Frequently Ask Questions
Why is Nepal such a fascinating country for many people?
The Himalayan kingdom of Nepal is a land of scenic mountains, time-worn temples and some of the best walking trails on Earth. It's a small country, but it's rich in scenic splendour and exotic cultures. The people of Nepal are as diverse as their country and represent distinct cultures and races. Though they speak a variety of tongues and practice different religions, they are the friendliest people that you would ever meet.The kingdom has long exerted a pull on the Western imagination and it's a difficult place to dislodge from your memory once you return. So, wait until you're actually here in Nepal.
As a traveller, there are endless number of surprises Nepal has to offer you. Kathmandu Valley with its thousands of Hindu temples, Buddhist stupas, stunning architecture and rich pageantry can be quite beyond words. If you are careful enough not to get entangled in the superficial facade of a fastly "modernizing" capital city, Kathmandu probably offers you as exotic and urban experience as you can get.
Beyond Kathmandu, its another world altogether. Most travelers to Nepal want to check out the truly spectacular Himalayas along with the higher hills. A few go there to scale the high mountains, but many are nature lovers who trek along landscapes filled with deep valleys, lush forests, snow trails, terraced fields, and above all, the most hospitable people. See the FAQ on Trekking for more.
Travelers to Nepal also love making a safari trip to one of the National Parks in Nepal. The most popular one is the Chitwan National Park in the southern plains which hosts a diverse wildlife reserves including the rare Asian one-horn rhino.
How do I get to Nepal?
In order to fly directly to Nepal from your home country, Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu is the only international airport in Nepal. TIA has direct airlink with Osaka, Shanghai, London, Frankfurt, Hongkong, Singapore, Bangkok, Delhi, Dubai, Bombay and Calcutta. Lufthansa, Royal Nepal Airlines (RNAC), Air India, Singapore Airlines, Thai are the airlines that carry most of the foreign travelers into Kathmandu; and if you buy tickets from any other airlines, you will probably connect with one of these airlines for the final leg of your flight.
Alternatively, if you have time and enthusiasm, traveling overland to Nepal via India is an option. British overland travel operators can take you from London to Kathmandu on a six to eighteen week trip for anywhere between $1200 to $ 2500 depending upon the nature of your trip. You will travel from continental Europe through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to Nepal. For specific details on traveling overland from India to Nepal, read below.
How much does airfare to Kathmandu cost?
Anyone who has done any traveling on air can tell you that one can never say for sure how much they cost. However, an economy class round trip ticket to Nepal from North America, should cost between $1400 to $1700 depending on what airline you fly and when. From western Europe, the fare should be about the same too. From most of East Asia, the cost is about $300 for one-way. If you are flying into Nepal from India or other South Asian cities, one-way fare would be between $100 to $200: Delhi ($150), Varanasi ($80), Bombay ($200), Calcutta ($100), Karachi ($150), Dhaka ($80). These figures are only estimates, and you should check with your travel agents for details.
Should I tag along with organized tours?
It's not a bad idea to tag along with organized tours though it can cost many times more than a self arranged trip. Nevertheless, since Kathmandu is a small city and can be explored easily without organized tour, I recommend people to do self-visit to different places in Kathmandu.
When is the best time to go to Nepal?
The weather is probably the best guide for deciding when to plan your trip to Nepal. October and November are considered the best times of the year. The monsoon will have just ended, and clear skies with optimal temperature will prevail. The main festivals of Dashain and Tihar (Hindu equivalent of Christmas in terms of festivity) fall during these months. However, this is also the busiest tourist season, and the main tourist centers and trekking trails tend to be crowded with travelers like you. The tourist flow ebbs a little, but not significantly, between the winter months of December and mid-February. It catches up once again between mid-February and mid-April. From mid-June to early October, it's the monsoon, during which time it rains almost everyday and most of the Himalayas are hidden behind the clouds. Check the weather section of this FAQ for more details on weather. In short, plan to visit Nepal between October and May, keeping in mind that October-November and February-March are the best times (but crowded with other travelers).
What are my options to come to Nepal from India?
You can fly between Delhi and Kathmandu for about $150 with NAC or Air India. The actual flight time, not counting the endless delays and cancellations, is only a little more than an hour. However, note that Delhi-Kathmandu-Delhi flight is very busy and without proper reservations (or proper strings to pull) can be booked weeks in advance. Make your reservations and buy your ticket well in advance.
Alternatively, you can travel overland to Nepal from India. Buses are usually the quickest and easiest form of transport for this. There are three main crossing points: Sunauli-Bhairawa, Birganj-Raxaul and Kakarbhitta-Silguri. The Sunauli border crossing is the best one from Varanasi, the Birgunj crossing is the easiest from Calcutta; and Kakarbhitta is the best crossing from Darjeeling. These trip can be quite long and stressful, both in terms of time (it takes about two days and nights) and what you may go through during the trip (with tickets, safety, weather, border harassment etc). Not recommended for those people who want to have carefree travelling.
If you plan to enter Nepal in a car, make sure you have a carnet de passage en douanes. These are required to exempt you from customs duty for three months. You may also be required to pay a fee for each day that your car is in Nepal. As in India, in Nepal, vehicles are driven on the left side of the road.
What about getting to Nepal from Tibet?
The crossing between Nepal and Tibet via Kodari is only open to organised groups but not to individual travellers heading north. Be prepared with alternative plans if you're thinking about using this route, because landslides regularly make it impassabe during the monsoon.
What is the weather in Nepal like?
The width of Nepal is only about 200 km on average, but within this short distance the altitude of the land rises from lowly 60m to all the way up to above 8000m.Hence the weather depends upon the altitude of the place in Nepal. However, in general Nepal has four climatic seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Spring starts from March to May. The temperature of this season fluctuates between 20* C to 30* C(68* F to 86* F). Summer starts from June to August. These are also the pre-monsoon months with occasional evening-thunderstorms and hot temperature. Autumn starts from September and ends by November. During this period, the climate is dry and mild with temperature fluctuating between 20* C to 30* C (68* F to 86* F). Winter starts from December to February. The morning and evening are very cold while the afternoon is pretty sunny. The temperature during these months rises from 15* C to 20* C (59* F to 68* F). For detail information on temperature and rainfall, check the Weather Chart.
What sort of clothing should I bring with me?
Clothing depends on place and time. Medium-weight and easy to wash cottons can be a good choice year-round in the Kathmandu valley. It is recommended that between October to February, woolen sweaters, jackets or similar other warm outfits are necessary. From March through May, light clothing such as short and long-sleeved shorts will do perfectly fine at Kathmandu, Pokhara and most other towns. For mornings and evenings, a jacket or heavy woolen sweater (you can find beautiful ones in reasonable price in Kathmandu) will be essential. For months from June to August, it is recommended that you bring an umbrella or raincoat and a pair of sandals with you as these months are the rainy months of Nepal. Expect lot of walking even if you don't plan to trek. So it's recommended that you bring comfortable footwear: sneakers and sandals are the best
If you intend to go for trekking, a pair of hiking boots will be great. Bring plenty of woolen socks too. Specialized trekking gear is easily available and can be rented in fairly inexpensive charge in Kathmandu and Pokhara: see FAQ on Trekking for details on proper clothing during treks.
I want to go on a trek. When and where can I do so?
There are numerous treks you can try when you are in Nepal depending on the time of the year, amount of time and money you have to spend, and the amount of experience you've had. For limited time and money, the best trekking routes would be the Langtang-Helambu trek just north of Kathmandu, and parts of the Annapurna region trek north of Pokhara. If you have more time, a trek in the Everest region or the full Annapurna circuit can be rewarding. A more difficult trek is the Kanchanjunga area trek in the far-eastern Nepal. A good trekking book is recommended if you want more details on treks. Check out Pilgrims Book House for more details.
Where Can I get more information and maps?
A travel/trek guide book is best for more information. Maps are available in bookstores around Pokhara and Kathmandu.
Is it okay to trek alone?
While trekking alone can be a great way to get to know the country, deciding to trek alone deserves a second thought. Safety-wise, it is generally okay to trek alone on popular trekking route. Incidents involving trekkers do occur occasionally (and probably is on the rise). But as a general advice, you should team-up. Teaming-up can also be of great help if you ever need some medical help. During the main tourist season, you will run across other trekkers who will not mind you joining them. Also, you can find posters in the main tourist areas of Kathmandu and Pokhara looking for trekking partners. An option is also to hire a trek guide or a porter to go along with you.
Should I trek with an agency?
Trekking with an agency can be worthwhile for those who are very tight on schedule but not on money. A trekking agency can organize a trek for you for anywhere in the upwards of $25 a day depending upon the nature of your trek. The deal normally comes with food, shelter, porters and guides. You will be traveling with other similar trekkers. If you hire an agency in Kathmandu or Pokhara, you get a much better bargain than hiring one in your home country. While traveling with an agency offers you a degree of luxury that may not be available if you go independently, it also has its own limitations. You have to stick to the group schedule; you will not be able to design your own plans; the trip is fairly expensive and your interaction with the local culture will be limited.
Should I hire a porter and/or a guide?
Hiring a porter and/or a guide can add greatly to your trek experience in Nepal, especially if this is your first time, and if you are traveling on less frequented trails, thus having to carry a heavy load (tents, food etc). An independent porter costs about $2-$3 a day, and a guide costs about $4-$6. Make sure you agree upon the wage before hiring one. You can ask your hotelier or a local trekking agency in Kathmandu or Pokhara to find one for you. You can also find them in bigger settlements along your trekking route.
If you decide to hire a porter and/or a guide, remember that you are their employer and thus should take full responsibility. You must make sure they have adequate clothes and other gear necessary for the trek. It is your responsibility to rent the gear for them. It is also your responsibility to take care of their medical requirements if they fall sick during the trek. Remember that many porters hired in the lower lands of Kathmandu and Pokhara may not be aware of the problems of trekking in high altitudes.
Do I need a trekking permit?
Except the trekking areas such as the Everest, the Annapurna and the Langtang, one requires trekking permit to visit other trekking areas. Your visa is not good enough. Trekking permits are issued very easily by the Department of Immigration Office in Kathmandu and Pokhara.You need your visa, trekking fee and two colored passport-sized pictures to get your trekking permit. Remember that you require different trekking permits to different trekking areas. Note, however, that a trekking permit does not allow you to go anywhere in the country either. If mountain-peak climbing is your desire, it falls under a whole different category, and will require a different permit.
How Should I dress during a trek?
Nepal is conservative with clothes, and your reception by locals can vary greatly on the way you dress. Men should always wear a shirt (don't go around bare chested) and long pants. In view of local customs, men should try not to wear shorts, and women should avoid them altogether. For women, a skirt of mid-calf length is preferable to slacks or pants. Slacks with sarong or skirt over them, and a (at least half-sleeved) blouse or shirt are probably most appropriate.
Besides the issue of culturally sensitive dressing, it is also important for you to make sure you have appropriate clothing to meet your needs during a trek. Good shoes are of great importance. You will be walking for up to eight hours a day. They must be sturdy and comfortable. Bring along sneakers --or if you have one, a well-broken-in pair of hiking boots-- they are sufficient for most treks. For higher altitude treks where you may have to tread snow for long hours, good boots are available for rent in Kathmandu.
Also bring along a couple of pairs of warm wool, corduroy or jeans pants (for men), a warm sweater (you can also buy beautiful ones in Nepal for a bargain) and a padded jacket, a couple of T-shirts and/or shirts. Thermal underwear can be great especially between November and February. Bring plenty of woolen and cotton socks.
Anything more specialized than all this can be easily rented or bought in Nepal for a good price.
What else should I bring along in a trek?
Most of what you need during a trek is available in Kathmandu, and you can buy them or rent them once you are there. Most books on trekking will list them, check one out before you embark on your trek. If you do not have a book yet and plan to get one only once you are in Nepal, there are some things you may want to bring from home. Bring ear-plugs to help you sleep in spite of barking dogs. A battery operated short-wave radio can be helpful to listen to weather reports or the news. Also bring along a pocket knife, sunscreen, bug spray, sunglasses, photographic equipment, binoculars, a compass, a good watch with possibly an altimeter, and a day pack. Others, you can buy or rent in Kathmandu for reasonable price.
When I go for treks, can I store my luggage somewhere?
Generally your hotel or lodge will let you store your luggage with them for some nominal or no fee. As long as you lock up your bags, they are normally safe.
Any health precautions that I need to consider during my trek?
Get a good travel book to guide you on health matters. There are plenty available in Kathmandu, if you can't find one in a bookstore near you. Stephen Bezruchka's book called Trekking in Nepal addresses health issues in excellent detail. Don't forget to take a first-aid kit: the details of which are also mentioned in most trek books. All of what you will need to take along can be purchased in Kathmandu, so don't bother carrying stuff from home. Read the health guidance in Health and Insurance section and Dining and Drinking section for more details.
Besides minor ailments stomach problems, blisters, cold and headaches, the most important health problem you may run into is altitude sickness. You will not have to worry about it in Kathmandu, Pokhara or other lower places. But once you are on the trekking trails and above 3000m in altitude, watch out for its symptoms. Refer to a good travel book for details on how to recognize altitude sickness and what to do about it. As a suggestion for travel planning, you may want to plan for "rest days" at about 3,700m - 4,300m altitude levels. This means sleeping at the similar altitude for two nights. Also remember that you should not try to climb too high too soon: about 450m per day is the recommended amount.
What do I do in case of emergency?
Though in general, you are not likely to face any emergency, you can never tell. Once again, a good book on trekking will give you details on what to do in case of emergency. In cases of non-urgent situation, you may have to be carried to the nearest health-post or airfield. If the situation is more serious, send word to the nearest village with radio service for a helicopter evacuation. It costs in the neighborhood of $1200 - $2000 for a helicopter evacuation, and generally a guarantee for payment is required before the helicopter actually takes off. Registering with your embassy can greatly speed the process.
What dietary expectations should I have during my trip to Nepal?
The staple food of Nepalese people is "daal, bhaat,tarkari" (lentil soup, curried vegetables with rice). Tarkari or curried vegetables can be bit spicy, hot and oily to people who are not used to eating spicy, hot and oily food. To avoid any stomach problems or diarrhoea in Nepal, I would suggest any foreigners to stick with their normal spiceless food. Daal and Bhaat are not spicy, so go ahead and taste them. For tarkari, I feel you should gradually try it in very less amount. Another thing that one should be aware of while arriving in Nepal is Drinking Water. Drink only bottled mineral water unless you are sure that the water is boiled and filtered.
In Kathmandu and Pokhara, you can also find plenty of restaurants that offer International Cuisine such as Italian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Indian and so on. In Kathmandu, you should try Newari cuisine: the Newars (original inhabitantsof Kathmandu Valley) have a very rich history of culinary art. Another food that you shouldn't miss to eat in Nepal is "MOMO". Momo can be both vegetarian and non-vegetarian types. Unless you are a veg person, I would recommend you to taste Non-veg Momos. You can find this food in any Nepalese restaurants and I would like you to discover this new food by your own during your visit to Nepal. However, besides these primary tourist hubs, you may not have much in terms of dietary choice. Trekkers will probably end up eating "daal, bhaat, tarkaari" (lentil soup, curried vegetables with rice) for every major meal.
Since Nepal is a Hindu Kingdom, beef is strictly prohibited among both the Hindus and Buddhist. Hence it is little bit difficult to find restaurants that offer beef.
For drinking, Nepal produces over half a dozen of larger and light beers. Dark beer is available. An amazing variety of other hard liquor such as rum, whiskey, gin, vodka etc. is also produced in Nepal.Imported liquors are available at exorbitant prices. You will also come across a few types of Nepalese home brewed alcohol called "raksi" or "ayla" along your trekking routes. Bottled water is available everywhere, and should be the only water you drink. Coke, Pepsi and other major international brand name sodas are also available.
How much do you think I should expect to spend on drinking and dining?
Eating out in Nepal is generally very reasonable. For about $3, you can buy a good dinner (excluding drinks) in a restaurant of the main tourist centers. A 750ml bottle of beer costs you about $1.75 in a restaurant, and $1.50 if you just buy it off a store. Other Nepalese made hard liquors are quite cheap. If you want an imported alcohol, however, expect to pay an exorbitant price. Sodas such as Coca-Cola, 7UP, Pepsi cost about $0.20 in shops. All these prices are for most of the road-accessible areas of the country. But as you move further into remote areas, the prices rise. For example if you are in Naamche Bazaar in the Everest region, the price can be as much as seven or eight times higher. For an average budget traveler, $10 will be enough for all your daily expenses on drinking and dining.
I am a vegetarian.
There is no problem in this. There are many vegetarian restuarants. And even if you drop into normal restuarants, you can easily get vegetarian food. Just for your information, Vegetarian in Nepal means non-consumption of both meat and egg. Milk and other animal product is allowed.
Do you think it is safe to eat freely in Nepal?
In general, yes. But, it's always good to take sensible precautions in order to avoid any health problems.No matter how tempting --and it can get very tempting after a long trek-- avoid drinking any other water than bottled water. If you have to drink non-bottled water, purify it with iodine or chlorine tablets (available readily in most drug stores in Kathmandu). Asking for bottled water in restaurants is always a best idea.
Do not eat roadside food that is exposed in the open air. Avoid buying and eating raw and unpeeled fruit and vegetables. Other than that, it is fine to have boiled, fried or properly packaged food items. Read the FAQ on Health and Insurance for details on what to do in case of health problems.
What inoculations are advised?
Though Nepal is not any more unsafe than any other developing country, update your preventive inoculations. Injections against meningitis, tetanus, hepatitis B, typhoid, perhaps cholera are recommended. Vaccination against rabies (which is quite rampant in Nepal) can be good but it is too bothersome and expensive to be worth the trouble. Just keep yourself safe from stray dogs and monkeys.
Do you think I should bring some medicines with me when I come to Nepal?
As said, prevention is better than cure, it's highly recommended that you bring medicines for common illness like nausea, vomiting,cold and flu when you come to Nepal. Though there are many pharamacy shops in Kathmandu and Pokhara, it's worth carrying some basic medicinal stuffs like insect repellent, sunscreen, lip balm, eye drops, bandages and so on.
What particular diseases do I have to watch out for?
Malaria is under control in Nepal. The risk of catching it is small and only in the southern plains. Mosquito netting and repellent are advised when there, especially during the summer and monsoon seasons. Also, as a preventive measure, take chloroquine pills starting two weeks before and six weeks after your visit to the plains.
AIDS is a growing problem. Official figures of only a couple of dozen cases of HIV in Nepal is a better indicator of the government's inability to collect data (or deny them) than the actual cases of the disease. Don't be misled into believing that unsafe sex is okay. Though prostitution in Nepal is insignificant compared to other Asian countries, watch out.
Also, doctors in Kathmandu are reporting that health problems due to severe air pollution are rising astronomically in Kathmandu. Old vehicles spewing out black smoke is unfortunately a normal scene on the roads of Kathmandu. Along the main roads traveled mainly by vehicles, the air gets quite nasty especially during rush hour. Make a conscious effort to minimize your walking on these streets used mainly by vehicles during rush hour.
Many, if not most, travelers to Nepal are likely to get stomach problems at some point during their visit. It is generally caused simply because of a change in diet and climate, drinking contaminated water and eating contaminated food. See health guidelines under "Dining and Drinking" to lessen the chances of acquiring diarrhea. But if you do get it, the most effective remedy is to fast for a day and consume plenty of water or some fluid. You can find effective medicines against amoebal diarrhea in any drug store in Kathmandu. Carry some with you when you are going to be away on trekking trails. A rehydration package called "Jeevan Jal" is found everywhere in Nepal; it is quite effective.
Altitude Sickness is the effect of altitude on those who ascent too rapidly to elevations above 3,000 meters. The basic early symptoms of altitude sickness is headache, loss of appetite and sleeplessness. One shouldn't ignore these early symptoms as these symptoms may lead to more serious warnings and cause death sometimes within few hours. Medicine is no substitute for descent. If a doctor is available, he may give medicine and oxygen. However, the patient must go down to lower altitude even if treatment is given.
If I need to see a doctor, where can I do so?
Almost all good doctors and all well equipped hospitals and clinics are in Kathmandu. Visiting a doctor in a clinic is probably better than going directly to a public hospital. Hospitals in Kathmandu can be very crowded with the whole country coming there for medical treatment. Private "nursing homes" and clinics are plentiful in Kathmandu. Elsewhere in the country, there is not much of a choice: you can at best get a service that may pull you through until you reach Kathmandu.
Do I need a travel insurance?
Oh yes, some sort of travel insurance is highly recommended. Most travel insurance covers emergency flights, medical expenses, and theft or loss of possessions. The insurance premium in general is between $50 to $75 for a two week period, and progressively less for longer periods. It's a price worth paying. If you plan to go rafting or trekking, make sure your insurance covers these "dangerous activities." Remember to keep your receipts to make claims. In order to make claims on lost or stolen items, you will need a police report issued in Nepal by the Interpol Section of the Nepal Police.