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Land Border Crossings between India, Nepal, Tibet and Pakistan

Although most visitors fly into India, it is possible to travel overland between India and Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan. The overland route from Nepal is the most popular. For more on these routes, consult Lonely Planet’s Istanbul to Kathmandu, or see the ‘Europe to India overland’

If you enter India by bus or train you’ll be required to disembark at the border for standard immigration and customs checks.

You must have a valid Indian visa in advance, as no visas are available at the border

Drivers of cars and motorbikes will need the vehicle’s registration papers, liability insurance and an international drivers’ permit in addition to their domestic license. You’ll also need a Carnet de passage en douane, which acts as a temporary waiver of import duty on the vehicle.

» To find out the latest requirements for the paperwork and other important driving information, contact your local automobile association.

GET VISA FOR INDIA
Entering India

Entering India by air or land is relatively straightforward, with standard immigration and customs procedures.

To enter India you need a valid passport, visa and an onward/return ticket. Your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in India.

Visas

A pilot scheme is currently in place to provide visas on arrival to nationals of Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Luxembourg and Finland at Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and New Delhi airports. This scheme has been introduced on a one year ‘experimental’ basis, so double-check before you fly.

All other nationals – except Nepal and Bhutan – must get a visa before arriving in India.

These are available at Indian missions worldwide. Note that your passport needs to be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in India, with at least two blank pages.

Entry Requirements

» In 2009 a large number of foreigners were found to be working in India on tourist visas, so regulations surrounding who can get a visa and for how long have been tightened. These rules are likely to change, however, so double-check with the Indian embassy in your country prior to travel.

» Most people travel on the standard six-month tourist visa.

» Student and business visas have strict conditions (consult the Indian embassy for details).

» Tourist visas are valid from the date of issue, not the date you arrive in India. You can spend a total of 180 days in the country.

» Five- and 10-year tourist visas are available to US citizens only under a bilateral arrangement; however, you can still only stay in the country for up to 180 days continuously.

» Currently you are required to submit two passport photographs with your visa application; these must be in colour and must be 2in x 2in.

» An onward travel ticket is a requirement for most visas, but this isn’t always enforced (check in advance).

» Additional restrictions apply to travelers from Bangladesh and Pakistan, as well as certain Eastern European, African and Central Asian countries. Check any special conditions for your nationality with the Indian embassy in your country.

» Visas are priced in the local currency and may have an added service fee (contact our country’s Indian embassy for current prices).

» Extended visas are possible for people of Indian origin (excluding those in Pakistan and Bangladesh) who hold a non-Indian passport and live abroad.

» For visas lasting more than six months, you’re supposed to register at the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office within 14 days of arriving in India; en quire about these special conditions when you apply for your visa. Re-entry Requirements.

» Current regulations dictate that, when you leave the country, you will receive a stamp in your passport indicating you may not re-enter India for two months, regardless of how much longer your visa is valid for.

» If you wish to return to India before the two-month period has passed, you will have to visit the Indian High Commission or consulate in the country you are in, or where you are a resident, and apply for a Permit to Re-enter. This permit is only granted in urgent or extreme cases.

» If you’re traveling to multiple countries, a permit is not needed as long as your trip follows an itinerary, which you can show at immigration
(eg if you’re transiting through India on your way home from Nepal).

» If granted a permit, you must register with the FRRO/ FRO within 14 days. Visa Extensions.

» At the time of writing, the Ministry of Home Affairs (Jaisalmer House, 26 Man Singh Rd, Delhi; henquiries 9-11am Mon-Fri) was not granting visa extensions. The only circumstances in which this might conceivably happen are extreme medical emergencies or if you were robbed of your passport just before you planned to leave the country (at the end of your visa).

» In such cases, you should contact the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (frrodelhi@hotmail.com; Level 2, East Block 8, Sector 1, Rama Krishna (RK) Puram, Delhi; h9.30am-5.30pm Mon-Fri), just around the corner from the Hyatt Regency hotel. This is also the place to come for a replacement visa if you need your lost/stolen passport replaced (required before you can leave the country). Regional FRROs are even less likely to grant an extension.

» Assuming you meet the stringent criteria, the FRRO is permitted to issue an extension of 14 days (free for nationals of most countries; enquire on application). You must bring your confirmed air ticket, one passport photo (take two, just in case), and a photocopy of your passport identity and visa pages. Note that this system is designed to get you out of the country promptly with the correct official stamps, not to give you two extra weeks of travel.

Travel Permits

» Access to certain parts of India – particularly disputed border areas – is controlled by an often-complicated permit system.

» A permit known as an Inner-Line Permit (ILP) is required to visit certain parts of Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim that lie close to the disputed border with China/ Tibet.

» Obtaining the ILP is basically a formality, but travel agents must apply on your behalf for certain areas, including many trekking routes passing close to the border.

» ILPs are issued by regional magistrates and district commissioners, either directly to travellers (for free) or through travel agents (for a fee).

» Note that entering parts of the Northeast States is much more complex

» We recommend that you double-check with tourism offcials to see if permit requirements have undergone any recent changes before you head out to these area

HAVE IN MIND
Jammu & Kashmir

Check the security situation before heading to the Kashmir Valley but don’t let troubles in Srinagar deter you from visiting ever-calm Ladakh.

BANGLADESH

Foreigners can use four of the land crossings between Bangladesh and India, all in West Bengal or the Northeast States

Heading from India to Bangladesh, tourist visas should be obtained in advance from a Bangladeshi mission

Heading from Bangladesh to India, you have to prepay the exit tax; this must be paid in advance at a Sonali Bank branch (either in Dhaka, another big city, or at the closest branch to the border).

Exiting Bangladesh overland is complicated by red tape – if you enter by air, you require a road permit (or ‘change of route’ permit) to leave by land.

To apply for visa extensions and change of route permits you will need to visit the Immigration and Passport Office Agargaon Rd; Sat-Thu in Dhaka or visit www.dip.gov.bd site

Some travellers have reported problems exiting Bangladesh overland with the visa issued on arrival at Dhaka airport.

BHUTAN

Phuentsholing is the main entry and exit point between India and Bhutan.

All non-Indian nationals need a Bhutanese visa to enter the country and are required to book a tour with a registered tour operator in Bhutan; this can be done directly through an officiated travel agency abroad.

As entry requirements need advance planning and are subject to change, we recommend you consult a travel agent or Bhutanese embassy for up-to-the-minute details.

NEPAL

Political and weather conditions permitting, there are five land border crossings between India and Nepal. Check the current security status before crossing into Nepal; local newspapers and websites are good sources of information.

Travelers entering Nepal may purchase 15day (US$25), one-month (US$40) or three-month (US$100) multiple-entry visas at the border. Payment is in US dollars and you need two recent passport photos. Alternatively, obtain a visa in advance from a Nepalese mission

Travelers have reported being harassed crossing into India at the Sunauli border and having to pay inflated prices for bus and train tickets. Consider taking a taxi to Gorakpur and getting a train or bus from there.

CROSSING INTO NEPAL
Border Hours:

The border is open 24 hours but closes to vehicles at 10pm, and if you arrive in the middle of the night you may have to wake someone to get stamped out of India. Foreign Exchange There’s nowhere to change money in Sunauli, but there are foreign-exchange places just across the border on the Nepal side. Small denominations of Indian currency are accepted for bus fares on the Nepal side.

Onward Transport Buses and shared jeeps leave all day until around 8pm from the Nepal side of the border for Kathmandu (NRs500, six hours) and Pokhara (NRs500, eight hours).

A taxi to Kathmandu costs around NRs15,000. Shared auto rickshaws or jeeps (NRs10) can take you from the border to Bhairawa, 4km away, where you can also catch buses to Kathmandu and Pokhara for the same prices, as well as to Buddha’s birthplace, Lumbini (NRs35, one hour).

Visas Multiple-entry visas (15-/30-/60-day US$25/40/100 – cash, not rupees) are available at the immigration post just across the border. You will need two recent passport photos. At the time of research, travelers leaving India were being prevented from re-entering within two months. Some travelers reported being able to get round this rule by showing proof of an imminent international flight leaving from an Indian city. Others reported being able to pay (US$10) the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu for special dispensation to re-enter earlier.

GET VISA FOR NEPAL
Entering Nepal

Nepal makes things easy for foreign travelers. Visas are available on arrival at the international airport in Kathmandu and at all land border crossings that are open to foreigners, as long as you have passport photos to hand and can pay the visa fee in foreign currency (some crossings insist on payment in US dollars). Your passport must be valid for at least six months and you will need a whole free page for your visa.

<h5>Customs Regulations</h5>

All baggage is X-rayed on arrival and departure, though it’s a pretty haphazard process. In addition to the import and export of drugs, customs is concerned with the illegal export of antiques.

You may not import Nepali rupees, and only nationals of Nepal and India may import Indian currency.

There are no other restrictions on bringing in either cash or travelers cheques, but the amount taken out at departure should not exceed the amount brought in.

Officially you should declare cash or travelers cheques in excess of US$2000, or the equivalent, but no one seems to bother with this, and it is laxly enforced.

Antiques

Customs’ main concern is preventing the export of antique works of art, and with good reason: Nepal has been a particular victim of international art theft over the last 20 years.

It is very unlikely that souvenirs sold to travelers will be antique (despite the claims of the vendors), but if there is any doubt, they should be cleared and a certificate obtained from the Department of Archaeology in central Kathmandu’s National Archives building. If you visit the department between 10am and 1pm, you should be able to pick up a certificate by 5pm the same day. These controls also apply to the export of precious and semiprecious stones.

Visas

All foreigners, except Indians, must have a visa. Nepali embassies and consulates overseas issue visas with no fuss. You can also get one on the spot when you arrive in Nepal, either at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport or at road borders at Nepalganj, Birganj/Raxaul Bazaar, Sunauli, Kakarbhitta, Mahendranagar, Dhangadhi and even the funky Kodari checkpoint on the road to Tibet.

A Nepali visa is valid for entry for three to six months from the date of issue. Children under 10 require a visa but are not charged a visa fee. Your passport must have at least six months of validity. Citizens of South Asian countries (except India) and China need visas, but, if you’re only entering once in a calender year then these are free.

You can download a visa application form from the websites of the Nepali embassy in Washington, DC (www.nepalembassyusa.org) or London www.nepembassy.org.uk

To obtain a visa upon arrival by air in Nepal you must fill in an application form and provide a passport photograph. Visa application forms are available on a table in the arrivals hall, though some airlines provide this form on the flight. For people with electronic passports there are now visa registration machines in the immigration hall which, after inserting your passport, will automatically fill out the visa form for you. However you do it, getting through immigration can take up to an hour, depending on the numbers.

A single-entry visa valid for 15/30/90 days costs US$25/40/100.

At Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport the fee is payable in any major currency, but at land borders officials require payment in cash US dollars; bring small bills. We haven’t yet heard of it happening to anyone else but the last time we entered Nepal by air and asked for a ninety day visa we were also asked to show our driving license.

Multiple-entry visas are useful if you are planning a side trip to Tibet, Bhutan or India. You can change your single-entry visa to a multiple-entry visa at Kathmandu’s Central Immigration Office for US$20.

Don’t overstay your visa. You can pay a fine of US$3 per day at the airport if you have overstayed less than 30 days (plus a US$2 per day visa extension fee), but it’s far better to get it all sorted out in advance at Kathmandu’s Central Immigration Office, as a delay could cause you to miss your flight.

It’s a good idea to keep a number of passport photos with your passport so they are immediately handy for trekking permits, visa applications and other official documents.

Indian Visas & Re-entry Endorsements in Nepal

Many travelers get an Indian visa in Nepal but it’s not a straightforward process. Visa applications must be made at the India Visa Service Center, at the State Bank of India to the right of the embassy, not at the embassy itself. Applications are accepted only between 9.30am and midday but it pays to get there earlier than 9.30am so as to be one of the first people in line. You will need a printed copy of the completed online visa form https://indianvisaonline.gov.in, your passport, a copy of your passport info pages and a copy of your Nepalese visa. You will also need two 51mm x 51mm passport photos (this is larger than a standard passport photo but most passport photo places in Kathmandu know about Indian visa regulations), and the visa fee. Five working days later you will need to return to the embassy between 9.30am and 1pm with your passport and visa payment receipt. You will likely have to answer a few questions confirming your visa application details. At this point you will leave your passport with the embassy. The following working day you can collect your passport between 5-5.30pm – hopefully with a shiny, new Indian tourist visa in it.

Visa fees for a six month tourist visa vary depending on nationality but for most nationalities it’s Rs 4350. However, for Japanese passport holders it’s a mere Rs 1050, for US passport holders the fee is Rs 6450 and for UK passport holders it’s a whooping Rs 13,600.

Transit visas (Rs 2300 for most nationalities) are issued the same day, but start from the date of issue and are non-extendable.

Visa Extensions

Visa extensions are available from immigration offices in Kathmandu and Pokhara only and cost a minimum US$30 (payable in rupees only) for a 15-day extension, plus US$2 per day after that. To extend for 30 days is US$50 and to extend a multiple-entry visa add on US$20. If you’ll be in Nepal for more than 60 days you are better off getting a 90-day visa on arrival, rather than a 60-day visa plus an extension.

Every visa extension requires your passport, the fee, one photo and an application form which must be completed online first. One of the questions on this online application form asks for your Nepalese street address with house/building number. As anyone who spends more than a few days in Kathmandu will know house numbers are very rarely used and just as rarely known. In fact most places don’t have one. The computer system will throw a bit of a paddy if you don’t fill this part in so if you don’t know the number then we’d suggest getting creative and adding your favorite number. Nobody other than the computer system really seems to care if you do this. Collect all these documents together before you join the queue; plenty of photo shops in Kathmandu and Pokhara can make a set of eight digital passport photos for around Rs 250.

Visa extensions are available the same day, normally within two hours, though some travelers have paid an extra Rs 300 fee to get their extensions within 10 minutes. For a fee, trekking and travel agencies can assist with the visa-extension process and save you the time and tedium of queuing.

You can extend a tourist visa up to a total stay of 150 days within a calendar year, though as you get close to that maximum you’ll have to provide an air ticket to show you’re leaving the country.

You can get up-to-date visa information at the website of the Department of Immigration www.nepalimmigration.gov.np

PAKISTAN

Given the rocky relationship between India and Pakistan, crossing by land depends on the current state of relations between the two countries – check locally.

If the crossings are open, you can reach Pakistan from Delhi, Amritsar (Punjab) and Rajasthan by bus or train. The bus route from Srinagar to Pakistan-administered Kashmir is currently only open to Indian citizens.

You must have a visa to enter Pakistan; it’s easiest to obtain this from the Pakistan mission in your home country.

Previously, the Pakistan embassy (www.mofa.gov.pk/india; 2/50G Shantipath, Chanakyapuri) in Delhi was issuing 90-day tourist visas for most nationalities in around five days, but at the time of writing tourist visas were not being granted. This may well change again.

If you do apply within India, you’ll need a letter of recommendation from your home embassy as well as the usual application forms and two passport photos.

India–Pakistan Border at Attari–Wagah People come to the border, 30km west of Amritsar, for two reasons: to enjoy the late afternoon border-closing ceremony or to use the crossing between India and Pakistan. Return taxis (official ones have yellow number plates) from Amritsar to the border cost around ₹800 to ₹950 and take about one hour (price includes waiting time). Shared taxis (return per person ₹85) also run to the border-closing ceremony from the dining-hall entrance to the Golden Temple. They leave about two hours before the ceremony starts and squeeze in eight passengers. You can travel to the border by auto rickshaw but you run the risk of being stopped by the police, as it’s illegal for auto rickshaws to travel beyond Amritsar’s city precincts.

Also, the local train to Attari will leave you 2km from the action with few options other than walking to get to the border. By far and away the easiest option is to take a trip organized by a hotel. Most hotels can arrange trips to the border; one reliable option is the Grand Hotel, which also takes non guests with advance notice.

GET VISA FOR PAKISTAN
Entering Pakistan

General Requirements for All Visa Types:

Duly filled in Visa Form.

Original passport along with photocopy of passport (of first four pages). Passport should be valid for minimum period of six months.

Two recent passport size colored photographs (with white background)

Reference letter from your present employer. If self-employed, any document proving your status as such.

Letter of invitation from Pakistan or telephone number & address of contact person in Pakistan.

Personal Bank Statement for the last six months, duly signed & stamped by the Bank.

Travel itinerary.

Addresses both in Pakistan and in your country should be provided.

For minors, both parent’s consent duly attested by J.P is required for processing visa for children. Certified copy of child’s birth certificate must be provided also.

Persons traveling on Diplomatic / Official passports are required to attach Note Verbal from DFAT.

Any other document(s) that can be helpful in processing of the visa application.

For additional requirements please see the details of required Visa category.

Afghan Nationals / Origin:

Normal visa processing time is 4-6 weeks.

Complete filled in visa application form along with two passport size photographs.

Photocopy of passport.

Copy of Visa Grant Notice in case of Afghan passport.

Self-addressed return envelope.

Money order of fee.

Certified copy of birth certificate in case of minor.

Parent’s (father and mother) consent dully attested by Justice of Peace.

Invitation letter from Pakistan.

Copy of Pakistani ID (both sides) of invitee.

Copy of any utility bill (electricity or gas), having same address as on Pakistani ID of invitee.

In case the invitee is not a Pakistani national copy of passport, Pakistani visa or refugee card may be provided.

Visa application are randomly selected for clearance from Pakistan, which may prolong the processing time, once clearance is issued the applicant will be informed accordingly.

All the documents are mandatory if any document is missing the visa application will be sent back to the applicant.

Visa request could be refused without giving any reasons.

Visitor / Tourist Visa:

If the Visa Officer will be satisfied about the purpose of a visit, appropriate visa will be issued to a visitor or a tourist holding passport.

Copy of return air ticket.

Visitor Visa Fee:
Australian Nationals

Single Entry $70.00

Multiple Entry $140.00(1 year only)

Transit Visa $70.00

Pakistani Dual Nationals

Single Entry $70.00

Double or Multiple Entry $140.00

Transit Visa $70.00

Copy of any Pakistani id (Pakistani Passport, CNIC/NICOP).

British Nationals

Single Entry $180.00

Multiple Entry $585.00(1 year)

Fijian Nationals

Single Entry $10.00

Indian Nationals

Single Entry $16.00

NOTE:- Nationals of countries other than above should contact the High Commission for their Visa eligibility , processing time and Fee.

Additional documents for Business Visa:

Following documents should be attached with the visa application:

Letter of invitation attested by the Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Pakistan or any other recognized body.

A letter from your Company on its letter head, attested by the Chambers of Commerce or Trade Agency of Australia.

Business visa fee:
Australian Nationals

Single Entry (Business) $105.00

Multiple Entry (Business) $210.00(1 year)

British Nationals

Single Entry (Business) $270.00

Multiple Entry (Business) $880.00(1 year)

Fijian Nationals
Indian Nationals

NOTE:- Nationals of countries other than above should contact the High Commission for their Visa eligibility , processing time and Fee.

Further information please visit www.interior.gov.pk

Additional Requirements for Journalist/Media Person Visa:

Journalists/Media persons applying for visa may kindly follow the same procedure as given above and should also fill-in the additional visa application form meant for Journalist / Media Persons.

Letter from the employer detailing the purpose of the visit.

Small summary of assignment to be undertaken in Pakistan.

Included places of visit in Pakistan.

The Media team is advised to intimate their program in Pakistan to the Director General, External Publicity Wing, Islamabad, on email address dgepwing@gmail.com and on Mobile:+92 300 855 1013 Landline:+9251 9252 163.

Visa Fee for Journalists/Media Personnel:
Australian Nationals

Single Entry $105.00

Multiple Entry $210.00(1year)

British Nationals

Single Entry $270.00

Multiple Entry $880.00(1 year)

Multiple visa fee mentioned above is for up to 1 year validity visa only.

Additional Non-Government Organization (NGO) Visa:

Introductory Letter from the employer in Australia and the purpose of the visit.

An invitation letter from the NGO concerned, based in Pakistan.

Visa fee for Australian Nationals

Single Entry $105.00

Multiple Entry $210.00(1 year)

British Nationals

Single Entry $270.00

Multiple Entry $880.00(1 year)

Multiple visa fee mentioned above is for up to 1 year validity visa only.

Visa For Non – Australians/Fijians:

Applicants holding passports other than Australia/ Fiji Passport should provide proof of their residential status in Australia/Fiji. Their passports must contain the appropriate entry. All others should apply for visa in their country of origin.

Visa for Indian Nationals:

Indian passport holders with resident status of Australia have to fill four visa application forms , meant exclusively for them.

Provide four colored passport size photographs.

Original signatures on each form.

Applicants should give complete verifiable addresses of the relatives / sponsors in Pakistan.

Application should in particular indicate port of entry as well as details of previous visits to Pakistan, if any.

If applicant had visited Pakistan earlier, copies of the previous visas issued may be enclosed.

Indian Nationals

Single Entry $16.00

Mode of Payment:

In case of High Commission for Pakistan, Canberra, POSTAL MONEY ORDER / CERTIFIED BANK CHEQUE / BANK DRAFT in favor of “High Commission for Pakistan, Canberra”. In case of Consulate General of Pakistan, Sydney, all types of Credit / Debit Cards are also accepted for payment. No Cash will be accepted.

Important Notes:

Applicants sending their documents through mail should invariably enclose a pre-paid, registered / courier envelope.

Visa is liable to be cancelled if information requested in the Form is withheld or found to be incorrect.

You should apply for Visa in your respective countries of residence.

Visa processing time is 4-6 weeks. Delays, however, can occur due to circumstances beyond the High Commission’s control, especially if additional documentation is required or where a reference has to be made to Pakistan.

Visa Fee is subject to periodical revision without notice.

Visa Fee is charged per person and not per passport. If children are endorsed in the passport, additional fee will be charged.

In some cases, Foreign Nationals applying on Travel Document may be considered for issuance of visa. They need to provide all normal requirements; in addition they may provide reference/attestation inter-alia of invitees/address in Pakistan. Verification of address may be attested by a Pakistani Gazetted Officer, Notary Public etc.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s Travel Health Pro website.

Traveling with children

A single parent or other adult who is not the child’s parent may need to provide documentary evidence of parental responsibility, particularly if the child is of Pakistani origin, before the immigration authorities will allow the child to leave the country.

Exit requirements

All passengers leaving Pakistan must have a valid visa, a Pakistani national identity card or a valid Pakistani passport. If you are traveling on a British passport and your visa has expired you may not be allowed to board your flight. In these circumstances you should contact the Ministry of Interior to get an exit visa. A fine may also be payable.

If you’re visiting Pakistan for more than 4 weeks, you may need to provide proof of polio vaccination when you leave Pakistan.

CROSSING INTO PAKISTAN

Border Hours The border is open from 10am to 4pm daily, but get there at least half an hour before it closes. Foreign Exchange There’s a State Bank of India (h10am-5pm Mon-Sat) which exchanges currency, but it’s a tiny branch so play it safe and change money in Amritsar. Onward Transport From Wagah (Pakistan) there are buses and taxis to Lahore, 30km away. Sleeping & Eating If you have to stay overnight, there’s the Aman Umeed Tourist Complex (Wagah border; r from ₹1500; a), which has just three rooms and a restaurant (mains ₹90 to ₹190). There are small stalls selling snacks and cold drinks. Visas Visas are theoretically available at the Pakistan embassy in Delhi; however, travelers are strongly urged to apply for a visa in their home country, where the process is usually more straightforward

BORDERLINE ENTERTAINMENT

Every late afternoon, just before sunset, members of the Indian and Pakistani military meet at the border to engage in a 30-minute display of pure theater. The flag-lowering, closing-of-the-border ceremony is a fusion of orderly colonial-style pomp, comical goose-stepping and, considering the two countries’ rocky relationship, stunning demonstration of harmony. So popular is this event, that grandstands have been specially constructed to accommodate the patriotic throngs. The ceremony starts at around 4.15pm in winter and 5.15pm in summer (but double- check, given that timings vary according to sunset). Cameras are permitted (free) but bags, large and small, are banned (although this is haphazardly enforced). It’s worth getting here early to avoid the stampede when the crowd charges along the chicken run leading to the grandstands. It’s about a 10-minute walk from where vehicles drop you to the seating area. Foreigners are allowed to sit at the front stalls (behind the VIP area, which is closest to the border). Prior to the ceremony, the stony-faced soldiers mill about with the air of self-conscious debutantes and the real action is that of the spectators, some parading the Indian flag. Loud music and a compère pump up the crowd’s patriotic fervor. The Pakistanis are equally vociferous, except during Ramadan, when their stands are noticeably quieter. Then, with a bellow from the guardroom, a squad stomps out, shoulders square, mustaches twirled and eyes bulging. The drill is to parade up and down as dramatically as possible, preceded by a kick so high the soldier looks in danger of concussing himself. The high-octane march to the border, vaguely reminiscent of Monty Python’s ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’ sketch, rouses thunderous applause from the audience and repetitive chants of ‘Hindustan zindabad!’ (Long live India!). The gates are flung open and commanding officers of both countries shake hands and salute (blink and you’ll miss it). Then, the flags of both countries are simultaneously lowered and folded and the gates slammed shut. The border is now closed for the night.

CROSSING INTO BANGLADESH, BHUTAN & NEPAL

To/From Bangladesh A number of private agencies in Siliguri, including Shyamoli (Hotel Central Plaza complex, Hill Cart Rd) run a daily AC bus direct to Dhaka (₹800, 16 hours), departing at 1.30pm. You’ll need to complete border formalities at Chengrabandha.

Regular buses go from the Tenzing Norgay Central Bus Terminal to Chengrabandha (₹42) starting from 7.30am. The border post is open from 8am to 6pm daily. From near the border post you can catch buses on to Rangpur, Bogra and Dhaka. Visas for Bangladesh can be obtained in Kolkata and New Delhi.

To/From Bhutan Bhutan Transport Services run three daily buses from just outside the central bus terminal to Phuentsholing (₹75, departs 7.15am, noon and 2pm), and there are many more local buses to Jaigaon on the Indian side of the border, where you clear Indian immigration. Non-Indian nationals need visa clearance from a Bhutanese tour operator to enter Bhutan. See www.tourism.gov.bt for details.

To/From Nepal For Nepal, local buses pass the Tenzing Norgay Central Bus Terminal every 15 minutes for the border town of Panitanki (₹20, one hour). Share jeeps to Kakarbhitta (₹70) are readily available in Siliguri.

The Indian border post in Panitanki is offcially open 24 hours and the Nepali post in Kakarbhitta is open from 7am to 7pm. Onward from Kakarbhitta there are numerous buses to Kathmandu (17 hours) and other destinations. Bhadrapur Airport, 23km southwest of Kakarbhitta, has regular flights to Kathmandu (US$147) on Yeti Airlines www.yetiairlines.com, Buddha Air www.buddhaair.com or Agni Air www.agniair.com.

Visas for Nepal can be obtained at the border (bring two passport photos), in Kolkata or New Delhi

STAYING SAFE
1. If your passport is lost or stolen immediately contact your country’s representative
2. Keep photocopies of your airline ticket, the identity and visa pages of your passport and insurance in case of emergency.
3. Better yet scan and email copies to yourself.
4. Check with the Indian embassy in your home country for any special conditions that may exist for your nationality.
5. Bring 8 passport photos in case of need.
 

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