How to enter Nepal from Tibet/China at Jilongzhen/Rasuwa Ghadhi border as a China Overland Traveller with your own vehicle

In this article you will get to know the border crossing and China exit/Nepali entry procedures for China Overland travellers who cross from China/Tibet to Nepal at the newly opened Jilongzhen/Rasuwa Ghadhi border crossing.

On April 25, 2015 an earthquake (later referred to as “Gorkha” earthquake) with a magnitude of 7.8M hit an area north-west of Kathmandu in Nepal near the Nepal-China border. This earthquake destroyed the road to the Zhangmuzhen (GPS: 85.983252, 27.987322) / Kodari (GPS:85.94578369999999, 27.9532702) Nepal-China/Tibet province border crossing 475 kilometres south-west of Xigaze on national highway G318 or 114 kilometres north-east of Kathmandu. Since the road was damaged badly and beyond immediate fixing, Nepali and Chinese authorities agreed on opening a new border crossing at Jilongzhen, China (GPS::85.329248, 28.393292 / altitude: 2,793m) / Rasuwa Ghadhi, Nepal (GPS 85.37764730000004, 28.2776307 / altitude:1,804m).The new border crossing is 547 kilometres south-west of Xigaze and 114 kilometres north-east of Kathmandu. The new border crossing at Rasuwa Ghadhi (Nepal) and Jilongzhen/Gyirong (China) was opened for foreign tourists and Overland travellers in April 2018, after 3 years without an open land border between the countries. Authorities confirmed that Tibetmoto was the first tour operator ever that arranged all permits successfully in order to cross this new border with foreign registered vehicles from China to Nepal in April 2018.

Chinese immigration terminal at the Jilongzhen/Rasuwa Ghadhi border as seen from the Chinese side with German registered BMW motorbikes

Location of Jilongzhen:

If you exit to Nepal at this new border crossing with your own vehicle, you will have to stay overnight at Jilongzhen. Please do not mistake Jilongzhen for Gyirong (GPS: 85.29753400000004, 28.852393 altitude: 4,114m). Jilongzhen can be translated as Jilong village while Gyirong is a township and the seat of the local Gyirong county. To both places, internet resources refer asGyirong/Jilongzhen/Kyirong/Kirong or Zongga (Tibetan). While Jilongzhen is located on a low altitude of only 1,804 meters at the shores of Jilong river, Gyirong is high up at the edge of the Tibet plateau on 4,114 meters. Although Gyirong is referred to as “town” and Jilongzhen as “village”, most accommodation is located in Jilongzhen, as well as customs and various other authorities such as border police. Furthermore, you will need to stay at Jilongzhen overnight due to customs requirements if you plan to exit China/Tibet province to Nepal with your own vehicle the next day. You can reach Jilongzhen in a single day either from Xigaze or from Everest Base Camp (EBC / altitude 5,200m). From EBC its 330 kilometres and a drive of approx. 7,5 hours, taking the national highway G318 and later the remote countryside road X214. Since the old border at Zhangmu/Kodari is now deserted, this route is nowadays one of the most remote and empty roads in western Tibet.

Mountain Range at Paiku lake

One highlight on this route is Paiku lake (altitude: 4,591m). You can drive right up to the shore of this 27 kilometre long and 6 kilometre wide salt lake. The lake is fed by glacier water and is surrounded by 5,700m – 6,000m high peaks.

Afterwards, the lake the roads snakes up into the mountains and you will cross your last high altitude mountain pass with a height of 4,900 meters in Tibet before descending to Jilongzhen. The beautiful road runs along the Jilong river, deep canyons and at last pine forests.

If you drive to Jilongzhen from western Tibet, you can stay the night before at Saga (GPS:85.23294099999998, 29.328818 / altitude: 4,487m). From Saga, its a 170 kilometres drive which takes you approx. 5,5 hours. Note that the first 60 kilometres from Saga on this road are currently under construction. Upon arrival in Jilongzhen, you guide/border fixer will hand over your China Overland permits and documents to the local authorities for exit stamps and approval. There are 3 authorities; police, customs and the military which need to approve your exit and some of the approvals might only be issued the next morning. From Jilongzhen its a 22 kilometre drive to the actual border. In between Jilongzhen and the border are several checkpoints where your documents and passports are being checked. Only directly at the border your will go through immigration, your passport receives your Chinese exit stamp and you and your vehicle will undergo a final customs check.
After leaving the Chinese immigration terminal, you cross a narrow bridge spanning Jilong river. On the other side the Nepali military will welcome you and check your Nepali entry documents and permits. Note that you will need a Carnet de Passage for your vehicle beside other documents. In our opinions it’s necessary to pre-approve your vehicle with the Nepali authorities. 1,6 kilometres after the bridge at Rasuwa Ghadhi, you will arrive at the small Nepali immigration office. Here, you can get your Nepali visa-on-arrival (check beforehand if your nationality qualifies to get a visa-on-arrival). The costs for a 14 days visa-on-arrival is US$ 25. Accepted currencies are US$, EUR and CNY only. You will get the best deal if you pay in US$ in the exact amount. Shortly after immigration you will undergo the procedures at Nepali customs.

While the roads on the Chinese side of the border are entirely paved (with perhaps some exceptions on the pass near Paiku lake and the stretch of 60 kilometres under construction roads near Saga), the “roads” in Nepal are in terrible condition and under construction. Expect sand, gravel, rocks, traffic (mainly trucks), large flat slippery stones hidden under sand, pot holes, possibly deep mud (after rain) and intense heat and dust. Furthermore, there are at least half a dozen time consuming military checks in between Rasuwa Ghadhi and Kathmandu.

Although its only 142 kilometres from Rasuwa Ghadhi to Kathmandu, you will need at least 8 hours, possibly more. We therefore recommend to stay in Dhunche (GPS: 85.29810999999995, 28.1079892 / altitude: 2,148m) overnight, which is 28 kilometres from Rasuwa Ghadhi. Note that some GPS systems have trouble navigating you on the Nepali roads since the newly carved tracks are not yet mapped. Locals we talked to estimate that the road construction will take another 4 years to be completed. You can estimate that you will enter Nepal and be done with immigration and customs after 2PM Nepali time.