Or: Part 3 of my posts inspired by Nepal’s Year of Tourism 2011.
If you are thinking of continuing from India to Nepal, I’ve collected some handy information and links here. Now, with the new Indian visa rules and the requirement to have a 2-month gap between your visits to India, you can’t just jump over the border to Nepal for a quick visa run like in the past. So you need to plan. Which is something I find tedious when travelling, because however much you try to plan, it’s never going to work according to your carefully crafted plans, which makes planning a bit of a waste of time.
Nepal and India Visa Issues
Since you can’t come back to India for 2 months, you’ll need to figure out where to go from Nepal, or you’ll need to figure out if you can get one of those exceptions to the 2-month rule that you apparently can get if you’re going to use India as a base for visiting neighbouring countries. I’d be interested to know how this works in practice, because that other exception to the new visa rules, the “tourist visa on arrival” for citizens of a selected group of countries, is not working at all. (I know of two Finnish tourists who were sent back to Finland on the next possible flight because the immigration in Mumbai had never heard of a visa on arrival, and I’ve met a family from Luxembourg that spent hours at the airport in Delhi filling out forms for the visa on arrival, tired and jetlagged and not having a clue about what was going on but still having more of a clue than the immigration did).
Fortunately, a Nepal tourist visa is available on arrival to most of us and the process takes only a few minutes as long as you have 2 passport photos and some US$ for the visa fee. If you don’t have photos, there’s a photo booth at the airport in Kathmandu. Here are the official Nepal visa rules.
How to get to Nepal from India
The only international airport in Nepal is the Tribhuvan Airport in Kathmandu. Several airlines fly from Delhi to Kathmandu, and you can easily get tickets at travel agents in Delhi. It used to be possible to fly to Kathmandu from Kolkata or Varanasi, but I’m not so sure if it is anymore.
There are also five land crossings from India to Nepal. The most popular is Sunauli/Bhairahawa. To get there, take a train from Delhi to Gorakhpur (takes around 12 hours) and then a bus from Gorakhpur to Sunauli, near the border (another 3 hours). After crossing the border from Sunauli to Bhairahawa, you’ll then have to take another bus to Kathmanu (8 hours or more) or alternatively to Pokhara (similar distance). You can also get to Sunauli by bus from Varanasi.
Here is a list of all the entry or exit points to Nepal for foreign tourists.
When to go to Nepal
The dry season in Nepal is October to May, the monsoon season June to September. The most popular times to visit Nepal (especially for trekking) are from September to November and again from March to May. For more information about best times to go, trekking in Nepal and other things to see and do check out the Nepal Tourism Board website.
Arriving in Kathmandu
When arriving in Kathmandu, you’re likely to be welcomed by touts who will do their best to get you into a taxi and to a hotel that they warmly recommend and that also pays them for delivering you at the doorstep. The tout’s fee will be added to your room rate. The touts in Nepal are not half as annoying as in India, and actually I was happy to meet the man who used some friendly pressure tactics to get us to go to his recommended hotel in Kathmandu, as we had the most interesting conversation in the taxi on the way there. If you want to avoid having to deal with touts or having to look for hotels on arrival, you can always book your first night stay in Kathmandu in advance. Then again, some of the best places to stay won’t have websites.