We got a sneaky peak at Mount Everest amongst the breathtaking Himalayan vistas on our flight from Bhutan to Nepal. Sit on the right hand side of the plane if you can! Unfortunately we couldn’t, but we met a nice couple of climbers who were happy to use our camera and take some pics for us!
Kathmandu is a notoriously horrible airport. We had read many stories about how to survive the arrival, VISA process and getting past the taxi touts outside. So armed with our new knowledge, here’s a run-down of what to expect and how to survive it:
- Once in the International Arrivals hall, grab an application form from the round desks at the back and pre-fill them before getting in any line.
- Always carry extra passport size photos to include with the VISA form. They do have a photo-booth available, but it’ll cost you and you’ll have to exchange money first, which is a pain in the butt here.
- Have USD notes handy to pay at the desk. Our 30 day VISA was USD $40 each.
- For some stupid reason, you have to go to a certain counter to pay for a voucher.
- Then take you voucher, VISA application form and two passport photos to the main counter. If you don’t get the voucher, you’ll be forced to get one and line up again!
- Enjoy the ridiculously slow, bored-out-of-his-brains and depressed officer who will serve you. Kathmandu has the worst service and VISA process. Ever.
- Don’t be afraid to push your way to your luggage and back out again. Everyone else will do the same anyway.
- The foreign exchange counter inside was closed, so there are a few outside on the right. We exchanged only USD $10 for NPR 940 rupees. Enough for a taxi into Kathmandu. Nothing more. Exchange rates in town are much better.
- Ignore all taxi touts at the entrance who will try to charge NPR 1000+ to Thamel. Continue right and keep walking. We followed the road out of the airport and grabbed a taxi there. Haggle down to NPR 500 and be done with it. Cheaper outside the airport.
- Enjoy the super old Suzuki taxis that seem to be everywhere, and make sure you have a map of your hotel, in case of a “shortcut”, which we took, but could still follow on the map.
We stayed at Hotel Festoon in Thamel, which is the backpacker area of Kathmandu. Hotel Festoon was cheap, clean with friendly staff and lots of helpful advice and basic breakfast on their rooftop garden. We ended up using Hotel Festoon as our base in Kathmandu, between our treks and trips out of town and back again.
Thamel is a bustling, action-packed area of international restaurants, cafes, travel agents and shops, selling all sorts of “fake” travel gear, clothes, as well as bookshops, art gallery/shops and pashmina scarf stalls. It really is great fun to wander around for hours. Just don’t get run over by the cars and motorbikes which squeeze through the narrow streets, packed with locals and tourists alike.
A quick visit to Kaiser Library was worth it, just to wander around an old colonial era building, filled with antique globes, old dusty books and old paintings. Even had some stuffed animals and knight armour.
Visited 29th October 2013.