I’ve previously entered Nepal from the West and the South, and also by flight, but this is the first time I’ve come from the East. I took a bus from Kalimpong, leaving at 5:30 am to beat the heat. Luckily it was drizzly and not really hot, which is unusual for late April. From the bus stand in Panitanki on the Indian side, I took a cycle rickshaw, first to the Indian Immigration counter, then across the bridge to the Nepali one (local rate is Rs20.)

The border crossing at Kakarbhitta (also spelled Kakarvitta) was uncongested when I was there and the officials were pretty easy-going. There were no trucks crossing at that time (9am), but coming back, I saw a big line of parked trucks, so presumably they have certain hours they are allowed to cross. Most of the traffic was cycle rickshaws, pedestrians, bicycles and scooters, with a few cars.

The Indian office is in an obscure building set back from the road about 50 meters, on a dirt road just before the police check point. They have an officer who will meet you and show you the way to the window where you get your exit stamp. They need a photocopy of your passport and Indian visa going out and coming back in.

The Immigration Office on the Nepal side is a big brick building, new-looking from the outside, grungy and rather empty on the inside, evidently built in anticipation of large groups. A small group of monks that was heading to Bhutan came by for their exit stamps while I was there, but no one else. 

Entering Nepal, you have to fill out a couple of basic forms and provide a passport size photo. To my surprise, I was able to pay the visa fee in Indian rupees. My host in Kakarbhitta was going to meet me at the immigration office with dollars, which I thought I would need and couldn’t get in Kalimpong, where I was the night before. I only decided that day to do the border run, based on the weather reports, though I should have been prepared as I knew I would be going sometime soon. Anyway, a 15-day visa cost me 1,700 INR. It would have been $25 USD, if I had those. There is a foreign exchange guy near the Immigration Office on the Indian side, but he only had Nepalese rupees, so I didn’t bother, even though he said they would be accepted. 

I’m on a visa that allows me to stay no more than 180 days at a time, so I spend a few months out of India in the winter (usually Nepal or Thailand), and then make a border run in April or May. As the weather gets hotter, I head higher and higher in the Himalayas to cool down.

NB: There is a sign at the border that says that possession of and exchanging or attempting to exchange 500 and 1000 (the sign hasn’t been updated to 2000) rupee notes from India are illegal in Nepal. Smaller notes  and coins can be used here, at least in the border towns, so be sure to change your large notes before heading to Nepal.

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2 Responses

  1. Seancho on 14 May 2017

    Thank you for this current info. I am in the same situation – currently in Sikkim, on a long term Indian visa, looking to reset my 180 day passport stamp and eyeing that border post at Kakarbhitta.

    My question is, how long did you stay in Nepal? I’m wondering if it would be feasible to turn around same day, cross right back into India and head for Siliguri. Or, is that going to attract unwanted attention from Indian Immigration? What was the mood of those border officials when you crossed?

    I assumed there was no way to avoid buying the Nepali visa. The damn thing eats an entire passport page. Good to hear that USD are not required and INR are accepted. You think that’s always the case? Did you bring PP photocopies with you to the border, or is there a place nearby to get them?

    • JD Viharini on 14 May 2017

      I stayed overnight. I don’t think it’s wise to go and come the same day. You are paying quite a lot for the visa, and to just turn right around and come back might look suspicious. It also depends on your history and future plans. Doing one-day visa runs every 6 months could eventually get you banned from re-entry as it would eventually become obvious that you are not a genuine tourist. The immigration officials can do that if they feel like it. It’s safer to leave the country for at least several weeks every year. Word has it that they are scrutinizing foreigners more closely than they used to.

      It is much better to have your photocopies and passport photos ready when you come. There is a place, but it might or might not be open when you get there.

      Kakarvitta is not exactly a charming place to spend much time, though everyone I met was quite friendly. Nepal immigration asked about why I wanted to visit Nepal and what I was going to do. I told them that I wanted to visit simply because it was so close to where I had been staying, and said I’d stay maybe two or three days, and I wanted to visit the eye hospital (true enough, though I didn’t make it.) He commented on my quick return, and the Indian immigration guy did, too, but that was all. The Indian was maybe a little less friendly than the Nepali, but they were both fairly easy-going.

      There’s no way to avoid the Nepal visa, unfortunately. I don’t know any more about the currency than what I’ve already written, though it doesn’t seem to be the problem it is at most of the other border crossings.

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