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One of my favourite ever countries Nepal is a backpacking feast! It’s a landlocked country flanked by Bhutan to the east, Tibet to the North East, India to the south and China all around so it offers some great overland traveling opportunities. It is the world’s youngest republic, although let’s wait and see South Sudan’s situation before I fully commit to that! With the scenic Himalayas as its backdrop Nepal has got views to die for, a paradise for all nature lovers and above all a great place for backpackers to explore.

Mount Everest Nepal
A view of Mount Everest, trekking in Nepal

Spaced out distinctively from the rest of the countries in the world with a rich geography and history, Nepal draws you in right from the start. But when it comes to Nepal’s main attraction, there’s really only one contestant… The Himalayas. Nepal boast of eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains, including the highest point on earth Mount Everest (locally known as Sagarmatha). There is so many trekking routes available, all of which you can sort out from Kathmandu when you arrive, my trek to Everest Base Camp is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, really amazing

Tips:

The Nepalis are traditionally deep rooted and still today they follow some age-old customs. Though they will not rebuke you for unknowingly offending them it would be nice we could heed the following:

  • Nepalis wear clothes that have them fully covered. Hence, do not wear tight fitting clothes or clothes that expose your legs or shoulders when you’re wandering around their religious sites
  • Make sure you do not enter a place of worship with your shoes on.
  • Some of the Hindu temples may not be open to the Non-Hindus. Be smart and always seek permission before entering a Hindu temple.

Visa and Border Crossings:

On arrival at the land borders and at the airport in Kathmandu citizens of most countries are eligible for VOA (visa-on-arrival). All you need is your passport (with 6 months validity) and some US dollars: $25 gets you a 15 day tourist visa, $40 (30 days) and $100 (90 days).

If you don’t have USD don’t worry Nepali Rupees and Indian Rupees are accepted too (but it’s cheaper with USD).

The major border crossings are here:

Via Land:

  • Birganj- Raxaul Bazar: This is the most popular overland route between India and Nepal. So if you intend to enter Nepal from East India this will be your crossing of choice. Birganj is also the best place to enter Nepal via Kolkata or most of the eastern state in India.
  • Sunauli-Bhairawa: If you are entering Nepal from Delhi or from any of the north-western states of India like Varanasi then Sunauli is the most convenient of all the routes.
  • Siliguri-Kakarbhitta: From Darjeeling this is the most convenient route to enter Nepal.
  • Nepalgunj, Jamuna, Dhangadi, Mohana, Ghaduchowki from India are other places through which you can enter Nepal.
  • From Tibet, Kodari is the only overland route to reach Nepal.

Via Air:

  • Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu. There are direct flights from Amsterdam, Mumabi, Calcutta, Paris, Paro, Singapore, Varanasi, Hongkong, Karachi, Bangkok, London, Osaka, Frragonankfurt, Lhasa, Dubai, Dhaka, Doha and Shanghai.

While the European destinations can be reached via Doha in Qatar Airways, Hong Kong with Dragon Air or Cathay Pacific, and Amsterdam and Netherlands with ArkeFly.

Tourist Trail:

Nepal plays host to hundreds of thousands of tourists every year so it has developed a bit of a tourist trail. Most people during their stay will hit up these places:

  • Kathmandu:  As said already Kathmandu is the capital city of Nepal. It is also the biggest cosmopolitan city and is generally referred to as the “city of temples”. The temples here stand testimony to the historical and religious facets of the land. Place of note comprises of:
  • Swayambhunath: A hilltop Stupa and a holy place for Newari Buddhists.
  • Boudnath: Considered to be one of the largest stupas in the world and one of the most important centers for Buddhist pilgrimage.
  • Pashupatinath: A temple situated on the bank of River Baghmati is one of the holiest Hindu shrines.
  • Hanuman Dhoka: An old royal palace which comprises of several attractions.
    • The Phewa Lake: It is the second largest Lake in Nepal.
    • The Pokhara view point: You can get a majestic view of the Himalayan Peaks from here.
    • The Bindyabasini Temple: One of the oldest structures in Pokhara built by the Niwari traders.
    • World Peace Pagoda: Located across the Phewa Lake it is a sight to behold.
  • The temple of Nyatapola: It is a five storied Pagoda built in 1702 A.D.
  • Surya Vinayak: A shrine of an elephant-headed God.
  • Dattatreya Temple: A temple built from the trunk of a single tree, an amazing thing to watch.
  • Bhairavnath temple: A three storied pagoda noted for its artistic splendor.
  • Pokhara: Third largest city of Nepal it is rightly referred to as the centre of adventure and has a number of tourist places of note like:
  • Bhaktapur: The main highlights of this city are

 

Obviously arguably the main highlight of Nepal is that it’s home to some of the world’s most beautiful mountains it provides some of the best trekking trails on earth. You can opt for such trekking region as the Everest, Langtang, Mustang, Dolpo, Kanchenjunga, Annapurna, Dolpo or Manaslu. The travel agencies in Nepal offers a number of trekking tours which can be tailored according to your time, needs, interests and wallet!

Off the Beaten Path:

If you want to avoid the crowds make sure to head over to these 2 gems:

  • Lumbini: It is here that Lord Buddha was born, 2500 years ago. The city is today the central point of Buddhism. The Holy Temple of Maya Devi is an important tourist destination in Lumbini. You can immerse yourself in the Buddhist vibe for a couple of days quite easily here.
  • Nepalgunj: The place is famous for trekking and is also known as the industrial and transport hub of Nepal.
  • Birgunj: It is the second largest city of Nepal, its gateway and also the commercial capital. The striking tourist attractions of Birgunj are
  • Clock Tower: Tallest among all the buildings of Birgunj.
  • Durga Temple: One of the oldest temples dedicated to Goddess Durga.
  • City Hall: Popular for hosting various programs, gatherings and functions.
  • Shankar Acharya Gate: A gate which serves as an entry point to the Indo-Nepal border.

Transportation

Getting around places within Nepal isn’t the most comfortable transport in the world but it’s easy to negotiate if you have the time and patience. Public taxis are cheap as chips, you jump in, pay your $0.30 and wait for the taxi to fill – then you’re off. Or if you’re feeling impatient you can hire the taxi yourself and go immediately – a 30 minute cab ride in a place shouldn’t cost you more than $5. There are also rickshaws available all over, these may be a bit of a bumpy ride but they’re cheap and effective. Just don’t use them if you’re in a rush.

Traveling longer distances is a similar story. Local transport is the only thing available throughout the country, forget about any luxurious tourist buses here! If possible, avoid night buses – Nepalese road-accident rates make terrifying reading and the vast majority of fatal crashes happen at night so where possible make it a day trip! Buses leave the local bus stations either early in the morning (before 7am) or early evening (around 5 or 6pm). Try to buy your ticket a day before and expect to arrive an hour or two later than they tell you.

You can now book buses for the popular Kathmandu to Pokhara route, directly online from this website –  http://www.nepalbuses.com

Weather:

Between September and November and between March and May are the best times to visit Nepal. The temperature is bearable, the rain won’t ruin your plans and the mountains should be beautifully clear on your treks.

Nepal has a typical monsoonal climate with spring, summer, autumn and winter as its four main seasons. It experiences heavy monsoonal rains from June to September, clear and cool weather from the month of October to December and January to March, and dry weather from April to June.

Money and Costs: 

As Nepal is a tourist-oriented country, you will easily find ATM machines in all the major cities. Basic accommodation (no AC, shared bathroom) can be found for around $5 and local meals will set you back around $2. If you don’t fritter your cash away on imported beers and chocolate then $20 is a manageable daily budget, not including any trekking fees of course.

People-Locals: Nepal has an assortment of people belonging to different races and tribes. Nepalese are generally very friendly and helpful. Expect warm greeting and full-blown conversations with strangers, especially outside Kathmandu.

People-Travellers: There is certainly an older, wealthier group of tourists seen here than in India or SE Asia thanks to the world-class trekking on offer. But there is still very much a distinguishable backpacker crowd. When you’re in Kathmandu head to Thamel – it’s like a slightly hippier, quieter version of the backpacking Mecca Khao San Road.

 

Accommodation facilities:

If you’re not afraid of a squat toilet and cold showers, you can find guesthouses for less than $5 in most places around Nepal. Kathmandu is slightly pricier.

Communication:

Language: Though the official language of this country is Nepali, the large part of the population speaks in Tharu. Other than that, its close proximity to India has given rise to an increasingly large group of educated Nepalis who have adopted the English language. Communication is rarely an issue here.

Communication Phones: If you’re after a local sim card, Nepal’s best is probably Vodafone or Mero Mobile.

Communication Internet: Along the length and breadth of Nepal you’ll see endless internet cafes especially in Kathmandu and Pokhara. The net is surprisingly quite fast, and in Kathmandu and Pokhara you’ll easily find net cafes with connection speeds that allow for skype and uploading pics.

Food and Drinks:

Make sure you try out the Nepali national meal of daal, bhaat and tarkaari. Only in the tourist districts of Kathmandu and Pokhara will you find your western fixes. Also if you’re longing for some booze grab yourself a Jaan, a delicious local Nepali beer or even Raski a spirit similar to tequila (similar in that it gets you drunk fast and makes you feel like death the next day!).

For an average breakfast $1-2 is enough and lunch/dinner should set you back around $3 or $4. If you stick to the local dishes it will save you a lot of money as Nepalese street food is super cheap and super tasty.

Safety:

Though once a safe and peaceful country Nepal has over the past few years been subject to harassment, hassle and even violence but none of the recent trouble has troubled tourists at all so worry not! Politics are still a big source of tension in Nepal though so stay smart and follow these guide lines:

  • Stay away from rallies and demonstrations
  • Don’t get involved in political marches
  • Try to avoid arriving during elections or voting

Festivals in Nepal:

Nepal goes crazy for festivals so time your trip right and you could be welcomed by some of the most amazing scenes imaginable!

  • Janmashtami festival marks the birth of Lord Sri Krishna and is celebrated in the month of August/September.
  • Dedicated to Lord Yamaraj the festival of Gaijatra is one of the most popular festivals that is celebrated in the month of August/September.
  • Dedicated to Lord Shiva the festival of Maha Shiva Ratri is celebrated in the month of February/March.
  • The colorful festival of Holi is a great festival to watch and if you are visiting Nepal in the month of February/March you will get to see it.
  • Dipawali the festival of light celebrated in the month of October/November will surely leave you stunned.

 

This should be enough info for your arrival in Nepal. If you need any other information just drop me a comment below and I’ll try my best to get your answer. Nepal truly is an amazing place and I hope you guys get the chance to experience sooner rather than later. Happy travels!

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41 thoughts on “A Backpackers Guide to Nepal

  1. Good to know Nepal from your eye for someone like me from Nepal. However the communication provider of Nepal is not Vodafone. Its Nepal Telecom. Vodafone is used in India only.

  2. Hello Johnny:

    Good to read your blog. It is so fascinating that you’ve managed to include every tiny information.

    I am writing you to make a little correction that you’ve mentioned that Hanuman Dhoka (located in Kathmandu) comprises of (subpointed) Phewa lake and other following locations which are of Pokhara (3rd largest city).

    Please make this correction, so it won’t be misleading.

    I APPRECIATE YOUR COURAGE AND LOVE TO VISIT EVERY COUNTRY IN THE PLANET.

    With love,
    🙂

  3. Truly Asia Boutique Hotel perfectly blends a discreet Nepali ambience with the contemporary 5 star touches expected by the modern traveler. You can find an excellent example of amusing stay of luxury accommodation at Truly Asia Boutique Hotel.

  4. This was a blast to read, totally helpful to those traveling to Nepal. I learned a lot going through your article!

  5. It seems you explored Nepal very deeply as here you provided complete info. Last year I visited Nepal and it was one of the most wonderful trip. I was on Annapurna Circuit Trek, It was little difficulty there but finally I did it. Durbar Square and Pashupati Nath Temple are the most popular and important places there. One should not missed it.

  6. Enjoy cultural tour in the valleys of Kathmandu, Patan or Bhaktapur to trekking in the foothills of Himalayas. Find complete list of luxury Nepal tour and travel 2016 packages with available deals at Travelsmithnepal.com

  7. Hi,
    Great info..

    i am a freelancer need to connect most of day with good internet speed atleast 3G..I want to know more about 3G connection facility..

    I am planning to arrive on Gaijatra festival also want to trek Everest base camp all these in a week time but i am little worry about internet connection, it will be really helpful if you can guide me how can i explore nepal with alternative days connectivity.

    During everest base camp trek i will manage 2 days complete offline but i need internet connection other days.

    Please Suggest me how can i make above thing happen in my 7 to 10 days nepal trip..Also i will reached kathmandu by direct flight..

    Look forward to hear from you.

    thanks
    abhi

    1. Hi great info, newbie here when it comes to trekking, I just wanna ask whats probably the best trekking trail? thanks

  8. Super helpful! I head to Kathmandu in April with a few days in Pokhara:) Thank you for this. I feel a little more confident and excited now

  9. I have stayed at “Dormitory nepal” as sameer noted above. A really cheap place to stay, and the guys are extremely friendly and helpful. They can give you plenty of information about trekking, kathmandu and nepal in general!

  10. I think I am going to enjoy visiting Nepal. I never imagined that this place is fascinating and I can feel that I am absorbed by the force while reading your blog. 🙂 Nepal is on my October list…hopefully I could visit it on my birthday.

  11. When arriving in Katmandu can I solo camp (tent/single 27 yr female)? Does katmandu have places to camp? Would you consider it safe? Advice.

  12. Hi ! Thanks for your advice. I’m planning a trip all over Asia that’s gonna last a while… I’m trying to figure out if I can avoid heavy hiking boots – I was hoping light trainers and Teva hiking sandals would be enough – is there a cheap way to get hands on heavier shoes if rain is expected?

  13. What a wonderful read! I have been traveling the world for the passed 2 years through my blog – http://www.giveforgranted.com – but never solo traveling and definitely never to Nepal or India. On Monday I will embark on my first solo adventure for 2 months to Kathmandu and Bangalore. Thank you so much for this wonderful post, it truly helped!

  14. I am leaving for Nepal in about a week, and I have been struggling to find information about proper attire for men. I understand covering legs and shoulders is required for temples and such, but is it acceptable for a male to wear a sleeveless top for simple wandering?

  15. So if I buy a plane ticket over to Nepal, and get myself to Kathmandu, there are trekking agencies I can join when I arrive there?

  16. Do you know what the opportunities are like for trekking during monsoon season? I will be on a backpackers budget and can’t afford the $500 per 10 days of Mustang (and Dolpo?) regions.

  17. Hey! Thanks for the great advice!

    You wrote that you bought your trekking trip when arriving in Kathmandu, offered by local agencies. – Is it safe and can you trust these agencies?
    How many days did you go trekking and how “exhausting”/hard was the trip? (My boyfriend has mild asthma)
    The last question – how much did you pay? 🙂

    Thanks in advance!
    Nanna

    1. it’s super safe nanna, don’t worry about that. The everest base camp is $500+ minimum now i think, but there is plenty of other trekking available too, for much cheaper

  18. Really helpful info, im going to Nepal next April to help build a school in the Kaski district then trekking to Poon Hill. Very Excited!! Will definatley being using this website for handy tips 🙂

      1. Yep its through Action Aid with Guy’s Trust. We are doing it in memory of my friend Guy who I met on my travels in Asia who tragically died in a paragliding accident. He spent alot of time in Nepal and loved it so his family decided to build a school in his name their. Not long now 🙂

  19. Bro, I’m gonna be going to Nepal from India. I am now in the south of India. Is it best to go to nepal from India by bus or by plane. I am thinking bus since I believe the route is scenic and absolutely gorgeous. Can you suggest the indian city from which to start so as to go through the most gorgeous scenery?

    1. bus all the way bro! u can do it from Delhi to a city below the border, then a bus to the border, pretty easy but pretty rough too!

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