During my trips to Nepal over the past three years, I have taken different routes to enter and exit. My first entry was through Banbasa – Bhimdutta (Mahendranagar) border and I exited via air. Later, I entered by a flight and exited through land via Banbasa border. Most recently, I entered Nepal via Sunauli – Belahiya border and exited via Kakarvitta – Panitanki border.
Out of six overland routes between India and Nepal, Sunauli — also spelt Sonauli — is one of the most popular routes due to its close distance from Lumbini — the birthplace of Lord Buddha, Chitwan National Park, and cities like Pokhara and Kathmandu.
My previous guides on entering Nepal from India remain popular among visitors and in this article, I will describe how I entered Nepal from India via Sunauli – Belahiya border. Like my previous guides, this guide focuses both on Indian and foreign visitors.
Sunauli is a typical small border town on the Indian side. To reach the border town, one has to reach Gorakhpur — the closest city with direct bus connectivity to Sunauli. Gorakhpur is well-connected with the rest of India by air, rail, and road.
Taking a train is the easiest option to reach Gorakhpur. You can look up trains to Gorakhpur Junction online or book tickets through a travel agent. It’s wise to book your tickets in advance to avoid last-minute rush and there are high chances of trains already being full by the time you book. In that case, you can book a Tatkal ticket which is a pricier option and these tickets can’t be booked more than 24 hours before the departure of the train.
If you are unable to score a reservation, you might want to board a train to travel in the ‘general’ class and make your journey more exciting. In this case, you can purchase a general class ticket from a ticket counter at any railway station.
Taking a bus to reach Gorakhpur is also possible, although it may be tiring and take more time. I am not sure where you will be dropped if you arrive in a bus and you will have to find your way to the point from where buses to Sunauli depart.
There is also a domestic airport in Gorakhpur and depending where you are in India, you may want to consider taking a flight. The Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport in Lucknow and Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport in Varanasi are the nearest international airports. If you chose to land at any of these two airports, you can take a train or bus to reach Gorakhpur and continue towards Sunauli.
Reaching Sunauli from Gorakhpur
Sunauli can be easily reached from Gorakhpur in a local bus. The bus depot is located less than 10 minutes on foot from Gorakhpur railway station.
From Gorakhpur Junction railway station, continue walking towards the main road and find the statue of Maharana Pratap on his horse Chetak (the 13th king of Mewar or present-day Rajasthan, whom they refer to as the ‘man on the horse’ on some blogs).
With the statue in front of you and railway station at your back, turn left and continue walking straight. You should see a number of buses on the side of the road. Ask a few people around for a bus to Sunauli. Have a look at the following map which shows an estimated location of the point from where you will find a bus to Sonauli.
The first time I crossed this border, I had reached Gorakhpur in the evening time and waited about an hour before the bus came. I used this time to enjoy some biryani at a small place nearby.
It takes between four to five hours to reach Sunauli in a bus.
Travel tip: Whether you are coming to Gorakhpur via air, train or bus, plan your trip in a way that you arrive during the day time and reach Sonouli by sunset to avoid any trouble during the night time. If you arrive at night, avoid staying in Sonauli and cross the border to find a bus.
Crossing the Sunauli-Belahiya Border
When I crossed this border the first time, it was around 11 pm by the time I reached Sunauli. I had no idea if I would find a bus to Pokhara. I decided to follow some Nepali and Indians who walked straight towards the border right after getting off the bus. The second time, I managed to reach Sunauli in the noon time.
The border gate is open 24 hours for those who are crossing on foot. From what I have read, you will have to wait until 6 am if you are crossing in a vehicle after 10 pm.
Travel Tip: Do not pay attention to anyone who offers you to buy a bus ticket on the Indian side of the border. Get a bus once you cross the border.
For Indian Nationals
Indian nationals do not need a visa to enter Nepal. They can simply walk through the gate. Even though a visa is not required, you should carry your passport or election card along and show it to an officer if asked. Remember that Aadhar card is not a valid document to travel to Nepal.
If no one asked you for your documents, just continue walking further and reach Belahiya bus park.
For Foreign Nationals
After reaching the Sonauli bus stop, find the Indian immigration check post and get your exit stamp. Ask someone for the exact location of the check post. You have to walk back a few minutes to get to this office from the bus stop.
After getting your exit stamp from the Indian side, continue walking through the India-Nepal border gate and find the Nepal immigration office on your right. Fill a form, pay for your visa in USD, and get a stamp on your passport.
Keep in mind that although Nepal’s immigration website mentions that they accept other currencies, too, Nepali immigration check posts insist on U.S. Dollars. Make sure to carry some USD (and passport size photos) with you. If you do not have USD, you may be able to exchange some Indian or Nepali cash near these checkpoints at non-official rates.
After finishing these exit and entry formalities in India and Nepal, you can continue walking further in search of a bus.
After Reaching Belahiya, Nepal
From Belahiya, you will find buses to your next destination. There are ticket windows where you can buy a ticket and wait until the bus is ‘reasonably full’ to depart. I was able to find a direct bight bus to Kathmandu during my second entry from this border.
On my first entry when I had reached Belahiya late at night, I was approached by a driver who asked me where I wanted to go. I wasn’t sure if I would find any bus at this time so I took my chances and told him I wanted to go to Pokhara. The driver dropped me and some other passengers a few kilometres away from where I found a bus towards Pokhara.
If you are unable to get a bus from Belahiya, you can find a shared car and reach Bhairawah bus park from where you will find direct or connecting buses towards your next destination.
Travel Tip: If you haven’t already been there, I suggest making a stop in Lumbini for a night or two. After Lumbini, you can go to Tansen for a couple of nights and from there, continue your journey further. Although I haven’t been there yet, you should also consider visiting Chitwan National Park.
Before you get a bus, it’s a good idea to exchange Indian and other currencies here. Keep in mind that denomination of 200 Indian Rupees and above is not legal tender in Nepal. Even though some shops do accept these currency notes, you should insist on carrying and accepting only 100 Rupees notes or below. Generally, it’s a good idea to stick to Nepali Rupees.
Entering Nepal via Sunauli-Belahiya Border: Summary
Entering Nepal from India via Sonauli – Belahiya border is a popular route for Indians, Nepali, and foreign visitors. To reach Sunauli, also spelt Sonauli, one should reach Gorakhpur and take a bus to reach the border town.
If you are a foreign national, you need to get exit stamp on the Indian side and cross the border on foot. Indian nationals do not need a visa and may walk thorough the gate to enter Nepal. Foreign nationals should get their visa on arrival from Nepal immigration office and pay the visa fee in USD.
After entering Belahiya, Nepal, you can find a bus to your next destination. I suggest you visit Lumbini and Tansen before you explore Nepal further.
That’d all, folks. This was a quick guide on how to enter Nepal from Sonauli on foot. I hope you found it useful and I would like to thank you for reading.
Have you crossed the Sonauli border to enter India or Nepal? How was your experience? Can this guide be improved? Do share your suggestions.