How To Use Road Transportation in Kathmandu on a Budget

Do you like to travel the world on a budget?

If you do, no doubt you will agree that road transportation can consume your balance when on a budget. Whether it’s cross-country travel or simply reaching one end of a city to another. This is especially applicable to the capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu. Its valley has a population of roughly 985,000 people. Moreover the equivalent to 52,500 residents per square mile. 

Each year, the population rises dramatically and so does the infrastructure. Making the cities surface area amazingly small, difficult and time-consuming to commute small distances. The high population contributes to daily traffic jams filled by the roaring engines of motorbikes, buses, and cars.

Likewise, there are no traffic lights and little amount of pedestrian crossings. When crossings are found they are hardly used. Traffic is controlled by the police who move the flow of vehicles using precise hand gestures and a whistle. Here’s a further stat for you by myrepublica the vehicles in Kathmandu are of an of excess 1.1million!

Have you developed an image inside your head yet of just how hectic Kathmandu roads can be?  

A further cause of traffic problems is the constant maintenance of road work. I came to Kathmandu as a traveller and now live here as an Expat. After a year of living here, this is something that still frustrates me to this day. The busy roads of Kathmandu have often at times made me opt to use other methods of transport instead of walking. Previously I’ve also spoken to other tourists who choose to do the same.

Often the taxis are high in price which makes tourists feel like they have been exposed to a foreigner price. Even though the Stupa’s of Kathmandu (temples) charge 1000 Nepalese rupees (NPR) per foreigner. This is not the case with private taxis. I’ve bargained a lot with taxi drivers in Kathmandu to reduce the cost of local transportation down by a few dollars.

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Taxi Estimates

Taxi Yellow
Photo by Lexi Ruskell on Unsplash

Don’t be shocked if the drivers are hesitant about your quotes and refuse to bargain down. Their struggle is often publicized in the press for not using government meters. Private fees allow them to pay off the interest on car loans, taxes, and operating fees. If you decide to use in Kathmandu, give humble consideration towards the fee you quote. They’re not trying to expose you, the drivers are just trying to make a living like you and I. 

On the other hand, if you were to get a taxi around Kathmandu to certain tourist destinations it could add up and potentially cost at least $15.00-$20.00 per day. You may agree for a South Asian country this is expensive and could take up a lot of your budget. Luckily, for you as a resident of Kathmandu, I’ve come to discover cheaper alternatives known to the locals.

Road Transportation Rivals

If you’re a tech-savvy person like I, one step I take before exploring a new destination is that I check my Uber app to see if ridesharing is available. According to locals, Uber came to Nepal for a discussion to set up their business for cars. However, the government did not comply with their pitch. This was rejected as the government wanted to dictate and set regulated fairs. Which Uber did not agree too. 

Due to this decline, it encouraged the rise of new startups to operate and provide a service. Who are offering efficient and cheap transportation service to locals. Without a doubt, some of these are startups I use daily when on a budget as they take me from one place to another. Most of the time quicker and cheaper than taxis or buses.

But how is this possible?

For a period of time, the owners found a loophole in legislation to operate in Kathmandu. Then, the government blocked these startups due to the lack of compliance with government fees. However, due to public demand, the companies were reinstated.

Popular with locals, these alternative innovative start-ups that function similarly to Uber are something as a tourist you need to know. With that said, here is the following business you must be aware of as a traveller if you want cheap and effective road transportation in Kathmandu: 

Tootle

Tootle

A motorbike ride-sharing app founded by Sixit Bhatta during 2016. All riders are verified by Tootle. When joining, the company provides you with a small credit as a gratitude for using their service.

Their hours of operation are from 6 am to 10 pm. Similar to Uber, you download their app from the app or play store. Then request a ride from your chosen pick up and drop off location using their map. Before you confirm, the total set fare of the journey is calculated and displayed. It also shows on the map the available drivers nearby your location.

Passengers are provided with a choice to select whether they want a male or female driver!  You can pay in advance on their app by uploading ‘tootle credit’ or use cash. Like uber, passengers can rate their service of the driver after their trip. You can also choose your preferred time to be picked up.

I can’t provide estimates as locations vary however the cost of using tootle in comparison to a taxi is significantly cheaper for those on a budget! I’m talking from 60-200 NPRS per journey in the valley! It’s become extremely popular, that a lot of residents prefer to use instead of public transport! Especially those commuting to and from the office!

Pathao

Pathao

This company originates from Bangladesh and was launched in Kathmandu during 2018. It is a motorbike ride-sharing service. Unlike tootle, this service operates 24/7. However, during the daylight hours, there are frequently more riders available. If you are referred by a friend you both get free credit. Moreover, you are often supplied via text with frequent discount codes off future rides!

As a user, I find Pathao cheaper than tootle. At times, I’ve commuted using their discount codes for the cost of 25 NPRS! Sometimes, discount codes have made my journey cheaper than getting the bus!

Like Tootle and Uber, their user’s rate riders. Furthermore, there have been rumours of it setting up a food and parcel delivery service.

EddyCab

This is an app advertising a 24-hour service in Kathmandu via a four-wheeler taxi. Drivers are licensed, tracked and trained by Eddycab. Like those stated above, you choose your pick up and drop off location using the in-app map. You can also call your taxi to communicate with the driver.

Getting a Nepalese Sim Card

Before you can use any of these apps you must own a Nepalese mobile number. This is so you can be registered onto their database for their drivers can contact you.

It’s actually not as hard as you think.

Type of Sim Card

The most common and recommended SIM Card for travellers in Nepal is Ncell. Ncell’s network is fast and the method of getting a sim is easier than its competitor, Nepal Telecom. It’s worth getting if you’re on a budget.

Vendors

To locate a vendor simply look for their logo advertised above (mainly local shops). There’s the main vendor as you exit Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. However, before being able to purchase your pay as you go SIM, I.D. is required. You will need to provide two passport sized photographs and your passport showing your latest visa. They will take a copy and make you fill out a request form.

Following this, you will be able to purchase top-ups from selected Ncell outlets in the form of 200,500 and 1000 NPRS. This is given as a small card, where you scratch the number on the back and type it into your phone. Then enter it into your mobile as per instructions on the card and it will top you up with credit. 

To summarise…

Kathmandu is a vibrant, chaotic and sensational city. It contains 10 UNESCO world heritage sites squeezed amongst a population of 985,000 people. Since the 2015 earthquake, the government has dedicated a year to promote tourism introducing a scheme ‘Visit Nepal 2020’. Due to this, the development of infrastructure in Nepal’s capital city is rapidly rising.

The high population, the maintenance of road works and the creation of new infrastructure has created limited road space. Therefore, causing taxi drivers to go against government regulated meters and to and increase their fares. Sometimes making tourists feel like they have been exposed.

To counter this, in recent years ride-sharing competitors such as tootle, pathao and eddy cab have emerged which are good for people on a budget. They have become so popular, locals often use these as opposed to public transport. As a traveller, you should definitely consider using these budget-friendly ridesharing apps in Kathmandu as opposed to taxis on the street. However, remember to purchase your Nepalese SIM first! 

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