Lion of Taeleju Chowk – Dunbar Square – Bhaktapur – Katmandu – Nepal
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NEPAL

GENERAL INFORMATION

Known as the Land of the Himalayas.  A country surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the world such as Mount Everest touching the sky at 8,848 meters (29,028 ft).   It is not just a place mountaineers to conquer peaks but a paradise of myths, history, Yaks and yetis, caste and culture, magic and mantras, festivals and fairy tales for all ages.  It is birth place Buddha Siddhartha Gautama (founder of Buddhism) and the epicenter of the spread of the Buddhist faith throughout the world. Nepal has 7 cultural monuments that are listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites include Pashupatinath, Swayambhunath, Boudhanath, Changunarayan, Kathmandu Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar square and Patan Durbar Square (medieval cities).  Also, two natural heritages are Sagarmatha National Park and Chitwan National Park.  Here, visitors can join Buddhist pilgrims from Tibet for a trek around places of worship that dot the Himalayas. Nepal is also home to dense jungles, which can be traversed on the back of elephants. Beneath the thick layers of undergrowth; rhinos, tigers, and other creatures roam uninhibited.

For the action minded traveler Nepal offers rock climbing, bungee jumping, whitewater rafting and much more.  If you are a traveler you enjoy discovering new cultures, the heritage sites are here for you, exotic bird watching or if you want to reenergize your inner self there are top meditation and yoga masters who will guide you on your path to finding inner peace and revitalized health. Come and enjoy the adventure and learn of Nepal’s present and mystic past. Some of the most popular destinations for tourists in Nepal are the medieval cities.

HISTORY AND CULTURE

Mainland Territory:  147,181 square kilometers (56,827 sq mi)
Population: 264 million (2017)
National Capital: Jarkata
International Calling Code: +977

The Kingdom of Nepal , also known as the Kingdom of Gorkha or Asal Hindustan (meaning Real Land of Hindus),  was a Hindu kingdom on the Indian subcontinent, formed in 1768 by the unification of Nepal. Founded by King Prithvi Narayan Shah, a Gorkhali monarch of Rajputorigin from medieval India, it existed for 240 years until the abolition of the Nepalese monarchy in 2008. During this period, Nepal was formally under the rule of the Shah dynasty, which exercised varying degrees of power during the kingdom’s existence.

After the invasion of Tibet and plundering of Digarcha by Nepali forces under Prince Regent Bahadur Shah in 1792, the Dalai Lama and Chinese Ambans appealed to the Chinese administration for military support. The Chinese and Tibetan forces under Fu Kang An attacked Nepal but failed which later lead to a negotiated truce after failure at Nuwakot.  During the early-nineteenth century, however, the expansion of the East India Company’s rule in India led to the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814–1816), which resulted in Nepal’s defeat. Under the Sugauli Treaty, the kingdom retained its independence, but in exchange for territorial concessions making Mechi River to Mahakali Riverits boundary under Nepalese rule, sometimes known as “Greater Nepal”.

Unsuccessful attempts were made to implement reforms and a constitution during the 1960s and 1970s. An economic crisis at the end of the 1980s led to a popular movement which brought about parliamentary elections and the adoption of a constitutional monarchy in 1990. The 1990s saw the beginning of the Nepalese Civil War (1996–2006), a conflict between government forces and the insurgent forces of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The situation for the Nepalese monarchy was further destabilized by the 2001 Nepalese royal massacre, in which Crown Prince Dipendra reportedly shot and killed ten people, including his father King Birendra, and was himself mortally wounded by what was allegedly a self-inflicted gunshot.

As a result of the massacre, King Gyanendra returned to the throne. His imposition of direct rule in 2005 provoked a protest movement unifying the Maoist insurgency and pro-democracy activists. He was eventually forced to restore Nepal’s House of Representatives, which in 2007 adopted an interim constitution greatly restricting the powers of the Nepalese monarchy. Following an election, the following year, the Nepalese Constituent Assembly formally abolished the kingdom in its first session on 28 May 2008, declaring the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal in its place.  Until the abolition of the monarchy, Nepal was the world’s only country to have Hinduism as its state religion; the country is now formally a secular state.

Topography

Nepal has a very diverse environment resulting from its impressive topography. A cross-section of the country reveals that the topography generally progresses from altitudes of less than 100 m in the southern Terai plain, up to more than 8,000 m peaks in the north. Nepal can be divided into five ecological regions: 1) Teria: This is the northern part of Indo-Gangetic plain. The Terai extends nearly 800 km from east to west and about 30-40 km from north to south. The average elevation is below 750 m, including Terai region, Bhavar Terai and Inner Terai. 2) Siwalik: Commonly referred to as the Churia Hills, the elevation in the Siwalik ranges from 700 to 1,500 m. 3) Middle Mountain: Also known as the Mahabharat range, the elevation of this range is from 1,500 to 2,700 m. The Middle Mountain is cut in many places by antecedent rivers such as Kosi, Gandaki (Narayani), Karnali and Mahakali. They are the first great barrier to monsoon clouds and the highest precipitation occurs on the southern slope of this range. 4) High Mountains: High Mountains range from 2,200 to 4,000 m. This region consists of phyllite, schists and quartzite, and the soil is generally shallow and resistant to weathering. The climate is cool temperate. 5) High Himalaya: Ranges from 4,000 to above 8,000 m dominate the High Himalaya. Eight of the highest peaks in the world and the world’s deepest gorge, 5,791 m in the Kali Gandaki valley, are located in this region.

Climate

If you are planning to visit Nepal.  October and December are the best time to visit Nepal as the skies are generally clear and the views spectacular. The weather remains dry until about April. January and February can be very cold, especially at night and is a great time to do treks as there are fewer visitors. Late spring is a beautiful time to travel as the rhododendrons burst into bloom. From May, heat and humidity levels build until the monsoon rains arrive in June and the clouds obscure the picturesque mountains. Nepal celebrates festivals all year, so there is often a festival or pilgrimage taking place – everywhere you go. 
The climate is alpine and the snowline lies at 5,000 m in the east and at 4,000 m in the west. The area lying to the north of the main Himalayan range is the Trans-Himalayan region, which restricts the entry of monsoon moisture and therefore the region has a dry desert-like climate.

Administrative Units

The administrative divisions of Nepal are subnational administrative units of Nepal. The first level of country subdivisions of Nepal are the Provinces. Each province is further subdivided into districts, and each district into municipalities and rural municipalities. Before 2015, instead of provinces, Nepal was divided into developmental regions and administrative zones.

Fulfilling the requirement of the new constitution of Nepal in 2015, all old municipalities and villages (which were more than 3900 in number) were restructured into 753 new municipalities and rural municipalities. The former 75 district development committees (DDC) were also replaced by 77 new district coordination committees (DCC) which have much less power than the DDCs. At present there are 6 metropolitan cities, 11 sub-metropolitan cities, 276 municipalities, and 460 rural municipalities.

Language

Nepali also known as Gorkhali or Parbatiya, is an Indo-Aryan language of the sub-branch of Eastern Pahari. It is the official language of Nepal and one of the 22 official languages of India. It is spoken mainly in Nepal and by about a quarter of the population in Bhutan.  In India, Nepali is listed in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution as an Indian language, with official status in the state of Sikkim, and spoken in Northeast Indian states such as Assam and in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district. It is also spoken in Burma and by the Nepali scattered worldwide. Nepali developed in proximity to a number of Indo-Aryan languages, most notably the other Pahari languages and Maithili, and shows Sanskrit influence. However, owing to Nepal’s location, it has also been influenced by Tibeto-Burman languages. Nepali is mainly differentiated from Central Pahari, both in grammar and vocabulary, by Tibeto-Burman idioms owing to close contact with this language group. Historically, the language was called Khas Speech (Khas Kurā) and Gorkhali (language of the Gorkha Kingdom) before the term Nepali was adopted. The origin of modern Nepali language is believed to be from Sinja of Jumla. Therefore, the Nepali dialect “Khas Bhasa” is still spoken among the people of the region.

It is also known as Khey (the native term for Khas Arya living in the periphery of the Kathmandu valley), Parbate (native term meaning “of the hill”) or Partya among the Newar people, and Pahari among the Madhesis and Tharus. Other names include Dzongkha Lhotshammikha (“Southern Language”, spoken by the Lhotshampas of Bhutan).

Ethnic Groups

Nepalis are very conscious of their ethnic or indigenous group.  There are actually about 124 ethnic groups in Nepal.   To simplify the categories, these groups fit under two banners: Indo-Aryans who look more like and share similar customs and languages to North Indians, and Tibeto-Burmans who look more like and share greater customary similarities to Tibetans.  Roughly speaking, Indo-Aryans are far more affected by caste, in the sense that they are more hierarchical and have a lot more rules about what they can and cannot do or consume. Brahmins, Chetris and Dalits are the main Indo-Aryan groups. Almost all other groups are Tibeto-Burman.

Brahmin and Chetri (30%*)

Brahmins and Chetris are the highest in the ritual hierarchy of Hinduism and dominate the leadership and professions in Nepal. Brahmins and Chetris migrated from India after the Mughal invasion and quickly became teachers, priests, and politicians.

Dalit (10%)

Dalit is the sanskrit word for “downtrodden”. It was the name chosen by those commonly referred to as “untouchables”. Dalits are the lowest in the Hindu ritual hierarchy and face discrimination in many ways. 

Janjati (20%)

Janjati is the name given to a collection of Tibeto-Burman ethnic groups who are largely regarded as indigenous to Nepal. These indigenous groups include MagarLimbuRaiNewarTharuSherpa and Gurung. Some are Hindus, some are Buddhists and some are animists or shamanists. 

Newar (6%)

Newars are a janjati group most commonly found in and around the Kathmandu valley. The majority of Nepali art forms, from sculpture to pagodas to food like momo are the creations of Newari artisans.

Sherpa

Sherpas live high in the eastern Himalaya of Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan and farm yaks and sheep. Many led nomadic lifestyles until the invasion of China into Tibet sealed the borders, and now they are famous for their mountaineering expertise.

Tharu (7%)

Tharus live on the border between Nepal and India and speak Tibeto-Burman languages. They are often believed to be one of the oldest inhabitants of the region. Made up of many sub-groups, the Tharu lived in the jungles and are somewhat immune to Malaria.

Madhesi (30%)

Madheshis are Indo-Aryans that live in the Tarai plains. They often speak languages associated with northern India, like Bhojpuri and Hindi. Some are Muslims and some are Hindus. Traditionally they have been unrepresented in the state and there is considerable discrimination against them.

*Nepali Census, 2001

VISA

Tribhuvan International Airport is the only international airport of Nepal. Immigration Office, TIA (Tribhuvan International Airport) under Department of Immigration has been facilitating tourists flying to Nepal by providing Visa on Arrival. ‘On Arrival’ visa procedure is very quick and simple. You can expect some queues during peak Tourist season. If you wish to skip those queues, you can also consider getting Visa from Nepalese Diplomatic Missions stationed abroad prior to your arrival. Choice is yours.

 If you have obtained visa from Nepalese Diplomatic Missions, then you must enter Nepal within six months from the visa issued date. Your total stay is counted starting from the day you enter into Nepal.

Visas obtained on Arrival at the Entry and Exit points are ‘Tourist Visas’.  They bear multiple Reentry facility. Tourist Visa ‘On Arrival’ is the only entry visa to Nepal. If you are visiting Nepal for the purposes other than Tourism (sightseeing, tour, travel, mountaineering, trekking, visiting friends and families), you should still get ‘ Tourist Visa’ to get into the country.  However, you must change the category of visa as per your purpose and length of stay in Nepal from Department of Immigration by producing required documents.

Nationals of designated countries are requested to acquire Visa prior their arrival from their nearby Diplomatic missions (Embassies/consulates) of Nepal Government.  

Please follow these simple procedures for Tourist Visa on Arrival at the airport (TIA)  if you have not acquired Visa prior to boarding the plane.

  • 1st  Step
    • Fill in ‘ Arrival Card ‘
    • Fill in Online ‘Tourist Visa ‘form ( you can fill it up  prior to your arrival  visiting our official website  Department of Immigration/ fill it up using Kiosk machines upon your arrival at the airport).  If you fill it from the website, you will get submission Receipt with barcode, please print it out and bring it along for acquiring visa. It works for fifteen days and becomes invalid then after.  If so, you will have to fill it up again.
  • 2nd  Step
    • Make payment  at the bank according to your visa requirement ( 15/30/90 Days)
    • Get the receipt

While you can use different modes of payments (at visa fees collection counter), we advise you to carry some cash to be on the safe side.

On Arrival Visa Fee

15 Days – 25 USD

30 Days – 40 USD

90 Days – 100 USD

  • 3rd Step
    • Proceed to the Immigration Desk with your online form,  payment receipts and your passport
    • Hand in your documents to immigration officer for visa processing. He/she issues visa to you upon his/her satisfaction.

Gratis Visa (Visa for Free)

Gratis Visa is issued free of cost in case of following categories of Visa applicants:

  • Children below 10 years
  • Up to 30 days for SAARC Citizen (except Afghanistan) visiting Nepal for the first time in a given visa Year.  Afghan citizen are eligible for Gratis Visa on Arrival only upon the recommendation of Department of Immigration. If you are an Afghan citizen, you can request concerned institution inviting you to Nepal for necessary paperwork with Department of Immigration to get you Gratis Visa ‘On Arrival’.
  • Non Residential Nepalese(NRN) card holder ( issued by MoFA /Nepalese diplomatic missions abroad)
  • Chinese Nationals

Officials from China, Brazil, Russia and Thailand do not need Entry Visa based on reciprocal visa waiver Agreement

Visas of all kinds including ‘Gratis’ issued at the Airport are Tourist Visas. Contact Department of Immigration for extending your visa or changing the category of your visa. Tourist Visa extension can be done from Immigration Office, Pokhara too. Non tourist visa extension can be done only at Department of Immigration (if eligible) for a period of maximum one year (except business visa).  Updated visa information can be found on the Nepal’s immigration website: http://www.nepalimmigration.gov.np/page/tourist-visa

  OR

You can contact your travel agent organizing your trip in China to help with the visa processing.

WEATHER & HOLIDAYS

Climate

Climatic conditions of Nepal vary from one place to another in accordance with the geographical features. In the northern summers are cool and winters severe, while in south, summers are tropical and winters are mild. Nepal has namely five major seasons: spring, summer, monsoon, autumn and winter. An average temperature drop of 6°C occurs for every 1,000 m gain in altitude. In the Terai, summer temperatures exceed 37° C and higher in some areas, winter temperatures range from 7°C to 23°C in the Terai. In mountainous regions, hills and valleys summers are temperate while winter temperatures can plummet under sub zero. The valley of Kathmandu has a pleasant climate with average summer and winter temperatures of 19°C – 35°C and 2°C – 12°C respectively. The Himalayas act as a barrier to the cold winds blowing from Central Asia in winter, and forms the northern boundary of the monsoon wind patterns. Eighty percent of the precipitation is received during the monsoon (June-September). Winter rains are more pronounced in the western hills. The average annual rainfall is 1,600 mm, but it varies by eco-climatic zones, such as 3,345 mm in Pokhara and below 300 mm in Mustang. An interesting fact is that there is no seasonal constraint on traveling in and through Nepal. Even in December and January, when winter is at its severest, there are compensating bright sun and brilliant views. As with most of the trekking areas in Nepal, the best time to visit are during spring and autumn. Spring is the time for rhododendrons while the clearest skies are found after the monsoon in October and November. However, Nepal can be visited the whole year round. Source: NTB

For more information about Nepal’s climatic conditions, please visit: http://www.dhm.gov.np (official web site of the Department of Hydrology & Meteorology, Ministry of Environment. As the monsoon dissipates in September, Nepal welcomes beautiful clear skies, fresh air and incredible views. October and November are two of the best months to visit as dry days make trekking easier and offer good visibility. The verdant landscapes following the rains are ideal for photographers.

Public Holidays

Public offices and most private businesses in Nepal operate six days a week and only close on Saturdays. Government holidays for the upcoming year are published in Nepal Gazette. Nepal celebrates a number of religious and non-religious holidays. On most of these holidays, most government offices and private institutions are closed, although is not mandatory for privately owned businesses to close and international organizations may operate their own calendar.

Some of these events are region, religion or gender specific. For example, a certain holiday in Nepal can only be for women.

The longest consecutive public holiday in Nepal is during Vijaya Dashami. On this festival, holidays fall consecutively i.e. from Fulpati to Duwadashi for six days. Ghatasthapana and Kojagrat Purnima holidays are part of this festival but are separate from the six-day holiday. These festival holidays do not fall on the same calendar date every year, as they are celebrated on the basis of Lunar calendar (rotation of the moon) also known as tithi. Holidays such as Loktantra Diwas (Democracy Day) and Republic day are celebrated on the basis of Vikram Sambat calendar dates.  It is the official calendar of Nepal based Hindu calendar (use of both lunar months and solar orbit of the sun and earth)

The following is the list of holidays for the calendar year 2019 in Nepal.[1] Some holidays may overlap with Saturdays.

Date

Holiday Name

Holiday Type

Brief Information

March 4

Maha Shivaratri

Religious

Celebrated in reverence of Lord Shiva.

March 8

Nari Diwas

Non-religious

International Women’s Day

March 20

Fagu Purnima

Religious

Also known as Holi, the festival of colors. In Terai region of Nepal, this festival is celebrated on the next day.

April 14

New Years Day

Non-Religious

Nepali New Year 2076 or the first day of Bikram Sambat calendar.

April 30

Buddha Jayanti

Religious

Birth date of Lord Gautama Buddha.

May 1

Majdur Diwas

Non-religious

International labor day.

September 19

Sambidhaan Diwas

Non-Religious

Constitution Day in Nepal.

October 16

Fulpati

Religious

Seventh day of Dashaini when jamara is brought from Gorkha palace to Kathmandu.

October 17

Maha Asthami

Religious

The day to appease Goddess Durga’s manifestations, the blood-thirsty Kali.

October 18

Maha Navami

Religious

Maha Navami is the last day of Navaratri.

October 19

Bijaya Dashami

Religious

This day is very important day for Nepalese Hindu religion, On Bijaya Dashami mixture of rice, yogurt and vermilion is prepared and is known as Tika. Elders put Tika, Jamara and Kokha on the young ones and give them blessing.

October 20

Ekadashi

Religious

Eleventh day of Dashain where the celebration continues.

November 7

Laxmi Puja

Religious

In the morning cows are worshipped. Later, usually during the evenings, Laxmi, Goddess of wealth is worshipped.

November 8

Mha Puja and Govardhan Puja

Religious

Nepal Sambat new year.

November 9

Bhaitika

Religious

Sisters and brothers wish for each other’s safety and well-being. Gifts are exchanged between them.

 

Food

Ask a Nepali “what’s your favorite food” and you will most likely get a laugh and a response ‘dal bhat, of course!’  It consists of lentil soup (the dal), and boiled rice (the bhat), with varours side dishes which may include steamed vegetables, vegetable curry, popadoms, pickle and curd. … The dal soup, when cooked, is a thin soup, not a thick curry.   You can say it’s a national dish.   There are plenty of other delicious traditional Nepali dishes that you should try while in Nepal. Here are some suggestions:

Sel roti

Sometimes called Nepal’s answer to the donut (because they’re deep-fried and round), sel roti are in fact much less sweet than the familiar donut, though they do have a hint of sweetness. They’re commonly found at road-side snack stalls and made in Nepali homes during celebrations and certain festivals (especially Maghe Sankranti and Tihar).

Gundruk

Wildly popular in Nepal, gundruk is made by fermenting leafy green vegetables. It’s commonly made into a pickle, called gundruk ko achar. It tastes like nothing else we can think of – slightly mushroomy and quite salty. It perfectly complements Nepali curries and a dollop of it is usually added to a dal bhat meal.

Bara

Bara cooking on a hot pan.  Newaris are a Nepali ethnic group who were the original inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley. Their distinct culture, cuisine, architecture and language still have a strong presence in the capital. Newari food is a unique subset of Nepali cuisine. A popular Newari snack is bara (also spelled bada), which is kind of like a thick savoury rice-flour pancake. It can be eaten plain, with an egg cracked on top or with minced buffalo meat.

Chatamari

Chatamari is another favourite Newari snack that is very popular in Kathmandu. It has been called a ‘Nepali pizza’, but that’s only because it’s sort of round. Chatamari is a rice-flour crepe (thinner than bara) that is cooked with a variety of savoury toppings such as chopped onions, fresh coriander, minced meat, egg, chillis and a variety of spices.

Yomari

Yomari is such a special food that it has its own festival, usually celebrated in December, called Yomari Punhi. The Newari festival marks the end of the rice harvest and sweet yomari are made and eaten on this day. The pointed, fish-shaped dumplings are made from rice flour and stuffed either with a sweet molasses mixture or a coconut one. Either is delicious.  Aside from Newari households during the Yomari Punhi Festival, yomari are available year-round at The Village Cafe on Pulchowk in Patan and in the bakery section of the nearby Bhat Bhateni Supermarket. They are hard to find elsewhere, outside the festival time.

The Village Cafe, Pulchowk, Patan, Nepal, +977 1-5540712

Bhat Bhateni Supermarket, Krishna Galli, Patan, Nepal, +977 1-5520944

Chiura

Chiura, or pounded rice.  Chiura is a bit of an acquired taste. It is rice that has been beaten flat and dried to keep it fresher for longer. It can be quite dry to eat, so it’s best as an accompaniment to very wet curries. Be warned that it expands in the stomach once eaten, it can be quite filling.

Sandheko

This spicy Newari salad is usually made with potatoes or peanuts, as well as chillies (lots of them!), raw onions, fresh coriander, spices and is served cold. This very tasty dish is a popular bar snack.

Momos

While momos are usually called Tibetan dumplings, the truth is, they’re usually better in Nepal (feedback from those that have tried it in both places!). They are a favourite among Nepalis, not only of Tibetan origin, so it’s safe to call them Nepali food. Rice paper wrappers are stuffed with finely chopped vegetables, minced buffalo or chicken and are steamed, deep fried or added to a spicy soup. They’re also served with large helpings of spicy pickles, for dunking. Momos are always hand-made fresh to order, so don’t be surprised if your order takes three times longer than everyone else’s to arrive.

Juju dhau

Juju dhau, or ‘king curd’, is a thick, creamy, sweetened yogurt served in clay pots in the city of Bhaktapur. It’s made with buffalo milk, so it’s much richer than regular cow’s milk yogurt. It’s an important accompaniment to many Newari celebrations and a must-try when visiting Bhaktapur. Grab a pot from a street-side vendor.

Dal bhat

Finally, saving the best for last. To call this rice and lentil dish a staple of Nepali cuisine would be an understatement – it’s so much more than just rice and lentils. When served in a restaurant or at home, the rice and lentil curry is accompanied by a variety of seasonable vegetable and meat curries (spinach, potato, mushroom, chicken, buffalo, etc), as well as a salad, pickles, papad and curd. It is not just a dish but a smorgasbord of flavors that stand alone as the Nepali #1 loved dish. 

Internet

Nepal’s internet infrastructure is booming and struggling at the same time. Over the past few years mobile base stations are spreading out across the country, new telecom providers are starting and wifi options are growing. However Nepal’s chronic electricity shortages and bad infrastructure are hampering internet connectivity. Expect frequent outages and slow speeds. However using a combination of WiFi, MiFi and mobile can see you get most tasks done.
WIFI in Hotels: Many hotels and guesthouses in Nepal offer free WiFi as standard. It is however very important to find out if your accommodation with free WiFi also has a generator in case of an electricity outage. Generally speaking accommodation WiFi is around the 512kb – 1mb. In recent years guesthouse WiFi has increased, but the networks have failed to keep up with the demand which results in slow speeds. WIFI in Cafes: There are plenty of Internet Cafes in Nepal. Very few have WIFI. Most use password controlled desktop computers. Telephone calls using Skype are generally possible. However computer viruses are very commonplace so exercise caution when using memory cards. A few internet cafes allow ethernet cables for laptops but it’s rare. Charges range from 25 rupees per hour to 120rupees (tourist areas) Buy your own WIFI mast: If you are planning to spend some time in Nepal then you might consider purchasing your own dedicated WiFi mast. They are not all that big and are available from many of the WiFi companies in Nepal.
Here are some well known mobile internet providers:

Nepal telecom (NTC): The national telecom company. You can now purchase a pre-paid NTC sim card that offers CDMA and 4G. You’ll need a passport photo and a photocopy of your passport ID page. Internet is not that great though. But it does have the widest coverage. Ncell: Formally known as Mero Mobile 50% of the company was sold to a Russian Telecom then in 2016 to a Malaysian company and it’s now the premier mobile company in Nepal. To get a sim card you can go into any small corner store. Have a copy of your passport and sign up to get a card straight away. They cost 50 rupees. Avoid the expensive “tourist sim”. In 2017 they started offering 4G in most major cities. Smart Cell: This company has been around a while but never really took off. However in 2017 they rapidly began to expand and now offer 4g services in Nepals major cities at good rates. It’s not a great card to take trekking though as coverage is more limited than the others.

Internet tips:

1) Don’t rely on 24/7 fast internet – it’s not there 2) Do expect your internet connection to disappear frequently 3) Do expect to get up at odd hours of the night to get a connection 4) Do have spare batteries for your mobile devices as electricity is also not always there 5) Do be careful using public computers and sharing memory cards as computer viruses are a problem 4) Don’t believe guesthouse owners who tell you their WIFI works very well.
 

Health

Recommended Travel Vaccinations for Nepal

VACCINE

HOW DISEASE SPREADS

DETAILS

Hepatitis A

Food & Water

Recommended for most travelers

Hepatitis B

Blood & Body Fluids

Accelerated schedule available

Typhoid

Food & Water

Shot lasts 2 years. Oral vaccine lasts 5 years, must be able to swallow pills. Oral doses must be kept in refrigerator.

Yellow Fever

Mosquito

Required if traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.

Japanese Encephalitis

Mosquito

Recommended depending on itinerary and activities. Recommended for extended travel, recurrent travelers and travel to rural areas. Found in southern lowlands, is also in Kathmandu valley. Most common June to October.

Rabies

Saliva of Infected Animals

High risk country. Vaccine recommended for long-term travelers and those who may come in contact with animals.

Polio

Food & Water

Proof of polio vaccination is required. Considered a routine vaccination for most travel itineraries. Single adult booster recommended.

 

Sources: CDCWHO and ISTM

 

ALWAYS PURCHASE EMERGENCY HEALTH AND EVACUATION INSURANCE

BRINGING MONEY

Currency, Banking, and Credit Cards

Nepal is not an expensive country at all and and even when foreign visitors are forced to pay more than Nepalese (for National Park permits, museum admission and even domestic airfare) prices are not high.

The present denominations of Nepalese currency in production are: Notes – 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 rupees; Coins – 1, 2 and 5 rupees.

Exchanging foreign currency

If you have a trip to Nepal planned, here is what you need to know about where to exchange foreign currency for Nepalese rupee. Changing money in Nepal is easy – Kathmandu has a large number of exchange centers, most of them in Thamel, the tourist hub of the city. You can also exchange foreign currency for Nepalese rupee at the airport itself or in banks. The exchange rates are quite competitive and the commission is negligible. This only applies to some foreign currencies listed in Nepal Rastra Bank’s websitehttp://www.nrb.org.np/fxmexchangerate.php, though, and other currencies are not changeable anywhere in Nepal.

Top of Form

Banking

Nepal has modern banking facilities and some international banks even have offices in Kathmandu. All visitors are required to exchange their money through the bank or authorized agents. In Kathmandu banks with money exchange counters are found everywhere and most hotels also have exchange counters. These facilities to change money are quick and convenient. It is necessary to ask for receipts when money is changed. On the return journey, if one is left with Nepalese rupees they can be exchanged for 15% of the amount on these receipts into any foreign currency at the Kathmandu International Airport. Remember to retain Rs. 700 for airport tax when departing on flights to SAARC Countries (India, Bhutan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives) or Rs.1650 or all other international destinations.

It is generally not possible to change foreign currency/travelers checks (except in Namche Bazaar, Jomsom, Salleri, Okhaldunga, Pokhara etc.) in the mountains. One must therefore change required money in Kathmandu before the trek starts. When cashing money for the trek, always ask for small denominations.  Banks are open between 10:00 A.M. to 2:30 P.M., Sunday to Thursday and between 1 0:00 A.M. to 12:30 P.M. on Friday. Closed on Saturday and national holidays. Some Banks in Thamel, Kathmandu are open till late hour

ATMs:

The easiest way to access funds in Nepal is through ATM machines. Machines have sprung up all over the major cities of Nepal in the last few years, and can be found next to banks. The flat-rate charges are small, and exchange rates are normally reasonable. Your bank can advise you on the conversion rate and fees you can expect. 

Credit cards

Almost all foreign currencies along with credit cards such as American Express, Visa, and Master card are accepted in Nepal.

Shopping

A memorable trip one always want to bring home a memorabilia for one self, friends and family.  Remember it’s better to get the item when you see it then to wait later and regret not getting it at the place you first found it. 

1. Thangka Paintings

With dominant Hindu and Buddhists, some of the best souvenirs from Nepal have a religious significance and meaning. They reflect the faith and culture of the people. Such is Thangka Painting.

A Thangka is a unique painting on cotton or silk applique, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene or mandala.

It is not a flat art like an oil painting or acrylic painting but consists of a picture panel which is painted or embroidered over which a textile is mounted and then covered in silk.

Bottom of Form

  1. Singing Bowls

Singing Bowl may be one of the nicest things to take from Nepal.

These bowls made of metal makes soothing sound when the rim is rubbed in a circular motion with a small wooden stick. Aside from the soothing sound, the vibration produces healing qualities and creates ambience for meditation.

The singing bowl comes in various sizes but basically there are two types of singing bowl; machine-made and hand-made.

The handmade bowls are expensive and scare with a plain brass colour. The machine-made bowls are perfectly symmetrical, highly decorated and costs less compared to the hand-made one.

  1. Pashmina

Fabrics make portable and appreciated gifts, especially if it is pashmina. Pashmina is the name given to Cashmere in Asia.

There are also several different types of quality pashmina available in Nepal and the price varies accordingly. These warm and colorful Pashmina shawls come with embroidery.

The most famous souvenir of pashmina is definitely shawls and scarfs.

“Beware of the Chinese copy of these shawls.”!

  1. Rice Paper items

Rice paper is made a handmade paper from rice husks. These papers are often used as a base to paint or a manuscript.

Nowadays, a wide variety of items are prepared from the rice paper. Rice paper journals, diaries, calendars, lamps, shades and photo frames may be a great souvenir to take back home.

  1. Khukuri

Khukuri is the world’s most popular knife known for its unique slashing edge. The traditional knife was used in the wars dating back to 1800s.

These Nepalese  Khukuri are high quality and handcrafted . So, they make an excellent souvenir, particularly for collectors. But, it can be difficult to transport. So, do know about the size limits of Khukuri that can be easily transported.

  1. Handicrafts

Nepalese handicraft is unique and one of its kind. The handicraft items like prayer wheels, traditional masks, puppets, intricately carved wooden sculptures, pottery items and hemp products are some of the most famous handicrafts crafted and sold in Nepal.

Truly evocative of the place, the vividly painted masks of local gods are available in various sizes. The wooden carvings, wood boxes and vases are a great option too.

Hemp products like t-shirts, pants, backpacks and bags are also a popular souvenir that you can take along with you. The Hemp Backpack also sells some of the best backpacks, hand-made in the Himalayas.

Beware of the people trying sell an items as an antique. The real antiques are hard to come by and are not allowed to leave Nepal without certification from the government.

  1. Statues and masks

The art and craft of Nepal is unique to the country. The beautiful cities of Kathmandu offers variety of statues of local Hindu and Buddhist devotees.

The shops also offers wide variety of mask of various mythical creature. Some of these masks are actually worn during special occasions and celebrations. For example, during traditional dances like Lakhe dance, or during religious mimicry.

This may be a perfect thing to take if you love some nice piece of arts with a unique blend of antique culture.

  1. Jewellery and arts

Kathmandu is known for its great silver and gold based jewellery and arts. Many of the traditional Newari utensils are moulded  in silver and make a very beautiful souvenir for you to take back home.

You can also buy variety of local beads to prepare your own necklace.

“Do watch out for Chinese imports of expensive looking but near worthless jewellery.”

  1. Tea

Nepal is one of the place to buy teas.

If your stay in Nepal has addicted you to sweet Nepali tea or Chiya, better pack some back home.

The best ways to bring home a little taste of Nepal is to purchase some of the local tea. The hills of Nepal and the climate is perfect for tea bushes and other herbs to flourish.

Delicious Nepali tea has many health benefits and is refreshing too. You can find huge variety of teas with different price range in nice teas shops.

  1. Spices

Nepali spices. Photo Courtesy: Michael

The Himalayan country of Nepal is famous for its unique spices and rare herbs. The fragrance of these distinctive herbs can be felt in every Nepalese kitchen.

As you stroll around the local market and alleyways, you come across the pleasant aroma of fresh spices. The bazaars in Nepal is filled with multiple spices, some of which is unique to the country.

You can also try out some of the famous Ayurvedic medicines (with consultation) or cosmetic items made in Nepal.

You should bargain: Bargaining is normal in Nepal. So, prepare to enter into a bit of haggling while negotiating price with the seller.  If you are thinking to buy something expensive, it’s good to ask around in couple of shops and previous buyers about the price. Happy shopping!

Electricity

In Nepal the power plugs and sockets are of type C, D and M. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.

DO'S & DON'TS

Local Etiquette

Nepal’s diverse cultural and religious diversity requires that the visitor be attuned to the local custom practices.  There are travel taboos in Nepal which cause extreme offence and lead to an immediate negative reaction in Nepal. Although most local people are very tolerant to foreigners, it’s wise to be mindful of local customs, learn the following travel tips, and follow these Dos and Don’ts in Nepal.  You will gain respect when you act properly and maybe make a few local friends along the way.

  1. Greet with Namaste. 

    People use “NAMASTE” to greet each other here. You can greet with Namaste joining two palms together and bowing your head at the same time. When you are grateful to somebody use Namaste to express yourself.  It is very polite of you if you use both hands to receive or give something, including money. Some Nepalese women might hesitate to shake hands with you. In such case you could perform the “NAMASTE” greeting.

  2. Remember not to point with a single finger but use a flat extended hand to indicate a sacred object or place.
  3. Among Hindus, avoid touching women and holy men. In Nepal, people especially women, do not normally shakes hands when they greet one another, but instead press palms together in a prayer-like gesture known “Namaste” greeting is preferable.
  4. Don’t eat with your left hand. The left hand is for…using the toilet.
  5. Never eat beef in front of Hindus & Buddhist because beef is strictly prohibited among both Hindus and Buddhists. Cows are sacred in Nepal.
  6. 6. Try not to step over or point your feet at another person. a sacred place or a hearth.Remove your shoes when entering a home , temple or monastery and leather items in Hindu temples and avoid smoking and wearing scant dress in religious settings.
  7. Remember, some of the temples entrance may be prohibited for non-Hindus.
  8. It is better not to touch offerings or persons when they are on way to shrines, esp. if you are non-Hindu.
  9. Don’t offer food to a Nepalese after tasting it, nor eat from a common pot, and avoid touching your lips to a shared drinking vessel.
  10. The sight of men holding hands is common, but men and women holding hands, and general acts of affection, are frowned upon.
  11. Do walk around stupas clockwise, so that the outer walls are always on your right. If you encounter a stone wall covered with Tibetan inscriptions, do the same: Walk past with the wall on your right (and don’t take any of the stones).
  12. Raising your voice or shouting is seen as extremely bad manners in Nepal.
  13. Do get a receipt of authenticity when purchasing an antique replica, otherwise, you will not be allowed to take it out of the country. And don’t buy ivory or fur from endangered species, your purchases encourage the trade in such illegal goods, and you won’t be allowed to bring them back home anyway.
  14. Don’t give in to children who ask for just one rupee. Although a rupee is a small amount that anyone can spare, successful begging leads young children to drop out of school and take up panhandling as their trade. If you want to help, give to a trustworthy charity or a school.
  15. Don’t take photographs of locals, holy shrines & temples unless they have clearly given their consent. One should always respect the privacy and not breach it. You should learn to limit yourself in taking photos where it is not allowed.
  16. Remember before entering holy temple, Nepalese houses and stupa do not forget to take off your shoes and sandal and spitting around temple premises is not considered ethical. Leather articles are not allowed inside any temples.
  17. Do NOT Drink tap water. Whether you’re staying in a 5 Star Deluxe Hotel or grab checked in in a small tea house for a snack, you should strictly not drink the tap water. Most of these places do provide you a safe drinking water. But in case they don’t have it always carry your own water bottle of safe drinking water. You can always consult your guide if you’re in doubt. Do not use tap water even to rinse your toothbrush.
  18. Never touch a person’s head. As a matter of fact, you probably don’t pat people on their head as tradition. A person’s head is considered sacred in Nepalese and also in many east Asian culture. So don’t even give a second thought considering touching somebody’s head.
  19. Dress appropriately: Though there has been a huge change in the perspectives of urbanised people of Nepal regarding the dressing codes, many Nepalese still are conservative and very traditional in the way they dress. You could spare embarrassment on both sides and not wear revealing clothing during your visit in Nepal. People will respect you for dressing appropriately as per the culture here. It is preferable if you wear shorts that are just above the knees.We are guests in their country so respect and enjoy all that Nepal has to offer.
  1. If you do take a taxi make sure the meter is turned on.
TRAVEL INSURANCE

Emergency Travel and health insurance is not included in our tour package. This is an important requirement when you travel with us for your safety and peace of mind in the unexpected event that you need urgent international standard care. You should buy travel insurance in your country as it will be more convenient for you to deal with any claims and adjustments upon your return home. AIG, Allianz, or John Hancock have good travel coverage and respond very quickly to emergencies. We do not endorse any one travel insurance company but suggest you consider www.travelguard.com, as past clients of ours have had good experiences with them in times of need. Also, check with your insurance provider to see if they cover:

  1. emergency evacuation during your travels, and
  2. emergency airlift to an international hospital or provide professional medical care to transport you home.  The cost alone for airlifting a person home can cost up to the 100’s of thousands of USD.  Travel more safely with fewer worries. 
PACKING LIST

A packing list is often a forgotten part of the planning processes, but it’s one of the most important steps to ensure an enjoyable vacation.  Here are some important reminders from our traveler’s experiences:  
 
Documentation 

  • Your passport should have at least 6-months validity from the date of departure on your trip. 
  • Check your visa requirement to your destination. Check the entry date on your visa and validity of the visa. 
  • When possible book e-tickets. If you happen to lose your ticket you can always print your ticket online. 
  • Always make extra copies of your passport and keep it separate from your original. 
  • Make a copy of your travel insurance and emergency contact information. It’s best to have those numbers to be entered in yours and your travel partner’s mobile phone.  It is a must for all travelers who travel with us to have medical treatment & evacuation insurance. We’ve seen too many nightmares when people try to save a few hundred dollars on insurance and end up with hundred of thousand of dollars in medical bills.
  • Call your credit card company to inform them of the dates of your trip so that your charge card won’t get blocked by your card company because of a foreign charge. This will also protect you in the event your card is stolen, and you have fraudulent charges on your account. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted as oppose to Amex. 
  • Make sure your tour operator knows of any allergies you may have. 

 
Electronics or gadgets 

  • Adapters for your gadgets
  • Make sure your electronics can take 230 volts as this is standard in most countries. 
  • Sometimes it’s a good investment to bring a backup mobile phone where you can use a local SIM card for calls. It’s much cheaper than using your regular mobile phone and paying for roaming calls. 
  • Don’t forget your charger for your electronics and check to see if they are compatible with 230 volts. 
  • Bring small pocket solar calculator to convert exchange rates. 

 
Clothing & Miscellaneous 

  • Know where you are traveling and the weather you should expect. Traveling to a tropical area you will expect to see mosquitoes, so bring some long sleeve shirts and long pants for evenings. 
  • Traveling to Asia it is frowned upon to wear shorts that are 6 in. above the knee, especially when visiting temples or places of worship. Wearing a dress is fine if you plan to dress light.  But again, when visiting temples please make sure dresses are no more than a few inches above the knee with a shirt or blouse covering your shoulder. Revealing shoulders are frowned upon.
  • Good walking shoes and socks
  • Slip-on shoes for ease of taking them on and off when visiting pagodas, houses, and other places where footwear in inappropriate.
  • Rain-resistant light jacket 
  • Head cover to protect from hot tropical weather 
  • Sunscreen 
  • Insect repellent with DEET 
  • Stomach medicine
  • Prescription medication 
  • A good book for those occasional flight delays
TIPPING

How much should you tip your guide and porter after a trek or a tour? That depends on a variety of factors: whether you’re traveling alone or with a group, for just one week or a whole month, and most importantly, what kind of service you received.  Here’s a few suggestions:

In theory, you should give what you think the guides and porters deserve, and only if they have provided you with good service. In practice, most trekkers don’t know how much to give and are afraid of either giving too little or too much. Below, we’ve provided reasonable guidelines for how much you should top should you be in doubt.

Service

USD per day

Rupees per day

Trekking Guide

$10 to $15 USD

1000-1500 NPR

Porter

$5 to $10 USD

500-1000 NPR

Tour Guide

$10 to $15 USD

1000-1500 NPR

Driver

$5 to $10 USD

500-1000 NPR

If service is excellent, feel free to give more. If poor service, give less.

Lastly, it’s good to keep in mind that not all guides earn the same salary. Those who speak a specific language, who are highly experienced or who are internationally certified in wilderness survival, etc., can make up to $50-$100 USD per day. In those cases, you may want to give more: roughly 15% of their total salary for the duration of your trek. 

CANCELLATION POLICY

Before 45 days, no charge tours.
45 to 30 days prior arrival date: 5% of the total price
29 to 15 days prior arrival date: 10% of the total price
7 days to the day of arrival: 50%
3 days to the day of arrival: 100%