A quick guide to the India – Bhutan border crossing at Gelephu. Includes information about times, transportation, and border crossing formalities.
Navigating the India – Bhutan border crossing at Gelephu is mostly smooth sailing. The hardest part is getting there!
Roughly 240 km from Guwahati, 50 km from Bongaigaon, and 340 km from Siliguri, this border crossing is relatively remote, and is mostly used for shipping and business between Bhutan and India. We received a lot of surprised and curious looks from everyone involved when we walked across the border.
Since few foreign tourists take this route, make sure to check with your tour operator about your route before opting to use this crossing. Phuentsholing is a much more popular land border crossing between India and Bhutan, and is more commonly seen on tour itineraries.
Tip: If you’re looking for a tour agency, we recommend Gray Langur Tours. They can organize everything Bhutan for you, from cultural tours to off the beaten track trekking and travel. They sponsored our trip to Bhutan, and we had an absolute blast with them.
How to get to the India – Bhutan border crossing at Gelephu from Guwahati, Assam
Getting to the India – Bhutan border crossing at Gelephu will take between 5 and 8 hours, depending on the transport you use to get there.
By far the easiest way is to hire a car to drop you off. Hiring a private car should cost between 4,000 – 6,000 Rs for the whole car, and the ride takes 5 to 6 hours. The highway is mostly blacktop, and a feast for the eyes before harvest time (mid-October). However, on the final 40 km before the border crossing, the road quality deteriorates drastically. Prepare for a bumpy ride!
Caution: The area close to the border is relatively restive compared to the rest of Assam. It houses a separatist fringe, and bandits can be a problem at night. Make sure to leave early enough to arrive before dark, and ensure your driver has time to leave the border area before darkness falls.
There’s a foreigner checkpoint about 10 km before the border, but it was unmanned when we passed, and we didn’t bother looking for the officer on duty. No issues arose.
If you’re headed to Bhutan, make sure to check out this guide to everything there is to know about visiting Bhutan!
Getting to the border by public transport is possible, but takes significantly longer, and will be a bit of a hassle.
To start, head to Bongaigaon from Guwahati or your starting point. There are both trains and buses to Bongaigaon from Guwahati. A bus from Guwahati costs around 200 Rs.
From Bongaigaon on, things become tricky. Knowing some Assamese—or having a friend who does on speed-dial—can really help. From the city, there should be buses and minibuses to the myriad of small towns along the border road. Most leave when full, and it takes 2 – 3 hours to reach the border. Make sure that the bus you’re on actually goes to the border, and not somewhere along the way. It might be necessary to do the journey in several hops. Only recommended for people with lots of time on their hands and the adventurous.
There are two trains between Guwahati and Bongaigaon each day. The Kamrup Express, leaving Guwahati at 07:00, is the most convenient. Getting to Bongaigaon takes about four hours by train.
Getting to the border from Siliguri
Siliguri is the most strategic departure point from West Bengal. There are trains from NJP (New Jalpaiguri) and buses to Bongaigaon. After that, the process will be roughly the same as when you’re coming from Guwahati. However, getting a car from Siliguri will be much more expensive. If you wish to enter Bhutan from West Bengal, you’re better off crossing the border at Phuentsholing.
Crossing the India – Bhutan border at Gelephu
There was no obvious checkpoint on the Indian side, so we didn’t get stamped out of India. We’re hoping that the Bhutanese entry stamp is a valid substitute! We walked straight from our car in India over the border to Bhutan.
Once in Bhutan, unless you’re from India, the Maldives, or Bangladesh, you need to be on a tour or with a guide. This means your guide will be waiting at the border to sort everything out for you.
On the Bhutanese side of the border, your documents will be checked, two forms have to be filled in, and your fingerprints will be taken. There’s no security check, and the whole process takes about 15 minutes… unless there’s a power outage, in which case you’ll have to wait for the power to come back on to do your fingerprints! The immigration officials didn’t mind that we left to rest in our hotel while waiting for the power to return.
Indian, Maldivian, and Bangladeshi nationals don’t need to be on a tour to enter Bhutan. However, border formalities will be roughly the same. Remember that this border post is not used to dealing with tourists, so there may be confusion regarding procedures. Luckily, everyone is very friendly and polite, and they did speak English.
Tip: The immigration office at the border closes at 17:00, so try to arrive before then.
Amenities at the border and in Gelephu
Gelephu has plenty of hotels, restaurants, and bars to pick from. If you’re with a tour, everything will be arranged, so you can relax after a long day of travel.
There’s a bank where you can change money in case it’s necessary. Bhutan uses the Ngultrum, more easily known as “nu”, where 1 Nu is equal to 1 Indian rupee. At the time of writing, $1 is roughly 63 Nu, and €1 is roughly 70 Nu. Indian rupees are accepted anywhere in Bhutan, so long as you’re using a denomination smaller than 500 Rs.
For more info on Bhutan, check out this Bhutan travel guide!
Have you recently used this border crossing? Let us know in the comments if anything changed!
Yay transparency! Our trip to Bhutan was sponsored by Gray Langur Tours. But as always, all words, photos, and opinions are our own.
9 thoughts on “India – Bhutan border crossing at Gelephu: an overland travel guide”
I have visited Bhutan in 1st week of June 2018 via Phuntsholing. I travel in a Self Drive with my own SUV. These border is most popular and see heavy traffic of Tourist results in Long Q. Hence Time spent for Immigration and Car Permit at RTO office there takes time 4 to 5 hrs. Luckily I have my friend from PARO who came all the way to recv. us at Phuntsholing and took care of all immigration process , so we were basically pre-guided and did not hunt for any office or process.
I am planning again to BHUTAN to explore more on CENTRAL and EAST of the Land. hence planning to enter via GELEPHU. Still not sure what it would take for a personal car to cross this Border post. In that case the MAP shows we need not to travel thru Bongaigaon.
Thanks for sharing your images and details.
Thanks for the report on the Phuentsoling border crossing. I’d certainly double check to make sure you’re allowed to bring a car through the Gelephu border crossing before attempting to do so. Indians/Bangladeshis/Maldivians may not be able to receive the necessary permissions to cross at that border.
This is the type of practical and useful reading that supports other travellers in places off- the-beaten -track. Many thanks for supporting other travellers.
Thanks for your wonderful information.
Tell me, can we get the visa at the border? Or do we need to get and pay for the visa in advance? Thank you!
I have visited to Gelephu from Bongaigaon,Assam last year in July,2018. The road from Indian side to Border was horrible. It took around 4 hrs crossing distance of hardly 50 Km. I don’t know why this stretch of road is kept in such pathetic condition.
If you are willing to travel to Gelephu,Bhutan from India. The best and the easiest way is to get down to New Bongaigaon (Assam) Railway Station if you are traveling via train. Once you are out of the station you will find Auto standing outside the station. You can either hire the full auto or can travel by share. You have to reach an destination named ChapaGuri which is maximum 30 mins from station.In share they will charge 20-30 indian rupees. Once you get down to ChapaGuri Bhutan taxi stand which is in highway you will get lots of private taxi Eicher taxi or Bus which will lead you till border. You can either reserve and hire the taxi or you can travel with other local passengers…if you travel via share taxi it will cost you 100-120 Indian rupees and near about 1 hr 30 min maximum to reach to till border town named Dadhgiri( Assam). The road is good and smooth but in some places you might get bumps. In Indian side you will hardly any checking but Bhutan gate side they might check you so you might need to make permit… You cant make permit by yourself so you need and local resident who is Bhutanese and have proper citizenship I’d…he need to take undertaking permit or else your hotel owner need to come to gate and make undertaking permit..You need to carry proper documents (ID) ( Ashar/Voter) of yours to make permit. Inside Gelephu you will not find so much checking but if you get caught without permit you will be in sure problem.Bhutan police and government rules are very strict…you can’t bribe anyone and exit like in India….So once you reach Dadgiri you will find local taxi crossing Bhutan you can hire them it cost 80 indian ruppes or Bhutanese Nu and they will take you to Gelephu Parking stand and you can go to your destination from there. Gelephu is very small and the town is small beautiful not so much with modern facilities..you will find Disco, Singing Dancing Bar,local shops, Hotels and restaurants where you can experience local Nepalese,Bhutanese,Tibetian and Indian dishes also…Mostly are Sharchop people in Gelephu. People knows Hindi and young people can speak in English too for your communication. You will find too much Nepali people though there are now Bhutanese citizens out there as well as Bihari and Assamese people also.. You can enjoy a board of snooker or pool over there with a glass of local Bhutanese beer and wine in any of the local clubs. Though it’s small there is nothing much to do…no such good tourist sightseen places also..there are few monastries where you can find local deer and it’s beautiful…if you are lucky enough try to visit at the time of thechu festival in Gelephu.. Gelephu has crime free you will hardly find any people fighting or any stealing case there’s a huge vegetable maket place and local imported clothes and shoe shops mostly imported from (Nepal,Tibet/China,Thailand).It’s very clean place roads are good well maintained..you will enjoy this place for some days but in my opinion after some days you might feel boring because nothing much to do over there…so enjoy your visit to this beautiful town Gelephu which comes under Sarpang district.
Can anyone please inform me whether Indians can travel to Paro airport from Gelephu airport? I will be truly grateful as we are planning a trip to Paro-Thimphu.
I’ve travelled from Gelephu to Thimphu thrice. Once I was allowed to travel Thimphu, Paro, Gasa, Trashigang.Samdrupjonkhar from Gelephu and visited Trashiyangtche also. Other time I’d to make permit from Thimphu. As the dzongda and sunglasses of Samdrupjongkhar was my friend I was allowed to visit Samdrupcholing also. I drove a long way along Nganglam Gyalpozhing road
How I go Myanmar from bhutan by bus or by train. Which is nearest bhutan border cross for Myanmar border. I want go Myanmar through Bhutan by road, by bus or by train. Please anybody guide me.
Sanjay K. ( India )