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Your flights to Lukla from Kathmandu may be diverted to Ramechhap Airport. Here’s Why!

Your flights to Lukla from Kathmandu may be diverted to Ramechhap Airport. Here’s Why!

Arriving at Kathmandu Airport

Everything you need to know about arriving at the airport in Nepal.

Your first view of Nepal will be from the airplane window as you land at Kathmandu airport, and it’s a view not to be missed. It takes in the mountains that surround the Kathmandu valley, the terraces used for farming that cover the hills, small villages and isolated farms, as well as the smog covered chaos that is Kathmandu.

Unfortunately, this view is only visible from one side of the aircraft, and which side depends on the approach the aircraft takes when landing. Flying in from Europe, the view was visible from the left hand side of the plane, flying in from Australia it was visible from the right. But don’t take this as gospel — the pilot may decide to change landing direction for one reason or another. The only advice I can give regarding the view is to ensure you have a Window seat, and to hope for the best regarding the landing direction. You will have views of the Langtang Himalayan Range, Gangala Himal and the Mount Everest region.

Where you sit on the plane is important for more than just the view. Passport control at Kathmandu airport is antiquated, like something from a black and white movie from the 1950s. The staff are old, the facilities are ancient, and the pace is glacial. Only a small number of international flights arrive each day, and it takes them a good hour and a half to process the visitors from each one.

Sit as close to the front of the aircraft as possible so that you are one of the first off the plane. And when you disembark, do not stop for a toilet visit until you clear passport control. That early toilet break could easily add an hour to your time standing in line.

Make a note of the hotel you’ll be staying at in Kathmandu, as this will be required for your visa application — your Take on Nepal consultant should have provided you with this.

As you disembark the aircraft, make sure you keep your boarding card, and the associated luggage sticker that is usually attached to it. Passport control often ask for your boarding card, and after you collect your baggage and head for the exit, another official may stop you to compare your luggage number/bar code with the one attached to your boarding card. Kathmandu airport is the only airport where I’ve encountered this final check.

There is a currency exchange booth as you begin to exit the airport. We recommend you wait until you are in the city as the airport is generally more expensive than money changers in the city.

The airport is small — tiny by international standards — smaller than a mid sized train station in many countries. This means that before you know it you’ll be outside, in the open air. In most airports, those waiting for passengers do so inside the airport — not so in Kathmandu, where they are forced to wait behind a railing immediately outside the arrivals exit.

You walk out the door and in front of you will see a line of people waiting. Some will be holding up hotel signs, some will have people’s names, others will be taxi drivers looking for fares. Ignore them all and look for the Take on Nepal sign, complete with the colourful logo you’ve seen on the website. At least two Take on Nepal guides will be there to meet you and your flight. It doesn’t matter if you arrive late, or what time of the day or night it might be — your guides will be there waiting.

As soon as you see them, head in their direction, but DO NOT allow anyone to help with your bags. It’s common at Kathmandu airport for ‘helpers’ to approach tourists, pretend to be one of their party, and help with their bags in the expectation of a tip. Your Take on Nepal guides never ask for or expect tips. If anyone asks you for a tip or stands around you waiting for one at the airport, they are not Take on Nepal staff. Ignore them and keep moving towards whoever is holding the Take on Nepal sign.

Once you’ve reached the Take on Nepal guides, they will load your baggage into a waiting vehicle for the trip to your hotel. They may wait for another passenger or two, as it’s common for more than one visitor to arrive on the same flight. The trip to the hotel is all covered as part of your package, so you should never have to pay anyone or tip anyone from when you step off the plane to when you reach your hotel room.

A step by step guide to arriving at Kathmandu airport, Nepal:

  1. Once the plane has landed, make your way to the transfer bus, it’s a good idea to try and disembark the airplane as soon as possible as the transfer buses fill up and there can be a bit of a wait until the next one.
  1. Once you enter the terminal line up to show your passport.

  1. Go to a computerised terminal where you self scan your passport and enter your details.

  1. Once you have filled in your details you use your phone to take a photograph of your application. The printer on the machines are unlikely to work.
  1. Go to the Visa Fee Collection Counter. You will need to show your passport and the photograph of the form you have just filled out. A 30 day visa is approx US$60 or AUD $96. Bring cash with you for the visa.
  1. Line up to get your visa. You will need to show the receipt provided to you at the visa fee collection counter and also your passport.

  1. Once you have you visa you will need to go downstairs to the baggage collection area. There are free trolleys for you to use at the baggage collection area.Once you’ve cleared security you will be in the baggage claim area, this space can be busy and unorganised. There are trolleys available for your use and there’s also a toilet in this area. Staff members offering to take your bags off the carousel and push your trolley will approach you, there’s no obligation to use this service, and if you do there is an expectation to tip that person.

 

  1. Once you have your bags you go through customs, they do random checks. Make sure you have your baggage tag, which you would have received in your country of departure. You may be requested to show your baggage tags as you depart the airport.
  1. You will take a lift downstairs, walk outside and then cross the pedestrian crossing where you will see our happy team member holding up a Take on Nepal sign.

 

  1. Our Take on Nepal mini bus will be your transport to your hotel.

 

  1. If for some reason you do not see our staff member then catch a green plate airport taxi to Hotel in Thamel.
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