Nepal is a great country to explore with all its mesmerizing natural and heritage sights. Moreover, if you are starting your journey from North India, Nepal is easier to reach than you might think. No doubts flight is one of the fastest and most convenient ways to get there, however, budget wise it might not be affordable for everyone. I would like to share the alternative ways how you can reach from India to Nepal by road on a budget within 1 day. I’ll also share some tips and tourist scams that you might meet on the way, so you can be all prepared!
Ways to reach from India to Nepal by road
If you prefer a direct route, there is a comfortable bus from Delhi to Kathmandu. It is a 24-hour long journey in an AC bus for a cost of 2300 INR (~30 USD) per person. For me, bus journeys longer than 10 hours sound like a challenge since there are moving restrictions and time limitations for stops. If you are willing to commute by bus, I would suggest Varanasi – Kathmandu route, since it’s twice faster and almost twice cheaper. In addition to this, you will get to explore one of the most spiritual cities of India, Varanasi. In this article, I will share how you can reach from Delhi to Nepal border, from where you are free to choose several Nepalese destinations.
Our itinerary will be the following: Delhi – Gorakhpur – Sonauli – Kasauli.
Delhi to Gorakhpur
From Delhi to Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh) you can reach by train. It starts from NDLS train station (the closest metro station is New Delhi, yellow line). I would suggest going with express train options, where the journey length is around 13 hours. You can book train ticket through IRCTC or Cleartrip website/app. For IRCTC registration, you will require Indian mobile number. Give preference to 3rd AC class – this is the best value for quality vs price. It costs 970 INR (~14.25 USD). There is a super budget option of sleeper class (SC) that comes to 375 INR, however I wouldn’t suggest traveling in SC in East of India, especially if you are a woman.
Travel tip: I would advise booking train that reaches Gorakhpur between 6 am – 8 am in the morning. In this case, you will be able to reach Nepalese border by noon and take the bus to Pokhara/Kathmandu the same day. Otherwise, all the buses that start from Nepalese border after 3 pm, irrespective of the starting time they reach the final destination by 6 am next morning.
Tip for a woman traveler: If you need, use the washroom in the train before you exit in Gorakhpur. On the train station, women washrooms happen to be closed. I spent a good half an hour asking advice from several locals in Hindi about nearest washrooms. All of them were redirecting me to the station, where it was closed that day. I’m sure you will be able to find options in the city at a distance from the station, however, I don’t think you would like to spend your time this way.
Food tip: there is a budget canteen just in the building of the train station, where I had food. It gave me credibility, because of the 3 factors:
- Aunty cook was working in the cook hat and was surrounded by clean dishes
- There were many people eating
- There were foreigners
I’ve ordered a great lunch: some fried sabji (vegetables), parantha (Indian bread) and lassi (sweet curd) and it all came for 40 INR (~ 0.60 $) or so. After Delhi prices, it seemed to be almost free.
There is also an option B: you can order your food through an APP like Travel Khana, which caters food from good city cafes to your train seat. They have cash on delivery option, however, you might require an Indian number to place your order. Place your order at least 1 hour before reaching a certain train station and it will be delivered to you just in time.
You can also reach from Delhi to Gorakhpur by bus. The ticket cost starts at 1200 INR (~17.60 USD) and the journey is around 13- 17 hours. Honestly, I don’t recommend going by bus for many reasons. The main one is the roads in the east of Uttar Pradesh state, which your back will remember for a long time.
Gorakhpur – Sonauli
From Gorakhpur station till Nepalese border you will meet tens of people trying to sell you unnecessary services. Beware of scam! There are several ways to reach to Sonauli: Jeep, taxi, bus. I would suggest taking a simple public bus. They start every 30 min from the bus station which is 5 min walking distance from the train station. The price of the ticket is 60 INR. The journey is around 3-4 hours.
Travel tip: There will be people approaching you and selling tickets to a super comfortable bus with extra features, that will take you directly to Nepal. You will not be able to avoid crossing the border, it’s a fact. Whichever bus you will take, it will bring you till the border parking.
Sonauli – Kasauli
These are just 2 border points, Indian and Nepalese accordingly. Once you reach the Indian border parking by bus, you will see plenty of cars, trucks, people, and dusty roads. There will be many rickshaw drivers that will try to capitalize on your confusion and offer you a ride directly to Nepal. Some will tell, it’s 2-3 km and you might get lost on the road. They will ask 300 to 500 INR. Technically they ask 8 times more than the cost of your 4-hr journey to Sonauli. In reality, there are hardly 200 meters to Indian passport checking office from the bus parking on a straight road. There is just one direction so there is no way, you will get lost. Thus, you can easily reach by foot.
Travel tip: There will be several people approaching you to change money to Nepalese for a super high commission. There are two ways of dealing with this issue: 1. Exchange money in Gorakhpur. 2. Take out money from ATM in Gorakhpur, 2000- 3000 INR (~30-45 USD) in 100 rupee notes or less. It will suffice till you reach some city in Nepal. After the change of 500 & 1000 notes in India in November 2017, you might use only small Indian notes in Nepal. Carry USD or ATM card to be on the safer side. Both will work in Nepal.
Food tip: If you didn’t grab food in Gorakhpur, avoid buying food in Sonauli. In one hour or so you will finish with document check and you will have several good food options on Nepalese side.
Visa tip: If you are in India currently on a business visa and you hold other recent Indian visas in your passport, I strongly advise registering in your city in FRRO. At the Indian border point, officers will ask for registration. There are cases when foreigners travel every half a year to different countries of the Indian subcontinent to avoid registration. To escape unnecessary problems and delays on the border, register in advance, moreover, it’s free.
Once you are done with passport check on Indian border cross 100 meters more till you reach the gate.
Just on the right of the road gates, you will see passport check point. Nepalese visa is the most smooth experience I’ve ever had. You fill in the form with 10 questions, select how long you wish to be in Nepal (1 month, 2 months, 3 months), pay and get a stamp. Even if you get a 1-month tourist visa, it can be extended in Nepal. No one will challenge you with questions what you are going to visit, where you are going to stay, etc. Tourism is a very important industry for Nepal, thus you will meet many people connected to hospitality industry who will try to make your stay better. On the border you will hear from the officer a smiling “Welcome to Nepal” and you are free to go.
Visa tip: Carry with you US dollars (30 to 100 depending on the length of stay) to pay for Nepalese visa. If you are an Indian citizen, you don’t require a visa. You just have to carry an ID proof with you.
There are 100 meters more from the border to the bus station with nice food options. In one of the cafes, I already had a tasty Nepalese dinner. They can also pack to go if you wish. In Nepal many people, in fact, everyone I met, speaks Hindi. English is not that spread among locals except the hospitality industry workers. If you have a basic Hindi knowledge, you are good to go to any offbeat route.
From the bus station, you can buy a ticket to Chitwan/Pokhara/Kathmandu. I’ve taken a ticket to Pokhara for 600Rs. Excluding an odd stay in the bus from 12 am to 3.30 am in the middle of nowhere, it was a nice ride. Roughly, this 1-way road trip costs 1700 INR(~25 USD) excluding visa and food. At 5 a.m. in the morning I was in Pokhara.
Welcome to Nepal! You will Love it 🙂