Young Kathmandu Monks

How do you actually get from A to B whilst backpacking, and what problems will you encounter? Here I recall a journey from Kathmandu in Nepal, across the border into India and then to Dharamsala in the north-west of India.

Travel Plans

Mcleod Ganj

My three-month Nepali visa was ending – three months is the maximum visa length attainable for Nepal without extensions – and with only two months left on a six-month Indian visa, it was time to leave Nepal and head to India. Mcleod Ganj, Dharamsala in the north of India was the target, the town of the Dalai Lama. The plan: get a taxi to the bus station in Kathmandu, catch a bus to the Nepali border, which would take around twelve hours, then cross the border, catch a bus to Gorakpur in India, then catch a train to Delhi. From Delhi take a train to Patankot in the north of Punjab, then catch a bus all the way to Mcleod Ganj.

Indian Train Classes

The trains in India all have sleeper sections so this makes travelling there easy. Make sure you book early if you want to get a sleeper. The sleeper categories are, 2AC: two-tier bunks with air-conditioning, 3AC: three-tier bunks with air-conditioning, and 3rd sleeper which is three-tier bunks with fans and windows you can open.

Asia Travel, Not Without a Hitch

Gorakpur Train Station

Travelling in Asia is wrought with problems; it’s a valuable lesson to deal with these problems calmly; they all make for funny stories even if at the time it’s just not funny at all. So in typical Asian style when I arrive at the bus station in Kathmandu I am told there is a strike, and there are no buses all day. However, a night bus, leaving at 7pm? I booked myself on this and spent twelve hours sitting in a bus station. In situations like this books are invaluable, as are MP3 players. Around the bus station there are plenty of restaurants and shops to buy snacks for the journey.

Travelling, Doing Something Whilst Not Doing Anything

Kathmandu Roof Tops - Nepal

The bus left at 7pm, and arrived at 7am. Sleep – check. Snack – check. Drink – check. Border – check. Border towns are always full of hustle and bustle. On the India side you can find many money changers to buy some Indian rupees. Rickshaw drivers will offer to take you to the bus station, but it’s not really worth it since it’s only 200 meters down the road – they will however tell you it’s around 2km. On to Gorakpur, the first city in India from the ever-popular Sonouli border. From here you can catch trains all over India, with changes in Delhi for the longer journeys south. There are many trains to Delhi from this station, just make sure you book as early as you can; you can even book your tickets in Nepal. My train was leaving the next day, so I took the first cheap room I found in Gorakpur. Facing the train station are quite a few hotels decent enough. Most hotels there operate on a midday checkout, so if you don’t want to be charged an extra day’s rent for just a few hours make sure you check out before midday; a few hours in the train station isn’t such a bad thing. Train station restaurants are often great, offering an Indian set meal (thali) for around 50US cents.

Delhi – Arriving by Train

Sunrise Over Kathmandu Roof Tops

In India, you just got to roll with the punches when something goes wrong. As the train approaches Delhi it will seem as though it’s almost arrived for around 10km; it will slow down and the city builds up the closer to the centre you get. Most trains I have taken into Delhi terminate in Delhi. It’s worth asking if this is the case for any train you’re on. This way you can relax up until the last minute.

There are two main stations in Delhi: Old Delhi and New Delhi. New Delhi is the goal for most travellers since directly opposite is the start of Paharganj, the main bazaar area where you can find all manner of cheap hotels and hostels. I checked into Ever Green Guest House at the opposite end of Paharganj to the train station. Even if you have a train leaving that same day, it is sometimes worth it to get a room and take a shower. Summer in Delhi is a tough time to be there. The main bazaar area has all you could need – restaurants, fruit stalls and souvenir shops. It’s an easy place to navigate, also. If you get lost just ask for New Delhi train station. The train that evening – delayed by twelve hours, then by a further four more. Some train lines are wrought with delays; it’s worth asking a few travel agents about the lines you plan on travelling on. Some of the delays are even quite regular so you can plan around them beforehand.

With delays a common feature in Asia, be sure your journey can take a few hits here and there. Allowing leeway for such things will make your travelling much more enjoyable, and even save you from missing a flight, which is the one thing you don’t want to miss.