India to Nepal by Road : Experiences from crossing at Kakarbhitta

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#1 Jul 29th, 2007, 12:18
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  • kshastry is offline
#1
Folks,

I felt like writing this piece since I found there is not much information available over the web on the overland border crossings at Panitanki-Kakarbhitta section. Whatever that was present seem to be outdated (pre-2001 as I found them).

I recently did a trip to Kathmandu, Nepal (in July 2007). I flew to Bagdogra, which is probably the nearest airport at the Indian side to Nepal border. One can fly into Bagdogra from Delhi, Kolkata and Guwahati. Good news is that Air Deccan (an Indian LCC) flies into Bagdogra from all the three destinations mentioned above.

Nepal border is located at about 25KMs from Bagdogra airport. The Indian side of the border village is called Panitanki. Nepal side village is Kakarbhitta. Bagdogra is also the nearest airport for Gangtok (Sikkim) and Darjeeling. There are taxis available for hire outside the airport.

If you are on a budget, and don't want to spend money on an expensive taxi ride to border, you may hire an Auto rickshaw (tuk-tuk) to a place called "Bihar Mode" from airport (about 10 mins from airport). This should not cost you more than Rs.50. At Bihar Mode, you will get plenty of local buses to Panitanki. The journey to Panitank may take upto 30 mins. It will cost you Rs.10.

At Panitanki, you may choose to cross the border by foot (about 1 KM walk) OR hire a cycle-rickshaw (peddled). Panitanki and Kakarbhitta are separated by "Mechi" river. There is a bridge which is no-mans land. Indians are entitled to free movement. Nobody questioned me when I simply walked acrossed the bridge to Nepal. The Indian immigration and customs is a ramshackle hut which seemed to manned by a bunch of duffers who seem to think that fair skinned blondes are the "phoren people" who needs to be inspected for documention. Its easy to hoodwink them if you look like an Indian (though I am not advocating it here).

At Kakarbhitta (also spelt as Kakervitta), things seemed even relaxed. Nepali immigration simply looked on. They also seem to be interested in catching only westreners. I couldn't experience Visa issuance process as I didn't need one. At the end of Mechi bridge at Nepali side, you may be persued by touts who wants to sell you bus/flight tickets to various destinations within Nepal. It could be a nuisance at times as they hover around you till you relant.

Bus from Karakbhitta to Kathmandu

I took a bus from Kakarbhitta to Kathmandu. I could have flown from Bhadrapur, which is the nearest airport to Kakarbhitta. But the flights seem to leave from Bhardrapur in the mornings, and I had reached Kakarbhitta well past noon. There were conflicting theories of how long it could take to bus from Kakarbhitta to Kathmandu. It varied from 12 hours to 18 hours. Kakarbhitta is the easternmost border point of Nepal. The road distance to Kathmandu is 600 KMs.

The road from Kakarbhitta towards Kathmandu is named "Mahendra highway". It joins "Tribhuvan highway" 25 KMs south of Hetauda town. The quality of road is surprizingly good!. This road was constructed about 12 years back with the help of Korean government. The road is made of concrete with a top thin layer of Asphalt. This road has not seen maintenance from past 5 or 6 years. Yet, it had manage to hold on. There are very few places on the way where there are few potholes. But they are tolerable. Also, the souther part of Nepal (called Terai) is actually a "plane". That is it is not hilly region. The roads are straight and obstacle free. Buses will maintain good speed in Terai region.

Touts assured me that bus will not take more than 12 hours, only if I took their company's bus. The bus stand is located just after the immigration. There are various private companies operating buses to Kathmandu. "Agni", "jwala", "Makalu", "Swayambhu" to name a few.The buses depart to Kathmandu from 3 PM till about 6 PM. (Note: Nepali time is 15 mins ahead of Indian time)

The government owned "Sajha Yatayat" (blue colored buses) is grounded from past few months (don't know the reasons for it). Nepal is bit unstable these days. Strikes and Road blocks are quite common. It may not be a good idea to hire an Indian vehicle all the way to Kathmandu from Bagdogra, though its possible. Maoists have strong anti-India feelings and they may turn away Indian vehicles from any point.

My advice is take a "Tourist" coach. That is, there will be one or two buses labled "Tourist". They often have better seating and most importantly, the chances of being blocked by striking villagers / Maoists on the way for Tourist coach is less. Before committing, insist on seeing the bus. Check the seat quality, whether it properly reclines etc. Ask them to mention the bus number and seat number on the ticket receipt. The ticket would cost about INR 400 to INR 475 in the tourist bus.

In my experience, whole journey took about 15 hours from Kakarbhitta to Kathmandu. It could have taken an hour less, but for the heavy downpours of July. The bus looked great from outside. Interiors were not bad either. However, it didn't had a functioning windshield wiper!. Driver kept guessing about the road ahead and made violent brakings to avoid oncoming vehicles. We left Kakarbhitta at 5:30 pm and reached Hetauda at 3 PM in the morning. From Hetauda the hilly region begins. From here, the its an upward journey till we descend into Kathmandu valley. It may take nearly 5-6 hours from Hetauda to Kathmandu.

Once you reach Kathmandu, you will be most likely deposited at a place called "Swayambhu". Sometimes you may be taken into the bus park located at Gongabu. You can hire taxis to reach your destination within Kathmandu.

For the return journey to Kakarbhitta, you need to board the bus at Gongabu bus park. My return journey cost me NRS 500. Tickets are available at the counters.

Here are few pics taken in that journey. The pics are in the order of:

- The "Tourist" bus I took for my onward jounrey
- Mechi river bridge between Panitanki and Karbhitta
- Nepali border post at Kakarbhitaa
- Typical interior of a tourist bus
- Buses standing at Gongabu park in Kathmandu

Comments and questions are welcome.
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#2 Jul 29th, 2007, 12:44
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#2
Excellent info.
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#3 Jul 29th, 2007, 13:27
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#3
I did the same from the Sonauli Border and it was much easier than the longer journey from Kakarbhitta. But I guess it is best for people coming from Kolkata and Sikkim to make use of this border for crossing into Nepal. The problem with most of the immigration staff on both sides is the same, if you look Indian then there is no problem, you will not even be asked to show any proof of citizenship or identification as if there is no border there!!! I walked into and out of Nepal without anybody even looking at me and I was carrying four big bags and walking very slowly along with my girlfriend and no one seemed to take notice of us as we walked across the border into Nepal and on the way back into India by cycle rickshaw. Even when I landed in Kathmandu airport from Lhasa on my way back from Tibet I was not asked for the passport and the guy outside the immigration counter just called out to me as he thought I looked Indian and asked me to pass without any identification or filling up the disembarkation card that everyone else fills up. Strange are the ways of these immigration officials. I wonder how many foreigners must be going into or out of these two countries by nature of just looking like Indians!!!

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#4 Jul 30th, 2007, 22:28
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#4

Excellent info

Excellent info !!!

Thanks !!

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#5 Aug 7th, 2007, 07:22
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#5

Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by kshastry View Post Folks,

I felt like writing this piece since I found there is not much information available over the web on the overland border crossings at Panitanki-Kakarbhitta section. Whatever that was present seem to be outdated (pre-2001 as I found them)........

Comments and questions are welcome.
Thanks, Shastry ... This was a very useful and a detailed report on the Nepal border crossing ....and of Yr 2007 too ... It sounded exciting and different; as I imagined it would be .... renews my interest to do a road border-crossing back into India, after my EBC trek, in Oct-2007 ....

BTW: Can anyone let me know .... If I am headed to Delhi from Kathmandu .... (Q1) which is the most logistically sensible Road- border crossing into India? (Q2) Most Scenic route travelling to a border crossing into India?

- KS
#6 Aug 8th, 2007, 12:56
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#6
Hi,

Thanks for your comments. I think the most nearest border crossing from Delhi would be Sonauli-Bhairawaha. You need to travel to Gorakhpur and from there to the border. From the border it would take about 10-12 hours to reach KTM.

As for as the scenic route is concerned, it has to be the one in the hills. This route from Ramnagar to Kathmandu valley is common to all the routes leading to Kathmandu from South. You will joing this route at Hetauda town.
#7 Aug 8th, 2007, 13:17
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nice info.. Shastry.... feel i should have done this instead of flying into KTM
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#8 Aug 8th, 2007, 13:50
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kshastry View Post Hi,

Thanks for your comments. I think the most nearest border crossing from Delhi would be Sonauli-Bhairawaha. You need to travel to Gorakhpur and from there to the border. From the border it would take about 10-12 hours to reach KTM.

As for as the scenic route is concerned, it has to be the one in the hills. This route from Ramnagar to Kathmandu valley is common to all the routes leading to Kathmandu from South. You will joing this route at Hetauda town.
kshastry, thanks for answering my two questions. I will now think about this option.
#9 Aug 8th, 2007, 13:57
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#9
Great, great info. And you had no problem with strikes/bandhs, road closings etc? Very good.

<i>if you look Indian then there is no problem, you will not even be asked to show any proof of citizenship or identification as if there is no border there!!!</I>
--This kind of thing makes me crazy; defining nationality by what you "look like." It also means Western foreigners get hit up for all kinds of stuff whereas Bangladeshis, Indian Naxals, etc. go scot free. And they wonder why they are getting known for harboring terrorists in Nepal.
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#10 Oct 9th, 2007, 10:09
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#10

Crossed at Sonauli Oct 7 2007

Just wanted to update info on crossing at Sonauli & transferring by bus to Kathmandu. Also jeeps from Gorakpur (turn left from station entrance & walk right at building in car park. Walk to main road & ask for jeeps to Sonauli. Currently charging Indians 100 r's & foreigners i.e. us white people) 150 r's. They try to cram 15 people into a 10 seater jeep (as per usual). It's a good option as the 2566 train from Delhi gets in between 4 & 6am & the jeep ride takes 1.5 hrs so you should be able to get a morning bus from Sonauli to KTM(sometimes they free transfer you to the bus station) for 350 r's. Who'd want to stay overnight in Sonauli unless one had too???? It's a bigger dump than I remember. Kinda like having a baby-one forgets the pain until the next delivery!

The bus ride from Sonauli to KTM was bone shattering. The roads are washed out badly & the trip took 9.5 excruciating hours. Having done this trip three times previously, we were well prepared but not for the state of the roads. We are thinking of flying back to Delhi at an expensive US100 pp but at the ripe old ages of 61 & 55 the money may be worth it!
#11 Oct 24th, 2007, 10:21
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#11
Great thread with lots of info. Due to cross in January riding the winter rickshaw run from Cochin to Kathmandu.
Whilst browsing through my Lonley Planet India travel atlas it shows an alternative "secondary route" from Dhankuta to Jri then back onto navigable roads to Kathmandu. My gut feeling is this would be too challanging a way of going as I have no idea of what a secondary Nepaleese route encompases. Just wondering if anyone like Kshastry might have any info of knowledge of what the roads might be like?. Any ifo is appreciated.

Thanks all.
#12 Oct 24th, 2007, 13:29
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#12
Nearest border by road to Nepal from New Delhi is Tanakpur in Uttranchal.By bus its a 10hr journey from New Delhi.
#13 Mar 5th, 2008, 09:09
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#13
I went to Nepal from Jamshedpur in August/September 1999. Bus to Patna. Another bus to Muzaffarpur. Muzaffarpur to Raxoul. Stayed for a few hours there in a cheap place for bath and loo etc. Crossed into Birgunj and took another bus to Kathmandu. Stayed 2 days there. Flew to Pokra. Stayed 3 days there. Pokra to Birgunj via bus. Walked across the bridge to India. Train from Raxoul to Jamshedpur.

That was a great trip. We were 4 intrepid youngsters...none of us were even fluent in Hindi at that time. We did not plan anything. We basically decided "Let's go to Nepal" in the evening and took a night bus to Patna.

I still have the khukri I bought there.
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#14 Jul 10th, 2008, 17:42
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We traveled Sikkim, and then we wanted to go Kathmandu by plane from Bhadrapur.We crossed the border, and done all the paperwork. And we found out: there was a strike, so no way to get to the airport, especially for 30 people. So we went back to India by taxis, and crossed the border 20 miles further, which was not official for us, but since we had our visas, they let us through. We walked across a riverbank, and then took rickshaws to the airport. The plane was late,of course. It seemed there are lot of planes to Kathmandu. Actually on of us wanted to take the bus, but because of the strike, he had to come by plane. So he bought the airticket, at the border for the same 150dollars as we, AND got a free transfer without the worry and detour, AND he left with an earlier flight. :-)
At the airport, during the search, the officers said, looking in our wallets, that they liked dollars, but we failed to get the hint.
Later in Kathmandu, we found a headline picture of us, in the Kathmandu Post: European tourists stuck at the border :-)
#15 Oct 14th, 2008, 13:21
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#15
Thanks, kshastry, for the excellent information. Much appreciated. We're entering Nepal from Panitanki/Kakarbhitta late Oct 2008. Anyone know the drill getting from Siliguri/NJP (we're travelling from Chennai by train to NJP) to the Nepali border? Is there a public bus from Siliguri? Thanks for any other info.
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