Surrounded by land between India and Tibet, Nepal is a unique, eclectic brew of her neighboring cultures. The land is a dividing line between ancient, historic, civilization and cultures that in their mystery and passion are often associated with a more spiritual way of life and therefore alluring to many travelers seeking an alternative lifestyle and inner contemplation. At the same time the diversity of ethnic groups within Nepal is often complicated for a westerner to understand before they immerse themselves in the sensual experience that is Nepal. It is a staggeringly beautiful country with mountain, jungle, country, and urban landscapes to explore, all in rich techni-color to delight and enrich the soul.
The history of Nepal makes it a unique place that draws visitors from all over the world every year. Often people assume that Nepal is just an extended part of India, but it’s not. Nepali are very proud of their culture, diversity, its people, heritage sites, religions and its unique attractions. Nepal is best known for having the world’s largest mountain range; the Himalayas. This range provides eight of the ten world’s tallest mountains and the highest peak in the world, Mt. Everest reaching 8848 meters high. Other unique treasures are the biggest pilgrimage Buddhist Stupa, Kumari– The Living Goddess and Lumbini – birthplace of the Buddha.
General Information for First Time Travellers in Nepal
Places of Worship: Always walk clockwise around the Buddhist stupas, shrines and mani walls. Remove shoes before entering a Buddhist or Hindu temple/sanctuary. In some Hindu temples people cannot enter using any leather goods, or as a non-Hindu entering will not be possible at all.
Greetings: People are not thanked as often as in the Western world. Don’t be surprised if you never hear “Thank you”, “Please” or “Excuse me”. But learning the basics would be hugely appreciated:
Hello, Goodbye: Namaste
Thank you: Dhanyebaad
I’m sorry, excuse me: Maph garnus
Shopping: Haggling is very common amongst the travellers but try to be fair. It should never be a cause of an argument. If not happy with the price, just walk away. Remember that Rs20/USD$0.20/GBP£0.15 for Nepali people can make a huge difference, but when converted onto our own currency might add up just a few cents.
Health: Travellers’ diarrhoea often happens when travelling in Nepal. But majority people get an upset stomach. Don’t be paranoid and enjoy the local food. Don’t drink tap water, avoid ice cubes and brush your teeth with bottled water.
Hiring a Guide in Nepal is very common as this is a great way of getting to know the ins and outs of places. Also there is no shame on hiring a Porter either as having someone to carry your backpack while trekking is actually helping towards their family, as Porters are some of the poorest in Nepal.
Packing for Nepal: Pack light. Depending on the season and the activities, bringing a pair of trekking boots it is a good option. If visiting during the colder months (November to February), the temperatures in Kathmandu are just above zero degrees, so thermal layers are recommended. An umbrella or raincoat is a must during the rainy season (June to September).
Begging is sensitive matter and it’s very common in Nepal, especially around the main religious temples and shrines. It is heartbreaking and impossible to ignore and Westerners are expected to give money. From my experience, I never give money, because I don’t think it will solve anything, actually I feel that giving money to beggars will only encourage it. There are a lot of homeless people around town, when the time was right we would usually approach and ask if they wanted to eat. So buying food instead of giving money was an option. (Not to be confused with the women who are clutching one or two children and ask you to buy food at a designated store of their choice. This is a scam.)
Outdoor Activities & Trekking: Never short of options, Nepal offers a wide range of experiences – nature tours, pilgrim tours, white-water-rafting, kayaking, canoeing, jungle safaris, paragliding, bungee jumping, zip-lining, mountain biking, and the list goes on; seriously you name it! The country has it all.
When it comes to trekking options, the list is endless too, from expeditions to high altitude treks, or simple easy treks.
Overall costs: The life in Nepal is minimalist. Although ideal but not always feasible, travelling on a shoestring budget, sleeping in shared dorms and surviving on a Nepali diet, people can easily live on Rs500-800 a day, including meals and accommodation. But this is not for everyone.
The “tourist prices” are disputable, often the prices of accommodation are the same as a meal and the same as the local bus on journeys for over 6 hours. There isn’t much discrepancy.
Average costs between Rs500-Rs800/USD$8/GBP£7.50.
Do I need a Visa to Visit Nepal?
Rules have changed over the years and now people can simply get a visa-on-arrival (VOA) at the airport. Visa requirements are to have a valid visa for 6 months or more; 1 passport picture (white/light background).
At Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, upon arrival tourists can get the following visas:
15 days – USD$25
30 days – USD$40
90 days – USD$100
Although it says that payments can only be accepted in cash (US Dollars, Euro, Pound Sterling, Nepal Rupees, etc), we paid our visas by card.
When is the best time to visit Nepal?
The best time to visit Nepal is between September to November and March to May. The weather is changing dramatically, so it’s becoming difficult to predict, but people who visit outside the seasons still have a great time. Nepal has a typical monsoonal two-season year. There is the dry season from October to May and the wet season from June to September. The best time to go trekking is from late September to December, when the weather is clear and dry; and from March to May, during Spring when flowers are in bloom.
When we arrived, late September, it was raining on and off, but had a few warm days. Towards the end of November it was getting cold, I mean really cold. Around 6-8 degrees during the evenings and nights.
Who would have thought!
Personal Note: Before travelling to Nepal it’s always good to know the dates of any Festivals as the whole infrastructure of the country can be affected! Offices, shops and restaurants might be closed, there will be shortage of transportation and buses can be booked-up. So planning in advance is encouraged to avoid disappointment and frustration in finding your bus is not going to be arriving! Travelling in Nepal during Dasain (also known as Dashera), can be a little tricky. This is Nepal’s biggest annual festival, stretching for over fifteen days. Cities will be quieter than usual as people are away with their families. The best way to describe it is to compare it to the Christmas period in the western world.
The People of Nepal
The population of Nepal is extremely diverse and highly complex. With over 26 million people, Nepal is made up of over 125 different caste/ethnic groups. Meeting them all is nearly impossible, but while in Kathmandu, Pokhara, Lumbini and our trek to Everest Base Camp we came across a few.
From left to right:
Top: Sadhu, Tamang, Terai
Bottom: Female Porter, Newari, Sherpa
Places to Visit in Nepal
Nepal is well known for its trekking routes and highest mountains peaks, but don’t be too hasty. The country has a lot more to offer. Don’t leave without exploring…
Visit the UNESCO World Heritage sites, historical monuments, local markets, traditional villages and get to know the locals.
- Kathmandu Durbar Square
- Swayambhunath Stupa
- Taumadhi Tole
- Dattatraya Square
Pokhara is located 200km (125 mi) west from Kathmandu. Its spectacular scenery, healthy food choices, laid-back atmosphere and close-up mountain views, has everything an adventurous soul can wish for.
Lumbini is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is believed to be the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, known as Lord Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Lumbini is the first place to be visited by those embarking on a Buddhist pilgrimage tour. A visit to Maya Devi Temple, the birth spot of the Buddha, is a must-see. Other wonderful monuments are the World Peace Pagoda and several Monasteries that have been built in the area as an homage to Lord Buddha.
Trekking to Everest Base Camp
Nepal has innumerable trekking trails, enough for everyone’s age, fitness levels and pockets. People often choose to trek around Annapurna Mountain Range, which is incredibly beautiful and easily accessed by Pokhara.
But we discovered that trekking to Everest Base Camp isn’t just a Himalayan adventure but a cultural experience. The history behind the conquest of the highest mountain in the world, its unique people and traditions, the journey and the landing one of the most dangerous airports in the world, was enough for us to accept the challenge, often dreamed by many.
Whichever trekking route people chose; they will not be disappointed with the best views of the Himalayas.
Check our post here on Trekking to Everest Base Camp Independently.
Without a doubt, Nepal is a land of everlasting fascination for ancient history, a variety of unique cultures and people, breathtaking scenery and some of the best walking trails in the world.
Our time in Nepal was remarkable from the people we met to the cultural experiences that we gained. The plan was to visit for one month but we fell in love with the country very quickly and stayed for nearly three months.
Nepal “once is not enough” – Naturally Nepal
Have we convinced you to visit Nepal yet?
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We are Thomas and Telma – the writers, photographers, videographers and founders of Blank Canvas Voyage.
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