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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!