Nepalese souvenirs & shopping in Kathmandu

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ September 11th, 2013. Updated on March 11th, 2015. Published in: Travel blog » Nepal.
Papier Mache Dolls from Nepal

Expect great things from souvenirs in Nepal: including these papier mache Dolls

Nepalese souvenirs are some of the best in the world

You might notice a lot of low quality made in China type souvenirs invading the stands and stalls of many tourist destinations these days. From bracelets to clothes and the odd indigenous mask. They look great until you realize they weren’t made locally.

If there’s one country I’ve visited that’s surpassed every other in terms of great souvenirs it’s Nepal.

Read on and learn how Nepal tops my list of great countries with even great take home gifts and memorabilia.

A note on prices: I’ve added some approximate prices here. As the items will vary in size and quality the prices are set at the lowest for the smallest/cheapest of these items after bargaining (do see the link about how to barter for items in Nepal below). 

The top 12  best souvenirs to buy in Nepal

Singing Bowls from Nepal

Singing Bowls from Nepal have to be some of my favorite souvenir items in the world

1) Singing bowls: My number one recommendation is buy yourself a Nepalese Singing Bowl. Even though their origin are Tibetan when I was in Tibet they singing bowls all came from Nepal! These heavy metal bowls can be rubbed along their edge with a small wooden stick to produce a harmonious tone. Said to be healing in quality it’s got a nice tone to it!

Price: Singing bowls start at about 300 rupees. 

Travel Tip:

The heavy dull old brass looking bowls are more likely to be handmade whilst the decorative near perfectly formed bowls are machine made.

2) Prayer wheels: If you’ve been trekking in Nepal or visited a monastery or two you might have noticed monks spinning prayer wheels around. They are available in most markets and are lighter than they look. Inside each is a small scroll with a prayer written out in Nepalese script.

Price: Prayer wheels start at about 200 rupees. 

A stack of colorful cashmere from Nepal

Colorful cashmere from Nepal is a must buy!

3) Cashmere or Pashmina: Which is which? Well Pashmina is meant to be the soft underside of a goat while Cashmere is obtained from elsewhere (there’s some debate about this). Either way Kathmandu is filled with vendors selling blankets, scarves, shawls and clothing made of cashmere. And, they all have fancy names from water cashmere to cool cashmere. Do note that most of the fancier named products generally have nylon or a cheaper material woven into them. Here is where you need to be aware of fakes.

Price: A Cashmere scarf starts at about 150 rupees (not pure). 

4) Incense Holders: These long metal tubes with carvings and small gemstones are food in most markets. They look great and are used for storing incense.

Price: Incense holders start at about 300 rupees. 

5) Trekking gear: From North Face to Mountain Hardwear trekking gear is abundant in Nepal both in Kathmandu and Pokhara. Most of what I wear today I’ve bought in Nepal. Yes, 90% of it is fake. But that doesn’t mean it’s all bad. A lot of the material comes from the genuine trekking gear suppliers factories in China. Yes, China. You do have to be careful of trekking gear made in Nepal, it’s just not worth it. But you can pick up a genuine (ish) North Face Jacket windbreaker for about USD$60 depending on the style or quality.

Price: N/A. 

Travel Tip:

Avoid buying trekking boots in Nepal. Most are faker than fake and not worth it. If you are looking for Genuine trekking  gear try the “Real North Face” store opposite Fire 7 Ice the outskirts of Thamel (see map for location) you can say hi to Sabina the manager for me and tell her I sent you ;)

6) Goat & Tiger game (Bagh Chal): If you are looking for something unusual or different to take home for your coffee table look out for this Nepalese board game. Available in different sizes the idea remains the same. You and an opponent play as either 4 tigers or a herd of goats. The goats win by surrounding the tigers or the tigers win by capturing all the goats. Play with a local and lose every time. It’s not chess, but it can be fun and looks great.

Price: Goat & Tiber game start at about 350 rupees. 

7) Papier Mache Dolls: Yes papier-mache dolls are an art form in Nepal. For the best in quality and selection forget Kathmandu. Go straight to Bhaktapur and marvel at the great selections on offer there. Just be sure to have them packed well for the journey home as they are delicate. 

Price: Papier Mache Dolls start at about 300 rupees. 

A store selling Thanka paintings in Kathmandu

Thankas for sale in Kathmandu

8) Thankas: People come to Nepal just for Thankas! These are original Nepalese paintings made from embroidery. Often using precious metals like silver or gold thread Thankas are not cheap! But they are well worth an investment so if you buy one make sure it’s got a certification number showing where it was made and by whom.

Price: Thankas start at about 1500 rupees. 

9) Silver & Jewelry: Again people come to Nepal just to buy the silver jewelery here. It’s got a reputation for being over 92% sterling and purchasable at a great price. There are many silversmiths in Kathmandu and my advice is to come knowing what you are talking about!

Price: N/A. 

10) Nepalese carvings & handicrafts: Wood carvings in Nepal are plentiful. From little Hindu gods to life-sized face masks. Again it’s worth knowing a little about wood carving before randomly buying something you think might be quite old. It’s illegal to export antique artifacts from Nepal though plenty of vendors will make their goods look quite old with a dash of boot polish, weathering and an odd bit of burning!

Price: Small Buddha carving starts at about 300 rupees. 

11) Handmade clothing: It’s usually bright, colorful and hard-wearing. Do test the color fastness before putting into a washing machine though! Soaking it in cold water and salt helps to retain the color fastness.

Price: N/A.

12) Khukuri knives: Traditional long knives used by Nepalese Gurkhas. Many found in Kathmandu today are specifically made for the tourist market but that doesn’t make them any less of a great keepsake. Just make sure not to pack them into your carry on luggage!!

Price: Small Khukuri Knife starts at about 1000 rupees. 

Prayer Wheel souvenirs for sale in Kathmandu, Nepal

Prayer Wheels are really very light to pack and look great as gifts!

How to send your Nepalese gifts or souvenirs home?

Between a couple of singing bowls, facemask, a cashmere shawl and that brand new trekking jacket you might find yourself going over your baggage limit quite quickly. The solution is quite simple and all around the stores you just bought your items in. Cargo exporters, international shipping and couriers. You send all your stuff home.

Contrary to popular belief it’s not all that expensive to so this from Nepal.

Here are some tips on shipping from Nepal 

  • The more you ship the cheaper it gets ( 1 kilo is the minimum price you have to pay)
  • Do write out an itinerary of what you are shipping
  • Don’t include coin or money or any form of drug! (everything is searched anyway and customs knows where and what to look for)
  • Get more than one quote from an export agent and be sure to ask if that includes “Everything” – this include packaging (which should be free) and certificates
  • India constantly blocks sea shipping which is the cheapest way to send goods overseas. Don’t expect this to change
  • Don’t be afraid to avoid the more expensive couriers like DHL, FedEx or TNT for more unheard of ones. Ask the agent for quotes from a one of the popular couriers and a lesser known one to see the difference.

Lastly if you are looking for a recommend export agent in Kathmandu feel free to contact me as I’ve used one for years who is very trustworthy.

More Tips:

Looking for more ideas on what to buy in Nepal or where to find them? Try my dedicated page on the best things to buy when in Nepal for more including locations.

Not sure about how to bargain or barter? Read my page on How to bargain and barter in Kathmandu Nepal

What’s the best guidebook for Nepal? Check out my best guidebooks for Nepal.

Looking for the best value hotels in Nepal? Try my search for Nepal hotels here

Liked this page? You’ll love my books! My guidebooks are better than the rest. Yes, really! Take a look and see for yourself.

In them I cover everything you need to know with detailed easy to follow maps, walking tours, definitive descriptions (with photos) of every temple,recommendations plus personally visited restaurants and accommodation reviews with so much more for you to discover right now in your hands that you won’t get anywhere else.

Available now for tablets, mobile, desktop and print.

Nepal guidebooks

Read more about my Nepal guidebooks

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19 Great responses to Nepalese souvenirs & shopping in Kathmandu

  1. Sandy says:

    Just what thr doctor ordered! I always struggle to know what to bring back. Prayer wheels it is. Any prices?

  2. Mandy says:

    Ahh… few items already on my list like singing bowls, prayer wheels and ‘cling-clang’ bracelet & bangles :) Would love to buy item 3 & 8 too but worry might get fake items. How about their famous Ilma tea? Also saw a picture of Buddha’s hand holding a flower, no idea what it’s made of and the actual size but I like it.

    Yes this really comes in handy :) Thanks!

    • Hi Mandy,

      Yes there are a few tea shops around Thamel that are worth looking into. I’m not a huge tea drinker so can’t claim to be an expert though! ;)

      Don’t worry about fake singing bowls, prayer wheels, bracelets etc. They are all make in Nepal. It’s really just trekking gear, cashmere, silver and some Thankas you need to watch out for.

      Not sure which Buddha statue you mean? Most are carved from wood.

      • Mandy says:

        Hi Dave,

        Any idea what’s the weight for a small singing bowl (I don’t want singing bowel, please)? :P

        Where would be cheaper to buy cashmere or pashmina? Some say KTM and others say Pokhara. I would be in KTM for the first & last few days of my trip, so I can always compare prices.

        Thank you.

  3. ved bell says:

    as an expat, married to a nepalese woman, i find your information quite useful…..EXCEPT, the article on singing bowls:
    Travel Tip:
    The heavy dull old brass looking bowls are more likely to be handmade whilst the decorative near perfectly formed bowls are handmade.

    as you can see, both makes of bowls appear to be handmade. if Buddhist monks are making the bowls, i would expect them ALL to be perfect. but then, expectations are for being in the u.s., not in Nepal.

    thank you for the great articles.

    • Hi Ved, Yes, that was a typo. Thanks for pointing it out. I’ve corrected it now – “… the decorative near perfectly formed bowls are machine handmade”

      I’ve yet to see a Buddhist monk make a singing bowl. I’ve seen an old man up a mountain pound away with a mallet though!

  4. John says:

    Really informative post here Dave, thanks for the effort you put in.

    Do you happen to know where I could buy one of those Nepalese window frames? A small one more for decorative purposes than an actual window frame.

  5. Elaine says:

    Great information, thanks for sharing. Any chance you could write up the approximate prices for these?

  6. Angela says:

    I love all of these souvenirs. I can see them finding a good place in my interior.
    I wish I bought more souvenirs when I was traveling. I decided it was too much trouble to carry it all with me. In the end, it would have been fine and no trouble at all. Guess I have to do it all again.

    • I’ve shipped a few souvenirs from around the world rather than carry them. I learned that the hard way. But I sometimes stock up, then ship when it all gets too much to carry. Otherwise it’s photos of souvenirs. But as you said, doing it all again is a good excuse!