Indo-Nepal Friendship Bus – Siliguri to Kathmandu

Indo-Nepal Bus

The India–Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950 forms the cornerstone of the special bond between the two nations of Nepal and India which ensures that citizens of both nations rely on each other and enjoy similar advantages, facilities, and opportunities, nearly equivalent to those available to their own citizens.

To bolster people-to-people connectivity, the “Indo-Nepal Motor Vehicle Agreement 2014” initiative has approved 13 road routes between India and Nepal. Among these routes, the Siliguri to Kathmandu route stands as the 11th, inaugurated by Firhad Hakim, the State Transport Minister, on July, 2022. Operated jointly by a private bus operators –  Urban Paribahan Services Private Limited and the North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC) – the Siliguri-Kakkarvitta-Kathmandu Greenline bus service aims to foster regional tourism and strengthen peer-to-peer relations.

Covering a distance of 488 kilometers, the bus departs from Siliguri at 1500 HRS and arrives at Swayambhunath Bus Park, Kathmandu, by 0800 HRS the following day (subject to local road conditions, making it a 17-hour road trip). The Siliguri to Kathmandu Friendship Bus originates from the Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminus in Siliguri, West Bengal, terminating at the Swayambhunath Bus Park in Kathmandu, and vice versa.

On the Indian side, the route extends through the expanding suburbs of Siliguri, along the newly built Asian Highway, passing through Bagdogra, Naxalbari, and undergoing evening border formalities at Panitanki by Indian Customs and Army. After crossing the Mechi Bridge (No Man’s Land), passengers undergo currency exchange aboard the bus, with INR being exchanged for NNP (INR100 for NNP 157). It’s important to note that post-demonetization, INR currency above INR 100.00 is prohibited in Nepal.

This section of the highway received economic assistance from the Indian government for its construction, starting in 1966 and concluding in 1971. Mechinagar, located in southeastern Nepal, lies on the Nepal-India border, delineated by the expansive Mechi River, a tributary of the Mahananda River.

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The AC Volvo9600 (semi-sleeper) bus with its large windows and 2*2 seat configuration, equipped with cushion seatings, padded headrests, cushioned leg rests, and charge points, provides a comfortable journey, allowing passengers to observe Nepal’s rapid development strides along the road. From super speciality eyes hospitals to Casino Resorts and the super mart Bhatbhateni at  Itahari , in the fleeting dusk.

Moving from Mechinagar (Kakarvitta), the highway offers a relatively smooth journey covering 108 kilometers to Itahari. Itahari serves as a vital road junction, connecting Biratnagar to the south on the Nepal-India border, and Dharan and Dhankuta to the north. Approximately 42 kilometers from Itahari lies the Koshi Barrage, traversed by the Mahendra Highway between Bhardaha and Bhantabari, where the bus stops for a tea and restroom break.

We hurtle onwards towards the darkness and bumps on the road is well absorbed by the Volvos’ suspensions. Dinner done, the bus makes just a few more cursory toilet halts on the Tribhuwan Highway,  before breaking up for hot steaming tea and snacks at Naubisey before making the final 30 kms run into Kathmandu which presently takes forever due to the roads being built , doubled by the heavy traffic up and down the hill side.

Siliguri to Kathmandu Bus

To secure a seat on the Indo-Nepal Friendship Bus, you have several options:

Online Booking: I got mine from Redbus

Rate : INR 2000.00 or NNP 3,200.00

NOTE: I added another INR 29.00 as accidental insurance

Booking Agencies: Travel agencies or ticket booking offices in Siliguri may facilitate the purchase of bus tickets for the journey to Kathmandu. These agencies often handle bookings for various bus operators and can assist you in securing your seat.

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Directly at the Bus Station: You can visit the bus station in Siliguri, where the Friendship Bus departs, and purchase your ticket directly from the ticket counter or the bus operator’s office.

  • Tenzing Norgay Bus Counter: Siliguri : +91-9002227093
  • Swayambhunath Bus Park, Kathmandu : +977-9863025726

Regarding travel details:

Travel Time: The journey from Siliguri to Kathmandu typically spans around 12 to 14 hours, depending on factors such as road conditions and border crossing procedures.

Check-In One Hour Before Scheduled Departure: The passengers are requested to report at the Terminal at least 30 minutes  before the scheduled departure of the bus. Reservation will be cancelled if the passenger fails to report for check-in well in time.

Border Crossing: Passengers must undergo immigration and customs procedures at the Kakarbhitta border crossing between India and Nepal. Ensure you carry all necessary travel documents, including a valid passport and any required visas. Photo-Identity proof issued by respective Government authority like Passport , Voter Identity card for undertaking the journey. Passengers other than Indian or Nepali Nationality are required to have valid Passport and Visa for undertaking the journey.

Indo-Nepal Mechi Bridge

Baggage: Maximum weighing up to 25 kg. is permissible along with one shoulder bag.

Food/Refreshment: The bus provides one pet bottle mineral water but will halt at designated halts where the passengers can have food/refreshment at their own cost.

India Nepal - Siliguri to Kathmandu Bus Dinner Stop

It is advisable to book your ticket in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, to secure availability. I got mine 3 days prior to travel date and in fact could choose my seat ( #4 on Siliguri to Kathmandu)On way back , seats were more free so tried their bask seat # 36, which wasn’t a bad experience at all too . Additionally, confirm the departure time and any other pertinent details with the bus operator or booking agency before your travel date.

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This trip highlighted the significance of travel in overcoming both temporal and spatial barriers. It reminded me that distance should never hinder the maintenance of relationships or the cultivation of meaningful connections. Reuniting with my school friends in Nepal after more than two decades proved to be an incredibly fulfilling experience. Despite the years that had passed and the distance that separated us, our camaraderie remained as strong as ever. This reunion wasn’t merely about catching up; it served as a testament to the enduring bonds we had formed during our formative years. Moreover, it demonstrated how travel can offer an affordable and accessible avenue for reigniting old friendships and reminiscing about cherished moments from the past.

Upon reflection, I feel compelled to encourage others from our region to take advantage of similar travel opportunities. Whether it’s for organizing family or friends reunions, embarking on religious pilgrimages, or simply enjoying leisurely tours to Nepal, such journeys provide not only affordability but also invaluable opportunities to strengthen bonds and create enduring memories.

I firmly believe that by embracing cross-border travel opportunities, we can transcend physical limitations and enrich our lives through shared experiences and connections. In doing so, we not only bridge geographical divides but also foster a deeper sense of community and solidarity within our region.

Writes: Siddarth Pradhan

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