I decided to cross the border from India to Nepal overland, to continue my overland journey through Asia. While there are a few border crossings between the two countries, I crossed at the Panitanki-Kakarbhitta border post, as I had spent my last few days in India in Darjeeling in the Northeast of the subcontinent.
While it’s definitely the lesser known border crossing between the two countries, I found it to be an easy crossing despite the long travel times. I’ve broken down how to cross the India-Nepal border here, so you can plan your trip.
How to cross the Indian-Nepal border at Panitanki-Kakarbhitta
I began my border crossing journey in Darjeeling, a hill station in Northeast India. I travelled from Darjeeling in India to Kathmandu in Nepal over two days, with one night spent in Kakarbhitta.
From Darjeeling to the border post at Panitanki
In Darjeeling, I caught a shared sumo/jeep from outside Rama Hotel, just down from Chowrasta Mall, to Siliguri. The jeep from NJP to Darjeeling takes four hours and costs 250 rupees or AUD$5, with frequent departures throughout the day.
Siliguri is the bustling, sprawl of a city that is a major transport hub of the region, with the NJP train station and buses and jeeps heading in all directions. I got out of the jeep at NJP station where there are local buses at the front leaving for various destinations.
It took me a while but I found a bus which had PANITANKI written on the front. There was no one else on it and after an hour of waiting, only a couple of other people had arrived. But it started to move. The bus from NJP to Panitanki cost 40 rupees, less than a dollar.
The ride was over an hour and I knew I would be starting to get close to the border closing time of 6pm. By the time the bus arrived in Panitanki, locals had got on and off along the way and only I was left to get off at the border town. It was just a cluster of shops, money changers and a couple of hotels, not much of an actual town.
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I walked the 10 minutes from the bus stop to the immigration post which was off the road to the left before the bridge. The Indian official was watching TV with his feet up and was rather annoyed that I had disturbed him. He made me wait 10 minutes until he even got up to go over to his desk. He didn’t bother to ask me any questions and just did whatever he needed to do, which took five minutes.
Just before the bridge, to the right there was a sort of check point where a friendly Indian officer just checked my exit stamp and filled out a register. He told me Australia was playing India in cricket that night and I pretended to be just as excited as he was about it.
I then hurried across the long bridge between no mans land, which took me about 15 minutes to walk. There were locals coming and going in both directions and I saw no other foreigners. Once across, the Nepali Immigration was in a large building hidden behind some trees to the right before the large ‘Welcome’ gate.
I walked in and at first thought that there was no one there. A man appeared and gave me a form to fill out for the visa. He offered 15, 30 or 90 day visas and of course the most cost effective was 90 days and so I opted for that. I needed USD$100 but didn’t have that much in USD so scraped together whatever I had and then the rest I gave him in Indian rupees, which he didn’t seem to mind. This left me with just 500 rupees (AUD$10) remaining in my pocket!
He was a nice man and he too said that Australia was playing cricket and then proceeded to turn on the large screen mounted on the wall where Fox Sports came on. He joked, “You should stay to watch!”. Again, I pretended to be super excited about it and then politely moved on as it was getting dark.
Nepal border town of Kakarbhitta
I walked out and the town of Kakarbhitta was just off the road to the right. It was larger and seemed to have more services than Panitanki in India. I was glad I’d decided to stay on the Nepali side of the border. A man approached me and said he could show me a hotel, and although I usually avoid such touts, I had no recommendations for hotels and so went with him. There was one street lined with hotels, that I’m sure were all relatively the same. I decided to stay at the hotel the man showed me and for AUD$15 it was good enough.
The tout who had taken me there could of course arrange a bus ticket for me onto Kathmandu for the following day. For 1600 rupees or AUD$20 I got a seat in a minivan to Kathmandu leaving at 6am the next morning.
Kakarbhitta to Kathmandu by bus
The bus journey from Kakarbhitta to Kathmandu is very long. The 500km trip can take anywhere from 12-16 hours, depending on stops. The windy road is in relatively good condition though compared to other roads in Nepal.
I arrived in Kathmandu just on sunset, and the views of the Himalayas coming into the Kathmandu Valley were pretty impressive.
Read next: A Guide to Kathmandu, Nepal