You almost have to be a detective to follow clues and tips to find a manageable route to the eclectic environs of the Kathmandu Valley and the myriad sites that compel people from around the world to visit!
My location on the west coast in California makes it an almost 10,000 miles journey to get back and forth to Nepal and it is not an easy journey. In my 10 visits to Nepal over the past 5 years I have tried several ways to approach the Himalayan country and although money has dictated much, it is the ease and convenience that I am looking for when I travel that far that dictates my eventual choice of routes.
The two major departure cities are San Francisco (SFO) and Los Angeles (LAX) in California. From my home base in Sacramento (SMF), both are some distance from where I live and I must either drive, leave my car and fly out of San Francisco, or I must fly to Los Angeles and depart from there. I have done it both ways and there are great differences. Because San Francisco is closer to me one would suspect that the trip would be much easier flying from there. Not so. Because one is restricted to airlines that serve that routing and airport you are restricted to using airlines that fly indirectly to Kathmandu. This means that the airlines flying from SFO usually stop once or twice before one is on a plane headed for Kathmandu.
Service on all of the airlines I have traveled is comparable. The food is good, the service smooth and reliable and the flights have been excellent. The trouble arises when one is going to Nepal. If I am flying out of San Francisco I have chosen two different carriers and both offered good prices for the traveler, good service and good food. My first experience was with Philippine Airlines. Home based in Manila the routing took me to Manila, a 7 hour layover, then to Bangkok and then on to Kathmandu on Thai Air. The reverse was true coming home. At that time the old airport in Bangkok was being used and if I chose to stay over it was very convenient. The new airport, modern and sleek, is an hour from town and presents a hassle if you have a long layover. A taxi ride is necessary from the airport on arrival and I found that most hotels offer service back to the airport if you have stayed overnight or longer.
My next experience was with Korean Airlines. Again, good prices, good service and good food, but a very different experience. A long flight to Inchon/Seoul and a 2 hour layover before boarding a plane for Singapore. Here the flight to Kathmandu was about 12 hours away the next day. The airport in Singapore is big and clean and efficient. You can grab a hotel room right in the terminal which is a welcome break from the flying. Lastly, a 5 hour flight on Dragon Air into Kathmandu to complete the trip. Interestingly enough I had to return a couple of days early and I did not know whether I would have a room or not in Singapore. Luck was with me and I got the last room in the hotel.
These two trips were exhausting and although it is a long flight to and from the west coast it beats another routing that goes in the other direction. From Sacramento I would fly to Houston, a long layover and then fly to Doha, the capitol of Qatar, in the Middle East. A long layover again and then into Kathmandu after a 7 hour plane ride. The trip takes 3 days and although I have never been tempted to do this route, I may one day just for the experience.
The most direct and efficient of all routing is with Thai Air Lines out of Los Angeles. Friendly and efficient both on the ground and in the air, Thai offers for me the most direct way to get to Nepal. Out of Los Angeles at about 9:30P.M. you arrive in Bangkok at 6 A.M., in time for the airport shops and eating facilities to be opening. After about a 4 hour wait you are on your way again, using Thai, into Kathmandu after a 3 hour flight. I fly from Sacramento to Los Angeles on a United Air Lines commuter jet, a Star Alliance partner with Thai Air, and my baggage is sent all the way through to Kathmandu from Sacramento. This means no hassle in Los Angeles and I have not yet had any problem with my luggage being in Kathmandu after all those flights and hours.
Thai Air offers great service, wonderful food, in seat entertainment and flight attendants who strive to see that everything is done to make your time on board as comfortable as they can. Do I know the way to Kathmandu? Yes, and it is my hope that this little bit of information helps you when you next go to visit Nepal.