01. Access To Nepal
Considering the enduring popularity of Nepal as a travel destination, there are surprisingly few direct international flight connections into Kathmandu and fares are normally much higher than they are to nearby Indian cities such as Delhi. If you are coming during the prime travel and trekking months of October and November, book your long-haul and domestic flights well in advance.
However, overland and air-travel connections to India are extensive, so it’s easy to combine a dream trip to both Nepal and India, with possible add-ons to Bhutan and Tibet.
Currently, these airlines operate international flights to Nepal:
|Druk Air||Air China|
|SpiceJet||China Eastern Airlines|
|IndiGo||China Southern Airlines|
|Jet Airways||Sichuan Airlines|
|Biman Bangladesh||Korean Air|
|Bhutan Airlines (Tashi Air)|
|Druk Air||Air Arabia|
|Air India||Oman Air|
|Jet Airways||Qatar Airways|
|Bhutan Airlines (Tashi Air)|
Airlines of Nepal
|Buddha Air||Turkish Airlines|
All visitors coming to Nepal by land must enter only through one of these entry points
The eastern border crossing at Kakarbhitta offers easy onward connections to Darjeeling, Sikkim, Kolkata, and India’s northeast states.
The border crossing from Birganj to Raxaul Bazar is handy for Patna and Kolkata. Buses run from the bus station in Patna straight to Raxaul Bazar
The crossing at Sunauli is by far the most popular route between India and Nepal. Regular buses run from Sunauli to Gorakhpur from where you can catch trains to Varanasi.
Few people use the crossing at Nepalganj in western Nepal as it’s not particularly convenient for anywhere else. The nearest town in India is Lucknow, where you can pick up slow buses to Rupaidha Bazaar (seven hours), near the border post at Jamunaha. You might also consider taking a train to Nanpara, 17km from the border.
The little-used border crossing from Dhangadhi to Gauriphanta, Uttar Pradesh, is useful for moving on to Lucknow, New Delhi or visiting Dudhwa National Park
The western border crossing at Mahendranagar is also reasonably convenient for Delhi. There are daily buses from Delhi’s Anand Vihar bus stand to Banbasa (10 hours), the nearest Indian village to the border.
Kodari in the Nepal-China border
The vast majority of travelers enter Tibet at Kodari/Zhangmu on the Friendship Hwy, though organized groups can trek from Simikot through far-western Nepal to Mt Kailash. Other road connections, including the road from Tibet to Mustang and the new road between Kyirong and Langtang, are not open to foreigners.
The overland tourists entering the country with their vehicles must possess an international carnet or complete customs formalities.
Car & Motorcycle
A steady trickle of people drives their own motorbikes or vehicles overland from Europe, for which an international carnet is required. If you want to abandon your transport in Nepal, you must either pay prohibitive import duty or surrender it to customs. It is not possible to import cars more than five years old. Make sure you bring an international driving permit.
Nepal makes things easy for foreign travelers. Visas are available on arrival at the international airport in Kathmandu and at all land border crossings that are open to foreigners, as long as you have passport photos to hand and can pay the visa fee in foreign currency (some crossings insist on payment in US dollars). Your passport must be valid for at least six months and you will need a whole free page for your visa.
All foreigners, except Indians, must have a visa. Nepali embassies and consulates overseas issue visas with no fuss. You can also get one on the spot when you arrive in Nepal, either at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan airport or at road borders at Nepalganj, Birganj/Raxaul Bazaar, Sunauli, Kakarbhitta, Mahendranagar, Dhangadhi, and even the funky Kodari checkpoint on the road to Tibet.
A Nepali visa is valid for entry for three to six months from the date of issue. Children under 10 require a visa but are not charged a visa fee. Your passport must have at least six months of validity. Citizens of South Asian countries (except India) and China need visas, but, if you’re only entering once in a calendar year then these are free.
Visa Facility Duration Fee
Multiple entry 15 days US$ 30 or equivalent convertible currency
Multiple entry 30 days US$ 50 or equivalent convertible currency
Multiple entry 90 days US$ 120 or equivalent convertible currency
Gratis (Free) Visa
Gratis visa for 30 days available only for tourists of SAARC countries.
Visa extensions are available from immigration offices in Kathmandu and Pokhara only and cost a minimum of US$30 (payable in rupees only) for a 15-day extension, plus US$2 per day after that. To extend for 30 days is US$50 and to extend a multiple-entry visa add on US$20. If you’ll be in Nepal for more than 60 days you are better off getting a 90-day visa on arrival, rather than a 60-day visa plus an extension.
03. Foreign Exchange
The unit of currency in Nepal is the rupee, usually addlepated to NRs. Exchange rates at the time of writing were US$ 1 = NRs 105 (2016), to get per day rete NRB Rate
The Nepali rupee (Rs) is divided into 100 Paisa (p). There are coins for denominations of one, two, five, and 10 rupees, and banknotes in denominations of one, two, five, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1000 rupees. Since the abolition of the monarchy in 2008, images of Mt Everest have replaced the king on all banknotes.
Foreign currencies must be exchanged only through the banks or authorized foreign exchange dealers. The receipts from such transactions are to be obtained and retained. Visitors can exchange money at the foreign exchange counter at the airport upon arrival also. Indian currency Rs. 500/- and Rs. 1,000/- notes are not allowed to be brought into Nepal, will not be exchanged, and will not be accepted for the transaction of any kind.
• Taxis Round up the fare for taxi drivers; rickshaw drivers will also appreciate a modest tip.
• Restaurants Tipping waiting staff is uncommon, but tips are invariably appreciated.
• Guides & Porters Trekking guides and porters generally expect a tip of 10% to 20% for a job well done.
05. Customs Formalities
All baggage is X-rayed on arrival and departure, though it’s a pretty haphazard process. In addition to the import and export of drugs, customs is concerned with the illegal export of antiques.
You may not import Nepali rupees, and only nationals of Nepal and India may import Indian currency.
There are no other restrictions on bringing in either cash or traveler’s cheques, but the amount taken out at departure should not exceed the amount brought in.
Officially you should declare cash or traveler’s cheques in excess of US$2000 or the equivalent, but no one seems to bother with this, and it is laxly enforced.
Nepal has every category of accommodation facility, ranging from international standard star hotels and resorts to budget lodges. To ensure safety and quality service, it is advisable to use the services of Government registered hotels, lodges, travel agencies; licensed tour guides and hire only authorized trekking guides or porters
Comfortable accommodation in the regional cities of Nepal, such as Nepaljng and Biratnagar, is limited. However, Kathmandu, Pokhara & Chitwan (the main town in central Nepal) offers innumerable hostels, guesthouses, and hotels offering rooms from the most basic cells to deluxe air-conditioned suites with panoramic mountain views, 24 hr. room service with all the facilities.
In Kathmandu, budget accommodation for foreigners is concentrated in the Thamel area of town, but this has become a veritable tourist ghetto, for removed at character, atmosphere, and price from the rest of the city. Anyone who has been to Nepal can recommend favorite lodgings in Kathmandu or Pokhara, and it is an unfortunate fact that any place recommended in the more popular travelers’ guidebooks will be packed during peak season. If the mayhem of Thamal is too much, seek out more peaceful, cheaper accommodation at Bodnath or in Patan or Bhaktapur.
08. Food and Drink
The variety of food on offer in the restaurants of Kathmandu and Pokhara is as diverse as the accommodation available in hotels. Restaurants in Kathmandu’s Thamel vie with each other to provide the most comprehensive and imaginative menus, though often the food and service are mediocre. European and continental fare almost always disappoints, and by far the best way of finding good service and food is to seek out the places where Nepalis eat. Traditional Newari cuisine and Indian food are good bets. Getting a table at any of the more popular and well-established restaurants in town during peak season requires prior booking.
Countrywide, the staple diet is Dalbat (dal= lentils cooked as a watery soup, bat= boiled rice), typically eaten twice a day. Nepalis don’t breakfast as much but take their first Dalbat late in the morning. They then eat again after sunset, when the work of the day is done.
Nepal may be a Hindu and Buddhist country (beliefs that eschew intoxicating liquor), but the consumption of alcohol is as central to Nepali traditions of socializing and celebration as it is in any heathen western nation. Typically, Nepalis cannot ‘take their drink’ though, and you’re smiling, peace-loving homicidal maniacs given a supply of riksi.
In cities all water other than bottled mineral water should be regarded as contaminated. This includes the water used to make ice-cubes. You should never, especially in Kathmandu, and doubly so in the rainy season, even brush your teeth with tap water.
Once on trek, either boil (just bringing water the boil, at any altitude, is now accepted to be sufficient to sterilize it) or treat all drinking water with a tincture of iodine or push (2-4 drops per liter, left 15-20 minutes, depending on the level of contamination and temperature). Do not use mineral water on a trek! It is ridiculously expensive, and discarded plastic water bottles have far surpassed toilet paper as the biggest popular trekking routes.
The modern telecommunications age has arrived in Nepal with a vengeance. There are countless telephone, fax, email, and internet bureaus providing almost cost-price access to international communication all over Kathmandu, and to a lesser extent in other major towns. These offer telephone and fax services at a fraction of the costs charged by hotels, and similarly cheap email/internet services. The use of the internet has revolutionized the way the international traveling community keeps in touch.
For those who still wish to avail themselves of more conventional postal services, the General Post Office (GOP) in Kathmandu is at Sundhara. There are poste restante facilities available. If you are staying in Thamel, it will save you a long trip to the GPO to use one of the many posting services offered by places such as hotels and book shops. For a modest fee, they will take your letters and cards there and see them franked. Always use airmail; surface mail- via India – is unreliable.
Duracell and other such alkaline & lithium batteries for cameras, Walkman’s, etc. are widely available in Kathmandu and other city areas of Nepal. But most are copies made in the Far East and do not perform any better than cheaper Indian equivalents. It is strongly recommended that you bring sufficient for your needs with you from home.
Nepal’s electricity supply theoretically 220V/50Hz, fluctuates widely. Power-cuts are frequent, though most major hotels in cities will have generators. Note that a voltage stabilizer is essential if you’re using sensitive equipment while you are in trek periods like a laptop computer or television.
If there is one thing that will enrich any visit to Nepal it is knowledge- however rudimentary of the Nepali language and a willingness to attempt conversation with those you meet during your travel. Carrying a simple phrasebook will pay enormous dividends, and if you are fortunate enough to travel with a Nepali who speaks some English you will have much fun learning the basics of spoken Nepali. Its linguistic roots are in Sanskrit, the ancient Indo-European literary language of India, and like Hindi, with which it has much in common, it is normally written in the Devanagiri script.
The vast majority of Nepalis are friendly, helpful, and scrupulously honest, but constant exposure to what can only be perceived as giddy levels of affluence and the carefree attitudes of foreigners in the more popular areas has led many into temptation. A level of vigilance of care of required in these places- to keep honest folk honest as much as anything.
A sense of sartorial modesty is also called for, as figure-revealing women’s clothes and behavior that would be considered innocent enough at home may be perceived as an open invitation by some Nepali men. Note that nudity and public displays of physical affection are offensive to Nepalese and should be avoided.
- Buddhist Sites Always walk clockwise around Buddhist stupas (bell-shaped religious structures), chörtens (Tibetan-style stupas), and Mani (stone carved with a Tibetan Buddhist chant) walls.
- Head Wobble A sideways tilt or wobble of the head conveys agreement in Nepal, not a ‘no’.
- Greetings Nepalese rarely shake hands – the Namaste greeting (placing your palms together in a prayer position) is a better choice.
- Respect When giving or receiving money, use your right hand and touch your right elbow with your left hand, as a gesture of respect.
- No shoes Always remove your shoes before you enter a private house or monastery.
- Dining Don’t use your left hand for eating or passing food to others as this hand is used for personal ablutions. Wash your hands and mouth before dining.
13. Film & Equipment
Almost all flavors of the memory stick, flash card, etc., and batteries are available in Kathmandu. Note that travelers have reported buying cheap cards in Kathmandu that do not have as much memory as the packet claims.
- Most Nepalis are content to have their photograph taken but always ask permission first. Sherpa people are an exception and can be very camera-shy.
- Bear in mind that if a sadhu (holy man) poses for you, they will probably insist on being given baksheesh (a tip).
- It is not uncommon for temple guardians to not allow photos of their temple, and these wishes should be respected.
- Don’t photograph army camps, checkpoints, or bridges.
- To photograph Nepal’s diverse attractions you need a variety of lenses, from a wide-angle lens for compact temple compounds to a long telephoto lens for mountain shots or close-ups of wildlife.
- A polarising filter is useful to increase contrast and bring out the blue of the sky.
- Remember to allow for the intensity of mountain light when setting exposures at high altitudes.
- When it comes to taking portraits, remember that the bright Nepalese sky and darker Nepalese skin can be too much of a contrast for your camera. A fill-in flash can do wonders to the quality of your images.