A review about rickshaw rides in Kathmandu from TripAdvisor quotes,"I have felt Kathmandu heaps safer in rickshaw rides when compared to cities like Manila, Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok.” Another quote, "I have used Rickshaws many times on visits to Nepal and never had any major problems – Certainly there shouldn’t be any issues in using them to go sightseeing. Meanwhile, prices do vary a lot, but once the fare has been agreed then other than a tip (If you are happy with the driver) there shouldn’t be any issues about payment”
If you are a wanderer around Thamel and Basantapur, you have most definitely seen or even rode on the fancy decorated cycles known as rickshaws. The colorful cycles, embedded with extra seats at the back with curved roofs at a comfortable leaning surface carry a maximum of 3 people for rides depending on the strength of the driver. On an off day, you probably see them parking on roadsides, while the drivers chill with friends, smoking, or even sleep with their faces towards the sun. But if you have been to the Thamel, Basantapur, Bangemuda, and around festivals from October to mid-December, you have seen the decorated rickshaws on small roads, busy carrying passengers to and fro.
A curiosity to know more about the rides, fares, types led me to interview a kind rickshaw driver in the premises of Kathmandu Durbar Square.
Mr. Saran Thapa Magar has been in this profession since late 1984. According to him, the rickshaw rides are available in the parts of Basantapur, Thamel, Bangemuda, and Kaldhara. They carry both Nepali and foreigners. “Rickshaw fares vary from Nepalis to foreigners to some extent,” he said. I put forward my query regarding the types of rides he offers and he replied “We do rickshaw tours or just pick-up and drop-offs depending on the choice of the passenger”. Rickshaw tours are short sightseeing of the passenger-chosen area that includes briefing of the places they are in, the monuments, and historical or religious shrines as they pass by. If you’re a foreigner and would like to take a tour of Thamel and the areas nearby without getting lost, take a rickshaw tour through traditional local alleys and the Ason area. You pass through various Buddhist shrines, temples, local vegetable markets, and traditional wooden and mud houses.
On the other hand, casual pick-up and drop-off include a one-time transaction i.e. drop-off at the destination. The ride fare holds no specific price quotation. Thus, the drivers themselves charge it depending on the distance. According to Thapa, the agreed charge for a rickshaw tour is Rs. 250-300 inside Thamel, and pickup and drop off depending on the agreed price between passenger and driver. “The first price that we say from Thamel to Basantapur (Approx 1.6 km) or vice versa is Rs. 200 for foreigners” he claimed. This route includes traditional alleys of the place with Hindu and Buddhist monuments on both sides, old yet colorful thatched-roof houses, locals covered in their ethnic jewels, and unstoppable welcoming smiles.
Rickshaw drivers in the premises agreed that price inflation in daily goods has had a major effect on their business. “Passengers bargain over Rs. 20 -30 but don’t understand that even we are compelled to raise the fares due to the increasing rise in the price of daily goods” one of them shrugged from behind. Not only the price inflation, riders claim the increasing inclination of the generation towards bikes and cars and taxis have also hampered their business. “The rides were around Rs. 10 -15 back then, yet it was sufficient. Now even if we earn Rs. 500 a day, it still is insufficient for living”
Things to remember:
No safety-related mishaps have been noted to date, but it is always best to keep things you carry tight to yourself.
While traveling solo, if you have any doubt regarding the driver or ride fare, it is best to consult a local or police personnel nearby or not take the ride at all.
The prices noted above are from a few rickshaw drivers. You can bargain for a discount if not satisfied.
The fares vary from offseason to tourist season that starts from October to Mid December.