Creating a comprehensive Nepal travel guide is not an easy task. Primarily because, until you visit Nepal, you ought to associate the country with the sheer beauty of its mountainous landscape. And while gorgeous mountain tops allure travellers from all over the world, Nepal is home to diverse landscapes, varying from hot flats, through mesmerising jungles to mystical tea fields. Just like many of you reading this, we imagined a completely different Nepal before our arrival. There are countless documentaries, series, books and articles portraying Nepal as the ultimate getaway for mountain lovers. But what everyone forgets to mention is the cultural diversity in Nepal. The food, the houses, the colours, the religions. Just like its neighbouring country, India, Nepal is an assault to all your senses. Nepal was by far the most challenging trip for us. But we want you to enjoy a smooth ride with real expectations, thus the creation of this Nepal travel guide.
How can you possibly describe Nepal? In one word: chaotic!
Join us on an adventure, as we try to describe our Nepal trip with the good, the bad, the sublime and the impossible.
Comprehensive Nepal Travel Guide - Contents
Plan your trip
Currency: Nepalese Rupee
Electricity Socket: 220v/50Hz electricity. Power outlets are compatible with European plugs.
Major festivals in Nepal:
|Nepali New Year
|Dashain and Tihar||October|
Warnings: Landslides happen year-round especially during monsoon time. Be very vigilant as road accidents are a serious threat (we know we passed several fatal ones!). Health care is not exceptional in Nepal so if something truly serious happens, you may need to be transported out of the country for extra care. There are some private clinics which travel insurance companies usually recommend and work with. If you hike Mount Everest, you might need to be taken down by helicopter which costs a lot out of pocket.
Don't risk it, make sure you buy travel insurance before you go!
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When to visit
There are two important things you need to take into consideration when planning a trip to Nepal: which part you wish to visit and when to visit. If you wish to visit Nepela for trekking to Everest or Annapurna, April and May are considered the peak times. June to September is the low season being the monsoon season. October and November is high season yet again, with trekkers attempting to conquer Everest from all over the world and March - April are the shoulder months.
For cultural visits, we recommend March and April when the weather is nice and places are less busy, making your visit a lot cheaper than during the high season. We visited at the very beginning of June when the weather was hot but still considerably drier than we expected. We experienced some rain, but not enough to pose any issues for our travels.
Creating a budget for Nepal means taking into account the type of traveller you are. You can find dorm rooms in Nepal for as little as £4 per night, to luxury hotels in the main cities for £100+ per night. Restaurants provide cheap food for around £10 per person (with drinks, tips and VAT included). We found drinks to be relatively expensive with a local pint costing around £4-6. The food was very, very cheap in comparison (10 mo mo's for £1 as an example).
Transportation is generally very cheap in Nepal, ranging from as little as £1 on some local buses to around £100 for a domestic flight.
Some national parks require that you purchase a trekking pass. If you wish to stay in touch with friends and family, you can purchase a local sim card. The sim cards come with a nominal fee of around £2, but you will need to purchase the right data package for your needs. A 3-day plan and 2GB of data cost around £1. For a 30 day plan with 16GB of data, you will pay around £10.
Overall, we recommend a minimum of £40 per day if you are an avid explorer and adventurer, interested in low to mid-range accommodation options. For travellers who seek a touch of luxurious comfort, set aside around £100 per day. Chances are, you will end up spending less, but it's always better to come prepared.
What to pack for Nepal
Packing for Nepal was a bit challenging for us. We knew we won't be doing any trekking and the weather in June will be an amalgam of hot, humid and rainy. We also needed to pack for a conference, cities, lake, transit times and the jungle. Not the usual packing routine for us.
So we started by going to specialised sports shops which sell breathable, quick-dry materials. The main items in our suitcases were quick-dry trousers, T-shirts and shirts. We packed a set of merino wool thermals just in case.
A good suitcase is needed if you visit the cities. Ensure you get a hard shell which is good against dust and dirt. If you visit Nepal for a trek, invest in a very good, large, comfortable backpack. It should be lightweight and spacious enough for all your items. Bring a waterproof cover for it just in case.
Don't forget your waterproof shoes whether you visit the cities or you go on a trek.
For the majority of time in Nepal, I wore a pair of Lulu Lemons trousers and a breathable sports shirt from Reebook. Almost every day I wore my Columbia hiking boots. On some days, I wore my normal New Balance shoes. As I'm terrified of creepy crawlies, I never wore sandals, but if you are more relaxed, then I recommend some super comfortable Sanuk sandals.
We both had a quick dry windbreaker shell from Helly Hansen.
During our time in Nepal, my husband started feeling ill and came down with a nasty fever. We strongly recommend that you purchase travel insurance before going to Nepal.
The beauty of travelling to Nepal is that you can craft any type of trip to suit your personal requirements. Join a tour to hike the tallest mountain on Earth, or spend time trekking through some of Nepal's most incredible mountains national parks.
Go on a cultural visit and learn about Nepal's history through food, drinks and visit to various religious sites. Go on a yoga retreat, take some time to relax by the lakes or simply travel to Chitwan in search of wildlife.
Here are a few tours we recommend during your time in Nepal:
Panoramic Everest flight if you would like to see the Himalayas from above. The tour lasts one hour and you get the chance to see Mount Everest without the dangers of the hike.
If you are feeling adventurous, try paragliding in Pokhara. During our time in Nepal, part of our group did it and had a lot of fun. We were on the ground taking pictures of them. They showed some of their GoPro footage and it looked insanely awesome.
For hiking enthusiasts or solo females who want to get a guide for safety reasons, try the beautiful Ranikot day hike from Kathmandu or Bhaktapur. For this hike, you will get picked up at your hotel and your lunch is included.
Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal and one of the most hectic places I've ever seen in my entire life. The traffic is mad, there are colours, people, smells, buildings and all sort of crazy things at every single step of the way. WOW! For the untrained adventurer, Kathmandu is without a doubt, a very challenging destination.
For those who visit Kathmandu the first time, we recommend a tailored tour offered by a local, so you have the chance to slowly settle in. Many people recommend Thamel which is the backpacker district in Nepal. You'll find an array of good cafes and restaurants in the area, and you'll have a good chance of bumping into foreigners who can help you with advice on where to go and what to visit.
During our time in Kathmandu, we found it relatively challenging to cross the road. We didn't find pedestrian crossings and with traffic being a bit chaotic, we really needed to keep our wits with us. So do make sure you pay extra attention when you cross the road.
Pokhara was a lot more relaxing than Kathmandu. It had a mountain village vibe to it all, with cool cafes and restaurants at every step. The traffic seemed more organised and the shops were tailored to foreigners in search of something cool and unique. A hippie paradise, that's how I'd describe Pokhara. But beyond its healthy smoothies, hemp pants and yoga classes, Pokhara offered a calming vibe for those who find themselves in need of a spiritual adventure.
Chaotic in parts still, Pokhara offers a vibrant party scape but also a nurturing space for people who travel in search of inner discovery. For us, as a couple, Pokhara offered an interesting insight into the local culture and life. But it was difficult to know if any of it preserved any authenticity, or it was fully designed with foreigner needs in mind.
Our hotel was located on a beautiful hill, with incredible vistas of the Annapurna peak. That was something magical, an experience worth travelling to Nepal for. You can also book a helicopter ride to Annapurna peak if you want to see it up close.
Chitwan National Park is a fantastic place to visit in Nepal if you love nature. Think of jungles, exotic flowers and incredible wildlife. Tigers, rhinos, crocodiles and countless birds, that's what's awaiting for you in Chitwan.
The most important advice we have for you is to pick the right accommodation for your style of travel. Accommodation ranges from basic huts in the jungle to luxurious lodges overlooking the river.
Everest Base Camp
This was a dream of mine since I was a little girl. Conquering Everest... I haven't had the chance to do this trek as it's still on my list. However, trekking to the Everest Base Camp is now more accessible than ever.
Should you decide to do the Everest Base Camp, we strongly recommend that you hire a competent tour company. Be prepared for challenging terrain and some challenging accommodation options. The food and water may not always agree with you, so bring some protein bars and water purifying tablets.
A popular trek which enables you to enjoy a mix of adventure, nature and culture. You'll pass local villages and tea houses and you can stay in comfortable accommodation along the way. During peak season, places get pretty crowded and fully booked, thus we recommend you book everything in advance. You can also prebook a tour for a 10-day adventure on Annapurna.
Getting a Visa for Your Stay in Nepal
It's time to get your visa sorted. Most people tend to apply for visa on arrival. Be prepared for some long queues as you will need to stand in three different queues.
Currently, you can get a visa valid for 15, 30, or 90 days. They don't accept cards, so ensure you have cash on you. You can pay in USD, Pound Sterling or Euro. You will receive the change in the currency of their choice. For instance, we paid in Euro and received USD as change.
Some citizens are required to apply for visa in advance, so make sure you check their website for more information.
To get a visa on arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport you will need a valid passport, an entire free page for visa and cash to pay for the visa. Tourist visas can be obtained in 15, 30 or 90-day increments at a cost of $25, $40, or $100 USD respectively. Please make sure you bring a little money with you as sometimes, the official website is out of date and prices can increase.
The first thing you need to do is go to the electronic terminals and wait in line to fill in your details. Have your passport ready. You will have your picture taken, then the electronic terminal will give you a receipt with all your details on it.
Queue again at the payment counter. Have your passport, your disembarkation card, your receipt from the terminal and your cash ready. Once you pay, you will receive another receipt.
Now take all your documents and make your way to the border control queue. An officer will inspect all your documents, passports and receipts and, finally, stamp your passport. Welcome to Nepal!
If you arrive at Tribhuvan International Airport, your adventure in the terminal is nowhere near ready. Once you get your visa, you will need to go through an array of queues. You'll be checked for metal. Keep your belongs close to you. The queues are bit chaotic and you might find yourself waiting for close to an hour to go through the metal detectors. Once you are through, you can go to the luggage conveyor belt. Please note that by now, many other flights would have arrived and your luggage is very likely not on the conveyor belt anymore. There are designated officers who keep suitcases safe, in batches, all around the terminal area. Make sure to ask where to find yours.
We recommend having a tag on your luggage with your full name and phone number. In case you need to show proof of which luggage is yours, you can show your passport which matches the name on the luggage tag. We weren't asked to do so, but we saw that some people needed to show these.
Alas, you are ready to explore Nepal!
Where to Stay
Where to stay in Kathmandu
During our time spent in Nepal, we stayed in three different places: Kathmandu, Pokhara and Chitwan National Park. Prices are relatively more inflated in touristy areas so bear that in mind when you book your room.
You can stay in a variety of options such as hotels, hostels, tea houses and airbnbs. We stayed in mid-range to luxury options. One thing to note is that not all hotels meet the quality of Western hotels. For instance, five stars in Kathmandu, might not look and feel the same as a five star in Europe.
In Kathmandu, we stayed in Hotel Shangri~La. While the rooms were not perfect, the outdoor gardens looked incredible. They back garden featured a beautiful green oasis, perfect for an evening at the restaurant. The hotel runs bbq evenings and all sort of buffets or a la carte items. The room was more rudimentary than we expected and the bathroom was not very clean or very well equipped. As a comparison, for the rooms, the hotel would match a low range hotel in Europe. The gardens and the service were incredible, however.
Allocate around £80-120 per night for similar category hotels.
In Kathmandu, a large majority of tourists stay in Thamel. This is a nice place to start with a variety of accommodation options, restaurants and shops full of sports equipment. For Thamel, you can find accommodation for as little as £5 per night. However, for something decent with private bathroom expect to pay around £40 per night. See prices for hotels here.
Where to stay in Pokhara
In Pokhara, many opt for hotels close to the Lakeside. You'll find many shops and restaurants on the banks of Phewa Lake. We recommend visiting the lakeside just before sunset for an amazing glimpse of the sun setting over the lake. On clear days, you can see the gorgeous Himalayan mountains rising beautifully above the lake.
We stayed in Himalaya Front Hotel, a three-star accommodation with rooms overlooking the mountain range. The hotel features a beautiful swimming pool at the top and a gorgeous terrace from which you can take stunning pictures of Annapurna on a clear day. While the hotel was actually great, we had an issue with the smell in the room.
We believe the hotel just used some pesticide in some of its rooms and we were unlucky enough to get one of them. The smell was very strong and it woke me up in the middle of the night when I felt it down my throat a little. Sadly, the staff couldn't move us during the first night, as all the rooms were fully booked. However, we did change rooms on the second day and we didn't have any more issues. We weren't the only guests with the problem as we heard others complain about the same thing.
KGH Group has another hotel located closer to the lakeside called Waterfront Resort. During our trip, we visited that hotel and saw some of the rooms. We noticed the same smell in some of the rooms but not in others.
When we asked about it, some said it was the air fresheners, others said the doors were recently painted. We could clearly smell chemicals. I guess this will remain forever our Pokhara mystery.
Allocate around £65 per night for similar category hotels as above. See more prices for hotels here.
Where to stay in Chitwan
Chitwan National Park has an array of jungle houses and lodges to suit all budgets and requirements. Given the surge of tourists coming to Chitwan, prices are higher in this region than other parts of Nepal. Accommodation here will range between £25 per night to £380 with activities included.
We stayed in Safari Narayani Hotel which charges £380 per night. This is on an all-inclusive basis, however, please note that no alcoholic drinks are included in this rate. Activities, breakfast, lunch and dinner all are included in the price.
The hotel provides guests with a small hut. All huts have basic amenities, a double or twin bed and a private bathroom. The huts are located in a lush green garden, and the restaurant overlooks the river. During some mornings, you can see animals in the river, which is quite magical.
The accommodation itself is a little basic for the price. The activities are interesting however, we didn't appreciate that they are offering elephant washing activities. The elephants were in chains and were ridden by their mahouts who had goads with them. A few of us vocalised how disappointed we are in such practices and the activity was temporality erased from the board of activities. However, we have no doubt that this is a continuing practice at the lodge.
An alternative, we are being told, is the Barahi Jungle Lodge. They are a luxury five-star hotel which offers rustic-chic bungalows. Their prices start at £150 per night. For around £380 per night, you can also get an inclusive package with all food and activities included.
From July 2019, we are being told that Barahi Jungle Lodge stopped offering elephant activities of any kind. If you have any updated information on this matter, please get in touch with us.
For more options and prices in Chitwan click here.
Eating and Drinking
Eating can be very cheap in Nepal. On our first night in Kathmandu, we discovered an amazing restaurant with incredible food which came to about £10 per person (drinks included). But we found alcoholic drinks to be relatively expensive in comparison to the price of food. It could be that we didn't visit the right places, but we found the price for a pint really steep. We expected to pay, like in many places in Europe, around £2 per pint and not £4 or £6.
Just a few things to take note before visiting a restaurant. There are sometimes two additional charges on top of your standard price: the service charge and the VAT (13%). If the service charge is not included, you can leave a tip of around 10%. This information is written at the bottom of the menu.
Prices in touristy places will be inflated. For example, a coffee in a touristy place in Pokhara was the same price as our local Starbucks here in Germany. However, at the off the beaten track cafe, we found coffee for less than £0.50.
During transit time, you'll find several touristy places along the main roads which sell beverages and snacks. These will match standard Western prices, with prices being hugely inflated.
Nepali food is quite good, salty and a bit spicy. I personally love spicy food, but my husband, for example, struggled with the food here. After visiting India, we expected "spicy" to mean aromatic. Turns out, spicy is Nepal, means spicy. So watch out for that if your stomach is sensitive. There are a few dishes which we recommend you try in Nepal. If you are vegan or vegetarian you won't have any issues finding food here.
To avoid potential food poising, we recommend that you visit well-established restaurants with good reviews from foreigners. Remember that locals have a better-developed stomach for issues which you may not be trained for, especially coming from a more sterile country. Having said that, don't allow this to hold you back. You are in a different country with an array of amazing dishes, so make sure you indulge where possible.
Mo Mo's: you will find them virtually everywhere in Nepal. These little dumplings with meat or vegetable filling. You can order them steamed or fried. They come with a spicy sauce on the side for you to dip in. Overall, mo mo's were my go-to food throughout our stay in Nepal. We always ordered the vegetable mo mo's with a nice spicy sauce on the side. If you didn't know, eating spicy can sometimes be a good thing: did you know that spices can actually kill bacteria? If you love mo mo's just as much as me, you can also sign up for a cooking class to learn how to make them.
Tea: drinking tea (chia in Nepali) is a must. Unlike the tea you may be used to, this Nepali speciality is sweet and spiced from cloves, cinnamon, pepper etc. Every tea house has its own chia twist, which is why it's super exciting to always try tea in new places.
Curries with rice: You may not be in India, but the Nepali cuisine is hugely influenced by Tibet and India. Authentic Nepali taste is found in Newari and Thakai cuisines. Curried meat is very popular but is usually very expensive, thus only consumed for special occasions. We tried vegetable curries served with rice on the side. It was very good.
Roti: Rotis are flatbread originated from India. They are made from stoneground wholemeal flour, traditionally known as atta, and water that is combined into a dough. They are very inexpensive and can be found almost everywhere.
Dal: Dal is lentil soup and one of the most regular Nepali meals. We found it on every single menu and we ordered it on separate occasions to settle our stomachs. We strongly recommend it for the high content of fibre. You can add it some bhat (rice) on the side for a good, satisfying lunch.
Nepal might be a small country, but it sure takes a while to get from A to B. That's because the infrastructure in Nepal is not very developed. Roads are limited, narrow and usually very busy. So while you may think it will take just 2 hours to get from Kathmandu to Pokhara, make sure you quadruple that!
The good news is that on the way you will get to see the many faces of the Nepali landscapes. Lush greens, mountains, chasms and tea plantations. Locals and foreigners are in need of better roads and it is our understanding that roads are improving around the main cities. However, it is a slow process.
Travelling by bus
Normal local buses are very crowded but also very cheap. It is recommended that you avoid night buses in Nepal and you take the tourist buses. Although a bit more expensive, they are usually more spacious and more comfortable. Be prepared for a long and bumpy ride. Expect to pay around £5 for a local bus on the 6-8 hour ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara, or around £20 for the tourist bus on the same route.
Bus drivers are usually experienced and know how to handle the local roads. They also know where to stop for toilet breaks. Tourist buses stop in nicer (and more expensive) locations. Take toilet paper and tissues with you as the toilets in Nepal are very rudimentary. We recommend having some hand sanitising with you at all times.
The side of the road will not always inspire your travels. Buses and cars do overtake on a regular basis and you will find yourself in near-miss situations. Sometimes you will see fatal accidents on the side of the road. This is not to deter you from travelling around Nepal, but it's to prepare you beyond the scenic landscape. I really love road trips, but Nepal proved very challenging for me.
Travelling by plane
Quick and easy, but bumpy. The journeys usually take 25-40 minutes all across Nepal. You can book your ticket in advance. Expect to pay around £100+ as opposed to £20 for a tourist bus. If you are like me, a nervous flyer, do expect this to honestly push your boundaries a bit. I personally cried with happiness when I landed back in Kathmandu. I've been a very scared flyer since.
Travelling by car
You can hire taxis to take you from the airport to your hotel. Some drivers will take you between cities, but do expect a hell of a ride (literally). Local drivers do push in and overtake on the main roads. So you might find yourself clenching your teeth at times.
Just like in India, we believe that a good driver will make a huge difference to your trip. Perhaps go with recommendations from friends who already visited Nepal.
Customs and traditions are different depending on which part of Nepal you decide to visit. Kathmandu is where many cultures blend and form a sort of Nepali identity. Festivals, religion, food, all play an important role in daily life.
Nepal is a secular state country which means that religion doesn't take part in any lawmaking. The state is neither pro nor against religion. There are several religions in Nepal, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Sikhism, Bon, ancestor worship and animism with the majority of Nepalis being either Hindus or Buddhism. Most customs are related to religion. For example, the rules of marriage or the way funerals are being conducted.
Before entering a temple, you will need to take off your shoes and leave them at the entrance. It is believed that this way the temples remain pure and free from outside pollution. It's important to remember that some temples are off-limits for non-Hindus.
Although nothing can truly prepare you for a trip to Nepal, we hope that our travel guide offered you useful tips. We would love to hear from you if you have any questions or concerns or if you think we missed something important. Please head down below and leave us a comment. Enjoy your Nepal travels!