Nepal borders both India and China, but the Indian border has far more traffic, and many more crossing points.
You can enter Nepal overland at seven border crossings – six from India and one from Tibet.
All of the land borders between India and Nepal are in the Terai, and were unaffected by the earthquake. The most popular crossing point is Sunauli, near Bhairawa, which provides easy access to Delhi and Varanasi in India.
There are direct buses between Kathmandu and Delhi run by the Delhi Transport Corporation. They leave Delhi at 10am and Kathmandu (Swayambhu) at 9am. Tickets cost ₹ 2300. The journey takes 27 to 28 hours if there are no road delays.
Indian domestic train tickets can be booked in advance online at Cleartrip (www.cleartrip.com) or IRCTC (www.irctc.co.in). Get timetables and fares using Indian Railways' National Train Enquiry System (www.trainenquiry.com). The Man in Seat 61 (www.seat61.com/India.htm) is a good general resource.
|Border Crossing (Nepal to India)||Nearest Indian Towns|
|Belahiya to Sunauli||Gorakhpur, Varanasi, Agra & Delhi|
|Bhimdatta (Mahendranagar) to Banbasa||Delhi & hill towns in Uttarakhand|
|Kakarbhitta to Panitanki||Darjeeling, Sikkim & Kolkata|
|Birganj to Raxaul Bazaar||Patna & Kolkata|
|Nepalganj to Jamunaha/Rupaidha Bazaar||Lucknow|
|Dhanghadi to Gauriphanta||Lucknow, Delhi & Dudhwa National Park|
The crossing from Belahiya to Sunauli is by far the most popular route between India and Nepal. Regular buses run from Sunauli to Gorakhpur, from where you can catch trains to Varanasi and Delhi.
Upon entering Nepal, you can visit the Buddhist pilgrimage centre of Lumbini before you continue your journey. From the nearby town of Siddharthanagar (Bhairawa), buses run regularly to Kathmandu and Pokhara, usually passing through Narayangarh, where you can change for Chitwan National Park. There are regular daily flights from Siddharthanagar (Bhairawa) to Kathmandu.
The western border crossing at Bhimdatta (Mahendranagar) is also reasonably convenient for Delhi. There are daily buses from Delhi's Anand Vihar bus stand to Banbasa (10 hours), the nearest Indian village to the border. Banbasa is also connected by bus with most towns in Uttarakhand.
From Bhimdatta (Mahendranagar) there are slow overnight bus services to Kathmandu (15 hours), but it’s better to do the trip in daylight and break the journey at Bardia National Park, Nepalganj or Narayangarh. Check that the road is open because it sometimes gets blocked during the monsoon.
The eastern border crossing at Kakarbhitta offers easy onward connections to Darjeeling, Sikkim, Kolkata and India’s northeast states.
From Darjeeling, take a morning shared jeep to Siliguri (three hours), then another shared jeep or a taxi (one hour) to Panitanki on the Indian side of the border. Jeeps also run to the border from Kalimpong and Gangtok in Sikkim. Coming from Kolkata, you can take the overnight Darjeeling Mail or Kanchankaya Express from Sealdah station to New Jalpaiguri (NJP) near Siliguri, then a bus to the border.
From Kakarbhitta there are both day and overnight buses to Kathmandu (14 to 16 hours) or Pokhara (15 hours), but it’s more interesting to break the journey at Chitwan National Park (accessible from Sauraha Chowk on the Mahendra Hwy). Yeti Airlines and Buddha Air have daily flights to Kathmandu from nearby Bhadrapur airport (around US$135, 50 minutes).
The border crossing from Birganj to Raxaul Bazaar is handy for Patna and Kolkata. Buses run from the bus station in Patna straight to Raxaul Bazaar (six hours). From Kolkata, take the daily Mithila Express train.
From Birganj, there are regular day/night buses to Kathmandu (six to seven hours) as well as faster Tata Sumo jeeps (four to five hours). There are also morning buses to Pokhara (eight hours), via Narayangarh (four hours). Buddha Air has up to five daily flights between nearby Simara Airport and Kathmandu (US$100, 20 minutes).
Few people use the crossing at Nepalganj in western Nepal as it’s not particularly convenient for anywhere else. The nearest town in India is Lucknow, where you can pick up slow buses to Rupaidha Bazaar (seven hours), near the border post at Jamunaha. You might also consider taking a train to Nanpara, 17km from the border.
Over the border in Nepalganj, there are regular day/night buses to Kathmandu (12 hours) and buses to Pokhara (12 hours), passing through Narayangarh (10 hours). Yeti Airlines and Buddha Air have flights from Nepalganj to Kathmandu (US$187).
The little-used border crossing from Dhangadhi to Gauriphanta, Uttar Pradesh, is useful for moving on to Lucknow and New Delhi or visiting Dudhwa National Park. Nepal immigration is open from 7am to 8pm. From Dhangadhi there are daily flights to Kathmandu and buses to the Mahendra Hwy that continue west to Mahendranagar and east towards Ambassa (for Bardia National Park), Nepalganj and beyond.
A steady trickle of people drive their own motorbikes or vehicles overland from Europe, for which an international carnet is required. If you want to abandon your transport in Nepal, you must either pay a prohibitive import duty or surrender it to customs. It is not possible to import cars more than five years old. Make sure you bring an international driving permit.
Officially only organised ‘groups’ are allowed into Tibet from Nepal. The good news is that travel agencies in Kathmandu are experienced in both arranging private tours and assembling overland groups. In general, travellers face fewer restrictions entering Tibet through China, so it makes more sense to visit Nepal after a trip through Tibet, not before. The rules are in constant flux, so allow two weeks for your agency or tour operator to arrange the necessary visa invitation via their Lhasa contacts and plan to physically be in Kathmandu for at least four working days in order to get your visa.
Travelling overland to Tibet from Nepal is a stunning drive, but altitude sickness is a real danger. The maximum altitude along the road is 5140m and most overland tours from Kathmandu do not allow sufficient time to acclimatise safely, sleeping at 4330m on only the second night from Kathmandu (1300m). If you have the option, fly to Lhasa, acclimatise for a few days and then drive overland back to Kathmandu, rather than in the opposite direction
The former border crossing at Kodari/Zhangmu was severely damaged by the 2015 earthquake, and is currently closed. The new border point is at Rasuwagadhi, due north of Kathmandu on the Langtang road, which only opened to foreigners in August 2017; the Tibetan side is Kyirong. The border is open from 10am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 5pm China time (Nepal time plus 2¼ hours).
Landslides are likely on this route during the popular monsoon months (May to August), particularly on the Nepal side, and there are often additional restrictions on travel at times of political tension. Other road connections, including the road from Tibet to Mustang and Tsum, are not open to foreigners, although organised groups can trek from Simikot through far-western Nepal to Mt Kailash.
At the time of research, it was only possible to cross into Tibet with a China group visa, which can only be arranged through a travel agency when you book a package tour to Lhasa. If you turn up at the border at Rasuwagadhi with just a Chinese visa you’ll be turned away, and airlines won’t let you board a plane to Lhasa without this group visa. Group visas are given for the length of your tour, but you can normally get up to 30 days if you wish to continue on to China after your Tibet tour. 'Group' visas can be issued for just one person.
In order to get a group visa in Kathmandu you will need a visa invitation letter from the Tibetan tour company arranging your trip. You must normally show a ticket out of Tibet – either a flight ticket or a train ticket to elsewhere in mainland China or a tour back to Nepal. Kathmandu-based tour companies can supply these. To get a visa invitation takes around 10 days and you need to provide a photocopy of your passport. To get the group visa at the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu currently takes three to four working days and they require your actual passport. In the past it has been possible to pay extra for a rush next-day service but this was not possible in 2018.
Splitting from your group-visa members in Lhasa is impossible, so be sure to get your own personal group visa if you plan to continue travelling within China.
Note that Tibet travel permits are not issued for travel between late February and late March. Also, the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu closes from 1 to 8 October, so no visas can be obtained during this time, even though Tibet remains open for tourists.
The cheapest way to visit Tibet from Nepal is to join a drive-in, fly-out budget overland jeep tour from Kathmandu to Lhasa, overnighting in Kyirong, Dingri/Lhatse, Shigatse, Gyantse and Lhasa (three nights). Several Kathmandu agencies offer eight-day trips for around US$510 to US$600 per person, including permit fees, transport by minibus, accommodation in shared twin rooms and sightseeing entry tickets (but not visa fees or meals). Trips leave on Saturdays from April to October and additional Tuesday departures might restart if tourist numbers rebound. Expect to be in a group of anything from four to 15 people, but don’t expect too much in terms of comfort or service. A private trip for four people costs around US$800 per person for a similar itinerary.
Add on to this the cost of a group visa, which depends on nationality: US$177 for US citizens, US$121 for Canadians and US$89 for other nationals. This includes the agent's service fee. Transport out of Tibet currently costs from US$250 for a flight back to Kathmandu, depending on the season.
Overland trips to Mt Kailash from Kathmandu cost around US$1325 to US$1475 per person for an 11-day drive there and back, or US$1700 to US$1850 (not including the flight) for a 15-day itinerary that flies in to Lhasa, drives to Kailash and continues overland to Kathmandu.
Some agencies also offer private trips that include a detour to Mt Everest Base Camp (on the Tibetan side). There are also expensive trekking trips from Simikot in far-western Nepal to Purang in far-western Tibet, and then on to Mt Kailash.
Rates increase slightly from July to September, and there are fewer tours from December to February.
For more details see Lonely Planet’s Tibet and China guides.
Most of the companies advertising Tibet trips in Kathmandu are agencies for other companies. The following run their own trips, so are more reliable when explaining logistics. All Tibetan ground arrangements are handled by Lhasa agencies, regardless of who you book with, and you can always book a tour directly with a Tibetan-based agency.