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Dealing with money in Nepal when you travel there

Should you pay in cash or credit card?

Where to find cash - service charges - VAT - bank transfers - scams - tips

About the Nepali Rupee Currency

Nepal's official currency is the Nepalese Rupee or NRP & Rs.

The Nepalese Rupee comes in 1, 2, 5, 10 coins and 20, 25, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 rupee notes.

There are smaller coins called "paisa" which you will come across but really never use. They come in 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 paisa coins.

Large denomination of Nepalese rupee have their own names. 100,000 Nepalese rupees is known as 1 lakh. 200,000 is know as 2 lakh and so on.

2,000,000 Nepalese rupees is known as 2 lakhs.

It's the "S" at the end that's important to remember. In millions add it, in one hundred thousands don't.

Note: Up until about 5 years ago Indian Rupees were accepted in many parts of Nepal as regular cash with their own valuation in exchange for goods. That is no longer the case. Indian rupees will often be accepted but only after being converted to Nepalese Rupees via current currency exchange rates.

Where to get your money in Nepal?

Nepal's number one industry is tourism. Therefore there are many ways to get your cash converted to Nepalese rupees throughout the main cities in Nepal.

However Kathmandu remains the most popular place to obtain your money from home. If you are bringing cash from a lesser known currency it's best to change it in Kathmandu city's (Thamel area) rather than anywhere else.

The main ways to obtain Nepali Rupees are: ATM's, money exchangers, cash advance credit cards and wire services.

Major cash currencies for converting to Rs include: USD, GBP, EURO, YEN and Indian Rupee. Most other currencies are accepted but stick with converting them to rupee in Kathmandu rather than Pokhara or other smaller cities.

While generally a safe country be careful at night or in crowded streets if accessing an ATM. Likewise on treks where you need to carry large quantities of cash - don't leave it unattended in your room.

Using ATMs in Nepal

Automated Teller Machines are available throughout Nepal. However only Kathmandu and Pokhara have regularly "working" machines that accept international cards. Throughout the rest of the country they exist for National banks but not all International bank cards are accepted.

Popular ATMs that accept international credit cards (VISA, MasterCard) in Kathmandu and Pokhara include: Standard Chartered, Everest Bank, Nabil Bank & Himalaya Bank. Cash is given out only in Nepali Rupees.

Cirrus and American Express cards will need to be checked individually as they each have different relationships with national banks. Ask your own bank who they recommend to use in Nepal before leaving.

The best places to try ATMs is around Thamel in Kathmandu and Lakeside in Pokhara.

There are limits on how much you can withdrawn from an ATM in Nepal per transaction. The limits range from 10,000 rupees to 30,000 rupees depending on the bank. Most ATMs charge a fee for their usage per transaction so do keep that in mind.

Since 2015 ATMs in Kathmandu's Thamel area and Pokhara's Lakeside are generally found in groups within one dedicated area called an "ATM Lounge". These usually consist of 4-5 ATM machines from different banks in one room. A map with these ATM lounges can be found in my Nepal guidebook.

Do be aware of electrical power failures when using ATMs.


Using Travellers Cheques in Nepal

Travellers cheques are still rarely accepted in Nepal anymore. The only possibility is to cash your cheques in any of the main (Foreign Exchange) FOREX offices in Kathmandu's Thamel area. Be sure to ask if they are taking commission when cashing them in. And be sure to bring your passport and other necessary identity documents when cashing them in. All in all, it's not worth getting travellers cheques for Nepal anymore.

Using Credit Cards in Nepal

Credit cards can be used in a few major stores, hotels, restaurants, tour agencies and banks. Do be aware of commissions added. And don't leave your credit card unattended with anyone no matter their excuse.

All major Credit cards are accepted in Nepal. These include VISA, MasterCard, Cirrus and American Express. Do be aware that not all of these cards will work in some of the ATMs. There are small signs in a few ATMs saying what will work. It's best to stick with the larger international banks than the smaller regional banks for withdrawing cash.

When paying for tourist activities, hotels, flights, treks or goods in person by credit card you should be aware of certain things. Chip & pin services are not fully active in Nepal. Many retail stores still use old style carbon copy machines.

Do not leave your credit card with anyone. Electricity black outs are common in Nepal and many genuine people and not so genuine will ask you to leave the card with them until later. It's much better to take the card with you and come back later yourself rather than leave it there.

If paying for meals in restaurants do be aware of additional charges such as VAT and services charges along with credit card fees and currency exchanges. You could be spending a lot more than you think.

Paying for things in Nepal by cash is generally safer than by Credit Card. If going to Nepal with a credit card make sure you notify your credit card company first as many have Nepal on a black list and might cancel your card if you start to use it in Nepal without letting them know.

Money Wire Services in Nepal

There are several money wire services available in all major cities in Nepal. However Kathmandu is the preferred option for many tourists.

While Western Union is the most popular there have been several other services opening up in recent years. In either case you'll likely be dealing with an agent rather than an official wire transfer office.

The most important question to ask is what are their commission rates?

Be sure to also ask for their exchange rate fees and international fees if they exist.

It is not possible to send money out of Nepal by wire or bank transfer. It is only possible to accept incoming transactions.

Money Changers in Nepal

There are plenty of Money Changers in Nepal's tourist areas and they are known as either "Money Changers" or "Foreign Exchange (FOREX)." All major currencies are accepted. Many medium sized currencies are accepted. And many minor currencies are also accepted though you might have to wait a while.

Morning rates are often posted outside of the money changer store fronts every morning. The rates don't vary much at all between stores and usually if you think you are getting a good bargain they'll recalculate as you hand them your money. Ask what the exchange rate is first and if they charge a commission. Avoid hotels or the airports for changing money.

Again, recommended money changers are listed on the Thamel map in my guidebook to Nepal.

Should you tip in Nepal?

No. Tipping is not a custom in Nepal though it would be vary rare for anyone to turn a tip down. In all major hotels or restaurants there is a mandatory 10% VAT charge and a service charge of between 2-3%. Service charges equal a tip.

In smaller local cafes you will not see this charge.

Due to "western" influence trekking staff such as guides or porters have become accustomed to expecting a tip. It's mandatory here and not a requirement. If you've had a good service use your digression.

If you are interested in knowing about how much a local earns in Nepal do read my article on How much does someone from Nepal earn?

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Nepalese Rupees and coins

Nepalese Rupees and coins
Nepal is mainly a hard cash economy
Big photo of the way to Everest Base Camp sign Take a boat ride on the Rapti River in Chitwans jungle Nepal Om mani padme hum written onto stone Streets of Kathmandu
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Credit cards are accepted in major stores ... just be careful

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