Camel Safari in Jaisalmer

By Telma | 22 April 2017 | India | Adventure Travel 

While travelling in India, we knew we wanted to go on a Camel Safari Jaisalmer. Always up for adventure, we wondered what it would be like to ride a camel and spend the night in the desert. Overwhelmed with the offer, it wasn’t an easy decision. We knew we didn’t want to join a big tour group, having a camel each was pretty much an agreement and the welfare of the animals was our main concern.

In the end, we decided to go on a private tour so we would have the camels for ourselves and get to know our guide a little bit more. The people from the desert fascinate me, they seem so mysterious and always have endless tales to tell.
In the end, we were very happy with our guide, we got a recommendation from the guests that were staying at the same hostel. But not all tours are great and fantastic experiences, I think we were genuinely very lucky with our camel safari. The day after our return we met two girls who hated theirs because it wasn’t what they had imagined. They had to share the guide with another 8 people, there wasn’t as many breaks as they wished they had (riding a camel is sooo painful!), the food wasn’t great and everyone slept inside tents. Now, that to me isn’t an adventure. It’s simply riding a camel to the desert. But each to their own.

Although our experience was incredible, the start of our day wasn’t as great. I guess having travelled for over a year and always being very careful with scams and touts, which we did pretty well considering some circumstances, we ended up being persuaded to join a sightseeing tour before the safari; all “part of the package”. Yes, it was a mistake. But as we as were making a video we thought it would look great to add some more footage about Jaisalmer. Unfortunately, it was terrible and it was not worth it at all. So I would not recommend adding any sightseeing to a Camel Safari Jaisalmer.

a camel safari in india



Camel Safari Jaisalmer

Sightseeing Tour

At first we were really excited about the sightseeing tour. Adding more footage to our video of the famous sites in Jaisalmer seemed perfect. What we didn’t know is that our Guide spoke broken English, would spent half the time on the phone and whatever question asked, he would reply “Oh, yes, it’s a very old fort/temple/village”. I mean…really?! Obviously we weren’t happy at all. Maybe some people are happy to be driven around and that’s it. But we like to know the history, the secrets, the tales. We were in Rajasthan!! Surely there must be some story tales about princes, and princesses, forts, tombs, conquests, battles and invasions…. Nope! Our “guide” didn’t have anything to say.

Disappointed to the point we cut the “tour” short and asked to be taken to meet the camel safari guide. Obviously at this stage we both did not look happy at all. Beautiful sites and we left knowing as much as we knew before the tour, nothing! What a waste of a morning!

The Sightseeing Tour and Camel Safari had been organised by the Guesthouse where we were staying and we had to go back the next day to pick up our backpacks. So instead of trying to explain to this man, who could barely speak English, that he was indeed useless and should at least learn the basics of each site so the clients would be happy with his knowledge, we took a deep breath. Hoping the Camel Safari would at least make up for it.

things to see on a tour rajasthan Not impressed with our “Sightseeing Tour”

Riding a Camel in the Thar Desert

The night before our host sat with us and talked through about the Thar Desert. He said: “Please bear in mind 3 things: Thar Desert is not the Sahara Desert; it’s not isolated as you will see villages, animals and people; and it’s not all Sand Dunes”. I guess that gave us a hint: Do not compare it to Sahara Desert and it’s India, even in the Desert we will find people wandering around!
That surely didn’t matter or made us concerned, we were thrilled to be spending a night in the Desert, riding a camel and be the closest we will ever be (most probably) to Pakistan.

jaisalmer tourArriving at the Desert just before meeting our Camel Safari Guide, Salim.

Real Desert Man Camel Safari Jaisalmer

Salim, our Camel Safari Guide, was already packing up and getting the camels when we arrived. I had ridden a horse before when I was 7-8 years old, my brother used to ride quite a lot before, so I was not so nervous on coming face-to-face with Camels. Thomas, not so much. I could see he was very stiff, and once I told him that animals could smell our fear, he relaxed.

We had only male camels, amongst the three of us. Apparently, females are not suitable for riding, and during the mating season the males become quite aggressive. Interesting, right? I asked Salim: “So when is the mating season?”, Salim replied: “Now. You will see them trying to bite each other, because they are a little desperate”. We laughed nervously. The last thing we wanted was to fall from the camels and hurt ourselves! Luckily everything went well.

jaisalmer camel safariSalim and his three Camels: Johnny, Rock & Raj

Our Camel Safari in pictures:

desert man camel safariSalim is a Real Desert Man

the real desert manOur first meal and a special guest, Mister Goat! 

rajasthan camel safari tourCamels are HUGE!

couple private tour camel safariDesert Selfie!

best camel safari indiaThat time I stopped riding the camel because the pain was unbearable!

camel safari indiaStopping for dinner. Erm… Telma a little obsessed with that particular Camel hahaha

spending the night camel safariSalim preparing our dinner

Best Camel Safari in Jaisalmer

When looking out for a Camel Safari Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, people should consider these:

  • Don’t book the camel safari online, once in Jaisalmer ask the hostel where you are staying. If still not sure, approach tourists in town. Nothing better than word of mouth from fellow travellers.
  • We would strongly recommend people to go on a private tour, although it is a little pricier than a group tour, but you know the camels are well treated and fed. Also, you will get all the time for yourself with the camels and the guide. Salim, our Guide was a real desert man, it was incredible chatting to him for hours about his life in the desert and getting to know a little more about camels.
  • Best tours are the one where the guide cooks all your meals over an open fire. Always choose the vegetarian option and make sure the food is cooked from scratch with fresh ingredients and vegetables. Water bottles must be unlimited.
  • More likely, if you chose a private tour, the guide will provide plenty of blankets and a mattress. Appreciate the small things in life, this is no luxury. For us, it was all about the experience.
  • It’s more fun having a camel to yourself. Sharing not only is boring, but also because it more weight for the camel to carry.

watching sunset jaisalmerSunset in the Thar Desert, Rajasthan

Camel Safari Travel Tips

Price – Don’t pay more than Rs2000 for a Guided Tour and Rs4000 for a Private Tour
Be adventurous – Stay for the night, without a tent
Pack light – All you need to bring is a warm jacket and socks (we took the thermal top & bottoms we wore when trekking to Everest Base Camp), headlamp, baby wipes, toothpaste and toothbrush, power bank, spare batteries.
Don’t forget the desert sun is HOT – bring a hat/scarf to protect you from the sun and apply sunscreen often.
Master those photographic skills – We really wished we had a better camera or perhaps a better knowledge of photography. Sleeping in the desert without a tent, looking at the sky, the moon moving through the night, witnessing the night, the sunrise and the early dawn was such a magical moment.




Jaisalmer Accommodation

There are so many rooms available in Jaisalmer that sometimes is hard to make a decision. We strongly recommend the hostel we stayed at. The hosts are lovely and surely gave us an unforgettable, yet unique experience. Make sure you ask for Salim as the Camel Safari Guide. Our Camel Safari Jaisalmer was without doubt the highlight of our time in India.

When booking your room, before making the payment, there is a “coupon” tab (highlighted in green, above the total charge), use our discount code and get $25/£30 off your own booking. Our room was booked through Airbnb and the hostel can be found here.

With Thanks to India Someday for the sponsored train journeys during our time in Rajasthan.

Watch our video

SUBSCRIBE ON YOUTUBE

What do you think of our Camel Safari adventure?

best camel safari rajasthan

Pin this image to your Pinterest Board.

fiji islands travel blogThank-You for Reading

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.

Getting the Indian Visa in Kathmandu

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

Further reading: Lonely Planet India (Travel Guide) is a complete and all-inclusive guide for those wanting to experience and explore India. We strongly recommend reading this guide as it helped us planning our own trip.

Happy Travels!

Have you ever applied for the Indian Visa before?

applying for the india visa in kathmandu

Pin this image to your Pinterest Board.

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.

Nepal: A Traveller’s Guide

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

Further reading: Lonely Planet Nepal (Travel Guide) is a complete and all-inclusive guide for those wanting to experience and explore Nepal. We strongly recommend reading this guide as it helped us planning our own trip.

Happy Travels!

Have we convinced you to visit Nepal yet?

Pin this image to your Pinterest Board.

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

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.

Watch our video

SUBSCRIBE ON YOUTUBE

Have you visited Kathmandu or is it on your travel plans?

what to do in kathmandu

fiji islands travel blogThank-You for Reading

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.

Pokhara: A Relaxed Pace of Life

By Telma | 28 October 2016 | Nepal | Travel Guides

Pokhara has everything an adventurous soul can wish for; spectacular scenery, nature walks, plenty of healthy food choices, a laid-back atmosphere, great outdoor activities and close-up mountain views. Completely different from the hectic bustle of Kathmandu, Pokhara has a more relaxed pace of life.
Most travellers tend to stay around South Lakeside, also known as Pokhara Bazaar. Undoubtedly a popular tourist spot, it follows a peculiar logic: the more people stay there, the more Pokhara Bazaar turns itself into what foreigners want it to be. It is very central for those wanting to eat good food. Go for short day treks or just relax by Phewa Lake. The lakeside location and the starting point for some of the famous treks towards the Himalaya Mountain Range makes Pokhara a “tourist’s paradise”.

But Pokhara it’s not a reflection of Nepal or Nepali life at all and for us, for that reason, Pokhara lost some of its magic. It might have very little traffic and great restaurants offering a huge range of world foods (except for dal bhat!) but it’s not Nepal. Pokhara is famous for the lakeside location and its proximity to the mountains but it lacks on great historical or cultural sites. It is a tourist area, made for tourists only.
Nepal has an amazing variety of cast/ethic groups, and there is nothing better than walking around town checking out different traditional costumes, trying to figure out where people come from: “Oh that is a Sherpa!”, “Maybe that one is a Tamang”, and so on. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen here. Coming from Kathmandu, we were both in shock over how different the city was.

phewa lake pokhara



Pokhara Travel Guide

Phewa Lake
This Lake has three different names: Phewa Lake, Phewa Tal or Fewa Lake. At the beginning it was very confusing, to the point that we actually thought there was three different lakes! It is really a nice area to spend an afternoon. There are cute little cafes around the area located at the lakeside so people can sit down, read a book, listen to music or just stare at the lake and enjoy a freshly squeezed orange juice. Surely life cannot get better than that! Also Phewa Lake is full of rowing boots and canoes. Ready not just for the tourists but also for the locals. If the weather is good the lake and its surroundings are beautiful and tranquil. We weren’t so lucky as the weather was cloudy for the duration of our stay. Apparently the views of the Annapurna Mountain Range are breathtaking.
Cost: The rowing boat for one hour with a boatman is Rs500/USD$5/GBP£4, without is Rs450/USD$4/GBP£3.50. Just for Rs50 extra we could both relax, take pictures, film and enjoy the scenery.

At the center of the lake there is temple called Taal Barahi which is located on a little island, just 5 minutes away by boat. The two-storied pagoda is the most important religious Hindu temple in Pokhara.

lake pokhara

Hindu temple in Pokhara

World Peace Stupa – A Day Hike

We could have walked, in preparation for our trek to Everest Base Camp but we decided to hire a bike instead. There were bikes being hired for Rs800 which we obviously didn’t go for. So after a few shops and our negotiating skills, we hired two bikes for the whole day (7 hours) at Rs600/USD$5/GBP£4. A much more acceptable price! On the way there are no directions whatever to where the Stupa is located. But because it is located up on a hill we could guess the way there. Not wanting to take the bikes all the way up the hill, we weren’t sure what to do with them, until we asked if the shop owner would look after them for us. The lady agreed and at the end we gave her a tip, as token of her willingness.
The bike journey is only about 25-30 minutes but the hike to the stupa is about 45 minutes. However, it took us nearly 1.5 hours because we walked very slowly and stopped several times in order to take pictures, enjoy the views, and talk to the locals.
The views from the top are incredible but we couldn’t see the Himalayas, which was a shame. The weather was nice. On the south side clear blue sky but the north side was cloudy. The Stupa is beautiful and it was worth the long walk.

There a few ways to get to the Monastery, from the Lakeside area:
Local bus – Rs15/USD$0.15/GBP£0.11 per person
Hiring a bike – Rs300/USD$3/GBP£2.50 up to 6-8 hours
Walking – It’s a day hike

nepal prayer flags

pokhara things to do

We stopped for lunch at Elite Café, located just before the stupa, and let me tell you the view is amazing as for the food…no comment! Very disappointing. The funny part is, on the wall there is a letter to all customers requesting to save food. It suggests that if you are not very hungry customers should inform the staff so the portion can be served smaller. But the food is so bad that the problem is not leaving food on the plate, the issue is actually eating it! Now that was a waste of food at Rs750/USD$7/GBP£5.50!

After the World Peace Stupa we cycled to Davis’ Fall. Entry Rs30/USD$0.30/GBP£0.25. There isn’t much to see there. It’s just a powerful waterfall whose name was given after a Swiss women, named Mrs Davis, fell to her death into the waterfall in 1960. On the opposite side of the road, there is *Cave. Which the locals were telling us to visit. It wasn’t until we came out of it that we realised that we hadn’t paid for the ticket. In our view, unless you are Hindu, the cave is not really worth it. We couldn’t really understand what was going on and why there was a temple inside the cave as there is no information given to tourists. But I guess it is because it’s not for tourists. We were the only ones!
*Back at the guesthouse we searched upon the site, and the cave is called Gupteshwor Mahadeve Gupha, “a cave-shrine dedicated to Shankhar. Enshrined in a large womblike chamber, the black Shankhar figure is a natural rock form dolled up with a carved Naga (snake) crown.” – The Rough Guide to Nepal

devi fall pokhara

hindu temple pokhara

Along the way we experienced the craziness of Nepali drivers and came across cows…a lot of them! It’s funny to see how the drivers react to cows differently to people or vehicles. Rule number one is to take over no matter what or who is in the way. When a cow is crossing the road, everything and everyone stops and waits patiently for the cow to cross because they are sacred animals in the national religion.

Trekking in Pokhara

International Mountain Museum

We had debated whether to visit the museum or not, but now looking back I am so happy we did. This is the only mountain museum of its kind in the world. Not only its purpose is to exhibit Nepal’s mountain range, its people, culture, flora and fauna, but also has a record of the mountaineering history, techniques and equipment over the years. It is really a great way of getting to know more about Annapurna and Everest Regions.
Cost: Rs400 per person

pokhara points of interest







General Information about Pokhara

Kathmandu to Pokhara by bus

In Kathmandu we purchased our tickets for Rs800/USD$8/GBP£7.50 per person, just a few days before departure. The distance covered is only 200 km (124 mi) and yet it took us nearly 8 hours to arrive in Pokhara. It’s a long, tiring, smelly, dusty journey. Surely we could have flown there and saved the hardships of the journey, the ticket costs under USD100 and we would have reached Pokhara in less than 45 minutes but that isn’t part of the adventure, so we caught the bus instead! The views are superb; the bus goes through Nepal’s Middle Hills and for most of the way the road follows the rivers. At the bottom of deep valleys there are rock gorges and river rapids, tiered rice terraces and local villages dotted over the hills.

travel nepal by bus

Food options in Pokhara

Coming from Kathmandu, where we stayed for nearly three weeks, Pokhara’s variety of foods was a delight! The food is divine and never short of options. We spent our days eating vegetarian and organic meals. Too good to be true – the healthy options come at a price. Because it is a tourist area the food standards are high and so are the prices. The food is way more expensive than other places in Nepal. Meals range from Rs600-Rs700/USD$7/GBP£6.50. Not all restaurants charge the 13% tax adding extra on the bill but the 10% service charge is definitely added onto the bill. In Pokhara Bazaar, the only place that offers cheap food and where we found the budget travellers, is a cool café selling wraps: Rs265/USD$2.5/GBP£2 for a chicken wrap and Rs245 for a falafel wrap.

food in pokhara

Accommodation in Pokhara

Finding a room in Pokhara it’s so easy because guesthouses are everywhere. From the tourist bus park to where we found accommodation, we probably came across twenty guesthouses and surely there are many more. When heading to Pokhara we wouldn’t recommend booking in advance. There is plenty of choice out there and prices are negotiable. If like us, you are just popping in and out for a good deal, you will surely get it. There is accommodation for everyone’s pockets; from Rs250/USD$2.50/GBP£2 for a bed in a dormitory (up to 8-10 beds), to private rooms at hotels for Rs2000-3000 a night. Not wanting to splurge but looking for a private room with private toilet, we found a guesthouse just 10 minutes’ walk from the lake, and paid Rs400/USD$4/GBP£3.50 each per night. The guesthouse wasn’t perfect but for that amount of money we couldn’t really argue. By ‘perfect’ I mean people staying up until late at night and listening to loud music. Thomas slept like a baby! but I had to put up with it. The fact is, you get what you pay for. The food was more expensive in Pokhara than in Kathmandu but the accommodation was cheaper. So we compromised on that.

Supporting the Deaf Community

Helping Hands, Fair Trade Shop – provides training and employment opportunities for Deaf and Blind people in Nepal. At Helping Hands Handicrafts employees weave and knit scarfs, blankets, hats, ponchos, etc. All from 100% natural pashmina, cashmere, silk and wool. At Helping Hands SPA employees are trained in all types of massages and SPA treatments. Not only this is a great way of helping and supporting the local community but also the opportunity to meet fellow Deaf people. They are located in Pokhara Bazaar, Lakeside.
Website: www.yeshelpinghands.com
Facebook: pokharahelpinghands

And that was our stay in Pokhara!
We are not into tourist areas because we believe that experiencing a place must be done through the eyes of locals. But we had a good time. We relaxed and indulged in fresh juices and organic food. Staying for only four days was enough for us. Our days were spent going for long walks, exploring a little of the few tourist attractions and around Phewa Lake. It is very beautiful and tranquil.
Although the weather was amazing, we didn’t get a chance to see the 8000-metre peaks of the Annapurna Range looming over the horizon, from the lake, because it was very cloudy. Our stay in Pokhara was short but we did everything we wanted too.
On the last day we caught the bus to Lumbini, while walking to the bus station, we saw our first and last glimpse of the Himalayas.
It had to be on the last day!

Annapurna Pokhara

Watch our video

SUBSCRIBE ON YOUTUBE

Did we miss out anything about Pokhara?

nepal pokhara travel guide

Pin this image to your Pinterest Board.

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.