Getting to/from Bhutan, Nepal and India
Although there are many airlines flying to Delhi and Kathmandu, I’ve found that there is only one that is reliable, provides good service the whole way (many have sectors where they provide a very basic service), is generally competitive and doesn’t try to make you sick with the food – Qatar Airways (www.qatarairways.com).
I’ll immediately say that this site isn’t sponsored in any way by Qatar (I wish!) and my opinion is just that – tried and tested over 26 years of flying to and from the Himalaya, often multiple times a year.
Getting Around Nepal from Kathmandu
I’m going to say much more about Nepal as it is the easiest place for solo trekkers to access the Himalaya, so there tends to be many more questions about logistics in Nepal than other regions.
By air: Get to the airport early as flight departure times are approximate. It’s not unknown for a flight to leave early but you’re more likely to be kept waiting. With several new airlines now offering services on these routes timings are likely to change. Fares do not vary much between the airlines.
Note that both the Pokhara–Jomsom and the Pokhara–Manang routes are subject to delays or cancellations if the weather is not perfect. The Manang route is not operated during the monsoon season.
- Buddha Air (www.buddhaair.com) has up to six flights a day to and from Kathmandu.
- Yeti Airlines (www.yetiairlines.com) has 11 flights a day to and from Kathmandu and, in conjunction with Tara Air (www.taraair.com), provides services to most airports in Nepal.
- Nepal Airlines (www.nepalairlines.com.np) has two daily flights to Kathmandu. There are flights to Jomsom daily (2-4/day) but departure times vary depending on the day; flights to Manang (2/day) operate on Friday only.
- Simrik Airlines (www.simrikairlines.com) flies from Pokhara to Kathmandu and Jomsom.
By bus: For services to Kathmandu it is simplest is to get a ticket from one of the agencies that operate tourist buses from Lakeside and Damside. Tickets can be bought at most travel agents for Rs700-900. The journey takes 7-9 hours and they will pick you up from your hotel.
Top of the range are the air-con buses operated by Greenline Tours (www.greenline.com.np), near the south-eastern end of Lakeside. They have daily buses at 08.00 to Kathmandu (US$23, seven hours) and Sauraha (US$20, five hours) for Chitwan.
Of the public buses, Sajha day buses are the cheapest. They leave from outside the GPO, in the centre of Pokhara, 4km from the lake. From the ticket office here you can make reservations up to three days in advance for Kathmandu (Rs150 for early morning) or Sunauli. Buses to Kathmandu leave at 06.00, 07.30 and 19.00.
From the bus station there are lots of buses for Kathmandu (Rs700 daytime) between 05.30 and 11.00 for the day buses, and 19.30 and 20.45 for the night buses (when running).
From the main bus station there are three buses direct to Gorkha (four hours) at 07.00, 10.50 and 12.20 (Rs350), but most other buses will get you to the turn-off to Gorkha from where you can pick up a connection. For Dumre (two hours), you have a wide choice of buses: most pass through this town. For Tansen (six hours), the direct bus leaves at 07.00. To Begnas Tal (Rs50, 60 mins), there are buses starting at 07.00 and continuing every 30 minutes or so throughout the day.
Direct buses to Tadi Bazaar (Rs600, six hours) for Chitwan, leave at 07.30, then every hour until 10.30; Greenline also operate a daily bus at 08.00 direct to Sautara for Chitwan.
To reach the border with India, the best route is through Sunauli (Rs800, nine hours). There are numerous buses between 05.30 and 22.00.
Getting Around India from Delhi
Although India has an extensive rail network, nearly all treks begin with an internal flight (Leh or Srinagar) or a private car/bus journey to a road head. You should consult with your local agent in India about their recommendation.
Having said that there are some truly memorable mountain train journeys in India that can add an extra dimension to getting around. My personal favourites are:
- Toy Train – Siliguri to Darjeeling on the way to Sikkim
- Kalka-Shimla on the way to Himachal Pradesh
Getting Around Bhutan from Timphu
All of your ground travel in Bhutan will be included in your visa and it almost certainly will be by road / private car. I have outlined journey times on the GHT Bhutan page.
Now you need to know about the serious paperwork – visas and permits…