Nepal by Raimond Klavins

Nepal Driving Guide

Learn some driving tips before you travel to Nepal.

2023-12-30 · 9 min

Nepal is a land of majestic mountains and rich cultural heritage. The streets of Kathmandu buzz with life, and a vibrant mix of ancient temples, colorful markets, and historic landmarks offers an unforgettable experience for any traveler.

Is it safe to drive in Nepal?

Road conditions are the main problem when driving in Nepal. Many roads are unpaved and narrow, with sharp turns and steep cliffs, making driving in Nepal a challenging experience even for experienced drivers.

If this is your first time driving in Nepal, it is recommended that you hire a local driver who is familiar with the roads and traffic conditions. When planning to rent a car, avoid cheap or old vehicles that may not be reliable on difficult terrain.

Some of the best car rental companies in Nepal that you should consider are Avis, Sixt, and Thrifty. These companies offer a variety of vehicles and also provide insurance coverage.

You can also get additional car insurance in Nepal in addition to the minimum government requirement. This can provide extra protection for your vehicle and personal belongings in case of an accident or theft.

What do you need to drive in Nepal?

There are many things to know before traveling to Nepal, especially when it comes to driving. To help you prepare, here are some important requirements to keep in mind:

An International Driving Permit (IDP)

Obtaining an international driving permit for Nepal is highly recommended if you plan to drive there. Most, if not all, car rental companies will require you to present an IDP along with your driver's license from your home country.

Minimum driving age

The minimum age for driving in Nepal is 18. However, it is recommended that tourists be at least 21 to rent a car.

There is no specific BAC or BrAC (Breath Alcohol Concentration) limit in Nepal, but it is a serious offense to drive under the influence of alcohol. It is advised to avoid drinking and driving completely.

Kathmandu Busy Street Photo by Laurentiu Morariu

Nepal road rules that you should know

Driving side

In Nepal, driving is on the left-hand side of the road. Familiarize yourself with this to ensure a safe driving experience.

Turning and roundabouts

Left turns are allowed without stopping. However, vehicles already on a roundabout must yield to those entering. This rule helps manage the flow of traffic at intersections.

Horn use

Using the horn is prohibited in Kathmandu except in emergency situations. Despite this, excessive honking is common, but drivers can be fined for it.

Right of way

Always give way to larger vehicles. Trucks and buses have the right of way over cars, cars over motorbikes, and motorbikes over bicycles and pedestrians. This hierarchy is crucial to avoid accidents.

Traffic signals

Traffic lights often do not function, even where they exist. Instead, follow the hand signals of traffic police, who direct the flow of traffic.

Alcohol consumption

Driving under the influence of alcohol is prohibited. Nepali police commonly check for alcohol consumption by sniffing the driver's breath due to a lack of breathalyzer. You might as well enjoy your time at some of Nepal's best restaurants or bars rather than getting behind the wheel.


The basic traffic rule is to drive on the left side of the road, pass a vehicle from the right, and use your horn profusely when overtaking and in doubt. Overtake only when it's safe to do so. Remember that roads in Nepal are often narrow and winding, making overtaking risky.

Roof travel

Traveling on the roof of a bus or other vehicles is prohibited. While it's not seen in cities, it can occur on rural roads. Be prepared to get down and walk if you approach a police checkpoint.

Seat beal use

Both drivers and passengers are required to wear seat belts. Ensure your rental vehicle has working seat belts, especially in the back seat.

What's the road condition like in Nepal?

To be completely honest, road conditions in Nepal are not that good. Neither cities nor rural areas have well-maintained roads, with potholes and landslides being common occurrences. That being said, it is crucial to be extra cautious when driving in Nepal to avoid accidents.

The best time to visit Nepal and avoid other road problems, such as monsoons and landslides, is during the dry season, which lasts from October to May. However, if you plan to drive in mountainous areas, be prepared for narrow, winding roads with steep drops.

Should you take a bus or rent a car?

Renting a car in Nepal offers flexibility and convenience but also has its fair share of challenges. The lack of well-maintained roads and aggressive driving from locals can make driving a stressful experience.

On the other hand, taking a bus in Nepal is an affordable option, but it may not be the most comfortable or reliable choice.

Boudhanath Stupa Photo by Raimond Klavins

Tips for safe driving in Nepal

There's no one-size-fits-all solution for safe driving in Nepal, but here are some tips to help you navigate the roads:

  • Always carry your driver's license and international driving permit with you
  • Avoid driving at night or during bad weather conditions
  • Be prepared for unexpected road hazards such as potholes, landslides, and animals crossing the road
  • Drive defensively and be aware of other vehicles on the road
  • Stay alert and avoid distractions while driving.
  • Take breaks every few hours to rest and stay hydrated
  • Be mindful of cultural differences in driving habits and be respectful towards other drivers
  • Watch your speed and follow traffic rules to avoid fines or accidents
  • Park your car in secure and well-lit areas
  • Never leave valuables in your car, especially when parked at tourist spots
Patan Photo by Swodesh Shakya

Enjoy your trip with these quick travel tips

Plan your accommodation and destinations ahead

Booking in advance means getting better deals than booking on the spot, especially during peak seasons. Consider some of the best hotels in Nepal near your planned destinations to save on time and transportation costs.

Stay hydrated and avoid tap water

Convenience store drinking water is cheap and readily available, so it's best to stick with that. Avoid tap water when brushing your teeth or showering to prevent getting sick.

Respect the local culture and customs

Nepal is a culturally diverse country, and it's important to respect its customs and traditions. When visiting temples or other religious sites, dress appropriately, and ask for permission before taking photos.

Be mindful of your personal belongings

Pickpocketing can occur in crowded areas, so always keep your valuables close to you. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash; always lock your hotel room door when leaving.

Visiting some of the best places in Nepal is an experience you'll never forget, and driving around the country can be a great way to explore. Remember to follow road rules, stay safe, and enjoy your trip!

Pokhara Photo by titas gurung


What documents do I need to drive in Nepal?

Here are the documents you need to drive in Nepal:

  • A valid driver's license from your home country
  • An international driving permit
  • Credit card for car rental
  • Vehicle insurance
  • Passport and other identification documents

Can I use my home country's driver's license in Nepal?

You can use your home country's driver's license in Nepal as long as it is accompanied by an international driving permit. It is fairly easy to get one. Visit the International Driver's Association website for more information.

Is it safe to drive at night in Nepal?

The roads are not that good, so even driving during the day can be challenging. Thus, it is not recommended to drive at night in Nepal due to poor lighting and the increased risk of accidents.

Are there any tolls or road fees in Nepal?

You may need to pay tolls on major highways, especially near the border with India. Keep some cash handy for these situations. Additionally, there may be road fees when entering certain national parks or protected areas.

What are the best activities to do in Nepal besides driving?

Some of the best things to do in Nepal include trekking in the Himalayas, visiting ancient temples and historical sites, trying local cuisine, and participating in cultural activities such as festivals and traditional dance performances. Be sure to research before your trip to plan your itinerary.

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