Nepal has large cottage industries surrounding clothing materials, metal works and jewelry. Lesser known items include tea, sculptures, rice paper, incense, spices, dolls, puppets and trekking gear.
Tourists visiting Nepal will often find many things unique to this region at great prices. So much so many that export and shipping businesses are plentiful.
If you are planning to purchase items or souvenirs specific to Nepal it is important to know what you are looking for. There are quite a few fakes and less than genuine items that people will try to pass off as genuine.
The prices below are based on low end items after bargaining.
Read on and find out what the best buys are when visiting Nepal.
Traditional clothing in Nepal is one of the countries largest exports and most popular tourist souvenirs.
Woolen goods are produced from both yak wool and sheep wool while finer items are made from cashmere and silk. If purchasing finer goods do know the difference in cashmere and silk quality.
Woolen goods are popular and relatively cheap to purchase. Popular clothing items include Nepalese woolen hats (that cover the ears), woolen sweatshirts, waistcoat, gloves, slippers and shoes.
Other popular items include woven or embroidered shirts, trousers, blouses and dresses.
Nepalese traditional clothing is distinguishable by its high durability, warmth and often from bright colors used in the materials.
Many of today's Nepalese clothing is colorfast, but do a color check beforehand just to be sure.
Kathmandu (Thamel will have the best tourist selections, outside of Thamel for bulk buys).
A woolen hat starts at 150 rupees.
Pashmina is the name given to cashmere in Asia. Though historically many will explain that pashmina refers to the soft under hair of the goats found in Nepal. Whereas cashmere refers to the rest of the wool.
There are also several different types of quality pashmina available in Nepal and the price varies accordingly. Examples include cashmere with silk woven into it for embroidery (expensive) or nylon woven into the material (cheap).
Cheap / fake cashmere/ pashmina from China is becoming widespread so if you are planning to purchase an expensive piece do your homework first.
The most common type of cashmere souvenir are scarves and ladies shawls.
.As a tourist the best place to find cashmere in Nepal to purchase for a souvenir is Thamel. Though the prices will start quite high so bargain hard. For larger purchases go directly to the factories. The streets off New Road also offer some cashmere. Bhaktapur also has several stores. Learning some Nepalese will help.
A cashmere scarf starts at 200 rupees.
Both Kathmandu and Pokhara are filled with trekking stores selling anything from sleeping bags to summit jackets and water filters.
Most of the trekking gear you will see is fake. That does not mean it's bad it just means the original manufacturer did not produce it.
Trekking clothing is often made within the Kathmandu valley from the same material the branded manufacturers buy in China. Quality of build is what you should look out for.
Popular brands that are copied are North Face, Mammut and Mountain Hardware clothing ranges. Check to see if the stitching is strong. Pull at it hard. Check to see if the labels are spelled correctly. Often the fakes have misspellings.
Locally fakes are known as "Fake," "China fake" and "Nepalese fake." Quality is usually in the same order. Though everything will be sold at first as "original". Check out this article on buying fake goods when traveling.
Best trekking gear buys include: trekking shirts, jackets, trousers, socks and shorts. Worst buys include trekking boots, crampons and low quality sleeping bags.
Items to be careful of include any climbing gear (unsafe). Water bottles (the seals leak and plastic breaks), trekking boots (fall apart) and cooking equipment (safety), sunglasses (not UVA protected).
Going trekking and looking for what equipment you need? Check out Equipment you need for trekking in Nepal.
There are a few other stores opening up in Thamel selling gear from South Korea but quality varies.
Pokhara's Lakeside has more than an ample selection of trekking gear stores and it's a lot easier to navigate than Thamel. The Real North Face have opened a new store in Pokhara which does have genuine items but the cost is quite high.
If you are trekking and your gear breaks some of the lower villages will have stores selling second hand, abandoned and some new gear. Don't expect to find good quality and it will be more expensive than in the big cities.
Possibly the nicest souvenir ever made! Yes, Singing Bowls are that good.
Made of metal a singing bowl's rim is rubbed in a circular motion by a small wooden stick to produce a low/high pitch sound.
Aside from the sound the theory behind the singing bowl is that the sound causes a vibration in the air which has healing qualities. If you come across a very large singing bowl have the vendor make it sing next to your stomach and feel the vibrations run through you!
There are basically two types of singing bowl. Machine made. And hand made. The latter is getting scarce and expensive. They are usually a plain brass color and have a beaten quality about them.
Machine made singing bowls are perfectly symmetrical and highly decorated.
Kathmandu, (watch out in Thamel for high prices), Durbar square has the best prices
Kathmandu is well known as being a great place to pick up quality silver, silver based jewelry and gold.
Silver and gold is brought in via India and is generally over 92% Sterling and 24 carat. The wholesale price per gram is published everyday on the newspapers.
Semi-precious stones (India) are used in much of the jewelry found in Nepal.
Do watch out for Chinese imports of expensive looking but near worthless jewelry.
Kathmandu (Avoid the main Thamel area, try the side streets on the outskirts)
Nepal's second biggest tourist souvenir market is handicrafts. Much of this is settled around cultural handicrafts such as singing bowls, prayer wheels, pottery and small to mid sized metal trinkets.
The most famous handicraft export are singing bowls. These heavy metal bowls are used to produce a high pitched sound when the rim is rubbed in a circular manner which causes a vibration. The vibrations from singing bowls are said to have healing properties.
Traditionally made singing bowls are metal bowls beaten by hand. These are not as nice looking as the near perfect machine made bowls that are more commonly found. However they are quite a bit more expensive.
Other handicrafts like prayer wheels, kettles, door knockers, traditional masks, knives and trinkets are often mass produced and made to look a lot older than they are (thereby fetching a higher price).
Real antiques are not allowed to leave Nepal without certification from the Government. These items are actually hard to come by. Most people are quite happy purchasing an item that looks and feels authentic, just beware of those trying to sell it as an antique.
Kathmandu, (watch out in Thamel for high prices), Durbar square is has the best prices while New Road/Paknajol for bulk items. Bhaktapur if you spend some time there.
You can't walk down a street in Nepal without smelling the rich incense that is used every morning to usher in the new day.
Today most of the incense comes from India and China. Indian/Nepalese incense is generally easier to find and much better quality. Chinese incense on the other hand is usually very low quality. There are a few monasteries in Nepal who are making incense but do understand that most of the ingredients may not be from Nepal. Genuine Nepalese incense is considered to be blended in Nepal.
Tea may well be Nepal's next big thing. Grown in the east of Nepal it's comparable to "Darjeeling Tea" from India, but better. Maloom Tea Estate is the best known along with, Mist Valley Tea Industry & Gorkha Tea Estate. If you know your tea, then Nepal is great destination.
Spices found in Nepal are again largely imported from India. However there are some local industries and many spices blended once in Nepal. Masala is perhaps Nepal's most favored spice blend. Individual spices include cardamom, cumin, chili pepper, pepper, fenugreek and saffron.
50 rupees for 10 sticks (mixed).
A much less known industry, Bhaktapur is fabled for its dolls and puppets. Everything from string puppets to hand puppets are handcrafted here. Locally made dolls can be purchased individually or in bulk.
Thangkas or Thankas originated in Nepal which are traditional authentic Buddhist cultural and religious artistic paintings made from embroidery. They come in pocket sizes all the way to huge wall hangings. Today some are reprints so watch out. More expensive Thangkas have gold and silver mixed into the silk.
Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Patan (watch out in Thamel for high prices)
Rice paper is made by hand from rice husks. Most often it is used as the base for paintings and manuscripts. Today rice paper forms an important part of the tourist souvenir industry. Beautiful rice paper journals, diaries and photo albums can be purchased with ease.
Thamel, Kathmandu and Bhaktapur.
A Khukuri is the long curved blade traditionally used by the Nepalese Gurkha soldiers. Today there are dedicated Khukuri stores in Nepal selling elaborate designs. Khukuri's are still in use throughout Nepal but are much less elaborate.
Traditional Khukuri's come with two small attachment blades: one for sharpening the main blade and the other as a pen knife. Read more about Khukuri knives
Thamel, Kathmandu and Bhaktapur.
With all these great items for sale in Nepal it's no wonder exporters, cargo and shipping agents are easy to find.
It is important to note several things though.
- Do ask around for the best prices to the country you are shipping too.
- Check if sea mail is available (it's often not due to trade embargoes with India)
- Shipping is done by weight, usually per half kilo (500grams), the more you ship the cheaper the total.
- Be sure that your exporter or cargo handler is genuinely licensed. Many stores are just fronts that use other shippers to send your goods.
- Genuine shippers will not charge you extra for packaging.
- Do make a personal itinerary of everything you are giving the cargo agency.
- Do NOT attempt to hide drugs inside and items as you both you and the exporter will be liable.
- Do not attempt to ship money in any form in your packaging as again you will be liable.
- Do make sure you have all your receipts and tracking codes before leaving the cargo agents office.
If you need to a reference to a genuine and honest cargo exporter feel free to let contact me and I'll give you their details.
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