It's me! Photo by Justin
Nepal on Foot – Day 1: From Tribhuvan Airport to Bhaktapur

Nepal on Foot – Day 1: From Tribhuvan Airport to Bhaktapur

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Nepal on Foot from Kindred on Vimeo.


Overview: 8 days in Nepal

Our flights, itineraries, and hikes were all D-I-Y and based mostly on first-hand experience, online research, and inquiries. As a way of giving back and adding to the resource pool, here are itemized per-day blog posts that I’m hoping future Nepal hikers will find helpful.

  1. Summary
  2. Currently reading: Day 1: From Tribhuvan Airport to Bhaktapur
  3. Day 2: From Bhaktapur to Nagarkot
  4. Day 3: From Nagarkot to Thamel, and the Nagarkot Panoramic Hike
  5. Day 4: From Thamel to Pokhara, from Pokhara to Deurali Himalayan Resort (coming soon)
  6. Day 5: The Annapurnas: Phedi – Dhampus Village – Australian Camp Hike (coming soon)
  7. Day 6: The Annapurnas: Australian Camp – Kande Hike, From Kande to Pokhara Lakeside (coming soon)
  8. Day 7: From Pokhara to Patan, Kathmandu (coming soon)
  9. Day 8: Patan, Kathmandu to Bangkok, Thailand (coming soon)


Day 1: Itinerary

  • 10:00 am (GMT+8:00) – Departed KUL via Nepal Air RA 416
  • 2:00 pm (GMT+5:45 from hereon) – Arrived in KTM / Tribhuvan Airport. Secured visa, exchanged currency, bought NCell SIM card, hailed a taxi.
  • 4:00 pm – Arrived in Bhaktapur. Secured Bhaktapur UNESCO fee. Checked-in at Shiva Guest House.
  • 4:30 pm – Early dinner and tea at Cafe Nyatapola
  • 5:30 pm – Walked Bhaktapur streets
  • 7:00 pm – Back in Shiva Guest House

See footnote for detailed expenses.

Nepal Airlines and Tribhuvan International Airport


Required: Visa forms and payment (10 mins) > Immigration (5 mins)

Optional: Baggage carousel (1 hour) > currency exchange (15 mins) > SIM card (15 mins)


Weary-looking male migrant workers comprised about 90% of our flight to Kathmandu. The common denominator for each returning citizen was a paper travel document, and not one trolley was without a 40-inch TV waiting to be flown home.

Landing in TIA. Photo by Justin

Losing already 2 hours to flight delay and later on 1 hour at the baggage carousel, I would say that flying in was the day’s most problematic part. Nepal Airlines served curry meals (5-stars!) and hot tea, but offered no entertainment system, no pillow, no blanket. You could tell the Boeing 757 has seen better years. The washroom was of the cleanliness level of a public restroom. Justin’s seat pocket fell off a couple of times when he took the magazine out.

At this point, we were just laughing at how ridiculous this trip was turning out to be.

Of course, as a consumer, I demand and expect more from a flagship carrier airline. But I wasn’t going to let this ruin anyone’s day. We stayed positive, kept an open-mind, and quietly vowed to take a different airline next time. We had so much to look forward to, anyway.

Just like that, we looked outside our window and got our first rewarding glimpse of the Western Himalayan Range.

The Western Himalayan Range via KUL-KTM RA 416 flight. Photo by Justin. Watch the video below.


A few days back over dinner a well-traveled friend of ours shared his dismay about our booking with Nepal Airlines. I usually take travel advice with a grain of salt – but this one – maaan, we should have listened! In hindsight, that was our first warning. Charged to experience, I guess.


Securing our visas and the Immigration line was the quickest part. 5 mins of pleasantries, hardly any personal questions, and a quick exchange of basic Nepali and Filipino greetings with the Immigration Officer (their way of interviewing us, perhaps), then we were off to the baggage carousel for what would be a 1 hour wait.

Baggage carousel. We had checked-in a medium North Face basecamp duffel bag that had to contend with a sea of bubble-wrapped boxes of television sets and oversized luggages. As frequent travellers, Justin and I saw and identified with the Nepalis itching to get the hell out of the airport and get home. We sat from afar and waited for our bag to turn up and left the Nepalis to welcome their belongings. After all, we were the visitors, and visitors gave way.

Currency exchange. The first currency exchange kiosk on the left side of the exit is not a bank. They provided an exchange receipt and that was OK for us.

Count. Ask for a receipt.

Lining up. Queues would seem long and busy at first. What you have to understand about lining up in Nepal is that most of the time, there is hardly any single, visible line. We noticed that most locals liked to stand close and wait. They are cool, relaxed folks like that. 10 people crowding a kiosk may mean only 3 of them are actually waiting to be serviced. The rest could be awaiting friends or relatives or casual bystanders.

  • It’s always best to check if you’re indeed lining up in the correct lane. Otherwise, you could be standing around and before you know it, you’ve lost 15 minutes just ~hanging out~.
  • It’s OK to ask the last person in line
  • First ask if s/he would converse in English. Be mindful that not everyone speaks it.

SIM Cards, getting a taxi out of TIA, and those pesky “sitters”

Mobile data is a non-negotiable travel need for me. I picked up an NCell SIM card while Justin went outside to the arrival parking area (note: not the airport taxi service) to scout for a ride to Bhaktapur. Bhaktapur was 11 Km and 30 mins away and our max taxi budget was 1500 Nrs. Justin came back with a taxi driver and a 1000 Nrs deal. NOT BAD, RITE?

What was strange was there was a third guy, Taxi Driver’s Friend, who knew my name. He said they were, as a matter of fact, expecting us. I never pre-booked a taxi, so this was already a red flag for me.


Backstory: Shiva Guest House, our pre-booked lodging in Bhaktapur, offered us airport pick-up service for 2000 Nrs, which we politely declined. Turns out it was a good call. Of course they were charging me both ways for the driver’s roundtrip to the airport and back to the hotel. I didn’t need that expense on my back if I could find a cheaper alternative.


Justin and the driver shook hands to 1000 Nrs but I was aware to take the next steps very cautiously. This wasn’t my first time in the country so I was aware of minor tourist antics that Taxi Driver Friends do. Without generalizing, they’d start out by offering assistance with your luggage and opening the car door for you. You can refuse sincerely, but wait until they ask to ride in the car and “sit” with you by reason that they are heading down to a family or friend that happens to live in your destination. Cut the story short, the trip would end with him asking for some tip after he has voluntarily given you a driving tour. Of course, if you don’t want to, you say no before even starting the trip. They would leave you alone.

But that was not the case with this one. This one insisted. He explained that he was friends with our innkeeper, and even called up the innkeeper to vouch for it. I knew the innkeeper by name as I have been emailing with him many times. My guess is that Taxi Driver’s Friend noted my suspicion upon having him in the car and felt that he needed to assure us he meant no harm. I finally got off the phone with the innkeeper and left it at that. I reiterated that 1000 Nrs was all they would get out of the whole thing.

I had to take a taxi photo, of course. Back: Justin and T.D.F. Front: T.D. and Me.

I sat in the passenger seat, with T.D.F. and Justin in the back. During the ride, I warned Justin (in the vernacular, of course) that T.D.F. *may* ask for money in exchange for “sitting” with us. T.D.F. did talk us up the entire trip, but he honestly seemed like a forthright dude with lots of experience, evidently. We said very little trying not to provoke any more unnecessary deals, whilst still being civil and courteous. In the end, T.D.F. did ask for something. Not wanting to force it out of us or anything, his language was “could I have a souvenir from the Philippines?” while hinting at money.

Aaaas expected. Justin handed him a PHP 20 bill ($0.50) as we reached Bhaktapur and said our goodbyes.

I will say this: it doesn’t hurt to be a little kind, especially to those in crisis. I wouldn’t have allowed anyone like T.D.F. in our taxi if it were another time. This was an exception. But once is enough.


Inside Bhaktapur

Getting in to Bhaktapur (well, in to the country, as a whole) proved to be taxing even for someone who’s been there previously. Don’t be discouraged: as long as you have a system in place, some idea as to where you’re going, and walk like ya know a damn thing you’re doing, you’re good. This would be our mantra for the next few days, months, life.

We paid our UNESCO entrance fees at the gate and walked in the beautiful city of Bhaktapur. Shiva Guest House was right in front of the gate, so we were checked in in no time.

Wasting no time, we hurried down to Café Nyatapola for an early dinner and tea.

My date at Café Nyatapola! Did I mention we’re celebrating our 2nd anniversary? 🙂 Nyatapola Square videos below.


We had plenty of sunlight left (5:30 pm) so we thought we’d hit the side streets.

It’s me! Photo by Justin

Night time came and temperature dropped to 6º C. We marked alleys we failed to visit for the next day.

Perched on top of Nyatapola Temple, people-watching Nyatapola Square. Photo by Justin


Nyatapola Temple at night. Photo by Justin



Lodging: Shiva Guest House

Our double beds. Photo by Justin
Shiva Guest House: Our twin beds. Photo by Justin

To our non-surprise, the guest house had only emergency power, no heater, but good Lawrd the view was right THERE.

Shiva Guest House: View from our 3rd floor room taken earlier

Shiva Guest House is so perfectly located that you could walk in and out of central Bhaktapur and still find yourself remotely near it. Shiva’s Café Corner is right at the ground floor of the hotel. We hit the front porch for an al fresco night cap and ordered 500 mL Everest Beer each to ease us in. The restaurant manager occasionally joined us for a chat.

Capping the day off with Everest at Shiva’s Café Corner. Photo by Justin



First day and we’re already starting to see the allure of Nepal. We haven’t seen much, but we’ve started interacting with its people. As with any culture, Nepalis are a whole spectrum of personalities. It’s fascinating to note how locals seem to always have time to stop, sit, talk, and curiously hear from your side of the world. A land-locked country can have its setbacks, but therein also lies its beauty.

We stared off into the dark, empty space that was Bhaktapur Durbar Square, imagining how fantastic it would look bathing in sunlight (and pigeons) the next morning. I found it strangely welcoming. Rubbles, power outs, cold nights: it conjures a grim image but the morning promises a better one. Our trip was slowly shaping up.

We retreated to our room, beer in hand, while our footsteps made the feeble wooden floor creak.

Next problem (it doesn’t end, does it): how to charge at least 5 gadgets with a single emergency power outlet. As the days rolled by, we would find that gadgets would be less of a concern as we pushed outdoors and saw what Nepal was really like (spoiler: It was all glorious).

Coming Up: Day 2: From Bhaktapur to Nagarkot


Now on to our expenses for Day 1:


  • 1000 Nrs. Taxi via the airport arrival area, minus tip.



  • 3400 Nrs. Shiva Guest House. Basic private room on the upper floor with view of Bhaktapur Square, 2 twin beds, and an attached bathroom with hot shower. With breakfast for 2. Pre-booked via Agoda.


Food & Drinks

  • 1200 Nrs. Dinner at Café Nyatapola. 2 x rice meals and a small pot of Masala tea, minus tip.
  • 700 Nrs. Shiva’s Corner Cafe. 2 x 500 mL Everest beers served perfectly cold.


Tourist Fees

  • 25 USD. 15-day Nepal Visa (Country: Philippines)
  • 1000 Nrs. NCell SIM card with 1 Gb data/30 days
  • 300 Nrs. NCell “recharge” is their expression for top-up/load/credits. Bought extra for emergency.
  • 1500 Nrs. Bhaktapyr UNESCO fee


Prices as of December 2015





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