The Bus from Phaplu to Kathmandu

Home » Nepal » The Bus from Phaplu to Kathmandu

This post may contain affiliate links.

I posted already about the various ways of getting to and from Lukla from Kathmandu, Nepal. Flying into Lukla isn’t the only way to start your Everest region or Everest Base Camp trek, there are various bus, jeep and walk options. We feel that flying is the best way to go based on our experience, because we’ve done it in different ways. We flew into Lukla to start our Everest trek and at the end, walked out as far as Phaplu before catching the bus to Kathmandu. We’ve also walked up from Phaplu, after flying Kathmandu to Phaplu. Taking this Phaplu option also gave us a chance to check out the jeeps that ferry trekkers in and out along the same road. The bus from Phaplu to Kathmandu was quite an experience!

My personal Facebook friends had a treat on the day we took the bus from Phaplu to Kathmandu, I was live posting the whole way, sharing the highs and lows of this intense, terrifying, monumental journey.

It was a day I’ll never forget and I think I should share those thoughts, experiences and images here with you.

bus and jeep traffic jam between phaplu and kathmandu

Sorry about photo quality, many of these pictures were taken sneakily on my phone.

Phaplu to Kathmandu

If flights to Lukla are cancelled, you can sometimes fly to Phaplu airport and start your Everest Base Camp trek from Phaplu. You can also opt to extend your EBC trek by hiking up from Phaplu, or down to Phaplu at the end of your trek.

Tre trail from Phaplu joins the main EBC trek between Lukla and Phakding, so walking this way you don’t necessarily get to see Lukla at all, you could of course go there if you chose to.

Walking/to/from Phaplu will add about 4-5 days to your trek depending on how fast you walk and for how many hours per day.

There are plenty of lodges or teahouses along this trail and they’re generally much cheaper than any on the main EBC hke.

But this post is about the bus journey from Kathmandu to Phaplu, and return, Phaplu to Kathmandu.

Jeeps also operate on this route.

We took the bus, and this is how it went.

Bus or Jeep from Phaplu to Kathmandu?

Jeep from Phaplu to Kathmandu
A pretty typical jeep.

We chose the Phaplu bus because it was cheaper (around $12 each) and, we hoped, safer than the jeeps.

Generally, with transport on twisting mountain roads there are problems with motion sickness and the smaller the vehicle, for us, the worse the sickness.

We’d read that passengers are crammed in like sardines in the jeeps and that there were often long delays. One of my children hates being squashed in next to strangers, so for us bus is better.

We were pleased that we chose the bus after passing the convoys of jeeps on the road and seeing them overtaking.

Obviously, we won’t know for sure which is better until we’ve tried both ways.

The Walk from Lukla to Phaplu

A lodge between Lukla and Phaplu
A lodge at one of the highest points between Lukla and Phaplu.

We wanted to extend our trek and although walking out would appear to cost less that flying, it’s actually more expensive, but we got more days in the mountains for our dollar.

This part of the trek was very different to everything above Lukla for many reasons. It had some incredible highlights, but overall I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.

The walk takes 3 to 4 days and is very up-down, it’s by no means a gradual ascent. I’ll post more about why we’d prefer to fly and what this part of the trek was like, soon.

The Bus from Phaplu to Kathmandu. Our Experience

Plenty of comfortable empty seats with good legroom were available on the Phaplu Kathmandu bus as we boarded, just before dawn, in Phaplu.

We had booked the seats the night before on arrival in Phaplu after trekking in from Lukla.

The bus was as you’d expect, old battered, but solid. It promised wi-fi but delivered none. We had Nepalese SIM cards in our phones and incredibly, I had a reasonable connection all day.

For most of the trek we’d been connected by phone right up through Namche and Tengboche.

As we left Phaplu the bus was half empty.

Bouncing downhill in the dawn light was OK. We could handle this.

We were travelling just after the end of the fuel embargo in Nepal so putting gas in a bus on such a long journey was going to be an issue.

We discovered after 20 minutes how refuelling worked in the mountains.

We ground to a halt in a seemingly deserted siding while our young driver and his henchman jumped off. This was where we picked up the fuel.

Our driver also took the opportunity to have a cigarette break while he was busy topping up the tank.

Bus fully fuelled and no explosion later, he stacked the bus with fuel canisters for the rest of the journey. As you can see below, none really had what you’d call a lid.

At this point a group of Nepalese workers also boarded along with their baggage. You can see that baggage below.

Fuel on the bus from Phaplu to Kathmandu
It’s Ok, there was plenty of fuel!

These gas canisters, below, despite attempts to wedge them in with rocks, slid and slipped up and down the bus for the whole journey.

I wedged my foot in the way to stop them hitting the metal step. I was thinking sparks, gas, fuel, you get the picture.

Gas cylinders on the bus from Kathmandu to Phaplu
Some rather unconventional baggage.

So on we went. Our bus was full of local people young and old, workers and trekkers. A mixed bunch with one thing in common, just about everyone on that bus vomited at some point during the day.

By some miracle, we escaped. I’d dosed the kids with motion sickness tablets and they snoozed and read the day away quite happily, intermittently marvelling at the incredible views, impossible roads and other wonders before them.

There were plenty of rest and refuelling stops along with shops to buy drinks, snacks and sick bags.

I should mention, really, I must, that the roads were terrifying.

If you’ve taken the bus from Pokhara to Kathmandu and thought that was hair-raising, well, you just wouldn’t believe how much worse this journey is.

The road, until you get closer to Kathmandu, is single lane and cut into the side of the mountains. There is little tarmac.

There are drops of hundreds, even thousands of feet to one side and there is never any sort of safety barrier. In places landslides have taken out the road, the bus just carries on, leaning alarmingly towards the abyss.

I won’t say any more. I just can’t describe how terrifying this ride was in places.

I’m scared of heights, very scared, I also have children, these two things put my anxiety levels through the roof. You may handle this journey far better than I did.

Fuel stop on the bus from Phaplu to Kathmandu
Fuel stop number 2, no smoking this time.
bus and jeep traffic jam between phaplu and kathmandu
Stalemate. A convoy of jeeps meets our bus as we cross a dry river bed. Nobody was going to budge.

The driver’s sidekick has several important roles.

Firstly, obviously, somebody has to light the driver’s cigarette as he refuels the bus, but our man also collects money and hands out tickets.

He was so superbly practised at this that when the bus was totally full with seated, standing, crouching, leaning and perching passengers, he could walk to the back of the bus along seat backs and arms to collect his dues.

His third role, the most important, was to keep us on the road rather than in the valley a thousand feet below.

When the road got particularly narrow he would lean out of the door to check the wheels were actually on solid ground, conveying his observations to the driver in a series of well practices whistles and bangs.

It’s a polished team that spends a full lifetime driving in the Himalayas.

Rest stop on the bus rom Phaplu to Kathmandu
Isn’t she magnificent!
beer in Kathmandu
Finally, thankfully, gladly, back in Kathmandu. Time for a beer.

Ok, so this bus journey was a little testing. It’s also an incredible memory and memories like these are the stuff that makes our family bond tighter and filled with humour.

It was a day I wouldn’t swap, but it had its moments. We adore Nepal, so much so that we’re thinking of living there for a while, so if you want more from the mountains, watch this space!

For Pinterest

The bus from Phaplu to Kathmandu

Over to you, would you do it, could you do it, have you experienced similar?


If you enjoyed reading about this bus ride in Nepal you’re possibly planning your own trip to the Himalayas, we have heaps of other information here for you, including:

Stupa Guest House, Kathmandu

Gear for Trekking and Nepal

Nepali Food

Main Nepal Travel Page

Insurance for Trekking

If you'd like to hire a car during your stay, use this car rental comparison tool to find the best deal!

We also suggest you take a look at this company to get a quote for all kinds of the more tricky adventure or extended travel insurance.

Try Stayz / VRBO for an alternative way to find rentals on homes/apartments/condos in any country!

About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

35 thoughts on “The Bus from Phaplu to Kathmandu”

  1. Hi Alyson,
    internet speaks always about jeep, jeep. I’d like, as you did, to catch a bus from KTM to Phaplu. Please let me know the name of the bus company and the name of the station where it leaves from. Thanks, Nicola

    • Sorry I have no idea if its not in the post. We literally just went to the bus station in Phaplu and booked a bus. In Kathmandu there are loads of agencies to book bus tickets, but watch out for inflated prices.

  2. Hi Alyson!

    Thank you for the wonderfully useful write-up on your trip.

    I am currently looking into flying in to Lukla and then bus/jeep back to Kathmandu (with the Everest Panorama Trek in between). Like you, a family of four with two kids. Ways of cutting cost is in the progress of being explored.

    You mentioned that it is actually more expensive to walk out than fly out. Why? How so? Greatly appreciate if you can enlighten me on that.

    • We were with a guide, so that was $20 a day straight up. Then accommodation, food – food is expensive, although dramatically less so that on the main Everest tourist highway. In some places below Lukla you’ll be back to the old system of free stays if you buy dinner – that’s cheap. Just an extra 4-5 days of trekking and food for four people is more expensive than the flights. Then add cost of the bus. It certainly does cost more, but you get all those extra days on the mountain. We did this route for a second time recently and enjoyed it far more than first time, but we flew to Phaplu. Avoided that bus ride.

      • Thanks for the prompt response, Alyson!

        Gosh, food is that expensive?! Hope vegetarians will have it cheaper. The difference between feeding one and feeding four is definitely huge.

        Please correct me if I understand the charges wrongly. The cost for a guide ($20/day) is split among the number of pax in the group. NOT $20/day/tourist, right? I will definitely be getting a guide and a porter.

        As I do more reading up on the Everest Region, I also find it amazing that the accommodation in this region seems to be so much more expensive than the Poon Hill trek. Over at Poon Hill area (which we did 2 years ago), the price for a room is standardised by the authority and they are generally no more than USD10/night. Everest region… oh my, I see room charges of around USD10/night and over USD100/night. Talk about variety!

        So, for your second time round, you flew KTM-Phaplu-KTM? I don’t see any Phaplu airport on Yeti Airline’s website.

        • Hi Su. Your guide is per day not per person. Our guide was very cheap, you’ll probably pay more. The second time we went to Everest Base Camp we didn’t take a guide or a porter, you really don’t need one. No, nothing is particularly expensive, it just adds up. We paid $10 for a room ( and of course we need 2 rooms) once and that was a massive rip off because somebody else’s guide got involved and took a commission on taking us to this particular place after telling us everywhere was full. Had we walked a little further there were plenty of places not full. But we trusted. $5 or less is common. Even free below Lukla. Avoid the major towns and hubs where the tour groups go ( and where a guide will want to take you) and it’s much quieter, nicer and cheaper, you’ll be welcomed. The busy places with tour groups aren’t nice really. Once you get high some of the rates are regulated and everywhere is $7 per room. But some people pay too much. I know in one place we paid $5 or so, after negotiations, and the owner made us vow not to tell the lady in the end room because she was paying $10. As you get high food prices rise. So a dahl baht that would be a couple of bucks in Kathmandu suddenly becomes $8. So not expensive, but prices rise and 3 meals for 4 people becomes a big daily spend. We don’t eat meat, I wouldn’t recommend anybody eats meat up there as the meat has to be carried up on porters’ backs. I would have garlic soup because it was cheaper but 3 hungry boys needed a lot of food. A toilet roll could be $4. I can’t remember what we paid for Snickers, but prices rise. Then there are charges for charging your electronics, wifi, showers, water. It just adds up. Yes we flew to Phaplu. We chartered our own plane because no planes were going into Lukla. That’s common. We talk about that in another post I think it’s the Everest Base Camp Hardships one. If you’re trying to book guest houses online, yes you’ll see high prices, places like The Pyramid ( which friends of ours stayed at – it wasn’t good) and Everest View Hotel, yes they’re expensive, but there are plenty of normal lodges and tea houses that won’t be online.

          • Thank you very much for your reply, Alyson!

            Hope all will be well for us in the Everest region. And for you, the world!

  3. Hi Alyson, Iam planning to travel by bus during October from phaplu to Kathmandu. At what time will it reach Kathmandu ? Thanks.

    • Probably early evening Ravi, after dark, but a lot depends on traffic in the outskirts of Kathmandu, it took us hours to get into town. It generally does, same applies on the Pokhara buses.

  4. Hello!
    I met you a couple of weeks ago, I was coming down from Jubing as you were climbing up – we had a chat about the Cho La, which I hated as I also have no head for heights!
    I hope you’ve had a great time on your trek. We’re just about recovered and getting ready to head to Pokhara for more trekking.
    If you’re trekking back out to Paphlu or Salleri, you can get a whole jeep by buying all 9 seats – we paid 11700 NPR at Laxmi guesthouse in Salleri. You can spread out and get the driver to stop whenever you want. Just make sure that the driver doesn’t try to pick up extra passengers – point out that it’s a private jeep if he tries it (ours did).

    • I remember! Hello . We got back yesterday, 21 days up there. Loved it, and it was hard, of course, but magical. Lots of posts to come! Enjoy the rest of your time in Nepal. We’re off to Chitwan and Tibet, plus more!

  5. Hi there and thanks for the post! Do you know where these busses arrive/leave in Kathmandu?

  6. omg nepal sounds amazing, but i would have definitely freaked out if the tyres was already off road whoa. the closest to this kind of road trip i’ve been on was from srinagar to ladakh, and that was by jeep. but it was definitely memorable for me! hoping for more stories for you as my lessons before gearing for my nepal trip next year! thank you alison!

    • We arrive in about a week, so lots more to come, but I’ll be offline a lot in the Himalayas, not sure I’ll get much done. But you have a great trip!

  7. Ahahah…it seems the description of our bus ride from Jomsom to Pokhara. So funny!!

  8. You’re an awesome storyteller ???? I’ve done the bus ride to Jiri, it’s quite interesting. We had chickens, a goat and some seriously weird smelling feed. I made the mistake of giving my seat to a woman and her child. I never saw that seat again. I stood for the entire 8 hours. She got up and some other dude took the seat???? So much for manners. It seems the local men don’t share the same values as westerners do ???? the bus ride is a good way to see the country side… and appreciate life once you step off at the safety of your destination ????thanx for the awesome story ????

      • haha, just because I got a pair of balls between my legs doesn’t make me a dick 😉 Perhaps Glen who called you a meatballer doesnt have a pair but he certainly is a dick, lol

        So my trip was a success. I actually ended up finding out about a new trail from Kharakhola to Tuladunga, have you heard about it. It cuts a day out so you don’t have to hike to Rungmi. I then caught a jeep from Tuladunga to Salleri and the a jeep from Sallerie to Katmandu, The jeep from Sallerie took a painful 12 hours but probably because the jeep driver stopped at just about every shop. I wasn’t complaining though, it gave me time to stretch my legs but glad that’s over.

        • No I haven’t. I can’t remember most of the names now anyway. Hopefully we’ll be back next climbing season, so will check. Glad you made it in one piece! I think we’ll fly next time, but…well you risk your life either way.

  9. Any tummy troubles along the way around Phaplu? Lukla? Along the trek? Any advice?

    • Yes, we were plagued with diarrhoea and vomiting the whole time we were in Nepal. This is unusual for us as we very rarely get sick when we travel so we can only conclude that Nepal’s water and hygiene levels are way worse than anywhere else we’ve been, even India. Partly I think it was bottled fizzy drinks, we think they may be made with tap water from concentrate, so next time we’d only let the kids have cans if they wanted something like that. I’m vegetarian and stuck to dahl based curries and soups almost exclusively, I was fine. The other 3 ate burgers, chicken, all sorts. This is one country where you do have to follow those old travel / food / hygiene rules that no longer apply to most of Asia. Drink black tea, stay hydrated, don’t take immmodium. Kathmandu was worse than in the mountains. The climbers get out of Kathmandu to avoid getting sick before their summit attempt. There is a post on Nepal with kids on my site that talks about how sick we were. My husband certainly had giardia, characteristic eggy burps, he got better without treatment but was pretty sick for a few days, hence he didn’t go to Tengboche with my son and I. Carry toilet roll! Squatting by the side of the track isn’t unusual up there.

  10. U sound like a typical british.. Firstly it’s the most highest region in the world.. So stop being sarcastic… U sound like u didn’t like the journey.. They u should spend more and fly.. U cheap British meat ball..

    • Interesting comments.

      “a typical british’ Grammatically you need to explain what it is that is typically British (note capitalisation, as it is a proper noun. A typically British person, a typically British village/town/city etc.

      The “most highest” surely ‘the highest’ is sufficient to explain how high the region is? Although I think most people know that Nepal is not exactly at sea level.

      Is it really so difficult to add two extra letters and write the word ‘you’?

      What exactly is a ‘cheap British meatball’? One from Tesco as opposed to one from Waitrose?

      Have you ever travelled to Nepal?

      Who are’they’? This travelling family that have possibly clocked up more air miles than a Ryan Air pilot? The point is that they chose to do this journey. Because that is what travellers do.

      Good luck with your writing career.

  11. how many hours it takes from kathmandu to phaplu and where we can find the local bus? please can you give me the address?

  12. Holy moley – I have to tell you that reading I laughed quite nervously! I love Nepal, too! Wish I can stay there semi-permanently.

  13. No no no !! I definitely would not have been able to handle the wheels above the abyss, I would have jumped off I think (though there is very little chance I would have hopped on in the first place…) We nearly always self-drive and the only driver I fully trust is my husband – he’s gone through difficult traffic situations (Borneo, Matto Grosso do Sul, Kuala Lumpur, …) and always managed to get us home safely. I don’t say we never scare ourselves, but at least we control our vehicle (not always the vehicle up ahead, of course !)


Leave a comment