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How to Travel from India to Tibet by Train

August,21 2018 BY Lobsang Tsering 0 COMMENTS

Getting to Tibet from India is an exciting journey of discovery, traveling along the railways and bus routes to get from India to Nepal, and then on into Tibet from Nepal. With no direct route by train from India to Tibet, you will need to make various stops and transfers to get into Tibet. The railways in Tibet do not yet extend as far as the border with Nepal, although this is planned for the future. Similarly, there are very few railways in Nepal, with actually only two railway lines in operation, both of which are near the border with India.

Getting into Nepal from India can be done relatively easily, using the massive Indian railway network as well as some local buses. Traveling through Nepal is normally done by bus, as the railways do not extend to the Nepali capital of Kathmandu. Once in Kathmandu, you can travel overland to Tibet or take a flight to Lhasa. With three main routes through which to enter Nepal from India, the choice is yours, and often depends on the starting location of the travelers.

Take Train from India to Nepal

Taking the train from India to Nepal can be done with relative ease, thanks o the huge rail network within India. Train travel in India is one of the main ways to get around this massive country and is well maintained with regular trains in service that can take you to almost any place in the country. For travelers to Nepal from India, there are three main routes to take, which end at one of the major border crossing points between India and Nepal.

india to nepal route map(Simple click to enlarge the map)
India to Nepal Overland Route Map

Enter Nepal via Sunauli

The main route from India to Nepal, the border crossing at Sunauli is the most important border crossing point for both commercial transport and travelers. Getting to Sunauli from New Delhi can be done by train direct to Gorakhpur, and there is a choice of trains that run this route, including one Superfast Express.

The journey covers a total of around 800 kilometers and can take from 11-14 hours to travel by train. The route has ten stops at local stations along the way, as well as a major stop at Lucknow, where you will change trains for Gorakhpur. There are more than 30 trains that run to Gorakhpur from New Delhi or Varanasi every day, and some can be found for under two dollars if you are prepared to travel with transit waiting times.

Sleeper BerthsSleeper berths in air-conditioned cabins

Trains in India have as many as seven classes of seats or sleeper berths, with the “2S” code being the cheapest, as they are simple padded seats. “SL” or sleeper cars are the most popular and are normally open berths in three layers, or you can opt for the higher-class options of “1A”, “2A”, and “3A”, which are air-conditioned cabins and carriages.

If you can manage the padded seats, then the cost of the trip to Gorakhpur is just US$ 3.61, but if you want the sleeper, it is as high as US$ 6.34. The most expensive seats on the route are the “1A” first-class air-conditioned cabins, which will set you back around 40 dollars per person.

Traveling from Varanasi is a little cheaper than from New Delhi, costing just US$ 2.95 for the sleeper berth, or as much as US$ 16.95 for the first class 1A cabin. The trip from Varanasi takes around 4-5 hours and is much easier to get tickets. Most people travel from Delhi to Nepal, so it is the busiest route.

From Gorakhpur, there are buses that run 13 times a day, with only one bus being non-AC. There is a sleeper bus that runs through the night, leaving around 1:30am and getting into Sunauli at around 3:30am. This route is much faster due to the low volume of traffic experienced at night, but is not worth waiting around all day for, since the fare for the buses starts at just US$ 1.67 per ticket.

Enter Nepal via Panitanki

Traveling to Nepal via the Kakarbhitta border crossing is easy for those traveling from Kolkata, as it is the shortest route to Nepal. Trains leave several times a day for the border town of Siliguri in West Bengal, with a travel time of around 9-11 hours, depending on the train. The Shatabdi Express is the fastest option, at less than nine hours, which leaves every 90 minutes throughout the day and night. Prices for sleepers are around five dollars, and are the cheapest tickets for these trains, as there are no padded seat tickets on most of the services.

However, the trains are not direct, and you need to change at Howrah to continue the journey to New Jalpaiguri. You will also need to change at New Jalpaiguri, as the train does not go direct to Siliguri. From New Jalpaiguri, the connecting trains take around 20 minutes to get to Siliguri, at a cost of around two dollars.

Regular BusRegular bus from Siliguri to Kakarbhitta

From Siliguri to Kakarbhitta on the Nepali side of the border, there are regular buses that leave from the Tenzing Norgay bus station to the small town of Panitanki, on the border. These cost around 40 cents and take around an hour to get to the border town. However, if you do not want to walk the 1.5 kilometers across the Mechi River from Panitanki to the Immigration Office in Kakarbhitta, then you can get one of the jeeps that run all the way to Nepali immigration. The jeeps leave from outside the bus station, and only leave when full, so you may have to wait. However, they are faster than the public bus, and take just 35 minutes to get to Kakarbhitta at a cost of just US$ 1.84.

Traveling onwards to Kathmandu from Kakarbhitta is the longest leg of the journey, taking around 17 hours by public bus. The buses leave several times a day, once full, and cost around 19 dollars per ticket. And this is where it shows that travel in Nepal, while still relatively cheap, is much costlier than in India. If bus travel is not your idea of fun, then you can get the flights from Bhadrapur Airport to Nepal, around 20 kilometers south of Kakarbhitta, which leave regularly for Kathmandu at a cost of around US$ 185.

Enter Nepal via Raxaul

One of the other popular entry points to Nepal from India is at Raxaul, which crosses over to Birgunj in Nepal. Trains from Kolkata leave every 45 minutes both day and night and cost from around US$ 5.37 for as single ticket. The trains leave from Sealdah Railway Station in Kolkata, and arrive in Raxaul Junction Station, taking around 15-19 hours to travel the 729 kilometers of the trip.

However, Raxaul is not the border crossing point for Nepal, although many sites say that it is. The customs office and border crossing point is actually in Haraiya, around 4 kilometers from Raxaul Junction Station. There is no bus that runs from the station to the Indian customs office, and a taxi, of which there are plenty around, will set you back around a dollar fifty. However, there are many cycle rickshaws that will take you to the border crossing point for around ten rupees, which is about 15 cents.

Bus from Birgunj to KathmanduTaking the bus from Birgunj to Kathmandu

Crossing the border is normally done on foot here, as it is just around 30 yards. Processing takes around 15-20 minutes if you are applying for your visa on arrival, and just a few minutes if you already have it. From the immigration office, it is around three kilometers to the town of Birgunj, where you can get the bus for Kathmandu. Rickshaws and thangas, small horse-drawn carriages, run the route for around 100 rupees, or about a dollar fifty.

You should be at the border between 7:00am and 6:00pm, despite the signs saying the border is open from 06:00 to 22:00 daily. Visas are only issued up to 6:00pm daily, and the staff do not normally open for transit until seven in the morning.

Tickets to Kathmandu from Birgunj Central Bus Station cost around 8 dollars for a normal bus and around 12 dollars for the deluxe air-conditioned bus. It is advisable to get the deluxe bus, as the regular bus takes much longer and is always over crowded. Buses run throughout the day, though it is best to leave as early as possible. While the trip should take around 8-9 hours, delays on the roads can make it a lot longer.

Travel from Nepal to Tibet

From Kathmandu, getting to Tibet requires all tourists to be traveling on a pre-booked tour with reliable Tibet tour operator like us, Tibet Vista. Independent travel in Tibet is not permitted, and all tourists must be on organized tours, whether private or group tours. Your visa and permits to enter and travel in Tibet are all organized by the tour operator, so you do not need to get the Chinese Entry Visa when entering from Nepal.

Travel Documents You Need

The Tibet Travel Permit, which is required for all tourists traveling in Tibet, is obtained on your behalf by us, using scanned copies of your passport, and takes around 20 days to process. You should book your Tibet tour well in advance to accommodate this, and once your tour is booked, we will make the application for you.

Tibet Travel Permit and China Group VisaTibet Travel Permit and China Group Visa

The China Group Visa, for entering China from Nepal, is obtained once you arrive in Kathmandu by our representative, using your original passport and the Tibet Travel Permit. Processing can only be done by a representative of our travel agency, and personal applications are not entertained by the Embassy. Processing takes around 3 working days, so you should be in Kathmandu at least five working days before your expected departure date.

Enjoy the Kathmandu to Lhasa Overland Tour to Tibet

One of the more popular tour now is to travel overland to Lhasa from Kathmandu, crossing the Sino-Nepal border at the newly-opened border crossing point at Gyirong Port. The route from Kathmandu runs west then north to the border crossing checkpoint and takes around six hours by public bus.

Once across the border, your tour guide will meet you and transfer you to Gyirong Town, where you will be able to acclimatize to the increase elevation. After a day of acclimatizing, you will then start the tour to Lhasa, traveling along the famous Sino-Nepal Friendship Highway. For those taking in Everest Base Camp (EBC), a detour will be taken to get to Rongbuk Monastery, from where you can take the short trip to the world’s highest mountain. On average, the tour takes around eight days, including acclimatization to the higher altitude in Gyirong Town, and ends with the delights of the Tibetan capital of Lhasa.

Fly from Kathmandu to Lhasa

If flying is your preferred method of travel to Lhasa, then you are in luck, as Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport is the only airport in the world with international flights to Lhasa. Flights leave daily for the Tibetan capital and take around 90 minutes to cover the 1,000-kilometer distance between the two capitals. - Check the flight schedule from Kathmandu to Lhasa

While this can be a little costly for some, with flights starting from around 300 dollars, it is one of the most amazing flights you will ever take. Not only do you get to see some of Tibet’s awesome scenery and landscapes from the air, but the standard flight path takes you directly over the summit of Mount Everest, and on clear, right days you get a great view of the mountain as the plane passes above it just a few hundred feet from the peak.

Further reading:
How to Get to Tibet from India
Can I Travel from Nepal to Bhutan by Train?

Lobsang Tsering

About the Author - Lobsang Tsering

I am a tour guide in Tibet an was Born in Kham Tibet, I am the father of 2 little girls, bachelor's degree. I have more than 7-years experience of being a tour guide in Tibet. I am a warm, friendly, knowledgeable and attractive guy.

Email me about your travel idea


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