If you are planning a trip to Nepal, there are a very few things that you must know. Please keep in mind that you are going to a developing country where facilities and quality of life may be poorer when compared to that in the developed countries. However, Nepal is a famous tourist destination and a range of facilities is available depending upon whether you are a budget traveler or a business traveler. Know that Nepal is one of the safest travel destination. If you heard it is not safe, it was so many years ago during the civil war, even then, it was unsafe only in some rural areas.
What to Know?
Roads are poorly maintained and traffic laws are weakly enforced. Roads are often without footpath so be careful while walking on the roads. Begging is common but ignore the beggars as giving encourages begging. Always greet your passerby with a smile saying ‘Namaste’. Turbulent rainfalls with thunderstorms and winds are common in Nepal, specially in summer, the monsoon season. Weather may change abruptly and may cause delays/cancellations in local flights. Expect unscheduled strikes leading to a complete road/market closure for hours/day, so make your travel plan more flexible. Momo and chowmin are the most common food along with the regular Nepali Thali (rice, lentil soup, seasonal vegetable curry, cooked green leaves, optional chicken/mutton curry, and pickles). Please be extra careful while buying street foods for their quality; you must try Pani Puri or Chat if you like spicy food though. Always drink cheaply available bottled mineral water as the public tap water is not potable unlike in the western world. Always check the date of expiry for whatever you buy. Bargaining is very common in shopping so always be generous in bargaining. Almost all transactions are carried in cash so always keep sufficient cash/change with you. ATMs and Banks are commonly found in the cities like Kathmandu and Pokhara but they might be difficult to find if you are going for trekking in the mountainous region.
Where to go?
From Kathmandu: As there is only one international airport (Tribhuvan International Airport) in Nepal, your entry point is always Kathmandu, the city of temples (note that over 90% people in Nepal are Hindu). As in other developing cities around the world, you will experience the hustle and bustle of city life there. If you are not interested in the history or temples, go directly to the outskirts of the city such as Nagarkot, from where you can see the beautiful Himalayan range at sunrise. If you are a pro rafter, consider going to Bhotekoshi River, a four hour drive from Kathmandu. Since it is in the same direction, consider also to include a bunjee jumping adventure at The Last Resort hotel in your itinerary.
If you are going Nepal just to experience Mount Everest, consider trekking to the Mt. Everest Base Camp. In this case, you will have to first take a flight from Kathmandu to Lukla (30 minutes), the gateway to the Mount Everest Base Camp. The whole return trip to the base camp is about 20 days.
From Pokhara: If you want a closer look of the Himalayas, go straight to Pokhara valley, also known as honeymoon city, one of the most beautiful cities of Nepal. Take either a half an hour flight or a 6-8 hours bus ride from Kathmandu. If you go by bus, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the scenic hilly landscape and do rafting in Trishuli River on the way. You will be welcomed by a myriad cultures and smiling people in Pokhara. Enjoy the varieties of local and international food while looking at the reflection of the Annapurna Himalayan Range on the Phewa Lake. Pokhara is also the gateway to the world famous trekking route Annapurna Circuit. The longer you trek to the North, the closer you get to the Himalayas; cross them if you dare and look from behind. Please don’t go without a trekking guide if you are going to trek the whole Annapurna Circuit (15-20 days); they are cheaply available. If you are an amateur climber, go for a short trekking (3-4 days) given below, which you can do even without a trekking guide.
If you are traveling Nepal for a short period of time, below is a action-packed 10-day itinerary:
Day 1: Arrival at Kathmandu
Day 2: Rafting at Trishuli River and arrival to Pokhara
Day 3: Pokhara sightseeing (Boating, para-jumping, Davi’s Fall, World Peace Monastery, Gupteshwor and Mahendra Cave, etc.)
Day 4-8: Trekking to a part of Annapurna circuit (route: Nayapool – Birethati – Tikhedhunga – Ghorepani – Poonhill – Tadapani – Ghandruk – Nayapool (Staying in decent guesthouses in-between)
Day 9: Fly from Pokhara to Kathmandu and do sight seeing in the evening
Day 10: Bunjee jumping at the Last Resort
Day 11: Depart from Kathmandu
What to Carry?
1. Raincoat/umbrella (must have if you are traveling in summer)
2. High quality frictionless undergarments (people often get allergy because of friction while walking, also carry antiperspirant/anti fungal powder)
3. Torch light (expect daily load shedding for a few hours in the evening, specially in winter)
4. Warm clothes (specially if you are going for trekking)
5. Water sports shoes/a pair of slippers, a pair of comfortable hiking shoes, plenty of very good cotton socks, and probably leech socks?
6. Hat/sunscreen lotion, sunglasses, cold cream
7. Mosquito repellent spray (not really needed)
8. A mask and a lip balm (is a must)
9. A medium trekking bag with double straps (must be very comfortable)
10. Tooth brush/paste
11. Nausea pills (riding in road bends may cause nausea/vomiting)
12. Muscle/joint pain relief spray
13. A small towel/wet wipes
14. A small sleeping bag (backup)
15. Water bottle (not really needed since mineral water bottles are commonly available)
When to go?
Nepal can be traveled in all seasons. Personally, I like rainy season because I enjoy being connected to the nature. One more reason is that, during the rainy season, everything is green, from the paddy fields, to the forests. You will love it when the majestic mountains play hide and seek with the clouds; just imagine the face of a beautiful young lady hidden in a scarf. Your inner passion will be rejuvenated when you connect to the nature – guaranteed. However, if you are trekking, it is more comfortable to travel in trekking seasons, which are March-June, and September-November.
There is much more Nepal has to offer for you. Please check this list of top 18 most beautiful places of Nepal if you are there for the real adventure.
Barun Valley in the Monsoon.
And don’t forget to check out:
1. The official travel website of the government of Nepal for more detailed advice.
2. This summary video about Nepal.
Welcome to Nepal. I wish you all the best in your adventure.