Lake Phewa, Pokhara, Nepal
Planning your next adventure? Try Nepal! I Recently ventured there myself and highly recommend it to the traveler who wants to immerse themselves in an exotic culture and wonderful community. Nepal is known for their kind people and amazing wildlife, and I can certainly say both of those are correct. Nepali People are open and welcoming and eager to get to you and your culture! They’ll try and feed you every chance they get and maybe teach you some useful Nepali phrases! In this post I’ll talk about pre-departure tips, transportation, safety, culture, and my recommendations!
- vaccines- the first thing you should research before leaving for Nepal are the vaccines you are going to need. You can visit your regular doctor or visit a travel clinic like Passport Health . They will give you a consult and help give all the information you need to stay safe in the regions you are visiting. You can also find information about vaccines and clinics on the CDC website.
- visa- you will need a tourist visa to enter Nepal which you can either buy upon arrival in Kathmandu airport or online before hand. Visas are for 15, 30, or 90 days for $25/$40/$100. You can purchase your visa using USD, EUR, or GBP at the airport. You should always carry some USD with you because it is the easiest to exchange while you are there, however EUR and GBP are also acceptable. You can find all the information here and the actual application here.
- Money- Nepalese Rupees are very difficult to get outside of Nepal so your best bet is to change over USD at the airport. There are ATM’s available widely throughout Kathmandu and Pokhara, however in the more rural regions they become virtually nonexistent. Of course you are going to get the worst exchange rate at the airport so there is always the option to change money over once you are in the city. Currently the exchange rate is 107 NRS = 1 USD. When you change over your money I recommend asking for small bills because it will be easier to use. Some of the smaller stores do not have change for a thousand rupee bill for example, plus smaller bills are easier when you are bartering. Yep, you can barter! Almost all of the shop owners (excluding supermarkets) will go to a much lower price on something if you stick to your guns.
- International- There are several different routes taken to get to Nepal from the U.S., most involve flying through Dubai or another country in that region. However those flights are generally more expensive so if you are on the west coast you might opt for flying through China. This route is much cheaper and I found it easy and fairly simple. The airline I flew was China Southern Airlines and they were great! I would definitely recommend them to anyone thinking of flying through China.
- Domestic- One option available to tourists is to take a domestic flight to get around Nepal. There are airports all over Nepal including Kathmandu, Pokhara, Bharaptur, Sauraha, and many others. However some of these airlines have had bad reviews.
- Bus- If you are planning to travel to Pokhara, Chitwan, or Lumbini, you can choose the option of taking a tourist coach bus. they are fairly cheap and an effecient way to go. The Ride to Chitwan is about 5 hours and the ride to Pokhara is about 7 hours. However when there is rain, landslides occur often. When this happens the ride can be much longer. My ride from Chitwan to Pokhara took 9 hours and it took a friend of mine 15 hours! These landslides are most common during monsoon season, July to August.
Nepal is a relatively safe city to be in. While the image of Benedict Cumberbatch being mugged in Kathmandu in Doctor Strange is burned into our brain, the main thing you should be cautious about is pick pocketing. Like in every big city, you should keep your valuables close to you in a money belt. I never felt unsafe in Nepal except when walking in the road. The biggest problem for tourist is car accidents. People in Nepal drive a lot differently than we do, in a way we would find reckless and dangerous. There are not any traffic lights or stops signs and its pretty much a free for all for pedestrians. You should never expect anyone to stop for you when you are crossing the road and always be alert for drivers who aren’t paying attention. On a scale of crime rate, Kathmandu is a safer city than Sacramento, California. So as long as you make smart decisions regarding your possessions, you should be okay.
- Language- The Nepali language is complex but there are some essential you should know.-
- Namaste – Hello – This is most commonly used, sound like a local in no time!
- Subha raatri – good night
- subha bihani – good morning
- ghar – house/home
- thank you – danyaba
- Food – the food, while delicious, is very spicy! yummy curries, fried dal, mountains of rice, momo dumplings, and more! Most of the food is vegetarian but some curries and dumplings come with chicken. There is no beef or any red meats due to cultural beliefs but pork and chicken are often served in dishes. However when I say spicy, mean SPICY! If spice isn’t your thing then I would ask for your to be mild and then it will still be a little bit spicy but shouldn’t burn your mouth. Writing this has made me begin to crave Nepali food!
- Customs- There are some cultural and religious customs to be aware of when travelling in Nepal. The majority of the country is Hindu and Buddhist. You may see cows wandering the streets aimlessly, because they are sacred and treated respectfully. The cow is also the national animal of Nepal. The gesture for “yes” is different to here, its more of a bobbing motion back and forth the gesture we might make for “maybe”. This is something that takes getting used to but once you get the hang of it you may start doing it yourself! Nepalis generally welcome having their picture taken, but always make sure to ask first and be cautious as some may insist on a tip afterwards. That is another popular there, they will often insist on a tip for the smallest tasks, maybe posing for a picture or helping you with your bag. If someone insists on a tip make sure to give them no more than $1. It is also customary to remove your shoes before stepping into someones home, this also goes for many hospitals, schools, and other buildings.
- accommodation – There are a number of great hotels in Kathmandu, my recommendations are Kathmandu Prince Hotel and International Guest House. These are modest wonderful places to stay and I would definitely stay again when I return to Nepal!
- Food – There is some amazing places to get street food in Kathmandu but be careful because some of those places are not that hygenic! The supermarket is also a great place to grab some grub that reminds you of home. They have everything from oreos to spaghetti. A great restaurant to check out is the Gokarna House Restaurant and cultural experience. You can see a great show if music and dancing along with some delicious food! right in the heart of Thamel! Another great place is the Roadhouse Cafe, they have some delicious food that’ll remind you of home.
- sites – There are some amazing temples to visit in Kathmandu! My all time favorite is Monkey Temple (Swayambhunath Stupa). You can see monkeys crawiling all over the place, see a breath taking view of the Kathmandu Valley and shop til you drop! Speaking of shopping, the district of thamel is great for shopping! you can find just about anything there and the store owners pretty much expect you to barter.
- accommodation- One great place to stay in Chitwan is Hotel Global. They have great, friendly staff and wonderful facilities. Plus the holy grail… air conditioning! You can get your room icy cold! They make delicious food with a perfect balance of western and Nepali food for all to enjoy!