The following are the most popular methods of traveling to Chitwan National Park.
- The most popular method of traveling to Chitwan National Park is by bus. There are dedicated tourist buses offering different standards
- The second most popular method is to hire private transport, either a car or a jeep.
- Mini-vans reach further outside of Chitwan National Park
- Traveling by airplane is also an option for those short on time.
One of the most important things to keep in mind that in all cases you should familiarize yourself with the difference between Sauraha and Chitwan National Park - chances are you'll be in both at some stage.
Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park is located in the mid Terai area of Nepal. It's famous for a jungle that has a population of Royal Bengal tigers, elephants, one-horned rhinoceros, crocodiles and a host of bird life. Do read my full guide to Chitwan National Park for full details.
Sauraha is a small town located just outside of Chitwan National Park. Sauraha has a large selection of accommodation, tour agencies and restaurants. This is where all transport goes to.
Chitwan National Park and Sauraha are side by side. Chitwan is the huge jungle where treks and jungle safaris take place.
Sauraha is the small town directly outside of the National park and serves as its main travel/accommodation hub. In other words to get to Chitwan National Park you must first travel to Sauraha.
When traveling independently transport is more commonly known as going to Sauraha. Saying your destination is Chitwan is perfectly fine. But keep in mind that staying in Sauraha is much cheaper than "staying" in Chitwan National Park. When booking tours from overseas keep this in mind. A crafty tour agent could easily charge you a lot more for direct transport/accommodation to Chitwan than to Sauraha.
How to take a bus from Kathmandu to Chitwan National Park
Bus travel to Chitwan is by far the most preferred method. There are several options. The two most popular are to take a tourist bus or local bus.
The Kathmandu bus to Chitwan is actually to Sauraha. The first bus leaves from Kathmandu from just outside Thamel along Sorhakhutte (first left after Paknajol Road - In 2018 Kantipath bus stop closed, all tourist buses now leave from Sorhakutte). There will be buses here for several destinations including Pokhara and Chitwan/Sauraha. Most leave at 7am (prompt). It's worth noting that from 2016-2019+ road widening means delays and buses may leave 30 mins earlier. It's nothing to worry about, just check when buying your ticket a day or so before.
You can buy a ticket to Chitwan/Sauraha in advance from a travel agency or your hotel. Tickets cost 600-800 rupees. 600 approx if you buy in person at the bus stop that morning. You will have to bargain a little.
Journey time to Sauraha is about 4-5 hours*. Please read the section further below on getting from Sauraha bus stop into the town as it's important.
Which is the best bus service to Chitwan?
There's very little difference between the main tourist buses. Every year a new company appears and an old one disappears (the buses remain the same) - so ignore the travel agent telling you the "bus is new". The most popular bus companies include: Holiday Adventure, Blue Sky travel and tours, Rainbow Adventure, Sarada tours & travel, Baba tours & travel, Sai baba Tours & travel Sanjok tours & travel, Kasara tours & travel and Holiday inn tours.
Again, it really doesn't matter too much. They all travel in convoy.
The buses are 32-36 seaters. Air-conditioning usually works these days but only during the summer months. There are usually 2 stops. One at around 10am and the other at 11.30am for lunch. You may get a bottle of water on board, but it's best to bring your own food and snacks. There are no toilets on board.
Luxury tourist buses to Chitwan (Sauraha)
These buses used to be called "private" buses as they operate on a luxury level. There's not too much difference. The two most popular are Greenline and Mountain Overland.. However, Greenline have not been operating to Sauraha since 2016. Rumors say they'll start soon, but until they do it's usually Mountain Overland with the more "luxury bus". Off season they don't often run. During peak season expect to pay USD $10-12. Tickets include water on arrival . Air-conditioning usually works. The seats have little bit more padding and the suspension is that bit better. The advantage in these buses is that they don't stop on the way or on the way into a destination to drop people off.
Mini vans to Sauraha (Chitwan)
Kalanki bus stop has mini vans (micro's) running to Sauraha. It's cheaper than all of the above (400 rupees) but there are many dusty stops along the way ending at Tadi Bazaar, Sauraha. You'll then need to take a rickshaw/taxi to the town itself (4km) for an additional 200-300rps. There have been several accidents involving mini-vans in the past. Coming back there is one pharmacy (Rose) along the main strip offering safer mini-van transport from the middle of Sauraha to Kathmandu.
Private car hire to Chitwan (Sauraha)
Hiring a private car from Kathmandu to Chitwan is quite easy. Any tourist or travel agency in Kathmandu can arrange one for you. Average prices are about USD$70 for the trip which you can split between passengers. Agents will often try to sell you a round trip as it works out cheaper for them (return transport). They may also try to sell you entire tour packages to Chitwan which will end up more expensive than simply booking yourself. 4x4s are more expensive but not needed as the road is fine aside from ongoing roadworks.
Private mini-van service: there is a mini-van service leaving from downtown Sauraha everyday at 7am. Details in the guidebook below.
Throughout 2019 expect delays from either Kathmandu or Pokhara to Chitwan due to roadworks at Mugling. Ignore all tour agents or touts telling you there is no problem. The reality is the road works have been happening since 2015. With delays ever since. How long you get delayed is random based on the work that day and no matter how much the bus operators promise to call ahead to find out ... it never happens. Delays can add up to 3-4 hours to a journey. If you hit it lucky (60/40% for) then you won't have a delay. Kathmandu buses are often departing at 6.30am to speed things up a little - check departure times when getting your ticket!
How to fly to Chitwan National Park from Kathmandu
The nearest airport to Chitwan National Park is Bharatpur Airport, (10km away). A taxi is easily obtainable from the airport. You will need to bargain hard. Prices start at 1000rps but vary depending on fuel strikes etc.
Plane tickets to Chitwan are available from nearly all travel agencies in Kathmandu. It's also possible to book online, however a wise person would note that credit-cards are processed outside Nepal. Getting refunds or changing a flight can be a headache. Travel agents offer cheaper flight tickets, which they can swap and change if there is a cancellation. Flights run daily depending on numbers. Off season flights are frequently postponed until the next day. Prices are approximately USD $170 from mainstay airlines like Yet Airlines and Buddha Air.
Note: contacting these airlines directly is a waste of time. Copy & paste websites cheap listing their numbers etc. The airlines will tell you to visit the airport to buy from them so long as the desks are open ... So yes, buy from a travel agent or your hotel to say time, money and hassle.
How to take a bus from Pokhara to Chitwan National Park
Regular buses from Pokhara to Sauraha leave from Pokhara's main bus stop at 7.30am. The journey time is 4-6 hours. Tickets can be bought from travel agents hotels or at the bus park. Buses have been known to fill up so it's advisable to book ahead. Prices start from around 600rps at the bus park or 700-800rps from an agent.
If booking from an agent do confirm the type of bus you expect. There are often much older buses going that agents get for cheaper and then make a profit on. If you came from Kathmandu or elsewhere on a bus that you liked tell the agent this is what you expect.
Mountain Overland, Blue-sky, Sai Baba, Rainbow and Greenline (seasonal) are again the mainstays.
Luxury buses to Chitwan from Pokhara
Private (air-con) buses vary depending on the season. Greenline offer a solid service during peak season but often stop during the off season. Enquire before making plans as the service is not always running in the off-season due to tourist numbers. Greenline charge between USD$20-23 which includes a meal. Mountain Overland are very similar and usually run year round for about half the price.
Mini vans from Pokhara to Sauraha (Chitwan)
Mini vans depart from just past the "old bus park" in Pokhara. Again they are a little faster and cheaper but their safety record is not the best. By the time you take a taxi out there it will likely cost more than a tourist bus.
How to fly to Chitwan National Park from Pokhara
Again the nearest airport to Chitwan National Park is Bharatpur Airport which is 10km away. Please see Kathmandu to Chitwan above for more details.
Flights from Pokhara to Bharatpur run daily during peak season but often stop in the off-season. They only take around 25-30 mins. Prices are usually below USD $180. Flight tickets are again best purchased through a local travel agent.
Sunauli is the border town from Nepal to India
How to take a bus from Sunauli to Chitwan/Sauraha
From Sunauli you can take a direct bus to Sauraha. You will likely be pushed around from tout to tout and possibly cheated a little on price which will vary wildly. Aim for 500-600 rupees. However the problem is you more than likely end up having to change buses at Bhairahawa. So ...
A better option is to get a local bus or rickshaw from Sunauli to Bhairahawa (3km) as it's a lot easier. Then take a local bus to Sauraha (3-4hours). The price is approx 350-400 rupees. Make sure to collect your small ticket and keep it safe.
Saying hello to the bus driver helps a lot as the ticket boys often jump on and off along the way. Make sure the driver knows you want to get off at Sauraha.
I found this to be the hardest/easiest part of the whole journey. From Kathmandu and Pokhara you will be dropped off at a miserable field of a bus park just outside of Sauraha town which is typically known as "Tourist Bus Park" but has an official name of Bachhauli Bus Park - just say "tourist bus park".
Touts arriving on jeeps and 4x4's will surround you waving brochures and offering free or 5-10 rupees lifts into town. They will say they are taking guests to a guesthouse and just looking to cover the cost of fuel and are willing to take you. Ignore them!! They will take you to their own guesthouse and leave you there if you decide not to stay (or charge you a fee for transport to where you really wanted to go in the first place).
If you booked ahead then your hotel will have a man waiting for you there with transport.
A sneaky way to grab a free lift is to know the name of a hotel near the Rhino statue (downtown Sauraha) and agree to be taken there. If you don't like the hotel then at least you are near many more and in the town center.
To get to Sauraha town where there's plenty of accommodation simply leave the bus park/field. Turn right and keep walking down the dusty road for about 20 mins. Once you come across the main road with tarmac turn left. You'll soon start to see guesthouses and travel agents. This is the main Sauraha road which will eventually lead you to the river. This method is about 3km (it's all flat and relatively easy). Do check out my full map to Chitwan National park for more details.
If you do then you might meet a rickshaw elephant or taxi along the way offering a lift. If you do make sure you have a destination name. Either your guesthouse, a well known guesthouse name in the center or the Rhino or Elephant statue in Sauraha town.
If coming from Sunauli or via micro van you will likely be dropped at the Tadi Bazaar bus stop. Taking a rickshaw or taxi from there to Sauraha center is the best option.
If you don't like the idea of walking then you can always book a hotel here and have them pick you up. (hint: enter your travel dates to get the best price)
Chitwan National Park Entrance fee
There is a 2000 rupee daily fee for entry into the national park. There is NO fee for entering Sauraha. Generally those on package tours staying inside the National Park have this fee waived or included in the price.
More information on making the most our of your stay in Chitwan National Park and Sauraha check out my full travel guide to Chitwan National Park. Or, download my guidebook below. .
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Chitwan National Park Guidebook
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