By far the most efficient and economical way of getting around the valley is by rented bicycle or motorbike. Once you get beyond the Kathmandu Ring Rd, there is surprisingly little traffic and the valley offers some charming riding country, as long as you choose your routes wisely.
It's not all plain sailing though. Traffic and road conditions can be terrible, especially on the main roads, so it's worth getting advice on the best routes from Kathmandu's many bike rental and tour companies. Take corners slowly as buses and trucks will not give way. Be sure to securely lock your bike or motorcycle when you stop, and carry plenty of petrol from Kathmandu as rural petrol stations regularly run dry. On day trips, give yourself time to get back to Kathmandu by nightfall – you really don’t want to ride these roads after dark.
From Kathmandu’s Ratna Park bus station, inexpensive public buses run to every town in the valley, though you may need to change in Patan or Bhaktapur. However, the buses can be incredibly crowded, and they are glacially slow. As a more comfortable alternative, consider hiring a car or taxi – as a guide, a day hire to Bodhnath, Pashupatinath and Bhaktapur or to Dakshinkali, Chobar and Kirtipur costs around Rs 3000.
A web of footpaths around the valley links its villages and towns and there are many interesting day hikes and overnight treks around the valley, allowing you to take shortcuts that are not accessible by bicycle or motorcycle. You can easily link several towns on foot and could even put together a five- or six-day hike linking Kakani to Budhanilkantha, Chisopani, Nagarkot, Dhulikhel, Balthali, Namobuddha and Panauti.
See the website of the Nepal Environment Tourism Initiative Foundation for full details of multiday hikes around the valley.
Many of the travel agents in Thamel, in Kathmandu, can arrange day trips around the valley, but standards vary.
If you prefer a guided walk, Wayfarers offers guided day hikes through Kirtipur, Khokana, Bungamati and Chapagaon (US$35 per person), which include lunch and local transport. Three-day minitreks to Panauti, Namobuddha, Dhulikhel (overnight), Nagarkot (overnight), Changu Narayan and Sankhu (US$175 per person with accommodation) operate with a minimum of two people. However, check that these itineraries are still operating after the earthquake.