Kathmandu Valley

City Guides

 

Kathmandu - 1400m - Population 1 millionicon Download Kathmandu e-guide ( )

 

With thousands of years of history the Kathmandu Valley holds an 'exotic buddha' appeal to the traveler. Unfortunately due to pollution, poor infrastructure and crime problems most tourist will find an need for only a short visit. A short visit is enough to take in the intriguing architecture of the Durbar Square and Swayambunath temples near by and if you have time to Bhaktapur. Kathmandu is also gateway to the popular treks of Everest Base Camp and Langtang, so it may become necessary to spend a few days in Kathmandu unless you opt to go to Pokhara and the Annapuranas which generally a better plan for first timers

 

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The Good: Thamel has a lot of bars and restaurant, bakeries geared towards foreigners. Many shops offer cheap trekking gear etc. Walking around the tourist attractions: Durbar square, Patan the history and architecture is like walking back in time. Staying in Bhaktapur.

The Bad: Pollution and dust before the monsoon. Power outages, sometimes up to 18 hours per day*

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The Ugly: Crime, some tourist have been attacked, robbed, street children sniffing glue. Drug deals, touts and junkies. Better stay away from Thamel as much as possible.

Overall Rating::: 53%

User Rating::: 61%

 EARTH QUAKE UPDATE: Many of the temples and main attractions have become ruins. None the less there are many sights to see in Kathmandu. Tourists are much less in 2015, fuel shortage means much less pollution than normal.  Many buildings have become unstable due to earth quake damage and are recommended to be torn down and demolished because there are deemed unsafe. Tourists should avoid Kathmandu until further stabilize and safety concerns addressed.  Demolition dust remains a problem. Many buildings could easy collapse and cause human injury.

Map of Kathmandu

  • The Main Areas of Kathmandu are:
  • Thamel, Durbar Square, Pushapatinath
  • Patan, Boudanath Temple, Swayambhunath Stupa

Kathmandu tourist map

Kathmandu Tourist Map

Arriving in Kathmandu and Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA)

Most people arrive or leave through Kathmandu. The airport is chaotic and in desperate need of upgrading and renovation. Often flights are delayed. When you arrive there will the cue for visas. This may take sometime if you are at the back of the line. Fill out before hand and save time, try to have to photos and your visa money ready. There are photo booths and money charges at the airport, open at night too.
 
Once you've picked your bag beware of the scam money changers and taxi/tourist office within the airport, only change or a little bit of money or wait until you get to Thamel and go to an ATM. Do not get a prepaid taxi here. Best thing is to go out of the airport and find a private taxi driver and agree on a price which should be 300Rs. No more than 500Rs to Thamel. To Bhaktapur is about 400Rs-600Rs. Bargaining will be hard with these guys unfortunately. Do not be afraid of walking away from a taxi driver you don't not like or trust (could be drunk) and finding another taxi driver.

Typically scam at the airport is that when you are driving off another 'friend' jumps in the front seat. He's a commission agent who will try to befriend you and take you take a commission guesthouse, trekking ect. Essentially he's a 'guide.' He will pester you the entire ride in to Thamel – you should stop the taxi and demand that he leave or simply go and find another taxi while you are still at the airport.

The other scam is they will offer you FREE taxi from the airport to Thamel but only if you stay at their friends high priced guesthouse – don't fall for this one.

 

Visa on arrival information for Nepal

 

Where to go from Kathmandu Airport?

 

  • Thamel - The typical tourist ghetto area full of guesthouses, restaurants, bars, noise, touts, shops, there is a problem with traffic and lack or save foot paths as well as touts. This is most convenient for a quick stay. There are large selection accommodations.

  • Bhaktapur - A cleaner smaller version of Kathmandu. Bhaktapur may suit some people. It is the same style of architecture you find in Durbar square in Kathmandu. ($15 entrance)

  • Guesthouses over charge because you are basically stuck there (minimum $20 per night.) You may find cheaper in the morning however.

  • Taxi to Kathmandu will take longer when you want to go to the bus for Pokhara in the morning.

  • Limited guesthouses/restaurant no nightlife.

  • Freak Street, not much different than near by Thamel but is bit quieter.

  • Pashupatinath, there are other area in Kathmandu but lack good guesthouse/facilities.

  • Nagarkot – Another choice with excellent view of Mount Everest. Far from Kathmandu center, past Bhaktapur.

  • Mini Bus/ Taxi to Pokhara. If it is before 3:00pm in the day you can go to Kalanki Bus Park, and catch a mini or mico bus directly to Pokhara, will save the stress of a night in Kathmandu. A taxi could also be arranged to Pokhara for about 5000 Rs.+

Lets just say think have change since the fabled days in the 1970's when Bob Segar sang about hippies in Kathmandu. Despite this Kathmandu seems to be highly overrated by travellers. The city is often referred to Crapmandu by residence and locals is very polluted and hectic.
 
The popular 'tourist area' Thamel, is very congested and filled with criminal low life's peddling drugs to locals and tourists. This is not such a safe place in Nepal.

"That's why I'm going to Kathmandu,
Up to the mountains where I'm going to.
If i ever get out of here that's what I'm gonna do.
K - k - k - k - k - Kathmandu,
Take me, baby, 'cause I'm going with you.
If I ever get out of here I'm going to Kathmandu" ~Bob Segar 1974

Due to rising crime tourists should consider staying away from Thamel for the time being. Stay in Bhaktapur and do a day trip to Bodnath,  Patan, Swayambunath (monkey temple), Durbar Square and Pashupatinah, burning ghats. Actually it is same buildings and temples in Bhaktapur and much cleaner.
 

After that head to Pokhara Lakeside for some peace of mind, where the air is considerably cleaner and people are friendlier. The mini bus runs all day from Kathmandu to Pokhara and takes 5 hours. So you don't need to get trapped in Kathmandu.

 

Corruptions alert: The hotels and trekking guides don't want you to know about Pokhara. They want to keep in you Kathmandu and trek in that area! Much information is Kathmandu-centric about Nepal, this is the reason why.


Map of Thamel

- Detailed map of Thamel tourist area- More than 6 recommend Guesthouses- Popular Tourist sites- Location of tourist bus- Direction to Bhaktapur

Thamel tourist area

Thamel Hotels

 

Thamel is a the tourist ghetto with an endless selection of guesthouses, would be hotels, restaurants, bars and shops, through narrow streets and sign boards, money changers. Thamel seems an endless maze in a house of horrors dodging rickshaw drivers, taxi driver and motorcyclists who must accelerate or honk their horn at any short moment. Ha ha well at least Thamel is not boring!

On the up side if like out with a few drinks you will probably have a good time in Thamel. The restaurants seem to offer variety but poor substance, no the less you will find a variety of menus to intrigue you tastes. From Typical Nepali and Tibetan cuisine, a number of bakery's and the common yak cheese sandwich will not be hard to find.

Thamel is also not very quiet you should be warned if you where hoping to get a sound nights sleep ( whiskey may help and many have tried.) You probably won't sleep that well, many of the guesthouses will be occupied by rowdy drunk local boys. Thamel is also home to many elicit dance bars and dubious criminal elements. It is not typical to see street young wandering around high on air plane glue and begging for money. There are no shortage of trekking guides and touts that want to become your new best friend.

We've listed a few select guesthouses, but things can change quickly in Nepal.

Generally things are shut by 11:00pm due to roundness of Nepali drunken youth in the area. Tourists should be very cautious when in Thamel particularly at night and always wary of traffic when they are walking.

Accommodations

 

Budget Thamel
 
Florida Guesthouse, Potla Guesthouse low price
 
Hotel Impala, http://www.hotelimpala.com.np/
 
Hotel Magnificent, $10-20 night
 
Mid-Range Thamel
 
Backyard Hotel
 
Hotel Thamel
 
Luxury Thamel
 
Gokarna Forest Resort
 
Courtyard Hotel
 
Freak Street and Durbar Square
- Detailed map of Freak Street area
- More than 2 recommend Guesthouses
- Popular Tourist sites
- Location of tourist bus
- Direction to Thamel

Durbar Square

Durbar Square

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freak street and Durbar Square are about a 10 minute walk from Thamel. This area was the old backpacker ghetto of the 1970's. It is a bit more authentic than Thamel but the selection of guesthouses and restaurants is not the same.

Note: There is now an 'entrance fee' for visiting tourist of Durbar Square of Rs 750 (this does not includes Hanuman Dhokar Museum admission ticket) Presumably if your staying in one of the guesthouses you will only pay once.

Accommodations in Freak Street, there are few choice and low quality in Freak Street, this is because over the years interests has dwindled, so the focus has been on Thamel.

Stay here if you like a bit of change. It is only a 10-15 minute walk to Thamel.

 

Sightseeing in Kathmandu

 

If you can stand the pollution and chaos at least for one day most people will visit the stunning sites around Kathmandu, Durbar Square,Pashupatinath, Patan, Kopan Monastery, Monkey Temple Swayambunath, local markets. One day seems to fill the bill of seeing temples and walking around narrow alleys.
 
You will find similar buildings in Bhaktapur. Some tourist stay for longer in Kathmandu. But green fields await in the Pokhara Lakeside that will be soothing to the sense with nature and tranquility.

 

Pashupatinath

 

Shiva Temples here along the ghat similar to the ghat in Varanasi, India. Many Sadhu, holy men 'babas' come here to smoke hashish and pray to Shiva. You should be careful around here especially at night of your belongings. Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temples only can look from outside and pay 500 Nrs.

 

Patan Durbar Square (Lalitpur)

 

Another area with another 'Durbar Square.' Here you will find: Mul Chowk, Sundari Chowk and Keshav Narayan Chowk. Also don't miss:

 

  • Hiranya Varna Mahaa Vihar - The Golden Buddhist temple.

  • Rudra Varna Mahavihar - A famous tree that produces small nuts

  • Mahaboudha Temple - Thousand Budhas Temple

  • Bangalamukhi temple - Hindu temple

  • Kumbheshwor temple - A five pagoda temple

  • Admission : 500 Nrs does not include museum fees.

 Swayambhunath Stupa (Monkey temple)

 

A very famous temple for Buddhist and Tibetans, known for the Stupa on top of the hill, after some long steps. Also known for the tress that grown and the many monkeys that inhabit them.

Located a 20 minute walk from Thamel it make an obvious choice for tourist. This is a must see and one of the oldest Buddhist sites in the world.

 

Entrance fee: 250 Nrs

 

Boudhnath

 

A even biggest Buddhist stupa located 12 km from Thamel in Kathmandu. One of the worlds most holiest Buddhist sites in the world.
 
Entrance fee: 250 Nrs

 

From Kathmandu you can go

 

  1. Pokhara Lakeside

  2. Go trekking EBC

  3. Go Trekking Langtang

  4. Go to Bandipur

  5. Go Chitwan National Park

  6. Bhaktapur

  7. Nagarkot see Mt Everest

  8. Everest Mountain Flight

  9. Fly to Calcutta, Delhi or Bangkok

 

Getting to Pokhara

 

After a day or two or sightseeing you will probably want to relax in Pokhara Lakeside area, some 200km west. Lake most things in Nepal nothing is completely straight forward.

 

1) By Tourist Bus. This is the simply way is to catch one of the many tourist buses leaving at 7:00am from near by Thamel (see map.) There maybe a few buses leave a bit later, but after 8:30-9:00 there will be no more tourist buses to Pokhara for that day. You can also buy these ticket in advance but it won't make much difference. The best way is go there and select your own bus and own seat when you pay for the ticket, bargain with the ticket collector. The standard price is 350Rs. Some companies charge more and agents will definitely charge more but it will be the same. A bit better is Greenline.com.np that cost $20. These buses are slow and mostly filled foreign tourists. These buses will stop at least twice at fast food joints along the road, that tend to serve dubious and over priced snacks and meals.

Takes around six hours, and terminates at the tourist bus stand in Pokhara (see map.)

2) By Mini or Micro Bus. There are buses leaving directly for Pokhara every fifteen minutes, all day from Kalanki Bus terminal (in Kathmandu about 20 minutes toward the outside of town by taxi,350Rs, see map.) Mini Bus will cost 350Rs and take less time of only five hours to Pokhara. These Micro buses are usually need and in good condition and you will be riding will local Nepalese.

 

3) Flight, domestic flight is possible can be arranged by travel agent for $60-$100USD

 

icon Download Kathmandu e-guide ( )


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Comments   

 
0 # Ama 2015-01-27 11:19
I have to take issue with you on the crime comment. Nepal is probably the safest place on the planet for women travelers. But of course if you were to hang around at Grand Central Station in NY, Picadilly Square in London or the bus station in New Orleans I think you would have much, much worse odds. Thamel is Nepal's bus station, so please don't think Nepal is anything dangerous like India or the Middle East.

One night while walking back to my guest house a bit too late I saw 4 young Asian looking men coming toward me with masks covering their faces. I died a thousand deaths as I imagined every horrible fate. As they passed they each folded their hands in prayer fashion and said, "Namaste" as they passed. That's when I knew the Nepali people.
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0 # Barrie Boi 2015-01-27 11:38
Namaste you might want to read this:

http://freespirit.members.gn.apc.org/evilgold.htm
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