In Kathmandu, especially around Thamel, you’re a popular target for taxi drivers as a tourist. As a (Western) tourist you’ve got money (compared to Nepali standards), you don’t know the areas that well, traffic can be crazy, so a taxi is a good way to get around and the taxi drivers try to get some benefit out of that. You just have to accept that you will pay more than a local does. But how much should you actually pay?
During our three months in Nepal, we compared all our taxi rides from Thamel, did some more research and created a list as a guiding line to make sure you don’t get scammed!
Taxis are not very expensive. Most of the taxi drivers won’t use their meters for tourists. They mostly hide it under a small blanket. Short rides around Thamel, should cost you around Rs 200 (about $1,80). Between 10 PM and 6 AM, you pay night-time rates, which are around 50% higher. During rush hour taxi drivers will also (try to) charge more.
Negotiating: don’t start at your target price!
When you’re trying to take a taxi in Kathmandu, you will have to negotiate, it’s just part of the game. The most important thing is not to start negotiating with your target price, it’s better to start lower. The taxi driver will start at a higher rate and you’ll try to meet somewhere in the middle. If you start negotiating at your target price, chances are you will end up paying way too much.
Fix a deal before getting in the car
Before you get in a taxi, make sure you agree on a price with the taxi driver. Some taxi drivers will try to convince you that their high rates are reasonable because of the traffic jams, the small chance of being able to take someone back from your destination or whatever. Don’t get fooled, just say you will find another driver and leave. If he really thinks you’re rate is too low, the taxi driver will let you go. But if not, he will probably get back to you and agree with your rate or somewhere close to it.
So, what are reasonable rates to different destinations from Thamel?
- Rs 700
Bhaktapur is known for The Bhaktapur Durbar Square, the royal palace of the old Bhaktapur Kingdom. It lies around 13 km east of Kathmandu and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has been heavily damaged by the earthquake back in 2015, which you can still clearly see. Keep in mind that as a tourist, you will have to pay a big entrance fee of Rs 1.500.
- Rs 600
Boudhanath is one of the largest stupas in the world, a must-visit when you’re in Kathmandu. It is one of the most touristic sites around Kathmandu, but it is worth it and it should be easy to get a taxi from Kathmandu’s tourist center Thamel. Just like Bhaktapur, Boudhanath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The best moment to visit Boudhanath is just before sunset. You can enter the stupa before the sun goes down, but if you want to have a spectacular view, make sure to go to one of the bars with a rooftop terrace to see the sun go down en see all the lights and candles light up around the stupa.
Once you leave Boudhanath, try not to get overwhelmed by taxi drivers who almost want to drag you into their car without agreeing on a price. They can be very pushy, but just don’t follow them without agreeing on a (reasonable) price. Just keep in mind that the rates will be higher during night time.
- Rs 700
Budhanilkantha Temple is known for the 5-meter tall statue of Lord Vishnu, which is laying in the water. We haven’t been here ourselves, but it is a place a lot of people want to visit. Rs 700 is a reasonable price to get there from Thamel.
Changu Narayan Temple
- Rs 1600
Changu Narayan is considered to be the oldest temple in the history of Nepal. It’s an ancient Hindu temple that lays on a hilltop, which is also known as Changu or Dolagiri. It takes around an hour to get there (depending on the traffic) and you should be able to get a taxi from Kathmandu for around Rs 1.600.
- Rs 3000
Nagarkot gives you want of the best views of the Himalayas in the Kathmandu valley and is a great place to have stunning sunrise views on the Himalayas, including Mount Everest. Besides that, Nagarkot is also known to have the broadest view of the Himalayas in the Kathmandu valley. If the conditions are good, you will be able to see 8 of the 13 Himalayan ranges from here, including the Annapurna range, Manaslu range, Ganesh Himal range, Langtang range, Jugal range, Mahalangur range (part of Everest range) and Numbur range. There are a lot of hiking opportunities around Nagarkot. Nagarkot Panoramic hiking trail is the most popular one.
- Rs 500
Pashupatinath Temple is the holiest place in Nepal. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a very popular place. Be aware of the fact that you will probably be ambushed by tour guides, who can be very pushy and just join you and start talking without even asking you if you want a guide. Pashupatinath is mostly known for the public cremations on the banks of the holy Bagmati river and the Sadhus, which are impressive to see. They will try to let you take pictures of them for money. Pashupatinath is located close to Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu’s airport and it should cost you around Rs 500 to get there.
- Rs 500
Patan is also known as Lalitpur nowadays. After Kathmandu and Pokhara, it is the third-largest city of Nepal. Patan is mostly known for its rich cultural heritage and is also called the city of festival and feast. Patan has, just like Kathmandu and Bhaktapur, a Durbar Square which is also listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. for around Rs 500, you should be able to find a taxi from Kathmandu to get you there.
Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple)
- Rs 300
Swayambhunath, mostly known as Monkey Temple, is a big stupa on top of a hill west of Kathmandu city. As the name already says, this place is full of monkeys. Besides the stupa on top of the hill, there are several shrines and temples to see as well. The place can be pretty crowded, but if you get there early, you will be surrounded by mostly locals who come there to pray. You will find a countless amount of prayer wheels around the hill, and you can easily spend several hours walking around the area. Getting a taxi from Thamel should not be hard. But if you feel up for a nice morning walk, you could even walk there.
BONUS: What do locals pay for a taxi in Kathmandu?
We got picked up by a taxi once, who was already having two locals in his car. The meter was uncovered and running, so we were able to see what the local rate is (muhaha!). This was around Rs 80 per kilometer. But don’t expect to get this rate for yourself. If you go to another place than the ones I mentioned in this blog, you can compare the distances and the price difference between the local rate and tourist rate so that you have an idea of what a reasonable price is.