From personal notes to travel guide: I thought that I would just come to Nepal and see far too many tourists and do some trekking. Instead I was hit on the side of the head by an incredible country that made me stay a while - now the best travel guide to Nepal (updated: (live)
(click on a topic heading to skip to that section - in depth guides are on the sidebar to the right)
Once a part of the hippie trail Nepal today offers a wide range of activities and sight seeing for everyone. From one day treks in the Himalayas to full on Everest summits.
Jungle safaris with elephants, tigers and rhinos. Ancient cities filled with culture. There's something for everyone in Nepal.
With tourism being Nepal's number one industry it's a country focused on ensuring that one visit is never enough. With a huge return in visitors there's something very addictive about traveling Nepal!With tourism being Nepal's number one industry it's a country focused on ensuring that one visit is never enough. With a huge return in visitors there's something very addictive about traveling Nepal!
: Whether it's day trip treks, 3 day treks or 20 day treks Nepal has something for everyone.
Trekking in Nepal accounts for 10% of the countries dedicated visitors every year. The Everest Base camp trek is perhaps the most most famous. But don't go away without realizing that enjoyable one day treks are also possible.
Get started by reading about what you can expect from trekking in Nepal. And to help you choose your best trek it's recommend to read this list of popular treks (with maps).
: Some of Nepal's best sights lie away from the mountains in some of its ancient cities.
Spend a few days in the capital of Kathmandu city visiting places like Durbar Square, Swayambhunath (monkey temple) and Pashupatinath. Before taking a day trip to places like Patan and Bhaktapur.
: Head south to Chitwan National Park to go jungle trekking or take an Elephant safari to spot wild tigers and rhino.
: Go paragliding, white water rafting or rent a motorcycle to tour the country from Pokhara. Or go bungy jumping on the border to Tibet!
: Take a time out and enjoy sitting by lake Phewa in Pokhara while taking a stroll to some cultural villages or enjoy some fine Nepalese cuisine.
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You can get just about anything in the world in Pokhara and Kathmandu. The Nepalese know how to cook food from around the world. Giant steaks, pizza, pastas and chinese are easy to come across. Though the mexican dishes are a little strange.
Dhal Bhat is Nepal's national staple dish. You can get it vegetarian, or with meat, and I seriously like it. And then there are Nepalese momos. Anyone who has ever tried momos generally keeps going back for more
Do check out my hands on Nepalese food articles for more ...
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|Where I stayed
||Try a custom search for the best priced hotels in Nepal!
Good cheap hotel & guesthouse accommodation is plentiful in Nepal.
Here are some walk in guesthouses: There are so many hotels and guesthouses in Pokhara its easy. This one offered superior rooms at a good price and the staff were great. They will pick you up at the bus station or airport for free.
- - Run by a local lady and her french husband this is a star amongst the plentiful supply of KTM guesthouses. Within 4 minutes walk of Thamel, and just outside of Thamel to get away from the rush. Excellent food, entertainment and a safe haven. A taxi from the airport to here is about 500 rupees.
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From India the easiest crossing is Sunauli. You can also cross the Nepalese border with Tibet but you will need a Tibet permit which I've covered in my tourist visa information section under Tibet. For more information on traveling overland do check out my extensive article on how to travel overland into Nepal.
Kathmandu airport is where all international flights arrive into. Delhi has regular flights for about $200 USD and Bangkok for $250 one way.
|Try my custom flight search for the lowest priced flights to and from Nepal!
Available for the periods of 15 days, 30 days and 90 days they are most commonly obtained on arrival. For a comprehensive look at travel visas for Nepal including, fees, downloadable forms and more information visit my dedicated page on visa information for Nepal.
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There are two sides here. Generally speaking the Nepalese are some of the nicest, helpful people in the world. You will get the bad eggs and the touts are annoying.
The Nepalese know you better than you think. Tourism is their number one industry and they know what people from each country likes. Tell them your nationality and watch them adapt instantly.
It is a developing country though so be prepared for from hardships like the Street Children in Kathmandu and learn how much an average Nepali earns in a day. For a more colorful side to Nepal check out the holy men of Nepal: the Sadhus.
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Derived from Sanskrit Nepali is the official language of Nepal with over 70% of the population speaking it. However in all the main tourist destinations English is spoken quite well. Though there will be some linguistic anomalies.
Do read this guide on the basics of learning Nepalese for travel
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Of all the places in my journey Nepal gave me that deep feeling that reached out and said this could be home. Find a niche market like the paragliders did and you could also make a living here.
There are ferocious obstacles though. Asides from the political instability at the moment Nepal still has one of worst economies in the world, a country on the brink of natural disaster and an already over populated tourist industry. It can be tough to make a living here.
It's very easy to be wooed by Nepal. I've met countless volunteers and older travelers who either fall in love with orphanages or Pokhara. It's hard not to understand why, but I've rarely seen it work out in the long run. Nepal generally works out to be great for a few months of the year, or every few years. Long-term expats in Nepal often end up torn by a love for a country and it's complete inability to develop or allow oneself to develop there..
Owning property or a business is in Nepal is not possible outright if you are a foreigner. By marriage and business partnerships only. For some more insight on this do read this article on how to do business in Nepal and understanding the caste culture of Nepal.
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How much is a daily budget?
One of the last bastions of true budget travel destinations. In truth Nepal can be as expensive as you want or as cheap. You can stay in a 5 star hotel for $120 USD a night and be driven around in a private car for $30 USD. Or you can get a private room for $5USD and go public for $1. If you avoid the tourist restaurants and entrance fees you can spend a day here for $12USD (eating good food in local places). But the thing with Nepal is that there is so much to do. $25 with local transport to city sites with some entrance fees. The above is based on a low budget, you can spend a lot more per day depending on your needs.
How to save money in Nepal?
Do not buy an expensive package tour unless you have the money to spend and/or literally do not have a day to spare. I came across people who had spent $5,000USD for a 10 day stay in Nepal. Yes they had everything taken care of for them. But they also did not get to choose their guide for a 3 day trek. Stayed in an out-of-the-way 5 star hotel and were fairly isolated. It was too much money by far.
Hiring a package tour guide from overseas on the internet is a waste of money and not practical. There are so many guides in Nepal even in the height of tourist season there are still too many. The streets are full of guide offices. Have a read of my article on hiring a trekking guide in nepal for more information.
When you buy your pass to Durbar Square, head off to the tourist office there straight away and for free get a pass to the square for as long as your visa lasts. Keep in mind Durbar square is in the middle of KTM so you will have to pass through plenty of times. (read more about ticket prices to Durbar Square in my guide)
This place has been seized by UNESCO and local government and so the entrance fee is ridiculous compared to the rest of Nepal. Thankfully there are many many side streets you can meander down off the main entrance area to avoid buying a ticket. Stay clear of these little side streets later as they have guards asking to see your tickets. If they lowered the prices it would be better.
Thamel and Lakeside are two popular places for expensive (albeit great) dining. Walk a little further and enter a good, local place. A bowl of chicken soup, plate of momo and a coke will cost about $1.50. A buff steak $3.00. Chow Mien $1. Head to Everest Steakhouse and it's $8 for a steak.
The problem comes when you are socializing and head out to eat. Most will head to a nice place and want to split the cost of the meal within the group and bang there goes your budget!
Likewise with beer such as Nepal Ice or Everest it's 4-5USD on average in most restaurants for a liter bottle. That said beer in Nepal is not the cheapest anywhere due to high tax.
What are the Banks/ATM's like in Nepal?
Never had a problem bar from power outages. Be sure to ask your hotel/guesthouse for the electrical outage times before heading off. Most banks have generators but not all work that well and I have heard of a few travelers getting their cards stuck due to this. The ones in Thamel are fine and in Pokhara.
Banks are open Sunday though to Friday Lunchtime.
If you are going trekking be sure to stock up on your smaller Nepalese notes as ATM's usually only dispense big ones. Guesthouses and eateries usually will struggle for change in remoter areas.
Do read this guide on dealing with money, ATMS's and credit cards in Nepal.
What guide book?
Lonely Planet's Nepal is again useless for the overland traveler coming across borders. Little information is given. For Kathmandu the book is okay. But for Pokhara, Bhaktapur and Patan it's maps are bad and they say little.
For trekking it's another disgrace of a guide book. Going into the trek stores will give you a better idea. Better yet check out my FREE trekking guides to Nepal.
I've also written up several more free travel guides to several of these places based on my own personal experience.
Do explore the links within the guides as they lead to further pages with information. If you like something included or are looking for printed versions then get in touch.
See my links in the upper right sidebar of this page for more guides to Nepal plus overland travel guides in and out of Nepal.
How to hire a guide?
Firstly don't do it over the internet. There are plenty of guides in Nepal even in tourist season. Tours around Nepal, or trekking tours can be arranged quickly this way. Secondly if you want to go to the Annapurna region get your guide in Pokhara. If you want to go to Everest arrange from Kathmandu, doing it the other way round will be expensive. Interview at least three guides as if hiring them for a job at your workplace. Personality is important, remember you will be with this guide for possibly 3 weeks! There are female guides available. Arrange the payment before you shake on it. The costs of an in dependant guide are from $15 USD per day to $20+ USD per day. From an agency add on $5USD, a porter starts at around $10 while guide/porters at around $15. For more information check out my full page on How to hire a Guide in Nepal
How to buy trekking gear in Nepal?
If you have trekking gear, have the luggage space and are only visiting Nepal for trekking then fine bring it. Otherwise buy it there.
Kathmandu has the largest selection of trekking gear. It is a lot less hassle to shop in Pokhara though if you have the time. Let's take an all weather North Face Jacket listed at $300 online retailers as an example. You will find the real thing in the North Face store in KTM. It will be a slightly lower price than the USA or Europe.
In the downtown KTM trekking stores there are 3 categories. Fakes (China), copies of fakes (Nepal made) and Nepalese copies. Avoid Nepalese copies. They are easy to spot with bad logo copies, and poor stitching.
Stitching is key to the others. Examine the jacket carefully and pull at the seams. If there is any give at all, put it away. Turn the pockets inside out and examine them. Any bad shapes and poor stitching is easily seen here. You should be able to walk away with a good quality heavy jacket (Nepal copy) for $30 or China Copy for $40-$50. The only thing I would not buy are trekking shoes in Nepal. They are dirt cheap, look nice, but glued. They will fall apart in a few weeks.
If you really are worried about buying fake trekking gear in Nepal. Then head to The North Face Store opposite Fire & Ice in Thamel. They have a huge range of quality stock.
Ask for the manager Sabina, she's a walking encyclopedia of both trekking gear and serious expedition gear. She's also very honest and won't steer you wrong. What's more if you mention that you heard about her through The Longest Way Home it might get you some discount there! :)
Getting sick in Nepal
The two most common complaints or illnesses tourists have in Nepal are respiratory and stomach related. Respiratory infections generally occur due to the high levels of pollution and dust in Kathmandu city. This can get particularly bad in the winter months. Sinus, chest and ear infections are the most common ailments. Prevention comes in the form of wearing a dust mask that many a local wears daily, or simply not staying in the city during these months. See below for more on stomach complaints.
Read my guide on what vaccinations do you need for Nepal.
How to deal with stomach problems in Nepal?
Nearly everyone unaccustomed to this part of Asia will get have a few days of bowel issues. This usually passes but be sure to stay hydrated and seek medical attention if it persists. There is a chance you will come away with something on prolonged treks or stays. Especially if you go the off season where food is not prepared as frequently. Giardia is possibly one of the biggest things to look out for and thankfully fairly easy to treat. A bad stomach for a day or two should pass by. Anything lasting longer and you should seek proper medical advise. Check out my own medical woes list here.
Cameras and Internet in Nepal
Fake memory cards are a big problem as is the cost of buying them. Head down to New Road in Kathmandu to buy and test the cards at a reduced cost to Thamel.
Cyber cafes are everywhere in Nepal. But they are slow and full of viruses. Be sure to backup all your photo's and personal data before plugging you memory card, flash disk or external Hard Drive into any public computer. It may be a better option just to buy another memory card.
WIFI is available in most Cafe's and in some guesthouses but again slow. Try to test its speed out before investing in an expensive coffee or meal.
Volunteering in Nepal, anything to know?
There are plenty of opportunities to Volunteer in Nepal. Personally I am very much against these pay $1000 to volunteer time positions. Call it something else, it's not volunteering, it's paying to work. That said some of the charges are pathetically high. Some people pay $4000 for 6 weeks volunteering at an NGO. I have written about this in an old travelogue here (NGO's in Nepal). The best thing to do is just arrive. Go and see a place for yourself. There are so many people looking for volunteers and they provide free accommodation and basic food. It's easy to find a position like this and it probably helps more than lining the pockets of an overpriced 'Volunteer Agency' whose HQ is overseas.
There is a 1130 rps Departure Tax plus 565 rps tourism service fee added on making a total payable of 1695 rps. This should be paid in Nepalese Rupees only! If you are flying to India or other SAARC countries the total is 1356 rps.
There is also a 200 rps departure tax for internal flights.
Should I leave a tip in Nepal?
In 2008 Nepal introduced a 10% service charge. If this is included in restaurants then I would not leave a tip. Nepal is not North America. The native culture here is not to tip. For guides and porters if you feel their service has been above and beyond, then adding 10% - 15% is about right. Again, it's not compulsory and although everyone likes to receive, its not in the culture. Doing so changes this for the worse as I've seen in many countries. Do check out this article on dealing with money when traveling in Nepal or more.
Visas in Nepal
On arrival you can get a 15 day or 30 day or 90 visa. There used to by a 60, but, no more. To extend this visa, ignore all agencies and head to immigration in Kathmandu, or Pokhara, fill a form before 12 noon and collect your 30 day extension by 2pm. Very easy. You can stay up to 150 days in Nepal per year January to December, meaning if you arrive in July ... Full information about tourist visas in Nepal here.