Nepal - A Warm, Vibrant Gem hidden in the Himalaya Mountains
February 13, 2019
by Maria Cassar
Well known for its snow-capped mountains and trekking, Nepal is a country that has it all! A paradise for all nature lovers, a vibrant capital, full of heritage sites, amazing national parks, jungles, wildlife, mountains, rivers and lakes. A unique destination perfect for any kind of trip you seek, and surely budget friendly!
Some Nepal Facts
- Nepal is sandwiched between two dominating land masses and national powers, India and China, however, it still manages to offer a culture that is amazingly distinctive.
- ‘Namaste’, said with palms pressed together, is the standard greeting in Nepal.
- 8 out of the 10 highest mountains in the world are found in Nepal.
- 50% is the percentage from all tourism income that the Nepal government gives back to the communities near wildlife reserves.
- Momo: a type of dumpling, one of the most common street food in Nepal.
- Dal Bhat power lasts 24 hours! The most traditional meal in Nepal, consisting of lentil soup, rice and a mix of curries. A very filling, nutritious meal, especially popular in guesthouses along mountain treks. Also all over Nepal, when you order Dal Bhat, you can ask for a free refill.
- Nepal’s national flag is the only national flag which is not rectangular, but two triangles on top of each other, a symbol of the Himalayas.
Formalities for Smooth Arrival in Nepal
Best Time to Travel to Nepal
End of October till December is the peak season in Nepal. The dry season kicks in with more clear skies and views before it gets too cold in January. Springtime in March, April is also a popular timeframe when the forests are blooming, just before the heat and humidity of summer make it more difficult to visit especially due to monsoon.
Requirements Before Leaving to Nepal
- Fill a visa on arrival form online, http://www.nepalimmigration.gov.np/page/visa-on-arrival, a few days before and print it out so as to avoid one queue at the airport (options of 15, 30 and 90 days).
- Take with you extra passport photos.
- Make sure you have enough cash to pay visa on arrival, ideally US dollars, or Euro. The exchange is available next to the visa payment counter.
- Currency in Nepal is Nepalese Rupees (NPR) but a lot of prices are in dollars.
Once out of Nepal Airport Arrivals
- ATMs: only 2 available once out of arrivals.
- If in need of a Sim Card and 3G, 2 stands are available at arrivals. Need to have Nepalese Rupees, and passport photos in hand before.
- Transport from Airport: taxis. Prepaid taxis are available but usually a bit more expensive. You can also bargain outside. Approximate price 700 Rupees from Airport to Thamel (in 2018).
Most common and cheapest option to get around Nepal is by buses. Local buses, and for longer journeys tourist buses. A simple tourist bus from Kathmandu to Chitwan and from Chitwan to Pokhara, both around 6 to 7 hours trip cost just below $5 a trip, with a comfortable seat, ac and a bottle of water. Another good option is by night buses when available. A night bus from Pokhara to Kathmandu, an 11 hour trip, with the same bus conditions as above, even with some snacks for $8. Also, a good way to save on accommodation and not waste your day travelling.
Another option, especially when you have limited time is travelling with a domestic flight but a bit more costly.
Must Visit Places in Nepal
A rich city that helps you embrace the Nepalese culture and history. For many, landing in Kathmandu offers them a particular experience with all the sounds, different smells, and sometimes chaos that can easily provide a sensory overload. Travelling with a rickshaw through the very heart of the city and old town, or walking through Thamel, the backpackers’ district, can be an overwhelming, wonderful, rich and exhausting experience in one place.
Kathmandu valley is a famous place which takes you on a cultural journey through monuments, historical squares and small villages. Unfortunately, the 2015 earthquake did destroy several temples in the famous UNESCO Durbar Square, but thankfully most areas are with no damage.
Kathmandu, an overflowing, rich city that has much to keep you busy for a week especially if you decide to discover the truly hidden jams outside the touristic hub.
A comfy bus ride away from the capital, Chitwan literally means ‘heart of the jungle’. Famous for its indigenous One-horn Rhino and the Bengal Tiger. Decide whether you just want to relax in the stillness of nature, enjoy a short walk by the river to spot a rhino or crocodile, or even immerse deeper into the jungle with guided walks, safari and more. Jungle walks are really an experience here, where you can through immerse yourself in pure nature and just enjoy its wonder through the various jungle animals you can spot. One-horn rhine, wild boar, birds, monkeys, wild chickens, deer, butterflies and if you are very lucky, maybe a Bengal tiger or sloth bear.
A vibrant town, popular for its beautiful Phewa lake and as a starting point for Annapurna region treks. Loads of places to wind down, eat and relax, loads of souvenir shops and unlimited spots where you can just enjoy the lake view peacefully. A number of 1-day tours and hikes are available too unless you want to embark on a mountain adventure for a couple of days.
Trekking in the Himalaya Mountains
The most popular regions for trekking in the Himalayas would be in the Everest region (Sagarmatha National Park) and Annapurna Region, starting from Pokhara, followed by the Langtang region.
Treks in Everest region, being the most popular due to Mount Everest, is the most expensive, also due to the fact that you need to catch a risky internal flight to reach the starting points at Lukla.
Annapurna region is less expensive and is very popular due to the wonderful scenery and views all along the treks. Treks range from short ones like Mardi Himal Trek to more elaborate ones like Annapurna Base Camp and Annapurna Circuit.
It is suggested not to book treks before arriving in Nepal, especially for the Annapurna Region. You can find a much better bargain once in Kathmandu or Pokhara. Also, you don’t have to take a package but just pay permits and guide, then go day by day which ends up to be much cheaper.
If you need to buy trekking clothes and equipment of any kind you can buy directly from Pokhara. Much much cheaper, good brands, and you can also rent if you want.
Nepal, an amazing, culture-rich country! So many things to do and experience. Moreover, accommodation, travel, and living costs are very affordable. Only advice, 15 days visa is too little, you would want to stay more and have more time to explore, so if you can go for the 30 days, you won’t regret it!