How to Survive Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu?

  • Last Updated on Sep 4, 2023
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Once you have safely landed in TIA you will notice the difference to other international airports around the world. For one, you need this guide to “surviving Nepal’s airport”!

Step 1:  You will most likely be asked to walk across the tarmac to the arrival building.

Step 2: Once in the arrival building you may be a little confused as to where to go.  There will be immigration desks for ‘foreigners with visas’, ‘foreigners without visas’, ‘diplomats’, and ‘Nepalese’. If you have a visa already go straight to the “foreigner with visa’ desk.

Nationals of the following countries need to apply for a visa before coming to Nepal:

  • Nationals from other countries can obtain a visa on arrival.
  • India and Chinese nationals don’t need a visa to travel to Nepal.
  • Indians can travel to Nepal with a valid ID card, passport is not necessary.

Note: please check the Nepal Immigration Website before leaving home in case of changes.

Step 3: If you don’t have a visa head to the counter where you can fill up a visa on arrival form. Then go to the immigration desk sign posted “foreigners without visa”.

Visa Fee on Arrival

15 daysUS$30
30 daysUS$50
90 daysUS$125

Please bring a recent passport-sized photograph and change in USD, Euros, or Pounds.

Tourists are entitled to stay for a period of no more than 150 days in a calendar year.

Tip: Most airlines provide an immigration arrival form on the airplane. Fill up the form before your arrival to avoid hassle and save time.  This is NOT a visa form! Even if you have a visa you are required to complete this form. You will find visa forms inside the airport.

Step 4: Once you have passed through immigration and have been stamped into the country you will be wondering where to go next – it is not well signposted. But basically, turn right and head down the escalator.

Step 5: Once you have reached the bottom of the escalator and had your hand luggage scanned, be prepared for a long wait for your luggage. Don’t forget to check which belt your luggage is arriving on – but don’t be surprised if there is only one belt working or your luggage appears on a totally different belt!

Step 6: Got your luggage?  Think you can just head straight out of the airport? Think again!  You might have to submit your customs forms (you will have received them, perhaps, on the plane). In general, foreign tourists will not have to scan their luggage or have it checked.  Returnee Nepalese will.  Now you need to find the luggage tag that you received hours or days before in the airport of your departure to show an official.  Is it really your luggage?  The tag will tell!

Luggage delay at Tribhuvan International Airport

TIA is mainly a non-automated airport – your luggage is being unloaded by hand. So it may take longer than usual for it to arrive on the belt.  Have patience! Sometimes, it can take up to 2 hours.

In case your luggage does not arrive, check all the belts and the floor space around them (it might have been off-loaded). If it is still missing, find the representative from your airline.

Getting out of the TIA Airport

Change a little money into rupees or use the ATM machine in the airport (before going through immigration or after collecting your luggage).  If you are not able to change money, take the pre-paid airport taxi which may accept foreign currency.

Hotel Transfers – Some hotels provide free transfers from the hotel.  Even if they charge you $8 to $10 dollars for the service it is well worth it to avoid the crowds of touts and taxi drivers at the airport door.

Airport Taxi – Can be booked inside the arrivals hall, after customs.  Taxis to most destinations will cost you around $7 in the daytime and $8 at night.  There is a clearly shown list of destinations and prices.

Meter Taxi – In theory, these are much cheaper than the airport taxi.  But unless you speak Nepali or are familiar with where you are going and the correct price, forget it!  Expect to pay around $6 or 700 rupees to Thamel, with a bit of bargaining.

Potential Annoyances at TIA Airport

  • After leaving the airport someone might ask you what your plans are while in Nepal.  These are normally brokers and are linked to different travel agencies.  It’s not the time or place to make instant travel plans – but if you like, take his card and contact him the next day.
  • Similarly, someone might ask you if you have a hotel already booked.  Obviously, they are trying to get you to go to their or their friend’s hotel.  
  • If you do not have a hotel booked and if it is late at night (thus, difficult to check out hotels in Thamel when you arrive) you might want to go with them for one night.  
  • In general, this is a safe option, but do check their credentials first. There might be someone offering to help you with your luggage.  If you do need help, then you can safely accept. But expect to pay a tip of around Rs 100 or more.

Step 7: Finally you are passed all the formalities!  But do look out for the pre-paid taxi booth on the way to the main door.  For details on how to get from the airport to the city, click here.

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Article by Jackie

Jackie has lived and traveled in Asia for 27 years, more than 20 of these in Nepal. She is currently the owner of a small vocational training company. She is also involved in the tourism and development sectors. When not working she can be found at live music gigs, at the theatre, or art events.

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