An in-depth guide to transportation in Nepal

Home to eight of the top ten tallest mountains in the world, dramatic landscapes to match, and people with hearts of gold, Nepal is probably one of the most underrated travel destinations in South Asia. While it is popular amongst ardent trekkers, Nepal’s cities, villages, culture, and architecture can be equally charming for those who care to look beyond its towering peaks. 

Nepal’s tourism infrastructure, especially its transportation system has improved significantly over the past few years, making it easier for travelers to navigate the tiny Himalayan country. Although Kathmandu, the capital city, and Pokhara still remain the biggest hubs of tourism activities, several other towns have appeared on the tourist trail, thanks to the excellent connectivity. This brief guide has been compiled to help you choose the right mode of transportation and plan your travel through Nepal seamlessly.

How to travel across Nepal

By bus

Tourist and local buses are perfect for navigating the winding, hilly roads of Nepal, making them a popular choice for local transportation, in addition to being the cheapest. While you can take a bus to most parts of the country, some of the most easily accessible destinations are Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan National Park, and Muktinath

Although buses offer an economical and convenient way to explore the country, long bus rides can quickly turn into an adventure in itself. Nepal’s challenging terrain often results in bumpy rides and if you pick a local bus to travel with, the modest infrastructure can take some time to get used to. Having said that, Nepal is an exceptionally beautiful country, and there is no better way to soak in all the scenic beauty than to travel by bus, especially if you are planning to get away from the main tourist hubs of Kathmandu and Pokhara. 

Here are some offbeat bus routes to help you plan your Nepal itinerary:

RouteFrequencyPrice
Pokhara to Chitwan National ParkOnce a dayStarts from USD 8
Kathmandu to PokharaUp to twice a dayStarts from USD 8
Kathmandu to JanakpurOnce a dayStarts from USD 9
Pokhara to MuktinathOnce a dayStarts from USD 24

By air

This may come as a surprise to many travelers, but Nepal has an extensive network of airports scattered all over the country, making it possible to reach several destinations by domestic flights operated primarily by Buddha Air and Yeti Airlines. These are just some of the routes you can fly on:

RouteFrequencyPrice
Pokhara to KathmanduUp to 7 times dailyStarts from USD 114
Kathmandu to SurkhetOnce a dayStarts from USD 197
Kathmandu to NepalgunjUp to thrice dailyStarts from USD 140
Pokhara to BharatpurOnce a dayStarts from USD 62
Kathmandu to JanakpurTwice dailyStarts from USD 113

Although Nepal is a fairly small country, the advantages of taking a flight to travel between destinations cannot be denied. Not only is air travel a convenient, hassle-free, and fast mode of transportation, it is also a great alternative to road travel, especially for those who are not comfortable with bus or car rides on mountain roads.

Most flights within the country don’t last longer than 45 minutes, so if you are happy to pay a premium, air travel is the way to go in Nepal.

By car or minivan

Ideal for a road trip with friends or family and for those who prefer the convenience of having a private vehicle at their disposal, hiring a car or minivan (for a bigger group) is one of the best ways to travel between your chosen destinations in Nepal.

While you will still be taking the same route as the bus, hiring a car or minivan gives you the flexibility to take a pit stop or a small detour on your way as you desire. Another reason we love this option is the convenience of being picked up from and dropped off at your respective hotels at your points of departure and arrival.

Here are just some of the routes you can take if you are planning on booking a private car.

RouteFrequencyPrice
Pokhara to KathmanduAnytime during the dayStarts from USD 124
Kathmandu to Chitwan National ParkAnytime during the dayStarts from USD 105
Kathmandu to LumbiniAnytime during the dayStarts from USD 186
Pokhara to MuktinathAnytime during the dayStarts from USD 288

How to travel within cities in Nepal

It’s one thing to navigate intercity transportation, it’s another to figure out how to get around the city itself once you reach your destination. While it may seem intimidating to use local transportation in a foreign city, here are a few safe and easy options for you.

©Sharada Prasad CS/Flickr

By taxi

Cabs are your best friend in bigger cities like Kathmandu and Pokhara not only because they are safe, but also for their convenience. They can be hired either for local sightseeing or for long-distance day trips, typically at a pre-negotiated flat fee or online. It is rare to find cab drivers who would agree to get paid by the meter, so it’s always a good idea to book ahead. 

By tempo

Did you even visit Nepal if you didn’t ride these fun three-wheelers? They are not the most comfortable way to get around but they can get you to designated places in the city quickly and at a much cheaper price than cabs.

©Sirensongs/Flickr

Tempos run on specific routes so if you want to ride them,  it’s a good idea to plan your journey in advance.

By rickshaw

Ideal for short distance commute within a city, rickshaws are also a three-wheeler vehicle that operates as a cycle, with just enough space for two passengers at the back. They are very cost-effective and offer a great opportunity to explore the streets of Nepal if you’re not in the mood to walk. These days, rickshaws have also been electrified, mostly in Kathmandu, so they are also an environment-friendly mode of transport.

Tips to navigate transportation in Nepal

It’s hard to match Nepal when it comes to natural beauty, but traveling through the country has its fair share of challenges. While it is absolutely possible to wing it as you explore, it wouldn’t hurt to be a little prepared for the road ahead.

1. When in Nepal, learn to expect the unexpected. Nepal is a country of tough terrain, because of which landslides and road blockages are common occurrences. If you opt to travel by road (either by bus or car), be prepared for unexpected road closures and long delays. Make sure to carry plenty of snacks and fluids to keep you going in case of any emergency.

2. Roads in many parts of the country are poorly maintained and heavy monsoon rain can often make it worse. If you suffer from motion or altitude sickness, it may be a good idea to carry suitable medication as per your doctor’s advice. 

3. Arm yourself with an extra jacket, scarf or shawl along with earplugs and an eye mask for the road journeys. They’ll come in handy if you want to take a nap on the way or to keep you warm if it gets too chilly anytime.

4. While Nepal is a safe country, keep an eye out for your luggage, and make sure everything is securely locked. It’s a good idea to keep all valuables with yourself and the rest of the luggage in the locked storage section on the bus. 

5. Although air travel is faster than taking the road, flight cancellations and delays are quite common, primarily because of the heavy reliance on weather conditions that can change dramatically. Be prepared with a backup plan in case things go south so you’re not left stranded at the airport.

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