Nepal 101: Reaching Kathmandu

So you finally made your decision – you will come to Nepal for your holidays (or permanently, or semi-permanently)! How do you actually get here though? Well, it’s not that simple, as you may remember from my article about Turkish Airlines. Here are some options for you (particularly if you are coming from the European side):

1. Turkish Airlines.

Do I even discuss this one? Well, I guess it’s only fair. Only because I am boycotting it, doesn’t mean others shouldn’t try their luck. Anyhow, Turkish Airlines has a rather good connection from Istanbul to a number of major European cities. There is a direct flight from Istanbul to Kathmandu. Simple. Cheap. Best option? Maybe. Read this again and decide whether you’re going to try your chances.

2. Delhi route

Now, this route is relatively good, though you want to make sure your layover in Delhi is not too long. That airport is HOT! And rather small so it can get pretty boring. Kathmandu has several daily flights to Delhi so it’s really easy to get there. Delhi is directly connected to most major European cities. So far, I flew Air India, Austrian Airlines and FinnAir to Delhi, and Jet Airways, Spice Jet and Air India to Kathmandu. Nothing special, but nothing to complain about either. Consistently average route without major surprises or hassles. Clearly takes a bit longer than the Istanbul way, but I’ve never had any problems. If you don’t mind two layovers, this is the way to go. For your flight to Delhi you can choose almost any of the major European airlines, and biggest Indian ones too. There are many daily flights. Apart from the stated airlines flying to Kathmandu, there is also IndiGo, which I hear is good and cheap!

3. Qatar Airways

This is a good airline to fly. Very good. However, goodness comes with a price. I am not always able to afford this route. It’s fairly simple and quick though. Kathmandu to Doha, Doha to Europe. Efficient and comfortable. No complaints, no hassles, no problems. As long as you have the funds, go for it. Oh what the heck, book that business class while you’re at it.

4. Etihad Airways

Never flew this airline myself, though I’ve heard only good things about it. All I can say is that it belongs in the Qatar Airways category. Not for budget travelers I guess.

Austrian Airlines is always fun. They got seat covers and blankets in colors of India!

Austrian Airlines is always fun. They got seat covers and blankets in colors of India!

5. Oman Air

OK, so this is a gem I discovered on my last trip to Croatia. It is NOT the simplest or the fastest route, by any means. It was pretty long and tiring, but Oman Air is wonderful! Their prices to Europe are low (so so low), and their service is amazing. I have no complaints whatsoever, on the contrary, I only have words of praise for their service and fleet. No mater what airline you fly, when you go to a third-world country, service will be at its lowest. I have to say – Oman Air does not do that. From and to Kathmandu the service was superb and I noticed they treated everyone on the plane in the same manner (which was a refreshing and welcoming change in comparison to Turkish Airlines). I got great service with a smile, and so did a poor Nepali worker sitting next to me. That made me very happy, and it boosted Oman Air in my eyes by one million percent. Great job Oman Air!

On the downside, Muscat airport is not the best around (it’s very clean, and air-conditioned, but so very small – not fun for long layovers). However, I saw they are building a huge new airport, which looks more like a city, so I think in a year time Muscat will be THE transfer airport of choice in Middle East.

For everyone traveling to USA, Canada and that part of the world: I’ve heard from others that east-bound flights are usually better and faster than the west-bound ones. Transfer airports usually include Bangkok, Seoul, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur… Airlines flying from Kathmandu to that side are Thai Airways, Air Asia, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, China Southern Airlines, SilkAir…

This is definitely not an extensive list of airlines flying to Kathmandu, just the ones I know about/have heard about/or travelled with. The whole thing is my opinion only, and I am just trying to be helpful, no no hate mail please. If you know of a particularly good/bad route/airline share with everyone in the comment section. There’s never enough of good advice when traveling.

Wishing you all successful plane ticket hunt!


Ms. Z.

Himalaya close-ups

Remember this post on a disasterous trip with Turkish Airlines? I will certainly never forget it. One other thing I will never forget is the spectacular view of the Himalayan range Mr.B. and I got to enjoy over some stale Turkish Airlines cheese sandwiches. This mountain range is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It soars high above the clouds and you cannot but wonder whether the scene you’re looking at is real. It looks like a painting. It looks unbelievable. It looks…it looks… I am at loss of words. Without further ado, enjoy these spectacular images – one good thing that came out of our travels with Turkish Airlines.

Can you believe this view?

Can you believe this view?

Ignore the wing. It's not worth your attention.

Ignore the wing. It’s not worth your attention.

Short stories from Istanbul

Let me tell you a little story. Once upon a time there was a married couple living in Nepal. She was from Croatia and he was from Nepal. One sunny summer day they were leisurely surfing the Internet when they came across cheap plane tickets to Croatia. Her eyes lit up at the prospect of going to Croatia for Christmas and he nodded his head in approval. Tickets were purchased.

Come December, the suitcases were packed and a happy couple made their way to the airport. Everything seemed merry. After all, ’twas the season. One thing they neglected to consider was the fact they were flying …[ insert horror movie music]… Turkish Airlines. Oh, what a nightmare it was! Their flight out of Kathmandu to Istanbul was delayed for more than 5 hours, but they were still waiting patiently, excited they are on the way to Croatia, hoping they would not miss their connecting flight. When finally boarded, both were surprised to find out there are no announcements being made, and no apology given for delay. Entertainment system was not working and there was no food for vegetarians and others who do not eat meat.  When they reached Istanbul, their flight to Croatia has already departed. And that is when their ordeal truly began. For some immigration reasons they were not allowed to leave the airport and sleep in the hotel provided by the airline. Instead, they had to spend 15:30 hours in Istanbul airport. They wasted hours and hours walking from one desk to the other trying to find some accommodation or at least some sympathy from the airline and airport staff. To no vain. All they got was angry and disgusted glances. They’ve been ignored, yelled at, lied to, made fools out of. They got a food voucher for a hamburger. And finally, exhausted, frustrated and angry, they found a quiet room and two chairs to spend the night. Even for that, they got mistreated and yelled at.

Finally, the next morning arrived and they boarded their flight to Croatia. Luckily, this time everything was in order. They reached Croatia tired but happy to see the beaming faces of the family members in the airport. Next three weeks were spent in a haze of food and sleep. When the day of departure for Nepal came, the couple again feared the worse – delays and mistreatment in Istanbul airport. Their trip began on a positive note, by being upgraded to business class for their first flight. But that was all they got. Just an upgrade, but not the service. Seat was in a business class area, though the food was economy class. Couple dismissed it with a laugh, happy that someone was appreciative enough of the trouble they went through earlier. However, upon reaching Istanbul, finding out they are no longer in business class and realizing their flight is seven hours delayed, despair, once again, set in. This time around, they decided they will not allow airline and airport staff to abuse and mistreat them, so they found a quiet seat in the waiting area where they would spend the next 12 hours. Faith had something else in plan.

Patience is a virtue

Patience is a virtue

The husband suddenly developed a strong headache. It must’ve been stress-induced. His eyes turned red and his mood went sour. The wife went in search of a medication. She located the information desk where she found out that she needs to call the pharmacy which will then deliver the medicine. She did as told. The pharmacy said to call back in an hour. She obliged. After second call she was told to hold on for 10 minutes and medicine will be brought to her. She waited for more than an hour. No one showed up. Upon her third call to the pharmacy, she was told to call back in ten minutes. The wife then gave up and cried in frustration. The husband was getting worse and worse. They walked around the airport looking for someone to help them. None of the airport staff was responsive. As if though they were not human. Finally, they managed to get medicine from a nice fellow traveller.

Flight was boarded with seven-hour delay. Once again, no entertainment system on a seven-hour flight. Mid-way to Kathmandu eggs and sausages were slapped in front of them to eat. No vegetarian option. Again, no apology.

No Turkish Airlines for this couple again. They only have one thing to say to you, readers:  for heaven’s sake, avoid Turkish Airlines and Istanbul airport like plague.

Namaste, Nepal!

Getting ready for this move has been a struggle in both emotional and physical ways. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone, especially my family, and it was almost impossible to pack my life in a couple of suitcases. But what needs to be done, needs to done, so I summoned my strength and did it.

My trip started with a car drive to an airport in Budapest where, as expected, I had issues with checking in extra luggage. I always have some kind of luggage issues when I travel – it’s like a curse. After accepting the fact that my luggage might not make it with me, and that I will probably end up paying an exorbitant fee for it, I set off on a Finnair flight to Helsinki. I had this vision that Finnair would be an amazing airline with clean, new and technologically advanced planes. Maybe I thought that because that’s what’s expected of northern Europeans to be like. I have to admit I was very disappointed when I realized the plane is old, shabby and poorly cleaned. I still hope the stuff I cleaned off the window was someone’s rice and curry splattered during turbulence, and not something else (let your imagination run wild here). Helsinki airport was also not the modern marvel I expected it to be. It was an awkwardly shaped small airport where everything in the departure terminal closed down at 7pm. I’m in no place to pass judgment considering the state of Zagreb airport, but I simply expected more from Finland. I guess it’s called prejudice and I should shake it off. I do have to commend Finnair and Helsinki airport for a great customer service. Lady at the transfer desk managed to resolve my luggage problem with one phone call and in a matter of seconds (thank you Hungarian lady for creating the problem in the first place, thank you!).

Landing in Delhi was, as always, a mixture of smell, color and heat. I don’t like that airport. It seems like the plane always stops at the furthest possible gate and then you are to walk for miles in a very warm (it was 32 degrees celsius when we landed at 5am!) terminal to reach an exit. But, alas, I reached it and was greeted by many employees at the transfer desk. Delhi airport is one of those places where there always seems to be more employees than passengers. Seven of them then started working on issuing my boarding pass for my flight to Kathmandu and I was ushered into a seat in the waiting area where I exchanged several lines and compassionate you’re-waiting-as-well smiles with a Chinese dude. 45 minutes later my boarding pass was ready (were they making the paper themselves?) and I was fighting my way through duty free shop to the gate. I was stopped probably five times and asked whether I am on the flight to London. Talk about prejudice and discrimination. Yes, I know I am very white, and yes, I did have a bag with a UK flag on it, but is that all it takes for someone to assume I am on a flight to London? I proudly said: No, I am going to Kathmandu. I like to believe that startled my interceptors and completely threw them off, though I am pretty sure they couldn’t care less.

Flight to Kathmandu was unusually uneventful. It might’ve been because I was too tired to even care. I sat there staring at nothing, since my entertainment system didn’t work, yet the flight seemed short. Before I realized it we were landing in Kathmandu and I saw all the tourists on the plane stretching their necks to see the mountains and the city. Clearly I didn’t consider myself to be a tourist, though I couldn’t pass for anything else. Only the last name in my passport gives a small hint of the reason for my staying in Nepal. Everything during arrival went smoothly: I filled out my paperwork and within minutes I got my visa glued in my passport. The immigration officer gave his colleagues a crash course in geography proudly explaining Croatia is in Yugoslavia. I nodded my head in agreement for I had no strength or willpower to recap recent historical events in Europe. I rushed downstairs to get the luggage which was, unbelievably, already doing rounds on a conveyor belt. I grabbed it, rushed past the customs officer not trying to stop at all and out I went eyes wide open, in search of my husband. Taxi drivers where approaching me saying taxi madame, but I felt like I was in one of those movie scenes where things are happening around you but you don’t see or hear anything. There’s music playing and you’re courageously and with determination making your way to your goal. Taxi drivers were just some vague voices fading away in the background. And then there he was. My husband. Waiting for me right outside the door with a huge smile on his face. I’ve made it. The Day finally came. Namaste, Nepal.

Sweet ride to the terminal. I was pretty sure we were all going to die right there on the tarmac for the bus way jumping and jostling like a mountain goat.

Sweet ride to the terminal. I was pretty sure we were all going to die right there on the tarmac for the bus was jumping and jostling like a mountain goat.

No talking on the plane, please

Fly, fly away...

Fly, fly away…

The countdown is on – I am leaving for Nepal in couple of days and I have started thinking of my flights, checking on the weather, and wondering about who will be my fellow seat-sharer on the plane. With many international (and domestic) flights under my belt, I’ve had an opportunity to share a row with many different, and sometimes quite interesting, characters. Obviously, small children top the list of the most unwanted persons on a plane seat next to you. I’ve had some experience with that, but luckily it has not been too traumatic. Next on the list would probably be people with motion sickness. To all the motion-sickenss sufferers out there: please, do not get a middle seat, and for god sakes, take a pill. I beg of you! On my last trip to Nepal I sat next to a teenager who spent 3 hours (on a 4 hour flight) throwing up. I was in the window seat; he was in the middle. Take this moment to sympathize with me.

Third place on my worst traveling companion list goes to the talkers. I’m one of those people who does not like to spend my whole trip trying to lead senseless conversations with people I will never see again. Polite exchange of information or a compassionate smile in moments of misery are fine, but looking to resolve crises in the Middle East while flying over it is simply not my cup of tea. I’m a solo player. I roll on my own. I have my book, my phone, my water and my pretzels. On one of my flights to Boston, while Mr.B. lived there, I ended up sitting next to a guy who resolved to make me take a roadtrip to California. Before I even managed to say anything he pulled out a map of US and went on to show me the route I should take explaining in detail each and every sight I should visit on this trip. I lived in New York. It was one long route, and one very long flight. Once, while traveling back to Croatia from US, I ended up sitting next to a Romanian lady who decided I absolutely need to know everything about her life. As soon as she sat down she proceeded to talk about her son, in detail. I found out he played a guitar, went to college and had a girlfriend. Seeing that was not enough information shared, she then pulled out a family photo album to show me photos of her late husband and all of her relatives and family in Romania. I’ve never before met anyone with such a huge family. A totally separate group of talkers are the ones who only talk about themselves in superlatives: “I’m the best, I did this, I did that, I traveled here, I traveled there, I know this, I know the best, you better be grateful you’re sitting next to me”. That’s definitely a person you don’t want to be stuck with on a long flight.

However, nice people can be met on the plane. Once I met a lovely girl who travelled from California to Italy and we had an amazing conversation on relationships and traveling after which she fell asleep curled up on her seat. I’ve then decided I need to lose some weight (and possibly some height, though I don’t know how!?) since I couldn’t curl up on my seat, and she looked so comfortable.

I wonder who I’ll get to meet and talk to this time. Will it be someone normal? Will the person be so wacky I’ll have to come up with a new worst-traveller-companion category? Only time will tell.

What’s with you? Have you ever had an annoying traveling companion?