A trip to Chitwan National Park can easily be arranged without paying for an expensive package tour.
The gateway town to Chitwan National Park is Sauraha, Nepal. Buses from Kathmandhu to Sauraha leave from the Tourist Bus Park at Map Location: 27.718588, 85.307831 . The bus park is just a bunch of big buses lined up for blocks along the street and is easy walking distance from Thamel (10 to 15 minutes). Buses can be booked ahead of time at any travel agency for around 700 NR each way.
The drive to Sauraha looks short on the map but with traffic it takes almost all day. Buses leave from 07:00 to 08:00 and pick up people along the way in Kathmandu. The buses make two bathroom stops and one lunch stop. Buses arrive after 15:00 and drop people off along the way in Sauraha..
In Sauraha, the bus station is at the edge of town (Map Location: 27.583075, 84.502356 ) and is an easy 15 minute walk to the hotel area.
Hotels can be booked online in advance and can arrange jeep or elephant tours into the national park. There are also tour offices in town that can arrange the safaris.
Things To Do in Sauraha
Chitwan National Park jeep and elephant safaris - Can be arranged through the hotels or tour offices in town.
Canoe and walking tours - Can be arranged through hotels or tour offices. The river tours allow up close viewing of crocodiles and colorful river birds.
Elephant Bathing - Fun and free to watch. Fee to swim with the elephant. Check it out at Map Location: 27.57732, 84.491826 . It's on the river right inside the town.
River walk and river dining area - The main street in town ends at the river on the edge of Chitwan National Park. This is where everyone goes to watch the sunset and have drinks at the riverside restaurants. In the other direction, there is a path along the river that goes to the government elephant pens (Map Location: 27.572717, 84.496140 ). There is also a rescue rhino running around that occasionally terrorizes people on the path.
Traditional Dance Show - Slightly interesting but more of a show for tourists instead of something traditional.
Elephant Breeding and Training Center (Map Location: 27.582828, 84.463155 ) - Government run breeding program. Not much to see except the line of elephants chained up outside with their calves of various ages.