Navigating Tribhuvan International Airport in Nepal: Departures

Navigating Tribhuvan International Airport in Nepal: Departures
Source: Getty Images

Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) will still be the only international airport in Nepal for few more years to come. That is, until (if) the construction of Pokhara Int'l airport or Gautam Buddha Int'l airport is completed. It is the focal point of aviation industry in Nepal and the hub for all carriers in Nepal. We all know the two terminals it has, domestic and international terminals, but do we really know how to easily navigate probably the most bureaucratic international airport we may ever encounter?

In a country where international travel is a luxury, we Nepali people do export a lot of young people. One set of youth travel for higher education in India, China, Europe, Americas, East Asia, and Australia whereas other set to work as un/semi skilled labor in the Arabs or East Asia. For most people (including myself) the first time out through this airport is one or the other of these two instances.
Outside TIA

First of all, as you drive into the airport, you will see a VERY (with uppercase letters) large crowd outside the airport. Three reasons:
  •  the entire family members/friends come to see their beloved ones off (because we don't get to go abroad often)
  • visitors are not allowed inside the airport building unless you have a pass from the airport authority (did I say bureaucratic?)
  • Solicitation of some sort.
 No wonder, visitors are not let inside. Imagine that crowd indoors.

Once you are dropped off and ready to go inside the building, know that trolley/cart are free and you do not have pay anyone to use it (and it says so in the trolley itself). Make sure that you have both your passport and TICKETS or confirmed itinerary handy. It is hard to explain police that you do not have a printed copy of itinerary. There will be a security check before you enter the airport and that is your only way into the check in counter. Once you are actually indoor, you and your bags (including your carry on and backpack) go through x-ray screening. Same rules as everywhere on your cabin bags, no exceptions here. I've also seen some people being questioned over things inside their checked- in bags. If you go through this stage smoothly, half the troubles are over.
Line at the check in counter. Sorry for bad picture

Then you head over to the check in counter, collect your boarding passes and drop off your bags. Like everywhere in Nepal, if you are claustrophobic, it will be a struggle to wait in the line.

People will greet you nicely and ask you about your stay or travels because we are always curious to know about you. Your nice answer will always be appreciated. Also, the check-in desks are staffed by Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) staffs and not your airlines staff. Two rules about baggage here - "USA two suitcase 25 kilos each, other countries one." One time I was able to check in two bags to US without paying extra even though I was only allowed one free. If you know people who work at NAC, you can have a lot of perks here like, free seat upgrades, overweight bags, etc.

After you have your boarding pass (note pass, not passes, you collect others  when you reach to your layover airport). You take the escalator upstairs, fill up some immigration forms get your passport (and sometimes boarding pass) stamped, pay fines or collect Value Added Tax (VAT) Refund (with original receipt, if you got one and are temporary visitor). I had to run back to this desk because my boarding pass was missing that "departure" stamp. And if you do buy anything at the "Duty Free" make sure the receipt is inside the sealed bag as it should be. Sometimes the process can be gruesome but people are generally nice. And you do have to talk to the employees nicely if want to get into your flight quickly.


 Pictured: Escalator to immigration, area to fill form, and immigration area.

Then you walk straight where the actual security check is and you will have to take off your belt and shoes and everything. You have made it this far and you will smoothly pass through this as well.
Security at the TIA

Towards departure gate

There is only a couple of gates at TIA so you do not have to worry about not finding your flight. Once you arrive to your gate and have some time, wait patiently and watch how people rush to the gate to board the plane. Actually to board the bus that will drive around for a few minutes and take you to the plane which is literally few yards away the whole time. If you are lucky and are not flying an Indian airline, you will not have to go through another security check outside the plane. And once you are inside your flight you can kick back, relax and enjoy. And you can call yourself lucky when you look outside your window for this view.
pic: viewthrumygolballens

pic: chasingplaces

Hope you enjoyed flying out of Kathmandu.

(Disclaimer: Not all pictures are mine. I've tried to address the source wherever I can.)

+Parash Upreti 



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