Kathmandu to Pokhara – The Bus journey
There are more than 20 tourist buses that ply the road to Pokhara in addition to mini-vans and taxis. You can fly instead for around $100 and it only takes 35minutes.
This journey would take 7 hours including a breakfast and lunch stop to do 200km. A big improvement on the 9 and a half hours to do 130km to Langtang. We booked the bus via the hotel to secure a seat and it cost $10; the real price is probably around $7. We read that in the low season or the second season you can just turn up at Kantipath around 6.30am and choose your bus; with some negotiating you can get a ticket for around $5.50.
There were many buses and most were not full. Also, don’t worry about breakfast as the Nepalese have this covered. You can buy drinks and food on the street by the buses, with many vendors selling pastries, water, etc.
The buses leave for Pokhara at 7am, (apart from the Greenline, which leaves at 7.30am from near The North Face Store on Thamel Marg) and arrive in Pokhara at 2pm around 2km from the main hotels. There are fixed priced taxis waiting. 200rupees for the Lakeside.
We took Metro Inn Travels and Tours. It was a very new bus with the luggage stored at the back rather than on the roof. The luggage space was also clean, so the bag didn’t get covered in grease and oil like it has on many other buses in Asia. We were given a bottle of water each and had comfortable reclining seats and air-conditioning. The journey was pretty good and the road for the most part was paved. The start of the journey through Kathmandu took a long time and then the bus had to wind down into the valley bottom. Don’t worry the road is fine and the tourist buses go slowly. It may be painful on the ears as the brakes like to squeal. Once down this one steep section the rest of the journey was in the valley. It is windy and it is bumpy but there is enough room for two vehicles and no real drop of the edge. The bus nearly had a bump 3 times due to local buses and crazy drivers overtaking on blind corners. Luckily, the tourist bus goes slow and reacted to these, always stopping in time.
The view from the window was a good one. The water in the river was a huge contrast to the polluted, rubbish-infested river in Kathmandu. By the river’s side the road was lined with tall trees in Autumnal colours. People bathed and washed in the river as well as tourists taking part in rafting. As we got closer to Pokhara the route became anachronistic. There was a cable car, which in such a poor country seems out of place when the infrastructure is lacking. Even if it was built for tourists the country only receives 450,000 per year compared to the 26million of Thailand. To me it seems odd especially when the government is Communist. Maybe, they had funding from another country and yet next to the narrow road with the misnomer of ‘highway’ there is a brand new cable car racing up to a nearby peak. It was in the middle of nowhere and the nearby hamlet didn’t seem to hold any clues as to why it was built there.
We continued on to our lunch stop, at $3 it was overpriced for tourists and there was no alternative. Same price as up the hills and it was just Daal Bhaat’ which is rice, daal and some vegetables After the stop we were just 50km from Pokhara.
Upon entering the town, on our nice comfortable bus, I was struck by how much richer it seemed compared to Kathmandu. They have a footpath! The road is less dirty and rubbish-strewn. The rubbish is still there but I think the influence of 75% of all tourists to Nepal coming here had really impacted on the place. Despite being able to see no 8000m peaks we had a view of the lake – clean and green. It was a much more sane arrival to a Nepalese town than normal.
Our 7 hour bus journey did not drag. I even fell asleep, something that would never happen on the Langtang journey. I as able to read and had plenty of room The bus seemed safe, the views in the valley were nice and the free pickup to the hotel was also good. On our return to Kathmandu we will just turn up at the tourist bus stand and pick a bus to save money. In peak season we don’t recommend this but in March you’ll be able to find a seat.
To conclude, Pokhara seems less hectic and cleaner than Kathmandu. It is a bit more sane. It still has a character but those mountains are hidden behind the haze. I hope they appear soon.
Posted from Pokhara, Western Region, Nepal.