Kathmandu and Pokhara have long been must-visit cities in Nepal. The switch of the environment is noticeably obvious from Kathmandu with intense population, busy streets and chaotic traffic to Pokhara with relaxing shopping streets, systematic traffic and Lakeside where you can just stare on it for an hour.
As if you’ve been to another continent in few hours bus ride.
Here’s what you need to know about getting from Kathmandu to Pokhara. There are generally two different approaches to get to Pokhara from Kathmandu. By tourist bus, or local bus.
Tourist Bus From Kathmandu to Pokhara
I know that sounds weird to some. What’s the difference between those two? One exclusively for tourists and one for locals? Well, it’s partly correct.
Tourist bus, as suggested in its name, is meant for carrying tourists. However, locals can book a tourist bus as well. The difference is that tourist buses cost slightly higher than local buses.
Another difference is the point of departure. Tourist buses depart every morning around 7 am to Pokhara on the outskirt of Thamel. For exact location, at the street Tridevi Sadak, in front of The North Face Nepal. That saves a lot of money and time if you stayed your night in Thamel.
Here’s the highlight of the tourist buses, the main difference. Tourist buses go slower than local buses, and obviously safer.
Local buses can be deadly dangerous due to the speed they drive. Overtaking with an incoming car in the opposite direction, drifting at the unfenced cliff corner, honking all the way, imagine it. It’s not easy for foreigners’ hearts.
If you were to choose between tourist buses and local buses, pick the former. It’s just slightly more expensive than the latter.
How expensive is it? It depends on the tourist season. At high season, it could be around Rs700-900. At the low season, it could be around Rs600-800. I’ve seen people getting a bus at Rs500 with good negotiating.
In the low season, you don’t need pre-booking. Just go to the departure point Tridevi Sadak, talk to the bus conductor and negotiate. The buses are usually not full during the low season.
Check out the best season to visit Nepal here!
Let’s talking about booking a tourist bus ticket. Simply go to a travel agency in Thamel, and ask for the price for Kathmandu to Pokhara. Survey a few agencies to get the best price.
Here are the tips. Go to the outskirt of Thamel, they usually quote you at a lower price compared to those in Thamel center. Where is it? Head to Chhetrapati Chowk (beside Thamel), and check out the travel agencies as you get near.
Take note of this. Hotel receptionists will try to sell you bus tickets “at a lower fare than outside” (they always say that). But tell them you’ll buy them later. From my experience, the bus ticket sold by hotels is either the same as the travel agencies in Thamel center or slightly more expensive.
Of course, feel free to support them if you want to. And definitely check out my article on backpacking Nepal.
Local Buses To Pokhara From Kathmandu
Local buses are very basic, with literally just seats. Any excess weight is removed from the bus for maximum passengers carried. The buses are also not well-maintained and therefore they’re pretty very worn down.
Local buses are often the choice of locals and sometimes travelers who want the local experience. The bus fare is slightly cheaper at around Rs500-700 and goes at a higher speed.
The whole experience can be pleasant or adrenaline-rushings depending on your mindset, though it was exciting for me.
However, there are quite some differences between tourist buses and local buses other than the physical part.
First, the departure point of local buses from Kathmandu to Pokhara is not Tridevi Sadak, but Old Bus Park.
It’s a bit tricky to get to Old Bus Park because you will need either a cab (which will cost you another hundred Rupees) or by public bus. If you prefer the latter, I have a guide for public transport in Nepal for your reference. The public bus to Old Bus Park does not depart from Ratna Park but in front of Kathmandu Mall, which requires a little more walking.
At Old Bus Park, there will be a lot of buses going to every corner of the country. Ask any human you can see, most of Nepali speaks English.
Remember to fix a fare before you board. The conductors tend to overcharge people who don’t do that. The bus fare of local buses remains the same all year round.
Local buses depart as early as 7 am, and continue to depart at almost every hour. It’s a little more flexible in terms of time.
Want to save yourself all the hassle and book the ticket online instead? Check out 12Go, you’ll find the best prices here.
Wrapping It Up
While those two types of buses offer different sensations, it’s up to your call in the end. The best way to experience both is to go from Kathmandu to Pokhara by local bus and back by tourist bus. I did it and was happy with it. Consider a stop in Bandipur too if you’re not in a rush.
Have you ever taken a bus in Nepal? How was it? Comment below. I’m looking forward to your story.