How to Start Your Everest Base Camp Trek Without Flying to Lukla

The fastest and the most common way to start your Everest Base Camp journey is a 30-minute flight from Kathmandu to Lukla. Known as one of the world’s most dangerous airport, Tenzing- Hillary airport sits on a steep hillside and has a runway of only 1,729 ft in length. Any weather changes can cause flight delays or cancellations. Whether it’s the fear of flying or flight cancellations some people opt out from flying to Lukla.

Fortunately, with the recent road constructions in Nepal, it is now possible to take a jeep from Kathmandu all the way to Bupsa or Thamdanda. I chose this route for my EBC trek (March 2023) for the main purpose of slow acclimatization. I also wanted to explore the villages before Lukla.

Himalayan Express


Bus station: Chabahil Chowk in Kathmandu- This bus station is a short taxi ride from Thamel.
Ticket price to Salleri: 3,000 NPR
Kathmandu to Salleri: 13 hours with lunch and tea breaks
Ticket price from Salleri to Bupsa: 1,800 NPR
Salleri to Bupsa: 6 hours including breaks and one transfer

To get to Bupsa or Thamdanda you first have to get to the town of Salleri or Pahplu. Spend the night in Salleri then take a jeep to Bupsa or Thamdanda the next morning. There are private jeep options that can take you from Kathmandu to Bupsa in one day but I do not suggest it, as the road condition is pretty bumpy and narrow. Additionally, a jeep ride in the dark is not a good idea.

Mirrors on the side of the road on the way to Salleri

Public buses, vans, and jeeps often leave from Chabahil Chowk Bus Station in Kathmandu from 5:00- 6:30 am. The actual journey to Salleri doesn’t start until the car is filled with passengers. It’s a common practice in Nepal for drivers to pick up as much passengers as they can, don’t get frustrated when the driver doesn’t leave Kathmandu until after 7:00am. If you don’t like the idea of waiting, you can hire a private jeep.

Salleri is a 13-hour van ride from Kathmandu. This includes 4 breaks and one transfer; we had to transfer to a jeep because the road going to Salleri is not van friendly. It was extremely bumpy and the roads are winding, I consider this one of the craziest rides of my life. At the end of the jeep ride, I sustained bruises on my left side.

Passed by the new hydroelectric power project on the way to Salleri

The road to Pahplu is the same one as Salleri, Pahplu is just the next town over. Based from my experience, Salleri has more affordable accommodations than Pahplu. The jeep station in Salleri is right next to the hotels, making it easier for anyone to buy a ticket for the next destination.

Jeep Station in Salleri, this is where you buy a ticket to Bupsa or Thamadanda

The jeep ride to Bupsa is about 6 hours including 2 breaks and one transfer. For lunch, we stopped by a restaurant just before a small bridge. The bridge was too small and can’t accommodate a jeep. We had to walk for about 10-15 minutes to go to the other side and board another jeep. We arrived in Bupsa at 1:30 pm then we started our hike to Paiya.

Crossed a Suspension Bridge to Transfer to Another Jeep

Where to Stay in Salleri
We stayed at the Hotel Midway Tourist; 2000 NPR a night. It’s a beautiful and clean hotel with amazing food. We spent 1,350 in food. They offer rooms with private bathrooms but we chose the shared bathroom, as we were the only guests at that time. They also have Wi-Fi.

Chicken Biryani at Midway Hotel

I hope this helps anyone planning on skipping the Lukla portion of the EBC trek. Feel free to ask any questions.



  1. Hi Angela,
    Thanks for the wonderful information, as I’m just looking for the options without flight. I have several questions; can you please advise:

    1. how many hours for your first trekking day, I believe it’s from Bupsa or Thamdanda to Phakding.
    2. Are you solo trekker or you hired guide?

    Thank you very much,
    Youhua Wang.


    • Hi Youhua thanks for stopping by, we started our hike from Bupsa to Paiya/Piuya at about 1:30 pm and we arrived at Paiya at almost 8pm!! They were having a road construction at that time and so we have to stop and wait, there was also a closed section of the trail and so we had to find the alternate route. It was a bit challenging because there weren’t many signs. This route is not as well trafficked. You’ll see more donkeys and locals, not much tourist. Right now, the road construction is probably done and the old trail is probably open now or they have more signs. We actually recorded a vide here, if you watch you’ll see the road construction. I almost fell in that spot, luckily a local sherpa grabbed me.

      We did not hire a guide, it’s just me and my husband. As of now, you can still hike EBC without a guide, it’s not necessary. Honestly, if you’re okay planning your own route and you trained you will be ok. Just use to download your offline maps and use Gaia GPS to plan your route. Also, Make sure to add additional days for in case of emergencies. Don’t rush to prevent altitude sickness. When are you going? Let me know if you have any other questions. By the way, please get diamox, don’t skip it! Just incase you get sick.


  2. Hi Angela,
    I just back from the Manaslu circuit trek, very few tourists but guide is mandatory. I have done several strenuous trekking in Pakistan and Nepal and plan the next EBC this Sep/Oct by bus option.
    I saw your video and I encountered exact same road construction on Manaslu area, fortunately the operator stopped the machine and let us go without delay.
    The next trekking day you hike from Paiya to Phakding, can please advise how may hours and how’s trail condition?
    For your returned trip, you did it by bus for by flight?
    Youhua Wang


  3. Hi Youhua,
    Since you have trekking experience you won’t be having a hard time then. For the EBC, no need to hire a guide. You’ll find out more when you get your permit. From Paiya we intended to go to Cheplung then Monjo the next day, the town after Phakding. We weren’t going to stay in Phakding. But my husband got injured and so we had to stop by in Surke to rest his ankle. The climb to Phakding from Paiya has some elevation gain and loss. So assess your skills, the mileage/kilometer might not be a lot but the elevation gain and loss can really drain you. There was a lot of donkeys, yaks, buffalos. The trail was really steep around the town of Chaurikhara, it’s a beautiful town with lots of prayer wheels. Becareful with rocks, my husband hot a rock and hurt his ankle. I suggest taking the jeep to Salleri (spend the night there) take the jeep the next day all the way to Thamdanda (skip Bupsa as the trail from Bupsa is not that interesting) from Thamdanda hike to Paiya then the next day hike to Phakding. The trail gets somewhat better as you head to Phakding, you’ll see more tourists, so even if you reach Phakding by sunset you’ll be okay, you won’t really get lost. However, if you find yourself struggling and tired, just hike from Paiya to Surke then the next day start early to hike all the way to Phakding. Save your energy because you’ll need it as you go higher. Going back, we had to fly as we were running out of days due to my husband’s injury. If you ever need to fly back, don’t worry as it’s easy to book a flight through an agency. There’s also no need to book jeep tickets in advanced. But ask the jeep company for contact numbers so you can message them if you have any questions going back.

    Let me know if you need more help. I can suggest some tea houses as well.


  4. Hi Angela,
    Thanks very much and highly appreciated your detail explanation and suggestions for the trekking from Thamdanda to Phakding, I’m quite clear now about this trail.
    I’m planning to trek from Namche to Gokyo then across Cho La pass to EBC.
    Youhua Wang


    • You’re very welcome. Enjoy your journey, please bring microspikes for Gokyo lakes hike. The weather has been so unpredictable, we were sliding in some portions of the hike due to ice.

      I wish you a very safe journey, enjoy every moment ❤️❤️


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