When planning a long car trip, you can’t help but fantasize about your journey’s end. Mandalay, Timbuktu, Tipperary – all famous destinations that conjure up all sorts of exotic and colourful images.
So where better to have as your journey’s goal than Nepal? This remote mountain state, sandwiched between China and India, has long captured the imaginations of explorers and adventurers alike, as the gateway to Everest and the Himalayas.
There are many routes into Nepal, most obviously by air. But by driving from India in to Nepal, you get a chance to appreciate how the landscape and people change as you travel from the vast India sub-continent into this relatively tiny Himalayan country.
Your approach to Nepal will depend on where in India you are travelling from. There are various entry points all along the border, some are open 24 hours a day, but some only open at specific times which may vary between summer and winter. So, if you’re heading for a smaller crossing, it’s best to check before you travel to avoid spending hours parked up outside a closed border.
If you’re driving yourself, either in a hire car or in your own vehicle, there are some things that you need to remember. Most importantly, bring all original documents for your vehicle, driving license and insurance, as well as photocopies of everything. You will need to submit some photocopies at the border and once inside Nepal there are regular checkpoints where the originals will be inspected.
You have two options when crossing into Nepal. The ‘Suvidha’ is a free pass that allows you to keep an Indian registered vehicle in Nepal from the time the border opens to the time it closes (this is normally 8am – 9pm) but the pass will not be issued after 5pm.
If your adventure travel keeps you longer than a daytrip, you will need a ‘Bhanzar’ pass. This is a paid pass that allows you to travel around without limitations, but you do have to pay for each day you intend to stay in advance, and nominate an exit point.
And whether you are arriving with a tour or independently, remember to check the stamp in your passport before you leave the office, as occasionally stamps can be forgotten or incorrectly printed and this can cause massive headaches on the return leg.
If this all sounds a bit too much like hard work for a holiday, there are companies that offer overland tours from India to Nepal, allowing you to sit back and enjoy the view while someone else worries about the paperwork. A 17-day tour with Explore! takes you from Delhi all the way to Kathmandu via bus, train, boat and rickshaw.
The tour takes in the Taj Mahal, the pink city of Jaipur, a three-day cruise along the Ganges and a visit to Sarnath, the site of Buddha’s first sermon. As well as stopping at other places of interest along the way.
Nepal and Beyond
Once inside Nepal, the opportunities for adventure travel are limitless: If you have driven yourself, you will find the roads in Nepal a lot quieter than those in India. Most people head straight for Kathmandu, but if you have arrived from the direction of Gorakhpur (crossing the border at Sonauli) then the Chitwan National Park makes a great stopping off point before you head for the capital.
Covering 360 square miles of south central Nepal, the Chitwan National Park may not be the best-known location for trekking in Nepal, but it still offers fantastic walks through jungles and grasslands as well as elephant safaris and canoe trips. It is also one of the last remaining habitats for the Bengal tiger, so make sure you don’t stray too far from the path.
Once you have arrived in Kathmandu, you should find it pretty easy to arrange onward travel, whether with tour groups or independent local guides. There are plenty of travel agencies that can arrange porters, guides and flights to Annapurna, the Everest Base Camp and other popular trekking areas.
A trek to the Everest Base Camp usually takes around 14 days including flights to Lukla, and you should budget around $25 per day.
If you don’t have time to trek all the way to Mount Everest, sight seeing flights are available direct from Kathmandu. Lasting approximately one hour, the flights give you outstanding views of the mountain without having to break a sweat or risk a nasty case of frostbite.