Risk vs Reward: the bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara

Some journeys are pretty simple, whereas some others are more notorious than others. In Nepal, a popular route for tourists is between Kathmandu and Pokhara. It is possible to fly between the two cities, although economically a bus makes more sense – but this is quite a dangerous journey!

Landing in Kathmandu
Landing in Kathmandu

Most travellers to Nepal will arrive in Kathmandu at Tribhuvan International Airport. Some will decide to stay in this dirty and polluted capital city for a short while (at least to see the super Boudhanath Stupa), whereas some will prefer to find transport immediately to other more refreshing areas of the country, such as Annapurna, Chitwan, or Pokhara. The most common destination for travellers to Nepal is Pokhara, and the most common way of getting there is by bus (although domestic flights are available).

There are three types of bus that travel between Kathmandu to Pokhara. The distance of this journey may only be around 200km, but the choice of bus you take can make a huge difference!

nepalbus6

Local buses run from the bus stand at Kalanki in Kathmandu (which is a 10 minute taxi rive from the Thamel area) and arrive at Gonggabu bus station in Pokhara. These local buses are old, decrepit, dangerous, and overcrowded – and will stop anywhere for anyone. There are travellers reports of having to share a set of seats with goats and chickens for much of the journey! A typical price of 500rs is very cheap, but an 8 hour journey is the norm – if you ever get there at all!

nepalbus7

Minibuses are available from private stands, from early in the morning (5.30am to 3.00pm). The journey from Kathmandu to Pokhara in a minibus should take around 5 hours, as theses minibuses are fast, new, and have good brakes. These buses cost around 350rs and leave when full (at least 10 passengers). They are a good option if you want to take in some sights in the morning then leave around noon and arrive in Pokhara by evening.

Greenline are among the most reputable tourist buses
Greenline are among the most reputable tourist buses
Onboard the Greenline bus (note the "aircon")
Onboard the Greenline bus (note the “aircon”)

Tourist buses are probably the simplest option for anyone staying in Kathmandu. The buses depart from the station on Kantipath Road, which is a mere 5 minute walk from the centre of Thamel. As of January, 2017, $25USD is the standard fare (although some companies are a little cheaper) and there are decent quality buses, especially from reputable companies like Greenline and Baba Adventure, with air-con and free WIFI (though as this is Nepal, expect slow speeds). These tourist buses take around 7 hours to reach Pokhara – and most of them leave before 7am, so if you miss the morning’s departure then you will have to spend yet another night in Kathmandu!

Pokhara Lake
Pokhara Lake

If buses really aren’t your thing, then you could also consider hiring a private car with driver (if you can afford it!) for your journey to Pokhara – and this will set you back around $150USD for the journey. Most drivers will want the return fare paid as well, as they will need to cover their costs of driving back to Kathmandu. There are plenty of local travel agencies and car hire companies scattered around Thamel in Kathmandu, so you can shop around for a slightly better price. Travel time will be 5 hours to Pokhara, in what will be a more comfortable and private ambience than by bus.

Upon arrival, you will immediately notice that Pokhara is a splendid Nepali city that couldn’t be more different to the concrete jungle that is Kathmandu. If anywhere in Nepal is to be considered “beautiful”, then Pokhara could be that place (and maybe Chitwan National Park). Enjoy your time in the cool weather – and prepare yourself for the risky return journey to Kathmandu!

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14 thoughts on “Risk vs Reward: the bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara

    1. About Green Lines.. you could not be so wrong about Green Lines.. i have been coming to Nepal for many years and Green Lines has really gone down.. for the past 4 years new buses companies have emerged and the latest is jagadumba. it is $25.00 one way, the same price as Green Lines.. Jagadumba has an hostess on the bus.. it has less seats,, they are reclining like business class airlines.. they give you free breakfast,, lunch,, coffee or tea,, newspapers and water all the way.. you cannot beat it.. and they pick you at your hotel if you are on the main street!!
      mimi

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  1. “… and have good brakes.” Every so often I’ll come across a story about buses / mini vans full of tourist that have plunged off a cliff side. It’s good to know there are options available.

    The picture of the boat is lovely.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There are many bad bus journeys in south American too (like Peru or Bolivia) that have horror stories of tragedies etc.

      Nepali buses are very bad but it certainly pays to do some research before travelling 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It would be very tight to leave KTM airport, as in my experience service there is very slow and bad. You actually should allow yourself an extra couple of hours before catching the bus for the journey to Pokhara. Could you not even stay a night in Kathmandu? There are many cheap accommodations in Thamel…

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  2. Hi,

    Could you please clarify where can we catch the mini buses? Not quite sure where are the private stands…i assume Rs 350 is the rate for 2016? do we need to get a ticket at counter or on board?

    Thanks in advance!

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    1. Gonggabu New Bus Park is about 10 minutes taxi from Thamel in the heart of Kathmandu. It is from here where you can catch the local minibuses to Pokhara. These buses are often cramped and dirty, and it seems the price has increased to about 500Rupees now.

      I would recommend the tourist bus 100% of the time. The tourist bus can be caught at the station on a road called Kantipath – a 5 minute walk from Thamel. Most buses leave at 7am, and you need to be there 30 minutes before departure. Green Line is probably the best bus company to make this journey with, and you can expect to pay around $15USD for the journey per person.

      Tickets for the tourist bus are sold all around Thamel, as it is the backpacker place of Kathmandu. Maybe even your hotel or hostel will be able to book something for you. If all else fails, head to the bus station the day before you travel and just ask around. It may seem chaotic, but this is Nepal, after all!

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  3. Hi Lee, I’m wondering is there any night bus to Phokara? It will save my time if I go to there at night. And thank you for your post, so helpful. I’ll be there on May

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