Tibet has been a fascinating destination for international travelers for a long time. To enter the roof of the world, Nepal has been a popular gateway where tourists drove through the 1000km long Friendship Highway that joins the capital city Lhasa of Tibet to the Himalayan nation.
Hundred of international travelers did the overland tour to visit the mystical land through Nepal via the Kodari/Zangmu border. But the border was highly affected by the 2015 earthquake forcing closure of the border that killed the hopes of many international tourists who wanted to visit the Tibet- The Last Shangri-la.
However, some good news came last week from the Chinese government mentioning that the Kerung Border, which was already open for Nepalese and Chinese has now been opened for foreign tourists as well. As this news was as important one for the cross border tourism, our team drove up to the border to gather some concrete information and plan the operation of the Tibet overland tours via the newly opened Kerung border.
Road Condition: It is about 9-10 hrs long adventurous ride going through narrow tracks and turnings in the Hill side all the way to Rasuwa starting from Kalikasthan to Syabrubesi and further to the borderland called Rasuwa Gadhi in Nepal side and Kerung in China. From Syabrubesi to border is mostly rough road. Main hurdle could be the landslide area between Ramche to Dhunche, about 7-8 km is slightly disturbed in small sections and are muddy and bumpy. This could be a problem mostly during the Monsoon season. Also being the only Highway in use for transferring Export/ Import goods from China, you can see many huge trucks passing through all the way.
There may be another shorter route to Kerung border from river side of Betrawati to Syabrubesi, avoiding the drive up to Kalikasthan, Dhunche, which is under construction at the moment. If this route is open, overland tour from Tibet to Nepal would be more convenient and shorter for the tourists.
Duration & Distances: It is about 170 km distance from Kathmandu and takes about 9-10 hrs drive from Kathmandu to Rasuwa Gadhi (Kerung Border). From Syabrubesi it is about 30-45 minutes drive.
For the Tourists traveling to Tibet by overland from Nepal, it is wise to have a overnight stop at Syabrubesi and continue next day to the border which is about 30-45 minutes drive to the check post at Timure. After crossing through the both side’s immigration and Border, it is 26 km further drive from Kerung border to Kerung City in China.
Border Structure: Nepal immigration office and the Custom Check posts are at Timure. For the tourists entering from Tibet, after passing through the China customs and crossing the Bridge joining China and Nepal, will have to walk about 5-10 minutes to the Immigration office for Visa and Entry process. There may be few checking and searching by Duty officers for Security reasons starting from Border Check posts until Kalikasthan check posts.
Nepal entry check post, Immigration office and Customs are all in different places within the area, as such it could be quite confusing to the Tourists. Private vehicles can go near to the Bridge side for now, however depending on the traffic as the huge Cargo trucks occupy most of the area and could block the way to drive in. It is mostly crowded during the rush hour (office working hours).
Customs working time: The border gate opens at 8 am to 3 pm (Nepal time) for both sides and China part only will be closed during their lunch hours i.e. 10 am-11.30am (Nepal time). Tourists or the locals are to enter or exit the Border gate within the mentioned time frame. There is not One Day pass system for Nepalese Nationalities like it was provided in Kodari border. But the local people form that area only are allowed to pass through during the opening hour.
Comparing Chinese border securities and structures in Kerung side seems to be well planned and settled, while Nepal officials are still struggling to have a permanent office settled so as the road structures, parking arrangements all seems to be not well prepared for welcoming the flow of Foreign tourists already. The check posts, immigration and customs are all in separate building or small posts. After the damage by Earthquake to the historical remaining of the fort and the road structures, the situation seems to be even worse. Hopefully this situation will be better eventually, when the flow of tourists’ arrival increases through this route.
In conclusion, it is an adventurous ride overall passing through as low to the ground level of Trishuli river to the Hill top, could be interesting and thrilling experience to the adventurers, while for some it might be tiring and frightening if not mentally prepared well in advance.