Can I Travel from Nepal to Bhutan by Train? How to Get from Nepal to Bhutan by Train
Fancy a train travel from Nepal directly to Bhutan? Well, the thought about this cannot be implemented yet for the moment.
By far, Nepal has opened only two railway tracks in the south (One is Birgunj Junction and the other is Janakpur Junction) nearby the Nepal-India Border while in Bhutan, no rail network of any kind can be found right now.
So, if you plan a train travel from Nepal to Bhutan by train, you inevitably need to transfer to other vehicles like buses or planes and first arrive at one of the two railway stations in Nepal.
Follow our utmost guide to see the two recommended train-travel routes to Bhutan from Birgunj Junction and Janakpur respectively and one shot route we recommended for tourists who are interested in straight-line trips with the starting point at Siliguri.
Railway conditions you need to know in Nepal, India and Bhutan
1. Up till now, there has no rail network of any kind goes directly from Nepal to Bhutan. No matter what route you choose, more or less, you have to transfer to other vehicles like buses or planes to reach the final destination. Meanwhile, the entire trip can be a multi cross-border trip, for any route by train can inevitably cross India.
2. Nepal currently has two short cross-border railway lines starting from Birganj to Raxual (6 km) and Bardibas to Jaynagar (69 km) through Janakpur respectively. So if you have decided to have a train tour to Bhutan, you have to reach Birganj or Janakpur first.
Trains in Nepal
Departing from Jaynagar Railway Station
3. As the first country in Asia to open trains, India has the fourth largest railway network in the world. The complexity of Indian railway networks has always been a problem for foreign tourists, and Even now, things like taking the wrong trains happen all the time in every corner of this huge railway system.
4. No rail networks are available in Bhutan, so if you want to get to the capital city, you have to take a bus or hire a car. As in all areas of Bhutan, foreign travelers going to any sight spot must be on an organized tour. So never bother your Bhutan trip since your guide and driver will be waiting to pick you up and head directly northwards to Thimphu.
1. We were constantly asked if tourists could catch the train at Amlekhganj in Nepal since the railway had long been extended far north from Birganj. The answer is no. This route was actually built in 1927 by British, but discontinued beyond Birgunj in December 1965.
The 6 km railway track from Birgunj to Raxaul was converted to broad gauge two years after the India Railway converted the track to Raxaul to the broad gauge. Since then, the newly constructed rail line connects Sirsiya (Birgunj) Inland Container Depot (ICD) to Raxaul has become fully operational, but the rail line from Birgunj to Amlekhganj still remains to be reopened.
2. For the other railway from Bardibas to Jaynagar, Janakpur is a staging point along this cross-border route. Another reason why we choose Janakpur as the starting point is you can catch a flight directly from Kathmandu to this city.
Routes from Kathmandu to Thimphu by Train
We have carefully collected two popular routes along which most sections of the on-the-way journey are covered by railways. Meanwhile, we also provide you with one convenient and budget route with the train travel only in India.
Route 1: Kathmandu (1400m, Nepal) – 283 km – Birgunj (92m, Nepal) – 7 km –Raxaul Junction (68m, India) – 234 km – Barauni (49m, India) – 516 km – Hasimara West Bengal (109m, India) – 240 km – Thimphu (2334m, Bhutan)
1. This route ensures you to enjoy the on-the-way train sceneries to the greatest extent. The train starts from one of the two railway stations in Nepal, then heads southwardly to cross the Nepal – India border and arrives at Raxaul Junction in India. From Raxaul Junction, trains head southeastwards to Barauni Junction, a large railway transit station in central India, and go northeast to Hasimara which is not far from Bhutan.
2. You can choose train types accordingly to arrange the total time you spent on your entire on-the-way journey. Classes of seats can also be selected according to your personal needs to ensure a comfortable journey.
Arriving at Barauni Junction Station
3. Most of the transfers are at the railway stations, so you don’t need to rush to somewhere else to catch other vehicles.
1. It is a time-consuming journey with the total time spent on the way of more than 30 hours.
2. This route goes around a big semicircle in India and arrives at Hasimara after a large number of stops through which you don’t necessarily need to pass.
Suitable for foreign tourists who really like a train travel, enjoy the train on-the-way sceneries and are not in a hurry.
To provide you with the most detailed information about the on-the-way journey, we separate this entire trip into 5 sections, for the whole traveling process is considerably long and needs to be fully prepared.
Routes from Kathmandu to Bhutan with train starting-point at Birgunj
With no railway from Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, to the two railway starting cities – Birgunj and Janakpur, you have to resort to other transportations. Typically there are mainly three options from Kathmandu to Birgunj.
Option 1: Take a bus. The best choice for tourists who want to arrange a budget journey is to get a bus which runs directly from Kathmandu to Birgunj with a reasonable price of 640 rupees (Nearly 5.7 dollars). Buses running between both of the two places are dispatched several times a day and cost approximately 10 hours to complete the one-way trip.
Option 2: Take a private car. You can enjoy a comparatively comfortable on-the-way journey along this route by getting a private car, but the cost is too high and may be possibly beyond your expectation.
Take the Flight from Kathmandu to Simara
Option 3: Take a flight directly from Kathmandu to Simara (the southernmost airport in Nepal closest to Birgunj), and then take a bus to Birgunj (20 km; 42 min.). The flight takes a little over an hour and costs around 2,000 rupees (18 dollars), which is acceptable if you are in a hurry.
1. So far, no railroad has been built in the capital city Kathmandu, so no matter travel by bus or car, the on the way journey must be a long-time one and fatiguing. Try to take some sleep during this trip.
2. If you choose to travel by plane, then be aware of the consequences of the flight delay or cancellation, especially during the monsoon season in July and August.
Birgunj (Nepal) – Raxaul Junction (India)
From Birgunj to Raxaul it is a short distance with only 4.8 km across the border, which you can do by walking or taking a motor taxi. The unsurfaced road has always been muddy in rainy days, so you are recommended to take a motor taxi to across the border.
Crossing the Nepal-India boarder means you officially enter the Indian land. So Indian Visa is needed. Acquiring the India visa at Kathmandu before you start your journey.
Raxaul Junction (India) – Barauni (India)
In Raxaul, the railway is situated on Station Road, and there are five trains that run from Raxaul Junction to Barauni Junction. Morning trains leave Raxaul at 10: 00 am, and the other four trains leave at 12: 10 pm, 12: 45 pm and 20: 30 pm, among which the train leaving at 12: 45 pm is the fastest with the arrival time at 17: 55 pm. This is also the best option for the connecting train to Hasimara in West Bengal, from where you will cross into Bhutan.
The trip to Barauni Junction takes between five and eight hours depending on the train you choose. Check the train schedules from Raxual Junction to Barauni listed below:
Train type and number: RXL HYB SPL (07006)
Departure time: Sun. only
Departs: 01: 30 am
Arrives: 07: 00 am Duration: 05: 30
Train type and number: MITHILA EXPRESS (13022)
Departure time: All Days
Departs: 10: 00 am
Arrives: 17: 25 pm
Duration: 07: 25
Train type and number: RXL SC SPL (07092)
Departure time: Fri. only
Departs: 12: 45 pm
Arrives: 17: 55 pm
Duration: 05: 10
Train type and number: RXL HWH EXPRESS (13044)
Departure time: Thu. & Sat.
Departs: 20: 30 pm
Arrives: 02: 50 am
Duration: 06: 20
Train type and number: SVDK KYQ EXPRESS (15656)
Departure time: Thu. only
Departs: 12: 10 am
Arrives: 19: 10 am
Duration: 07: 00
Barauni (India) – Hasimara West Bengal (India)
Once you reach Barauni Junction you change trains. Three runs of trains with varied classes have been put into operation from Barauni to Hasimara, West Bengal.
Hasimara West Bengal Station
Train type and number: Kamakhya Capital Express (13248)
Departure time: From Mon. to Thur.
Departs: 02: 35 am
Arrives: 15: 35 pm
Duration: 13 hrs. 00 min.
Train type and number: Sikkim Mahananda Express (15484)
Departure time: All Days
Departs: 04: 10 am
Arrives: 18: 43 pm
Duration: 14 hrs. 33 min.
Train type and number: Indore Kamakhya Weekly Express (19305)
Departure time: Fri. only
Departs: 19: 20 pm
Arrives: 06: 51 am
Duration: 11 hrs. 31 min.
All these trains take no more than 15 hours to get to Hasimara and the fastest train leaving on Friday costs only 11 hours and 31 minutes. The prices vary reasonably from the classes of seats you decide to book with the highest price no more than 1975 rupees.
1. For all trains in India, you can buy your tickets from the starting location to the final destination, irrelevant of how many changes there are in between, although you cannot choose the trains you want to take at the connecting station.
2. You should take the trains listed on the ticket as they are the classes of train that you have paid for. Since not all trains along the same route are of the same class (one line can often support Express trains, Express intercity Trains, and the Superfast trains), you need to make sure you are on the platform at the right time, and the train number (which is on every carriage) is the same as the train number on your ticket.
3. If you want to choose your train at each connecting station, you need to purchase an individual ticket between each place you will make a change, which can sometimes be a little more expensive than paying for the whole route in one.
4. The train connections and railway networks in India can be very confusing, and if you rely on a map, you will get very lost, as it is hard to tell which track goes where.
All train conductors and station staff in India speak good English, so if you are unsure of the platform or train, it is easy to ask and get directions.
Hasimara West Bengal (India) – Thimphu (Bhutan)
Bhutan has no rail network of any kind at the moment, though there are plans. In order to get to Thimphu from Hasimara, you will need to get from Hasimara to the Border Crossing at Phuentsoling, on the India-Bhutan Border. There are three options for this.
1. Hire a private car, comfortable but costly 2. Take a taxi, at a high price 3. Take a bus running from Hasimara to Phuentsoling.
The bus option has been by far the best choice, which is fairly cheap and takes just 30 min. to get to the immigration control point. Typically, there are mainly two ways to get on the bus heading for the Boarder.
Option 1: Get to the down town center bus stop to catch the bus heading for the border
The bus leaves from the down town center bus stop, which is around 2km from the railway station. If you are not carrying much luggage, and are able to walk, then it is a nice easy trek to the town.
Many people get off the train and head for the town by walking across the tracks and following the road on the other side, which cuts around half the road distance from the front entrance of the station.
If you are not up to walking, there are taxis and rickshaws that will take you, but be prepared to haggle hard for the price. The taxi drivers will try to charge you around 600 – 800 rupees (5 – 8 dollars) for this short trip, but you can bargain them down to around 200 rupees (2 dollars), or find a nice rickshaw driver who will do it for less than 100 rupees (No more than 1 dollar).
Beautiful Scenery of Thimphu in Bhutan
Option 2: Take the bus from Hasimara railway station to Jaygaon (A small town nearby the India – Bhutan border) and get a shared transport to Phuentsholing
However, there is actually no need to go to the town for the bus to Phuentsoling. Around 50 meters from the front of the station is the main road from Hasimara to Jaygaon, and all the Jaygaon buses follow that road.
There is no proper bus stop, but you can use a hand signal to stop the buses going past, so you can board. The bus driver will happily stop for you, and there is no worry about missing one, as there are buses along the road to Jaygaon every 20 minutes.
The bus normally costs around 15 rupees for the 14 km trip to Jaygaon, and from there it is easy to get shared transports to Phuentsoling, many of which are motorized rickshaws that run the 4 km to the entrance to Bhutan for around 10 rupees per head.
Once you have arrived, it is a short walk of a few meters to the immigration office, and you will be able to pick up your Bhutan visa there. From the border, your guide and driver will be waiting to pick you up and take you to your hotel for the start of your tour in Bhutan.
Route 2: Kathmandu (1400m, Nepal) – 214 km – Janakpur (74m, Nepal) – 28.4 km – Jaynagar (76, India) – 156 km – Barauni (India) – 516 km – Hasimara West Bengal (109m, India) – 240 km – Thimphu (2334m, Bhutan)
1. Starting from Janakpur - the other station in Nepal ensures you an almost all the train travel from Nepal to Bhutan. Most of the on-the-way sceneries in India can be viewed.
2. Like travelling from Birgunj, trains leaving off Jaynagar for Barauni after crossing the Nepal – India border from Janakpur can also be selected according to your personal needs. Moreover, seat classes can also be selected accordingly to ensure a comfortable journey.
3. Most of the transfers are at the railway stations, so you don’t need to rush to somewhere else to catch other vehicles.
1. This route goes southeast around a big semicircle and spends most of the journey in India. Not the shortest way to travel between these two countries, but definitely the recommended route for train traveling.
2. It is a time-consuming journey with the total time spent on the way of approximately 30 hours.
Suitable for foreign tourists who also like a train travel, enjoy the train on-the-way sceneries and are not in a hurry. And also for tourists traveling nearby Janakpur and want to take a tour in Bhutan.
As we have mentioned there are totally 2 railways in Nepal, and we have provided you with the train travel route from Birgunj - one of the train starting places in Nepal, here, we are ready to give you the other route from Janakpur - the other train starting city in Nepal.
With the later part of the journey from Barauni to Thimphu the same to route 1, we attach our importance on the first part of the route from Kathmandu to Barauni.
Routes from Kathmandu to Bhutan with train starting-point at Janakpur
If you start your journey at the capital city Kathamndu, then you can choose to reach Janakpur by plane or by bus.
Taking a flight from Kathmandu direct to Janakpur must be the most convenient and time-saving way to get to the railway starting place. But costly with unpredictable flight delay and cancellation.
Take a bus from Kathmandu to Janakpur through Narayangarh
Or you can still choose to take a bus that goes by a roundabout route from Kathmandu to Janakpur through Narayangarh (The easternmost city that the bus can arrive). The entire route will cost you approximately 12 hours.
Janakpur (Nepal) – Jaynagar (India)
The total distance between the two places by train is 28.4 km. If you are traveling over the border using the train to Jaynagar, you can conveniently get a connecting train at Jaynagar to go to Barauni Junction.
When the railway was not reopened before this year, tourists chose to get there by bus with the total distance of 34 km and the cost of 32 minutes.
Jaynagar (India) – Barauni (India)
Trains from Jaynagar to Barauni leave at 11: 00 am, 11: 05 am, and 2: 00 pm, and the trip takes between 3 hours 40 minutes and 4 hours 50 minutes to accomplish this total 156 km’s journey. You get a choice of Standard Express, Intercity Express, or the Superfast Express, which is the quickest option at under four hours.
Comparing to the time spent on the train from Raxaul Junction to Barauni, time spent on the train from Jaynagar to Barauni is greatly shortened. So if you travel to Janakpur or the peripheral cities or towns, this route is recommended.
Barauni (India) – Hasimara West Bengal (India) – Thimphu (Bhutan)
Refer to Route 1 for detailed information about this section of the train travel.
Route 3 Kathmandu (1400m, Nepal) – 603 km – Kakarbhitta (142m, Nepal) – 35 km – Siliguri (127m, India) – 126 km – Hasimara West Bengal (109m, India) – 240 km – Thimphu (2334m, Bhutan)
1. The shortest route from Kathmandu to Thimphu with mixed transportations from Kathmandu to Kakarbhitta by bus and Siliguri to Hasimara by Train. You don’t have to rush to any of the railway stations in Nepal and just catch a bus heading eastwards for Kakarbhitta and Siliguri and transfer to the train going directly to Hasmara.
Kathmandu to Kakarbhitta by Bus
2. Unnecessary to go a roundabout route from the central India. Time-saving.
1. Miss the sceneries which can only enjoyed by taking a train travel.
2. Duration on the bus from Kathmandu to Kakarbhitta (approximately 15 hours) is quite long so part of the entire journey can be tiring.
3. The border leaving and crossing procedures should be handled at the Nepal and India Immigration Office respectively after you get off the bus at Kakarbhitta and enter into the territory of India.
Suitable for tourists who enjoy a bus trip and do not want to spend too much time on a train ride. Also for tourists who plan to take a budget travel
For this route, you can experience the railway scenery only in India from Siliguri to Hasimara. However, this route is the most direct one starting from Kathmandu and heading eastwards to Thimphu through Siliguri – the shopping and business center in India.
Kathmandu (Nepal) – Kakarbhitta (India)
Besides the airplane, you can also find the local buses or the tourist coaches from the Metro Bus Company to take you directly to Kakarbhitta after an 18-hour drive from Kathmandu with a reasonable price of 2000 Nepal rupees to cover the 600 km distance.
The road condition is surprisingly good with the concrete thin top layer of asphalt, however, we also recommended you to take tourist coaches, for the interior environment is much better with good quality seats and larger space which are less possible to make you suffer from bus sickness.
Routes from Kathmandu to Bhutan with train starting-point at Siliguri
The bus heading for Siliguri starts at the border of Indian side and takes approximately 1 hour to cover this entire 35 km route with a fairly cheap price of 15 rupees. A great number of buses take turns to depart the border for Siliguri, so you don’t have to worry about miss the bus.
1. Exit procedures must be handled at the Nepal Immigration Office in Kakarbhitta before you leave the country. Then, you need to cross a bridge to reach the India Immigration Office located at the other side of it to finish your entry procedures.
2. Bus stop is near the border, so you don’t need to rush to anywhere else to catch the bus heading for Siliguri.
3. Money can be exchanged at the border with the fixed exchange rate of 1: 0.6 (1000 Nepal rupees for 600 India rupees).
Siliguri (India) – Hasimara West Nengal (India)
Kinds of trains with different classes can be found between the two cities, so the time spent on the journey varies from 2 hours and 37 minutes to 4 hours and 37 minutes. The intercity train, the express train and the passenger train are provided to be chosen accordingly. With comfortable seats and beautiful route sceneries, Journey along this section can be comfortable and exciting.
Hasimara West Nengal (India) - Thimphu (Bhutan)
Refer to Route 1 for detailed information about this section of the route.
This route is probably not fit for you if you really like to travel on the tracks, however, it can yet be regarded as the shortest route from Kathmandu to Thimphu.
The thought of traveling direct to Bhutan from Nepal by train cannot be carried out yet for the moment. However, we can arrange an acceptable bus or flight tour at each of the railway lines to achieve this goal.
Two train travel routes from Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, to Bhutan are recommended with the train starting points at Birgunj Junction and Janakpur Junction respectively. The two routes we provided can enable you to maximally experience the train travel from Nepal to Bhutan.
Meanwhile, the third route with the train starting point at Siliguri we provided is exclusively for tourists who are interested in straight-line travels and also for travelers who plan a budget travel with tight schedules.
If you have any question on the train travel route from Kathmandu to Bhutan, please don’t hesitate to give us a call or feel free to drop us a line.