Motorcycle touring in Nepal is another country that’s on almost every rider’s wish list. Surrounded by China in the north and India to the south, it remains a tightly landlocked country and home to eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains, which just makes riding through the country a lot more exciting and adventurous.
The southern region of Nepal is humid and fertile but as one rides up north, the region turns into a dry and cold place. Overall, as a place to ride, motorcycle touring in Nepal offers a variety of terrain and climate in a very small area which itself makes it even more wondrous!
The landscape might take your breath away, but it is the local people you will meet that will make the biggest impression. They’re very friendly and helpful, especially to foreigners. Stop at a tea stall by the highway and you’ll be surprised by the way they greet you. Since Nepal is geographically small when compared to India and China, riding across it could be done more leisurely and peacefully. That way, you’ll get to know it even better!
Top routes and riding destinations for Motorcycle Touring in Nepal
This beautiful valley offers a variety of views to take back home, including landscapes and house structures that look like they’re from Tibet and not Nepal. A leisure ride from Kathmandu would take around three to four days (covering an average of 150- 200 kms a day) to reach Muktinath in the Mustang Valley. The ride itself offers experiences like boating at Fewa Lake, the Annapurna Trekking trail and the feel of Nepal’s gorgeous countryside. Riding short distances a day when motorcycle touring in Nepal not only helps you to take things gradually at higher altitudes but it also offers time for other activities like trekking or visiting ancient heritage sites.
Bardia National Park
The far west side of Nepal has been largely unexplored. The 1000 km long east- west Mahendra Highway is highly ideal for motorcyclists. As you west, you would come across the Royal Bardia National Park and Shukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve. If you are keen to spot a Royal Bengal Tiger, then there are more chances of spotting one in the wild at Bardi. You could either go tiger spotting on an Elephant’s back or opt for a jungle safari in a jeep. In terms of stay, you could opt for a homestay option with the local Tharu community that also entertains guests through displays of cultural shows and performances. Bardia is at a distance of approximately 500 kms from Kathmandu, so if you intend to explore leisurely, then you could split the trip in between at Butwal for an overnight halt.
Ride to Jiri
If your keen to explore the countryside when motorcycle touring in Nepal, with terraced rice fields, ethnic villages, vast lands and breath-taking views, then look no further than riding on the highway from Kathmandu that leads to The Last Resort, the Nepal- Tibet border. From there, you can get spectacular photos of the high peaks in the region on a clear day. The road was built by Swiss Engineers in 1950 and is popularly known as the route that was taken by the team which first climbed Mt. Everest. This route to the lively town of Jiri is filled with serene views of green fields, the blue river of Bhote Kosi and Tama Kosi. A night halt could be made at the Last Resort before reaching Jiri on the second day.
Planning your ride in Nepal
Nepal is an extremely mountainous country, with some of the highest passes (and most of the highest mountains) in the world. As a result, it is highly advised that you carry with you multiple pairs of inner and outer thermals when motorcycle touring in Nepal. Rain in the season between June and November is moderate, but it would be ideal to carry rain gear with you. What comes with high pass? Altitude sickness. Though there isn’t a looming threat of it everywhere you ride across Nepal, be advised to keep yourself hydrated at all times as it is fairly easy to get dehydrated at high altitudes without realising. If you are riding to areas that are above 8000 feet, then please acclimatise at lower altitudes for a night or two and climb gradually. Remember to carry with you, plenty of energy drinks and altitude sickness tablets.
Nepal being a small country, most of the places to ride to from the capital city of Kathmandu won’t be beyond 400 kms at one stretch, but uneven broken roads on the way can mean distances take much longer to ride than you are used to. Consequently, plan your ride distance in a way where you leave early, ride for about half a day while you stop at multiple beauty spots on the way for photos and short hikes. If you’ve ridden in other areas where you’ve had to do 1000 to 1500 miles in a day, then this ride would offer you a much different flavour and probably, a better one!
To ride your motorcycle in Nepal, you will need to have basic documentation apart from a Carnet, which includes a motorcycle license. The usual license that you carry everywhere would do since there are plenty of police checkpoints in Nepal. If you could get an international driving license done as well, then it would be good for you to have. Also ensure you have a travel insurance policy done which covers emergency medical evacuation.
Speaking of a carnet document for your motorcycle, a carnet can be obtained from the local motoring authority of your country as it is required to enter Nepal. Your motorcycle will be allowed in Nepal for 6 months with the carnet you get done, you can exit Nepal in between and re-enter but the overall time period of your motorcycle’s stay will be limited to six months, which you will expire in twelve months. So in simpler terms, you can stay in Nepal for a total of six months out of any of the twelve months in a year.
Well, there are no special pointers to consider for health, apart from the usual precautions that you would take on a ride. But do remain hydrated at all times, high altitudes areas may not make you thirsty but that’s the illusion you need to save yourself from. In addition, riding in the mountainous region of Nepal requires a decent amount of fitness. If you have a special medical condition, then it is advised to consult your physician before the ride.
Bike Preparation and Gear
It is a bit tricky to find the right motorcycle mechanic for your motorcycle, especially if it is equipped with a lot of electronics so ensure you know at least the basics of motorcycle maintenance like changing your tire, cleaning the chain, replacing spark plug and air filter, diagnosing blown fuses, etc. If yours is not a very ‘sophisticated’ motorcycle then you may not have a great problem in looking for someone who could fix an issue on your motorcycle. It is highly advised to remain in your riding gear at all times while you’re on the road, it doesn’t matter even if you’re riding to a store 3 kms away to buy vegetables. You’ll see why I mentioned that, in the next point.
Road and Traffic Conditions
A lot of the towns in Nepal are highly chaotic with scattered traffic patterns. You’ll see vehicles moving on the wrong lane, scooterists trying to dodge small and big potholes, pedestrians and domestic cattle running about on main roads. In countryside and mountainous regions too, you need to be very cautious of rubble and sand on the road, especially on curves and hairpin turns since there are high chances of landslide debris being scattered all over. Speeding and night riding in the countryside is not something you would want to do. To deal with all this though, just ensure to keep all your senses at an all time high and most importantly, do not panic, especially when you’re braking!
While a lot of the locals seem to be busy people, they are equally welcoming and jolly. They have a helpful nature and are usually curious and happy to meet travellers on motorcycles. The happiness is amplified if the bikers are from far off foreign countries. It would be nice if you could too, maintain a happy rapport with them, no matter how frustrated or tired you are. They are the best source to ask, when it comes to knowing about the local food, attractions and traditions followed in the region.
Advice & Inspiration for Motorcycle Touring in Nepal
Check out our blog for articles on our experiences in adventure riding in Nepal or read our general Adventure Motorcycle Touring Guide.