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5 tips for surviving Kathmandu airport

Your plane finally touches down in the big empty, eerily quiet paddock that is KTM airport and shuffle off to the small brick building that you assume must be luggage collection and customs. There is no friendly information desk,no helpful English signs, no one seems to know which line foreigners with visa should be in and the luggage collection is a total shambles.



It can be a bit intimidating and stressful for new travelers because it is not 100% clear what is going on. Below are 5 tips for avoiding hassle on arrival:

  1. Customs / Visa Check - the first thing you experience about Nepal is the chaos of the visa check. No one seems to have any idea which line they should be in. To make it easy the counters at the far end (on the right if you are looking at the counters) are for people who didn't prearrange their visa. The counters closest to the entry door are for people who have a visa. I have always organized my visa prior to departure as it saves time and stress. I don't want to be stuck in the visa line while my luggage circles the conveyor belt in the luggage pick up. To see the list of countries where nationals can apply for their visa on arrival check here :
  2. Money exchange - there is a money exchange office inside the airport before you pass through visa checking. Since as far as i know You can not pre-order Nepali Rupees outside of Nepal I'd recommend
    exchanging a small amount of funds here for the cab and any emergency which may arise. It is always best to be prepared. You will get a better exchange rate in Kathmandu than in the airport so you may want to exchange ALL your money.
  3. Luggage collection - there is no order at the luggage collection. The easiest way to know which conveyor belt your luggage will come out of is to ask someone or look for people who were on your flight. Do not stress your luggage will turn up eventually. Welcome to the magic of Nepal, nothing is logical, there are no rules but everything works out in the end if you don't panic.
  4. Leaving the airport can be the most stressful part of your trip - you walk out the door and for a split second there is silence as 100 eyes watch you struggle with your bags and scan the scene for a friendly face or taxi driver. Then the noise crashes over you, "Miss, Miss", "TAXI", "TAXI" and the never ending sounding of car horns "Beep, Beep, BEEEEEEP BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP". People will be shouting at you. People will try to carry your bag. My advice is don't let them. If you do you need to tip. I have
    no idea what the correct amount for carrying a bag a few meters is. I have given up trying to work it out. Now i always carry my own luggage and save the hassle.
  5. Taxi or Hotel Pick up - I go the hotel pick up because you avoid the pain of bargaining for a taxi. I have paid between 200 Rupee and 400 to get from the airport to Thamel. If anyone knows
    what the corrct price for a taxi is maybe you could leave a comment.




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Comment by Brittany M on November 30, 2010 at 10:42pm
I am glad to have read this before arriving in KTM
Comment by Namrata T. Pongen on November 3, 2010 at 1:46pm
Very well written Amanda. I hope every one reads ur post before visiting Nepal. Even we Nepalese face similar situations. There is one more thing to add here, which is about trollies. If you don't see trollies in the luggage collection area, you need to go out the exit and find a trolley n get back in the same way. About taxi fare, airport to thamel shouldn't be more than Rs.200. It's better to look for a taxi which goes to Airport to drop passengers. There are prepaid taxies too, if you want to avoid the hassle.


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