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Getting Around in Nepal
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.
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.
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.