Nepal Visitor Guide
Namaste! (from the Sanskrit meaning ‘I bow to you’)
Nepal, much like India, marches to the beat of its own drum. At times a little chaotic it is full of colour & tradition, generally welcoming people with a diverse cultural mix, fabulous mountain vistas, a wide array of wildlife and plenty of natural beauty. It also offers great food and is very well priced for tourist visitors be they trekkers, nature enthusiasts or cultural explorers.
Nepal has only been opened to the West since 1951 and despite the veneer of westernisation in certain areas, it remains a very traditional and religious society. As guests you must respect this and respond sensitively. Whilst the Nepalese will never rebuke you for unknowingly offending them it is always desirable to respect as many of their customs and beliefs as you can.
Kathmandu, and to a lesser extent Pokhara, are busy, crazy, dirty & amazing all at the same time. The traffic is nightmarish at times and the monsoon from late June to September can make travelling a challenge. TIP! If you visited Kathmandu in the 70’s on the ‘hippy trail’ don’t expect to rediscover it again. Kathmandu has changed enormously since that time. As an antidote to Kathmandu’s sprawl and smog consider the mountain delights of Dhulikhel just 45 mins to the east ….and for the Pokhara region we wholeheartedly recommend staying at the enchanting Begnas Lake approx 18 kms to the east.
Our partners in Nepal are the wonderful and so efficient team at Intertours Nepal and we are extremely grateful to be associated with such a professional company that provides our clients with expert guides, quality vehicles and unsurpassed local knowledge ….. all delivered in a relaxed & very friendly manner.
Currently there is little effective Government in Nepal and sadly this has negatively impacted on the infra-structure over the last decade plus been a source of constant frustration to the local population. So please do proceed with an open-mind on your Nepal adventure and, whilst DFAT will wisely urge you to take extra care with regards to personal safety, we can thoroughly recommend Nepal as a rewarding destination and an especially excellent mix when combined with Bhutan or Tibet.
Nepali is the official language almost 60 percent of the population speaking it. In the capital Kathmandu, Nepal Bhasa (the Newar language) & Nepali are the most widely used languages. English is understood in major city areas & tourist hotels.
Nepal is, in theory, a year-round destination with different offerings during different seasons. For culture, heritage & sightseeing, any time of year can be rewarding. Having said that there will be the obvious road travel challenges during the monsoon (JUN-SEP) and also, there is very limited mountain viewing during this rainy season when most of the rain falls later in the day and at night. There are 2 main trekking seasons in Nepal; spring (late FEB-MAY) and autumn (late SEP-NOV).
Spring Season (February – May):
This season is ideal for touring and trekking throughout all regions of Nepal. It is particularly suitable to trek during the months of March and April in the Everest, Annapurna, Langtang and other regions as the Rhododendrons (Nepal’s national flower of which there are over 16 varieties) are in bloom at this time. The weather is fresh and crisp with low humidity; the sun is not too hot and night-time temperatures are very comfortable even when camping. This is also an ideal time for visiting Chitwan National Park & Bardia NP for jungle safaris with good opportunities for wildlife spotting minus the heat!
Monsoon Season (June-August):
Early June is actually a very good time to visit…..tourist numbers are low and you have many important sights all to yourself. Well worth putting up with a few showers of rain for! During the late June to end August monsoons the light has an amazing clarity and the land grows green and lush with astonishing speed. This time of the year is still good for cultural exploration tours, particularly in the areas of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Pokhara, when ripe paddy fields glisten in the sun and there is a different kind of magic created by the monsoon.
Autumn Season (September- November):
September, October and November are pleasant months with some important and colourful festivals to enjoy both in the valleys and in the mountains. This season is ideal for cultural touring, trekking and Jungle Safaris to Chitwan or Bardia National Parks. October is the busiest trekking month as well as for general tourism, so just like Bhutan it’s worth considering delaying your tour/trek to late November, December, and even far as January to avoid the tourist rush.
Winter Season: (December-January):
There is no snow in the Kathmandu and Pokhara valleys, so December and January are perfect months to visit. There are fewer tourists and contrary to what most guide books say (due most likely to climate change) climatic conditions favorable for viewing Himalayan vistas are turning up in December and January. Although treks to the Annapurna Circuit and Everest Base Camp should be avoided at this time, medium and easy grade cultural treks to all regions can be made. Christmas in the Everest region or the Chitwan Jungle makes a holiday to remember.
Except in formal gatherings the dress code is informal. Warm garments are required October – March. An umbrella or a raincoat is a must for the rainy season i.e. Mid-June-mid September.
- The Nepalese Currency is the rupee. 1 US$ = 110 Nepali Rupee (AUG 2018)
- Foreign currency and travellers cheques can easily be exchanged at banks or authorized agents.
- MasterCard, Visa and American Express are accepted at all major hotels, restaurants and shops.
- ATM’s are available in Kathmandu and other major cities such as Pokhara.
Banks are open between 10:00 A.M. to 2:30 pm Sunday to Thursdays and between 10:00 am to 12:30 pm on Fridays. Closed on Saturdays and national holidays. Some Banks in Thamel, Kathmandu are open till later.
Tips and Service Charges:
Tipping is not mandatory and is at your discretion. Below is a suggested tipping regime.
- Tipping is expected in up-market restaurants in Kathmandu only however all restaurants already charge 10% service charge in their bill so only pay extra if warranted.
- City Tour Guides should be tipped US$7-10 per person per day for groups of 1-4 travellers (less for larger groups).
- Tip drivers US$5-7 per person per day for groups of 1-4 travellers (a little less for larger groups).
- Trek Guides: US$8-10 per day for guides.
- Hotel Porters US$1.00 per bag per porter.
Electricity in Nepal is 220V/50Khz. Either a two round plug or a three triangular shaped round plug adaptor is required in Nepal.
Entry Procedures: All visitors except Indian Nationals must hold a passport & valid visa.
- Advance Visa On-Line: Updated AUG18
This new visa system often isn’t working!! So you may prefer the ‘Visa On Arrival’ system in para 2. Note you can complete the Tourist Visa Form on-line, in advance, however it is only valid for entry into Nepal within 15 days of application, so you will need to wait and do that closer to your arrival time in Kathmandu.
You will need a recent digital photograph to upload into this on-line application.
Below are the steps as taken from the Nepal Govt website and here is the on-line visa application weblink which we would urge you to complete just before you depart Australia, but no more than 15 days before you are due to enter Nepal.
Please follow these simple procedures for Tourist Visa on Arrival at the airport (TIA) if you have not acquired Visa prior to boarding the plane.
- 1st Step
- Fill in ‘ Arrival Card ‘
- Fill in Online ‘Tourist Visa ‘form ( you can fill it up prior to your arrival visiting our official website Department of Immigration / fill it up using Kiosk machines upon your arrival at the airport). If you fill it from the website, you will get submission Receipt with barcode, please print it out and bring it along for acquiring visa. It works for fifteen days and becomes invalid then after. If so, you will have to fill it up again.
- 2nd Step
- Make payment at the bank according to your visa requirement ( 15/30/90 Days)
- Get the receipt
While you can use different modes of payments (at visa fees collection counter), we advise you to carry some cash to be on the safe side.
On Arrival Visa Fee
15 Days – 25 USD
30 Days – 40 USD
90 Days – 100 USD
- 3rd Step
- Proceed to the Immigration Desk with your online form, payment receipts and your passport
- Hand in your documents to immigration officer for visa processing. He/she issues visa to you upon his/her satisfaction.
- Visa on arrival: New facilities at KTM airport
There are new machines installed at Kathmandu airport before immigration where you can complete the forms electronically and add your photo, using the web-cam, to your form. Then you can submit your forms and the machine will give you a receipt. Proceed with forms and receipt to the Visa Desk.
Short stay visa: US $25 (up to 15 nights) & long stay visa up to US$100.
Your nearest Travel Doctor in Australia can be contacted by telephoning 1300 421 142 …. or please see your GP for health care guidance. Ideally you should seek health advice at least 8 weeks prior to your departure.
We encourage all travellers to ensure their hepatitis and tetanus vaccinations are always kept up to date. Please note there is a rabies risk in Nepal and there may be a malaria risk in some parts at certain times of year.
Nepal is a landlocked country, bounded on the north by Tibet (People’s Republic of China); on the east by the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal; on the south by Indian States of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and also on the west by Uttar Pradesh. Its total area is 147,181 sq km. The length of the country is 885 kilometers east-west and its breadth varies from 145 to 241 kilometers north-south. Climatically, it lies in the temperate zone with the added advantage of altitude.
Bhutan & Beyond offers a range of 4 star & 5-star hotels and luxury resorts in Nepal (sorry we do not generally offer 2 to 3-star properties in an effort to keep a consistency of standard with our Bhutan hotels). Two exceptions are the delightful Summerhill House in Kathmandu (which is a guest house owned by our Nepali partners and well run in an excellent location close to the Patan area) and the Dhulikhel Mountain Resort which is a 3-star room, with 4-star food and a 5-star view.
Mostly you can access 4-star standard throughout the western part of Nepal and a few 5-star (and above) properties in Kathmandu, and more recently in Dhulikhel, where the celebrated Dwarika’s group has constructed a delightful spa/yoga/meditation resort to the very highest of standards. Hotels become heavily booked during the late SEP-end NOV period.
Our Favourite Hotels:
Based on our personal experience do consider these properties:
Kathmandu: Dwarika’s (5+ star); Hotels Shambala or Himalaya (4 star).
Dhulikhel: Dwarika’s Dhulikhel Resort (5+ star); Dhulikhel Mountain Resort (3-4 star).
Pokhara Region: Begnas Lake Resort (4 star – a true gem).
Chitwan National Park area: Taj Safari Lodge (5+ star); Tigerland Safari Resort (4 star) & Barahi Jungle Lodge (5 star).