Nepal Tourism Board plans to run hop-on, hop-off buses from New YearAs a pilot project, the board is going to operate electric buses along the routes connecting five world heritage sites in Kathmandu Valley.
If everything goes as planned, Kathmandu Valley will get to see hop-on, hop-off bus services connecting five world heritage sites as a means of tourism promotion from next month.
Hop-on, hop-off bus service is quite popular in cities like London and Paris. Such services allow tourists to visit the city’s tourist destinations for a day on a single ticket.
The new bus, the first kind of it in Nepal, is set to connect five UNESCO world Heritage sites in the Valley. The route starts from Patan Durbar Square then reaches Basantapur Durbar Square, Pashupatinath Temple, Bauddhanath Stupa and Swayambhu. Also, those buses will also make rounds of other important places such as Narayanhiti Palace Museum, National Museum at Chhauni in Swayambhu and Taragaon Museum at Bauddha.
Hikmat Singh Ayer, director at the Nepal Tourism Board, who led the inspection team of stakeholders of all these world heritage sites, said on Sunday, the bus services will start from around mid-January. Although not fixed as yet, the bus tickets are likely to be priced between Rs 800-Rs 1,000, for foreigners and around Rs 500, for locals. The ticket prices will be fixed by the Department of Transport at a later date.
“The Ministry of Culture has already lobbied for route permits from the Department of Transport Management, the process will be finished within 15 days and buses will hit the road from mid-January,” said Ayer.
According to him, the tourism ministry is giving top priority to the project.
“On Sunday, we did a field visit of these heritage sites and spotted designated parking areas for the bus service,” said Ayer.
As per the plan, visitors can spend half an hour or more time at a particular site, and they will get picked up by the next bus that reaches the area every 30 minutes.
As part of route inspection and to promote the new bus service, on Sunday, the officials from the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Kathmandu Valley Traffic Police, transportation experts, representatives of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, Lalitpur Metropolitan City, and Sajha Yatayat reached different destinations.
Earlier, in 2018, late Rabindra Adhikari, the then Minister for Culture and Tourism and Civil Aviation on the first day of his office had proposed to launch such bus service in the Valley. But it could not materialise then.
“That is why we are now committed to making this project successful within a month,” said Ayer.
As a pilot project, Sajha Yatayat is operating six electric buses along the 45 kilometre route that will take around three hours to complete.
Buses will be available every 30 minutes at the heritage sites. According to Ayer, the service will be opened to the private sector to run such buses afterward.
“This is a good drive to promote Nepal’s heritage sites globally, our city will fully support this drive,” said Chiri Babu Maharjan, mayor of the Lalitpur Metropolitan City (LMC). He said the City itself is already in the process of procuring four electric buses to promote the heritage sites within the metropolis.
Mayor Maharjan said he had met Tourism Minister Jeevan Ram Shrestha two months ago, for the same purpose. “I have found Shrestha very eager to run bus services connecting the all historical heritage sites,” said Maharjan.
However, for now, those buses will not be reaching Bhaktapur Durbar Square and Changu Narayan, which also fall under World Heritage sites.
“This time around, these sites couldn’t be included as they are quite far, and discussions are underway to integrate them as well,” said Bhusan Tuladhar, a board member of the Sajha Yatayat.
He said the passengers can visit all five heritage sites of the Valley with only one ticket.
“Once the hop-on, hop-off service starts, it would highly benefit the private city tour operators as they wouldn’t need to hire separate vehicles. By just paying for a single ticket, their clients can visit all the heritage sites,” said Ayer.
Also, the bus will be helpful for foreigners who have a limited stay in Kathmandu, as one can visit all the heritage sites within a single day.
At one time 46 people can travel on the hop on, hop off bus. Inside the bus, the visitors can get information about the sites they are visiting through video clips and brochures.
“We are also going to promote the nightlife, connecting it to Thamel, in addition to promoting the tourism business in all the heritage sites. We are still working on the plans,” Ayer added.