How to go to Nepal ?
by David Woollan

 

You will find here most of the practical information you need to prepare your trip :

   

Getting there & away ?

Air :

There is just one International Airport at Kathmandu: Tribuvan International Airport. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to get direct flights to Kathmandu; recently RNAC and Aeroflot cancelled flights from Europe and Singapore Airlines will soon drop its flights to Kathmandu. One good piece of news: Malaysian Airlines is likely to start operating a flight to Kathmandu. However, Lauda, Biman, China Southwest, Condor, Druk, Indian Airlines, Necon, Pakistan International, Qatar, Thai and Transavia Airlines fly into Kathmandu. Visas can be obtained on arrival at the airport, see below. Departure tax is R600 to SAARC nations, R1100 for all other international flights and R165 for internal flights. Air services to the interior of Nepal are very popular and it is often necessary to book your ticket well in advance. Foreigners must pay a higher price for all internal flights.


Land :

Other than Indian and Nepali citizens, all visitors entering Nepal by land must use the following crossing points:
Kakarbhitta, Birgunj, Belhiya, Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj, Dhangadi and Mahendra Nagar (all Indian/Nepal) and Kodari (Tibet/Nepal). If you are travelling overland with a vehicle, you must have an international driver's licence.

 

Visa ?

Indian nationals do not require a visa to enter Nepal, but must possess proof of identity. All other nationals require a visa, obtainable in advance from Nepalese Embassies or consulates, or upon arrival at the border or at Tribuvan International Airport. Do not forget that you will also need two passport size photos.
A single entry visa costs US$30 and is valid for 60 days. Additional supplements must be paid for double entry or multiple entry visas. Once you are in the country, you can renew your visa by paying $30 for each additional 30 days. This can be paid for in Nepali currency. A fifth month stay is possible, but only by visiting Immigration in Kathmandu and showing proof of departure (an air or bus ticket).
Department of Immigration, Exhibition Road (near the City Bus Park), Kathmandu, tel. 494273, 494337. Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.
Pokhara Immigration Office, inside the tourist information centre at Damside, just 200 metres from Bank Chowk. Opening times as above.

    Dept. of Immigration

 

When to visit ?

Nepal has two tourist seasons, and both coincide with the best weather and visibility periods. The peak tourist season is from mid-September until the end of November. The weather is cool, the visibility is excellent and most of the important Hindu festivals take place during this time. Thamel and Pokhara hotels and retaurants will be doing brisk business and the trekking routes are all crowded. It is the dry season and you won't have to put up with leeches on the trekking paths. For fantastic mountain views, truly this is the time to visit. The second best period is from February until the end of March. Visibility is not quite as good and February can be a little cold. May through to September are the monsoon months, and the tourist industry takes a break then. However, I have visited the country many times during the monsoon and personally consider the lush greenery of the country as beautiful as the mountains views I cannot see. Hotel prices are negotiable during the monsoon and many bargains can be had.

    Weather in Nepal



How long ?

As long as you can afford because Nepal is truly a favourite destination for back packers. A month should be considered a minimum. With a month an itinerary might be: Kathmandu valley 3 days, Pokhara valley 4 days, Annapurna trekking 10 days, back to Kathmandu valley 2 days, Langtang or similar trekking 6 or 7 days, Chitwan 3 days and then a couple of days preparing for departure. Give yourself two months and you have more time to explore lesser-visited areas. Travel in the far west can be extremely slow but a real adventure. The locals you meet as you are walking the country will often invite you to their villages and play host for a few days. This can make a holiday a lifetime remembrance.

 

Money ?

As of November 2002, 1 U.S. Dollar was worth 78 Nepali Rupees. The Nepali Rupee (NC) is pegged at 1.6 to the Indian Rupee (IC). Indian currency is valid in Nepal, but not the IC R500 note. 
In Pokhara and Kathmandu, credit card cash advances are possible at Standard Chartered Bank, and additionally in Kathmandu at the Nepal Arab Bank in Kantipath and at the Himalayan Bank in Thamel. At Lakeside, Pokhara, there are 24 hour ATM machines at Standered Chartered Bank and outside Hotel Snowland. They accept Mastercard and Visacard. Note that these two machines are often out of action! Banks are open 9.15 a.m. to 2.30 p.m., Monday to Friday, and possibly Saturday mornings.
American Express can be found in Kathmandu at Jamal, tel. 226172 and 227635.
Money changers can be found throughout Kathmandu and Pokhara and are authorised to change Indian Rupees, U.S. Dollars, Sterling, Swiss Franks, Australian, Canadian and Singapore Dollars, Japanese Yen, Chinese Yuan, Swedish and Danish Kroner, Hong Kong Dollars and Saudi and Qatari Riyals. 

  Currency Converter

 

How much ?

Nepal is an adventurer's playground and the perfect place to try your hand at paragliding or white water rafting. Or you might want to visit an area way off the beaten track and have to take guides, porters, cooks and cooks assitant's with you. Trekking permits to visit the Mustang area just south of the border with Tibet are currently set at $700 for ten days! (Wow! Needless to say I have not visited this area!). But if you keep to the most popular trekking areas, forget about a hot air balloon trip and go white water rafting for just a couple of days, over 30 days you will probably spend around the following:
$1 visa fee, $4-8 hotel room charge, $4-8 food, $2 transport/internet per day and, let's say, $50 for a special interest treat. 
Do the mathematics and that all works out at about $13 to $21 a day.
A desperately poor traveller could probably reduce that further.

See Passplanet's Cost Table for more details.

 

Trekking Permits ?

Until 1951, Nepal was a "forbidden" kingdom for foreigners and only a few outsiders had entered the country. Now Nepal actively promotes tourism although there are still a few impediments to total travel within the Kingdom. Up until a couple of years ago it was necessary to obtain trekking permits to visit all areas ouside the Pokhara and Katmandu valleys. Luckily this is now not the case and only the areas mentioned below require trekking permits to visit.
Trekking permits are issued by the Department of Immigration in Kathmandu or Pokhara. Trekking agencies can also obtain the permit on behalf of the trekker.

  • Lower Dolpa and Kachenjunga. $10 per person per week for the first four weeks and $20 per week thereafter.

  • Manaslu. $90 per person per week (Sept-Nov) and $75 per week during Dec-Aug.

  • Humla. $90 for the first seven days and $15 per day thereafter.

  • Upper Mustang and Upper Dolpa. $700 per person for the first ten days and $70 per day therafter.

Royalties must also be paid to climb mountains in Nepal. These range from $1,500 per team for mountains below 6,500 metres to $50,000 per team to scale Everest!
Many new peaks are (September 2002) are open for climbing and royalties have been reduced.
Serious mountaineers can contact the Mountaineering section of the Ministry of Tourism at tourism@mail.com.np 

 

Health ?

Malaria exists in some areas of the Terai (the low-lying land in the south of the country).

As in the rest of Asia, be careful about drinking tap water, especially in the city. Buy bottled water or treat your own water. I personally find throwing out several litre bottles each day an environmental disaster. All medical stores sell "Lugol's Solution BPC", common or garden Iodine Solution to you and me. 3 drops in a litre of water makes the water safe to drink after fifteen minutes.

Acute Mountain Sickness or altitude sickness is a very real threat if you are thinking of doing the high altitude treks. If not treated when symptoms first appear it could lead to death. AMS occurs when a person has ascended too rapidly to areas above 3000 metres. One should ascend to higher altitudes slowly, staying overnight at stops as you slowly ascend. Early warning signs of too rapid ascending are headache, loss of appetite and sleeplessness. Do not ignore these signs. One should descend to lower altitudes immediately.

    Latest Health Recommendations

 

Tips for Vegetarians by Yoav, Israel (Dec 01) :

India is paradise to vegetarians as most of the restaurants are strictly vegetarian. Almost always if they will have some kind of meat inside they will say so before, as a big part of the population in India is vegetarian. The food on the streets is almost always vegetarian and there is a huge variety of great stuff. A small tip: when the Indians say "Indian vegetarian" they mean also no-eggs diet, so when people ask you if you are vegetarian or "Indian vegetarian" answer accordingly if you don't want to get a terrible so-called meal in the plane. Another thing is that many backpackers become vegetarians in India, just because they don't want to risk their health with the meat there. In Kashmir you have to be a bit more cautious as vegetarian because they have more meat dishes. In the South of India, if you do want meat you really have to look for it...

Nepal is also a vegetarian paradise. The only different is that here you have also western food to chose from like the "German bakeries", Italian and so on. If you go on a real short budget you can still enjoy the Tibetan momo's and other vegetarian dishes. Here, unlike India, meat lovers can find many pleasures ("The Everest Steak House" after a long trek is the favorite)

 

Danger & Annoyances ?

About six years ago a small group of insurgents, calling themselves Maoists, started causing unrest in the west of the country. They have slowly built themelves in terms of numbers and weaponry and have succeeded in extorting huge sums of money from businessmen. This confict has grown and the army is now actively engaged in seeking out and killing the insurgents. So far, since the beginning of the confict, over 7000 deaths have occurred. Recently stories have surfaced of Maoists demanding "transit tax" from trekkers in some areas. There is no report of tourists having any other trouble with Maoists insurgents but visitors are expressing doubts about travelling in certain parts, especially just north of Nepalgunj and, generally, perhaps all areas in Mid Western and Far Western provinces.

Bandhs (general strikes) can take effect quickly and paralise all forms of transport. At the end of your stay in the country, play safe by taking your bus trip to Kathamndu a couple of days early. A bandh or landslide could cause you to miss your flight.

It is so common for Nepalese to show interest in what a foreigner is doing, coming up and milling around the person, that the foreigner might cease to take adequate caution regarding their belongings. Be aware that, especially in Kathamndu, there are several drug addicts that need cash for their next fix. Keep sight of your day pack.

The "bakshish" dilemma. Only you know whether you want to give or not. But be aware that the street kids in Thamel (or at least a lot of them) will ask you to buy them a tin of milk powder (or expensive cookies, etc.) and then once you are gone sell it back to the store owner at half price!

Be aware of the "excuse me Sir, there is some mustard on your shirt. Let me clean it off for you"-type trick. While you are sidelined by the operator, he or his/her mate is pick pocketing you. When someone says, "emS,tismoys", scream out "thief!!" and he/they will quickly disappear.


Notwithstanding the above, let's remind you that ??% of the backpackers we asked said they liked Nepal, that ??% would happily come back and that ??% would recommend it around ! See Why Go for more details...

 


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