Traveling from Varanasi to Kathmandu is one of the most popular ways to reach Nepal from India. All options are possible: Direct bus, train, and plane. Here's an overview of each to help you plan your trip.
Although it's possible to fly from Varanasi to Kathmandu, it's really not the best option. Most flights go via Delhi. There are very few direct flights, making the journey long and expensive. In addition, the recent demise of Jet Airways has reduced the number of flight options. Nepal-based Buddha Air currently operates two direct flights from Varanasi to Kathmandu per week, on Mondays and Fridays. The departure time is 6.05 p.m. and flight duration is 40 minutes. Expect to pay about 14,500 rupees one way. Otherwise, low cost carrier IndiGo is the best alternative, with one stop in Delhi. The flight takes nearly seven hours. Expect to pay about 8,500 rupees upwards. Air India also flies from Varanasi to Kathmandu via Delhi.
For budget travelers, a train and bus combination journey from Varanasi to Kathmandu is often considered the best option. There's no direct train to Kathmandu, so you'll need to take a train to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh (around three hours from the border in Sunauli), a jeep or bus to the border, and then another jeep or bus to Kathmandu from there.
The main railway station at Varanasi is known as Varanasi Junction and its code is BSB. It's a major Indian rail hub and Foreign Tourist Quota tickets are available there. The railway station at Gorakhpur is known as Gorakhpur Junction and its code is GKP. This station is the headquarters of the North Eastern Railway.
The best train from Varanasi to Gorakhpur is the 15003 Chauri Chaura Express (see train information). It's an overnight train that departs Varanasi Junction daily at 12.35 a.m. and will have you in Gorakhpur at 6.55 a.m., just in time to take a jeep or bus to the border, cross, and take a morning jeep or bus to Kathmandu. The train has all classes of travel.
The 15017 Kashi Express (see train information) is another option for getting from Varanasi to Gorakhpur. However, this train runs during the day (it departs at 1.10 p.m. and arrives at 7.10 p.m.), necessitating a stay in unappealing Gorakhpur the night.
Here's what you need to know about crossing the Sunauli border.
A new direct air-conditioned Varanasi-Kathmandu bus service, called the “Bharat-Nepal Maitri Bus Seva” (India-Nepal Friendship Bus Service), was launched in early March 2015. It was unfortunately suspended from operating in August 2015, due to mismanagement, but has started running again and is referred to as the Kathmandu Seva Indo-Nepal Maitri Bus Service.
The service is operated by the Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation. It's an AC Volvo bus with seats (not a sleeper bus) that takes about 20 hours (or more, depending on road conditions) to complete the journey. There aren't any toilets on the bus and only a couple of official breaks along the way. However, the bus will stop on the side of the road for those in need. So, be prepared for an uncomfortable trip! The bus departs from the government Singh Cantt Bus Station next to Varanasi Cantt railway station every second day at 10 p.m. and reaches Kathmandu by 7 p.m. the next day. The route goes via Azamgarh, Gorakhpur and Sunauli, and Bhairahawa. It takes about 10 hours to reach the Sunauli border from Varanasi.
Do note that bus services is usually suspended during the monsoon season (particularly July and August) due to heavy rain and landslides. Of late, it has also been randomly suspended at other times of the year, so don't count on it running!
What to Do in Kathmandu
It's worth staying a while to soak up Kathmandu's atmosphere. The top things to do in Kathmandu encompass heritage, architecture, culture, spirituality, and shopping.