I got a visa on arrival at Benapole! In May 2017, I traveled to Bangladesh overland through Benapole border crossings without any serious issues. This guide explains how I made the trek.
I initially started my trip to Bangladesh in Darjeeling, and after an extremely long journey, I was able to reach Bengaon, the train station near the Bangladeshi border.
There are AC bus services from Kolkata to this border post which are a better option, but as I was traveling entirely independently from Darjeeling, I rode the local trains. To get to Bengaon station, I had to first get a ticket to Ranaghat where I was able to transfer trains to Bengaon. This is the only town connecting trains to Bangaon. Ranaghat is just another midsize West Bengal city – I never saw another tourist there and barely anyone spoke English, but fortunately some men in the train station offices spoke enough English to direct me to the platform for the train to Bengaon. I showed my ticket to several people before finally confirming which train I needed to take.
The trip to Bengaon took around 30 minutes. After I got off the train, there were several rickshaws available. I told them I wanted to go to Benapole. The fare was 100 rupees, and it took at least 30 minutes. I honestly felt bad for my driver paying him so little to ride his bike this far even though I was probably still overcharged.
Once we arrived to the border post, I was pointed into the direction of a small office building for Indian departures. There were several officials checking passports and no lines. My official confirmed I could get the visa on arrival, but he had to get his boss to ask me a few questions about why I wanted to go to Bangladesh. I told him tourism, and he was okay with that. He gave me some trouble about not being able to re-enter India, but I showed him that my e-visa still says I have one more entry allowed. After actually looking at my visa and realizing his mistake, he said I was all good and stamped me out of India.
Getting to the Bangladeshi border post was just a short walk, but that’s where the waiting began. Right before the border office some men tried to fill out my visa forms for me. I may have been able to get one inside, but I paid the guy 20 rupees to do it for me to avoid the hassle. Once inside, there was a specific desk for foreign passport holders where I began my three hour ordeal entering Bangladesh.
The officers were very polite and seemed to be working hard, but they needed to fill out a tremendous amount of paperwork to finally allow me into their country. Initially they gave me a long form questionnaire asking more about the purpose of my visit, my home address, and my income. All of these questions were scrutinized multiple times by the officers; however, they were quite nice about it – nobody was hassling me. I think very few non-Indian foreigners cross at this post so many of the officials had to make calls to their boss to confirm the process. Their lack of knowledge caused a lot of the hold up. Side note: there is also a somewhat clean bathroom in the waiting area which is nice considering how long I waited.
After a couple hours of waiting, they asked for the $50 payment, but they made a big deal about my dollars not being in “pristine” condition. We had to go through all my dollars and pick the best ones out, and they only reluctantly accepted them. It’s not like I have been crumpling up my bills. I got cash from an ATM in the United States a few months before and kept it in an envelope my entire trip. Ultimately they relented on their request, but if you can, bring a perfect $50 bill.
After the three hours sitting around, I was finally called up to the desk again. A few more checks of my passport, and the official picked up the stamp. I crossed my fingers as he leafed through my passport to find a suitable page. All of a sudden – stamp! I was in Bangladesh.
I left the border post and began searching for a bus to Dhaka as it was now 5:40pm (+30 minutes later than India). Right outside the office, there are multiple bus companies going to Dhaka, but almost nobody speaks English. After asking several completely unhelpful people, finally I heard a man saying Dhaka and he directed me to a very nice luxury bus company. Exactly what I wanted after a long day of traveling.
I was not able to find an ATM immediately across the border. Everyone I talked to said it was 2 km further down the road. When my bus left I did actually see several ATMs about 2 kms down the road. There are money changers at the border though that will take Indian rupee. I exchange 1,500 rupees which was enough to get me to Dhaka with any food or drink I might need. Once in Dhaka, there were plenty of ATMs.
My bus left a little before 7pm and arrived in Dhaka around 3:30 am. We stopped for dinner at 10:00 pm at a cafeteria frequented by many bus companies. When we arrived in Dhaka, the bus company allowed the remaining passengers to hang out in their offices and sleep a little more until the sun came up.
If you end up crossing through Benapole, let me know in the comments below. Hopefully this guide can add to the dearth of reliable information on the subject.