train station at 7.10am every Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, returning from Dhaka Cantt at 8.15am Sunday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. If you possess a Bangladeshi visa of the rubber-stamped variety (usually the norm at the Bangladeshi Deputy High Commission), make sure it clearly mentions entry/exit by train. Buy tickets up to 10 days ahead.
Phuentsholing is the main entry and exit point between India and Bhutan, although the eastern checkpoint at Samdrup Jongkhar is also used. You can also cross from Assam to Gelephu in Bhutan, though it's a remote crossing.
As entry requirements need advance planning, it's best to consult a travel agent or Bhutanese Embassy for up-to-the-minute details. Travellers need to organise a tour with a Bhutanese travel agent and pay a fixed daily fee in order to obtain a Bhutanese visa. Also see www.tourism.gov.bt and Lonely Planet’s Bhutan.
Overland To & From Bhutan
|Kolkata-Siliguri-Phuentsholing/Jaigaon (India) & Phuentsholing (Bhutan)||From Kolkata, direct bus at 7pm daily except Sunday. From Siliguri daily buses to Jaigaon & Phuentsholing (also buses & jeeps from Kalimping to Jaigaon).||Non-Indian nationals need visa & tour booking with registered operator.|
From Kolkata to Bhutan
A Bhutan government–operated bus to Phuentsholing (₹600, 15 hours) leaves at 7pm daily, except Sunday, from the walled northeastern yard of Kolkata's Esplanade bus station, where there are two special ticket booths. It's faster and more comfortable, however, to take the 13149 Kanchankanya Express (sleeper/3AC/2AC ₹370/1010/1455, 14 hours, 8.30pm) from Sealdah train station to Hasimara, and then travel the last 18km by local bus or taxi to Phuentsholing. Note that you may have to camp a night at this border town for your Bhutanese visa to be processed.
Two remote crossings between India’s Northeast States and northwestern Myanmar are open to foreigners.
Overland To & From Myanmar
|Aizawl-Rihkhawdar/Zokhawthar (India) & Rihkhawdar (Myanmar)||Jeeps from Aizawl or Champhai to Zokhawthar, & from Rihkhawdar to Tiddim & Kalaymyo (Kalay)||Obtain in advance (28-day Myanmar e-visas available through http://evisa.moip.gov.mm)|
|Imphal-Kalaymyo/Moreh (India) & Tamu (Myanmar)||Shared taxi, bus or helicopter from Imphal to Moreh; bus, minibus or shared car from Tamu to Kalaymyo or Mandalay||Obtain in advance (28-day Myanmar e-visas available through http://evisa.moip.gov.mm)|
Weather conditions and flooding permitting, there are six land border crossings between India and Nepal.
Multiple-entry visas (15/30/90 days US$25/40/100 – US-dollar cash is preferred, though you can sometimes pay in Indian rupees) are available at the Nepali immigration post (you need two passport photos). Note that it can be a hassle getting an Indian visa in Nepal. It's much easier to travel with a multiple-entry Indian visa if you plan to go from India to Nepal and then return to India.
Most people cross into India at the Sunauli border, then take an onward bus or train from there, though it's faster and more comfortable to take a taxi to Gorakhpur and get a train or bus from there.
Travel agents in Varanasi often try to sell tourists 'through' tickets to Kathmandu. In reality only the Nepali-run Shree Manjushree Bus Sewa Samiti has direct overnight AC buses to Kathmandu (₹1300, 17 hours, 10pm), running irregularly according to demand. Book tickets at the bus stand in Varanasi.
From Bihar, the busy border crossing between Raxaul and Birganj is the most direct route to Kathmandu and eastern Nepal. The border at Raxaul is open from 6am to 10pm.
Overland To & From Nepal
|Border Crossing||Origin (in India)||Destination (in Nepal)||Transport||Visas|
|Sunauli (India)-Bhairawa/Siddharthanagar (Nepal)||Delhi, Varanasi||Kathmandu||Trains from Delhi to Gorakhpur, then half-hourly buses to border. 1 direct AC bus from Varanasi to Kathmandu (10pm, ₹1370; runs via Sunauli). Buses & jeeps from Bhairawa (Siddharthanagar) to Pokhara, Kathmandu & central Nepal.||Nepali visas available at border (6am-10pm)|
|Raxaul Bazaar (India)-Birganj (Nepal)||Kolkata, Patna & the eastern plains||Kathmandu, Pokhara||Daily buses from Patna & Kolkata to Raxaul Bazaar. Mithila Express train daily from Kolkata. Regular day/night buses from Birganj to Kathmandu & Pokhara.||As above (6am-6pm)|
|Panitanki (India)-Kakarbhitta (Nepal)||Darjeeling, Kolkata & West Bengal||Eastern Nepal||Buses &/or jeeps run to Panitanki from Siliguri, Darjeeling & Kalimpong. Regular buses from Kakarbhitta to Kathmandu (13hr) & other destinations. Bhadrapur airport (23km away) has flights to Kathmandu.||As above (7am-7pm)|
|Rupaidiha Bazaar/Jamunaha (India)-Nepalganj (Nepal)||Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh||Bardia National Park, Western Nepal||Slow buses from Lucknow to Rupaidha Bazaar, then rickshaw to Jamunaha. Nepalganj has buses to Kathmandu & Pokhara, flights to Kathmandu.||As above.|
|Banbassa (India)-Bhimdatta/Mahendranagar (Nepal)||Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh||Western Nepal||Buses from Haldwani & Pithoragarh to Banbassa, then rickshaw to border. From Bhimdatta (Mahendranagar) there are daily buses to Kathmandu/one daily service to Pokhara.||As above (6am-6pm)|
|Gauriphanta (India)-Dhangadhi (Nepal)||Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh||Western Nepal||Daily buses run from Lucknow to Gauriphanta. Dhangadhi is served by buses & flights from Kathmandu.||As above (8am-5pm)|
Given the rocky relationship between India and Pakistan, crossing by land depends on the current state of relations between the two countries – check locally.
If the crossings are open, you can reach Pakistan from Delhi, Amritsar (Punjab) and Rajasthan by bus or train. The 'Karvan-e-Aman' (Caravan of Peace) bus route from Srinagar to Pakistan-administered Kashmir is only open to Indian citizens.
You must have a visa to enter Pakistan. It’s easiest to obtain this from the Pakistani mission in your home country. At the time of writing, the Pakistani High Commission in Delhi was not issuing tourist visas for most nationalities, but this could change.
Overland To & From Pakistan
Assuming that the border is open, a daily bus departs from Delhi's Ambedkar Stadium Bus Stand (₹2400, 12 hours, 6am) for Lahore; the journey involves four stops. Book your tickets in advance from a window at the bus stand.
For security reasons, current government advice warns foreigners against using trains within Pakistan. There are twice-weekly trains between Lahore and Attari (on the Indian side of the border), where there's a customs-and-immigration stop. There are frequent buses from Amritsar to the Wagah border (just beyond Attari). Check that the border is open before you leave; usual hours are 8.30am to 2.30pm mid-April to mid-October, and 9.30am to 3pm mid-October to mid-April; arrive at least an hour before closure. From Wagah there are buses and taxis on to Lahore.
The Thar Express, a weekly train service between Jodhpur and Karachi, is only open to Indian or Pakistani nationals. Trains leave Jodhpur (Bhagat Ki Kothi station, about 4km from the main station) every Saturday (Friday in the opposite direction). Customs/immigration is at Munabao (at the Indian border), where you physically change trains. Expect extremely tight security.