Overland Border Crossing
How do you feel being at the border of two countries?
Not just flying into a country but being able to see the other side, the other country and its land from this side?
Most times travel to foreign involves flying into that country. But after so many years of travelling I find it quite boring. Of course, it is still the most preferred way as it saves time and may be other hassles that I’ve talked about earlier.
For me it is always intriguing when I cross borders overland where I can stand on a no-man’s land and where the territories are marked by welcoming gates if not any other.
Following are a few of the borders crossed (or almost crossed) overland, by road or by train. Some of the European borders mentioned are before the formation of Schengen.
Shankaracharya gate, Indo-Nepal border.
India – Nepal: We had consciously decided to travel overland into Nepal. In fact travelling to Nepal is not a great deal for Indians. In fact, we do not require visa, passport, foreign currency or even any kind of documentation.
We crossed the border on foot through a gate, now called Shakaracharya Gate. A few hundred meters ahead was the entry gate of Nepal. It felt strange to stand in a no man’s land.
Malaysia – Thailand: I have done this thrice !! Twice by train and once by bus. At the border, all train passengers get out, the train is locked and you go off thru immigration offices of Malaysia and Thailand. No big fuss there. Most recent experience by road, when we had to get a Visa on Arrival is a separate story.
On the other side of the gate is Pak crowd, Indo-Pak border.
India – Pakistan: While on a trip to Amritsar we had to make the standard visit to Wagah border to witness the flag down ceremony at the border. After the ceremony we went to the gate to ask if we could just step on the border but a burly looking mustachio-ed guard gave me that threatening glare that I gave up the thoughts of even asking.
India – China: Don’t raise eyebrows asking when did you ever go to China. Well, I did not. During my trip to Sikkim, we had gone to Nathu-la pass. One side of the simple fenced pass is India and the other side China. It is constantly manned by security forces of both countries. It was a different feeling to speak and shake hands with Chinese soldiers.
Switzerland – France – Italy: Immigration check was done by French at Geneva train station itself. First part by TGV train and later by a night sleeper train and we were to pass the Italian border pretty early in the morning. The coach attendant, with a view not to disturb our sleep, collected all passengers’ passports (non Europeans only) and got them cleared by the authorities while we were sleeping like babies.
On the way back we were travelling by a day train directly entering Switzerland by train from the north of Italy. I don’t remember Swiss officials did any checking, but there were Italians doing elaborate checks. I was surprised that the country which we were leaving was doing the work and Switzerland known for their strict immigration laws were not bothered!
Belgium – Netherlands: Done it several times. Mostly by train. No checking from either side. So much so that once I had even forgotten my passport! Once I did travel to a crazy part of Belgium – Netherlands border, where parts of streets and also half the houses were in either this country or that.
Belgium – Germany: While travelling to Cologne from Brussels by train German officials boarded the train at the border station and checked every ones passport or ID cards methodically!
Belgium – France: No Issues there. Done it by TGV, Eurostar super fast trains and Eurobus. Surprisingly no immigration checks when travelling by road or train as if I was travelling in a train within India.
There are many more international borders that I’ve crossed overland either by train or bus and each one of them has a story to tell.
Belgium – Luxembourg:
Malaysia – Singapore:
Switzerland – France:
Switzerland – Austria:
Switzerland – Germany:
Malaysia – Singapore: V is going to do it again by train. We will just wait for his experience.
How many borders have you crossed overland and what was your experience?
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