Here are the top tips you need know when planning your trip to Nepal. Make the most out of your vacation by learning these key pieces of information.
Nepal at A Glance
Nepal is located between China and India and is one of the few countries in the world never to have been colonized. It’s a picturesque country with a lot to explore. It offers treasures such as Everest, the tallest mountain on our planet, the house of the living Goddess Kumari, and Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha Shakyamuni.
If you are looking to explore the outdoors and love to immerse yourself in nature, Nepal is the perfect place to visit. It is home to eight of the highest peaks in the world. Nepal also holds many World Heritage sites, has a strong history, culture and religious influence, offering a great variety of options of things to do and see.
The easiest way to obtain your visa is at the Tribhuwan International Airport upon your arrival in Kathmandu. Otherwise you can obtain one at the immigration entry point at the border of India or Tibet. The average pricing for the visa are:
- USD 25 or equivalent convertible currency for 15 days.
- USD 40 or equivalent convertible currency for 30 days.
Prices in Nepal are quite affordable. But as I always say, it will depend on your travel style.
In the city you can spend as little as US$20/day per person if you choose to stay at a Hostel and cook your own food. If you choose to stay at a 3 star hotel and eat at local restaurants, it can cost you an average of US$50/day per person.
Hiking in the Himalayas – Keep in mind that most likely you will be traveling around the country. Most people go hiking in the Himalayas (far from Kathmandu), and you will pay for transportation to get there. To take an 8 hour bus ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara costs US$25 per person or you can choose a 25 minutes flight for US$120.
While trekking, you will have expenses with the lodges which can be as cheap as US$5 per day, plus an average of US$7 per meal. Hiring a porter will cost approximately US$10 per day and if you have a guide, prices can vary. You will also need to pay for everything else: hiking permits, liters of water (no bottles), WIFI service, hot shower, hot tea, etc. Once you reach the summit, you can decide to take a helicopter flight back to the city if you don’t want to hike back, but this will add to your budget.
Getting Around & Transportation
I traveled by airplane and by car during my trip to Nepal. The roads can be chaotic and take too long to go from one place to another, so my first option was to fly to save time. The pavement stops at the city limits, after that the roads are pothole filled, dusty, dirt paths. The big cities are pretty much walkable, and I walked almost everywhere in Kathmandu and Pokhara. There is no train or reliable public transportation in Nepal (other than buses). It is easy enough to take a cab, but you will need to negotiate before you get in, as they will try to charge you much more.To go to the mountains you will need to hire an off road driver
I used a mix of hotels and tea-houses during my trekking and homestay in the rural areas. The accommodations are generally cheap and you have many options to choose from. It will depend on your preference and budget.
Kathmandu – If you are staying in Kathmandu, the best area is around Thamel, but keep in mind that the area can be noisy and very busy. I stayed at the hotel Beautiful Kathmandu which is a 3 star Western style in a quieter area of Thamel and they offer great service.View from the roof top at Beautiful Kathmandu Hotel
Pokhara – A good area to stay is around the lake, as it is walking distance from the city center, shops, restaurants, bars, etc. There are so many options for hotels in Pokhara, as it seems that each year dozens of new hotels open. I stayed at the White Pearl Pokhara. The rooms are very comfortable, the service is great, the breakfast buffet is delicious and the views are just amazing.View from my balcony at the White Pearl Resort in Pokhara
Hiking the Himalayas – During your hiking you will have options of lodges (or tea houses) to stay. They are normally 3-4 hours apart and clustered together. During the high season you will need to book in advance as it gets busy and you may not find a room. They are normally very simple and offer a basic stiff mattress and warm blanket for you to spend a night during your hiking. The walls are thin and the rooms don’t have heat. Typically you will have 1 outlet and 1 light bulb with 2-4 beds per room. A few rooms have bathrooms in the room and some lodges offer a gas heated shower.
Lodges also have a main room/dining area. The main room is where people gather in the evenings to eat their meals and their share stories from the day. The main room is the warmest place to be in the evening. The lodges all offer basically the same menu (see below), and Wi-Fi is often available for a small fee.My lodge at the Annapurna Base Camp. Simple, but with a million dollar view
What to Pack
I visited Nepal during winter time, and it was cold in the morning and evening, with more comfortable temperatures during the day. The rule of packing layers applies for Nepal. It is a very religious and conservative country, therefore consider this when you are packing.
- Cities: Long pants, long sleeves shirts, a winter jacket, rain jacket if you are visiting during the rainy season, comfortable shoes.
- Hiking in the Himalayas: Layers and layers. I had 3 layers of clothes that I started with and would end up during the day with one layer only. Merino for layers, hiking pants, a snow pants for when you summit the mountain, warm jacket, a lighter jacket and very comfortable hiking boots. If you forgot something, or think you may need anything else, you can also buy it in Kathmandu or Pokhara and you can find everything – from knock-off North Face gear to cashmere and yak wool products.
Weather & When to Go
June is the hottest month in Kathmandu with an average temperature of 73°F (23°C) and the coldest is January at 49°F (9°C) with the most daily sunshine hours at 12 in April.
The wettest month is July with an average of 325.3mm of rain. The morning and night are cold and the days are warm when sunny.
Nepal is a country of extremes. The low-land plains of the Terai can have tropical temperatures. The Himalayas can get to sub-zero temperatures, but the sunshine can bring some warmth during the day, even in the mountains.
October and December – This is 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, but will reward you with incredible panoramas and quieter trekking trails as there are fewer visitors
From May, heat and humidity levels build until the monsoon rains arrive in June and the clouds obscure the glorious mountain views.
I found Nepal very safe to visit. I didn’t see any signs of violence during the time I was visiting. I even had an episode where I forgot my laptop at the lodge at the Annapurna Base Camp, and I just noticed the next day. My guide was able to contact the person in charge of the lodge , and my laptop got rescued by helicopter and got to the city before me.
The only annoying thing I found in Kathmandu are the guys selling drugs in the streets – not only at a night time. Every country you will see this around the tourist areas, but I found that in Kathmandu it was more than any other place. They are not aggressive and whenever you deny, they will leave you alone.
Nepal offers a huge variety of outdoor activities for everyone’s taste. Being the best mountaineering destination in the world, you can choose from many options for hiking from a few days, to a few weeks. It will depend on the amount of time you have and the level you are willing to hike. Nepal also is popular for canyoning, rock climbing, mountain biking, mountaineering, Whitewater rafting and paragliding.
The cities offer a great variety of restaurants and dishes. From local cuisine, to Indian to Western. The food in Nepal is very good as they use a variety of unique spices. I was also surprised by the large variety on the menu in the lodges during the hiking; I didn’t expect to have so many options. You also have an option to try the Nepal Cooking School to learn more about the amazing flavors of Nepal
- Dal Bhat -Dal is a soup made of lentils and spices, served over boiled grain, and Bhat is boiled rice. These two ingredients are accompanied with vegetable curry and tarkari. Condiments are usually small amounts of extremely spicy pickle which can be fresh or fermented.
- Momo -is one of the most popular dishes in Nepal. Momos are usually steamed dumplings, with a filling of meat or vegetables. It becomes succulent as it produces an intensively flavored broth sealed inside the wrappers and served with a curry dipping sauce.
- Nepali pizza – Very simple, but makes a great meal especially at night after our hike. A simple homemade dough with cheese and tomato is popular in Nepal and covered with cow or yak cheese.
- Breakfast – Nepali people usually do not have breakfast, so keep in mind that if you are in a non-tourist area, you will only have coffee or tea options. But if you are in the city you can find great cafes with pastries or find a continental or American breakfast pretty much everywhere, including during the hiking at the lodges.
- What else – Indian cuisine has a huge influence in Nepal and you can find a large variety pretty much everywhere. I did miss my greens, as I am very big on salad and in Nepal you don’t have the option for fresh green salads. I also avoided eating meat, as they are not very big on red meat. I did try some dishes with chicken and fish and they were all delicious.