How to travel from India to Nepal By Bus and Train
Where in India are you?
If you want to go from India to Nepal, there is essentially one major border crossing open for travelers to use. This is border crossing at the town of Sunauli (Belahiya). It can be reached from Gorakhpur, just south of the middle of Nepal. (There is another small border crossing near Darjeeling, but this article focus solely on Gorakhpur.)
Getting to Gorakhpur
There will be numerous trains leaving from Delhi to Gorakhpur. Any will work. This is about a 15 hour ride, give or take with delays. Remember that if you want to get to Pokhara or Kathmandu by nightfall, you must arrive at the Sunauli border in the early morning. If you're interested in flying part way, consider flying to Lucknow instead of Delhi as it will significantly cut down on the length of your train ride.
There are trains from Varanasi to Gorakhpur if that is your starting point.
Gorakhpur to Sunauli
Take a right onto station road when coming out of the Gorakhpur bus station. Walk straight through the first traffic circle and past the petrol pump on your right. You should see a whole bunch of buses lining up to go to the border at Sunauli. It is a three hour ride. If you feel lost, ask anyone, excluding taxi or auto-rickshaw drivers, for directions.
Do not take an auto-rickshaw to the “bus station” it is a two block walk. They will certainly try to rip you off.
We paid 70 rupees each for seats on a crowded dilapidated bus in October 2010 when we did this. The price may have risen since then. Taking a jeep for a three hour ride will be more expensive if you choose to do this. The bus will leave when it is full.
If you are on a schedule, buses run from dawn to late-ish midday. If you want to catch a bus from the Nepali side of the border in Sunauli to Pokhara, Tanzen or Kathmandu, you must leave on a bus in the early morning from Gorakhpur.
Sunauli and Border Customs
The bus will drop you off along the main road, Siddartha Highway, in the dusty town of Sunauli. Just keep walking north along it. The Indian exit customs station is on the right side of the road before the Nepali border. If you have a residence permit because, for example, you are on a student visa, bring it! Two of my friends did not bring theirs and were almost detained at the border. I still remember the border guard saying that because they did not have the residence permit that, “Very big problem this will create.”
There will be a place on the India side of the border where you can exchange Indian for Nepali rupees. The workers will say there are no ATMs on the Nepali side of the border. They lie. Ignore them. However, 500 and 1000 Indian rupee notes are not very liked in Nepal for exchanging currency due to perceived counterfeiting.
After you pass through customs, (make sure to bring two passport sized photos for the Nepali customs) there will be many hawkers on the Nepal side shouting out destinations for buses. Sometimes they will inflate the rates. Ignore them if you can and continue on until you find a ticket booth.
If you are traveling to Kathmandu the ride will take anywhere from 12-18 hours depending on how many car or bus crashes and breakdowns there are along the treacherous mountain road. Accidents can make for maddening delays.
The buses to Pokhara do not go through Tanzen despite it appearing to be the shorter route from the border. These buses instead follow the same route as if going to Kathmandu. They take the road north to Butwal. Then they go east on the road (H01) along the plains that borders the Himalayan foothills to the city/town of Bharatpur. This road then goes North through the Himalayan foothills and splits at the town of Mugling. The left fork goes to Pokhara. The right fork goes to Kathmandu.
A shorter ride, perhaps 8 hours. This route goes directly north through Butwal. Buses do go from Tansen to Pokhara, but do not rely on this route if you are pressed for time.
All of these buses will make a short stop along the way at the town of Bhairahawa just north of the border to pick up more passengers.
Costs and Travel Time
The total cost to enter Nepal should be very cheap. The train from Delhi to Gorakhpur on sleeper is about 350INR and the bus ride from Gorakhpur to Sunauli is 70INR. The most expensive item will be the tourist visa which must be paid in USD. A 15 day tourist visa currently costs $25.
Delhi to Gorakhpur: 14+ hours
Gorakhpur to Sunauli Border: 3+ hours