There are two ways to get from Dhaka to Calcutta – by train or bus. The train, called the Maitree Express, runs three times a week towards Calcutta while buses tend to leave early in the morning or in the evening.
The Maitree Express train leaves from Dhaka Cantonment Station yet tickets must be purchased at the ticket window at Kamalapur Station. The window is only open from 9 am – 7 pm. Tickets go on sale five days before the trip, but unless they’re bought early, Maitree Express tickets tend to sell out fast. When I went to the station around Thursday at noon, I could no longer purchase any ticket of any class for the train the following day. Hence I took the bus.
There are many bus companies going from Dhaka to Calcutta with varying quality; however, the price for the buses appears to be the same so it pays to go with one you know is high quality because the price will likely be the same. The bus I took was called Shohagh Elite, but it was not the nicest for the price so I won’t recommend it here. Near Kamalapur Station there are multiple bus companies offering this service. Greenline was a really nice company, but they only do night buses to Calcutta.
I got up very early Friday morning to reach the bus pickup office by 6:30 am for the 6:50 am departure. Once on the bus things were very straightforward. I just sat back and relaxed until we arrived at the Benapole border crossing.
Before getting off the bus, my bus company gave everyone transiting through immigration special stickers so their staff could easily identify us and shepherd us through the immigration process. Exiting Bangladesh took only a couple minutes. The authorities gave me some trouble about my Indian “e-visa” which entitles me to two entries into India. I explained to them that the visa clearly shows I have two entries and I have used one of them thus far. Still they took me over to the India side to reconfirm. Again I had to explain this to the confused Indian authorities who finally said I was okay.
Once I got over to the India side, there was a massive line. The first choke point was a security check point. Fortunately as a foreigner, all the security guards encouraged me to cut the line until I got to the security check point where they just waived me through. The second line for the passport check, however, was not going to let me cut so I had to wait nearly an hour in a huge line snaking back and forth within a nearby warehouse before finally reaching the immigration hall.
When I reached the Indian immigration officials, I had to again explain to three different people that my visa clearly says I am allowed another entry before being stamped in. As I left the immigration area, a man saw my sticker and directed me towards the bus company offices on the Indian side. There I waited another hour (for those that could not cut the line) until we boarded a different bus bound for Calcutta. I had to pay an additional 250 rupees that they told me about in Dhaka. This is so if you don’t make it all the way through immigration, you aren’t forced to pay for the whole trip.
The bus to Calcutta took a little under three hours, and the driver dropped me off a short 10 minute walk from the airport so I could catch my flight that evening to Bangkok.
In total the trip took about 16 hours – three of which were spent waiting for everyone to get through immigration.