Getting the Indian Visa in Kathmandu

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By Telma | 30 December 2016 | India | Travel Advice

Getting the Indian Visa in Kathmandu wasn’t as difficult as we thought it would be. We had envisaged long queues, communication breakdown, answered questions, filling the form wrongly, stress, etc. But everything ran smoothly.
Perhaps it helped that we were staying in Nepal for three months, so we did go to the Embassy to enquire about the process beforehand. Once we left with all the answers, we knew that getting the Indian tourist visa in Kathmandu was going to be fairly easy.
There is no way around it, unless you are a Bhutan or Nepali national, all other nationalities MUST obtain a visa before arriving in India.
Things change – prices go up and new requirements are implemented. At the time of writing (December 2016), this was the process for obtaining the Indian Visa in Kathmandu.

Please note: Not to be confused with the eTourist Visa (eTV), which the citizen of 113 countries are entitled to apply for a visa prior their arrival, for visits not exceeding 30 days. For more information, please click here.

Directions to the India Embassy in Kathmandu

From Thamel is about fifteen minutes walk heading north just off Lazimpath.

Address:
Embassy of India
,
336 Kapurdhara Marg,
Kathmandu, Nepal

Application hours are from Monday to Friday between 9.30am-12pm.

location of indian embassy

What you need to know before applying for the Indian tourist visa in Kathmandu (VT):

  • Allow 8-10 days as a minimum
  • Don’t apply for the tourist visa during the festivals or holidays in India (Either the office will be closed or the waiting time can take up to 1 month)
  • Bring the right amount of money  to pay for the visa in Nepalese Rupees
  • Apply in person at the India Embassy. Paying an agency will cost you twice as much
  • Don’t waste money on getting new passport pictures if these do not match the official requirements
  • Buying flights/bus tickets to India doesn’t necessary mean that you will obtain a visa nor will it speed up the process
  • Your passport MUST be valid for a period of six months or more before entering India
  • The visa starts from the date of issue, not from the date of arrival in India. So do not apply for the visa once you arrive in Nepal as that will be a waste of days from the visa itself

indian embassy

It requires 3 visits to obtain the Indian Tourist Visa. Let us tell you how we got ours:

Because we had time to spare in Kathmandu we chose to apply for the visa in person and visited the India Embassy nearly one month before applying for the visa as we wanted to know the official requirements, the waiting time and the costs. We couldn’t believe how much Thomas had to pay for his visa, a whopping Rs17,500/USD$155/GBP£125. Whereas I had to pay Rs4,850/USD$40/GBP£35 because I have a Portuguese Passport. 
Paying an agency was never an option, but we did pay for some help on filling out the form. During our first and second visit four people got their application rejected due to some errors. As we didn’t want that to happen to us, we opted on getting some guidance from the shop next to the embassy.
The staff are helpful and very quick; they have been doing it for years and know exactly the correct way of filling out the form. Getting some guidance and paying a small fee for it was better than having the visa process rejected. It saved us time and stress.
Showing that you have purchased a ticket to India before getting the Visa does not help you obtaining the Visa and it can still be rejected. Actually, they suggest only booking the tickets after the Visa is issued. This can be an expensive decision as the Visa starts on the day of issue. You must buy an outward ticket from Nepal within a few days or weeks after receiving it from the embassy.

indian visa in kathmandu

How to apply for the Indian Visa in Kathmandu:

  • Knowing the hostel/guesthouse address in India is an advantage
  • “No Religion” it’s not an option! 
  • “Unemployed” it’s also not an option! You must provide your Employer’s Address, but if like us, you don’t have a job back home, the last employer will suffice. I guess it’s a reassurance you make ends meet to travel.

Next door, at the shop, they will:

  • Download and fill in the form for you – Cost: NPR500
  • Take 2 passport pictures (Size 2-inch x 2-inch, 51mm x 51mm/white background) – Cost: NPR250
  • Make a copy of your passport front page and the Nepali visa

At the Embassy

Simple steps for obtaining the Indian Visa and Documents needed:

  • Application Form
  • 1 picture, 2×2 white background
  • Passport
  • Copy of Passport (first page)
  • Copy of Nepali Visa and/or last Indian Visa

There are 3 visits: 1st day, 5th working day and 6th working day

On the 1st day, after getting everything ready next door, we waited for our turn. Once they called our number, we handed in our application forms, paid and got a receipt with a stamp date, for the second visit, on the 5th working day. (First visit from 9.30am-12.30pm only)

On the 5th day, the lady told us the Visas got approved. We left our Passports at the Embassy and received the same receipt as day 1, with a second stamp date, for the 6th working day.
(Second visit from 9.30am-12.30pm only)

On the 6th day, we collected our Passports with our Visas! (Third visit from 5.00 pm-5.30pm only)

That’s it…We both got our 3 months India Visa!

For more information, check the India Visa online website.

application for the indian visa

Have you ever applied for the Indian Visa before?

applying for the india visa in kathmandu

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Nepal: A Traveller’s Guide

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By Telma | 1 December 2016 | Nepal | Travel Guides

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.

nepal tourist attractions

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.

street sellers of Nepal

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.

street seller nepal

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

nepal and its people

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…

Kathmandu
Visit the UNESCO World Heritage sites, historical monuments, local markets, traditional villages and get to know the locals.

  • Kathmandu Durbar Square
  • Thamel
  • Swayambhunath Stupa
  • Pashupatinath
  • Bhaktapur
  • Taumadhi Tole
  • Dattatraya Square

people at Durbar Square in Kathmandu

Pokhara
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.

backpacking pokhara travel

Lumbini
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.

temple in Lumbini Maya Devi

Check our articles Exploring Kathmandu: A Chaotic Little Adventure and Pokhara: A Relaxed Pace of Life for more inspiration.

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.

the himalayas to everest base camp

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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Thank-You for Readingfiji islands travel blog

We are Thomas and Telma – the writers, photographers, videographers and founders of Blank Canvas Voyage.

Let us inspire you to explore the world through the sharing of our experiences, stories, videos and useful tips. Click here to know more about our journey.

Kathmandu Travel Guide: A Chaotic Little Adventure

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By Telma | 18 November 2016 | Nepal | Travel Guides

Travelling in Kathmandu, can be a wonderful yet exhausting experience. And the truth is, people will either love it or hate it. Falling in love with the city was easy; the warm welcome from the locals, the smiles, the hustle and bustle was enough to get us hooked. Choosing to stay for nearly three months was without doubt, a good decision. Having Davendra & Pramila (a Deaf couple, co-owners of Kantipur Hotel) waiting for us was a bonus, as we knew that staying with them and their family, would give us the opportunity to eat traditional food, be advised on where to go and what to see and most important of all would enable us to immerse ourselves in the Nepali culture and interact with the locals.
Prior to our arrival we had no guides, maps or plans. And that is exactly how we like to travel; considering spending longer in a place, getting to know it and its people. Basically, travelling with a purpose, rather than ticking off experiences.

Note: All the information below is based on our own experiences.

Kathmandu Travel Guide

Kathmandu Valley

There are three major towns in Kathmandu Valley – Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan. Kathmandu is the capital and as expected, is the busiest of them all. Kathmandu old city is chaotic, the streets are buzzing with the sights and sounds of cars, trucks, bikes, animals and people filling the narrow streets and lanes. The background noises of bicycle bells, motorbike engines, religious music, car horns, squares packed with timeless temples and monuments, the sights, the smells of incense, spices, sewage and fumes, makes it an amazing city to visit and a thrilling worthwhile experience.

what to see in kathmandu

General Information for first time travellers to Kathmandu

The pollution and the dust in Kathmandu are high, especially during the dry season. We would always wear a face mask when walking around town. At first we thought it would look odd but soon realised that the locals also wear it.

Carrying toilet paper and baby wipes was a life saver in many situations. Only the restaurants in touristic areas will have toilet paper. To be honest the toilets are so bad that we would usually not drink water when we were out and about, so we wouldn’t need to go to the toilet!

Waking up early and leaving the hostel around 8-9am was the best time to explore Kathmandu when it was “quiet”. Traffic gets crazy as the day goes by.

There are several power cuts during the day. Some hostels will be powered with a backup generator if need be. Although they gave us a “schedule” of the power-cut times, more often than not it would happen outside those hours. The frustration was equal regarding Internet connection. It is very slow. The best thing we did was to buy a Ncell SIM card.

We were always very cautious of children around temples, we never gave them money, because we knew many others would start begging. Sadhus, known by Holy Man, demanded money when we took pictures of them or with them. Many are simply beggars and con men. A genuinely Sadhu will never ask or beg for money.

Crossing a road can be a frightening experience for a newbie. Observing how the locals did it helped enormously. In no time we were crossing the streets of Kathmandu like a PRO. Also hopping on a rickshaw was an adventure.

During our stay we never had any problems regarding safety. I (Telma) walked around town a few times on my own and felt safe. Nepali people are nice, warm and very welcoming. Yes, in tourist areas there will be people stalking you, offering to be a guide for the day and charging money if you take pictures of them. Just say “No, thank you” and walk away. Or like us, just keep walking, don’t engage with them. Always worked! They might follow you for a minute, but no longer than that.

Sightseeing in Kathmandu Valley (Kathmandu City, Patan and Bhaktapur) can be a little bit expensive these days, when starting adding the costs. After the 2015 earthquake the number of tourists visiting Nepal might have decreased but the tourist sites increased their entrance fees.

Our best tip: When visiting Nepal, try and adapt to the Nepali lifestyle and its culture as soon as you arrive in Kathmandu. You will see things that you don’t agree with, that will make you upset or even disgusted. If you are not happy, leave. Simple as that. Arriving with a Western attitude is firstly, a waste of time and energy, marking you out as disrespectful. Secondly, it is simply not worth it. Don’t try and change a culture. Adapt, immerse yourself and be positive. You will enjoy the experience much more.

general information about kathmandu

How to Get Started in Kathmandu

Get a map of Kathmandu. Second-hand book stores sell maps for Rs300/USD$2.50/GBP£2.30. Or like us, just ask the receptionist at the hostel, they might have a spare one. The narrow lanes and streets are very confusing at first. It took as a few days to get around it.

Stay connected by purchasing a SIM Card from Ncell provider. The card costs Rs250/USD$2.30/GBP£1.90.
You need – a copy of your passport’s front page, the Nepali Visa and a picture. At the store, they will fill in the form for you and set up the SIM card. Data costs – 1 GB for Rs1000/USD$9.30/GBP£7.60 or 2GB for RS1600/USD$14/GBP£12.

You don’t have to hire a Guide. If you have time, explore the city by yourself. It’s a chaotic little adventure. If you don’t have time and are considering hiring a guide, I suggest asking the hostel for good references. A Guide can cost up to Rs2000/USD$18/GBP£15 a day, less than Rs1000/USD$9/GBP£7 you might as well take a guide book instead. Remember you get what you pay for.

If looking for a Deaf Guide, we suggest:

  • Suresh Shahi. Email: suresh_sh71@hotmail.com/Facebook: Suresh Deaf
    (Areas: Kathmandu Valley & Pokhara/Hiking to Annapurna)
  • Chheeri Sherpa. Email: chheeri@yahoo.com. (Areas: Hiking at the Sagarmatha National Park – Everest Region)

(Both Deaf Guides also work with Hearing people/groups.)

places to visit kathmandu

Kathmandu Transportation

You name it: taxis, rickshaws, buses, tuktuks, bicycles, motorbikes, and yet the best way to explore Kathmandu is on foot. That’s how we spent our days in Kathmandu, wandering around and getting lost.

The variety of transportation in town is overwhelming and we took it slowly by getting used to walking in town from early morning to lunch time. It is always better to experience the roads getting busier as the day goes by, rather than stepping outside for the first time at 2pm. We had to be careful when crossing the roads, there are little rules for pedestrians, or I dare to say none. Any means of transportation will take over both by the left or right side. Leaving you with no choice but actually thank the fact the beeping happens, so you know when NOT to move!

We mainly walked and caught the local buses. The fare is Rs15/USD$0.15/GBP£0.10. My advice is to have the right amount, if you hand it a Rs20 note you will not get the change back. But to be honest, please do not argue back for the sake of 5 rupees! Taxis are a rip-off and not even worth it. Get on a rickshaw and enjoy the ride! The prices will vary depending on distances, but from the old city to Thamel shouldn’t cost more than Rs250/USD$2/GBP£1.50.

busy roads in kathmandu

Accommodation in Kathmandu

The most well-known area that people choose to stay is Thamel, especially for first timers and for those who are stopping in Kathmandu for a day or so before heading to Pokhara or Lukla, to start their trekking journeys. There is accommodation for everyone’s budget, from Rs250/USD$2/GBP£1.50. for a dorm bed or private rooms for Rs800/USD$7/GBP£6.

We stayed at Hotel Kantipur located in North Thamel area called Paknajol. There are no luxuries but the staff are fantastic. Also, the co-owners of the Hostel are Deaf so that was another good reason to stay. We were welcomed with open arms and soon felt part of the family. It was a great way to get to know the locals.
Other recommendation is August Mountain Hotel for a cheaper option and faster internet. Some people avoid tourist areas, like Thamel, and a good choice is to stay around town is Jhochhe, Durbar Marg or Lazimpath.

Eating out in Kathmandu

There are restaurants serving Italian, Thai, Mexican and American food, but don’t expect it all to be authentic, only very few restaurants will serve excellent dishes. When eating local the food can be very greasy and the side effects of it will soon hit you hard, either by diarrhoea or loss of appetite! The majority of tourist restaurants, especially in Thamel, will charge 10% service charge and 13% VAT adding to the final bill. Depending on what you order and the costs, those charges can add up to Rs500/USD$4/GBP£3 extra. If you choose to eat local these charges can be avoided.

Dal Bhat is the national dish of rice, lentils and vegetables. If you are lucky to finding a restaurant who serves a good Nepali Set, the dish is just amazing. But when skimping for a cheap meal, the food can be very bland. The meal usually costs Rs400-500/USD$4/GBP£3 (vegetarian and non-vegetarian). Anything less than NPR400 I wouldn’t recommend, unless you have seen how it’s served, or have heard a recommendation from someone.

dal bhat and momo

Momo (generally speaking are dumplings) usually cost between Rs120-160/USD$1.50/GBP£1 per serve at 10 pieces (vegetarian, buffalo or chicken). You can eat it steamed or fried. Less than RS100 for momo I would be wary of the quality of the meat and its appearance (greasy). Paying RS200 or more for momo is a rip off. (although is still dirty cheap!)

If feeling a little daring with Traditional Food, we suggest Newari dishes, which consist of flattened rice, vegetables and roasted meat. Fruit can be found everywhere in Kathmandu. From bananas, apples, pears, oranges to mangos. It’s worth a try. Ask a local or at the hostel the prices per kilo. Some street sellers will try and charge you more. I had to ask the hostel staff to buy fruit because I couldn’t get fair prices. And always check the expiry date of products. We found some shops selling Snacks and Chocolates with expiry dates of one year earlier!

Our recommendation on good restaurants around Thamel:

  1. Electric Pagoda – Bar & Café (Sathghumti Road) and Or2K– For the best International dishes and fast wifi – service charge
  2. Yangling (is a Tibetan restaurant at the 7 Cornor Road), here you can eat the best Momo and Thenthuk (flat pasta, meat/vegetables in broth) – NO service charge
  3. North Field Café – service charge
  4. Namaste Café & Bar – service charge

the food people from kathmandu eat

What to See and Things to Do in Kathmandu

Kathmandu Durbar Square – This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one the major attractions of Kathmandu, despite some of the temples being destroyed during the 2015 earthquake and the high entrance fee. We were hugely disappointed with the fees and also because it looks like a normal square, where taxis and rickshaws are parked everywhere, there are beggars, sellers, etc. We thought the area would be protected from the chaos. Also the destruction is pretty visible, what was once a beautiful square filled with temples from the 15th century, some areas are now a pile of rubble.
The square is famous for Kumari Chowk (House of the Living Goddess).
Entry fee: Rs1000/USD$9/GBP£7 per person.

people walking at durbar square

Kathesimbhu Stupa – It’s the most popular Tibetan pilgrimage site in the old town. This is a 17th century copy of the famous Swayambhunath Stupa. The site is in between Thamel and Durbar Square, south of Thaihiti Tole.
Entry Fee: Free

kathmandu buddhist temple

Ason Tole, also known as Ason Chowk – It’s an old market square surrounded by temples and shrines. Jammed with buyers and sellers, vegetables, fruits, a variety of spices, dried food, etc. Ason Tole it’s not a tourist market but a local’s market. The three-storey Annapurna Temple can be found here. We walked past the market countless times.

market in kathmandu

Thamel – Thamel is the hustling and bustling tourist district. This area is filled with restaurants serving “international dishes”, backpackers hostels, souvenir shops, fake trekking gear, second-hand book stores and the odd man asking if you “want something?”, referring to hashish!
Shop until you drop! If like us you are on a long-term trip, there isn’t much you can buy apart from a few clothes, magnets or post cards. But if you are visiting and going back home afterwards, it’s your lucky chance to get hands on some beautifully handmade cashmere scarfs/blankets, jewellery, statuettes, carved-wood crafts, carpets, incense, oils, spices….and the list goes on. Get ready for those haggling skills, you will need it here. Some of the souvenirs are ridiculously expensive, and you will be paying the “tourist price”. Thamel is not a reflection of Nepal or Nepali culture, but is where people tend to spend majority of their time because of the variety of offer, the food and the nightlife, as there isn’t much you can do in the evenings outside Thamel.

the streets of thamel kathmandu

Swayambhunath Stupa, it’s a Buddhist temple and also known as the “Monkey Temple”, situated on the top of a hill, west of the city. Climb the full 365 steps to the top and enjoy the views of Kathmandu. As they name suggests, there are a lot of Monkeys around. Don’t be fooled, they are vicious and aggressive. We saw someone being attacked when getting close to them just to take a picture!
Entry fee: Rs200/USD$2/GBP£1.50 per person

buddhist stupa in kathmandu

Pashupatinath & Boudhanath

We visited both in one go. People either visit Pashupatinath on the way to Boudhanath or vise-versa. From Kathmandu get the number 2 blue bus from Ratna Park (near Rani Pokhari, east side of town) to Boudhanath. The bus journey is Rs15/USD$0.15/GBP£0.10 but if you hand in a Rs20 note you will not get 5 rupees’ change. It’s not worth the argument.

Boudhanath Stupa – The Great Boudha is the largest stupa in Nepal and one of the largest in the World. This pilgrimage site is very important for Buddhists. Unfortunately, during the 2015 earthquake the stupa was massively damaged, and people can no longer walk around the edge, now only from the ground. It is really a beautiful site and worth a visit. Boudhanath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Entry fee: Rs250/USD$2.50/GBP£2 per person

Pashupatinath – Pashupatinath, located along Bagmati River, it is Nepal’s more important Hindu temple and it’s one of the most important Shiva temples on the subcontinent. The Bagmati is a holy river and it’s used as a cremation site for the Hindus. We saw two bodies being cremated at the riverside ghats (these are stone-paved cremation platforms). The smell isn’t very pleasant but I believe it is really an experience. I am not sure, but I think the price has increased lately because travellers would flock there to take pictures, treating it like a tourist site. At the end of the day it is like tourists in our country going to our cemeteries and taking pictures of our funerals… I guess we wouldn’t like it either.
Here you can find Sadhus, known as Holy Man. The Sadhus of Nepal are wandering Holy Man who have chosen to live their life apart of the edges of society to focus on their own spiritual practices.
Entry fee: Rs1000/USD$9/GBP£7 per person

nepal cremation site

Kathmandu Valley: A Day Trip

Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located about 8 miles/12km from Kathmandu. The town is beautifully built in a blend of dark carved wood, pink bricks and copper. It was like stepping into a medieval town: traditional art and architecture, historical monuments and temples, people producing pottery and craft works. Bhaktapur early dates go back to the 9th century but it wasn’t until the 17th that much of the town’s architecture started taking its place.

Bhaktapur is much cleaner and less busy than Kathmandu, which was a pleasant surprise. We didn’t even wear our face masks, so that was a bonus! There are no rickshaws, less motorbikes and taxi drivers around. It was so beautiful and tranquil compared to Kathmandu that we went there twice during our stay in Nepal. It is really a fascinating little town to wander in and it’s only one hour away from Kathmandu. The lack of traffic, walking around old temples and shrines makes the perfect destination away from the chaos. Make sure it is on your itinerary. We had a very pleasant day around town, the people were warm and welcoming.
How to get Bhaktapur to Kathmandu – Get the express bus from Ratna Park (near Rani Pokhari, east side of town) direct to Bhaktapur, cost per ticket is Rs20/USD$0.18/GBP£0.15.

A simple guide would be to start off at Durbar Square, then Taumadhi Tole for its five-storey Nyatapola Temple, then Pottery Square for a tea break at Pottery Bar for some roof top views of the square, and finally make your way to Dattatraya Square, which is the oldest part of town.

Entry Fees for the Touristic Sites:
•   Durbar Square – Rs1500/USD$14/GBP£11 per person
•   Taumadhi Tole – Free
•   Dattatraya Square – Free
•   Pottery Square – Free

hindu culture of nepal

pottery square bhaktapur

man relaxing in nepal

People from all around the world visit Nepal and stay in Kathmandu a few days before heading to Pokhara or Lukla with plans of trekking the Annapurna Circuit or to the Everest Base Camp, but we highly recommend exploring the city a little longer. Not only because Kathmandu needs tourism but also because it is really an eye-opening experience.

If you can: stay longer, meet the locals – whether by volunteering or just talking to the staff at your accommodation; try different food; spend an afternoon observing the daily life and most of all have a positive attitude towards the culture and the people.

Kathmandu might not be for everyone, but is without a doubt a once in a lifetime experience.

Special Thanks:

We would like to thank Davendra and Pramila for their hospitality during our stay in Kathmandu. Their generosity, friendship, kind gestures, making sure we were always happy, and countless nights chatting, made our stay in Nepal much more enjoyable. Straight after meeting them we felt part of the family. We are forever grateful for everything they did for us. Other people that we would also like to thank, in no particular order are: Dipawali Sharmacharya, Kalpana Bajaracharya, Suresh Shahi, Chheeri Sherpa.

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We are Thomas and Telma – the writers, photographers, videographers and founders of Blank Canvas Voyage.

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5 Day Itinerary for Hong Kong

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By Telma and Thomas | 5 September 2016 | Hong Kong | Travel Guides

Creating a 5 Day Itinerary for Hong Kong was easy as we knew that staying longer would give us the opportunity to explore Hong Kong better. Majority of Hong Kong city guides suggests the most touristic parts of the city, leaving a lot of beautiful and interesting places out.
I (Telma) was lucky to have suggestions and advices of my two good friends, Jacky and Kit. Jacky is Hong Kong Chinese, having moved to London for over 18 years ago, Kit is a “BBC”, British Born Chinese, and visits Hong Kong regularly for work. So I knew I was in good hands! 
Their guidance helped us a lot because Hong Kong is a very big city, and not wanting to waste any time during our nine days’ stay, we wanted to make the most of it.
If you would like to know how to get started, read our Hong Kong Travel Guide on a Budget.
English is widely spoken, but we didn’t expect everyone to speak. There were times we had to rely solely on body language, sign language, miming and pointing. And Thomas is very good at it. It actually amazes me how well he can communicate when we are surrounded by people that do not speak our language! That’s just amazing, right? Oh the perks of knowing Sign Language!
So, we had an itinerary, a map, a local SIM card and we were ready to rock and roll!

Hong Kong Itinerary

The best way to explore Hong Kong is dividing the city in four areas. This way you can focus in each area on different days, and also spend quality time roaming around, take pictures, observe, and enjoy what this fantastic city has to offer. The four areas are:
Kowloon PeninsulaHong Kong IslandLantau IslandNew Territories

Our 5 Day Itinerary is about the best of Hong Kong by areas, how to get around and some useful tips.

things to do Hong Kong

What to See and Do in Hong Kong

Day 1 – Lantau Island

  • Ngong Ping Cable Car
  • Ngong Ping Village & Piazza
  • Po Lin Monastery
  • Big Buddha
  • Tai O Fishing Village

Visit the temple street market in Yau Ma Tei (Temple street market – only open at night – any night)

How to get there: In order to get to Lantau Island, you need to get the train to Tung Chung. Get the cable car to Ngong Ping. Make sure you arrive early to avoid the crowd and huge queues. Once you have visited all the places mentioned above, get the bus 21 down to Tai O Fishing Village. The ticket costs HKD$6/USD$0.70/GBP£0.50 and you can use the Octopus Card. At Tai O get on those little boats for HKD$25/USD$3/GBP£2, and enjoy the scenery, the houses above water and the sunset.
From Tai O, get the bus back to Tung Chung station directly and take the train to Yau Ma Tei for the temple street market. The local food includes ‘hot pot rice’, and deep fried oyster cake. Worth trying!

hong kong islands
lantau island buddha
things to do in hong kong
lantau island monastery

Day 2 – New Territories

How to get there: Start early in the morning. Get off at Sha Tin station and walk to Sha Tin Wai. We did this walk by mistake and got to see the locals dancing and exercise. Plus, the walk is very nice.
Go up the Monastery and be prepared for 430 steps in a concrete path uphill. Come back down the hill and make your way to Che Kung Temple, the museum is very close to the Temple.
Make sure you get to Diamond Hill station in plenty of time, The Nunnery closes at 4.30pm.

monastery hong kong

Day 3 – Northeast New Territories

  • Tai Mei Tuk
  • Sam Mun Tsai
  • Sam Kung Temple

How to get there: Make sure you have the morning and afternoon free for this. Get the train early morning to Tai Po Market. When you arrive get the 20C mini-bus and your last stop should be Tai Mei Tuk. Hire a bike from the village; this should cost around HKD$70/USD$9/GBP£7 for around 3-4 hours. Cycle and enjoy the scenery, the local villages, have lunch with the locals and visit the temples. Your cycling itinerary for the day should be Tai Mei Tuk – Sam Mun Tsai – Tai Mei Tuk.

outside hong kong

Day 4 – Hong Kong Island

  • Tsim Sha Tsui
  • Peak Tram
  • Victoria Peak
  • Mid-Levels Escalator
  • Lan Kwai Fong (Soho)
  • Tsim Sha Tsui – Symphony of Lights (at night)

How to get there: In the morning stop at Tsim Sha Tsui for pictures of the iconic buildings at Hong Kong Island. Here you can find Chungking Mansions, but don’t be fooled by the name. It’s just cheap accommodation, from Hostels to Guesthouses, aiming at the budget travellers.
 Get to Central Station and queue for the Peak Tram. Have lunch at The Peak. The scenery is amazing!
 Get the bus down town and experience that crazy ride going downhill.
Visit the Mid-Levels Escalators. Have a coffee or tea around Lan Kwai Fong.
Finish your day going back to Tsim Sha Tsui Waterfront (be there by 8pm for the Laser show.
 Experience the nightlife at Lan Kwai Fong (next to the mid-level escalator).

the view from Victoria Peak

Day 5 – Kowloon

  • Mong Kok
  • Sham Shui Po for Apliu Street

Tip: Spend the day exploring this area. You will find cheap markets, all sort of electronic stuff, shopping centres, street food. Walk around at night to experience the colourful billboards in every street.

famous hong kong

Hong Kong Day Trips

From the original plan, we missed out on Sai Kung Country Park and Ping Shan Heritage Trail. These places require two full days, which we didn’t have. The jet lag was an awful experience and the first two days was really hard for us. We kept postponing a few plans for the following days and ended up not having time for everything.

  • Sai Kung Country Park
  • Ping Shan Heritage Trail

How to get there: The trail is right at the edge of Hong Kong with the border of China, it will take an hour and a half to get there. People usually spend 4-5 hours hiking. A bottle of water and wearing comfortable walking/hiking footwear are a must. The area is very traditional Chinese and has the “old” Hong Kong look.

Suggestions on how to plan an itinerary for Hong Kong:

  • Plan extra time for the arrival and departure days, traffic to/from the airport can be an issue
  • Most probably you will suffer from jet lag, so don’t be hard on yourself, take a morning/afternoon off
  • Book your accommodation around Kowloon area, it’s close to everything you need and it is much cheaper than other areas in town. We always book our rooms through Airbnb. Get $25/£30 discount on your booking using our code.
    Book an extra day or two and fit the above itinerary in between
  • Visit Macau
  • Read our Hong Kong Travel Guide on a Budget

Special Thanks:

Our trip in Hong Kong would have not been possible without the suggestions, advice & tips from Jacky Cheung and Kit Lee.

Have we forgotten anything? Are you planning on visiting Hong Kong?

the best of hong kong itinerary

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We are Thomas and Telma – the writers, photographers, videographers and founders of Blank Canvas Voyage.

Let us inspire you to explore the world through the sharing of our experiences, stories, videos and useful tips. Click here to know more about our journey.

Hong Kong Travel Guide on a Budget

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By Telma and Thomas | 4 September 2016 | Hong Kong | Travel Guides

Hong Kong was a city we had long wanted to visit, so we were happy it was on our itinerary. Luckily we had a help of two friends during the planning stage and although there is a lot of information online about it, we were concerned on how much visiting Hong Kong would cost and what to visit while out there. Our itinerary was divided into four areas, not only this is the absolute best way to explore the city, but also because we wanted to have enough time to enjoy it fully and take lots of pictures! Hong Kong was the first destination when we left London, back in November 2015.
This travel guide has useful tips for people wanting to visit, and it shows that Hong Kong can be done on a budget. A very useful resource was Discover Hong Kong website, which helped us a lot on putting some ideas forward before arriving.

Against all suggestions and itineraries online, we spent nine amazing days exploring this incredible city and some hidden gems in the neighbourhoods. From dirty hallways at the Chungking Mansions, navigating through the MTR, cycling in the countryside, spending the day discovering villages outside the city, taking the ferry to see the glorious skyline, to shopping in Mong Kong’ street markets. During our stay we had enough time to get over the jet lag, get some rest, edit pictures/videos and do a little research about the next destination.
Looking back, we would have liked to have stayed two weeks instead, because Hong Kong is just amazing and we couldn’t get enough of this hectic city!

travel tips hong kong

Hong Kong Travel Guide

Hong Kong must be one of the most fascinating cites in the world. The city welcomes with the best food you have ever tasted, an iconic skyline and breathtaking harbour, one of the world’s easiest transport system, mountainous country parks and diverse landscapes where a combination of rural and urban life comes to life.
Hong Kong is captivating; this city just has it all.

Minimum stay: 5 days. We stayed 9 days – which included 2 half days and a day trip to Macau.

Best time to go to Hong Kong: During the cooler, dry season, from October to January. Avoid travelling on Public Holidays, China’s major holidays: Lunar New Year, the first week of May and the first week of October. All tourist attractions will be crowed at these times.

How to explore Hong Kong: The best way to explore Hong Kong is to divide the city into four areas. This way you can focus in each area on different days.
Kowloon Peninsula – Hong Kong Island – Lantau Island – New Territories

Read our 5 Day Itinerary for Hong Kong for more information on how to explore this amazing city.

hong kong travel guide

How to get started

Buy a SIM Card:
At the airport go to the CSL kiosk (small yellow shop) and buy an 8-day SIM card for HKD$118/USD$15/GBP£11. You will be surprised how much internet you really need in this hectic city!

Buy an Octopus Card:
Public transport in Hong Kong is excellent! Frequent ferries between the islands, a huge bus network, a great tram system and an excellent underground railway, known as the MTR.
The Octopus card requires a HKD$50 deposit (USD$6/GBP£4), which is refundable at the end of your stay. For 8 days we topped up ours with HKD$200/USD$25/GBP£18 each. The Octopus card is rechargeable, valid on the MTR, most forms of public transport, some restaurants and convenience stores.
It is very simple to get around and the Octopus Card is without a doubt the cheapest way.

Transportation to/from the Airport:
There are 3 ways to get to Kowloon Peninsula from the Airport.
Airport Express (HKD$90/USD$11/GBP£8), which is the fastest way but also the most expensive. Get a Taxi (HKD$300/USD$35/GBP£25). Or by Bus (Bus number A21) (HKD$33/USD$4/GBP£3), which takes approximately 30-40 minutes, depending on the traffic. But is the best way to start your stay in Hong Kong and you will most probably meet fellow backpackers on the way to the city.

bus hong kong

Stay within your budget in Hong Kong

Accommodation:
• Stay at Chungking Mansions (at Tsim Sha Tsui) or Sincere House (at Mong Kok), there are plenty of Guesthouses & Hostels to choose from
We really recommend booking through Airbnb (use our code and get $25/£30 discount on your booking). You can get great deals for a private room or the entire flat, if you prefer
Avoid staying at Hong Kong Island; it is expensive compared to the other areas

Food:
• Look out for local restaurants, meals can cost HKD$25/USD$3/GBP£2 around Kowloon Peninsula
• During lunch times, many restaurants offer great deals
• Enjoy the street food as much as you can, it is filling and cheap

Free things to do in Hong Kong

There are a lot of free things to do in Hong Kong, so you can give your daily budget (and your wallet) a break. Here are some of the places that are free of charge which we visited:

• Visit the Top Three Museums for free (Wednesdays only) – Hong Kong Museum of History, Hong Kong Space Museum, Hong Kong Science Museum
• Visit the local markets, as these offer the cheapest clothes, electronics and all those “fake” brands & gadgets
Victoria Harbour
Symphony of Lights – Laser Show, everyday at 8pm
The Peak Galleria (even though you must pay to get there, either by bus or by tram, it will not cost you a thing to walk around the Peak)
10,000 Buddha’s Monastery
Mid-Levels Escalator

If you would like to know more on what to see and do while in Hong Kong read our 5 Day Itinerary for Hong Kong for more information.

what to see in hong kong

Have we missed out on anything?

what to see and do in hong kong

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Thank-You for Readingfiji islands travel blog

We are Thomas and Telma – the writers, photographers, videographers and founders of Blank Canvas Voyage.

Let us inspire you to explore the world through the sharing of our experiences, stories, videos and useful tips. Click here to know more about our journey.