Slowing down: The tourist bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara


Finally arrived in Pokhara. The bus station is just a dirt lot on the side of town.
Finally arrived in Pokhara. The bus station is just a dirt lot on the side of town.

“Good luck!”

It was an ominous exclamation from on of the locals as our bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara pulled off the curb to begin the slow slog some 200 kilometers west from the Nepalese capital.

The driver has plenty of room on board, though eventually a handful of people would crowd in up front for the ride.
The driver has plenty of room on board, though eventually a handful of people would crowd in up front for the ride.

That we pulled over less than a minute later did not bode well for our chances.

Fill ‘er up!

Fortunately that first stop was just to top off the gas tank and not a true indicator of the forthcoming experience. That said, the ride was every bit the 8ish hour adventure we were promised at the outset.



Knee room on the bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara is not great. But also not awful.
Knee room on the bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara is not great. But also not awful.

The scenery is spectacular (pro tip: sit on the right side for better views), weaving through the hilly countryside. Farmers work their rice paddies and, at least on this particular day, uniformed children stood along the roadside awaiting buses to collect them for the ride to school.

Workers completing the harvest
Workers completing the harvest
The vistas along the drive were impressive, though it was a long slog from Kathmandu to Pokhara on the bus.
The vistas along the drive were impressive, though it was a long slog from Kathmandu to Pokhara on the bus.

But that beauty comes with a certain cost. The ride is not a smooth one. The two lane road is paved, but in a way that barely stands up to the traffic it endures. The bumps might please a bobble head figurine or one of those dancing hula girls that sit on a dashboard. For travelers, however, the ride is more an opportunity to measure tolerance and patience.

A propane tanker overturned on the side of the road. Oopsie!
A propane tanker overturned on the side of the road. Oopsie!

The bus stopped three times during the journey. The first, about 90 minutes into the trip was a quick bathroom break. Another 90 minutes brought us to the breakfast stop with lunch a couple hours after that. Drop $2-4 at the roadside restaurant for a plate of rice and dal or noodles or mo: mo:, the local version of dumplings.

A quick mid-morning break as we rolled from Kathmandy to Pokhara
A quick mid-morning break as we rolled from Kathmandy to Pokhara

Or bring your own snacks for the ride. But food is definitely important. A seven hour journey seems to be the absolute best case scenario, and it is rarely that quick.

Traffic on the main highway between Kathmandu and Pokhara
Traffic on the main highway between Kathmandu and Pokhara


Plenty of road-side shops along the highway
Plenty of road-side shops along the highway

The alternate is a $100ish flight between the two cities that takes only a half hour or so in the air. Worth the cost differential? Maybe. Depending on plans in Pokhara it might just mean more time in town rather than saving a day on a trekking adventure. It also might mean a cancelled or delayed flight owing to the weather at either end, so you might end up on the road anyways.

Finally arrived in Pokhara. The bus station is just a dirt lot on the side of town.
Finally arrived in Pokhara. The bus station is just a dirt lot on the side of town.

Besides, the bus ride is an adventure all its own.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

10 Comments

  1. Our son is a missionary in Kathmandu, so you are always in for an adventure when you travel outside of the city. We love the sense of getting away, and it seems even more obscure than our over 125 trips for business in china over 40 years ago. We have learned the ways of the chinese now, but going to Nepal is much more challenging. Our son has been there for over 4 years sharing the Gospel, and he always brings us hair raising adventures. It reminds me of our harrowing bus trip from Harare to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe when the bus driver prayed for our safe travels there, and also gave a thankful prayer for arriving successfully 12 hours later. We love Nepal, and will continue to visit their magnificent country. Safe travels.

  2. Having done this journey a few times and having taken the flight once, I can’t say enough for the flights! There’s a temptation on any trip to Nepal to attempt to spend a total of less than $5 a day total, but the time savings is an even bigger part of it.

    Taking the bus commits basically an entire day to getting between the cities. Taking the flight is pretty painless. But I guess everyone should experience a $3 tourist bus between the cities at least once??!?!

  3. My first bustrip between Kathmandu and Pokhara took about 13 hours. The bus broke down several times and in the end the driver’s sidekick, a young boy, stood on the wheel cap to hold on to something under an open motorhood (this one was 2 parts that opened on the sides). This was 30 plus years ago.
    The last time I did the trip is only 1 month ago, in a normal car, with a good driver, leaving Kathmandu early as to not end up in the morning rush hour: we seemed to be making good time, didn’t even stop to eat, but in the end it still took us more than 6 hours. It seems it just can’t be done much faster than that. Just once I took the plane and maybe next time as well? Not sure….

  4. The cost of flight between two cities is around $20-$50. I think it’s always better to travel by air.

    1. I guess you’re better at negotiating airfare than I am. Or something else mucked it up. For the flight I needed it was about $100.

        1. So not very helpful to my situation nor my readers. 🙂

          Also, flights cancel. I know because I got to experience that first hand a few days later. That post is coming soon…

  5. Another pro tip – sit as close to the front of the bus as possible! Reduces the amount of bumping considerably – there’s a reason the tourists always end up at the back!

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