Are you traveling to Nepal anytime soon? Or maybe you have already arrived? Let me introduce you to the most popular modes of transportation in Nepal!
Nepal is not a big country. But at the same – this country has 8 of the 10 highest mountains in the world. So you shouldn’t be surprised to hear, that one big part of Nepal it’s mountains. And roads here are…, well, mostly bad quality. Many of them you most probably would not call roads in your home country. However it’s possible to get almost everywhere in Nepal using a shared jeep and a bus (a regular local bus or a tourist bus).
Not many people in Nepal have their own vehicle. And so public bus is the most popular mode of transportation in Nepal among locals. But a shared jeep is the next most popular mode of transportation.
Which means that mostly you can travel cheap. Though, shared jeeps have different pricing for locals and tourists. But still it’s a very cheap mode of transportation.
1. Transportation in Kathmandu: Taxi, Rickshaws and Public Transport in Kathmandu
Speaking about transportation in Kathmandu, there are, of course, taxi. It’s a cheap way of getting around compared to Europe and America. However, compared to other Kathmandu public transport options taxi ride costs like 20 times more than the same as long trip on a bus or a tempo (see a photo below to understand what it is!).
Example: return ticket from Kathmandu to Bhaktapur on a local bus cost me 80 NPR, while a taxi driver asked me 1500 NPR (at first – 2000 NPR) for the same trip.
It doesn’t change the fact, that it’s also the most popular mode of transportation among tourists visiting Kathmandu. And I can understand why. Because public transport in Kathmandu often is packed and as there are no bus stops finding a taxi is way easier.
And then there are bicycle rickshaws. You will see them mostly in Thamel, by far the most popular district of Kathmandu among tourists and similar as popular area among locals.
Public transport in Kathmandu: buses and two types of minibuses. Buses running in Kathmandu and to nearby towns usually start and finish their route at Ratna Park City Bus station. While it may sound like a real bus station, in fact it’s just a bus stop on the side of an active street near Thamel. Another option is blue minibuses, tiny minibuses, I would say. They stop very near to Ratna Park. Locals call them tuk-tuks. And there are also white minibuses, traveling on another routes.
Since there is no one and only website, where to check all the Kathmandu public transport routes and schedules, it may take some time to find the right one. Going to Ratna Park and asking around is your best bet. That’s if you want to get somewhere in Kathmandu or to the nearest towns. Long distance buses leave from a different place.
Note, that after sunset number of public buses and minibuses running in Kathmandu and around drops significantly.
Where Can You Get Using Public Transport in Kathmandu?
Locals use public transport really a lot. And so you can get wherever you want using public transport in Kathmandu. Will it be easy? Sometimes yes, often – no. That’s why I’m mostly walking, when I’m in Kathmandu. But let me give you a few examples of some interesting places – touristic places – where you can get using a bus or a minibus.
Boudhanath Stupa – The Largest Stupa in Nepal
This stupa is huge and impressive. And so even if you aren’t really interested into temples and holy sites, you might change your mind and go there once in Kathmandu. What else makes this place special is that it’s the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet.
Gettting to Boudhanath is possible by a blue minibus, also called a tuk-tuk. These mini buses leave from the place close to Ratna Park, only about 100 meters from the main public bus stop. Just go to any of the blue buses and ask a driver if he is going to Boudhanath. Ticket costs only 20 NPR (about 0.2 EUR/USD).
Until the 15th century Bhaktapur was the capital of Nepal. Now it’s the third largest city in the Kathmandu Valley. And thanks to its well preserved city center (Bhaktapur Durbar Square) it is one of the most culturally interesting places in Nepal.
Getting to Bhaktapur by public transport is very easy. Just go to Ratna Park in Kathmandu and ask for the right bus. In 10 – 15 minutes you most probably will be on the bus already. Because buses are running there frequently. A bus back to Kathmandu you will find at the same place, where you will get off the bus. That’s just a short walk away from the main Bhaktapur city gates, where you will be asked to purchase or show your ticket. Ticket costs about 50 NPR (once I was asked only 30 NPR).
It’s a Hindu temple. And most of the tourists go there because of cremation ghats and open-air cremations happening there. The temple is less than 5 kilometers away from Thamel.
Getting to Pashupatinath temple is the same as easy. You need the same blue minibus going to Boudhanath. Only you will need to get off earlier than when you would go to Boudhanath. Just tell the driver, where you want to go, and, just in case, follow your location on the map on your phone.
Kathmandu Airport Bus – Getting to and from Kathmandu Airport
There is no such thing as Kathmandu airport bus or airport shuttle. Not in 2017 at least, when I went to Kathmandu last time.
Getting from Kathmandu airport to Thamel by bus (as already mentioned, Thamel is the most popular area of the city among travelers) is easy. Walk out of the airport and out of the airport territory, and to your left, on the same side of the road, you will notice a bus stop. It’s less than 500 meters away from the entrance of the airport.
And wait for a bus going to Ratna Park, main intercity bus stop in Kathmandu, just next to Thamel. As some bus approaches the bus stop, ask conductor or driver, if it’s going to Ratna Park. Ticket should cost around 20 NPR.
Getting from Thamel to Kathmandu airport by bus should be similar as easy. But – I haven’t found the best solution, neither online, not by asking around in Kathmandu. So once I just walked to the airport, another time I took a taxi, and the last time I took a bus going from Ratna Park to Bhaktapur (and then I just followed GPS on my phone; I got off about 1.5 kilometers from the airport, when the bus turned in wrong for me direction).
Near Ratna Park there is another “kind of bus stop”, a big area with a lot of buses coming and going from there, less than 5 minute walk away. And some locals told me, that I should be able to find a bus going to the airport there. But I didn’t have a chance to go there and try to find one.
Getting to and from Kathmandu airport by taxi. There are 3 options: Kathmandu airport prepaid taxi, local taxi parked just by the airport and local taxi parked outside the airport territory. During the day Kathmandu airport prepaid taxi ride from the airport to Thamel will cost you about 750 NPR. Prices are fixed and written on the price list, that you can see at the airport prepaid taxi counter. Just walk out of the airport and in 2 minutes you will find a taxi driver willing to take you to Thamel for around 500 – 600 NPR. Leave the airport territory and you will probably find an even cheaper taxi.
Late in the evening and at night taxi ride usually costs about 100 or 200 NPR extra.
Kathmandu airport is in the city, just 5.5 kilometers away from Thamel. And so I have walked all the way from the airport to Thamel, and also – from Thamel to the airport. It’s a pretty straight forward route, if you walk like I did. You go out of the airport territory, turn to the left, walk for 700 meters until you reach a big junction, turn to the right and walk straight for 4 kilometers until you reach a junction by Ratna Park, which is just next to the Thamel.
2. Transportation in Nepal
Public bus is the most popular mode of transportation in Nepal among locals. Those who can afford to pay extra use more comfortable tourist buses (when there is such an option), others – travel by regular buses. Tourists are mostly traveling by tourist buses or jeeps. In the mountains often there is only two choices – to walk or to take a jeep.
Tourist Bus in Nepal
Tourist bus in Nepal often is a regular bus, if we compare it to ones in Europe. Usually it has about 40 seats. Some of these tourist buses are older, some are newer. Some have air conditioner, others – also WiFi. One of the main difference between a tourist bus and a local bus in Nepal is the size of the bus. Local buses are about the half of the size. And usually they are also older, and there is significantly smaller legroom.
There are tourist buses to all of the most popular tourist destinations in Nepal – Pokhara, Chitwan and Lumbini. And there are also buses connecting Kathmandu with some cities in India.
In a picture below you can see how a local bus in Nepal looks like. Tourist buses are more modern. But don’t expect anything too fancy. Especially if you are taking the cheapest tourist bus. The reason why I’m saying this is that there usually is a choice between cheaper and more expensive tourist bus. More expensive buses are better. But are they worth the price, sometimes 3 or more times higher? It’s up to you to decide. Only a few of these that I have seen looked really much different from the others – with fewer seats in the same size bus and overall just better.
Ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara (and vice versa) on a tourist bus costs starting from about 550 NPR.
Sometimes there is a lunch included in the price of the ticket. I’m usually just getting it myself. Every long distance bus in Nepal stops for a lunch break at some local restaurant. So you can buy a lunch yourself as well.
You can buy a ticket in advance from tour agencies. And I would highly recommend you to do that. Because buses leave at 6:30 – 7:30 AM. Do you want to worry about that that early in the morning? At the agency they will also tell you, from where and at what time your bus will leave. In Kathmandu that’s a street very close to Thamel, in Pokhara there is a special tourist bus park (see on Google Maps).
Local Buses in Nepal
Local buses in Nepal, compared to tourist buses, are smaller and less comfortable! But – they are also cheaper, and taking a local bus you can get to some very remote parts of Nepal as well. There are a lot of places, where only local buses and jeeps are going. A big bus, like a tourist bus, just can’t get to many of these places. Go to Nepal, head to the mountains and you’ll understand, what I’m talking about.
A long, 8-12 hour ride on a local bus in Nepal costs starting from some 400 NPR. But it depends, from where are you going and where are you heading to. For instance, a journey from Jomsom to Pokhara costs starting from 1000 NPR. It’s also about an 8 hour long trip, but it’s pricier, because one big part of the trip is on a very bad quality mountain roads. Only these small, local buses and jeeps are going there.
Often it’s possible to buy a ticket in advance. I would recommend you to do that. This way you will also be sure, that you know from where and at what time does your bus leave. To buy a bus ticket you will need to go to a bus station.
One of the biggest bus stations in Kathmandu, from where many long distance local buses leave, is Gongabu New Bus Station (see on Google Maps).
Jeeps in Nepal: Shared and Private
Higher in the mountains of Nepal and away from the cities jeeps often are the only available mode of transportation. Since it’s not only tourists who need a transport in those places traveling by a jeep in Nepal is quite cheap. Even though the price for locals and for tourists isn’t the same.
For example, 6-8 hour journey in the mountains can cost you half of what you would pay for a longer taxi ride in Kathmandu. You can get from Jomsom, a town, where most of people finish their Annapurna Circuit trek (one of top treks in Nepal), to Pokhara for as little as 1200 NPR. And that’s a pretty long distance. Of course, that’s if you take a shared jeep. Prices also go up once you want to travel to less popular places, which is just normal.
Like everywhere in the world you can also arrange a private jeep with a driver. Price in this situation for a car (!) will be about 10x what you would pay for a single person. When traveling in a group and sharing costs it’s still costs reasonable.
Domestic Flights in Nepal
There are about 20 domestic airports in Nepal, and one – international, in Kathmandu. And local airlines like Buddha Air and Yeti Airlines have frequent flights to many of them. Three of the most popular routes among tourists are: Pokhara – Kathmandu (because a bus journey is so long), Jomsom – Pokhara (after finishing Annapurna Circuit trek) and Kathmandu – Lukla (to go on Everest Base Camp trek).
If you are planning to fly to Lukla, to Tenzing–Hillary Airport, known also as the world’s most dangerous airport, then remember – flights to this airport are operated ONLY when the weather conditions are perfect. So always plan some extra day, in case your flight gets cancelled or delayed.
Flight ticket for Nepalese and Indians costs less than for tourists from other countries.
Train in Nepal
There are only two railway lines in Nepal. Both of them are very close to the border of Nepal and India, and both of them are short. So train in Nepal isn’t really an option for travelers.
3. Nepal to India by Bus
Bus from Kathmandu to Delhi (and Other Places in India)
There are direct buses connecting Kathmandu, Delhi and Varanasi in India.
A bus ride from Kathmandu to Delhi costs about 4000 NPR, Kathmandu to Varanasi – 2200 NPR. You can buy a ticket online from the website of redBus. At least for a trip from Kathmandu to Varanasi. You can search for a bus from Kathmandu to Delhi as well, and I tried several dates, but all I got at the time of writing this was “No buses found”. Don’t worry if you get the same – go to some tour agency and I’m sure you will get a bus ticket from Kathmandu to Delhi.
Do you have any more more questions about traveling in Nepal? Check out our other articles about Nepal & do not hesitate to contact us!
Author: Kaspars Misins
Kaspars is a long term traveler and a travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On We Are From Latvia they share their experience and things learned along the way.