Nepal is definitely one of the most diverse and exciting countries in the world – depending on the day you could be in the middle of a busy, bustling market street in Thamel looking through an amazing selection of local fabrics and clothing. And the next day you could be on a snowy mountaintop like Langtang trek feeling accomplished as you look over the wonders of the country’s blessed and beautiful landscapes. Traveling to a place as amazing as Nepal can be a wonderful experience indeed – but preparation is definitely one of those things which can make or break a fantastic travel experience, so here is a Nepal travel guide containing Nepal Travel Tips to plan a hassle-free of a trip as possible:
1. How to get around Kathmandu
Newcomers to Kathmandu might find the city to be overwhelming and messy at first, but after some time you will find that there is actually an “organized chaos” behind it – it’s fairly easy to get around with a bit of practice. There are a variety of different options for transport and it all depends on your preference! Once you know how to get around in Kathmandu, you can branch off into other parts of Nepal with ease, considering other provinces are a lot less congested and hectic compared to the capital.
2. Public Transportation in Kathmandu and the rest of Nepal
Public transportation in Kathmandu can be crowded and a little stressful, but the great part about this option is that it’s very affordable, a good option for travelers on a budget. There are two main options to consider when it comes to public transport:
For short rides, a rickshaw costs around 80 NPR per ride. Be sure to agree on a price before riding, however, as haggling and overcharging is the norm in Kathmandu.
For longer distances as well as destinations outside Thamel and the Kathmandu Valley, the bus is a good choice for those on a budget. Buses from Kathmandu access other great tourist spots and provinces like Pokhara and Chitwan National Park. Do note, however, that buses in Kathmandu frequently stop, crowding is frequent, and the ride can be bumpy on certain main roads. For a better experience, you can ride on tourist buses instead of normal ones – although that comes with a higher price tag.
Tip: Always carry with you medicines for motion sickness, roads in Nepal can get dusty, windy and rough. If you are prone (or even if you aren’t) it’s best to be prepared for it. Also, most buses are no ac so it’s best if you have a scarf to protect yourself from the dust.
3. There is no Uber in Nepal but there are other Ride-Sharing Apps
Unlike other country capitals, there isn’t Uber in Kathmandu or the rest of Nepal. Other ridesharing services are available, however, like Tootle which has a very similar format to apps like Uber and Grab. Unfortunately, the Nepalese government and major taxi operators have cracked down on Tootle, making it very find to hard a ride using the app, especially during the rush hour. Because of this, it’s best to find other, more reliable private transport and rental options:
Many tourists prefer to ride taxis over public transportation to avoid pollution and cramped vehicles. Taxis can be found almost anywhere in Kathmandu – make sure to agree upon the price before boarding as many drivers do not abide by the taxi meter.
Rent a motorcycle
There are many motorcycle rentals available in Kathmandu. The fee per day costs around 800 NPR and in addition to that, you will have to leave your passport with the company as a deposit. This is a good option for those who have an International Driving Permit and can get around Kathmandu’s traffic with ease.
Cycling is a great and easy way to get around Kathmandu, especially if you’ll be traveling through the tighter alleyways in Thamel. There are many bike rentals available in the city for an 800 NPR fee per day.
4. Safety in Nepal
Is it safe to walk around Kathmandu? Is it safe for tourists?
Yes, Kathmandu is generally safe to travel and walk around for tourists. However, like most major cities, there are some risks to look out for:
Overcharging of Transportation
- Drugs Drugs, despite currently being illegal, are also a problem in Kathmandu – there will be individuals trying to sell substances to you, especially along the streets of Thamel. The best course of action is to just ignore them and be on your way as fast as you can.
5. Best Places to stay in Kathmandu
For easy access to the city and most of what Kathmandu has to offer, Thamel is the best place to stay. There is a wide selection of different accommodations to choose from, ranging from homestays, hostels, and higher end hotels. Restaurants and local street food are abundant here, making it never difficult to find somewhere to eat. It’s also the party capital of the city, so those who live nightlife will love the scene in Thamel. One con about Thamel is that it can be quite crowded, full of both tourists and locals so those who aren’t fond of noise and congestion may not like it here.
A more subdued and decongested area to stay in Kathmandu is Lazimpat, just 15 minutes north of Thamel on foot. This area is mostly where expats and affluent individuals like to frequent, so expect a lot of Western-style restaurants and clubs. A pro about staying at Lazimpat is less noise and better wifi access, and a con is a distance from the culture, excitement, and convenience that is offered in places like Thamel.
Freak Street is great for those who love a more alternative atmosphere – it used to be a place where hippies gathered in Kathmandu before a majority of them were deported to India. But even till this day, there are old run down buildings of shops that used to sell substances like hashish. Many tourists love to come here for the interesting history, abundance of cheap hostels and travel agencies, as well as close proximity to tourist destinations such as the beautiful Kathmandu Durbar Square.
6. Weather in Nepal
Unlike some Asian countries, Nepal is host to four different seasons a year – and with the variety of outdoor activities that are available in the country, it’s best to plan your visit with the best possible weather in mind. This is in order to ensure that your itinerary is able to push through safely.
March to May, best for hiking, trekking, and visits to national parks
June to August, heavy rains and flooding not suitable for outdoor activities
December to January, snow especially at higher elevations
September to November, great for outdoor activities due to clear skies and moderate temperatures
7. Etiquette and Manners
As with all countries, it helps to learn the etiquette and manners practiced by the locals in order to better fit in and lessen instances of offending anybody.
- Pay for items with your right hand – this is considered polite.
- Never use your left hand for eating as it is considered ‘dirty’ in Nepali culture, as well as in other countries of the Indian subcontinent
- When visiting stupas and temples, always walk in a clockwise direction with the stupa on your right hand side.
- Cover your knees and shoulders at holy sites and do not show physical affection with romantic partners as this can be seen as rude
- Use the Namaste greeting (hands folded together then bowing) when meeting someone for the first time since Nepali people do not usually shake hands when greeting.
- Always remove your shoes when entering a house or monastery
- As much as possible, always ask permission before taking pictures of individuals especially if it’s inside a sacred location like the stupas and monasteries
- When you walk around stupas, make sure you do It in a clockwise direction
8. Tipping in Nepal
Tipping culture in Nepal varies depending on the service offered. When it comes to restaurants and bars, the tip is usually already included in the service charge. When it comes to taxis, there is no need to tip unless you really want to. As for more personal services like that of homestay hosts, porters, and guides – it’s usually customary and polite to tip for every day that you avail of their service. Around 3-5 USD per day, per person is the norm, especially during treks.
9. Drinking Water in Nepal
While tap water is safe in many Western countries, this is not the case in Kathmandu and the rest of Nepal. Clean water is available bottled, boiled, and at water dispensers in restaurants and hotels. Another option is to bring your own handheld water purifier – which is useful especially during treks, since you can gather lake or river water and rehydrate with ease.
10. Nepal Bathrooms
While higher end hotels and hostels will have your typical western toilets, the norm in Nepal are squat toilets – especially in rural areas and bathrooms on hiking trails. These sorts of toilets do not usually have toilet paper since Nepali use water and soap to wash, so bring along toilet paper wherever you go if you’re more used to that.
11. Nepali Cuisine
While Nepal food and street food generally have good cleaning practices, people who aren’t used to Nepali food might find themselves getting a stomach bug. This is difficult to prevent, but a good way to minimize instances is to completely avoid any food that’s been washed with tap water, such as fresh produce like fruits and vegetables. If you really want to buy some, then it’s best to hold onto the products until you get to your accommodation where there is filtered water to wash the food off.
Here’s a good list of local food and must try food while in Nepal. I highly recommend the Backstreet Academy streetfood tour and it’s best if you do it on your first day. It introduces you to all the local cuisines and where to get them. I know momos are available almost everywhere but I loved the momos they showed us.
12. The Value of Homestays
It might seem comforting and familiar to stay at a well known chain hotel in Kathmandu, but sometimes pushing yourself out of your comfort zone really pays off! Booking a homestay in Nepal not only allows you to support the livelihoods of the locals, but you gain an intimate experience you won’t get at any corporate hotel. You’ll make a second family and grow bonds, which will make your trip all the more memorable – so do consider a homestay over a hotel stay when visiting Nepal, especially if it’s for the first time.
13. What to wear in Nepal
Nepali people are generally accepting of whatever tourists like to wear, with the exception of religious and holy areas where people are expected to cover up their shoulders and knees. But Nepal can be hot and humid, so it’s best to dress accordingly. Some examples of great outfit options include:
- Loose shirts
- Maxi skirts
- Cotton clothes
- Jackets and parkas for colder seasons as a second layer
14. Festivals in Nepal
One of the most exciting and unforgettable experiences when in Nepal is certainly being able to see the locals celebrate the festivals close to their culture and hearts. If you want to join in on the fun then it’s definitely good to plan ahead. Here are some of the most prominent celebrations in the country:
- Holi: This is probably the most well known one! Also known as the Festival of Colors and Love, Holi is a festival celebrated in many countries of the Indian Subcontinent. During the festivities, people throw around natural dyes at one another to promote love and forgiveness, coating the streets in a temporary rainbow explosion that easily washes off in the rain. It typically occurs in the month of March – in 2020, it’s scheduled for March 9.
- Dashain: Dashain is the longest Hindu festival in Nepal, usually lasting for two weeks from late September to early October. This is usually considered the most important festival. Kathmandu becomes much less congested during these times because people go home to be with their families during the festival.
- Tihar: Tihar is a five day festival which celebrates a different Hindu deity each day by decorating homes with lights and lanterns, dancing, singing, gambling, and just overall merrymaking. Tihar typically occurs in late October.
15. Visa in Nepal
Most people just need visa on arrival from Nepal, if you are Indian, then you don’t even need a visa. Read here for how to get a visa on arrival in Nepal
15 Days: $25 USD
30 Days: $40 USD
90 Days: $100 USD
16. Currency in Nepal
1 USD = 110 NPR ( as of time of writing)
To make it easier for us to understand, we counted it as 1usd/ 100 NPR that way it’s easier for us to compute.
Example: Beer in Thamel is usually 450NPR-550 NPR for 650 litres, to convert to dollars it is s just 4.5- 5.5 USD.
There are a lot of ATMs and a lot of money exchange around Nepal so it’s best to just change as you need. You won’t be able to exchange Nepalese Rupees outside of Nepal so make sure to exchange it in the airport before you leave.
17. Helpful Phrases in Nepal
Nepal receives lots of visitors from overseas every single year, meaning lots of their residences are able to speak basic English, especially in Kathmandu. However, it is still good to learn a few Nepali phrases – both to show the locals that you’re interested in their culture and language, as well as to make communication (especially in the more rural areas) easier.
- Hello, goodbye: Namaste
- Thank you: dhanyabaad
- How much?: Kati paisa?
- Do you speak English?: Tapaain angrejee boln saknuhunchha?
- Can I take a picture?: Ke ma tasbeer khichna sakchhu?
- Let’s go : Jam Jam
18. Bartering in Nepal
It is cheap to shop in Nepal but as in any Asian country like Bangkok, Vietnam, India, Philippines and more. Nepal is also a country where you need to barter especially with Taxi drivers and in Thamel.
A classic example, Taxi drivers would charge an arm and a leg at night. One night, they charged us 800NPR to get home but Haley and I just kept walking , we got it for 350-400NPR.
Same goes with clothing. I think it’s best to have smaller bills, so it’s easier to haggle rather than having a big one and asking for change.
19. Internet in Nepal
I’ve had decent internet in hotels in Kathmandu, Lumbini, Patan and Panauti. I mean, I am able to edit blog posts, upload photos, send messages and emails and occasionally stream Netflix so it’s not bad.
Heading to Langtang though, that’s a different story, but come on, it’s the mountains after all.
In the bigger cities, you do get decent wifi or internet in Nepal.
20. Local Sim Cards
There are two service providers of internet in Nepal NCell and Nepal Telecom but I chose to go with the stronger one which is Ncell.
Buying Nepal simcard at Kathmandu Airport
The first time I was in Kathmandu with BITM in January, I bought my NCell sim card at Kathmandu airport. It was pretty easy. You can see it right after baggage claim, right through the sliding doors and you see a big sign saying NCELL.
You will need to show them your passport or an ID and then fill up a registration form. They will take a picture of your ID.
Tip: Since I didn’t have money changed yet and exchange rates in airports are usually crappy, I used my credit card instead. Yes, they accept credit cards.
Also, people from the NCell booth in Kathmandu airport helps you set up your simcard so the moment you step out, you are all set. Or well, it takes around 20 minutes before it gets activated but basically you are set.
Tip: The price of the simcard and data in the airport might be slightly pricier but not a big difference
Buying Nepal sim card in an Ncell Shop in the city
Around Kathmandu, there are many places you can buy a sim card. Some hole in the wall shops also sells but they overcharge or sometimes they don’t speak English or they couldn’t really explain how to activate the sim card.
If you are buying from the city, it’s best to go to Ncell shop as they can provide you with full service. I was also able to use my credit card to pay
Electric Sockets in Nepal
Nepal uses 220/50HZ electricity. Most of the time the accommodations had universal sockets but it’s still good to travel with a universal adaptor.
Nepalese People are the friendliest People
Do you think you’re prepared now for your next trip to Nepal? This is a great starter guide for the things to keep in mind during your visit, but the most important thing is to enjoy yourself on your trip. It’s perfectly fine to let loose in a place as accepting and diverse like Nepal is, but just remember to be respectful and you’re sure to have a wonderful experience in the country.