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NAMASTE FROM NEPAL!

September 25, 2018

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WHY, WHEN, WHERE & HOW TO TRAVEL IN NEPAL

A QUICK TRAVELLER'S GUIDE 

 

 

 A cheeky monkey at the top of the Monkey Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal

 

WHY VISITING NEPAL

 

From a vibrant rich culture and art and beautiful towering temples to the high snowy Himalayans peak and the wildlife safari in the Southern regions, Nepal has something for everyone.

 

CULTURE & RELIGION – Definitely good reasons to visit Nepal. The country’s culture is deeply affected by religious beliefs, mostly Hindu and Buddhist, and you won’t be able to count how many temples, relics, stupas you`ll see during your trip.

Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Lumbini are only few of the amazing cities where you can immerse yourself into the fascinating culture of Nepal.

 

Take a look at the list of festivals held in Nepal as you might want to schedule your visit over these colorful celebrations.

Find out more about Festivities in Nepal HERE (under Festivities section).

 

HIKING – Say Nepal and everyone will think instinctively of the highest peak in the world, Mt Everest. And yes, many are drawn to Nepal by the prospect of hiking on the Himalayas (or at least for a glimpse of this massive mountain range) up to Mt Everest Base Camp or along the beautiful Annapurna Circuit. Even if you`re not a big hiker, Nepal can still offer many shorter treks to enjoy fresh air and fabulous mountain views.

 

WILDLIFE – Many will venture in the South regions of Nepal to visit Chitwan National Park, recognized as one of the best national parks for viewing wildlife in Asia. And for good reasons – as this park covers a relatively small area, there are more chances to get close to rhinos, tigers, deer, elephants.

 

 

 Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal

 

 

WHEN TO GO

 

Nepal has four main seasons, with Summer (June to September) being the monsoon season, bringing rain, landslides and leeches, and Autumn (October to November) being the dry season and therefore, peak period for tourism. These months are characterized by clear skies and warm days and are considered the best to hike on the Himalayas.

Spring (March to April) is also a good time to visit the country with warmer weather and flower blooms on the mountains.

Though Winter (December to February) is generally included in the dry season, temperatures are very low all over the country with maximum of 15 Degree Celsius in the Southern regions to below freezing point on the Himalayas.

 

 Exploring Nagarkot after a storm - Nepal

 

 

WHERE TO STAY

 

Most touristy places in Nepal have a wide choice of accommodations, from hotels, guesthouses, homestays, and teahouses. If you are coming during peak season (Autumn) make sure you book your accommodations and tours in advance.

 

We generally use Booking.com where you can find good deals and all sorts of accommodations, from luxury to basic. A very basic hostel would cost you around USD5/15 per night (shared room, shared pit toilet, cold shower); from USD15 to 30 you can get a private room with private bathroom and sometimes included continental breakfast; from USD30 onwards you should generally receive Western-type accommodations and more services and amenities the more you pay.

 

LEARN MORE ABOUT CULTURAL TABOOS IN NEPAL -  Click HERE!

 

DID YOU KNOW? – Fancy a stay at a Buddhist monastery and an introduction course to Buddhism and meditation? This can be certainly arranged at the most famous monasteries around the country – every monastery has its own rules so check with them first. Also be aware that women and men can not share a room, so if you are a couple, each of you will be staying in separate rooms.

 

TIP - In Kathmandu you can contact the Kopan Monastery (see their website here), a wonderful complex sitting on the top of a green hill close to Kathmandu district.

 

 Tempted to stay in a monastery for the night? Koran Monastery in Kathmandu offers accommodation to travellers

 

 

VISA

 

All foreigners, except Indians, must have a visa to enter the country. There are different durations for tourist visas, from a minimum of 30 days to up to a maximum of 150 days (five months) per calendar year (January to December).

 

You can obtain your visa online before arriving to Nepal as it can save you time and long queues at the airport (see Nepal Immigration ).

 

To be honest, the process to obtain the visa at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport was faster than expected – you will have to fill in a form at one of the automatic machine on your left once you enter the arrival hall in the airport and then go with the print out to pay the fee (there’s a money converter or an ATM close by if you need cash). We paid by credit card and only waited 10 minutes more than those who paid cash.

 

TIP - Make sure that your passport has at least six months’ validity (requested in most countries in the world) and that you have a passport size picture for your visa and enough USD or EURO to pay for your visa (other currencies are accepted but these are the most common).

 

DID YOU KNOW? - If you want to stay longer than the duration of your initial visa, you can obtain a visa extension at the Immigration office in Kathmandu or Pokhara.If you would like to stay for more than 5 months on a tourist visa, you can arrive in August in Nepal and can then extend your visa into the next year for another 5 months (ten consecutive months split across two calendar years).

 

 Entangled electric cables in Kathmandu city, Nepal

 

 

ELECTRICITY

 

If you look at the intricate and delicate electric cable system around Kathmandu, it’s no wonder there are frequent power-cuts in the city. In some rural areas they might not even have electrical power.

 

Therefore, it’s a good idea to have a head torch / candles / lantern with you at all times. Prepare yourself for romantic candle light dinners =) We use this head torch (Kathmandu Raven 300 Head Torch )and this inflatable solar lantern (Luci Outdoors )which are also great for camping.

 

Learn more about camping gear here.

 

We also use our international adapter a lot wherever we go and Nepal is no exception – this is the one we use (Pors-ela) and it`s extremely durable, compact and can charge up to 5 devices at the same time.

 

 Rural village in Nepal - Electricity is sometimes a luxury

 

 

PHONE & INTERNET

 

We recommend you buy a Nepalese SIM card to keep in contact with locals, especially drivers or hotels. They usually cost 150-200 NPR and you`ll need to show your passport, have a photocopy of your passport along with your visa page and a passport size picture. You can buy either a NTC sim or a NCELL sim card.

 

You can buy more credit at any store with a purple NCELL / blue NTC sign by buying top-up cards starting from 100NPR.

 

Wifi connection is commonly available in many restaurants and hotels/hostels around Kathmandu city and there is usually good reception. However, you might want to buy a data package on your SIM card for emergencies. NCELL and NTC have different monthly and relatively cheap plans.

 

TIP – Bring with you lots of passport sized pictures – you will be asked for them in different places, such as in SIM card shops, to obtain a SIM card or documents like Nepal Visa.

 

 Find your way in Kathmandu and around Nepal with Maps.me

 

 

MONEY

 

ATMs - There are several around Thamel and around Kathmandu District. Not all ATMs accept all card types. We found Nabil Bank is probably the one which gives you the most money in one transaction (NPR35,000) and accept most card types. At Everest Bank you can withdraw up to NPR100,000 per day but in multiple transactions (each of max. NPR15,000).

 

TIP – Use Maps.me to find the closest ATM to your place. For more info see Transportation section below.

 

DID YOU KNOW? – Always get a printed receipt of your transactions. It does happen the ATM machine is empty but your bank account will still show the withdrawal – in this case you might need to contact your bank and show them your receipt as proof of the withdrawal.

 

Exchanging money – There are lots of places for currency exchange around Thamel (Kathmandu) with boards showing the exchange rates. One friend got a better exchange rate at the airport, however it really depends on the day.

 

 Restaurant with a view in Nagarkot, Nepal

 

 

EATING OUT

 

A visit to Nepal is not completed without having tasted the country’s cuisine – prepare your palate for lots of rice and lentils (the main staples in Nepal) and a clash of spices and local ingredients. Nepali cuisine is mostly vegetarian, but in most tourist restaurants meat is also on the menu (do not expect big steaks!).

 

Here below are the dishes we have personally tried during our visit to Nepal.

 

Although experimenting with local food is always fun, you must take some precautions with food in Nepal – find out more HERE under the Food section.

 

Dal Bhat Tarkari - This is the most typical dish in Nepal which consists of a big portion of white rice (Dat) and a savoury lentil soup (Bhat) accompanied by veggies cooked with curry and spices (tarkari).

 

Momo's - Similar to dumplings, Momos are small wraps made of wheat flour, water and salt, filled with meat, veggies, or cheese and are usually served with a sesame yellow and red garlic creamy sauce.

 

MORE BELOW

 

 

 

Thukpa – Originally from Tibet, this noodle soup contains pieces of meat and vegetables and it`s a very filling and tasty dish.

 

Sel Roti – A great snack made of rice flour and deep fried to obtain a crunchy outer surface and a soft inside dough.

 

Eating in a homestay or with locals? Learn more about Food Etiquette in Nepal HERE

 

Peanut Sadeko – Usually an appetizer, it is very spicy so ask for the least spicy version. It is made of roasted peanut mixed with freshly chopped green onions, green chillies, ginger, cilantro, lemon juice and mustard oil. Yummy!

 

Chow mein and Chopsey - Though typical Chinese dishes, you will find both on restaurants’ menus. Both dishes are a combination of stir-fried noddles with meat, vegetables (such as celery, snow peas, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, bok choy, onion and mushrooms) and spices. The main difference is the sauce used – while chow mein has a thinner sauce made with soy, garlic and oyster sauce, chopsey sauce is quite thick and is more similar to a gravy (made of oyster sauce, soy sauce, garlic and cornstarch). Both dishes are delicious!

 

 

TRANSPORTATION

 

Transportation is lots of fun in Kathmandu and generally, in Nepal. You get to know local people and local roads especially and a new different world of road conduct for sure. Here below are some recommendations to stay safe and enjoy the ride.

 

Local buses – An interesting choice! Although mainly safe, they can get extremely crowded to the point some locals hang from the side of the bus. However, they are also extremely cheap (NPR20/25 for 30mins/1hr ride in Kathmandu district) and once you pass the first cultural shock, you won`t go back to taxi anymore.

 

You can find the main bus stops and routes on this website ( Kathmandu Public Transport ).

Once you get to your bus stop ( you`ll see other people gathered together in one place), you just wait until the “cashier” (or conductor as Nepali calls him) hanging out of the bus will call your station – ask locals if unsure. Tell him where you`re going and he will call out your stop. The “cashier” will usually collect the bus fee once you get off.

 

For destinations outside Kathmandu see “Tourist Bus” below.

 

TIP – As in many other countries, make sure your money and other valuables are close to you and keep an eye on them.

 

MORE BELOW

 

 Travelling on public buses in Kathmandu

 

 

Taxi – You can find white taxis in many streets around Kathmandu district. After some bargaining, always agree on a fixed rate with the driver before getting in – we found that many drivers do not know even main landmarks in the city (so be prepared to show them your destination in a map or Maps.me).

You can even get your hotel / your host to call the driver and give him directions in Nepali – they usually get their way around after that. Some drivers will speak English and enjoy to talk about themselves and Nepal.

You`ll be surprised how they bend the rules to their advantage and still avoid accidents!

 

HERE for some useful tips to bargain in Nepal (under Bargaining)

 

DID YOU KNOW? - Taxi drivers should use the meter. Fee to start the journey is 14NPR and every kilometer adds 38 NPR. However, they do not usually agree to it. So here are some prices to popular destinations to help you in your bargain (Thamel is the main neighbourhood in the city center):

  • Thamel to Airport (15-25 mins) = NPR500

  • Thamel to Boudha (45 mins) = NPR400/500

  • Thamel to Pashupatinath (35 mins) = NPR400/500

  • Thamel to Swoyambhutath (15 mins) = NPR200

  • Thamel to Patan (40 mins) = NPR300/500

  • Thamel to Bhaktapur (50-60 mins) = NPR1000/1500

  • Thamel to Nagarkot (90 mins) = NPR2000/2500

 Pottery Square in Bakthapur, Nepal

 

 

Tourist buses – If you`re heading out of town, your best bet is a tourist bus. The main ones run to Chitwan, Pokhara, Lumbini and other tourist destinations and generally leave from Kantipath bus station in front of Yellow Pagoda Hotel. It`s better to book some days in advance (you`ll find different travel agents selling bus tickets in Thamel) and you will get a fixed seat number with your ticket. Depending on the bus company, they sometimes come with A/C and WI-FI.

 

 Queuing for the public bus in Kathmandu, Nepal

 

 

ON FOOT

 

Walking around Kathmandu or major cities in Nepal is pretty much safe everywhere you go – just avoid going out alone at night as there are more chances of getting harassed. 

 

GET THAT ROAD CROSSED WITH OUR TIPS HERE 

 

TIP – Kathmandu and many other locations in Nepal do not have street names and this is really confusing for locals as well.

We use and abuse of the app Maps.me – a fabulous offline map which will even give you hiking trails in the middle of nowhere. Highly recommended and FREE!

 

 

Dusty Kathmandu traffic

 

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