Driving in Kathamandu isn’t a good idea

There’s a secret knack to driving in Kathmandu. I don’t know what it is, but it requires nerves of steel, commitment and a death wish. As a passenger (and a foreign one at that), you need blind faith. The cars and buses don’t have any seat belts. They’ve been taken out. It is just as well that no-one is driving very fast – they can’t because it’s so congested.

There are as many scooters and motorbikes as there are cars. In fact, there are lots of bike shops along the main road of our hotel in Boudha. On a side note, I’ve also notice lots of pet and vet shops too. But back to the two wheelers – these bikes weave in and out of the traffic. As a driver, you need to have eyes like a hawk to spot them. We saw one stop a bus as it was turning into the backstreets. It didn’t wait for the bus to go. It just went for it.

The Nepalese drive on the left. That is one rule they do stick too, but other than that, it’s a free for all on the roads. Two lanes turn into three, you can over take on the left and right. We’ve seen traffic lights, which were red, but no-one took any notice. And you can forget about queues. It’s every driver for themselves out here.

My group and I took a tukuk to the city. A tuktuk here is a mini van with the seats taken out and a shelf put on the side of the van for you to sit on. Twelve people can cram into the back of the van – six on each side. It’s just as well the Nepalese are small people. We paid about 10Rs (about 8 pence) for a 15 min journey into Kathmandu. I’m currently staying in Kathmandu Valley.

Taxis are little Suzuki Swifts that can fit three passengers. These have no seat belts, which for me is a bit disconcerting, but there hasn’t been any problems so far – other than taxi drivers trying to rip us off.

Crossing the road is an art form. For this, you need to commit. If you decide to cross, you need to keep on going, which is easier said than done. s tend to stop for anyone. I usually follow take the lead from a fellow Nepali, or wait for ages until I am confidant in crossing. I still feel the fear though.


4 thoughts on “Driving in Kathamandu isn’t a good idea

  1. I’m just back from Yangshuo – so I can appreciate this post from two perspectives – one as a pedestrian and two as a passenger in a taxi. Yangshuo is in Guangxi Provice (Southwest China). It is a pretty big town and I noticed two things immediately – one: there are no traffic lights or stop signs, and two; there’s no such thing as right of way. Everyone goes as these please. Whether you are in a car, or a truck, or a bus – whether walking – or whether you are on a motorcycle, scooter, bycicle, or an electric bycicle – you just go – and every one else will have to figure out a way to get where they want, and not hit you. While seeminly chaotic, it actually works quite well – clearly, in town nothing motorized can go very fast.

    On the other hand – on the other end of China – in Harbin – walking seemed to be extremely dangerous as apparently nothing with a motor wants to be held up or inconvenienced even for two or three seconds to allow you, a pedestrian safe passage. Wow – talk about scary.


    • Sorry it’s taken an age to reply. Am back in Kathmandu after my trek, catching up on emails and things. Thanks for your comment. The only traffic there was in the Himalayas was yak and trekkers, so coming back to a busy city like Kathmandu has been a bit of a shock. You have to be constantly on your guard when walking anywhere, and I’m sure it’s the same in Yangshuo and Harbin. The pot holes here seem slows down the traffic, so at least that’s something!

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