Thamel is the beating heart of Kathmandu’s traveler scene. Hiking and rafting businesses, hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, and souvenir shops are jam-packed into the narrow streets of Thamel. While Thamel is hardly typical of the rest of Kathmandu, it’s a lively place to spend time, and is convenient for planning your travels around Nepal.
Thamel offers practically everything a visitor to Nepal needs, whether that’s a waterproof jacket, a decent coffee, or a new tattoo. While it’s sometimes dismissively called a tourist ghetto, that isn’t entirely fair. Many Nepalis live and work in Thamel, and there are pockets of traditional culture that include temples and old Newari buildings. But if you’re craving Israeli food or pizza, you’ll find these in Thamel, too.
Things to Know Before You Go
- In late 2017, several of the main streets of Thamel were pedestrianized. It is now quite comfortable to walk around.
- Thamel is home to some children who live on the street and beg. It’s not advisable to give them money.
- Thamel is not generally dangerous, but it’s a good idea to be extra careful with your valuables, especially when out at night.
- Hotels along Thamel Marg can be noisy on weekend nights, with the sound of bars and live music nearby.
How to Get There
When staying in Kathmandu, there’s a high chance you’ll be staying in Thamel. It’s about a 20-minute taxi ride from the airport. Along with Durbar Marg (a short walk or drive to the east), Thamel is considered central Kathmandu. Kathmandu’s white taxis gather just outside the entrance to Thamel, on Tridevi Sadak and Narsingh Chowk. Wherever you go in Kathmandu you’ll easily be able to find your way back to Thamel in a taxi.
When to Get There
Thamel is busiest during the peak tourist seasons in Nepal, March-May and September-November. Many of the shops are shut on Saturdays, Nepal’s day of rest. While Thamel is home to many bars and clubs, most places aren’t allowed to stay open beyond midnight, so you’ll find that even the streets of Thamel empty out in the dead of night.
Walk to the Durbar Square or Swayambhunath
On Saturdays, when Kathmandu’s traffic thins, it’s possible to walk comfortably from Thamel to the iconic sights of the Durbar Square (to the south) or Swayambhunath Stupa (on a hill to the west). Both places take around half an hour to reach on foot, and walking is a good way to get a feel for the architecture, markets, and general everyday life on the streets of Kathmandu.