Zhangmu (Dram) Border Crossing

China Nepal Friendship Bridge

 

*UPDATE JUNE 2016: due to the Nepal earthquake in April 2015 this border is still closed due to reconstruction. Overland travel between Tibet and Nepal is not possible. An alternative border crossing at Kyirong is expected to open in the summer of 2016.


Zhangmu border crossing is in Zhangmu 樟木 town, known as Dram འགྲ་མ in Tibetan, on the Tibet side of the Tibet-Nepal border. The town sits high above the bridge that forms the border. It is more like a chaotic village strung along the narrow road that winds its way up the precipitous banks of the Tibet side of the river. Transport trucks constantly clog the road and it can be painstakingly slow to pass through the town to or from the border. It strikes you immediately as the kind of place no one would choose to live in, but a place that clearly offers job opportunities that those unfortunate enough to locate here are seeking. The narrow street is brimming with a mix of Tibetans, Chinese, and Nepalese. If you absolutely must overnight here, your best option is the Zhangmu Hotel with an okay breakfast and decent food at the restaurant across the street.

It is a few hundred meters from the lower part of town to the Zhangmu border crossing. As you can imagine, the border is formed by a river and the crossing is a bridge, affectionately named the “China Nepal Friendship Bridge.” Your driver can only take you so close, so you may have to roll your luggage a couple hundred meters to the immigration line. Before you jump in line, be sure to peer over the edge and take a picture of the bridge and the river.

Last pass before Zhangmu

Last pass before the steep descent to the Zhangmu border crossing

After going through security, you wait in line for passing through immigration. At any point in this process, a Nepalese person may approach you and ask if you need a ride in a vehicle on the other side. Negotiate if you like, but our recommendation would be to take him up on the offer. The starting price for one seat to Kathmandu (as of June 2014) was around 1,500 rupees (or 100 yuan). If you have a small group and want to rent a whole vehicle (all eight seats), the starting price will be around 9,000 rupees (or 600 yuan). As soon as you exit the China side immigration, your newly hired driver will carry your bags and walk you through the Nepal side customs. Ours even helped us fill out our visa forms and get through the visa line quickly. Overall, hiring the driver was money well spent. If you decide to take the public bus, be prepared for twice as many riders as seats and any amount of stops along the way. Our private driver made it to our destination near Kathmandu in two and a half hours, while we heard the bus takes four hours or longer.

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