Kathmandu (काठमाण्डु)  is the largest city and capital of Nepal and the namesake of the Kathmandu Valley. Once thought to be the fabled and inaccessible Shangri-La, Kathmandu is now a hub for independent travellers as well as a growing vacation spot catering to all budgets. As a result of considerable urban growth in recent decades, it is now part of one continuous urban area together with Patan to the south.
According to a census conducted in 2011, Kathmandu metropolis alone has 2.5 million inhabitants, and the agglomerate has a population of more than 3 million inhabitants. The metropolitan city area is 50.67 square kilometres (19.56 sq mi) and has a population density of 3000per km² and 17000 per km square in city.
The city stands at an elevation of approximately 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley of central Nepal. It is surrounded by four major mountains: Shivapuri, Phulchoki, Nagarjun, and Chandragiri. Kathmandu Valley is part of three districts (Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur), has the highest population density in the country, and is home to about a twelfth of Nepal's population.
Historically, the Kathmandu Valley and adjoining areas were known as Nepal Mandala. Until the 15th century, Bhaktapur was its capital when two other capitals, Kathmandu and Lalitpur, were established. During the Rana and Shah eras, British historians called the valley itself "Nepal Proper". Today, Kathmandu is not only the capital of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, but also the headquarters of the Central Development Region of Nepal. The Central Region comprises three zones: Bagmati, Narayani, and Janakpur. Kathmandu is located in the Bagmati Zone.
Kathmandu is the gateway to tourism in Nepal. It is also the nerve center of the country's economy. It has the most advanced infrastructure of any urban area in Nepal, and its economy is focused on tourism, which accounted for 3.8% of Nepal's GDP in 1995–96. Tourism in Kathmandu declined thereafter during a period of political unrest, but since then has improved. In 2013, Kathmandu was ranked third among the top 10 travel destinations on the rise in the world by TripAdvisor,and ranked first in Asia.
The city has a rich history, spanning nearly 2000 years, as inferred from inscriptions found in the valley. Religious and cultural festivities form a major part of the lives of people residing in Kathmandu. Most of Kathmandu's people follow Hinduism and many others follow Buddhism. There are people of other religious beliefs as well, giving Kathmandu a cosmopolitan culture. Nepali is the most commonly spoken language in the city. English is understood by Kathmandu's educated residents.
Kathmandu's sister cities (Lalitpur Patan) and Bhaktapur are integral to Kathmandu's cultural heritage, tourism industry, and economy; therefore UNESCO's World Heritage Site lists all three cities' monuments and attractions together under one heading, "Kathmandu Valley-UNESCO World Heritage Site".
Kathmandu Valley is in the Warm Temperate Zone of Nepal (elevation ranging from 1,200–2,300 metres (3,900–7,500 ft)), where the climate is fairly temperate, atypical for the region. This zone is followed by the Cool Temperate Zone with elevation varying between 2,100–3,300 metres (6,900–10,800 ft). Portions of the city with lower elevations have a humid subtropical climate, while portions of the city with higher elevations generally have a subtropical highland climate. In the Kathmandu Valley the average summer temperature varies from 28–30 °C (82–86 °F). The average winter temperature is 10.1 °C (50.2 °F).
The city generally has a climate with warm days followed by cool nights and mornings. Unpredictable weather is expected given temperatures can drop to 3 °C (37 °F) during the winter. During a 2013 cold front, the winter temperatures of Kathmandu dropped to −4 °C (25 °F), and the coldest temperature was recorded in January 10, 2013 at −9.2 °C (15.4 °F). Rainfall is mostly monsoon-based (about 65% of the total concentrated during the monsoon months of June to August), and decreases substantially (100 to 200 cm (39 to 79 in)) from eastern Nepal to western Nepal. Rainfall has been recorded at about 1,400 millimetres (55.1 in) for the Kathmandu valley, and averages 1,407 millimetres (55.4 in) for the city of Kathmandu. On average humidity is 75%.
For information on visa requirements and immigration procedure, see Nepal#Get_in
Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport (IATA: KTM), is the largest and only international airport in Nepal, located 5.5km east of the popular tourist neighborhood of Thamel.
Whilst Kathamandu lacks direct flights to most of Europe, Africa, North and South America and Australasia, the airport is well connected and it is usually possible to reach Kathmandu with only one change of flight, in most cases using the same airline.
International airlines serving Kathmandu include:
Commercial domestic flights are available to/from Bhadrapur, Bhairawa, Bharatpur, Biratnagar, Dhangarhi, Janakpur, Nepalganj, Pokhara, Simara, and Tumling Tar. Domestic flights take about an hour and cost USD100-175. The primary domestic airlines are air viva, Yeti, Nepal Airlines, and Buddha Air. Domestic flights are almost always delayed and afternoon flights run the risk of cancellation as delays from the morning compound. Domestic flight schedule are available at NepalAirflight
Baggage Handlers & Concerns
Your luggage is vulnerable entering and leaving this airport. Do not keep anything of value in checked bags, and if you lock the bag, the zipper may be forced open and broken. There is little to no security for your bags. You should also be aware that most luggage is treated quite poorly in Nepalese airports. It is recommended that all fragile and valuable items be kept in your carry on luggage.
Be aware that when you collect your luggage, an "airport baggage cart collector" may appear and assist you with a baggage trolley. Unless you insist on handling your own baggage, your items will be loaded on the trolley and will be conveyed with you to the entrance of the terminal. You will then be expected to pay a tip to this person. Arriving just beforehand in Nepal, you will often only have larger denomination foreign currency in your pocket, making the issue of a tip a bit of a problem. It's fine to pay the tip in foreign currency but make sure you have some small bills or coins on hand (even a dollar or two will be significant to Nepalis).
Money Exchange at the Airport
Try not to exchange money at the airport as there are service charges and lower rates offered than what you can get in Thamel or elsewhere in the city.
If you keep the exchange receipt, you could change back to your original currency at the rate on the receipt.
Getting to and from the airport
There are no trains in Kathmandu and renting a car without a driver is not possible.
For more information, see Nepal 'Get in' section.
There is frequent and cheap bus service between Kathmandu and nearly all parts of Nepal. However, due to poor roads and frequent delays the buses are some of the slowest and least comfortable in South Asia.
Buses arriving from the border with India, Pokhara, and Chitwan terminate in Kathmandu either at the Balaju Bus Station (north) or the Kalanki Station (south). From there, there are 'mini buses' which criss cross the main roads of the city for about NPR20.
Tourist buses (NPR800, 6-7h) and crowded local buses/microbuses (NPR400-600, 6-7h) travel the 200km journey between Kathmandu and Pokhara almost every 15 minutes starting at 07:30 through late afternoon. Night buses are available, but the ride is painful. Greenline operates a convenient bus every morning between the popular tourist areas of Thamel in Kathmandu and Lakeside in Pokhara (USD20, lunch included). The road is winding and includes many switchbacks and offers wonderful views of hills and rural Nepalese lifestyle. The drivers will generally not drive too fast but some will calmly weave in and out of the stream of opposing traffic and slam on the brakes when a stop is required, making for a scary ride if you look out the front window. During the rainy season, there may be problems with the roads and flying may make more sense.
Buses run between Kathmandu and the Indian cities of Patna, Gorakhpur, Varanasi (INR1,200), and Lucknow.
Buses and minivans run between Kathmandu and the Nepalese border town of Kodari, across the Sino-Nepal Friendship Bridge from the Tibetan city of Zhangmu / Dram. The 123km journey takes 6+ hours and costs NPR500. Buses depart until the early afternoon. Private jeeps (USD60 for up to 4 people) are a faster option, and can make this journey in 4 hours.
Map of central Kathmandu
If you fly in, be sure to pick up a free Katmandu Valley map at the airport. The first thing some visitors notice about Kathmandu is the general lack of street names except for major roads such as Tri Devi & Ring Road (loops around the city) & address numbers. In most cases directions are given relative to the nearest chowk or tole (an intersection or square, often with a market) or a noteworthy location or building (such as a temple or restaurant). In the tourist district of Thamel, the Kathmandu Guest House & Hot Breads bakery are two main landmarks.
It is possible to get around Kathmandu by foot, but it is not always a pleasant walk & you may want to consider a public transportation for anything more than wandering around a specific area.
By rickshaw or taxi
Rickshaws can be found around the tourist area of Thamel and taxis are everywhere. All taxis have meters which should be used - simply say 'no meter no pay' if the driver refuses to use the meter and move to the next taxi. Before 9pm rates start at NPR14 and after 9pm they are 21NPR. If a driver uses his meter it is courteous to tip (up to one third is about the norm). Alternatively, negotiate a price before you get in a taxi or Rickshaw. A negotiated price will typically be two to three times the metered rate unless you are a very good negotiator! Prices go up after dark (see above) and in less busy areas. Taxis are easy to find; they park near all major streets & have fare-meters. After 22 it can be very difficult to find taxis away from central tourist areas or major hotels. It should be possible to hire a taxi for 300rs one-way to Patan & 800-1,200 rs to Bakhtapur from Thamel or the airport. For longer trips & to hire a taxi by the day negotiate with the driver. Haggle hard and you will easily find another driver if you are not satisfied. The meter is always your best bet if you are not confident enough to negotiate. However it should be avoided if the driver suggest using it, as it is probably fixed and will overcharge you. After 11PM, taxis can be harder to find outside Thamel.
There are also buses for longer trips within the valley, ie Patan, Bakhtapur, Boudha, etc. that can be used for trips in & around around town. See below for tips on traveling outside of the valley. Blue buses & green buses constantly drive in circles/loops around the city on "Ring Road" - for 20 to 35rps - depending on the distance. Every bus has a cashier/attendant who can tell you where it stops & alert you upon arrival. Riding the buses with the local people can be very pleasant & interesting but at the same time it is confusing as well as there are no proper signboards for navigating around. The buses are typically very old and rough. Local people are usually very friendly and helpful in case you are confused during the excursion. Having 5 and 10 rupee notes can be very helpful. From Thamel, it is about 1.5km walk to the Ring Road, and you can take the bus for many of the main attractions, saving money of a taxi/rickshaw.
Kathmandu Durbar Square
Durbar Square, Kathmandu
This ancient square is crowded with palaces and temples, including the current incarnation of the Kasthamandap or "Wooden house" that gives the city its name. The square has been occupied since the construction of a palace around 1000AD. This site is the most popular UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nepal.
The Square is particularly fascinating in the very early morning as all the various merchants set up their wares and when many devotees make their offerings at the various shrines and temples. There will be a number of young men who will offer to be "guides." Be firm with saying "no" if you are not interested. The entrance fee for foreigners is NPR1000. If you plan to be in the area for more than one day, it's worth being directed to the Site Office where you can exchange your single-entry ticket with a multiple-entry pass allowing you to wander in and out as you wish. You will need your passport and one passport photo. The whole process takes only a few minutes. Your entry pass gives you access to all open parts of Durbar Square as well as the Hanuman Dhoka. If you don't feel like coughing up the slightly hefty entrance fee to enter an area of a city, it is very easy to sneak in Durbar square via small side alleys from the west side. In Nepali, Durbar means "palace" and this is where the monarch was crowned and from where he ruled.
It is possible to climb the steps of many of the temples for a better look and to join others seated near the top watching the activity below. There are more than a dozen buildings and statues of note in this small area. They include: