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Daniel and I booked our trip to Nepal so that we would have 2 days in Kathmandu at the start of the trip, and another day at the end of the trip. These “buffer” days before our Everest View Trek were there so we had time to resolve any issues in case anything went wrong on the way to Nepal. And wow. They definitely did.
The Perfect Storm of Travel Troubles During 2 Days in Kathmandu
Our 2 days in Kathmandu were like a perfect storm of every travel problem you could have all coming together at once. First, we were denied boarding on our flight from Abu Dhabi to Kathmandu.
When I bought the flights, they included two stops in India. I like to compare prices for flights on Skyscanner when planning my trips, and had decided to save by choosing flights with layovers instead of purchases the direct. What I didn’t know was that the first stop in India required changing to a domestic terminal, and therefore required an Indian Visa.
Indian visas cannot be bought on arrival.
That was a fun discovery at the gate during departure! We were denied boarding along with 10 other people who made the same mistake. After quite a bit of arguing we realized it was a lost cause and we were forced to buy new round trip tickets on the spot for $600 each. It hurt. Learn from my mistake and always check ALL visa requirements for your trip, even for layovers
The second issue we had was my mother-in-laws flight had a 24 hour delay because there was some fog in Philadelphia. Seriously? We got the news, but what we didn’t know was that she had turned her phone onto airplane mode, so we had no way to contact her and had no idea when we new flight was coming in a day late.
We were out buying last minute gear in Thamel while she was picked up at the airport by our trek company’s driver.
Imagine entering a new country for the first time alone. Now, imagine it was your first time outside of the United States. Finally, imagine that it’s the most dirty, crowded, polluted, run-down airport you’ve ever seen… that’s the experience she was subjected too. Pretty traumatizing, but luckily the driver was able to reach us on the phone and we reassured her she wasn’t being abducted and we would see her soon at the hotel.
The third issue was totally my fault (actually, all of them kind of are, oops). I forgot I changed my debit pin and tried the wrong one three times, resulting in getting locked out of my bank account. Yeah, that bank account that me, Daniel, and his mom all pooled our money into because it was the only one without international fees.
We had zero access to any of our money.
Thank god USAA is the best bank on earth, and I was able to live chat with someone over wifi and get it sorted almost immediately. Still was a pretty stressful couple of hours!
Country Wide Strike
There was also a drivers strike on our last days in Nepal. The day before we left Pokhora we sought to arrange a driver to return us to Kathmandu, but instead found the country was on a three day strike. That meant no one would agree to drive us to Kathmandu and the busses weren’t running either.
We caved and bought $100 tickets to fly back (the car trip would have been about $100 total) but of course the next morning when we awoke the strike was magically resolved and it was all for naught. Ah well.
Oh, and did I mention that a major earthquake hit Nepal 12 days after we left? It caused a horrible amount of damage and deaths, an avalanche at Everest Base Camp, and grounded flights from Kathmandu’s airport for a month.
Basically what I’m trying to say is that Kathmandu and Nepal aren’t places of organized chaos, they are just chaotic through and through. You cannot count on anything, and that’s why it is so important to plan your trip with buffer days in Kathmandu before your Everest trek and again before your international flights home, because honestly, ANYTHING can happen here.
Ok, all these issues aside, let’s dive into the city itself and my experience spending 2 days in Kathmandu.
First Impressions of Kathmandu
When I think of our 2 days in Kathmandu, I think: Dirty. Polluted. Crowded. Two very vivid memories I have from our days there are first, a group of men jackhammering the sidewalk in shorts and flip flops, and second, a little girl using the street as her restroom in the middle of a crowd.
Kathmandu is so polluted that I got stomach aches after walking around the city and breathing in the dirty air after only a couple hours. For the first time, I seriously considered buying the face masks vendors were selling on the side of the road. Basically, I don’t love it but it does have good qualities as well and is definitely worth exploring.
Where to Stay for 2 Days in Kathmandu
By far, the best part of Kathmandu is the Thamel neighborhood. Thamel is the main tourist area of Kathmandu. I recommend getting a hotel here. If you need anything for your trek this is where you’ll get it – knock offs and name brands alike. We stocked up on hiking socks, a long sleeved tech shirts, waterproof hiking pants and a few other necessities we needed for the trek.
Come with what you can, but it’s a good place to buy cheaper hiking gear and accessories in addition to your haul. We also walked around and enjoyed the widest selection of western food we would find in Nepal and the markets, stupas, and nightlife.
What to do for 2 Days in Kathmandu
Beside shopping for our hiking gear, we visited four main tourist attractions in Kathmandu. They were the Garden of Dreams park, the Tribhuvan, Mahendra, and Birendra Museum area, the Boudhanath stupa, and the Pashupatinath temple.
I know the Tribhuvan, Mahendra, and Birendra Museum area was hit hard by the earthquakes, and I’m not sure if it has recovered yet, but when we went it was a maze of old buildings and cobbled streets. We didn’t enter the museums themselves, but the area outside is pretty cool and we spent some time walking around it. We could even climb up high on some of the buildings to get a bird’s eye view of the surrounding area, it was like no where else I’ve ever been before.
We visited the Garden of Dreams park on our last day in Kathmandu, before our flights back to Abu Dhabi. It was highly walled to keep out sound and pollution, and actually really beautiful. It has a lake, mats we could rent to lay in the sun and read, a stream, beautiful gardens, and even a cafe. It’s a great place to chill after the exhausting Everest View Trek and to escape from the crowds of the city.
The Boudhanath stupa and the Pashupatinath temple were both easy to walk to from the Thamel area, and free to enter. We spent 20 or 30 minutes at each one, and both are worth the effort to visit and learn a bit about the Nepalese culture if you have the time.
Spending 2 days in Kathmandu was necessary time as a buffer between our trip and our international flights. Basically in this country, everything that could go wrong did, and I’m very happy and thankful we made it onto our Everest View Trek and out of the country before the earthquake hit.
When you inevitably find yourself for a few days in Kathmandu, try not to breath in to much of the air (somehow) and check out these tourist attractions while you wait to leave again!
PS if you want to know more about Nepal, check out my Everest View Trek Itinerary, Experience, and Budget Breakdown, learn the top three things to do in Pokhora, and of course read the Nepal FAQ to help you plan your trip!