Travel to, from & within Nepal...

This page explains the options for overland travel between India, Nepal & Tibet/China.  It's easy to travel overland between India & Kathmandu, although foreigners who want to travel onwards from Nepal into Tibet currently need to use a group tour, they cannot travel independently.

small bullet point  Europe to Kathmandu overland by train

small bullet point  Delhi to Kathmandu by train+bus

small bullet point  Varanasi to Kathmandu by bus

small bullet point  Calcutta to Kathmandu by train+bus

small bullet point  Kathmandu to Lhasa (Tibet, for China) by bus

small bullet point  Travel within Nepal


Useful country information

Train operator in Nepal:

There are no trains in Nepal, other than an obscure branch line from India of limited interest to travellers.

     

Time zone & dialling code:

 

GMT+5h45 all year round.  Dial code +977.

Currency:

 

1 =  155 Nepalese rupees.  $1 = 130 Nepalese rupees

Visas:

 

All except Indian citizens need a visa.  Tourist visas can be bought at all official frontiers for around $25 (15 days) or $40 (30 days).  The visa fee must be paid in US$ cash, and you'll need 2 passport photos.  Alternatively, visas can be bought from Nepal embassies - The Nepalese London embassy website is www.nepembassy.org.uk.

Tourist information:

 

www.welcomenepal.com     Tripadvisor Nepal page

Page last updated:

 

6 February 2023


Europe to Kathmandu overland


Delhi to Kathmandu by train & bus

It's relatively easy, cheap, and an adventure to travel from Delhi to Kathmandu overland.  For travel in the other direction, reverse the process shown below.

Gorakhpur station   Bus Gorakhpur to Nepal

Gorakhpur railway station.  Courtesy of Alberto Maio.

 

Gorakhpur bus stand & local buses to Sunauli.  Courtesy of Cato Sandford.

Indian immigration office, Nepalese border   Indian border

Indian immigration office at Sunauli.  Courtesy of Cato Sandford.

 

Indian side of the border at Sunauli.  Courtesy of Alberto Maio.

Nepal immigration office   Nepalese border

Nepalese immigration office at Sunauli/Bhairwa.

 

Nepalese border archway at Sunauli / Bhairawa.  Photo above courtesy of Alberto Maio.  Photo above right courtesy Cato Sandford

Traveller's reports

Traveller Cato Sandford reports:  "In May 2019 I travelled from Delhi to Kathmandu. I took the Gorakhpur Humsafar Express (12572) from Anand Vihar Terminal, leaving at 20.00.  AC3 class cost Rs.1300; I booked six weeks in advance because tickets tend to go quickly.  The train was scheduled to arrive at 09.35 the next morning, but was three hours delayed.  After leaving Gorakhpur station, the bus stand is only a minute away: walk straight ahead and to the left.  A local bus to Sonauli cost me INR 112; there are also AC/Volvo buses but I didn't look into them.  The journey took about three hours.  The Sonauli bus stop is less than two hundred meters north of the Indian immigration office where you get your exit stamp. Maybe four hundred meters north is the border, and you get a Nepali tourist visa in an office between the "welcome to India" and "welcome to Nepal" arches.  It was all very quick and easy once the border officials were prised away from their television show.  I opted to take the bus to Kathmandu from just the other side of the border.  Seat 61 says there are more options available down the road, but it was getting late so I grabbed the first one I found - an AC for INR 500.  We left around 19.00.  Unfortunately the last seat available was right at the back, above the rear axle, and the bus' bad suspension / bad roads meant my ride was very bumpy;  I think it's well worth avoiding this situation.  The overnight journey took around 9 hours, arriving in western Kathmandu at 05.00. So not including transport in Delhi and Kathmandu, the entire journey took 33 hours and cost around INR 2000."

Traveller Robert Marten reports:  "We travelled AC2 overnight to Gorakhpur booked in London through S.D.Enterprises (www.indiarail.co.uk).  The train was 3 hours late due to fog(!?), arriving after midday.  Then we took a very crowded ordinary bus from Gorakhpur to the Indian border town, Sunauli.  We paid Indian Rp.55 each though I was told by another local that the normal fare was Rp. 45.  We were also nearly taken in by what we decided was a scam - two different people offered us "tickets" from Gorakphur to Kathmandu for Rp.450 - saying that we could pay Rp.225 in Gorakhpur and then another Rp.225 once we crossed the border - we concluded that in effect all they were doing was charging us Rp.225 for the bus from Gorakhpur to the border. Our bus to the border took about 3 hours.  Then we easily negotiated the Indian & Nepalese Immigration.  So we found ourselves in Nepal at about 4pm.  After a bit of shopping around we booked tickets on the 5pm overnight bus to Kathmandu for Indian Rp.230 per person and arrived in cold Kathmandu shortly after 5am."


Varanasi to Kathmandu by bus


Calcutta or Darjeeling to Kathmandu by train & bus


Kathmandu to Lhasa by bus

There's no railway from Nepal to Tibet through the Himalayas, at least not yet, but the Kathmandu to Lhasa journey can be done by road, on an organised tour.  Of course, the info below will be affected by China's Covid restrictions, please check.

Weekly bus service between Kathmandu & Lhasa? 

Since 2005, the internet has been full of reports of a weekly Kathmandu to Lhasa bus service starting, then being withdrawn, then starting again.  However, the most reliable information says that there is currently NO such bus, as all attempts to keep it going have so far failed.  So if you want to travel from Kathmandu to Lhasa, you'll need to sign up to one of the organised tours, see below.

Organised tours between Nepal & Tibet...

Currently, the only way foreigners are legally permitted to travel between Lhasa & Kathmandu in either direction is with an organised tour.  The cheapest tours take 8 days, 7 nights for the 955 km journey and cost about $450 (ask for a budget tour, there are more expensive options with better accommodation).  For journeys from the Nepal end, try Tashi Delek Nepal Treks & Expeditions (www.tashidelektreks.com.np) who do tours leaving Kathmandu for Lhasa every Tuesday & Saturday March to November, and every Saturday  November to March.  For journeys starting at the Tibet end, try Tibet International Travels & Tours (www.tibetintl.com).  Allegedly, these companies operate the tours, although you'll find other agencies reselling those tours, for example www.heiantreks.com, www.trekkingtibet.com (recommended by one seat61 correspondent), www.visitnepal.com/getaway (departing Kathmandu every Saturday April-October, $450 + $100 Tibetan permit) or do a Google search for other agencies.

Once in Lhasa, there are trains onwards to Xian, Beijing or Shanghai.  If you have any feedback or recommendations, please email me!


Travel within Nepal

There are no trains in Nepal, other than the end of an obscure branch line from India which is of limited interest to travellers.  However, regular buses link most centres.


Hotels in Kathmandu

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search: www.booking.com

Booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally use it to book all my hotels in one place.  I've come to trust booking.com's review scores, you won't be disappointed with any hotel that scores 8.0 or more.  Crucially, booking.com usually lets you book with free cancellation, which means you can confirm accommodation risk-free before train booking opens and/or you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when planning a trip.  I never book hotels non-refundably!

Backpacker hostels

www.hostelworld.com:  If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about backpacker hostels.  Hostelworld offers online booking of cheap private rooms or dorm beds in backpacker hostels in most cities at rock-bottom prices.


Travel insurance & other tips

 

Staysure travel insurance

 

Columbus Direct logo

Always take out travel insurance

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least 1m or preferably 5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash and belongings, up to a sensible limit.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy with Staysure.co.uk myself.  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

UK flag  www.staysure.co.uk offers enhanced Covid-19 protection & gets 4.7 out of 5 on Trustpilot.

UK flag  www.columbusdirect.com is also a well-know brand.

US flag  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

 

Maya.net logo

Get an eSIM with mobile data package

Don't rely on WiFi, download an eSIM with a mobile data package for the country you're visiting and stay connected.  Most newer mobile phones can download a virtual SIM card so you don't need to buy a physical SIM, including iPhone 11 & later, see device compatibility listMaya.net is a reliable eSIM data retailer with a 4.5 out of 5 Trustpilot rating and a range of packages including unlimited data.

 

Curve card

Curve card

Get a Curve card for foreign travel

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate, then add a foreign transaction fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, 500 per month at time of writing.  The money you spend on your Curve card goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.

How it works:  1. Download the Curve app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to the UK and most European addresses.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app, you can link up to two cards with the free version of Curve, I link my normal debit card and my normal credit card.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, exactly like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance in your own currency onto whichever debit or credit card is currently selected in the Curve app.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself, it means I can buy a coffee on a foreign station on a card without being stung by fees and lousy exchange rates, just by tapping the Curve card on their card reader.  The money goes through Curve to my normal debit card and is taken directly from my account (in fact I have the Curve card set up as payment card on Apple Pay on my iPhone, so can double-click my phone, let it do Face ID then tap the reader with the phone - even easier than digging a card out).  I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I recommend it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card, they'll give you 5 cashback through that link.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  Why you need a VPN

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN encrypts your connection so it's always secure, even on unsecured WiFi.  It also means you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geoblocking which a surprising number of websites apply.  See VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy with a 4.7 out of 5 Trustpilot ranking which I use myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription.  I get a small commission to help support this site.

 

Anker Powerrbank

Carry an Anker powerbank

Tickets, reservations, vaccination records and Interrail or Eurail passes are often held digitally on your mobile phone, so it's vital to keep it charged.  I always carry an Anker powerbank which can recharge my phone several times over if I can't get to a power outlet.  Buy from Amazon.co.uk or from Buy from Amazon.com.

 


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