The two terminals at Kathmandu Airport (Tribhuvan International Airport) consistently operate over their intended capacities. Fortunately, with only one runway, the airport is still small and easy to navigate.
The International Terminal at KTM feels like a gauntlet of bureaucracy, but it’s also where you'll find most of the amenities. Meanwhile, the domestic terminal serves as the frenetic gateway for flights farther afield to enjoy the ancient peace of the Himalayas.
Kathmandu Airport Code, Location, and Flight Information
- Airport Code: KTM
- Official Name: Tribhuvan International Airport
- Location: Ring Road, Kathmandu. Approximately 3.7 miles east of Thamel.
- Hours: Kathmandu Airport closes to passengers around 12:30 a.m. and reopens at 6:30 a.m.
- Website: http://www.tiairport.com.np/
- Phone Number: +977 1-4113033
- Flight Tracker: http://www.tiairport.com.np/all-flights
Know Before You Go
Arriving in the International Terminal for the first time can be overwhelming for weary, long-haul passengers. Signs can be confusing and there are often crowds and lengthy lines of people waiting to get a tourist visa.
The Domestic Terminal, on the left end of the airport, also buzzes with excitement as this is where trekkers and climbers congregate to board small prop planes to Lukla Airport, the start of the trek to Everest Base Camp and some of the tallest mountains on earth.
If you’re among the trekkers, know that maximum luggage allowances are carefully enforced. Gear strewn about on the floor and frantic repacking are regular scenes in the Domestic Departures area. Meanwhile, guides, porters, and airline staff do their best to organize groups and herd them to the right planes.
Fog and cloud cover often cause delays at Kathmandu Airport. Heavy rain in the summer months may also delay flights.
Kathmandu Airport Parking
A medium-sized parking lot is available in front of each of the two terminals. Much of the capacity in these lots is perpetually occupied by taxis of all sizes and legality.
Although Kathmandu Airport is less than four miles to the east of Thamel, traffic is often heavy along Ring Road. Just in case, allow at least 30 minutes for getting to the airport from Thamel.
Public Transportation and Taxis
Arranging for a private transfer to your hotel is the most expensive option but doing so definitely reduces worry about finding transportation. Your driver will be waiting for you at baggage claim with a sign.
If your hotel doesn’t offer a transfer service, you can approach the “Pre-Paid Taxi Service” counter as you exit Arrivals. These taxis cost more than fares negotiated with drivers outside the terminal, but prices are clearly displayed, and there's less chance of getting scammed later. Another advantage is that the counter accepts larger denominations dispensed from the ATM.
Where to Eat and Drink
As is often the case, you’ll enjoy a much better meal elsewhere before making your way to the airport. In a pinch, you can find a handful of small, standalone eateries in separate buildings between Ring Road and the parking lot for the International Terminal. Among them are a couple cafes, a bakery, and a local fried chicken chain, KKFC.
The TIA Canteen is a small, dark eatery in front of the airport selling inexpensive dal bhat, momo dumplings, and sweet treats. Inside the airport itself, there is a tea-and-snack shop on the ground floor.
Where to Shop
Shopping inside Kathmandu Airport is limited. There’s a duty free shop and a small souvenir/handicraft shop on the ground floor.
How to Spend Your Layover
Spending more time than necessary in the hectic whirl of Kathmandu Airport is an unpleasant prospect. With no luggage storage counter inside, you’ll have to keep everything with you until ready to check in. Overnighting isn't an option; the airport closes at midnight.
If you have a lot of time to kill before a flight, consider one of the three-star hotels on the other side of Ring Road, an 8-minute walk just outside the airport gate. Prices range from $15 to $30; some offer free airport shuttles. The money is well spent for some personal space (and perhaps a pool to enjoy) before a long, international flight.
If you don’t want to take your chances by walking into one of the hotels, the Hotel Reservation Info Counter on the ground floor can arrange one for you. They add a commission so your rate will be higher.
- Royal Silk Lounge: If you’re flying with Thai Airways or another Star Alliance airline and possess the right kind of ticket, you can access the Royal Silk Lounge for free. Find the lounge on the first floor before security in the International Terminal.
- Executive Lounge: Passengers dressed convincingly enough could try to get into the Executive Lounge before security on the second floor of the International Terminal. An hourly pass is inexpensive; however, passengers are arbitrarily screened and must be considered “commercially important people” or have reservations.
Wi-Fi and Charging Stations
Wi-Fi is available in the International Terminal. The signal works better in some parts of the terminal than others. Try moving around if you absolutely need a connection.
The official SSID is "Free_TIA_Worldlink_Wifi." After passing through Immigration in the International Terminal, try switching your connection to SSID: "TIA-Wifi-Departure."
Charging stations are available before and after security, but they are often stacked with phones; keep an eye on yours. The outlets are universal and will work with any plug type.
Getting a Visa
The queues for Immigration are often lengthy and chaotic—remain patient and stand your ground until it’s your turn to get stamped in. That said, don’t blindly follow other passengers until you're sure you are in the right line! Each visa-on-arrival step has to be completed in the correct sequence. Save some stress by being prepared with a pen, your passport, U.S. dollars, and a completed arrival card.
- Step 1: Complete your arrival card (given to you on the plane) and a Tourist Visa form (located on counters around the room or you can do it electronically at the kiosk in the next step).
- Step 2: Get in line for one of the kiosks where you’ll scan your passport and take a headshot photo.
- Step 3: Get in line for the visa payment counter. Paying the exact fee in U.S. dollars is best; ensure your dollars are in good condition and aren’t marked. Expect to pay $30 for 15 days; $50 for 30 days; $125 for 90 days.
- Step 4: Take your passport, payment receipt, and completed paperwork to the Immigration Desk to be stamped in.
Kathmandu Airport Tips and Facts
- One of the first scams you’ll encounter in Kathmandu is being presented with a trolley for your luggage and asked to pay a fee or tip. Trolleys are free at the airport, so you can easily get your own, but porters do offer to transport your luggage. The porters’ services are inexpensive; however, you’ll need small denominations of rupees to pay them.
- Keep your boarding pass and claim sticker out and ready to get your bags at Baggage Claim.
- Use one of the two currency exchange counters in Arrivals only if you don’t have a choice or the ATMs are offline, which is sometimes the case. Rates aren’t very good at the counter, so exchange only enough money to pay a taxi and get to your hotel. The hotel staff can help you find an ATM to get more cash later.
- A handful of ATMs can be found in a cramped room to the right after exiting the airport.