Getting Around in Nepal
Getting around Nepal is one of the biggest challenges for all tourists, as the roads are poor and slow, and public transportations like buses are crowed and uncomfortable, although the distances are not that far. To avoid this headache, flights, motorcycles, and taxi charters are always available, and you can take the tourist buses on the main routes. Travelers should be aware that the infrastructure of Nepal is not in the best of conditions. It is normal for a route to consist of newly paved roads in one part, disintegrated in others, and under construction in between. Therefore, it is highly recommended to read some guides about Nepalese transportation to set expectations before boarding your flight to Nepal.
Domestic flights are offered through many airlines, including Yeti Air, Buddha Air and Cosmic Air, from Kathmandu to places such as Pokhara, Biratnagar, Nepalganj, Lukla, Pokhara, Simikot, Jomsom, Janakpur and Bharatpur.
To book these flights outside of Nepal, you must do so through internet agents such as NepalAirFlight, NepalFlightCentre and Air Viva. Otherwise, domestic tickets can only be bought on arrival in Nepal, so if you are flying on a short notice, it is necessary to be flexible on flight times and dates, as the planes often get fully booked in advance. Note that cancellations and delays due to severe weather conditions do occur.
This type of transportation has become very popular lately. Microbuses are 10-12 seaters with very fast service. It has almost replaced the local bus service due to its speed and variety of routes, but the fare is more expensive than the local bus. Do keep in mind though, that microbuses are often driven with great speed and very little care, and have unfortunately been the cause of a large percentage of the road accidents in Nepal. Use microbuses with caution!
Book a few days ahead at a Kathmandu or Pokhara travel agent, or even through your hotel. The tourist bus is a few steps above local buses – no goats, everyone gets a seat – but not much safer. Greenline is the most reliable company and has trips between Kathmandu, Chitwan, Lumbini and Pokhara.
Although the system can be confusing, the local bus is cheap. They can be crowded at times with both people and domestic animals such as goats, ducks etc. Some buses will not depart until full to a certain quota.
These come in two types. One is a three-wheeled electric or propane powered microbus, suited for 10 – 13 passengers. They run different routes around the city and cost 5 – 12 NRs. The other type is a newer Toyota van running the same routes at a higher price and a bit faster and safer. Both types are usually crowded.
There are two types of taxis: “private”, which takes you directly from the airport to your hotel, and “10-Rupee”, which do not leave until they are full. When haggling for the fare before getting in, keep in mind that taxi drivers have been hit hard by the petrol crisis, and it is not unusual for taxis to queue up overnight to get 5 liters of petrol at twice the market price. So try to be sympathetic, but don’t get ripped off! Offer to pay ‘meter plus tip’, 10% is more than enough.
Custom or classic motorbike
Run by a European couple, Hearts and Tears in Pokhara offer lessons, guided tours and rental of 350cc and 500cc Royal Enfield bikes. In Kathmandu, Himalayan Enfield’s (behind the Israeli Embassy on Lazimpat) sells and rents good bikes and does repairs. The official Enfield dealer in Nepal is in the Balaju Industrial Estate off the Ring Road.
Another choice is to rent a small motorcycle in the Thamel area. Again, with the petrol crisis, motorcycle rental has become a costly choice. Depending on availability, 1 liter of petrol will cost you 120 – 250 NRs on top of the rental fee which is around 300 – 800NRs.
Good for short jaunts if you do not have much luggage and do not mind being bounced around a bit. Bargain before you get in, and do not be afraid to walk away and try another.
Although motor roads are penetrating further into the hinterlands, many destinations can only be reached by foot or helicopter.