The Essential One-Page Super-Guide to Nepal

Touted as one of the most beautiful places on earth,  a landlocked nation sandwiched between rising superpowers, Nepal is bordered by China in the north and India in the south, east, and west. A multiethnic nation with a population of 26.4 million, Nepal is also home to eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains, including Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth.

The two most popular destination cities for international travelers are the capital Kathmandu and Pokhara.

Major Cities

Kathmandu is the nation’s capital and largest city.

City (District) Population

1 Kathmandu (Kathmandu) 975,453
2 Pokhara (Kaski) 264,991
3 Biratnagar (Morang) 201,125
4 Lalitpur (Lalitpur) 183,316
5 Bharatpur (Chitwan) 143,836
6 Birganj (Parsa) 135,904
7 Butwal (Rupandehi) 118,462
8 Dharan (Sunsari) 116,181
9 Bhim Datta (Kanchanpur) 104,599
10 Dhangadhi (Kailali) 101,970

 

 

Major Attractions

Trekking – popular treks include Annapurna Mountain Range, Langtang Region, Helambu Trek, Everest and the Trek to Base Camp

 

Kathmandu Durbar Square

 

Attractions in Kathmandu

Boudhanath (Stupa) – Boudhanath Stupa (or Bodnath Stupa) is the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet.

Swayambhunath – Swayambhu is an ancient religious architecture atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley, west of Kathmandu city. The Tibetan name for the site means ‘Sublime Trees’

Pashupatinath Temple – a famous, sacred Hindu temple dedicated to Pashupatinath located on the banks of the Bagmati River

Kopan Monastery – Kopan Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery near Boudhanath, on the outskirts of Kathmandu

Thamel – a commercial neighborhood that is the tourist epicenter of Kathmandu, featuring hotels, hostels, bars and cafes.

The Crematoria – On the banks of Bagmati river, the crematorium at Pashupatinath temple is a place where Nepalese Hindus have their last rites.

Hanuman Dhoka – Hanuman Dhoka is a complex of structures with the Royal Palace in the Durbar Square.

Durbar Square – traditional architecture abounds in the public square fronting the royal palace.

The Bagmati Ghats – The Old City

The Patan Museum – displays the traditional sacred arts of Nepal.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square (Bhaktapur) – Located about 20 km east of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur is one of the traditional royal cities and is packed with fascinating architecture, stone carvings and temples.

 

Pokhara and Phewa Lake

 

In Pokhara

Poon Hill – offering scenic views it is a popular short trek in Nepal

Sarangkot – superb views of the Annapurna Himalayan mountains peaks.

Phewa Tal (Fewa Lake) – Pokharas beautiful calm lake

World Peace Pagoda – Pokhara Shanti Stupa, as it’s otherwise known, is a Buddhist pagoda-style monument on Ananda hill near Pokhara.

 

Near Pokhara

Kaskikot – a scenic village near Phewa Lake and Pokhara that offers stunning views of the Annapurna Himalayan mountains peaks.

Tashi Palkhel – Tibetan Settlement and temple

Mahendra Gupha – is a cave located near Pokhara, Kaski district, containing stalagmites and stalactites.

Chamere Gupha – located in Batulechaur near to Mahendra Gupha it is also known as Bat Cave.

Kahun Daada – views to rival Sarangot and temples including Manang monastery and Bardakali temple.

Bhalam Khola Valley – a rural village near Pokhara.

Bengas and Rupa Tal – near Pokhara, two impressive lakes with scenic views

Gorkha – historic town with Chait Dasain festival in late March, early April to celebrate and a must see Gorkha Durbar.

Bandipur – a sleepy bazaar and home to Newari culture and architecture.

 

 Buddha-Statue in Swayambhunath

 

Other destinations in Nepal

Mount Everest (Sagarmatha National Park)

Durbar Square Patan (Lalitpur)

Golden Temple – Hiranya Varna Mahavihar (Patan (Lalitpur))

Lumbini, the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama (Rupandehi)

Chitwan National Park (Sauraha)

 

Festivals

Magh (Jan-Feb)
Magh Sankranti
Basanta Panchami

Phaagun (Feb-March)
Losar
Shivataari
Holi

Chait (March-April)
Chait Dasain
Ram Nawami
Seto Machhendranath Jaatra

Baisaakh (April-May)
Nawa Barsa
Machhendranath Rath Jaatra
Buddha Jayanti

Saaun (July-Aug)
Janai Purnima
Gani Jaartra
Nag Panchami
Ghanta Karna

Bhadau (Aug-Sept)
Krishna Astami
Janmastahmi
Tij
Indra Jaartra
Yartung

Asoj (Sept-Oct)
Dasain

Kaattik (Oct-Nov)
Tihar
Chhath
Mani Rimdu

Mangsir (Nov-Dec)
Ram-Sita Biwaha Paochami

 

Currency

The official currency is the Nepalese rupee.

Notes come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000 and coins come in denominations of 1, 2, 5 and 10.

ATMs are plentiful in most cities and most will accept cards issued by any of the major international banking networks. In major hotels and more expensive restaurants, credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, JCB and American Express, are readily accepted.

 

Example conversion rates 2017
$1 AUD = 81.71 NPR
$1 USD = 108.95 NPR

 

Demographics

The citizens of Nepal are known as Nepali or Nepalese. The country is home to people of many different national origins including India, Kashmir, Tibet, and parts of Burma and Yunnan, China.

Median age

 total: 23.6 years
 male: 22.4 years
 female: 24.8 years

Age groups

0-14 years: 30.93% (male 4,646,048/female 4,333,105)

15-24 years: 21.86% (male 3,176,158/female 3,169,721)

25-54 years: 35.99% (male 4,707,264/female 5,740,985)

55-64 years: 6.22% (male 877,288/female 927,202)

65 years and over: 5.02% (male 723,523/female 732,620)

 

Wages

The minimum monthly wage is between NPR6,375 – 9000 (about US$60-$84) per month.

 

Customs and Culture

The overwhelming majority of the Nepalese population follows Hinduism. Shiva is regarded as the guardian deity of the country. From the 2011 census: Hindu 81.34%, Buddhist 9.04%, Muslim 4.38%, Kirant 3.04%, other 2.2%

Some tips

The left hand is used for cleaning after going to the loo, for this reason, Nepalis don’t use their left hand for eating or wiping their mouth. Also for this same reason, don’t offer things or touch anyone with the left hand.

Don’t point, use your chin or upturned hand. To point has the meaning of having something against the other person/thing to which you are pointing.

Take off shoes before entering homes or temples. Also, don’t touch anyone with your shoes or face your feet at them.

Don’t step over people, go around, and if you are sitting, give people room so they can get around.

Don’t pat or touch the head, as it is considered sacred.

At sacred sites, such as temples or prayer walls, always go in a clockwise direction.

 

 

Climate and Seasons

Nepal experiences five seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring, and has five climatic zones. The tropical and subtropical zones lie below 1,200 metres (3,937 ft), the temperate zone 1,200 to 2,400 metres (3,937 to 7,874 ft), the cold zone 2,400 to 3,600 metres (7,874 to 11,811 ft), the subarctic zone 3,600 to 4,400 metres (11,811 to 14,436 ft), and the Arctic zone above 4,400 metres (14,436 ft).

Both Kathmandu and Pokhara are classed as temperate.

 

 

Transport

Intercity Transport

Express buses run between popular tourist destinations, as an example, Kathmandu to Pokhara with a ticket costing $20 – 8 HRS.

Regular and local buses are older buses, with frequent stops and may load up with passengers and no aircon.

Tickets can be bought from hotels and travel agencies. Also see http://www.nepaltouristbusservice.com

Public Transport

It’s all tuk-tuk’s and taxis.  As an example, a taxi ride from one side of Kathmandu to the other shouldn’t cost more than $6.

Airports

Tribhuvan International Airport (VNKT|KTM) – Kathmandu – The major international airport – http://www.tiairport.com.np/

For a list of airports that service domestic flights and provide access to trek camps and routes see http://www.nepalhomepage.com/airports-in-nepal

Airlines

Local Airlines
Buddha Air – https://www.buddhaair.com
Yeti Airlines – https://www.yetiairlines.com
Tara Air – http://www.taraair.com
Simrik Air – http://www.simrikair.com

Domestic Route Map

 

International Airlines that fly to Kathmandu
Cathay Pacific
China Southern
Air China
Etihad Airways
Malaysia Airlines
China Eastern flights
Singapore Airlines
AirAsia
SilkAir
AirAsia X
Malindo Air
Sichuan Airlines
Qatar Airways
Air India

 

Top Places to Stay

These are hand-picked for their central location, overall value, and past guest rating.

 

The Top Ten Hotels in Kathmandu

Hyatt Regency Kathmandu – 5-star hotel – Taragaon, Boudha, Boudhha, 00977 Kathmandu, Nepal – $190 and up

Royal Penguin Boutique Hotel & Spa – 4-star hotel – Thamel, 11856 Kathmandu, Nepal – $80 and up

Kathmandu Grand Hotel – 3-star hotel – Chaksibari Marg, Thamel, Kathmandu, Thamel, 00977 Kathmandu, Nepal – $70 and up

Hotel Friends Home – 3-star hotel – Thamel, 44600 Kathmandu, Nepal – $35 and up

Kathmandu Mantra Home – Z-street, Thamel, Kathmandu, Nepal – $18 and up

Hotel Bright Star – 1 star – Gahiti Marg, Thamel, 44600 Kathmandu, Nepal – $13 and up

Hotel Devachan – 1-star hotel – 202, Phurkesalla Marg, Swayambhu, 44620 Kathmandu, Nepal – $12 and up

Hostel ONE96 – Paknajol Marg Thamel,  44600 Kathmandu, Nepal – $13 and up

Pariwar B&B – 2 star – Ganesh Man Street, Thamel, 20062 Kathmandu, Nepal – $10 and up

Festoon Hotel Pvt. Ltd. – Z-Street, Thamel,  44600 Kathmandu, Nepal – $10 and up

 

The Top Ten Hotels in Pokhara

Rupakot Resort – 5-star hotel – Rupakot – 6, Maidan Kaski, 33700 Pokhara, Nepal – $160 and up

Dahlia Boutique Hotel – 3-star hotel – Baidam – 6, Lakeside, 33700 Pokhara, Nepal – $45 and up

Hotel Grand Holiday – 3-star hotel – Peaceful Road, Lakeside, 33411 Pokhara, Nepal – $18 and up

Hotel Pokhara International – 2-star hotel – Durbar Marg, 33700 Pokhara, Nepal – $15 and up

Hotel Nirvana – Durbar Marg, Lakeside, 33700 Pokhara, Nepal – $13 and up

Hotel Harmony – 3-star hotel – Lakeside Khahare North, 33700 Pokhara, Nepal – $10 and up

New United Hotel – Gaurighat, Royal Place Gate, Lakeside, 33700 Pokhara, Nepal – $10 and up

Hotel Mountain View – Lakeside, 33411 Pokhara, Nepal – $9 and up

Namaste Apartments – Durbar Marg, Baidam, ODA Nr. 6, Lakeside, 33700 Pokhara, Nepal – $9 and up

New Future Way Guest House – 6 Middle Path Street, 33700 Pokhara, Nepal – $6 and up

 

Long Term Rentals

Realty site: http://www.housingnepal.com

Apartments in Pokhara: http://pokharastudioinn.com

North Star Guest House http://www.pokharaguesthouse.com

 

 

Retreats

Meditation 

Pokhara Visspana Centre – http://www.pokhara.dhamma.org

Kopan Monastery – http://kopanmonastery.com

 

Food and Cuisine

 

Much of the cuisine is a variation on Asian themes. Other foods have hybrid Tibetan, Indian and Thai origins. Common ingredients used in Nepalese cuisine include lentils, potatoes, tomatoes, cumin, coriander, chilies, peppers, garlic and mustard oil.

Momo, Tibetan style dumplings with Nepalese spices, are one of the most popular foods in Nepal.

Yoghurt, or dahi can be used as a side dish or as an ingredient in drinks (Lassi) and desserts (Sikarni).

Dal Bhat consists of a rice (or substitute) centre, alongside lentils which are surrounded by various different dishes. Sides can include pickles, curried dishes, meat or fish, yoghurt, and chutney.

Sel roti is a very special fried doughnut made from rice flour.

 

Typical Living Expenses

 

Budget hotel room in Kathmandu: US$5–25
Dinner and breakfast in a trekking lodge: US$10–12
Trekking porter/guide: US$15/25 per day
Organised camping trek: US$60–80 per person per day
Midrange meal in Kathmandu: US$7–10
Midrange hotel: US$25–80

 

 

 

Visas

(image: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_policy_of_Nepal)

Many countries are eligible for Visa on Arrival.

Official Site: http://www.nepalimmigration.gov.np/?page_id=80

 

Forums and useful websites

WikiTravel Nepal: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nepal

News: http://www.myrepublica.com/

Official Tourism site: http://www.welcomenepal.com

Nepal Guides: http://www.thelongestwayhome.com/Countries/nepal.html

Classifieds: http://hamrobazaar.com

Travel updates/journey planning: http://www.nepalnow.org

Pokhara intro: http://justglobetrotting.com/pokhara-nepal-everything-you-need-to-know/

 

Language

Nepal’s diverse linguistic heritage stems from three major language groups: Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Burman, and various indigenous language isolates. The major languages of Nepal (percent spoken as native language) according to the 2011 census are Nepali (44.6%), Maithili (11.7%), Bhojpuri (Awadhi Language) (6.0%), Tharu (5.8%), Tamang (5.1%), Nepal Bhasa (3.2%), Bajjika (3%) and Magar (3.0%), Doteli (3.0%), Urdu (2.6%) and Sunwar. Nepal is home to at least four indigenous sign languages.

 

Learn to speak Nepalese

Example Basic Phrases

Hello – Namaste. (Nah-MAH-stay)
Hello (formal)  – Namaskar. (Nah-MAH-skar)
Thank you – dhanyabaad (DHAN-naii-bat)
Yes – Hajur – (HA-jur) or Ho. (HO)
No – Chaina – (Chai-NA) or Haina. (Hai-Na)
Excuse me – (getting attention) – sabai le sunnus ta.
I’m sorry – ma maafi chahanchu.
Goodbye – Namaskaar
Goodbye (informal) – Namaste
Bye Bye – Ta-ta
Do you speak English? – Tapaai Angreji bolnuhunchha? (Ta-Pai- Ang-gri-jee bolnu-hun-cha?)
I don’t understand – Maile buhjina. (Mai-le Bu-jhi-na)
Where is the toilet? –  Shauchalaya kata cha? (Sa-u-chha-la-ya ka-ta cha?)

 

A language course for learning Nepali http://lrc.cornell.edu/nepali/online

 

Making Friends in Nepal

Apps that are popular in Nepal include Facebook, Viber, Skype, Migme and Whatsapp.

 

Mobile, Wi-Fi and Internet

Most hotels in major cities offer free wi-fi.

There are two main mobile/cell phone providers, which also offer 3G and 4G data plans.

Nepal Telecom https://www.ntc.net.np

NCell https://www.ncell.axiata.com

Example monthly package rates:   50 MB = 35 rupees / 200MB = 130 rupees / 500 MB – 300 rupees / 1GB = 500 rupees / 3 GB = 1290 rupees / 5 GB = 1800 rupees / 10 GB = 2800 rupees

 

 

Power

220V/50Hz. There are three sockets in play, two three pin styles and one two pin style.

 

What to Pack

Sleeping sheet for lice, bed bugs etc
Face mask for Kathmandu (pollution)
Footwear to protect against scabies and hookworm eg thongs/flip flops for the shower (can buy in Nepal)
Suncream & Hat
Rehydration tablets (for after experiencing food poising, diarrhea)
Insect repellent, long sleeves, garters to protect against leeches. Salt may be helpful for removing leeches.
Water purification tablets

Medical

 

Manipal Hospital in Fulbari, Pokhara – https://www.manipal.edu.np

CIWEC Clinic – Lazimpat (near British Embassy) Kathmandu Phone: +977 1 442 4111 http://ciwec-clinic.com

Nepal International Clinic – Lal Durbar – Kathmandu Phone: +977 1 443 4642 – 443 5357 http://www.nepalinternationalclinic.com

Norvic International Hospital and Medical College Pvt. Ltd – Thapathali – Kathmandu – Phone: +977 1 425 8554 http://www.norvichospital.com

Patan Hospital – Patan – Kathmandu – Phone: +977 1 555 2266, 552 2278 http://www.patanhospital.org.np

Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital – Maharajganj – Kathmandu – Phone: +977 1 441 2303-5 http://www.teachinghospital.org.np

Nobel Medical College – Kanchabari – Biratnagar – Phone: +977 21 460 736 – http://www.nobelmedicalcollege.com.np

 

Recommended Shots & Innoculations

Hep A
Typhoid
Tetanus Booster

More info here https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/nepal