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 15 best souvenirs to buy in Nepal
1) Singing bowls: My number one recommendation is buy yourself a Nepali Singing Bowl. Even though their origin are Tibetan when I was in Tibet the 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 400 rupees.
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 300 rupees.
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 pashmina. 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 200 rupees (not pure). Fore real Pashmina you’ll be looking at USD $20.
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. In 2016 local Nepali firms have started their own brands like Sonam, it’s worth taking a lot though the prices will be higher.
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 & Tiger game start at about 450 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 400 rupees.
8) Thankas: People come to Nepal just for Thankas! These are original Nepali paintings made from embroidery. Originally from Tibet, these paintings have found a home in Nepal. 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!
10) Beads & stone jewelery: If you are looking to buy beads or stone jewelery then Kathmandu offers one of the greatest collections in the world. From blue lapiz to yak bone or a collection of semi-precious stones. Bodhi seeds or the ever popular Rudraksha seeds. You’ll find them all in Kathmandu. Discover more about where to buy beads in Nepal.
Price: 50 rupees on up.
11) Nepali 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.
12) 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.
13) 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.
14) Bags and leather goods: Leather made from buffalo is widely available in Nepal. Most it comes from the terai regions of Nepal and brought up to Kathmandu for stitching. The quality is quite high though don’t expect a high polish finish or the like. I bought a leather bag here about 8 years ago and it’s still going well. Many leather shops also sell handbags, purses and wallets made from colorful cloth.
Price: A ladies handbag starts at around 2,000 rupees.
15) Tea & spices knives: Traditional dried tea leaves are immensely popular in Nepal. Discover first flush golden tips tea, or silver tips tea to the ever popular Ilam tea grown in the Nepali eastern highlands. Read more about where to buy tea in Nepal.
Price: 250 grms of tea starts at around 250 rupees.
How to send your Nepali 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.
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