Though Kathmandu and Patan are administratively different cities with quite separate histories, nowadays Patan is essentially a southern suburb of Kathmandu. The Patan Durbar Square—the heart of the old city—is about 3.5 miles (6 kilometers) from the Thamel neighborhood of Kathmandu. Getting from Kathmandu to Patan (also called Lalitpur) is as simple as traveling to a different neighborhood in the city. Here are the various ways you can get from central Kathmandu to Patan.
By Private Transfer or Taxi
Duration: 10 to 30 minutes
Getting from Kathmandu to Patan is easiest by taxi. The small white vehicles can be flagged down from practically anywhere in the city, and are easy to find in Thamel. Don't expect drivers to use the meter, so negotiate a price before getting in (ask at your hotel for the current standard fare, and expect to pay a bit more just because you're a tourist).
When there's no traffic, the journey only takes around ten minutes. But, apart from early morning, after dark, and on Saturdays (Nepal's day of rest), there's almost always traffic. Expect the journey to take around half an hour.
Duration: 30 to 60 minutes
Several buses and microbuses ply the route from Kantipath (the main road outside Thamel) and the Ratna Park area to Patan. Taking a bus is much easier if you speak or read some Nepali, as all bus signs (including numbers) are in Nepali, and you may have difficulty making out the destinations that the conductors shout unless you're familiar with the language. But, if you're up for an adventure, the white Lalitpur Yatayat buses go to the Lalitpur bus stand at Patan Dhoka, and the large, green Sajha Yatayat buses stop on Pulchowk Road in Patan.
Buses are very cheap, but make sure to have change with you. Don't expect to get a seat. Again, how long it takes depends entirely on the traffic, and buses tend to get stuck in jams because of their size.
Duration: 1 to 1.5 hours
It's not the most pleasant walk, along dusty, traffic-clogged streets and across the heavily polluted Bagmati River, but it is possible to walk from Kathmandu to Patan. Doing so allows you a close-up view of neighborhoods that you would barely notice when traveling by car or bus. Saturday is the best day to try this, as there are far fewer vehicles on the road, and it's also more pleasant in winter, without the sun beating you over the head. Take a face mask to protect you from the worst of the dust and pollution.