Nepal is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, its diverse landscapes, Himalayas that follow you wherever you go and positive, warm people make it a truly special place. Here’s everything you need to know before you go to Nepal in order to make the most of your trip!
Nepal is the youngest republic in the world. In 2008, after ten years of war, the Maoists won the elections and after 240 years of rule, Nepal has abolished its monarchy. Democracy was introduced to the Nepal and replaced the name ‘Royal’ in official correspondence. Expectations of democracy were huge. But not much has changed. Nepal is one of the least developed countries in the world. You can see poverty at every corner. Especially in rural areas. People struggle every day to earn a dollar or two, mostly working in agriculture.
India has a huge impact on Nepal. Cows on the road, Hinduism as the main religion, the smell of all kinds of spices in the air mixed with other unidentified substances, chaotic traffic, cashmere sellers, crowds everywhere, colors, pollution in Kathmandu… everything has a taste of India here. It’s hard to ‘survive’ between the two most populated countries in the world. Culturally and linguistically Nepali people are closer to the Indians than the Chinese. The border with India is fully open and on a daily basis, many Nepali people are leaving their homes in search for a better life.
Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Flags
Good to know before you go to Nepal
V I S A – You can get a visa at the airport on arrival (main airport: Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport). Prices range from $25 to $100, depending how long you are going to stay in Nepal (15, 30, or 90 days). You’ll need a passport size photo (bring one with you, if you forget it you can take a photo at the airport). If you want (not necessary) you can fill your visa application form online before your trip (see: here).
V A C C I N A T I O N S – Not require. Just often wash your hands or clean them with antibacterial gels as sanitary conditions in the country are very poor.
C U R R E N C Y – Nepalese Rupee (NPR), you can exchange USD or EURO in all exchange offices. You will easily find ATM machines in all the major cities.
E L E C T R I C I T Y – Nepali power voltage is 230V/50Hz (plugs with three round pins). Daily power cuts are normal thing for the Nepali people. Bring extra batteries or portable chargers with you, if you are planning to use a laptop or camera lot.
L A N G U A G E – Nepali is the official language, however English is widely spoken.
I N T E R N E T – In Kathmandu and Pokhara you have internet in hotels, restaurants, bars. In other areas you’ll hardly find any internet access (you can buy a SIM card and data upon your arrival in Kathmandu if you need to have internet access outside KTM and Pokhara).
Sunset in Kathmandu
Nepal is a country of friendly, warm and welcoming people. Most people have a safe time in Nepal. Tourists are very important to Nepal as they bring money, not just in Kathmandu but also in rural areas such as Himalayas region where many Sherpas and people live from tourists.
SAFETY TIPS: Avoid being out at night, stay away from demonstrations and be careful on the roads, especially when crossing one.
When to Go
Best time to visit Nepal is from September till May. Monsoon season runs from June through August. Best month to visit: October is a great month to visit the country! The weather is great, it’s festival month and the mountains should be beautifully clear on your treks.
What to Eat
If you like vegetarian ‘no meat’ food than you can call Nepal your second home! The Nepali national dish is Dal Bhat – lentil soup served with rice and vegetables (mostly potatoes, pumpkin, beans or green veggies which name I didn’t remember) plus egg if you are lucky. Momo is another national dish, very similar to Chinese dumplings, vegetarian or with meat (mostly chicken).
TIP: Be aware of poor sanitation conditions in Nepal, especially in rural areas. Eat only in restaurants if you have problems with street food and don’t eat unpeeled fruits and salads. Water is not safe, drink only bottled.
FOOD COSTS: local street food is really cheap (from less than a dollar you can buy Momos), in restaurant prices are a bit higher, you can find decent local meal for $4 or $5.
In Kathmandu and Pokhara you can find all kinds of accommodation (from cheap hostels to good hotels). You can find a room in guesthouses for less than $5 in all Nepal.
From horrible vehicle conditions to the poorly maintained transportation infrastructures getting around in Nepal is a quite a ‘dangerous business’.
Buses are the main form of transportation in the whole country. Buses leave the local bus stations either early in the morning (before 7am). Buy your ticket a day before and expect to arrive an hour or two later than they tell you. Prices for a long distance tourist buses start from $8 in one direction.
In cities like Kathmandu and Pokhara you can catch a taxi. You have to bargain for a price. Public taxi in Kathmandu is very cheap (less than a dollar), you jump in it, pay and wait for the taxi to fill, then you are good to go.
Sadhu, Hindu holy man
Festivals are huge part of Nepali culture. People are crazy for festivals and celebrations! Some of the most famous and spectacular festivals are: Dasain – one of Nepal’s biggest festival (October), Indra Jatra celebrates Kumari, the living goddess who parades through the streets of Kathmandu (September), Maha Shivaratri (February) celebrates Shiva’s birthday, Holi, the colorful festival (March).