Getting Around in Nepal

If I want to travel around Nepal, what are my options?

Unless you are trekking or hiking, in which case you would of course be walking, the most common mode of traveling from place to place within Nepal is by bus. Traveling by bus gives you an opportunity to see the country more. After all, isn't that why you are going to Nepal? You may also rent a car, but it is quite expensive at about $80 a day, and generally come with a driver. You are strictly advised against driving on your own even if you have a proper international driving license: traffic rules are seldom observed, and roads can be very chaotic and dangerous even for the most experienced of drivers. Domestic flights run between some towns but may be difficult to get if the towns you want to fly to are the popular tourist spots such as Lukla, Jomsom, Pokhara, Chitwan etc. Railroads are practically non-existent for your traveling purposes. Read further on for more details.

Tell me more about buses.

Being a mountainous country, straight roads and highways are few in Nepal. Except perhaps in parts of the southern plains, the Tarai, the roads in Nepal are few, narrow and serpentine, and very poorly maintained. Long distance public buses are chaotically organized with timetables and departure times approximate at best. They are extremely slow and make countless stops along the way. Average traveling speed of a public bus turns out to be about 20-30 km per hour. For example, a bus takes about ten hours to cover the distance between Kathmandu to Pokhara which is just 200 km. The bus fare for any route is normally fixed. If you want to use the public bus, it would save a lot of headache to ask for help of someone who knows the system (perhaps someone at your hotel).

Perhaps a better option for you would be to take a "tourist bus". These buses run along the routes most frequented by tourists such as between Kathmandu, Chitwan, Pokhara and Sunauli (the Indian border). They cost generally twice the public buses but are somewhat faster, less crowded and more comfortable. You can get tickets everywhere in Thamel area in Kathmandu. In Pokhara and Chitwan, just ask at your hotel. It is a good idea to buy your ticket a day in advance and reserve a seat.

A popular option with many travelers are the "night buses". These are public or tourist buses that leave the point of origin at dusk and reach the final destination at dawn. For relatively short routes (Kathmandu-Chitwan and Kathmandu-Pokhara, for example), this means long stops along the way. Though you will not get much sleep, a night bus can save daytime for other better pursuits.

Traveling in bus sounds a little too exciting for me, how about flying?

That can be just as exciting. Frequent delays and cancellation due to weather and other reasons can sometimes make a bus the classic tortoise --slow, but steady enough to win the race. With the introduction private airlines, domestic flights between popular tourist routes such as Kathmandu-Chitwan and Kathmandu-Pokhara have become more reliable and available.

But Royal Nepal Airlines (RNAC), the state carrier, still maintains flight monopoly along popular trekking trails such as Kathmandu-Lukla and Pokhara-Jomsom. During the main trekking season (October-May) tickets in these flights will be impossible to get because big trekking agencies book them months in advance. The best you can do is to check on the day of the flight if there are any unused place in the airplane at the RNAC ticket office in Kathmandu. A safer alternative is to get your ticket from a big trekking agency and offer $10 to $20 dollars over the face value.

Airlines charge tourists inflated dollar prices on all routes. A round trip ticket between Kathmandu and Pokhara costs about $100.