About 148km south-west of Kathmandu, the Chitwan National Park is one of Nepal’s popular tourist destinations and also known as the first national park in Nepal. Chitwan National Park is reachable via Sauraha or Megauli. After the government had decided to remove all private resorts inside the park, less number of tourists visit Megauli compared to Sauraha for Chitwan jungle safari. However, Megauli still owns some of the luxurious hotels and resorts. Sauraha, on the other hand, became one of the most popular touristic towns in Nepal and offers several categories of the hotel resort and budget B&B. Sauraha, Chitwan is also the gateway to many popular trekking routes like Annapurna Base Camp, Poon Hill Trek, and some other village hikes. It is also a paradise destination for backpackers and adventure seekers who are looking to experience jungle safari as a side trip after or before the Annapurna or Everest region trek. Chitwan tour is family-friendly and recommended to those with limited time in Nepal. From Kathmandu, Chitwan is a few hours away by bus and follows the same route as the Kathmandu to Pokhara bus. If you have some spare days, you can also take the Pokhara Chitwan tour instead and visit both towns.
In this article are some ideas on how to reach the Chitwan National Park Sauraha entry point from Kathmandu and there are a number of options available
Kathmandu to Chitwan by Flight
Flights depart daily from Kathmandu local airport to Bharatpur Chitwan from 8:00 AM in the morning until 3:30 PM. Buddha Air, Yeti Air, and other companies operate more than 3 to 5 flights per day. The duration is roughly 20 minutes of flying time from Kathmandu. This is by far the fastest and easiest way to reach the Bharatpur city. If you have limited time and would like to take the Kathmandu Chitwan Tour, then this option would be the most convenient for you.
Tourist Bus from Kathmandu to Chitwan
If you are traveling to Chitwan from Kathmandu, the most economical option without compromising comfort is via the tourist bus. This is especially convenient if your hotel is somewhere near Thamel. Some 10 to 15 different bus companies operate daily Kathmandu Chitwan tourist bus services. Here are some general facts you should know about this option.
A. Where is the Tourist Bus station in Kathmandu?
If you live in Thamel or somewhere nearby, the tourist bus station is within walking distance. This is on a road called Kantipath, which is only 5-10 minutes by walk from Kathmandu Guest House (Central Thamel). Please note that Kathmandu doesn’t seem to have any zip code and street names are not always visible. Therefore, walking signs, if any, and directions are difficult to follow. To avoid confusion, we suggest that you request a city map (usually free) from your guesthouse which might be easier for you. It’s fairly usual to get lost in the city, but don’t hesitate to ask some local people who will always be willing to guide you in the right direction.
Note: Kantipath is the name of the street! It’s not a bus terminal or something you imagine of the bus park. It is only in the morning tourist buses queue up for the departure.
B. What time the Tourist Bus departs from Kathmandu?
If you chose the tourist bus option to go to Sauraha Chitwan from Kathmandu, the very important thing you shouldn’t forget is time. Although there are a number of companies operating tourist buses, they all depart at the same time. The bus leaves at 7:00 AM only but you are required to be at the tourist bus station 30 minutes before the departure time. If you miss this time, you may have to travel by private car or local buses, or perhaps wait until the following day if you still prefer this option. Unfortunately, there is no other departure time available.
C. How much is the bus fare from Kathmandu to Pokhara?
This might be the first question you may want to know. There are different fares for different buses and the cost depends on the service the bus provides to tourists. For example, a standard tourist bus costs approximately US$8 – US$10. Note that this has only natural air condition (i.e. open your window if you want some fresh air). Deluxe bus costs US$10- US$20, which includes lunch, WiFi, real air condition this time and maybe a bottle of water and a bag of crisps as well. If I were you, I would go with the standard bus fare to save some money.
Here is the list of companies for your reference (note that prices are subject to change):
Standard tourist bus company (US$8- US$10)
- Blue Sky Travel & Tours
- Swiss Travel & Tours
- Loyal Travel
- Baba Travel & Tours
- Chitwan Safari Travel
- Holidays Yatra
- Sai Baba Travel
Deluxe Tourist Bus Company (US$10 – US$25)
D. How to book the bus ticket or with whom?
It is not difficult to book a tourist bus. You will find many options upon arrival. It is also not necessary to book in advance either. There are many travel companies selling bus tickets especially in Thamel where you will likely stay as it is the backpackers’ haven in Kathmandu. You can also ask your hotel to arrange your bus ticket if you wish. Or if you need help for Chitwan Pokhara Tour or anything, feel free to email us at email@example.com and we will be more than happy to help arrange this for you.
E. How long is traveling time to Sauraha Chitwan from Kathmandu?
Sauraha Chitwan is only 148km far from Kathmandu by distance, but due to the hilly road condition, it will take more time than you expected. Travel time is about 6 to 7 hours. However, it is worth noting that the view is simply breathtaking and you get to experience the road of Nepal and drive around the mountain area for a scenic view.
Local Bus from Kathmandu to Chitwan
A. Where is the Local bus station in Kathmandu?
Kalanki Bus station is the main hub to get to Chitwan directly. It has more options and has different bus types such as mini or microbuses to Chitwan and this is about 20 minutes by taxi from Thamel. The buses here go directly to Sauraha Chok which is the stop you would like to take.
There is also another bus station called Gongabu “Naya Bus Park” (New Bus Park). The buses here go to both Pokhara and Chitwan. If you are staying in Thamel, Gongabu New Bus Park is not very far; by taxi, this is about 10-15 minutes, or by another local bus is approximately 20-30 minutes. The taxi ride will cost around 200 – 250 Rs and by local bus 15 Rs only. If you insist on walking, it might be difficult to find your way and be prepared to walk for roughly 30 minutes (so yes, it is possible to walk it!).
B. What is the schedule of the local bus departures?
Generally, buses leave every 30 minutes. This is a good option if you miss the tourist bus in the morning, or if you are like me who prefer to sleep as much as possible and leave Kathmandu whenever I want. But please make sure you get there before 5:00 PM.
C. How much is the local bus fare to Chitwan?
The cost of a local bus to Chitwan is 400 Rs to 600 Rs which is cheaper than the tourist bus. But of course, it is not as comfortable as a tourist bus and sometimes safety could be an issue too for tourists. For example, they generally drive faster or less safe than a tourist bus. It is also smaller and has less legroom. But it is still worth experiencing – you will be mostly joined by locals, so expect to listen to local music and stop by more authentic local places for lunch and this ride in itself will give you a different taste of Nepal. I would highly recommend if you are up for an adventure and would like to experience the real Nepali way of traveling.
D. How long is the drive from Kathmandu to Chitwan using a Local bus?
That’s difficult to answer as the road conditions and the number of stopovers will vary. The bus can stop anywhere (meaning, no designated bus stops) to allow local passengers to get in and off the bus. Also, as the road condition is not very smooth, it is slightly longer. You should be expecting about 5-7 hours for sure if there is no heavy traffic on the road.
E. Where is your last stop when you reach to Chitwan?
If you are traveling to Chitwan National Park via Sauraha for a visit then you should know the local bus doesn’t drive you directly to Sauraha. The easiest way is to get off at Sauraha Gate (you may want to ask the driver to let you off at this stop) and get a taxi or another local bus to Sauraha. Sauraha is about 20 minutes away from Sauraha Gate.
F. What is the difference between a Tourist Bus and a Local Bus
The answer is simple. The tourist bus is generally for tourists so more expensive and more comfortable than a local bus. But to help you decide, we are sharing below our experience:
In Tourist Bus:
2. There are stopovers for lunch and breakfast only, in tourist restaurants, so costs are higher than in local places.
3. The seat is more comfortable and has more legroom
4. As a tourist bus, it is mostly (if not all) tourists.
5. The last stop is the Sauraha tourist bus station very near Sauraha.
6. More expensive than a local bus, but faster and hassle-free travel.
7. Wi-Fi and air condition are also available on some buses.
In Local Bus
2. They also have stopovers for food and toilet breaks.
3. Local bus seat is small and probably not enough leg room if you are tall.
4. You can taste the real local food and can mingle with local people.
5. You will have to get off in a local area called “Sauraha Gate” and have to travel again by bus/taxi if you wish to get to “Sauraha”.
6. Cheaper than the Tourist Bus, but could take about 1-3 hours longer
7. Don’t expect Wi-Fi or air condition.
Kathmandu to Chitwan by Private Car
This is probably the next easiest way to get to Chitwan. If you decide not to fly, you can also find a car rental company. The cost depends on the car model and capacity. If you are traveling with your family and need to get back to Kathmandu in a couple of days, renting a car might be a good idea. Typically, a drop off from Kathmandu to Chitwan will cost around US$80 to US$120. Note that companies generally charge a two-way fare as the car would need to drive back to Kathmandu on the same day after drop off. If you are looking for a one-day tour only of Chitwan and return the same day to Kathmandu, this should be the full trip cost. It is also possible to request the car to stay overnight in Chitwan but this will require an overnight surcharge – this is still a cheaper option if you are returning to Kathmandu the following day instead of hiring a different car.
If you travel by car to Chitwan, it is much faster than a tourist bus; approximately in 4-hour time, you will reach Chitwan.
Train from Kathmandu to Chitwan
A number of travelers in Nepal usually try to find ways on how to get a train from Kathmandu to Chitwan. One thing to note in Nepal is that there is no longer a train service anywhere in the country.
The capital Kathmandu or any other major city like Pokhara or Chitwan has no railway connection at all. A couple of years ago, there was a 59km railway service from Janakpur to Jayanagar, a village near the Indian border. This section is currently under construction but is believed to be open again in 2017. Nepal, India, and China have serious proposals to also build a train link from Lhasa (capital of Tibet) to Kathmandu Nepal and potentially also connect to India. Hopefully, in the future, tourists can travel all over Nepal by train and can feel Nepal as the Switzerland of Asia.
Lonely Planet travel guide explains about the Journey Kathmandu Chitwan Pokhara with some side trip to Bandipur, Gorkha, and White water rafting in Trishuli River. This post might be helpful if you are looking for some side adventure before Chitwan.
There is another popular post from virtualtourist.com; probably this post has more topics about the journey to Chitwan. The traveler’s writing about a different topic like Bharatpur airport. tourist Bus Park, flight ticket, local buses and cost from Kathmandu to Chitwan and Chitwan -Kathmandu. If you just want to stroll around Chitwan this post also gives you how to rent a bike and move around Chitwan.
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