Nepal is a small landlocked country surrounded by two giants India and China. When it comes to travel to Nepal, its beauty and adventures, Nepal is one of the best destinations in Asia. Once you get to see its breath-taking glaciers, snow-capped mountains, pristine rivers, lush forests, picturesque valleys, temples, monasteries, challenging trekking routes, and unique landscape, you will truly understand its magnificence.
Nepal is distinctive to any place you will visit on the planet for the country is crazy, welcoming, chaotic, vibrant, captivating, and spiritual. In short, Nepal will win your heart with its natural sceneries, culture, temples, food, fascinating history, and landscapes.
Unlike other bloggers, I will not start with, “I have been to Nepal thrice” or “This was my second travel to Nepal” because I am from Nepal itself. I was born and brought up here so, there would be no travel blogger that would know this country better.
To begin with, Nepal is so much more than just Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan, and trekking in the Himalayas. They are undoubtedly fun experiences however, Nepal offers a wide variety of adventures. Additionally, there are numerous UNESCO listed world heritage sites that can provide an outstanding tourism experience.
Nepal is so beautiful that every spot here has the potential to be a tourist spot. Nepal is unfortunately so underexplored so, exploring those off-the-beaten-paths totally makes sense.
As I know how different Nepal is from any other country, there are certain things you should know before you decide to travel to Nepal. Hopefully, these tips will make your travel to Nepal a lot easier and more fun.
Here is a local’s complete travel guide to Kathmandu in case you are looking for an authentic one!
Things you should know before you decide to travel to Nepal
1. Some facts you should know before you decide to travel to Nepal
-Nepal has never been conquered by outsiders and therefore, does not celebrate an independence day.
-Eight out of ten highest peaks in the world along with the tallest, Mount Everest belongs to Nepal.
-Nepal has a total of 10 UNESCO listed world heritage sites.
-Nepal similarly houses the world’s deepest lake which is Shey Phoksundo along with Lake Tilicho which is the highest altitude lake.
-Unlike the mainstream quadrilateral flags, Nepal is the only country with triangular flag.
-Nepalese Gurkha Armies are the bravest soldiers in the world which is also why the British have been recruiting them as a part of their paid army.
2. Understand the climate before you travel to Nepal
Nepal has a warm temperature climate between 1,200m to 2,100m whereas, a cool temperature climate between 2,100m to 3,300m. The temperature of Nepal therefore is mild and can be visited at any time of the year.
However, the best time of the year to visit Nepal is anytime between September to November once the monsoon rain has cleared the road. These months offer a cooler temperature and clearer views of the Himalayas on a good day. Besides, the biggest Hindu festival like Dashain and Tihar occurs in these months which will permit you to see the country at its finest. If you miss this time of the year, another alternative could be from February to May. The temperature is cool in these months as well.
Apart from the climate being moderate, Nepal is one of the safest destinations to travel to. For a long time, even political stability is visible in the country.
3. Spoken language of Nepal
The common language of Nepal is Nepali which is spoken by almost 45% of the population. Maithili is the second widely spoken language in Nepal after Nepali. Though a majority of people in Nepal speak Nepali, English is just as much in practice when it comes to tourism.
Even taxi drivers, food vendors, and shop owners can converse in English. Though they might not be that fluent in English, they can still put their point across in an understandable manner.
4. Greeting in Nepali
Saying ‘Namaste’ with both hands joined into a prayer is how people greet in Nepal. You can additionally learn some common Nepali words as they are very easy to learn. If you are from India then, it gets all the easier. However, a smile with a ‘Namaste’ is enough to get people to help you in Nepal.
5. Nepal is more than Kathmandu and Pokhara
Most tourists perceive Nepal as Kathmandu and Pokhara and as a result, take absolutely no time to fly off to Pokhara as soon as they land in Kathmandu. There is no denying that there are a lot of things to do in Kathmandu but as a local, I can assure you that Nepal is so much more than just Kathmandu and Pokhara. And, there is an overpowering number of things you can do here as a tourist.
Nepal offers so many places and activities such as trekking in the Himalayas, visiting Chitwan and experiencing a different wild side of Nepal at Chitwan National Park, visiting Lumbini-the birthplace of Gautam Budhha, paragliding in Pokhara, and going for white water rafting, etc.
Here are some best things that you can do in Pokhara.
6. Know about trekking before you travel to Nepal
Nepal surely is about trekking and the mountains but there are certain things you need to know before you decide to trek in Nepal. So, let’s start with what is the perfect time to trek in Nepal? The best time to go trekking in Nepal is once the monsoon ends which is from September to November as the climate is warm and dry as a result, the view of mountains are the clearest.
Another significant question that needs to be answered before you decide to travel to Nepal is, is it safe to trek alone? The answer is no! We understand the temptation to explore the off-the-beaten-path but that is not a good idea in Nepal since many solo travelers are reported missing in Nepal. As Nepal is home to remote and wildest terrains and there is a number of things that can go wrong when you are traveling and especially at high altitudes so, avoid trekking alone in Nepal.
For all the above-mentioned reasons, foreigners are not allowed to trek without a certified guide in Nepal. It is always advised to trek in a group along with a guide. Similarly, Everest and Annapurna are the reasons trekkers visit Nepal but is always a great idea to go beyond that. Also, ensure that you never underestimate altitude sickness.
7. Understand the currency of Nepal and know if ATMs work at all places before you travel to Nepal
I have heard from many travelers that the currency of Nepal is so confusing. I would like to differ from that because I do not think it is that difficult to figure out the Nepalese notes. Perhaps because I have been living here since birth and am used to seeing them.
The official currency of Nepal is the Nepali rupee and you will have the option to manage notes from 1-1000. I would like to add that the Nepalese notes come in different sizes. It is however easy to figure out because the notes having smaller or little value comes in small size and vice versa.
A lot of spots in Thamel, Kathmandu trade currencies. Currencies from practically all the nations can be exchanged yet Euros, US dollars, and Pounds are preferred. You can likewise find ATMs just about anywhere in Kathmandu. Sadly, the withdrawal offered is between 10,000 to 40,000 a day. Consider withdrawing as much as you can each time you withdraw from these machines to dodge huge bank fees every single time.
I would similarly suggest you exchange your currencies beforehand because ATMs are not available at all places especially in the rural parts of the country.
8. Know what you can do here before you travel to Nepal
There are a lot of fun activities one can do in Nepal such as trekking around the mountains and Himalayas, bungee jumping, paragliding, rock climbing, peak climbing, mountain biking, white water rafting, and canyoning. Other things one can do here are visiting National Parks and Conservation Areas. Also, enjoy the major festivals of Nepal such as Dashain, Tihar, Teej, Chhath, Holi, etc.
9. Getting a Nepali visa on arrival
Nepali visa on arrival is very easy to get as you can get your visa upon arrival as soon as you land at the Tribhuvan International airport in Kathmandu which is the only international airport in Nepal. The cost of the single entry visa is determined as per the length of stay in Nepal. The 15, 30, and 90 days visas cost $25, 40, and 100 respectively. These amounts are to be paid in cash and all the forms of currencies are accepted. In case you do not have cash, an ATM machine is available for you to withdraw money.
There is another good thing about the visas here in Nepal as this country offers multiple-entry by default which means that you can venture into India or China and come back before your visa expires. Similarly, if you enter Nepal through borders, you can still get a visa on arrival in Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj, Kodari, Kakadvitta, and Birgunj.
Likewise, if you want to stay back longer than you planned then there is a way for that too, you just simply need to fill a visa extension form and print it out. Take the form along with the original passport and a photocopy of your passport, and a passport-sized photograph. Now, visit the immigration office and pay the extension fee.
10. Cow is the holy national animal of Nepal
Cows are the holy and national animals of Nepal and killing them will earn you years in prison. Although you might love beef, do not even think of consuming it. People here are so caring that they have an alternative for you which is ‘buff’ that means buffalo. And, next time if you see that term on the menu, you know what it is!
11. Should you consume or avoid street food?
There are a lot of countries that provide extraordinarily delicious food and the first-hand experience is something else so, discover these unique local flavors. Nepal is famous for the mouth-watering street food so, try not to miss eating at stalls when you travel to Nepal. On the contrary, some travelers have also complained about indigestion caused by the stall foods and in case you experience that, switch to restaurants.
12. Entry discounts for SAARC nations
Citizens from the SAARC nations (India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Maldives) pay a small entry fee as compared to the citizens from other nations. In short, the monument’s entry prices are comparatively low for citizens from SAARC countries.
13. Understand the religion and caste system before you travel to Nepal
Nepal is a secular country and comprises majority (80 percentage) of Hindu religion followed by Buddhism. When it comes to the caste system, it is very prevalent. These caste system determine the religion, marriage, housing, customs, and traditions.
14. Marriage system and functions
Like I earlier mentioned, Nepal has a distinct culture and marriage. Caste unfortunately still plays a major role in whom we marry. Similarly, marriage is different from what we normally see in other countries. The marriage ceremony can last as long as a week and is so vibrant and fun. And to add, unlike in other parts of the world, arranged marriage is more common than love marriage here in Nepal.
15. Pay respect by taking off your shoes while entering religious sites
One thing we all must remember is that Nepal has its own tradition and values which must be respected by everyone including the foreigners. If you are from Southeast countries then you must be aware of the fact that we remove our footwear before visiting temples or even homes. This is the respect that we portray through these gestures to all the sacred places.
16. Nepal has eight of the world’s highest peaks
The first thing that crosses our minds as soon as we hear Nepal is the Mount Everest. Along with the tallest peak, we have other eight peaks including Mount Kanchenjunga which is again the third highest peak in the world.
17. Don’t expect too much out of Nepal when it comes to internet
The internet here in Nepal is still an issue. I am not at all suggesting that we do not have an internet or have poor internet however, the internet is yet not accessible in many parts of the country and especially in the rural areas. If you are looking to explore off-the-beaten-path, it can get all the more difficult for you to figure out your way back.
18. Know what products are manufactured here before you travel to Nepal
Nepal as a landlocked country heavily relies on the import of commodities such as fertilizers, fuels, and other construction materials. At the same time, Nepal is also known to export many products to several parts of the world. The products such as tea, herbs, Thanka paintings, fruits, vegetables, handicrafts, pashmina shawls, woolen carpets, textile flooring, etc. are the most valuable products exported by Nepal.
19. Know about the traffic and transportation before you travel to Nepal
Traffic is undoubtedly a setback in Nepal along with poor management in transportation with limitations on it. The traffic during office hours is horrendous so, try avoiding this time of the day. I would recommend you to commute in the early morning and evening to get away from the traffic.
You will have the option to choose from the taxi, bus or micros. Taxis are much quicker and comfortable than the other ones. The fare is as follows:
Taxi: NPR 45-50 per kilometer
Bus and micros: NPR 10-50 depending upon the distance.
Talking about the replacement of Uber and Grab, we do have that as well with the latest trend of tootle services and it is so much cheaper. Let me give you a heads-up that Tootle only comes in handy if you are traveling alone as it is a motorcycle service. This is also how we commute inside the Kathmandu valley. Similarly, avoid hiring bikes or cars because Nepal side traffic is left-handed and you might face a lot of confusion if you come from the western part of the world.
When it comes to traveling to different parts of Nepal, you can also take a flight. This option is rather limited because Nepal does not have an airport in every part of the country. As an alternative, you can book a bus ticket which is obviously a lot cheaper than the flights but take much longer.
20. Is load shedding or blackouts still prevalent?
The answer is no! While it has been a huge problem in the past, load shedding is no more an issue in Nepal so, you do not have to worry about the blackouts anymore. Also, most of the hotels and restaurants have backup generators so don’t stress about it.
21. Understand the situation of infrastructure before you travel to Nepal
For the most part, the infrastructure in Nepal is quite developed but again it boils down to which part of the country you are exploring. Many parts of the country especially the rural ones are underdeveloped and the basic infrastructures such as paved roads, electricity, transportation, and the internet are still an issue. Since Nepal is a developing country, a lot of road trips can turn into a bumpy ride so, stay alert!
22. Learn about the toilets here before you travel to Nepal
Unlike in the western part of the world, Nepal has a squatting toilet which travelers might find difficult to cope up with for the first few times and also worry about a bad knee. With the name itself, we can figure out what it is however, I would like to shed some light on it. It is a toilet with a hole on the ground with some space for your feet on either side. You then squat and do your thing and once you are done you are supposed to flush with a bucket of water.
Similarly, there are limited options when it comes to public toilets. Likewise, if you are headed on a long journey by road, you might face some difficulties in finding a toilet. However, this is not the case in the developed parts of the country because unlike other parts, you can easily find western toilets.
23. Do not drink tap water here in Nepal
Most hotels in Nepal provide you with bottles of water every day therefore, use those. You could also purchase some bottles through any regular shop but refrain from drinking tap water as it will have an adverse effect on your health because the tap water here in Nepal is unfiltered and unpurified.
24. Shop from the capital, Kathmandu itself
Kathmandu will allow you to shop in a lot cheaper amount with a lot of variety and options while other parts of the country are comparatively expensive when it comes to shopping for clothes and souvenirs.
The most enthusiastic, vibrant, and buzzing market of Kathmandu is the Asan market where you will be able to find everything at the cheapest price. In brief, it offers you an abundance of local stalls, street vendors, along with cafés and restaurants.
It can be a little overwhelming to wander around since it is a narrow street and too many bikes and cars cross the road from all the corners nevertheless, you will get to experience the real-life of Nepali people. Similarly, this place will let you experience legitimate and modest local shopping, simply haggle above 40% of the original price.
25. Know about the tourist scams before you travel to Nepal
The majority of tourist attractions here require an entrance fee and I agree that the entrance fee for a local and tourist is definitely not the same. Actually, the tourists pay around 3-5 times more than what locals pay. Yes, it is unfair but the money goes into the renovation and maintenance of such attractions itself.
However, I would like to warn you that be aware of unauthorized people trying to charge you some extra. Also, when you shop around for clothes, souvenirs, or food, chances are that you might be ripped off so, do some research before you buy something or take your guide or local people if you have that alternative.
Similarly, some people will come to you at religious sites and start explaining the history or facts about the places. If you keep on listening, they will charge you some cash when they leave. So, if anybody comes and offers you such excursions, politely cut them off.
26. Noise and dust pollution
You will find people covering their faces with a mask, shawl, or scarf when they go out of the house. That is because Nepal is a developing country and there is a piece of construction going on every now and then. If you are in Kathmandu, make sure you carry a mask, other than that every other part has clean air. When it comes to noise pollution, it has been drastically eradicated with “no horn” zones.
27. Be aware while crossing the roads in Nepal
Going across a bustling street in Kathmandu is an undertaking in itself so, go across the street with local people. The vehicles coming towards you while you are crossing the streets are probably not going to stop and let you pass so, remember this to keep away from mishaps.
28. Nepal is home to a variety of wild animals
Nepal is so diversified when it comes to wild life as well as Nepal is home to a ton of animals such as One-horned rhinos, Elephants, Peacocks, tigers, and so on. At the same time, you must remember that Nepal has no tolerance for poachers therefore, consider this!
29. Nepal’s nightlife is limited to Thamel, Kingsway, and Lakeside Pokhara
Nepal’s nightlife is not really a thing as you won’t see many happening night events anywhere else other than in Thamel and Durbarmarg (Kingsway). Pokhara lakeside is a thing too but that is rather occasional or seasonal. Also, the nightlife is not really a nightlife as most of the clubs and bars close before 12.
30. Carry a toilet paper with you
This does not apply if you are in major cities but if you are traveling to other parts of the country then carry a toilet paper. Also, if you are traveling by road, you will face an issue with a proper toilet and sanitation so, carrying a toilet paper, a paper soap, and a sanitizer is a must.
31. There is an alternative to get to Mount Everest which is the Mountain flight
Not an experienced hiker but still want to get close to the Himalayas? The Everest view flight is then your best option. With this, you will be able to get close to 20 majestic Himalayas, lakes, glaciers and, the highest peak of the world, Mount Everest. Likewise, the mountain flight operates through Kathmandu. To summarize, the early morning trip will allow you to enjoy the panoramic view of the tallest peaks in the world only 20 miles away from you.
To add, the trip is 50 minutes to an hour long and 3 airlines offer this support. The value begins from 150 USD, I realize it isn’t excessively modest however, the thrill is unquestionably justified. In case you are not into trekking and mountaineering, this ought to be on your bucket list. Without this once in a lifetime experience, your trip to Nepal is incomplete.
32. Try this Nepalese food
When it comes to food, Nepali thali set, Newari foods, momos, and thakali set should not be missed. Kathmandu and Pokhara have one of the best dining facilities serving Nepalese, Korean, Thai, Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Continental, and French dishes.
However, if you are trekking or are at a higher altitude then all these options get compromised and you will be left with only the traditional dishes which is a great thing because they are delicious.
33. You need not tip in Nepal
Tipping in restaurants, cafes, hotels, and lodges are not necessary because they already have their service charge added to the bill which is usually 10-15% of the total amount.
34. Bus stops and stations
There is a major bus park in Gongabu that is inside the ring road which allows you to leave the valley. Other than that, there aren’t any bus park allocated as such but you can catch a bus from just about anywhere if you are inside the ring road.
35. Haggling or bargaining is a part of life
One of the best parts of shopping in Nepal is, you can haggle. From the original price, you can lower down the price up to 40% of the initial price. So, before you jump in to pay the amount, haggle down the price and you will save some cash.
This not only applies to shopping for clothes and souvenirs, but you can also haggle down the price of groceries as it is a part of life here in Nepal. You can similarly wander around in order to find out the general price so that you figure out the actual worth of a product.
It’s a wrap!
So that is it! I hope you understood all the things you should know before you travel to Nepal. What do you think of the list? Also, do let me know in the comments below if you have any additional information that people should know before they travel to Nepal.