Author: Hugo Reiner
Having visited several dozen countries in the last few years, I’ve endured the process of applying for visas many times. One specific visa process stands out among the others.
Back in March 2012 I was in India for my very first time. After spending several weeks traveling throughout Northern India, it was finally time to make my way to the intriguing country of Nepal. Rather than fly to Nepal, I decided to travel by bus and crossover via its land border with India. This 11-hour journey proved to be a truly memorable adventure, let alone the bumpiest bus ride I’ve ever been on!
Prior to making the journey to Nepal, I spent my last few days in India in the mystical city of Varanasi, which is considered the spiritual capital of India. Varanasi is also one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities.
On the morning of my bus ride to Nepal, I had to wake up at the crack of dawn and board a bus just in time for the 5am departure from Varanasi. I sat in the front row of the bus to enjoy a better view, which turned out to be an unwise idea!
Sitting in the front row meant the view was extremely nauseating as the bus driver swerved all over the road very narrowly avoiding large trucks, people, bicycles, motorcycles, rickshaws, cows, goats, dogs, pigs, homes, and more. We even drove by some really horrifying accidents, including a head-on collision between two trucks.
On the upside, we drove through some of the most remote and unique villages I have ever seen! We also passed through beautiful fields of green where people were picking all kinds of crops. It was very interesting to get a glimpse of how people live in this area of India.
After several hours of taking in the views (and praying we’d make it alive), I somehow fell asleep for the rest of the journey, or so I thought. After 9 hours of nonstop driving the bus driver suddenly woke me up. He told me to gather my bags and get off the bus! I figured we must be in Nepal, but I was wrong. We were actually still in India, just five hundred feet away from the border. The driver told me that I would need to walk across the border on foot and meet a new bus on the Nepalese side of the border.
Just before walking across the border I had to make a quick visit to a small room on the side of the road where the Indian immigration authorities put an exit stamp in my passport. I then walked under a sign proclaiming that I was officially leaving India.
I was now in a strip of uncontrolled land in between India and Nepal, also known as no man’s land. I continued walking and went under a sign welcoming me to Nepal.
Once I entered Nepal my first stop was a small building on the side of the road. This is where I had to apply for a Nepalese visa. The process was quite interesting as I was quoted two prices for the visa. One price would mean that I would have to wait a while at the building to get the visa. The second price, with a built-in “convenience fee,” guaranteed the visa right away. The second price obviously made the most sense so I paid the few extra bucks for that option.
Once I was done with the unique visa process, I proceeded to board a much smaller bus than before. Even though the bus was practically falling apart, it served its purpose for the hour and thirty minute ride to the Nepalese city of Lumbini. On this new bus I also sat in the very front, which was literally next to the driver.
I was so happy when we finally reached Lumbini, which is the place where history holds that Siddhartha Buddha was born. In Lumbini I had the opportunity to visit the stone upon which Buddha was born in 623 BC. There were dozens of Sri Lankans making a spiritual pilgrimage to the stone, as well as Buddhist monks praying everywhere. The beauty of all the prayer flags hanging around the complex truly captivated me. It was a big change of scenery from India.
Throughout the next few weeks I traveled around Nepal and really enjoyed a large sampling of what this amazing country has to offer. Overall, it was worth enduring the 11-hour journey to get from India to Nepal! I would definitely do it again!
Hugo Reiner is a Miami based businessman and global adventurer.