The ultimate Nepal travel guide: what to see, know and do in Nepal
If you've made the decision to visit Nepal, great. You'll not regret it. To help you make the most of your holiday, here's our complete Nepal travel guide - full of all the practical information you need to make your trip brilliant.
Mountains, jungles, ancient cities, spiritual sites, travel nirvana and the friendliest people of earth - yep, there’s a reason why we love Nepal, and you will too.
It’s almost too obvious to speak of the incredible natural scenery, however it really is reason enough to visit Nepal. The soaring Himalayan mountains offer some of the best hiking and mountaineering on the planet, while the steamy plains bordering India provide many of Asia’s best wildlife viewing opportunities. Elsewhere, there’s a perfect array of outdoor activities around Pokhara for those adrenalin seekers among us.
But to us, what makes Nepal so great is the intangible. It’s a spiritual feeling that comes over you the minute you step foot on Nepali soil.
You feel it when you're first greeted by an impossibly friendly local - "Namaste" (I bow to the divine in you), you feel it high up in the snowy peaks of the Himalayan mountains, and you feel it amongst the rabbit-warren streets of Kathmandu and its stunning historical sites. You feel it everywhere, all the time.
It’s hard to adequately describe the feels, but to truly understand us and Nepal, you have to experience it yourself.
So what are you waiting for? Book that ticket now! To help you experience all that Nepal is famous for, we’ve put together the most in-depth Nepal travel guide we could - it’s full of everything you could ever need, and more. So read on, friends.
mountains and beyond: Our complete Nepal travel guide
What to know before you visit Nepal
Where is Nepal?
The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal is a landlocked country located in South Asia, home to the highest mountain range in the world, the Himalaya, including the tallest mountain in the world, Mt. Everest, as well tropical lowland plains in the south.
Nepal is home to over 26 million people, most of whom call the chaotic, dusty capital, Kathmandu, home (read our Kathmandu guide here).
Nepal shares borders with China/Tibet to the north, and India to the south, east and west.
Nepali is the spoken language of Nepal, although English is widely spoken in all major tourist hotspots.
When is the best time to visit Nepal?
Nepal has four main seasons revolving around the summer monsoon.
We recommend visiting post-monsoon (late Sept - late Nov), when the weather is clear and dry, the air clean and mountains most visible. Despite being peak season, it really is the best time to enjoy Nepal at it’s finest, wherever you chose to visit.
If this doesn’t suit, Spring (Feb - mid April) can also be a good time to visit. This is actually when we travelled there for our Annapurna trek, and we found the days were longer and the weather warmer, which make for perfect hiking conditions.
We’ve also visited in late May, and while the early monsoon showers would arrive each afternoon, the rest of the day was comfortable, and the mornings clear.
However, due to crop burn off, the perfect days are somewhat ruined by a haze which sits over most of Nepal. Visibility, especially in the Kathmandu valley, and Pokhara, can be low, and it does mean that you can be more prone to illness (particularly colds or chest problems!)
The monsoon period occurs during mid-June to mid-September, at which Nepal comes alive. Sure, it’s not great to hike during this period, but you’ll be visiting during a fascinating time when very few tourists are around.
Nepal tourist visa information
Nepal tourist visas are are available on arrival at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International airport as well as all land border crossings.
If you’re worried you can also apply for a visa online up to 15 days before your arrival (you must travel to Nepal within six months of visa being approved).
You’ll need to ensure you have a passport photo with you and at least six months left on your passport, as well as your online visa receipt.
Nepal visas can be purchased for 15, 30 and 90 days for the following fees (note: Nepal visa fees were increased on the 17/7/2019)
15 day Nepal single-entry visa | US$30
30 day Nepal single-entry visa | US$50
90 day Nepal single-entry visa | US$125
The steps for arranging your Nepal tourist visa on arrival at Tribhuvan Airport are as follows:
Fill in the Nepal immigration 'Arrival Card'
Fill in online ‘Tourist Visa’ form. This can be filled out prior to arrival by visiting our official website Department of Immigration. If you apply online, you will get submission receipt with barcode, which you’ll need to bring with you to acquiring the Nepal visa. It works for fifteen days prior to arrival, and becomes invalid thereafter. Alternatively, fill it up using Kiosk machines upon your arrival at the airport)
Make a payment at the counter to the right of the visa kiosks to your visa requirement ( 15/30/90 Days). While you can pay with your bank card, we advise you to carry some cash to be on the safe side (USD is best, but they accept most major currencies)
Get the receipt (don’t forget this!)
Pass through passport control, showing your passport, visa receipt and
If arriving at a land border, cash payment is required in USD, so bring enough cash to cover your intended stay.
Power in Nepal
Power outages still occur almost on a daily basis, although thankfully not at the infamous load shedding levels of a few years ago. Now, power may be off for anywhere between 10 minutes to 1 hour (in the past it was between 8 - 18 hours a day!).
Most big hotels, hostels and restaurants operate using a backup generator, so you may not have any issues, but it’s worth making sure you plan charging your gear (especially cameras!) around the blackouts just in case. A flashlight is also advisable in case blackouts extend to darker hours.
We recommend keeping a power bank (like this one) charged and available, just in case. There’s nothing worse than having no power on your devices, especially in the mountains where you want to take all the photos!
BUY | Purchase this power bank
INTERNET IN NEPAL
Don’t expect super fast internet in Nepal. Internet access is available in almost all cities and towns, and is becoming more widely available on main trekking routes. In Kathmandu, many cafes offer a fast connection, but are at the mercy of load shedding. Nepal does have 3G phone reception and sim cards are very cheap to purchase. We recommend grabbing a sim card with data to avoid using wi-fi services.
Transport in Nepal
Getting around Nepal can be tough. Really tough.
Think long, uncomfortable bus rides, terrible infrastructure, and insane traffic (in Kathmandu mostly).
We’ve got a much larger section below about how to get around Nepal, but for the most part you’ll be using buses, jeeps, your legs, or a mixture of both.
Alternatively, there are domestic flights, however unless you’re insane or have to fly to Lukla, Jomson/Pokhara, we’d avoid them at all costs due to Nepal's poor aviation safety record.
Crossing Borders into Nepal
There are numerous border crossings between India in the south of Nepal, and can be navigated fairly easily, especially when organised through tour agencies. The three most common border crossings for tourists include: Sonauli/Belahiya, reachable from Delhi, Varanasi and most of North India (via Gorakhpur); Raxaul/Birgunj, accessible from Bodhgaya and Kolkata via Patna; and Kakarbhitta, serving Darjeeling and Kolkata via Siliguri.
As always, be aware of any scams while crossing the border, including petty theft and money exchange scams.
TIP | To make your life easier (and to avoid scams), book an overland tour such as this one.
Safety in Nepal
Overall, Nepal is ranked as one of the safer countries for travel.
Politically, after a few years of Maoist turmoil, the country has now made great strides in political stability and is largely peaceful, although demonstrations might still occur (don’t get involved in these).
The locals here are friendly and generous and realise that tourism is a mainstay of their economy. Travellers will find themselves welcomed warmly, and with little to worry about in terms of personal safety.
Most issues occur when hiking in the Himalaya. Keep normal safety precautions in mind when trekking; tell people where you’re going, don’t trek alone or walk by yourself late at night, keep your valuables out of sight, and avoid travelling on night buses.
For women, the risk of sexual harassment is quite low, but it’s still advised that you don’t trek solo with a male guide and keep your clothing conservative.
READ | Our top Nepal travel tips
Drinking Water in Nepal - can you drink the tap water in Nepal?
It won’t take you long to realise that the overall water quality in Nepal (particularly in Kathmandu) isn’t the greatest. While showering and brushing you teeth are fine, it’s not drinkable.
We 100% recommend buying a water filtration and purification system, such as this one by The Grayl. It literally is the best investment we’ve ever made, and we’ve not had to buy a plastic bottle anywhere in the world for the last 18 months… let that sink in! It allows you to fill up from any water source, anywhere in the world (including Kathmandu’s taps!).
BUY | The Grayl water purification bottles
Travel Insurance for Nepal
We’re always surprised by how many people still travel without travel insurance.
To us, it’s as essential to travel as buying a plane ticket, backpack or accommodation, and we’ve never gone without it. Sure, it might be a policy just in case the ‘worst case’ moments appear, but as the 2015 earthquake shows: the unexpected can, and does, happen.
Adequate insurance provides you with medical coverage if you get sick or break your leg on the side of a mountain, your camera full of epic hiking shots is damaged or stolen, your flights are cancelled, or you get caught up in a natural disaster. It’s an insurance against potential issues that arise when you’re on the road, and can save your life (or at the very least, a lifetime of debt).
BOOK | We recommend booking World Nomads travel insurance
Essential travel items
Travelling through Nepal comes with a unique set of needs. To help you have a comfortable, happy journey, we recommend bringing the following items with you:
Biodegradable Wet Wipes | Keep clean without destroying the planet!
Hand sanitiser | not something we’d actually recommend normally, but in Sri Lanka it can be a bloody great investment.
A spork | to cut down on unnecessary plastic usage at meal times
Power bank | power does drop out… often! Don’t get caught out without power for your devices buy purchasing this power bank
READ | check out our eco-friendly packing guide to travel through Nepal consciously and comfortably
MONEY matters - What is Nepal’s Currency?
The official currency of Nepal is the Nepalese Rupee.
We recommend carrying a combination of Nepalese Rupee and American dollars at any time.
Nepal has both coins and notes, however we’ve only ever dealt with notes. Notes from from 1 - 1000.
You can find ATMs just about anywhere in most cities and larger towns, however you may struggle in rural areas. Most ATMs have a maximum withdrawal limit of 10,000Rs, however some NABIL machines have a 35,000Rs limit.
The 10,000Rs limit can get very frustrating, and can cost a lot in bank fees, however we do recommend getting out as much money as possible each time you visit an ATM; that way you’ll be covered should any issues arise (political, social etc.).
Credit cards are widely accepted throughout Nepal at most tourist class hotels, restaurants, airlines, and tour agents. Again, fees do apply.
Money exchange offices are readily available just about all the major tourism areas in Nepal, and exchange rates are generally competitive. It’s worth shopping around for the best rate, or negotiating. While all major currencies are accepted, USD, Euros or Pounds are the best.
What does it cost to travel in Nepal?
Like similar countries within the region, Nepal is an extremely affordable destination which caters for all types of tourist, from budget through to luxury.
Despite the fact that being a tourist in Nepal is cheap, the costs for hiking/mountaineering can be quite large, depending on what hike type and, what comfort level you chose. Keep that in mind when budgeting your trip.
| The cost of food and drink in Nepal |
Snacks | 50 - 200Rs
Inexpensive meal | 180 - 300Rs
Three course meal | 800Rs
Beer | 200Rs
Water | 20Rs
Soft Drink | 50Rs
NOTE | It’s important to remember that when hiking, the more expensive things become the higher you go. Be prepared to pay up to 10 times more in places like Gorak Shep and Manang than you would in Kathmandu or Pokhara.
| ACCOMMODATION Costs in Nepal |
Teahouse/Trekking lodge | 500 - 2,500Rs
Guest house | 400 - 2,500Rs
3 star double room | 2,000 - 8,000Rs
Luxury accommodation | 15,000 - 25,000Rs
| The cost of transport in Nepal |
Local Bus | 20 - 50Rs
Taxi | 45Rs (per KM)
Tourist Bus | 800 - 2000Rs (Kathmandu - Pokhara/Chitwan)
Everest Experience Flight | $199 USD
| The cost of HIKING in Nepal |
Porter/guide | 1,500 - 2,500Rs per day
Organised trek | 6000 - 8000Rs per day
Trekking permit | 50,000Rs
Note: Guides and porters will expect, and deserve, a tip at the completion of any trek/tour. The going rate is whatever you feel applicable, however it’s generally about $3-4 USD per day for guides, and $2-3 per day for porters.
Safety in Nepal | Nepal travel guide
Is Nepal Safe? | Is it safe to travel in Nepal
Nepal is generally a very safe country for tourists.
In fact, we’ll go as far as saying it’s right up there with the safest places we’ve visited.
This doesn’t mean you should become complacent; follow these general rules when travelling in Nepal:
As mentioned above, always travel with insurance. Consider upgrading depending on what hiking you plan to do
Register with your embassy/Government, especially if you plan on trekking
Avoid trekking alone, especially if you’re a woman
Make yourself aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness when trekking, and follow guidelines for safe acclimatisation
Take photocopies of your passport, tickets, visa and trekking permits
Be aware of your belongings at all times, petty theft does occur in many popular tourist sites
SCAMS to look out for in Nepal
While Nepalis are extremely nice, some exist to scam the many tourists. While we didn’t encounter any scams (overcharging taxis aside!), here are some common scams to be aware of, according to Lonely Planet:
Deals offered by gem dealers that involve you buying stones to sell for a ‘vast profit’ at home. The dealers normally claim they are not able to export the stones without paying heavy taxes, so you take them and meet another dealer when you get home, who will sell them to a local contact and you both share the profit. Except they don’t. And you don’t.
Children or young mothers asking for milk. You buy the powdered milk at a designated store at an inflated price, the child then returns the milk and pockets some of the mark-up.
Be wary of kids who seem to know the capital of any country you can think of; they are charming but a request for money will arrive at some point.
‘Holy men’ who do their best to plant a tika (a red paste denoting a blessing) on your forehead, only to then demand significant payment.
Credit card scams are not unheard of; travellers have bought souvenirs and then found thousands of dollars worth of internet porn subscriptions chalked up on their bill.
In 2015, Nepal experienced a large earthquake which killed over 9,000 people. Earthquakes, and as a result, landslides, are common. When visiting, be on alert for any sign of danger and follow the locals lead if something does occur. If you're concerned, read our post on what Nepal's like now.
Transport options in Nepal can be dangerous, with poor infrastructure, poor equipment and poor safety regulations meaning accidents are common.
In many ways, if you want to get anywhere, you’ve got to place your life in your driver/pilots hands.
Mitigate the likelihood by always taking tourist buses, or reputable airlines.
General health in Nepal
You need to take your health seriously in Nepal, especially when trekking.
Altitude sickness is a thing here; ignore the symptoms at your own peril. When visiting Nepal, we can’t emphasise enough the need to purchase travel insurance.
Kathmandu has the best facilities in the country, however standards drop the further you get out of the city. In mountainous areas, trekkers who do become unwell are generally evacuated to Kathmandu or Pokhara for further treatment.
We recommend speaking with your GP and obtaining medication BEFORE you travel to Nepal.
Essential antibiotics, pain relief, anti-inflammatory and acclimatisation medication are essential. Fortunately, there are many chemists in Kathmandu offering a vast range of medication, and this can be a good place to stock up if in need.
BOOK | Please don’t leave home without travel insurance!
A little word on altitude sickness
Altitude sickness becomes a major risk to humans above 2,500m and kills many trekkers each year.
Symptoms include feeling short of breath, headaches, vomiting, difficulty sleeping, gastro, and the onset of fluid on the lungs (heaving, relentless coughing).
Having personally dealt with severe altitude sickness while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, we can’t stress the need to learn the symptoms and treatment methods.
In the mountains, live by the Nepali saying “bistarai, bistarai'“, or slowly, slowly. There’s no need to rush in the mountains of Nepal (in fact, hiking to altitude quickly makes things worse!).
| TIPS TO ACCLIMATISE TO ALTITUDE |
Here are a few quick steps to help you acclimatise, and succeed, when trekking in Nepal:
Make sure you acclimatise to the altitude (ie. don’t rush)
Eat lots and lots - the more calories the better up here
Keep hydrated, but don’t over hydrate
Take diamox (if prescribed by your doctor)
Climb high, sleep low - if travelling with a guide or tour, they should manage your hiking schedule to include acclimatisation days
| WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR |
Most people will feel short of breath as they acclimatise, however if you feel any of the following symptoms, speak with your guide or doctor immediately:
Coughing relentless (including blood)
Severe, persistent headaches
Responsible travel in Nepal | Our top tips, and What to look out for
Don’t ride elephants or partake in animal tourism
Nepal is not immune to animal tourism, with many operators offering elephant safari’s in national parks, including the popular Chitwan National Park.
Quite simply, under no circumstance should you ride an elephant in Nepal.
To ‘train’ an elephant to accept riders, elephants are taken from their mothers at a very early age (we saw the proof of this in Chitwan National Park!) and physically and psychologically abused. They’re chained, hit with clubs spiked with nails and hooks, and screamed at. They’re exceptionally intelligent, emotional animals and this training is extremely damaging and traumatising.
The best way to explore Nepal’s national parks, and look at animals within their natural habitat is via a Jeep safari - sure it’s not the most quiet option, but at least it’s not possible to physically and mentally abuse a Jeep.
Trek responsibly in Nepal
Trekking and climbing is by far the most popular reason people visit Nepal, and over the years over tourism has began to negatively affect the pristine Himalaya region.
From lines on Mt. Everest, through to plastic pollution in the base camps and towns, things are only going to get worse unless tourists start to practice responsible and sustainable tourism principles.
If you plan to hike in Nepal, the most important thing you can do is to reduce your overall impact on the environment.
Do this by following these basic rules:
Avoid buying plastic bottled water | Bring your own bottle and fill it with boiled water/tea/hot lemon from your lodge. ACAP provide numerous filling stations along the Annapurna Circuit where water bottles can be refilled with UV treated water for a minimal cost. Carry purifier drops or tablets as a backup
Avoid burning wood for heating or cooking | Deforestation is rife in Nepal, don’t add to it. Ensure any hot showers are solar powered
Save precious fuel by ordering the same meal as your trek buddies | Your guide will be eating dhal bhat (the Nepali national dish of rice and lentils); you’ll be rewarded with smiles if you order the same. Pressure cookers are the most energy-efficient cooking method
Take your trash home with you | (e.g. spent batteries, broken electronics) and use recycling and compost bins wherever available. Avoid excess packaging
Always stick to the path unless otherwise told
Use a toilet where available
Respect the local culture, dress and act modestly, and always seek permission before taking photographs
Show an active interest in the local culture by learning some words of Nepali, Sherpa or Tibetan
When it comes to guides and porters, it’s important to remember the important role they play in ensuring your overall safety, as well as enjoyment on any trek.
We can’t speak highly enough of each guide we’ve had on our various hikes in Nepal - we’ve actually kept in contact with many, and catch up each time we’re back in the country. Not only are they well trained, they’re incredible hard-working, friendly, and funny.
Follow these basic tips:
Pay fair wages and tips to your guides and porters
Don’t overpack - respect your porter and their health by only packing what you need (6 - 8kgs)
Don’t haggle on prices, especially for accommodation. Too many people do this, and it’s a bit ridiculous in our opinion
Tourism has such a positive affect on communities in Nepal, bringing jobs and money into rural communities, so just by visiting and spending your money, you’re doing good.
Don’t use plastic/refuse plastic
Plastic is a huge issue in Nepal (as with most of the world), especially in the mountain areas where waste management is almost impossible. The easiest way to reduce your overall plastic consumption in Nepal is to just say NO!
Avoid buying plastic products if at all possible, say no to plastic bags, and where possible, gently educate locals on the negative consequences of plastic. It doesn’t need to get preachy; a simple ‘no thanks, I don’t like plastic as it’s bad for the environment’ will suffice.
When hiking in the mountains, or exploring Nepal’s cities, fill up a reusable water bottle and take it with you wherever you go to avoid buying unnecessary single-use bottles.
‘But what about dirty water?!,’ we hear you ask. Well, we agree that clean drinking water can be an issue in many developing nations - but as a traveller it absolutely doesn’t need to mean buying endless plastic bottles everywhere you go.
Respect the culture - dress + act appropriately, especially at temples
In Nepal, the Hindi and Buddhist cultures are both modest and reserved, so it's important to be respectful at all times.
Treat the Nepali locals how you’d wish to be treated as a guest, take your cues from how they behave and dress, and always travel with respect at the heart of your adventures.
Although a lot of travellers visit Nepal to trek the world-class mountain passes, the rich culture that exists within the whole country is worth learning and understanding. So much of the beauty of travel is found in discovering the rich tapestry of religion, language, and customs that make up our world, so set aside time to explore the religious and cultural sights within Nepal, and try to engage in community homestay programs or social enterprises.
In Nepal a fairly strict dress code applies when visiting sights of religious significance, such as temples or stupas, or rural communities.
Cover your shoulders and knees when visiting these areas, and you shouldn’t have any issues.
Nepal Highlights | What to see and do in Nepal
When it comes to Nepal, the first thing that springs to mind is the Himalayas.
This isn’t unusual, after all, it is home to seven of the 10 tallest mountains on earth. But while the mountains are an obvious drawcard (and we highly recommend you take the time to get some proper hiking in while you're here!), e’re here to tell you there is a LOT more to do and see in this wonderful country.
READ | Our top things to do in Nepal, 21 fantastic things to do in Kathmandu
What to do in the Kathmandu Valley
Unique as they come and different to anywhere we’ve visited, Kathmandu is crazy, chaotic, historic, spiritual, haphazard, enticing and vibrant - yet these words still don’t do this city justice. There are many UNESCO World Heritage sights to see, and equally tasty food to eat!
Check out these essential sites in Kathmandu:
| Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur Durbar Square |
No visit to Kathmandu would be complete without visiting the incredible UNESCO World Heritage listed Durbar squares of Kathmandu Valley.
Going back in history, Nepal was actually split into three main kingdoms - Basantapur (Kathmandu), Bhaktapur, and Patan, each of which had a royal palace and surrounding Durbar squares located in the Kathmandu Valley.
In the unified Nepal of today, each Durbar Square is made up of temples, idols, statues, open courts and fountains along with other structures. They are the perfect place to admire ancient Nepali architecture, Newari wood carvings and historic traditions. Oh, and they’re a great place to people watch.
| Boudhanath Stupa |
If you really want to experience Kathmandu's spiritual side, Boudhanath is the MUST visit stupa in the valley.
Thousands of pilgrims visit each day to circumnavigate the central dome, spinning prayer wheels as they walk; Tibetan monks chant mantras and pray in the surrounding monasteries while tourists take it all in.
The best time to visit Boudhanath is during the late afternoon when the place has a more authentic feel, as locals go about their daily ritual workout, and the surrounding area is less busy.
Prior to the 2015 earthquake, the eyes of buddha gazed out from the gilded central tower and while this is currently not standing, renovations are taking place to reinforce the structure and return it to its former glory.
| Pashupatinath temple |
One of the holiest sites in all of Hinduism, Pashupatinath has existed since 400 A.D and it’s main temple is a masterpiece of Hindu architecture. Only Hindu devotees may enter, but this doesn’t detract from this incredibly spiritual site.
For westerners, you’ll have to view from outside as the temple is Hindu only. The main attraction of this temple is the shining Shivalinga and the huge golden statue of Shiva’s Bull, Nandi. It’s also home to some pretty colourful artwork.
Pashupatinath is also the location for many buddhist and Hindu cremations, so you’ll likely see one of these taking place on the banks of the river. It’s a pretty confronting sight but incredibly interesting to witness.
It’s worth staying and watching an Aarti ceremony which commences each evening at 6:30pm. The Aarti ceremony is one of the more important ceremonies in the Hindu faith; it’s full of colour, light and chanting and it’s totally worth staying for.
| Swayambhunath Stupa |
A visit to Swayambhunath (or Monkey temple) is an essential experience in Kathmandu.
There may be a few stairs (365) and a heap of monkeys to navigate before you summit, but the views at the top are worth it. The temple is a mix of Buddhist and Hindu iconography and is quite stunning to witness.
The best time to visit is early evening when local devotees circumnavigate the stupa, spinning prayer wheels as they go and making their way through the ever present smoky incense hanging heavy in the air.
This lofty hilltop also provides the best vistas of Kathmandu, perfect for a sunset snap.
| Panauti Community homestay |
If you’re keen for a super authentic Nepal experience, one that empowers women and gives back to local communities, then you can’t miss a community homestay in the stunning Newari village of Panauti.
The premise of the homestay is simple: connect global travellers on homestays with local women and their families. The project was launched in 2013 with just 2 women, a number that’s swelled to 20 women and families today.
Not only will you have the most authentic experience, you’re giving back to local communities, and helping empower women in Nepal.
Other Nepal highlights - The best things to do outside the Kathmandu Valley
| The Lakeside beauty of Pokhara |
Stretched along the shores of Phewa lake dotted with colourful bobbing paddle boats, Pokhara is a little slice of tranquility and one of the best place to visit in Nepal.
For those seeking to trek in the Himalayas, chase adrenalin by white water rafting or paragliding, or simply an escape from the chaos of Kathmandu, Nepal’s chilled out lakeside town is the perfect antidote.
READ | Our city guide to Pokhara, including what to see, where to eat and stay
| The ancient Newari village of Bandipur |
Visiting Bandipur is like stepping back in time, this living, breathing open air museum of Newari culture might be a little off the beaten track but well worth the visit.
The town was formerly a stopping point on the India-Tibet trade route, leading to glorious wealth. The subsequent construction of the Prithvi Hwy reduced the amount of visitors and ultimately its visitors. Since then, it has been partially restored to its former glory.
Beautifully preserved traditional houses line the main street and restaurants spill out onto the motor vehicle free streets giving it a distinctly European feel. You can also walk up to the peak which has epic views onto the surrounding valleys below.
| Visit the birthplace of Buddha in Lumbini |
A UNESCO World Heritage site of huge global significance, Lumbini is the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, otherwise known as Buddha.
The modest Maya Devi Temple is the epicentre for pilgrims keen to pay their respects to Buddha’s birthplace. Lumbini also houses a vast array of stupas, monasteries and temples contributed by other Buddhist communities around the world which are worth exploring.
But let’s face it, there’s only one reason to visit Lumbini!
| Chitwan National Park |
In the steamy lowlands bordering India exists Chitwan National Park. Formally the royal hunting ground, Chitwan is now home to one of the most successful national parks in Asia (zero poaching was achieved in 2015).
On safari, you’re likely to see Rhino, Sloth Bears, Crocodile, Gharial, monkeys, and if you’re really lucky, Tiger and Leopard.
That said, please avoid the Suaraha Elephant Breeding Centre - where elephants are bred for elephant rides, and we witnessed some pretty heartbreaking scenes of cruelty. Read more about animal-friendly travel here.
The best adventure activities to do in Nepal
| Bungie/tandem rope swing at The Last Resort |
Home to the one of the tallest bungie jumps in the world, and the longest canyon swing in the world, The Last Resort is the place to fill your adrenalin-fuelled dreams.
While the tandem rope swing might not be for everyone, there are a range of awesome adventure activities offered at The Last Resort, including bungie, canyoning and rafting, making it the ideal place to tick off one of those adrenalin inducing items on your bucket list.
| Rafting in Pokhara |
Unsurprisingly, given the vast mountain ranges and glaciers, Nepal is blessed with raging rivers ready to be rafted, making it one of the most exhilarating things to do in Nepal.
The epicentre for most rafting adventures is Pokhara, where rafting expeditions lead daily during the peak seasons, ranging from half-day through to multi-day expeditions in the heart of Nepal.
| Paragliding over the Himalayas |
Keen to experience Nepal from the sky? Then Pokhara is your place.
Rated as one of the top five commercial tandem paragliding locations in the world, Pokhara is blessed with the perfect combination of stable thermal currents, a safe take-off location and landing zone, and epic views.
Paragliding flights launch from Sarangkot, about 30 minutes drive from Pokhara. There are three flight times a day, depending on season and weather - 10:30am, 12pm and 2pm. The best flying time is around midday, when the thermals have become active and the flight the most enjoyable.
Trekking in Nepal | Our recommendations
Trekking in Nepal is without a doubt one of the greatest things to do, anywhere in the world.
There’s something about walking in Nepal that puts the mind and body at ease - it may be the sense of scale and perspective that only the Himalayas can give. Or perhaps it’s the fresh air, filtered by the surrounding forests and powerful winds.
Or possibly it’s the trails lined with fluttering prayer flags, the constant call of ‘Namaste’, or the warm smiles offered by locals. Whatever it is, trekking is is one of the top things to do in Nepal, and you shouldn’t think of leaving this nation without having stepped foot on their mountain paths.
Nepal has a huge array of trekking opportunities, of which we’ve listed our favourite and suggested hikes below:
| THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT |
The 16 or so days spent hiking the Annapurna Circuit are some of the most inspiring and challenging you'll ever encounter.
Trekking between some of the world’s tallest mountains, through diverse climatic zones (from tropics to alpine peaks), passing quaint mountain villages while enjoying the incredible Nepali hospitality is a wonderful travel experience. Nowhere else on earth can you sip chai tea and bask in the sun while admiring 8,000m peaks in all directions.
From day seven onwards, it’s tough work - the days are long, the weather changeable, the altitude hard to manage, and the sleeping situation uncomfortable. But reaching the highest point, Thorong La pass, is one of the best feelings in the world.
If you’re looking to trek the Annapurna circuit, we recommend booking in advance with a reputable tour company such as G Adventures (check out their 18-day trek here!). They take safety seriously, and also respect the environment and local cultures.
BOOK | This 18-day Annapurna Circuit trek with G Adventures
| EVEREST BASE CAMP |
The 12-day, 130km round trip to Everest Base Camp is among the best treks in the world, and in Mark’s opinion, just shades the Annapurna Circuit in the beauty stakes.
Commencing in Lukla (after no doubt the scariest plane ride of your life!), the trek follows through quaint mountain villages, dense forests, over glacial rivers and up many, many hills before arriving at the notorious Everest Base Camp for a celebration chocolate and photo. Along the way there are ancient monasteries, delicious bakeries, and some of the most exquisite views you’ll ever witness.
This isn’t a walk in the park, though — expect to be challenged, especially during the final two days, when the altitude and colder temperatures start to effect even the hardiest of hikers.
Everest Base Camp is also one of the most popular treks in Nepal and can get a little crowded during the peak months from March - May, and September to December. But that also is the beauty of this trek - with so many hikers, the facilities up to Namche Bazaar are wonderful; and from Namche to Gorak Shep, more than adequate, so you’ll not be without some level of comfort during your hike.
| POON HILL GHOREPANI |
If you’ve only got a short time in Nepal but want to both admire the famous Himalayan Range and experience Nepal mountain culture, we recommend the Poon Hill Ghorepani trek.
This three-day trek is essentially a microcosm of what a longer Nepalese mountain trek is like. It passes through quaint villages, up many, many stairs, between jungles and over rivers, and before ultimately ending up at altitude (3,200m), with your head amongst the tallest mountains in the world. It really is the perfect way to ease yourself into trekking in Nepal.
The views from Poon Hill are some of the best we’ve ever experienced - uninterrupted, panoramic views of some of the largest and most photogenic Himalayan mountains, including Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri, Machhapuchhare, Annapurna II and Lamjung. It also happens to be the spot where the two of us got engaged - so we can definitely vouch for how epic a place it is!
What’s more, its affordable - treks to Poon Hill Ghorepani start at around USD $150 pp (NPR 10,500).
BOOK | Book with Nepal Wilderness Trekking - treks start at USD $150pp (NPR 10,500)
| THREE PASSES & GOKYO LAKE HIKE |
High in the Sagarmatha National Park lies the Gokyo Lakes, a set of incredible turquoise glacial lakes surrounded by some of the tallest peaks in the world. It’s incredibly beautiful and worth the hike. Also takes in Renjo, Chola and Kongma La passes.
| MOHARE DONDA |
An ‘off the beaten track’ alternative to other popular treks in the Annapurna range, Mohare Donda takes in very similar scenery to Poon Hill, with half the amount trekkers. Expect to see the highest peaks of the Annapurna mountain range: Dhaulagiri 1, Dhaulagiri 2, Daulaghiri 3, Annapurna south and the incredible Fish Tail, and have the experience of a lifetime.
| LANGTANG VALLEY AND TAMANG HERITAGE TRAIl |
Hiking through the unexplored parts of the Langtang National Park and deep into the Tamang hinterland. This trek is all about immersing yourself in local culture, learning about one of the oldest tribes in Nepal, the Tamang people, as well as witnessing some incredible Himalayan mountain scenery.
| MUSTANG AND UPPER MUSTANG |
If you speak to any local Nepali, they say Mustang is there favourite hiking area.
Bordering Tibet, Mustang’s desert-like terrain reminds of Mars, with high-altitude dessert’s and eroded badlands forming the area. It’s a mystical and culturally rich region less frequented by tourists, but hiking here is well worth the effort.
Trekking in Nepal | What to know before you hike in Nepal
| YOU NEED A TREKKING PERMIT TO HIKE IN NEPAL |
If you want to trek in any of Nepal’s national parks (duh, of course you do), you need to organise a TIMS (Trekkers Information Management Systems) card.
This is basically a trekking card for all hikes in the country, while you’ll also need specific permits for some of the more remote treks (like Mustang, Dolpa, and Kanchanjunga).
If you’re booked on a group trek, the tour operator should organise this on your behalf, however, trekkers going it alone will need to register at the Nepal Tourism Office.
| MAKE SURE YOU CHECK THE BEST TIME TO TREK IN NEPAL |
Nepal’s seasons vary dramatically and tend to revolve around the summer monsoon period.
For trekking, we recommend timing your visit for the post-monsoon season (late September to late November) when the weather is clear and dry, and the visibility to the mountains is clearest. While peak season means it will be busier, now really is the best time to enjoy Nepal at its absolute finest.
If you’re keen to avoid the crowds, Spring (February to April) can also be a good time to visit, with long days and warm weather. Be aware that this is also the time for crop burn-offs, which can mean that the visibility of the mountains can be pretty average, especially in the Kathmandu valley and Pokhara areas.
| BUY YOUR HIKING CLOTHES IN KATHMANDU |
Unless you're already a keen hiker with all of the gear already, there’s absolutely no need to go and buy oodles of expensive mountain gear BEFORE you arrive in Kathmandu.
The tourist area of Thamel is basically the hiking clothing capital of the world, and (not that we condone it!) the Nepalese are masters at producing brilliant quality replicas of well-known outdoor brands, for a fraction of the original cost.
Our advice? Buy the important stuff (aka the stuff that will keep you warm and alive, and you absolutely need to have in perfect quality), like sturdy hiking boots, an appropriate down jacket, and a few pairs of high-quality woollen thermals before you arrive, and then get everything else there.
We bought all our fleece-lined pants, polar-fleece jackets, beanies, gloves, and scarves in Thamel and were snug as mountain yaks (is that a thing?!) the entire way through the Annapurna Circuit.
| ALWAYS TREK WITH A GUIDE OR GROUP |
While you may be tempted to saunter off into the mountains to find yourself, you need to remember that these mountains are wild, unpredictable, and the altitude is a serious matter.
Unfortunately, despite Nepal generally being a very safe country, there have also been a number of unexplained disappearances of solo trekkers in recent years. At the very least, hire yourself a guide from a reputable trekking agency in Kathmandu, who can help you with registering your permits, navigation and acclimatisation too.
Trekking with a group also gives you a ready-made friendship and support group, which is invaluable on tough days where the ascent feels endless. The evenings we spent playing cards by the crackling fire in various teahouses with our group are some of our favourite mountain memories too!
| YOUR HIKE WILL BE FREEZING AT TIMES, REGARDLESS OF SEASON |
Even if you’re travelling to Nepal in the height of summer humidity, be aware that any hike above 3,000m in altitude will be cold. The higher you climb, the colder the air around you will be - and as you approach the summit of Everest Base Camp or Thorong La Pass (Annapurna Circuit), temperatures can be -10c all year around. Be prepared; thermals and an adequate jacket are a must.
| ALTITUDE SICKNESS IS NO JOKE |
If you’ve been following us for a while, you’d already know all about Mim’s battles with altitude sickness on Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. For those who haven’t heard the tale yet: she got advanced altitude sickness which progressed into pulmonary oedema (your lungs fill up with blood - gross, and life-threatening), and had to be evacuated off the mountain pretty quickly.
This is an extreme case, sure, but it’s also not uncommon. Before you head off on your trek, visit the doctor to get a prescription for Diamox, and discuss how best to manage altitude. While on the mountain, drink lots of water, continue to eat even if you lose your appetite, and go slow. Successful mountain summits are all about channelling the tortoise - slow and steady.
Planning on visiting nepal? these are the travel tips you need to know
Food in Nepal | what to eat + drink
| DHAL BHAT POWER, 24 HOUR |
Dhal Bhat is a delicious traditional meal found throughout Nepal, India, and Bangladesh; a heavy lentil-based soup eaten with rice, curry, veggies and spices that locals will eat at least once a day. Seriously.
It's a heavy, stomach-lining meal designed to give power up the mountain or a day's work. We asked our trekking guides what their favourite meal was and the answer was always the same: Dhal Bhat.
| EAT ALL THE MOMOS |
Momos, Nepal's version of the dumpling but with curry spices, are worth making the trip for alone. Delicious steamed (or fried, if you're feeling gluttonous!) buns full of either ground meat, veggies, or cheese, these are honestly so tasty we challenge you to try and stop at just one plate.
RECOMMENDATION | Visit Yangling, in Kathmandu, for the best momos!
| THE FOOD IS EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD |
Influenced by its Indian and Tibetan neighbours, Nepalese cuisine is rich in flavour, aroma, and basically absolutely bloody delicious. Rice, lentils, chickpeas and corns are used extensively (hooray, gluten-free eaters!), and it's possible to have an extremely filling, flavoursome meal for a few dollars.
If you're craving a taste of home, the restaurants in Thamel are set up to cater for travellers, and you'll find plenty of familiar meals. After 3 months of travelling through Southeast Asia (and battling a parasite), we landed in Nepal and promptly enjoyed one of the best chicken Cordon Bleu's of our entire lives (this was pre flexi-vegetarian days!).
| MCDONALDS DOESN'T EXIST HERE |
This is one country that is blessedly free from the Golden Arches, and we’re mighty happy about it!
The food in Nepal is seriously good, and if the burger cravings become too strong many of the restaurants in Thamel cater to western taste buds extremely well.
ACCOMMODATION IN NEPAL | Nepal Travel Guide
If you’re worried about going without a bed in Nepal, don’t be - here are accommodation options literally everywhere. Established tourist centres offer the greatest variety, including Kathmandu, Pokhara and Chitwan, where you’ll find everything from 5 star to basic. You can check out our full guide to accommodation in Nepal here.
The greatest variety of options can be found in the most popular tourist spots of Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Chitwan, where everything from luxurious 5-star accommodation to basic guesthouses is available.
Prices will vary quite substantially across the trekking seasons and regions, but for the most part accommodation here is extremely affordable. Teahouses on trekking paths can cost as little as a few dollars a night, while a safari lodge in Chitwan may set you back $250 a night.
The most common form of accommodation - guest houses - will set you back between $5 - $35 per night. If you’re travelling outside of high season, prices can drop, so always ask if any discount is applicable.
Below is an overview of accommodation in Nepal (read our Nepal accommodation guide for a more thorough overview!):
| GUESTHOUSES |
Almost all accommodation is referred to as ‘guesthouse’, and there are varying levels of guesthouse in Nepal, from extreme budget to well appointed. Guesthouses that cater to tourists are well organised: most innkeepers speak excellent English, and can arrange anything for you from laundry to trekking/porter hire (which comes in very handy).
Nepal, and especially in Kathmandu, has daily power cuts (load shedding). This often means no hot water or electricity for up to eight hours, so we recommend checking whether your guesthouse of choice has constant hot water and continuous electricity.
| BUDGET GUESTHOUSES |
Budget guesthouses in Nepal and Pokhara are generally cheap and cheerful, but with enough of the bare essentials to make life okay. Most provide hot running water (if you’re lucky!), flush toilets, clean sheets and blankets.
If you go outside the main tourist areas, be prepared to do with a lot less, including hot water. But for the low prices, they’re generally worth it.
BOOK | Find the best deals on Nepal accommodation here
| MID-RANGE GUESTHOUSES |
Located predominantly in Kathmandu and Pokhara, mid-range guesthouses are generally larger and better appointed (think fan/Aircon, TV). Prices can be almost triple the price of budget guesthouses, however in many cases, such as after a long trek, it’s absolutely worth it.
BOOK | Find the best deals on Nepal accommodation here
| HOTELS AND RESORTS |
While not of the standard of resorts in south east Asia or Europe, hotels and resorts in Nepal are decent enough. Again, prices are far cheaper than many similar properties around the world, so if you have the budget, stay somewhere nicer.
BOOK | Find the best deals on Nepal accommodation here
| LODGES/TEAHOUSES |
The accommodation of choice (not that you have any) while trekking through the Himalaya, teahouses are generally comfortable but very basic. Don’t expect anything more than a bed, a pillow and, if you’re lucky a woollen blanket. Amenities are often basic, and showers are more often than not cold (although this is changing with solar technology).
While teahouses may sound dire, you’ve got to remember where you are. And to be honest, they were our favourite type of accommodation while in Nepal, as each night, we huddled around the communal fire with fellow guests, eating food, drinking tea and chatting about the incredible moments we were experiencing.
BOOK | Find the best deals on Nepal accommodation here
| AIRBNB |
Airbnb is a recent addition to the Nepal accommodation marketplace, allowing you to have a more authentic living experience in places like Kathmandu or Pokhara.
On top of homes, smaller, boutique hotels list their rooms on Airbnb, so it really is the best place to find unique and comfortable accommodation at a reasonable price.
FREE AIRBNB COUPON | Use our Airbnb code to get £25 off your next booking!
BEST TOURS OF NEPAL
Although we’re definitely advocates for independent travel, we understand some travellers may want to experience Nepal with a guide or as part of a tour, especially when hiking in the Himalaya.
Below are selection of tours we recommend in Nepal:
Hiking the Annapurna Circuit trek with G Adventures | An epic 18-day small group tour trekking the Annapurna Circuit. Includes accommodation in a hotel as well as an expert guide, meals, transport and more. Book here.
CHECK OUT THE BEST TOURS OF NEPAL WITH TOURRADAR
LEARN MORE: THE 21 BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN NEPAL
HOW TO GET AROUND NEPAL | Nepal travel guide
Ah, the one part of Nepal we never want to deal with again - transport. Getting around Nepal is tough. Really tough.
While not a big country, it can take hours to travel even small distances. It is possible to hire a motorcycle, charter a taxi, car or 4WD, (or catch a flight) but the roads are some of the worst we’ve encountered, and public buses are often crowded, uncomfortable and prone to break down.
Nepal has a shocking road and air safety record, and accidents are very common.
It’s for this reason we recommend always booking a tourist bus to get from A to B.
| Tourist bus |
In Nepal, the roads are shocking and windy, the traffic is appalling, buses stop often for meal/tea stops, and a breakdown/flat tyre will no doubt occur. To put bus travel into perspective, we never spent less than 7hrs on a bus; to travel around 200kms (Kathmandu - Pokhara). Be prepared for a slow, long journey!
We’re only going to mention tourist buses because we really feel you shouldn’t take public buses great distances in Nepal (they’re okay in Kathmandu, or into rural areas).
Tourist buses connect Kathmandu with Pokhara, Sauraha (Chitwan National Park) and Sonauli, as well as Pokhara with Sauraha and Sonauli. Expect a day (6-9hrs) to travel to any of these destinations.
The buses are in okay condition (read: better than public buses) and you’ll often have your own seat. This means a far more comfortable journey, even with the incredibly long travel times. We found bus travel in Nepal the perfect time to read a book, listen to a podcast or sleep.
Tourist buses often stop twice on the way to their destination, so you’ll never be short of food or water. However, we recommend stocking up on the delicious baked goods from Kathmandu or Pokhara before you depart.
Tourist buses can be booked through agents or accommodation providers, or at bus stations. We do recommend purchasing at least two days in advance, especially in peak periods.
| 4WD/Jeep |
It’s unlikely you’ll need to travel by 4WD unless you’re up in the mountains. It’s a rough and tumble ride, often on extremely dangerous roads. But then again, it’s kinda fun! 4WD rides will often be organised in villages, or with your tour guides/porters.
| Plane/helicopter |
Despite the relatively small size of Nepal, air travel is an essential part of the transport network. Unfortunately, the air safety record is worse than the road safety record, so you’re essentially placing your life in the hands of the weather gods and pilot skill. We’ve flown twice in Nepal, and both were exhilarating and scary. Be prepared!
As a tourist in Nepal, it’s likely you’ll need to fly at one point; from Kathmandu to Lukla (Everest Base Camp trek), or Jomson to Pokhara (Annapurna Circuit trek). Flights are generally organised as part of a tour/hike, however if booking yourself, look into one of the following companies: Buddha Air, Sita Air and Yeti Airlines. Be prepared for delays, often as a result of bad weather. It’s advisable to organise through a travel agent, and well in advance of your departure date during peak trekking season.
An hour-long scenic loop from Kathmandu, the “Everest Experience” is popular among tourists who want to get an armchair view of Mt. Everest.
There are many companies that offer chartered helicopter services. These are quite expensive, and are often used by the injured, sick, elderly, or those wanting to save several days trekking. It can be quite expensive, so it’s up to you if you see benefit.
HOW TO GET AROUND CITIES IN NEPAL
Like most of Nepal, the transport network within cities is very limited, slow and outdated. That’s not to say don’t use it, as it can be a lot of fun and a great way to meet the locals.
| TAXI |
Taxi’s are the best form of transport within cities. They’re much quicker and more comfortable than a bus, and quite a bit of fun zipping through the chaotic Kathmandu traffic. You’ll almost always have to negotiate a fare, but they’re generally cheap.
| BUS |
Within the cities such as Kathmandu or Pokhara, local buses are a super cheap, but often a crowded alternative to a taxi. It’s an experience, to say the least, for those intrepid souls.
Always establish the fare before getting on board.
PHOTOs that will inspire: 30 PHOTOS THAT WILL MAKE YOU WANT TO VISIT NEPAL
HOW TO GET to Nepal/AWAY
| FLYING TO KATHMANDU |
Almost all international arrivals into Nepal are through Kathmandu’s international airport. If travelling over peak periods, book flights months in advance as routes fill up. Only a small number of international airlines fly to Nepal, including Qatar, KLM and Malaysian.
Depending on the time of year, the cost of airfares vary. The timing of the high, low and shoulder seasons differ from airline to airline, and don’t always coincide with tourist seasons.
Note: Nepal’s airport is extremely old and inefficient, so be prepared to wait for immigration/visas, baggage, and baggage checks.
CHECK PRICES AND BOOK FLIGHTS TO NEPAL BELOW
| TRAVELLING OVERLAND TO NEPAL |
A lot of travellers to Nepal combine their visit with a trip to India, via overland. Although we haven’t done this route, we’ve heard from many travellers that it’s relatively pain free. You can book tours/buses through travel agents in Nepal.
There are numerous border crossings between India in the south of Nepal, and can be navigated fairly easily, especially when organised through tour agencies.
The three most common border crossings for tourists include: Sonauli/Belahiya, reachable from Delhi, Varanasi and most of North India (via Gorakhpur); Raxaul/Birgunj, accessible from Bodhgaya and Kolkata via Patna; and Kakarbhitta, serving Darjeeling and Kolkata via Siliguri.
As always, be aware of any scams while crossing the border, including petty theft and money exchange scams.
EXPERIENCE MORE OF NEPAL WITH THESE ESSENTIAL POSTS
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THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT | Our comprehensive guide to hiking the Annapurna Circuit
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We endeavour to keep this Nepal travel guide as up to date as possible, however if you have anything to add, let us know in the comments below!