BlogThings To Know Before Travelling Nepal
22 Sep 2020 snowpath
There is endless list of things you might want to know before travelling any country or place. This becomes more necessary if you are travelling that country or place for the first time. Searching tons of information in internet is time consuming and nerve-wrecking. Safety, visa, transportation system, culture of that country, infrastructures, language spoken and so on. Well here, we provide list of things to know before travelling Nepal to overcome all those shortcomings.
Adaptation in any new environment does not happen overnight. It is sort of evolution, which took thousands of years for our ancestors. Exploration, adventure and travel used to be a legendary activity in past. Not anymore. Thanks to all new innovation and technology of modern days. Our travel itineraries, information is in our finger tips. Moreover, travel and vacation have become really essential and basic needs of human beings in modern society.
The purpose to provide list of things to know before travelling Nepal is to make your travel as enjoyable as possible. In other word, hassle-free and time-saving. Beyond curiosity, the list helps you to adjust in new environment much sooner. This might also make traveller easy to distinguish between the actual facts and myths circulating around.
The list becomes much necessary to travel and trek Nepal, a home to 8 highest mountains of the world. The evolving and aspiring tourism industry of Nepal every year loses huge chunk of travellers to India and China. In other word, Nepal is still not well-connected and well-known among westerners, as hot destination to travel. This is worrisome for Nepalese tourism sectors in digital era. All in all, Travel in Nepal has two distinctive features
Trekking in Himalayas,
Tour in major Touristic Cities.
Depending upon, a traveller might need different kind of information to travel and trek in Nepal. Trekking, climbing, city tour, jungle safari, cycling are some popular tourism activities to do in Nepal. So, which one is your activity among, is first to filtrate and decide before even starting anything. Here, more than stuffing everything, we try to be more specific on the list of things you need to know before travelling Nepal.
Do I need Visa to travel Nepal?
Yes. The visa policy of Nepal is travel-friendly and easy.
Except Indian nationalities, everybody needs visa to enter Nepal.
Citizens from SAARC countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Pakistan, Sri Lanka) plus residents of China, Hongkong and Macau should not pay tourist visa fee for 30 days.
Citizens of 12 countries Afghanistan, Cameroon, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iraq, Liberia, Nigeria, Palestine, Somalia, Syria and Zimbabwe need Visa prior to arrival in Nepal.
Citizens of any other country can obtain Visa of Nepal upon arrival, with valid passport and paying appropriate fees. If you don’t fall on above mentioned category, Department of Immigration provides further information, if you need any. But it would be time taking and complex to understand and to go through each sentence if it is not really necessary. Also Read https://snowpathtrek.com/travel-info/tourist-visa/
Thanks to digital era, you can book your accommodation/ hotel online from your country in major touristic cities of Nepal. Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan, Lumbini are some to mention. Numerous categories of hotel are available starting from as low USD 10 to USD 250+ per night. However, comparing service and price between various categories of hotels is not easy if you are not familiar with. Most of the hotels operate under Bed & Breakfast (BB) plan. Few on full board.
Most of the travellers and trekkers are satisfied within the price range of USD 40 to USD 60. Going through map of Kathmandu is also equally important. It will let you know, how far is your accommodation (hotel) from popular touristic hub; Thamel.
It is good idea to make and carry a small note of name, address and location of your accommodation/hotel. In case you miss your pick-up representative at airport, airport taxi can drop you to your exact location.
Note; It is not be possible to book hotel/ tea house/ lodge through online in trekking regions, except in few places with a telephone ( if you have a number). If you are really unsure and unfamiliar, we suggest you to book your trekking thorough agencies. Moreover, if you want to enjoy hassle-free trekking in Nepal.
Travel Seasons for Nepal
In short, Nepal has two popular travel windows Spring (March- April-May) and Autumn (September-October-November). Clear sky, no rain, mild temperature are the main reasons, travel and trekking agencies recommend these months to travel. However, travellers and trekkers can get reasonable discount on their trips if they can avoid peak season. For example, during Spring season trekkers and travellers can travel Nepal by the end of February or May to avoid crowd.
It is also not uncommon for some trekkers to choose Upper Mustang, Nar Phu during rainy season, since these high-altitude trekking regions receive negligible amount of rain even during monsoon. Also, Read to understand weather and climate of Nepal.
Transportation System in Nepal
Taxis are the most reliable transport to travel around city including airport transfers. Hiring vehicles through travel and trekking agencies is very popular. It highly boosts the reliability and comfort. Green-plated vehicles are especially designated for travellers. Traffic in Kathmandu is busy and sometime annoying as well.
Most of the touristic cities to and from capital city Kathmandu are well-connected with flights and roads. Flights are fast, time-saving, comfortable. Major Highways connecting popular cities are black-topped/ asphalt which runs through difficult hilly terrain of the country. It is fun to travel through road, yet some travellers find lengthy, time consuming and exhausting comparing to flights.
Car, Jeep, HiAce, Hilux, coaster, bus, are some popular type of vehicles available to travel through road as per requirement and necessity. Local vehicles are not comfortable to travel since they are slow and crowded. To amplify safety, we recommend to hire private vehicles and use tourist bus if available.
There are two ropeways in Nepal. One in Chandragiri around 8 KM away from Kathmandu city. Another in Gorkha (Manakamana), 100 Km away from Kathmandu. It is also an intersection to popular city of Chitwan and Pokhara. Both ropeways are in highly religious site and popular for Hindu pilgrimages. It is worthy to adjust these places in your travel itineraries.
Link for you to better understand the transportation system in popular trekking regions of Nepal. One needs to pay high attention to use any kind of vehicle in trekking regions of the country.
Telephone landlines are practically outdated. Telephone lines are only available in offices, organizations, few residences and where there are no mobile services. Like anywhere else in the world, Nepalese people highly sought-after modern gadgets and devices. Smart phones are very common where there are internet facilities. Wi-Fi has become major necessity in every house hold of cities and towns. Without doubt, restaurants, hotels, offices have Wi-Fi and will let you use without any price. That makes Email, chat, instant calls very easy and effective to contact at any part of the world.
If your phone is out of contract with your service provider in home country, you can purchase Nepalese SIM card and easily use in your phone. Submission of a photograph and copy of your passport should be enough to get new SIM card in nearby shop. You can use popular instant messengers if you need to remain in touch frequently with somebody in Nepal without even purchasing SIM card, if there is Wi-Fi service. In emergency situations, you can ask any passer-by to lend their mobile for a while, if you need to contact somebody immediately.
In trekking, the communication services will be highly limited depending upon the remoteness of region. Wi-Fi is available only in countable places. Highly uneven geography can sometime disrupt the desired mobile phone services. If you are backpacker and single traveller/trekker, it is always better to purchase SIM card.
Sanitation and Waste Management system in Nepal
Do not be too much optimistic about sanitation and waste management system in Nepal. Especially in capital city Kathmandu, where population and vehicles stretch the limit of the city and further worsening. Hate to say, as traveller you may witness open drainage system and sewage system that ends at river. Things are not particularly good in major cities including air pollution level. You may find public restrooms and dustbins only in particular and limited places like of park, airport, heritage sites. Do not expect them in streets of major cities. Their cleanliness is again questionable.
Almost fixed itinerary means, you may encounter fewer problems in trekking. Fewer human activities in trekking region means fewer pollution. Some communities in trekking region have put dustbins in certain distances to dispose your bottles, wrappers and garbage. Some even conduct cleanliness from time to time, but still it is not satisfactory and wastages are piling up.
Everything is not discouraging; people are getting conscious and changing habits and lifestyle. Cleanliness and maintenance of infrastructures in public zone is improving, encouraging and generally gets high importance these days. Especially, in places of tourist attraction. Afterall, as foreigner and traveller you may never witness these types of things unless you dwell, roam and visit in free style
Health care (Hospitals/Pharmacy)
Generally, in Nepal there are two types of health facilities private hospitals/clinics and government funded hospitals. Both of its kinds are good and reliable. The services in government hospital are slow but cheap. In contrary, private hospitals and clinics provide fast service but is expensive.
Regrading for travellers and trekkers, your insurance company may provide the list of hospitals to visit in case of emergencies. You may not receive the insurance money, if you do not follow policy of insurance company. Travel and trek organizers sincerely assist you in case of emergencies, if you need to get admitted in hospitals/clinics.
It is very common to see numbers of pharmacies in streets of Nepal. The numbers of pharmacies gradually decrease from cities to town to countryside to trekking regions. So, one need to buy necessary medicines in cities of Nepal that of Kathmandu, Pokhara Chitwan. For minor sickness like headaches, common colds, diarrhoea one can buy medicines without prescription of doctors. To buy complex types of drugs and medicine one need prescriptions of doctors.
Rather than relying on educational degree, a simple training and procedure allows pharmacies to sell medicines and drugs in Nepal. For example, five years back there used to be heavy misuse of antibiotics due to misconceptions in public and some business-minded sellers. It is improving, thanks to various medias and experts in increasing awareness among people about use of antibiotics.
All in all, it is very easy to find pharmacies in Nepal. It is not like pharmacy of Nepal can’t provide insulin for diabetes or tablets for high blood pressure. However, if you take some medicine regularly, we urge you to bring enough stock from your own country. After all, suddenly changing brand and dosages of medicine without prescription of doctor is not good idea. First aid kit, you may bring from home country, if not seek help from travel and trek organizers.
Simple, purchase insurance policy that covers both helicopter evacuation and that covers your medical bills. This is not a choice but is mandatory to travel in Nepal. You can purchase the travel policy in your own country or in Nepal with help of your trek/tour organizers.
Insurance company are tightening their policy for Nepal each year due to malpractices of organizers and agencies in Helicopter rescue. So, you may need to find proper insurance company that covers Nepal travel. Do not attempt to ride helicopter thinking your insurance policy covers the cost. We repeat, unrequired and unnecessary helicopter ride, you may end paying from your pocket.
Cash Vs Cards
USD, Euro, AUD, GBP, CAD, Franc, are easily accepted in Nepal. Once you are in Nepal, you need to convert them into Nepalese currency with institutions authorized by Nepal Rastra Bank. A local shop for grocery doesn’t accept foreign currency. Exchange enough currency as per your spending habit. Take a receipt, so while leaving Nepal you can re-convert it. As per rule, any currency equal to or above USD 5000, you must declare in airport on arrival.
Major cards are accepted in popular touristic city of the country. Including supermarkets, restaurants, travel and trekking agencies. Cards may not work in small towns, trekking regions and for general purposes. Do not solely rely on it. Carry some hard cash as contingency. Further information available here.
Greetings and other Norms
Namaste (Joining two palms together around chest area) is very popular and general way of greetings anybody. Bowing and touching down the feet of elders is more conservative and traditional way that is done in between close family members. Younger respects elder and in reciprocal elders show love and kindness to youngers, is basic tradition and norms among Nepalese people. Thank you is Dhanyabaad in Nepali. Smile overcomes any language barriers and communication difficulty with Nepalese people.
There is no any definitive dress code in Nepal. Young generations are open and embraces denims, shorts, tees, short length dresses/skirts. Older generation may not have same attitude in short dresses. They are acceptable in most part of the city. However, may not be warmly accepted in countryside. Wearing too much revealing cloths is not good idea.
You need to open your shoes before entering somebody’s house. Generally, foreigners are not allowed in Hindu temples. If you are allowed, you may need to put-off any leather belongings outside before entering, including shoes.
Tipping, upon using some types of service is happily accepted by Nepalese people. However, it is not expected.
Sex is extra-ordinarily private matters between individuals. Talking in public places openly about sex subjects is offensive and awkward.
Always put your right hand forward while receiving and giving things.
Food and Drink in Nepal
A set (thali) of Rice, lentil soup and seasonal vegetables is the main diet of Nepalese people which they consume twice a day as lunch and dinner. Occasionally, the set includes meat curry and some sorts of pickles. Snacks in between depends upon individual preferences of people. Momo and Chow Mein only comes behind dal bhat. Beverages carry high significance in some cultural groups during special ceremonies and festivals. Raksi, chhyang are popular home-brewed alcohol from rice, millet and maize. It is illegal to brew and sell for mass consumption, yet rarely punishable.
But still, travellers and trekkers should not necessarily miss food they generally eat in their home. Restaurants in major cities offer varieties of healthy and tasty cuisines as per your preferences. Imported beverages are available in all types of restaurants and super markets.
During trekking as well, you may find different types of cuisines depending upon how remote the region is. It might not look and taste as same as in city, but we have not heard any trekker complaining about quality of food in trekking. Doubtless, they are healthy and fresh. Beer are available in most of the tea houses.
Drinking beverages openly in the public area beside hotel, restaurant, pub may be considered as ill-mannered in Nepali culture. However, it is not illegal unless you cause social disturbances. Generally, Nepalese people consume beverages quietly in the evening after work.
It is very common to see Nepalese people eating their food with right-hand without using fork and spoon.
Some Nepalese families like to show respect by serving first to “Guests” before eating themselves. So, if they do not eat together with you in same dining table, it’s not weird at all.
In restaurants, you can ask anything and as much as you like in your dal bhat set without paying extra except for meat curry and beverages. However, asking for and throwing excessive food is bad manner.
Eating and distribution of Beef (cow) meat is illegal in Nepal. It is punishable. However, buffalo meat is acceptable. Poultry, fish, pork and lambs are popular protein cooked in house depending cultural background.
Festivals of Nepal
Nepal has very much diversified culture, tradition and religion. So, it is not uncommon to have various types of festivals. Also, Nepal celebrates international, national and regional festivals equally depending their significances. Click here to know the various types of festivals in Nepal. Like anywhere else in the world, gathering together, eating and boozing together brings harmony and creates bond between people during festival.
Two big festivals like Dashain and Deepawali falls on September/October, during peak season of tourism activities in Nepal. So, most of the past travellers know how important festivals are in Nepal. Some lucky travellers are also invited and get opportunity to participate in these festivals with their trek/tour organizers. Businesses are put aside, and it helps travellers and trekkers to create personal bond with Nepalese people.
Festivals of colours, Holi falls during travel season as well. There are more pictures circulating in internet of foreigners and travellers participating and celebrating Holi than that of Nepalese. Unlike, other festivals Holi is openly celebrated in the street as well, even if you don’t like to participate you can witness fun.
There are numerous big and small festivals in Nepal with and without public holidays. Of course, major festivals celebrated nationally receives public holidays. People celebrates some festivals in between close family members or small community for a continuity of family or communal traditions and culture. Most of them are unknown to outsiders.
Religions of Nepal
Though the major population of Nepalese follow Hinduism, all other religions are respected equally. 81.3% are Hindus, 9% are Buddhist, 4.4% are Muslims, 3% Kiratist, 1.4% are Christian, 0.1% Sikhs, 0.1% are Jains and 0.7% follows other or don’t follow at all. Minority of followers form a cluster and live in a small community but they are never undermined, provoked or disturbed. High tolerance for each other is the main driving force for cultural and religious harmony in Nepal between people.
Interestingly, the historical and religious co-relation between Hinduism and Buddhism only of its kind is found only in Nepal. Lord Buddha (prince Siddhartha Gautam before gaining enlightenment) was born in Lumbini of Nepal, west-south of the country. This has entangled deep religious bond and respect between Hinduism and Buddhism in Nepal. It is very common to see Buddhist archaeology, idols, sculptures in major Hindu temples and reciprocals in Buddhists monasteries and stupas. More, the medieval Buddhist archaeologies and temples are built under Hindu rulers.
There are some ideological conflicts in between Hindus and Buddhists as well. For example, animal sacrifice is integral part of Hinduism while Buddhism rejects it. Hinduism are highly driven by mythology while Buddhism followers believe in worldwide accepted philosophical teaching of love and peace.
Traditionally, for a long time Buddhist people live in northern part of the country and it still continues, while majority of Hindus live in southern part of the country. The mid-section or hilly region of the country is equally shared by all religious communities. So, a trekker gets a lot of opportunity to know and interact with Buddhists while a tour enthusiast (generally in hilly and south region of the country) gets to know more about Hinduism.
Languages Spoken in Nepal
Various indigenous and ethnic communities have their own language of communication. In fact, there are 129 languages spoken in Nepal. Nepali is official language of Nepal. Nepal government may increase number of official languages in future to increase more affiliations among people. Nepali and Hindi both has Devanagari Lipi (alphabets), so most Nepalese people can understand and speak Hindi language as well.
English is common language to communicate with travellers in Nepal. Most of the people working in tourism can English speak well. Trekking and tour guide can communicate with English speaker travellers and trekkers easily. New generations of Nepal are fluent in English, since English are taught in Nepal from primary level. Various educational courses in private schools are in English medium. In short, you won’t have difficulty communicating if you speak and understand English language a bit.
Note; If you don’t speak and understand English at all, paying extra money, you can hire tour and trekking guide that speaks your native language. German, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, French tour and trekking guides are available upon request of travellers and trekkers. However, hiring these special guides for number of days can skyrocket your overall budget as a single trekker. But you can mutually share the cost, if you are trekking and travelling in group, voila!!!
UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Nepal
There are four UNESCO world heritage sites in Nepal. Namely, Sagarmatha National Park, Kathmandu valley, Chitwan National park and Lumbini. Each of them carries high significance and are pride of Nepalese people.
Highest mountain of world, Mount Everest (8848) is in Sagarmatha National park east-north of Nepal. The park is one of the busiest trekking and climbing region in the planet. Mount Lhotse (8516), third highest and Cho Oyu (8188m) sixth highest mountain are also in Sagarmatha National park. Numerous mountains and peaks of different height attracts mountain lovers from all over the world. It is frequently listed as one of the best trekking regions in the world.
Interesting enough, not a specific monuments or sculptures, whole capital city Kathmandu is listed as UNESCO world heritage sites. City of temples, boasts for popular sculptures, idols, monuments. These carry religious, historical, cultural and traditional beliefs of Nepalese people. Out of many Swayambhunath, Kathmandu Durbar square, Pashupatinath, Boudhhanath, Patan Durbar square and Bhakatapur Durbar square are major sites.
Lumbini is birth place of Lord Buddha, situated in south-west of Nepal. Though, some people consider Lumbini as religious site, it is not. Mecca of Buddhism, message of peace and love attracts thousands of visitors in Lumbini, despite what religion people may follow. Yearly, a grand function is organized on the birth date of Lord Buddha from government level. If you are not a trekker in Nepal, you must include Lumbini in your tour itinerary.
Chitwan National Park is in mid-southern part of country. Popular for jungle safari and bird watching. Can consider Amazon of Nepal. Considering its size, it has very diversified ecosystem from tropical, wetland to savannah. Heaven for wildlife enthusiast. One-horned rhinoceros, Bengal tigers and Asian elephants all critically endangered mammals are the symbol of Chitwan National park.
Late, but Government has recorded 15 more sites in tentative list of UNESCO world Heritage sites in 2019. Namely, Panauti, Tilaurakot, caves of Mustang, Gorkha Durbar, Ramagrama, Khokhana, Lo-manthang, Sankhu, Rishikesh complex, Nuwakot Durbar, Ram Janaki temple, Tansen, Sinja valley and Bhurti temple of Dailekh. Hope these get listed soon and help boost tourism of Nepal in future.
Travelling/ Trekking Alone vs in Group
Yes, both have Pros and Cons. Safety, fun, price, privacy, your personal nature should determine what is better for you. There are no any definitive numbers how many persons should be in group to travel Nepal. We recommend you to travel and trek in small group of family and friends if possible, for better outcome. Also Read group size to trek in Nepal
Travelling Nepal with Children
Every year some parents travel Nepal with their children. It is possible to travel Nepal with children and toddler, but definitively needs a second thought. Lack of proper children-friendly infrastructures makes hard to keep them engaged. After all, we don’t have theme parks similar to that of Disney land or beaches or any other. Nepal is rich naturally, historically and culturally if it engages children, it’s simply about proper management and providing ultimate care for them.
Budget to Travel/Trek in Nepal
This is tricky to give a definitive answer. Lots of factors come in play to determine your travel/trek budget in Nepal. Trekking Vs tour, price of international flights to Nepal, your number of days in Nepal, your spending habit, level of luxury/comfort you need, place you visit, organized travel/trek through agency, travelling as backpacker, permit requirement, transportation are some factors that can fluctuate price. However, inquiring with some reliable agencies you will know approximate budget. Pay attention to unnaturally low-price agencies offer.
Inflation rate of Nepal is pretty stable. 4.2% in 2018, 4.6% in 2019, forecast of 6.2 % in 2020 and 5.5 % in year 2021. No, unnatural rise in price of foods and commodities is expected. Furthermore, foreign currencies like that of USD, GBP, Australian Dollar, Canadian Dollar, Swiss Franc, Euro are very strong comparing Nepalese currency. This increases the overall purchase power of travellers and trekkers in Nepal. Steady rate of inflation in Nepal, stronger your currency, as a traveller you are already in advantage to travel Nepal.
Marijuana and prostitution are illegal in Nepal
Smoking marijuana is illegal in Nepal. Like anywhere else, you can smoke with high privacy and secrecy, importantly out of sight of police and law enforcers. However, possessing marijuana, hashish in unreasonably high quantity, you will end up in prison for pretty long time. It will be considered as trade of illegal substances. Besides, possessing all other synthetic drugs and substances are illegal in Nepal.
Sex is very exclusive and private matter in Nepali culture. Rarely, people talk about it. Prostitution is illegal in Nepal. That implies there are no escort services in Nepal and somebody found operating will land in prison. NGOs and INGOs working on this matter claim, some are operating these illegal activities in backdrop of other business. Regular raid from law enforcers and police proves, these claims to be true.
Even if you were able to sneak, and caught by police, you will face huge social and moral embarrassment. However, making friends and sex with mutual consent between adults is not illegal. This implies for both male and female travellers. If authority proves your involvement and engagement in flesh trade, you will be awarded a lengthy sentence in Nepal prison.
Counterfeits in Nepal
Every travellers and trekkers need Nepalese currency immediately, once they land in Nepal. It is very unusual and rare to have fake notes with travellers and trekkers in Nepal. Still it is very important to pay attention and be careful. Exchanging currency from authorized banks, money exchanges, travel and trek agencies you will be safe. Ask receipts of exchange to strengthen your position, in case problems arise in future.
Every traveller should pay maximum attention while buying expensive souvenir in Nepal. This can be jewellery, Thangkas, sculptures and idols or any other. If you are buying expensive stones and metals in Nepal, be sure you buy them at right shop and they are genuine. Thangkas are on the top of the list as souvenir item among travellers. Pretty expensive. Spend wisely.
You can only purchase prototypes of sculptures and idols in Nepal. Even, if you able to buy genuine and real, you need to verify it from department of archaeology to take along. The chances are you cannot take them with you. Beside losing money, you may face legal troubles for acquiring old sculptures and idols of cultural and historical importance.
Nightlife Culture in Nepal (bars/pubs/casinos/discotheques)
Generally, nightlife is all about boozing dancing and music. Nepal is neither as open as Thailand nor as strict as Saudi Arabia regarding nightlife. There is certain and limited time frame to open bars/pubs or any business those operating in night, targeting nightcrawlers. Beyond, and you may spend night at police custody.
Live music, pubs, bars, discotheques, Nepali Dohori are some of its kind that entertain party lovers. Most of them remain pack by Nepalese youths. Depending upon, there might be a lot of differences in quality and price. We do not recommend travellers going outside touristic place like Thamel of Kathmandu and Lakeside of Pokhara. Since, these places operate business targeting foreigners and travellers, some of them have real quality to enjoy. Again, remaining safe should be your main priority.
Note ; If you are not regular wanderer and do not have any real experiences as backpacker or solo travellers, we recommend you booking your travel/trek/tour through agencies. Did we miss something? Go on adding in comment box.