Nepal is sometimes bypassed by travelers because they figure it’s an extension of India; it’s not. Nepal has a beautiful, fascinating, long history. The Nepalese are incredibly friendly and fun — learn a bit of Nepali and they will love you for it. Nepal is a mecca for outdoorsy type travelers because of the Himalayan mountains that offer up some of the best trekking opportunities in Asia. In fact, Nepal boasts eight of the 10 highest peaks in the world. The country is generally safe (check out the political situation with the Maoists, it can change rapidly) and Nepal attracts both outdoorsy types and volunteers in equal measure. The power situation makes working remotely from Nepal tricky (there can be as few as eight hours of power every day).
I loved visiting Nepal and I loved learning about culture and language. I highly recommend a visit.
The Fast Facts About Nepal Travel
Currency: Nepalese Rupee (NPR) (current exchange rate)
Primary Airports: Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport (KTM)
Internet Situation: Kathmandu and Pokhara have extensive access to internet shops filled with computers. There are also restaurants and cafes in both of these primary cities that offer free WiFi. The internet is decent in both of these very tourist-heavy cities. You can do most anything you need to on the internet, uploading information, photos, emails. Video calls likely only in the bigger cities. Outside of Pokhara and Kathmandu, it’s fair to non-existent. Beyond the internet, it’s the lack of consistent power that will foil your plans. You have to carefully plan your internet time if you’re running a business, you will surely want to buy a SIM with data as a backup.
Local SIM: Travelers can easily purchase a SIM card as well as data. And it’s quite affordable. Read this SIM card guide for tips on how to get one, how to top up, and what that whole process will look like.
Visas: Nepal issues visas on arrival for citizens of most countries. These can be purchased for 15, 30, or 90 days and range from $25 to $100. Check your visa requirements here. You must bring a passport-sized photo, or stand in line and pay for one when you arrive. Volunteers technically require a visa arranged by the place they are working with as volunteering on a tourist visa is expressly forbidden, though harder for them to enforce.
Festivals of Note: Phalgun Festivals, Kathmandu (Feb/March). Dashain, country-wide (September/October). Indra Jatra, Kathmandu (September).
Budget: Nepal is very budget-friendly and cheap to travel. Hiking and trekking will add some expenses, but even those are reasonable. A solo traveler can anticipate rock-bottom budget of $15 (Rs.974)per day if traveling around. If you’re volunteering some daily rates are in the $10-15(Rs 600-900) per day range to cover food and board. A little extra budget goes a long way here and you can upgrade to nice digs and eat decent food on just $30 (Rs.2000)per day per person when you are not trekking. Once you add in trekking fees, that gets a bit more.
When to Go: You’ll need to plan your visit around your planned activities. If you’re hiking, the trails are closed during monsoon season, which runs from June through August. Trekking season is September through May. Autumn and spring are beautiful; lush and green in the fall and flowering and cool in the spring. Winter can be chilly at altitude, but is pleasant in the Kathmandu Valley.
Transportation: Transportation between cities is easy to organize and takes the form of buses. If you’re faint of heart, don’t watch as the buses careen around curves and the rusting carcasses of other buses dot the bottom of the hillsides. The buses are the main form of transportation, but Nepal has serious infrastructure issues so be careful. But, the buses are effective and they’re virtually the only budget option. In more recent years, there has been a rise in micro-buses of 10-12 people — a bit more but likely a bit safer. If you’re in a group, it’s fairly affordable to hire a private driver or taxi for longer distances. Bicycle and taxis are great for navigating around Kathmandu.