How to Get Around Kathmandu, Nepal

Getting around Kathmandu, the majestic and mountainous country of Nepal, has never been easier. The country targets to achieve 2 million tourists arrivals by the year 2020. Transportation is hence a primary area of improvement, particularly in its capital Kathmandu. This article lists down the best ways to travel around Kathmandu conveniently, in no particular order.

Ride-Hailing App in Nepal, Kathmandu

For tourists nowadays, the convenience of booking rides via their smartphone has become a necessity, and it’s good to know that there are several ride-hailing apps operating in the country. Modern transportation options in Nepal include Pathao and Tootle, through which travellers can book rides on motorcycles and scooters.

For those asking if Uber is currently operating in Nepal, sadly the company is not yet offering its ride-hailing app there, although it announced in 2018 that it will establish a data centre in Kathmandu. Meanwhile, India’s Ola is not yet in Nepal, though the firm revealed in 2017 that it plans to launch its taxi-hailing app there but no specific date was mentioned.

Pathao and Tootle can both be downloaded from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. Personal experience indicates that Tootle is the less user friendly and less reliable of the two ride hailing apps. Pathao on the other hand has so far proven reliable, and in August 2019 enable users to hail car rides instead of just motorbike rides as well.

You can however minimise your need to travel long distances by staying in an affordable garden hotel next to Thamel.

Public Transport – Rickshaws & Busses

Getting around Kathmandu can sometimes be difficult due to its bustling streets and frequent traffic jams. The most convenient way of visiting the famous places in the heart of the capital is by walking, but those who want to have a more nostalgic tour of the historic city centre can opt for cycle rickshaws. If you choose this mode of transport, please have an agreement first on the fare before taking a ride. If you enjoyed the provided service, you may tip an additional 10% of the fare to the driver.

If you fancy a trip to the capital’s suburbs or to the villages, towns and cities surrounding Kathmandu Valley, you can try taking shared auto-rickshaws called ‘safas’ or public busses.

A large number of bus routes begin from Ratna Park bus stand at the heart of the Kathmandu east of Tundikhel, one of the most vital landmarks in the capital. However, the route numbers and destinations of busses are indicated in the Nepali language, so unless you can read the Nepali language, you will to ask the locals which bus to take. A popular scenic route often taken by tourists is going to Kathmandu to Pokhara by bus, or Pokhara to Kathmandu via bus.

When travelling in Nepal by bus, it is advisable to carry small bills in the local currency to pay for the fare. While there is no fixed schedule, public busses typically ply their routes from 5:30 AM to 9:00 PM. Also, it may take longer to reach your destination due to bad weather and terrain, as well as the road damage caused by the April 2015 Nepal earthquake.

On top of that, you will want your driver to drive slow and be safe. Nepal does have some of the most dangerous roads in the world after all.

If you’re in a hurry, travelling by bus in Nepal is not advisable as they make frequent stops. These are also often crowded and you have to contend with dust and pollution, just like with the partly open safas. Hence, many tourists opt for taxis as these are not only faster, but also provide a more comfortable ride. The taxis do however typically overcharge, so bring your best bargaining skills there!

Taxi/Cabs in Kathmandu

One way to get around Kathmandu is via taxis. But as most drivers prefer not to use the meter, it is necessary to first agree on the fare before departing. Another downside is that while there are many taxis in Nepal’s capital, the majority consists of small hatchbacks that can only comfortably fit two people and their bags.

You can easily spot such vehicles due to their sign and black license plates. It is also more advisable to hail a taxi in transit as their drivers often charge a reasonable fare. In comparison, taxis that wait at tourist spots often impose higher prices.

For pre-paid taxis that are booked at the airport’s arrival desk, such as those that go to Kathmandu’s city centre, these charge a fixed price. Also, don’t expect to tip, especially if the taxi driver is not willing to use the meter.

One popular kind of taxi in Kathmandu is the Sarathi Cab, which charge based on the government approved meter. They also operate at any time of the day and are secure to use as the company keeps track of its cars via GPS. To book a Sarathi Cab, please call +977-1-4217171. The company is also poised to launch an app.

There are also taxis that can be hired for a day to act as your dedicated transport for visiting popular tourist spots, while local travel agencies can provide a vehicle along with a chauffeur for longer trips. These firms include Blue Sky Tours & Travel and Four Season Travel & Tours.

Rent a Car in Kathmandu, Nepal

In Nepal, self-drive car hire is a rarity. One reputable firm is Yes Sir Vehicle Rental. However, many tourists who have been to the country often discourage fellow travellers from renting self-drive vehicles due to the country’s treacherous terrain and the reckless driving of the locals.

There are also many motorcycles rental agencies, such as those found in Kathmandu’s Thamel neighbourhood near Thahity Tol. Such firms usually require their foreign clients to pay a large deposit, or leave their passport for the duration of the rental. Most rental agencies typically rent out small motorcycles that are alright for short journeys like touring Kathmandu Valley. But for journeys to more remote places in Nepal, overseas travellers often secure the services of firms offering specialist motorcycle tours before visiting the country.

It is important to remember that you need an international driver’s license to operate a rental vehicle in the country. While rental firms often don’t require this, the traffic police won’t overlook this – and they are rather strict with foreign drivers. Thus, ensure you have the necessary license less you want to fork out hefty fines. If you plan to drive in the country for over 15 days, you must acquire a domestic driver’s licence.

Driving Around Nepal

In Nepal’s capital, don’t expect an orderly flow of vehicles as only few follow traffic rules. Most drivers are also more likely to speed up and blare their horns loudly rather than slow down or give way. In fact, the blaring of horns was so bad, that the Nepali government had to impose a ban in April 2017 due to sound pollution.

When it comes to parking your rented motorcycle, ask around or imitate the locals. There are also attendants at parking areas that will look after your motorcycle in exchange for a small fee. However, it is not a wise move to leave your motorcycle out on the street at night due to security issues. In fact, staff at most hotels will move the motorcycles of their guests to a secure location after they’ve checked in to sleep.

More importantly, never ever drive around Kathmandu when there is a transport strike as protesters typically block roads. They may even throw rocks at your rented vehicle, or smash it with sticks. During such situations, it’s best to park your rented motorcycle within a secure and safe location.

Nepal had also experienced fuel shortages. One of the most serious cases occurred in 2015 when neighbouring India blocked the flow of oil pipelines into the country because of a political dispute over the new constitution of Nepal. During such times of scarcity, only a limited amount of gasoline may be sold or there’s no supply at all for a long time.

Hire a Bike in Kathmandu, Nepal

There are plenty of firms that provide bicycle tours to Kathmandu Valley and nearby areas. Many of these companies also lease well-maintained imported bikes by the day. One such firm of good repute is Dawn Till Dusk.

However, if you’re renting a bicycle be mindful of your safety as many vehicle drivers in Kathmandu don’t pay much attention to cyclists. Nonetheless, it becomes easier to bike after you’ve passed the capital’s ring road. For flat or damaged tyres, there are bike-repair shops along the main roads of many villages.

Travelling Around Nepal

Transportation in Nepal has developed steadily despite the country’s hilly and mountainous terrain, which has made the construction of roads expensive. For travellers, there are many available transport options each with their pros and cons, so be informed to make the most of your trip to the beautiful and hospitable country of Nepal.

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