Travel to Bir can involve planes, trains, buses, and/or taxi.
The closest airport to Bir is Dharamshala airport, which is actually in Gaggal, about 30-45 minutes south of Dharamshala. Flights between Delhi and Dharamshala (Gaggal Airport in Kangra) have been suspended, but may be resumed at some point so check with your travel agent or travel websites. (Beware: Due to weather and other issues, flights to or from Dharamshala can be canceled at the last minute, so it’s wise to schedule in some breathing room, and maybe a Plan B.)
If your flight does manage to reach Dharamshala airport, you can make the onward journey from there to Bir by bus or taxi (see the relevant sections below for details).
Option 1 — Train to Pathankot + bus/taxi onward to Bir: The most common way to travel to Bir by train is to take a train from Delhi (or wherever your origin may be) to Pathankot/Chakki Bank (two neighbouring train stations in the Punjab, either of which is fine) and then make the rest of the journey to Bir by bus (6-8 hours) or taxi (4-5 hours).
Option 2 — Train to Pathankot + toy train onward to Bir: It is also possible to go almost all the way to Bir by train if one has considerable patience and/or a profound love for trains. There is a charming little toy train that leaves every morning from Pathankot to Ahju, just 3km from Bir (below the Bir Road intersection). Most overnight trains from Delhi (when running on time) reach Pathankot approximately an hour before the toy train leaves, so the connection is doable unless your train from Delhi is quite late (which, of course, is always a possibility, though less likely on Rajdhani and Shatabdhi express trains).
Which option should I choose? The toy train is great for some but not for everyone. The toy train ride is long (around seven hours), as slow as a glacier, and often crowded. Some people find the long and somewhat bumpy journey tiring. For others, the beautiful Himalayan scenery more than compensates for any inconveniences. If a seven-hour train ride with inspiring views sounds like a great meditation to you, don’t miss it. Otherwise, consider bus or taxi. If you do take the toy train, bring a something soft (e.g. a cushion or a thick jacket) to sit on to make the rattly ride more comfortable… and maybe a good book.
Buses can be booked on the following websites:
- Himachal Road Transport Corporation: the Volvo A/C buses are recommended as being the most comfortable.
- Laxmi Holidays: comfortable private buses to and from the Tibetan Colony (also bookable on Redbus.in).
From Delhi: Bir is about 12-14 hours from Delhi by bus. From the Inter-state Bus Terminal (ISBT), take a bus to either Baijnath or Bir Road (the latter is closer, but most buses from Delhi only go as far as Baijnath). There are two overnight buses from Delhi to Baijnath, both of which depart mid-evening and arrive early morning. (Note: If your bus terminates at Baijnath, see the ‘From Baijnath’ section below for notes on how to reach your final destination in Bir from Baijnath.)
From Pathankot/Chakki Bank: Jump on any bus heading for Dharamshala, Kangra, Palampur, Baijnath, Mandi, Manali, or Shimla, and then refer to the notes for Dharamshala and Baijnath below.
From Dharamshala: Bir is about four or five hours from Dharamshala by bus, depending on the timing of buses and number of connections. There are three ways to travel from Dharamshala to Bir by bus, listed here starting with the most convenient:
- There are two daily direct buses to Bir Road/Upper Bir leaving at 6:00am & 2:00pm from the bus station in (lower) Dharamshala. (About four hours)
- Alternatively, you can take a direct bus from Dharamshala to Baijnath, and from there continue onward to Bir either by local bus or by taxi (see ‘From Baijnath’ section immediately below).
- If the timing of direct buses to Bir or Baijnath doesn’t work of you, the last-resort options are these: either take a bus to Palampur and change there for any other bus onward to Baijnath or further east, or just hop on any bus heading east from Dharamshala, including those to Jogindernagar, Mandi, Manali, or Shimla, and ask the driver or conductor to drop you off at Bir Road (note: if you get to Chauntra or Jogindernagar, you’ve gone too far). This can take anywhere from three to five hours.
From Baijnath: If your bus terminates at Baijnath, you then have the option of traveling the last leg to Bir (20-30 minutes) either by bus or by taxi (about Rs 250). If you choose to go by bus, there are two options. The most convenient is to take one of the direct buses from Baijnath to Bir (which leave about every half hour or so and go all the way to Upper Bir). Alternatively, you can take any bus heading east from Baijnath (e.g. Jogindernagar, Mandi, Manali, or Shimla) and ask the driver or conductor to drop you off at Bir Road.
Note that only some buses go to the Tibetan Colony, so if your destination is in the Colony but your bus doesn’t go there, you can either take a taxi from wherever your bus drops you or take the a bus to Upper Bir and ask the driver or conductor to drop you off at Chowgan Chowk (the intersection where Bir Road meets Chowgan Road), and then walk west on Chowgan Road about 1km until you reach the Tibetan Colony (about 10 minutes on foot).
Taxi is the fastest and most convenient way of getting to Bir from Pathankot or Dharamshala, but it is also by far the most expensive and the least eco-friendly, so if you come by car, please consider sharing the ride with others.
- Taxi from Pathankot to Bir: 4-5 hours, Rs 1700-2000
- Taxi from Dharamshala to Bir: 2 hours, Rs 1000-1400
- Taxi from Baijnath to Bir: 20 minutes, Rs 250
- Taxi from Bir Road (the closest stop for most long-distance buses) to Chowgan (including the Tibetan Colony or Deer Park): 5 minutes, Rs 60-70
- Taxi from Bir Road to Upper Bir: 10 minutes, Rs 90-100