As a part of the Great Himalayan Drive, I reached Banbassa on the Nepal border – my first international crossing by car. So what if it’s Nepal – Indians never regard Nepal as a ‘foreign’ country. Anyway, this is how I went over the line (Note: These rules are applicable only for Indian Nationals driving cars registered in India):
* Was asked to look for a blue box – a guy busy chatting on a mobile gave me a ‘parchi’ (ticket) for Rs. 35.
* Waited at Sharda Barrage – gates for 4-wheelers open from 6-7 am, 12-2 pm and 5-6 pm (6-7 pm in summers, months not defined). Pedestrians, cycles and anything else that can go through gate allowed all day. Rule goes back to British Raj days only here – all other border crossing points into Nepal are open all day.
* A market here has been set up mostly for those going into Nepal and needing to buy household goods, construction materials, groceries and even religious symbols.
* The border is full of people travelling between the two countries for personal reasons, work or religion (Hindus always seem to have some religious fair or event going on – and India and Nepal are full of holy spots)
* Gates open, drove across bridge on Mahakali river, handed over ‘parchi’ at check post and reached customs. They check car, make me get a customs declaration for my cameras and laptop (so I can re-export it duty free when I leave Nepal) and take a bribe of Rs. 100. Am I carrying any Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 bills? I am prepared for this – the rules do not allow these to be taken out of India. No, I said. “Are you sure? If yes, we can exchange these for smaller denominations. The police post further on might take it all away later,” the official emphasizes again. No, I reply confidently.
* The SSB (Shashastra Seema Bal), a border police, try their best to find something in my car to incriminate me – no luck. I am flagged off and touch Nepali soil.
* Have to get Nepal permit now. Charge Indian Rs. 300 per day of stay – must tell them in advance. Driving on an expired permit means I pay a penalty of Rs. 1,130 per day. I pay for 20 days, sent to a traffic guy who gives me another paper and a temporary number plate – he borrowed my pen, liked it, insisted he is going to keep it, I let him and also pay Rs. 50 fee and Rs. 50 ‘gift.’ No regrets about pen – ink was running low.
* A Nepali cop wants to go through all my bags – paid Rs. 100 to get him off my back.
* Sent to RTO for yet another paper – it was late evening and had to get guy from his home nearby. Paid Rs. 250 fee and I was home free.
Carry these papers with photocopies when you take your car to Nepal: Registration Certificate, Insurance, Driving Licence, Passport size photographs, Passport (not mandatory). Owner of car has to be in the car when it crosses over. Keep these papers and permits handy – there is a checkpost every few miles in Nepal.