Kathmandu, the capital of the ancient country of Nepal, and the gateway to the world’s tallest mountain, Mt Everest. To be honest, it’s one of the best cities I’ve been to. Yup, it’s a very poor country, but I’ve learned a lot of things while volunteering in Kathmandu and trekking the Annapurna Circuit. Kathmandu city itself is very enjoyable with plenty of things to do and places to visit. Just like any other city, there are many ways you can explore Kathmandu city on a budget.
In this article, I’ll tell you the tips and tricks to explore the city without spending a fortune. You’ll learn to get to the city center from the airport on a public bus, where to eat, where to stay and some money-saving tips. If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide, this 6000+ words Nepal backpacking guide will help you. I’ll not be talking about the things to do in Kathmandu because I got them covered in another article here.
Now, let’s dive in and see how you can explore Kathmandu city on a budget!
Budget For Traveling Kathmandu – A Quick View
Is it possible to travel Nepal, or particularly Kathmandu city on a budget for less than $25 per day? Well, it depends on your travel style, but it’s easily possible if you know how to. Which is why this article exists in the first place.
At the time of writing, 1 US Dollar = 114 Nepalese Rupees, but most local merchants take $1 as 100 Nepalese Rupees.
Here’s a quick tip, always change your dollars to Nepalese Rupees at the money changers in Thamel. Thamel has the highest number of money changers, therefore offering the best rates in the city. It’s also the place you’re most likely to be staying in.
Change your money to Nepalese Rupees first instead of paying the restaurants with your home currency, unless you’re happy with their services.
Here’s a quick view of how much everything costs if you’re traveling on a budget in Kathmandu city.
- Accommodations usually cost around $4-5 for bunk beds and around $8 for private rooms in backpacker hostels. For mid-range hotels, it would be around $10 for a private room, but that varies a lot depending on your choice.
- If you dine in local restaurants, it will cost you around $2 per meal. For higher-end restaurants, which are abundant in Thamel, it will cost around $5-8 for the main course, but still, it depends on what you order. As expected, Western cuisines cost much more than local delights in most restaurants.
- Each cab ride is around Rs400-600 ($4-6) within Kathmandu city. I have a guide below for taking public transport to your destinations in Kathmandu, which will cost around Rs20-25 per trip.
- Entrance tickets to attractions might cost you from Rs250 to Rs1500, depending on where you go. Bhaktapur Durbar Square has the most expensive entrance ticket fee of Rs1500, but it’s Rs1000 for the other two durbar squares.
Check out the best time to visit Nepal to plan your trip!
Taking Public Transport Like a Local
Actually, I have an entire post dedicated to taking public transport in Nepal, but I’m gonna talk through it briefly here. I highly recommend you to check out that article, which will definitely help you to plan your trip and save money throughout your Nepal trip.
Ratna Park is the main bus station in Kathmandu city. Here, you will find public buses leading to every corner of the city.
Simply walk there from Thamel, it will take you around 15-20 minutes walking. For example, if you want to go to Boudhanath, pay attention to what the bus conductors are shouting. If you heard the word ‘Boudhanath’, ask if they’re going, and hop on.
If nobody is shouting, simply ask one of the bus conductors, and they’ll show you which bus leads to your destination. It’s really that simple, and it’s cheap, costing around Rs20-25 per trip.
For somewhere farther, like Godavari Botanical Garden, it will cost around Rs50.
When you’re taking public buses, make sure you have small changes available! The bus conductors usually do not have changes for your Rs1000 note.
Taking the public bus is the best way to keep your Kathmandu city travel budget at under $25 a day!
Getting From Tribhuvan International Airport to Thamel
There are several ways to get from Tribhuvan International Airport to Thamel, the tourist hub, where you’re probably staying in.
First, take a cab. A cab costs around Rs400-600, depending on how much you negotiate. But if you’re not financially restricted, consider supporting the local economy by not negotiating. Cars are usually small there, and traffic jams are common, just for your info. It usually takes 30 minutes drive to get to Thamel.
Second, take the public bus. Squeeze through all the cab driver crowds outside the airport, prepare to say “No, thank you,” a hundred times, and head straight to the bus stop outside the airport entrance. At the bus stop, pay attention to the bus conductor shouting “Ratna Park”.
Once you heard it, hop on, and hold on tight for the bumpy ride. It costs around Rs25-30 for the trip, and most likely your luggage or backpacks will be strapped on top of the van or bus. Don’t worry, I’ve never heard it flew away or dropped from the ride.
From Ratna Park, you’ll need 15-20 minutes to walk to your hostel or hotel.
If by any chance you pass by the bakeries in Thamel, grab a cinnamon roll! I always do that, cause they’re nice.
Where to Eat in Kathmandu?
Throughout my 3 months’ stay in Kathmandu, there is one thing I enjoy doing – looking for hidden gems in Google Maps. I’m talking about local restaurants.
Since I lived in New Baneshwor, which is quite far away from Thamel, I had to find some decent local restaurants to satisfy my taste buds. And Google Maps is best at doing that. TripAdvisor only gives you recommendations on higher-end restaurants, and there are very few reviews on the smaller restaurants.
I found out that most of the restaurants have different recipes on the same dish. For example, you’ll never taste the same Thukpa (a Tibetan noodle dish) in different restaurants.
The reason I love to do this is that I enjoy the satisfaction of finding great Nepalese foods in lesser-known restaurants. I also get to taste the authentic Nepalese dishes instead of the more decorated dish in higher-end restaurants.
Of course, I have a few recommendations for restaurants in Kathmandu, which I will list out later. But if you’re hesitating where to have your lunch when you’re far away from your hostel, consider using Google Maps!
- Muktinath Thakali Kitchen in Thamel – they have great thukpa and dal bhat!
- Or2K – Vegan restaurant with big portions, extensive choices, and great flavor.
- Momo Star – an affordable restaurant with wide choices of Momo, the Nepalese dumplings.
- Rosemary Kitchen & Coffee Shop – I love the risotto here, but I’m pretty sure other dishes are great as well.
- Gilingche Tibetan Restaurant – authentic Tibetan dishes if you’re thinking of trying
- Himalayan Java Coffee – if you’re a coffee addict, you should definitely check them out
Where to Stay in Kathmandu?
I only recommend staying in Thamel because it has the most variety of accommodations, and the prices are more competitive. There are also plenty of restaurants, convenience stores, trekking gear shops, souvenir shops, etc nearby.
If you’re looking for cheaper deals on the same products, like medical supplies, trekking gears, head over the Chhetrapati Chowk, which is just next to Thamel. Not a lot of tourists shop there, but you’ll find much cheaper prices over there for the same thing. Check out these shopping tips that’ll help you save money and time in Kathmandu.
At low season or the shoulder season, you could get even better deals because there are not as many tourists or travelers around.
Also, it’s close to Ratna Park, which means you can take the bus to anywhere you want, anytime you like.
Use the Booking.com widget below and find the best hotel deals now!
You can also choose to live in quieter places like Kirtipur, where you can literally spend a day walking around doing nothing but enjoying the architecture and the views. Check out the video about Kirtipur below, I felt like I had to share it because it’s amazing!
Ready to Travel Kathmandu City on a Budget?
What do you think of these tips on traveling Kathmandu on a budget? I hope you find them useful in planning your trip to Nepal. Kathmandu is still one of my favorites cities, and I’m definitely going back in the next few years. I just enjoy being there, I don’t know why. For the foods, the people or just the vibes, maybe?
If you’re not sure where to go next, consider visiting Bandipur, which is located in the middle of Pokhara and Kathmandu.
Nevertheless, I know you’ll enjoy Nepal as much as I did. Let me know if you like this article in the comments below!
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