Transportation through Nepal was convenient and fast. Even though Nepal may not be heralded as a modern transportation mecca, their transportation methods get the job done!
Airport to Thamel district in Kathmandu
We got a tip that prepaid cabs from the airport were the way to go (700NPR). However, we were able to catch a cab with independent carrier (500 NPR). The catch, we had to listen to the tour operator pitch for an hour or so. It was a little like accepting the free breakfast to hear the time share pitch, just with less pressure.
Kathmandu –> Suaraha and back
Our hotel walked us through Thamel to the edge of town to where the buses were departing for Suaraha. Everyone had their own seat on this bus. The road way was crowded. As it was the only road westward out of Kathmandu, hundreds of buses and trucks filled the road. Trucks and buses passed each other jockeying for position. Normally this would not be so bad; however the roadway was not something I would consider passing other cars on. Consider a steep windy mountain road with little to no shoulder. There was a cliff on one side and a steep 200-500 meter plunge into a river on the other. Here however, the buses and trucks would pass on blind corners with steep grades with 100% confidence that they would make it before oncoming traffic. Most of the time it was just too terrifying to watch, so I didn’t. I just had faith that it would all be OK. BANG we got a blowout within the first hour. The bus pulled over and changed the tire. Not bad, it only took them 30 minutes to change it.
We continued through the small hamlets and mountain villages. Passing and being passed. At times all traffic would come to a standstill because the bridges were too narrow for two way traffic. Did everyone wait their turn? Of course not. Trucks and buses sped past in the wrong lane until coming face to face with another vehicle, then they would squeeze in.
At two hours in the bus stopped for a restroom break and then we continued. Speeding along a windy road looking at the landscape we were jarred by another “BANG”. Another flat tire. Two flat tires in one day. The bus driver flagged down another bus to get their spare. I looked at the tire and it was more bare than a baby’s butt.
We stopped for a lunch break. For the remainder of the journey we entered lower altitude flat lands and forests. The temperatures warmed up and the bus stopped several times to drop off people or boxes for delivery. A normal 5 hour ride took 7 hours.
The way back went more smoothly and jumped off the bus to catch a taxi to the Ratna Park bus terminal.
Thamel –> Bhaktapur
Local buses were crowded. Normal buses have 16-18 pairs of seats (so 32-36 seated passengers) and then people stand in the aisle. Even though city buses go by every 10-15 minutes, every one is packed with people, groceries, boxes, and bags. Paying was also different. The driver would drive and a handler would hop on and hop off. He would collect money from the passengers as well as announce the bus destination at bus stops.
Thamel and Bhaktapur were both districts of a larger city. Many buses go to different places within those districts. While we had hopped onto a bus to Bhaktapur, it was going to a different part of the district than we needed to go. Consequently, we had to hop off and walk.
Bhaktapur –> Nagarkot
Getting to Nagarkot was an adventure in local transportation. The buses were small, essentially seven rows of seats and two up by the driver, allowed for 16 seated passengers. However, our bus fit the 16 seated passengers, plus numerous ones that were in laps. 21 people, including me stood in the isle. Three people held onto the outside of the buss. Bags of rice, groceries, and supplies fit in between everyone else. Up we climbed on a one lane semi-paved winding road climbing over 900 meters in elevation. There was two way traffic on the road and when vehicles met, they inched as closed to the cliff drop offs as possible to allow the other to squeeze by. Other times, someone had to back up. Even though it was overcast, the vistas of the mountain towns and the terraced vegetable fields were amazing.
Dhulikhel –> Kathmandu (Thamel District)
Buses left every five minutes from Dhulikhel. Like most of the other buses, we were the only foreigners. Travelling by local bus is a great way to see slices of life unfold: families on their way to celebrations, children on their way to school, people shopping and transporting goods, and regular commuters.
With so many people crammed into these buses, there was very little private space. Expect to be rubbed against, pushed aside, sat on, and looked at. People do their best, but there is just not enough room to give everyone a personal space bubble. Some tourists we met had issues with this and took up seat in the very back. But where was the fun in that?
In the final analysis the bus transportation system in Nepal works great. Be patient and go with the flow. Go to the bathroom before you get on the bus. And enjoy the ride. The scenery was fantastic and the people were wonderful!
Sounds on the Road
Throughout Asia horns car horns were ubiquitous. However unlike the relenting “BEEP BEEP” in the more dense cities of Eastern Asia, here the trucks and buses had a melodic horn. Check out a video of this hitchhiker in Nepal. You’ll hear the horn. It certainly was less stressful and upbeat.