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I am planning an overland bike journey across south Asia (beginning in Vietnam). I want to include India and Nepal in my trip. Because I'm travelling by bicycle it's difficult to include flights and I would much prefer routes that don't involve taking the bicycle apart and reassembling in the middle of an airport multiple times. I cannot travel to Bangladesh, Bhutan or Tibet (Bangladesh because I am a British citizen, Bhutan due to its requirement for a guide making transit through the country impossible, and Tibet due to the requirement for a tour). It is not advised to travel to Myanmar due to the civil unrest in the country, particularly in the rural areas.

Is there any other way to reach India without a plane? For example, is it possible to cross through the India-China border and go inbetween Bangladesh and Bhutan?

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    (Bangladesh because I am a British citizen) Err beg pardon? The single-entry visa for UK citizens costs 65 USD. visa.gov.bd You definitely can go to Bangladesh... OTOH biking in Bangladesh, maybe not...
    – dda
    Nov 11, 2023 at 14:16
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    Just for clarification, do you mean a motorbike or a (manual or electric) bicycle? I believe the latter given the “taking apart and reassembling”, but just to be sure…
    – jcaron
    Nov 11, 2023 at 15:10
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    @jcaron in light of the purpose for disassembling and reassembling being to bring it on a commercial flight, it can't be anything other than a bicycle.
    – phoog
    Nov 11, 2023 at 15:29
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    @phoog that’s my guess too, but I believe that’s not what dda understood, so I just wanted to make sure.
    – jcaron
    Nov 11, 2023 at 15:36
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    "Bangladesh because I am a British citizen" what now?
    – njzk2
    Nov 12, 2023 at 17:11

2 Answers 2

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The "only" border China has with India is in Xizang, aka Tibet, three different sections, from Himachal Pradesh in the west to Arunachal Pradesh in the east, at the northwest corner of Myanmar. The middle one is between Nepal and Bhutan, not Bangladesh.

Besides the Xizang tour requirement (and visit permit), there are other issues: bringing in and driving your bike – the International Driver's License is not recognized; no border crossing open, at least for non Chinese/Indian nationals (and even for them I think it's kind of a no-no right now). And they're dangerous passes in the Himalayas. And of course, if you were talking about a bicycle, sans motor, then forget about it... Dem's da Himalayas... Shipki La for instance is ~4,000 meters up. Low-oxygen, severe grades, etc...

Crossing into Myanmar used to be ok, at least in the south – eg in Myawaddy, which is a 6-hour ride to Yangon – but that's not safe right now. The northern part of Myanmar, and the west, bordering Manipur, Mizoram, etc, in India, and Bangladesh, are also in the "not a good idea" category.

Bottom line, there's no way to go by road from Vietnam to India.

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    Does China require cyclists to have a driver's license?
    – phoog
    Nov 11, 2023 at 15:34
  • I am reading a travel blog of someone traveling from Thailand to Europe by transport bike, one with a big box in front of the rider, and he got stuck just inside Miramar, because of not having a permission to have the bike in the country. He was not able to get a visa for China/Tibet, not even with a company helping him to get it. In the end he flew from Nepal to Istanbul to ride the rest.
    – Willeke
    Nov 11, 2023 at 16:21
  • @phoog I may have misunderstood, but I assumed bike here meant motorbike. The sheer idea of someone not native to Xizang traipsing on a bicycle in 6,000+ meters terrain, yeah nah. heck, even crossing Vietnam, good luck.
    – dda
    Nov 11, 2023 at 16:31
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    "taking the bike apart and reassembling in the middle of an airport" is hardly going to be a motorbike. Nov 11, 2023 at 18:44
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    dda, see my comment, European people are crazy enough to cycle in the area. paulmunstege.reislogger.nl/kolkata-kathmandu-not.237764 (contains ads) is one stretch in Nepal.
    – Willeke
    Nov 12, 2023 at 8:48
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There does happen to be a ferry between India and Sri Lanka. If you are planning a trip through South Asia without using a aeroplane, you can travel from Sri Lanka to India over the sea and then overland to Kathmandu.

(If anyone reading this question is looking to find a way into India without using flights, then a cruise ship or cargo ship to Sri Lanka or India might be an option.)

There is a ferry between India and Sri Lanka, between the city of Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu of India (very close to the railway station) and Kankesanturai in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.

http://www.mea.gov.in/press-releases.htm?dtl/37188/Commencement+of+passenger+ferry+service+between+India+and+Sri+Lanka+A+new+landmark+in+regional+connectivity

If you can get to Sri Lanka on a cruise or cargo ship, then it will be possible to get to India. I think they allow bicycles on the ferry but I cannot confirm anything as the service only started very recently (they tend to be very generous about luggage but contact them in advance).

The main problem is this option is of course getting to Sri Lanka, however it might be useful for anyone planning a bike trip through South Asia.

I believe it is possible to travel to Nepal from India as it has an open porous border (unlike the sea between India and Sri Lanka), but all other borders into Nepal are tough to get through.

If I were you then I'd take a flight to Sri Lanka, and travel overland to Kankesanturai, then by ferry to India and finally overland to Kathmandu in Nepal.

You Can Travel to Sri Lanka (or India) by Cruise Ship or Cargo Ship

Sri Lanka is a hub for cruise ships that often travel onwards to the Maldives, so you might be able to secure a spot on a cruise ship just to Sri Lanka if you were willing to spend some money. Some cruise ships also travel to India.

Sri Lanka also happens to have the main transshipment ports for South Asia, so there are plenty of cargo ships which you can pay to travel on, and I assume that there are numerous cargo ships that travel to various parts of India as well (though less frequently).

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