This is the routine:
1) Follow the flow of people from the plane into the arrival building.
2) If you have time, change money at the bank counter to the left of the immigration lines - no hassles and you'll have some rupees in hand as you leave the airport for taxi etc.
3) Fill in appropriate forms unless you have already done so on the plane. You need one visa application form, one customs form and one embarkation/disembarcation card.
4) Find a line suitable to your situation: Indian Nationals/SAARC/tourists with visa/Tourists without visa/Diplomats & official.
5) Have your papers ready, prepare for what could be a long wait. If you need a visa, make sure you have the correct visa fee and photo ready. Currently one photo and 25 dollars for a 14-day visa. First they will take your money and give you a receipt.
6) Finished with immigration formalities, proceed downstairs and go through checking of hand luggage. Sometimes this check is not manned. Notice the scale for weighing gold at the metal detector gate. Try to avoid sending your film reels through the x-ray machine, ask for manual check.
7) Continue to the luggage "carousel", two long conveyer bands rumbling though the hall with, by now, hopefully your luggage. Baggage handlers will offload luggage from the bands when they fill up, so look on the floor alongside the band if you cannot locate it on the band itself.
8) Take luggage and yourself through appropriate red or green channel (it's the same!). You may or may not be asked to put your checked luggage through the customs X-ray machine.
9) Head for the exit if all is ok and find a hotel booking counter and sometimes a "Nepal Traveller" bureau official giving you a city map and travel guide for free (useful). Past the first exit door you will find a taxi service counter on your right. They won't cheat you - see my pre-paid taxi travel tip elsewhere on VT. Then head out for the crowds - see photo.
It is easy to obtain your visa on landing at Tribhuvan Airport, All you have to do is fill in the Visa application Form, take it to the immigration desk, hand over $40 ( U.S.) and a passport photo and you will be issued with your visa there and then. The visa lasts for 30 days.
Also if you are planning another trip back to Nepal it is worthwhile picking up a few extra visa application forms then next time you can be ahead of the game by already having yours filled in !!!!
2007, This information is still good but I have now written the entry procedure at Kathmandu Tribuvan airport in more detail under arriving at Kathmandu Tribuvan Airport, part 1 and 2
The government has revised existing tourist visa fee to be effective from Shrawan 1, 2065 (July 16, 2008). As per the new fee structure, US $ 25 or equivalent foreign currency is required to obtain Tourist Visa with Multiple Entry for 15 days. Likewise, Tourist Visa with Multiple Entry for 30 days can be obtained by paying US $ 40 or equivalent foreign currency. Similarly, Tourist Visa with Multiple Entry for 100 days can be obtained by paying US $ 100.
Likewise, the government has also revised fee required to extend days of stay and visa renewal. As per the revise fee structure, Tourist Visa can be extended by paying US $ 2 or equivalent Nepalese currency per day. Likewise, Multiple Entry facility can be obtained only for the extension period by additional US $ 20 and visa fee for the extended period. Similarly, tourists can renew their visa by paying Nepalese currency equivalent to US $ 3 on the regular visa extension fee.
How long does your visa last ??
This is an often-asked question – In effect a visa lasts for one more day than you originally might think
If there was such a thing as a one day visa, you would buy it on day one and it would expire on day two, likewise the same rule applies to all other visas, a 15 day visa expires on the 16th day, a 30 day visa expires on the 31st day and 90 day visa expires on the 91st day– So all visas last one day more than you might think.
Having said that, you must double check the date of the expiry of your visa as soon as you get it, then you can always query it if you think It is wrong – This also applies to Visa Extensions as “Mistakes” often happen, and if you don’t spot this until sometime after it has been issued then it is almost impossible to have this “Mistake” rectified – a case of Buyer Beware ;-)
Good Luck and Happy Travels in Nepal
When it’s time to depart, If you are Leaving Nepal by Air, Then you will have airport tax to pay, But did you know that if you fly out via India or Bangladesh then you pay less airport tax than if you fly out to other countries, roughly speaking about 33% less, so worth bearing in mind when you book your flights.
Prices as of 2007 are
Passengers departing from the Tribhuvan International Airport are required to pay an airport departure tax of Rs. 791.00 if going to SAARC countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) and Rs. 1130.00 to all other international destinations.
Domestic airport tax is Rs. 170.00.
2008, I am afraid that departure taxes from Nepal have gone up yet again, They are now 1695Rsfor international departures, or if flying to India and other SAARC countries, 1356Rs.
As I didn’t take any internal flights this time I can’t be sure if domestic departure tax has gone up or not ??
Most international departures from Nepal now have the departure tax included in the ticket price. This is a much better system and it saves you keeping back Nepali Rupee to pay at the airport, But double check with your airline to make sure that this is the case with your own ticket !!
You still have to pay airport tax for internal flights including the Mountain Flights though !!
Do not be surprised if Yeti Airlines and other Nepali domestic airlines will be delayed or cancelled as this is very common in Nepal.
I have an experience that European security rules are not respected in Nepal. There is no proper equipment to scan bags and passengers. You can take on the board practically everything what you want what can be worrying.
When you fly from KTM to Pokhara sit on the right side of the plane. Flying back - on the left - otherwise you'll miss amazing views of the Himalaya peaks!
Be careful with you bag weight - there are good scales on the airports so know your limits :)
It is possible to buy a ticket with short notice, even in the same day and even during the strike (checked by myself!)
Next you go through custom’s, this is really nothing more than a formality.
Next you go to the baggage hall, and with luck your bags (Maybe safely inside a Pro-Tector) will be on the carrousel awaiting you.
Then you walk through the airport doors and outside into pandemonium !!
BUT Don’t worry about this, The Nepalese are a Really Friendly people, However walking outside Tribuvan Airport can be a bit overwhelming, especially the first time and if you are traveling alone. Lots of hotel touts try and persuade you to go in Their Free taxi to Their Hotel. If you haven’t got a fixed plan then sometimes this isn’t such a bad thing, But Personally I just say to a taxi driver, will you take be into Thamel for $5 and usually they say yes.
If you have arranged a pick up from your hotel, the guys with names on a board usually either stand just inside or just outside the main door, If the taxi drivers still pester you just tell them you are meeting someone and already have a reservation – That Usually Works
I Hope the above helps you, Good Luck and Enjoy your visit to Nepal – I am Sure that you will !!
Most travellers tick off Thai Airways for this sector, and I fully agree. There is a new airline that has popped up, Air Nepal International - don't travel with them. Their advertised prices are dirt cheap, but the last I heard was that they are no longer flying according to their route plans. They have one - 1 - plane. Likewise, Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation (RNAC = Royal Nepal Always Cancels) is best avoidable. Last time I tried them from BKK their plane was missing near Singapore, so I quickly changed to another airline... Last time I saw their desk at the BKK terminal its KTM flight was announced to be 22 hrs late....
There are rumors that Cosmic Air will start flying their Fokker 70ies KTM-BKK, too, but wait and see if it works first...
For adventure, the Biman route is good for two things apart from the price. They serve the best curry in the air, and Dhaka is an interesting city if you are a hardy soul... Do go with a visa. Another interesting trip is by Druk Air via Thimpu. Don't know the price and doubt they have a functioning internet booking, but why not throw in a stint in Bhutan?
But from BKK to KTM straight? Thai Airways TG 319 10:30 every morning, no nonsense. Cheapest it isn't, but they will also bail you out of Nepal every day if other airlines via Delhi or the Gulf are stuck, on strike, cancelled or too scered to fly... Opportunistic Thai Airways will send in bigger and more aircraft if there is a chance to make a buck at the expense of other airlines.
Update April 2010:
Cosmic Air and Air Nepal International are both bust. RNAC is renamed Nepal Airlines (republic, now, not royal anylonger!). Nepal Airlines still does not pose real competition to Thai despite Thai's stiff pricing on this near-monopoly route. Instead Thai puts in extra flights in the high season.
On your flights to either Pokhara in the central-western part of the country, ot to Bhadrapur in the far eastern part, you will have a chance to see the Himalayas unrolling besides the plane.
If you travel by other airlines than Yeti and Buddha Air whioch flies very high, the chances of not seeing much due to haze and clouds is there. Buddha flies so high that they nearly always come above any cloud cover. Therefore you may have views like this photo shows from the KTM-Pokhara flight. The mountains are of the Manaslu-Himalchuli massif.
Once travelling from Bharatpur to Kathmandu our landing in KTM was delayed by the KTM tower and the pilots took the plane along the Himalayas all the way from east of Makalu - a mountain flight as bonus!
The last three seats on the plane's right side are the best on Buddha Air Beechcraft 1900s for views during travels to Pokhara - no wings or propellers disturb the view.
Some of the very best default mountain flights are of course with tiny aircraft that fly to mountain destinations, especially Jomsom, Gamgadhi, Simikot, Dolpa and Lukla.
I fly this strech often, and Thai is the best option. However, they are expensive, since Nepal Air offers limited real competition due to their abysmal delay and cancellation record. The other ways you can get to KTM are via Delhi (probably expensive and incoveninent) and Dhaka by GMG and/or Biman (cheap and slightly inconvenient), or even Druk Air via Bhutan. You may get a layover in Bhutan and that will set you back some 200-300 usd.
With Thai you should absolutely book well ahead of time as the cheaper seats get eaten up by travel agencies' block bookings and generally early individual bookings. Flying Thai BKK-KTM rtn will set you back 500-600 USD economy class unless you find some promotional deal or a travel agent buring with unspent block bookings.
Both Biman and Thai can do online ticketing.
1) You could book online with airlines such as Yeti, however online booking of domestic airlines in Nepal isn’t as straight forward as you might think as there is no proper booking system, so what you have to do is send your credit card details to the airline by open email and a Lot of people are understandably worried about doing this. However I have heard quite a few reports from people who have used the system without problems
2) Reserve your flights through a reputable agent, if you do this, be careful only to use a recommended agent, preferably one that you have either had previous dealings with or had a personal recommendation from someone you know and trust, then Only send a Small deposit as an act of good faith
3) Wait until you get there, If you have a few days flexibility, you should still be able to secure tickets, especially if you aren’t trekking in the height of the main trekking season. Airlines sometimes put on extra flights to cope with extra demand.
Personally I would recommend option 2
I would also book a return ticket for about 14 days (Assuming you are doing the standard Lukla – EBC – Lukla trek), then if you are running ahead of schedule you can ring the airline office from Namche bazaar and try and bring your flight forwards and if you are running late you can ring the airline office from Namche bazaar and re-book your flight for a later date.
At least then you have your seat reserved and even if you are running ahead you could do a couple of day walks from Namche which is a Lot Nicer than hanging around Lukla !!
I have found the cheapest way of travelling to Nepal from the UK is to fly to Delhi and then get a separate connection to Kathmandu. I have done this twice and it can make a very long journey.
My advice would be to check travelsupermarket.com and cheapticket.co.uk for flights to Delhi. Currently from as little as £268 return. (last year I paid £280)
I am only aware of a few flights daily between Delhi and Kathmandu you can try jetairways.com and jetlite.com, these generally cost around £70 each-way.
So this method could cost as little as £408.
I travel out to west Nepal on my visits and so I take a bus from west Nepal direct to Delhi - very cheap but long and rough, but that’s what I go for!
This option also means you get to see a bit of Delhi if you delay your connecting flights.
I haven't booked my flights for April 2010 yet as I'm still watching the prices, I expect I'll book towards the end of November. If I see anything better I'll let you know - likewise if you find anything better I'd really appreciate knowing about.
If you do fly to Delhi and then on to Kathmandu I would strongly recommend that you check the duration of the flights, you can get some 5 hours stopovers in the middle east and then if you can't get directly out of Delhi it can effectively take two days from end to end. It is possible however to get direct flights to Delhi and then a quick connection onto Kathmandu (I think the flights on to ktm go at around 7am and again at midday) this way you can get London to Kathmandu in half a day (obviously you lose time with the time zones and that though).
I'm assuming you're flying from London but if not I believe you can fly Manchester direct to Delhi also.
Hope this is useful. Any thing else drop me a mail.
I miss this place often. It was like our home during a long trip. We came in and out too many times, so I can tell you more about it than the Ataturk Airport in my home city.
Kathmandu Airport is a small model of Kathmandu. We had our training tours here to be prepared to real Kathmandu. First lesson was about waiting without complaint. Since we were a crowded group and travel with group visa, our paper work took longer. The poor lads behind us suffered more.
It is obligatory to fill some papers called “Nepal Immigration Arrival and Departure Cards”. You can find them on the counters in the airport building. Fill them while waiting on queue. The officers take arrival part of the paper and you have to keep the departure part. But before the officers start to work, you’ll have to wait aimlessly for a while. We have some families around us and young children started to sleep on the ground while we were waiting. There is no certain time for these officers to start their job, so have some books to spend the time more efficiently.
After the paper work, you’ll have go to downstairs to collect your luggage. And the exit is there, too.
There are several small duty free shops. Usually we were either so tired or in a hurry and I was never able to check their products or prices.
We flied to Pokhara from Kathmandu. The part of the airport for domestic flights was a complete chaos. We managed to control the luggage and passed the security controls (separate for men and women). We’ve been told that it is a small plane but we couldn’t help ourselves not to get excited when we saw it. It was a white and green cutie. We all started to take pictures, instead getting into it.
Stewardess brought us peanuts, candy, juice and cotton balls. I lately realized that cotton balls were for the loud noise of the engines. It did not take long to reach Pokhara. I like to fly, but this was a completely different experience: Exciting but somehow horrifying. Yet, it is recommendable. Because, even if it isn’t a long distance, reaching somewhere on the land takes so much time in Nepal.
The day we return our homes, a Yeti Airlines plane (Flight 103) crashed in Lukla while approaching Tenzing-Hillary airport. A Turkish mountaineer we met in Kathmandu would be on the following flight for reaching the Everest base camp.
They also have flights just for seeing Everest.