In 1949 a single engine aircraft landed in ‘Kathmandu Airport’ and opened the door to aviation in Nepal. The following year saw the launch of the first scheduled service linking Kathmandu to Patna, Calcutta and Delhi in India. In 1952 the first domestic scheduled flights from Kathmandu to Pokhara, Bhairawa, Simara and Biratnagar began.
Three years later the airport was given the name Tribhuvan and in 1957 the Department of Civil Aviation was formalised. It was only in 1964 that the airport was given its present name, Tribhuvan International Airport.
Lying 5.5 km from the heart of Kathmandu, TIA continues to be the main hub for domestic flights as well as the only international airport in Nepal. Sitting at an elevation of 1,390 metres, it is ringed by mountains which provide a beautiful panoramic view to the passenger, but a somewhat tough landing and take-off for pilots.
In the late evening or early morning it will take around 20 minutes by taxi. During peak times (pretty much 10am till 7pm) it can take an hour.
You can reach Thamel by airport taxi, metered taxi, public bus or by hotel pick up.
1. Airport Taxi
Can be booked inside the arrivals hall, after customs. Taxis to most destinations will cost you around $7 in the day time and $8 at night. There is a clearly shown list of destinations and prices. If you are not being picked up by your hotel, use this service to avoid unnecessary hassles. Airport taxis have green license plates. Do not allow other random brokers to come in your taxi! Read TIA Airport survival guide.
2. 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. Meter taxis have black license plates.
3. 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. This is probably your most convenient way to reach your hotel. Your hotel will probably use a green license plate on their vehicle. This means the vehicle is specifically for use by tourists.
Please note that vehicles with red license plates are private vehicles. DO NOT go with the drivers of private vehicles even if they say they are taxis. While it is 99% safe to do so, they are not licensed to carry tourists and it’s best avoid any unnecessary complications.
4. Public Bus
The Sajha Bus is a big green bus that comes to the airport. Take a right when you come out of the airport. But it does not go to Thamel. If you are determined to save a few dollars, take this bus to Ratopool, change bus to Ratna Park or Jamal (Jamal is the southeast border of Thamel) and then walk to Thamel. The local bus costs Rs 20 each and routes can be found on Sajha Bus Route.
Note: Got your transport sorted but cannot find your hotel? Check the online map of Kathmandu (Which is not available offline). Best to print it off before leaving home. Still unsure about accommodation? Check here.