How to cross the border Panitanki – Kakarbhitta (India – Nepal)

India and Nepal have several border crossings open to foreigners. The most popular although is the Sonauli-Belahiya, due to it location, more or less in the middle of the south Nepal border, and maybe the shortest rout to reach Kathmandu by land. Also the location between Varanasi and Kathmandu or Pokhara, make this desolated and unfriendly place a choice for those how want to travel by land. For more details about Sonauli-Belahiya border crossing check my previous posts. http://steppingoutofbabylon.com/en/2016/09/how-to-cross-the-border-sunauli-belahiya-india-nepal/

But for those traveling in north east India, like Sikkim, Bengal and the so-called North-eastern states (Assam, Nagaland, Megahlaya, Arunachal Pradesh, etc…) the border Panitanki (India) – Kakarbhitta (Nepal) located on the east side of Nepal is the best option.

Being less popular is far more pleasant the Sonauli-Belahiya, but if you destination is Kathmandu you have to face a 16 hours bus trip.

The Panitanki –Kakarbhitta border is open 24 hours on the India side, and from the Nepal side from 6 am to 7 pm.

(2017 update: the border is open 24 hours on the Nepali side. The gates are open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.)

At Panitanki just ask to local people “Nepal” and everyone knows where the border is. From here you can walk until Indian Immigration Office. Not more than 10 minutes walking. The road as asphalt but you must do your walk with truck passing close to you. So if you prefer avoid some sweat and dust you can arrange the entire trip until Nepali side with one of the many cycle rickshaws.

The Panitanki – Kakarbhitta border is marked by a river, and the bridge connection the two sides is a kind of “no mans land”. The Indian Immigration Office is a few meters before the bridge, in a small alley on your left side. Anyway if you miss it, the guards near the gate will call you and show you the way.

At the Indian Immigration Office, you show your passport and in less than 2 minutes you have your exit stamp.

Indian Immigration Office. Panitanki
way to the Indian Immigration Office. Panitanki
Indian Immigration Office. Panitanki
Indian Immigration Office. Panitanki

From here you need to cross the bridge. I have made it on foot, and I was not the only one, but if your luggage is heavy or if you are caring many items maybe is better to hire a rickshaws. Anyway walking you have more time to enjoy the view of the river and surroundings that with the heat of April are almost dry, but that after the monsoon rain must offer a pleasant view. The walk make me sweat and regret not had taken a rickshaw, but at the same time offer me lots of smiles from the local people and children waving… not many foreigners cross this point, and even less do it on foot. And above all, crossing a border on foot has always a special meaning… a kind of symbolic entrance in a country… not with the easiness and apparatus of the airports but with a humbleness necessary to a traveler.

Indian side of the Panitanki Panitanki-Kakarbitta border
Indian side of the Panitanki-Kakarbitta border
bridge at Panitanki-Kakarbitta border
bridge at Panitanki-Kakarbitta border
arrivnig to Nepal border. Panitanki-Kakarbitta border
arriving to Kakarbitta, Nepal side of Panitanki-Kakarbitta border

After crossing the bridge you are at Nepal, more properly Kakarbitta. Walking a few meters more you’ll on the right side a ramp that lead you to a gate. Behind the gate is the building of the Nepali Immigration Office. As the both Nepali and Indian don’t need immigration formalities to cross the border, this office is almost empty all day. Nepal has Visa on Arrival, so to get your visa you need:

  • passport
  • 1 photo
  • fill a couple of forms that they will give you there
  • …and money to pay the visa fee. You can pay in dollars (USD) or Indian rupees (INR). Must be played in cash. There is no ATM or Exchange shop nearby, so be prepared. In the India side you can exchange money. If you pay in dollars is better bring the exact amount, as change isn’t always available.

The Nepal visa can be (April 2016):

  • 15 days: 25 USD
  • 30 days: 40 USD or 2700 INR
  • 90 days: 100 USD

The staff at the Nepal Immigration office is very nice and provides a lot of information, especially about schedules and prices for the different kinds of buses. With the help of Nepali officers I could easily avoid touts that always come to try to push you to one of their buses. They are annoying but not persistent.

After have your stamp in the passport, that will take about 5 minutes, you just walk right until you cross a big gate that symbolically mark the entrance in Nepal.

Panitanki-Kakarbitta border crossing_Kakarbitta Nepal Immigration Office_DSC_9177
Nepal Immigration office at Kakarbitta. Panitanki-Kakarbitta border
Panitanki-Kakarbitta border crossing_Kakarbitta_DSC_9178
Gate that marks Nepali border. The bus terminal in just a few meter further, on the right side. Kakarbitta

From here you walk a few meters and on your start to see a few shops, keep walking until a corner, where bus tickets are sold. There are several shops, but in this one you are dealing directly with the bus company and avoid extra fees from intermediaries and travel agencies. The shop is open to the street, with the counter surrender by windows. The prices are clearly written on the window. The bus terminal is just in front.

From Kakarbitta there are direct buses to the main nepali cities: Kathmandu, Jonakpur, Biratnagar, Itahari, etc…

ticket counter fot the buses from Kakarbitta to Kathmandu, at the Kakarbitta bus terminal, located on the right side just after crossing the border
ticket counter fot the buses from Kakarbitta to Kathmandu, at the Kakarbitta bus terminal, located on the right side just after crossing the border

How to go from Siliguri (New Jalpaiguri Junction) to Panitaki

Probably you’ll arrive to Panitanki coming from Sikkim, Darjeeling, Siliguri or New Jalpaiguri.

Siliguri is the closest train station from the Nepali border, but most of the trains stop at is New Jalpaiguri also known as NJP, a more important station. Just in front of New Jalpaiguri train station, you’ll see a few nice blue buses parked that go to Siliguri. From there you need another bus to Panitanki. To avoid this bus transfer you must walk a bit further, to the end of the train station car park, until find a bus, not so nice and modern as the other ones, but that goes direct to Panitanki; it takes about 1 hour to make around 35 km, but it stop many times, including Siliguri. If you arrive during the day, there’s no reason to stop in Siliguri, but is never a good option crossing the border during the night.

Bus ticket New Jalpaiguri (NJP) to Panitanki: 20 INR (Indian rupees) (about 1 hour)

bus from New Jalpaiguri Junction (in front of the train station) to Panitanki
bus from New Jalpaiguri Junction (in front of the train station) to Panitanki

How to go from Kakarbitta to Kathmandu by bus:

As there is no railway service in Nepal just remains two options to reach Kathmandu: by plane or by bus.

The plane far from be the best option is terms of time and comfort is out of a backpacker budget, as also out of the spirit of traveling… so the bus remain as the only reasonable option.

There are good bus connections between Kakarbitta (also referred as Kakarvitta) and the capital, with a/c buses depart early in the morning: 4 am, 5 am, 6 am and 7 am, and in the afternoon: 3 pm, 4 pm and 5 pm. Officially the trip is 12 hours… but it took 16 hours, with the last two hours already in the traffic jam of Kathmandu suburbs.

The evening buses arrive to Kathmandu more or less all at the same time, despite the time of the departure, as later the bus departure, les traffic find on the way.

Despite de 16 hours bus journey, the trip is not so hard as imagined, as about 2/3 of the trip is made on the Terai, the flat area in south of Nepal. The last part is the hardest one with the road going up to the mountain, with quiet some curves and bumps that hardly allow you to sleep.

Is strongly advisable to take air-condition bus (a/c bus) not just because of the heat from the south of Nepal during almost all the year, but also because of the dust and the noise. The a/c with the windows locked provides a more pleasant and relax trip… it worth to pay some extra rupies more.

The best buses are from the BIHANI company. Called a/c Delux, are modern, almost new and quiet comfortable, spacious, and the reclining seats, have a support for the legs that provide a almost horizontal position… not a sleeping bus but very confortable. Still your sleep could be disturbed by the music and the movie show on the screen… a kind of Nepali version of Bollywood. The bus stop a coupe of times for food.

ticket fares from Kakarbitta to Kathmandu:

Bus “a/c Delux”: 1630 NPR (nepali rupees) (16 hours)

bus “delux”: from 809 NPR to 1295 NPR (more or less the same travel time but less comfort)

Bus “non delux”: from 668 to 1070 NPR (I strongly discouraged trip in this “normal” buses, only if there’s any other option)

 

bus fares from Kakarbitta to Kathmandu
“delux” and “non delux” bus fares from Kakarbitta to Kathmandu at Kakarbitta Bus terminal
a/c bus fares from Kakarbitta to Kathmandu
a/c bus fares from Kakarbitta to Kathmandu

From my experience at Neapli road I must say that there are no pleasant or easy bus trips in Nepal. Or is too hot, like almost all the year along the Terai, or at mountain the winding roads, or the drivers are crazy, or there are many stops, or the bus is too crowded, or the road is too dusty, or if it’s raining too muddy. Even the super-delux bus is most of the times old, uncomfortable, dirty and even with broken seat.

This trip from Kakarbitta to Kathmandu, on a a/c bus was far the most pleasant trip that I have ever made in Nepal.

a/c bus from Kakarbitta to Kathmandu
a/c bus from Kakarbitta to Kathmandu… the best bus that I ever catch in Nepal.
Bus ticke Kakarbitta to Kathmandu
Bus ticket Kakarbitta to Kathmandu… with the company name and contacts

Where to eat at Kakarbitta:

At Kakarbitta after having my precious bus ticket was time to relax and have some food.

Kakarbitta is far from be attractive town, but nor sob ad from what we are used to expect form a border town. Is quiet, cross by a main road, dusty but that doesn’t have that much traffic. Around the bus terminal, basically the center of all activity at Kakarbita, there are a few shop, restaurants and few fruit stalls.

On the opposite side of the terminal, that is quieter, line up a few restaurants, also called hotel, with some also with lodging. The choice was for the Sainik Hotel, clean and spacious. The kana (local meal based on rice, dhal, curry, vegetables and pickle) was delicious and served at the traditional brass plate. The meal with two chai was 80 rupees (NPR) with refill. Strongly recommend.

Beyond the food Sainik Hotel also provide nice conditions to wait about 4 hours for my bus: quiet and with smiley and friendly staff.

Dal bath at Sainik Hotel. Kakarbitta. Nepal
Dal bath at Sainik Hotel. Kakarbitta. Nepal
Sainik Hotel... good food and a good welcome @ Kakarbitta
Sainik Hotel… good food and a good welcome @ Kakarbitta

25 Responses

  1. Very very helpful!!

    • Stepping out of Babylon

      Thanks for the support! and if you need more help just text me… I’ll do my best to help 🙂 good trips and enjoy Nepal

  2. Vijesh Balakrishnan

    Hi,
    I found this write-up very useful. Thanks 👍.

    Just got back to Bangalore after a trek in Nepal- wanted to try crossing the border to Kakkarbita from India, and this has been my single reference for the journey to Kathmandu and back. Pretty much has all the information that one would need. Maybe the information on how to take a bus from Kathmandu back to Kakkarbita is all that is missing.

    To add on to the data here – my bus from Kakkarbita took almost 20hrs to reach Kathmandu. The return journey also took the same time- road construction work going on around Kathmandu is probably to blame.

    • Stepping out of Babylon

      Good that it was useful… and i hope that the information is still updated! cheers

  3. Rakesh Konwar

    Thanks. Its really very helpful.

    • Stepping out of Babylon

      Thanks for the support! hope that all the information is still valid as I don’t cross that border for about one year. good trip

  4. I cant thank you enough for this.
    I haven’t found such detailed description anywhere on the internet, and it’s amazing.

    Thank you.
    Lots of love from another fellow traveler.

    • Stepping out of Babylon

      Hello fellow traveler. I’m glad that my experience can be useful for others! I do it form the heart. thanks for the support! cheers

  5. For ur kind information nepal border is open 24hrs not india as per SSB they close gate at 10pm and open gate at 6am please update ur information (panitanki )

    • Stepping out of Babylon

      Thanks for the update! I’ll change the text! 🙂

  6. Unfortunately (for me) they changed the immigration openning times again. Now it’s open only 6 am to 6 pm (both the indian and the nepali side).
    I had to stay overnight at the indian side (quite horrible only the nepali side has proper guest houses)

    • Stepping out of Babylon

      Unfortunately for you and for everyone, the land border are always an unknown challenge. The rules change all the time, there’s no information on the official sites and almost anyone between the local population can help the travellers.
      Thanks for the update and hope that your experience can be helpful to other.
      safe trips

  7. I have a One year Visa to India.
    I would like to cross the border from Panitanki to Nepal border Kakkarbita stay 2 to 3 DAYS ONLY in Nepal ( not KTM) and RETURN same border crossing to India.. IS THIS POSSIBLE.?

    I plan on going in March 2017

    • Stepping out of Babylon

      yes, it’s possible but you must have a multiple entry visa to India (it must be written in your visa stamp).
      But even if you just stay a few days in Nepal you need to get a 15 days Nepali visa… it’s the minimum!

  8. Note above date error: Plan on going March 2018

  9. Mojibur Rahman

    Thanks. I really appreciate it. If any one can leave msg for me about economy staying place at Kakarvitta for overnight.

  10. If I want to catch morning 4a. M bus or jeep , how it’s possible to cross the border from siliguri or panitanki?

    • Stepping out of Babylon

      Hello. 4a.m. is maybe to early to find transportation and probably you´ll need to wait until 6 a.m. but just there, in Siliguri or Panitanki you will find informations.
      About the way to go from Siliguri to Panitanki you’ll find in this post detail information in the part: “How to go from Siliguri (New Jalpaiguri Junction) to Panitaki”.
      check it out please

  11. Hello
    I am Bangladeshi.
    I have indian multiple visa.
    So I will go to cross my Benapole border then go to Siliguri from kolkata by train

    But I have a question to you
    May I can go to nepal by this visa?

    I need nepali visa from kakrvita border?

    Or I have to take nepali visa from my Bangladesh?

    Please inform me
    waiting for your reply

    • Stepping out of Babylon

      Hello. I don’t think that your Indian Visa is valid in Nepal. I think you need a Nepal visa. You can get the Nepal Visa at Karkavita border.
      But as Bangladesh is part of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) i think that the visa is free. Anyway is better if you confirm these information at the Nepali Immigration website:
      http://www.nepalimmigration.gov.np/content/tourist-visa.html
      good luck

  12. I will go to Birtamod (Nepal) from NJP, and again on the same day I will return back to NJP from Birtamod (Nepal), can you please tell me at what time to cross the border from Nepal side to Indian side.

    • Stepping out of Babylon

      Hello… The last information that i got was in 2017, and both immigration offices, Nepali and Indian, were open 24 hours. But this schedule can change at any time, so is better to get more updated information if you what to cross the border during the evening. have a good trip

  13. Thomas korulla

    Hi ..We are planning to go to Kathmandu by flight from Bhadrapur. Shall I get buses from Kakravitta to Bhadrapur or Biratmode?Any local buses available? Is this long trip buses allow short trip passengers?Taxi to Bhadrapur available ? What will it costs? If local buses available is it needs reservation or take tickets from bus itself?

    • Stepping out of Babylon

      Hello Thomas. Sorry but I can’t get that informations, as I never be at Bhadrapur. I just cross the border by land, and from Kakarbhitta i got a direct bus to Kathmandu. But the Kakarbhitta bus terminal is big and for sure that you can get a bus from there to Bhadrapur.
      In Nepal the long distance buses allow short trips passengers, if there’s a seat/place for you. Is also possible to get off from this long distance buses at anyplace along the road… just ask the driver!
      good trip

  14. Thomas korulla

    Hello….Thank you for your valuable guidance. ..Thomas korulla..Kerala..India

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