In general, where you live will be dictated by where you work, or where your children will go to school. It is good therefore, to hire a serviced apartment for the first couple of months in order that you can look around and find something you like.
Kathmandu is basically divided into the north of the city (Thamel, the Palace, etc.) and the south (Patan, UN House etc.). These areas are separated by the Bagmati River. The ring road circles the city but it is often just as crowded as the inner city roads.
Traffic moves faster on the ring road and therefore the possibility of accidents is higher. Again, with the increase in traffic over recent years, it is a challenge to make that short journey (10-15 minutes on an empty road) during office hours (allow an hour during peak times). Therefore, people do normally live near to where they work.
The south consists of Patan, Lalitpur, Sanepa, Jaulakhel, Jamsikhel and, outside of the ring road, Bhaisepati. Many INGOs are located on this side of town, as is the British School. This area is perhaps a little less congested than the north side and the roads seem a little wider and cleaner. This could be down to the individual Municipalities.
Around Sanepa and Jamsikhel there are a lot of restaurants and cafes which attract both locals and expats, and fewer tourists. These areas are next to each other and it is easy to walk around this area, which has an expat community feel to it. Accommodation available is both apartments and houses.
Bhaisepati has become popular with expats as it is less crowded and more open. It is, however, across the ring road. If there are any political disturbances, the ring road is often closed off. And it is just that bit further away from everything if you don’t have your own vehicle. Taxis are reluctant to go there at night as they will have to return empty and buses only run in the daytime. Mainly expats living in this area are looking to rent individual houses.
The north consists of Thamel, Durbar Marg, Lazimpat, Baluawatar, Maharajunj, and Budhanilkantha. Less INGOs have their offices on this side of town. The French School is located in Lazimpat. Thamel is the tourist hub of the city and there are an abundant of restaurants, bars and music venues.
Lazimpat is increasingly becoming a vibrant place in the evening also. Here you will be in the middle of things, with easy access to all types of transport, banks, and shops. Accommodation is mainly of the apartment type and if you are lucky to find a house, it will be a little expensive in this prime location. Its approximately 10 minutes walk from Thamel.
Baluwatar is a nice residential area, about 15 minutes walk from Lazimpat and the main transport routes. Accommodation available is both whole houses and apartments.
Many people enjoy living in Budhanilkantha, which again if you don’t have your own vehicle, could mean you are less able go to out in the evenings. Budhanilkantha, however, is located far enough out of the main city to be greener and have fresher air and cleaner water. There are less restaurants in this area but plenty of small local shops. It is about a 15 minutes drive from Lazimpat at off-peak times. Public transport is limited and busy in this area. Mainly expats in this area are looking to rent whole houses.
Accommodation School For Expat Child
For those who do not have to live in a particular area for work or schools it’s a personal choice really. Many old time expats also enjoy living in Bouddha or Swoyambhu where the local population is Buddhist and the feel or the area is different from the rest of the city.
With regards to safety, all these areas are basically the same. It is safe to walk around in the evenings. Theft does take place, as everywhere in the world, so if you are renting a whole house, a guard or a dog is advisable.
With regards to cost all the above areas have mid range expat accommodation prices, ranging from around US$200 for an apartment to US$500 and above for houses. Furnished accommodation will cost you more and if you are planning to stay more than a year it would be definitely worth looking into buying your own furniture, particularly if you are renting an apartment. See Prices of Expat Accommodation in more detail.
Accommodation itself can range from a services apartment, homestay, small apartment to a large independent house, depending on your budget and requirement. Rents range accordingly. For a small un-furnished or semi-furnish apartment you won’t get much under Rs20,000 ($200). For a large house expect to pay $800 upwards.
Most expats do stay in Kathmandu but there are small groups in other towns, especially Pokhara. Prices in Pokhara are lower than in Kathmandu.
If you have school aged children you might want to select your accommodation near to the school. There is an abundance of Montessori nursery schools – remember to check that they do speak English with the children. For primary or lower schools students, there is KISC, which is also available in Pokhara up to approximately age 12.
When you have just arrived, before renting, ask friends and colleagues what you should expect to pay in the area you wish to stay. With the high number of development agency staff on high salaries and accommodation allowances, prices have risen considerably in past few years. These are unrealistic prices and way over the norm. Note that a Nepali family is probably going to be able to rent the same small apartment for Rs10,000 that you are being asked Rs20,000 for! So as well as being cheated, expats are often unwittingly pushing Nepali families off the accommodation ladder.
Do ask about water supply
Is it regular? Is it from the government supply only or is there a ground well? Are you expected to pay for water to be delivered by tanker when water is scarce? Is it good water – check for yourself – is the water yellow (heavy iron content), does it smell bad (might be contaminated by sewage) etc. While yellow water is common throughout the city and not a real problem because you are not going to be drinking it anyway, water that smells is not a good sign, as you will by showering and washing your dishes in it. (People with blonde hair please note: the iron in the water may turn your hair orange!)
Load Shedding Group
Find out what group you are in for electricity cuts. And does the apartment come with a back-up power supply?
Update November 7 2017: There is no Load Shedding in Nepal.
Is there a regular garbage collection in your house/area? Ask the landlord and if this has not already been established, ask your neighbours what they do and how much they pay.