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Nepal guide

Overview

Nestled amongst soaring, snow-capped mountains, the beautiful Himalayan country of Nepal has long been a magnet to travellers from around the world.

Blessed with some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world. The irresistible attraction of the Himalayan Mountains - sheltering peaks such as Everest, Annapurna and Lhotse, and raging rapid-filled rivers - has made Nepal a Mecca for adventure activities like rafting, trekking and mountain biking.

Add to this a rich cultural heritage, which can be still be seen today in the shape of magnificent royal palaces, colourful Hindu temples, and ancient Buddhist monasteries, and you have a country that constantly heads the list of most popular tourist destinations.

Brief History

The first firm historical records about Nepal begin in around the 7 th to 8 th century BC when the Kiratis, a mongoloid people, migrated westwards from China into the Kathmandu Valley. Yalambar was the first of a line of 28 Kirati kings to rule the Kathmandu Valley lasting up until the 4 th century AD. During the Kirati reign Buddhism was first introduced into Nepal and it is believed that the Buddha himself visited the valley, residing for a time in Patan. Ashoka, the legendary India emperor, also visited the Kathmandu Valley sometime around the 2 nd century BC, evidence of which can be seen today in the four stupas he erected around Patan. Read more...

Highlights

When to go

Nepal’s year is split into several distinct seasons, each with their own characteristics. There are benefits and drawbacks of visiting during all of them. The months below are given as a guide, and as the monsoon rains are not entirely predictable, should be taken as a guide only.

October & November

This is considered the start of the tourist season in Nepal, and the best time for trekking with good weather and lush vegetation after the monsoon rains. The skies will be clear allowing excellent mountain views. Wildlife viewing in the national parks is good, and river levels are fairly high after the monsoon making for exciting white water rafting.

December to February

The winter months are cooler with more cloudy skies. There will be some rain lower down, and snow in the mountains which can close or restrict some trekking routes. It does mean however that the trails are quieter and can look very beautiful in the foothills with small amounts of snow on the ground. Wildlife viewing is good, though the grass in the parks does start to get quite long which makes seeing some animals harder.

March & April

These months are good for trekking, as the weather is warm and the skies clear. River levels start to get low for rafting, but this can make some rivers more exciting. Wildlife viewing is good as the long grass is cut in the parks normally in February or March, and the hotter weather dries up many water sources. Both these mean you have a better chance of seeing some of the wildlife.

May & June

During these months in the run up to the monsoon, it starts to get very hot and the air over the mountains carries more dust preventing long distance mountain views. There will be some heavy rain showers, and it is still a good time for trekking. It is very hot and sticky in the lowland Terai region, but is still a good time for wildlife viewing if you don’t mind the heat.

July to September

These monsoon months have heavy rain showers most days, with clear period’s in-between. Trekking is possible throughout the monsoon, though the trails can be muddy and leeches are an irritating problem when walking through undergrowth. The trails are quiet however and local farming life at its busiest. It’s not a great time for wildlife viewing due to the weather and wet & muddy ground making access to the parks difficult. White water rafting during the monsoon is excellent with very high and fast water levels making for demanding trips.

Geography

Nepal can be divided into narrow strips stretching from the Indian border to the border with Tibet. The first is a low, jungle-covered area called the Teria. Next, rise the Siwalik Hills, followed by the higher Mahabharat Hills. Several fertile valleys lie to the north of these hills including the Kali Gandaki and the Langtang. North again rise the immense snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas.

Weather & climate

Nepal's weather is split between its mountains and its lowlands.

The lowlands experience tropical weather and the monsoons arrive in June and last until September. During this period the weather is humid and cloudy. Between October and April the weather becomes warm and sunny, however the nights can get quite cold especially in the depths of winter.

On the high mountains, there is snow and ice throughout the year. Bring light clothing and waterproofs during the summer months, warmer clothing for spring and autumn and heavier clothing if visiting mountain regions or if visiting in winter.

Click for Kathmandu, Nepal Forecast
Chennai
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Rain (mm)
15
41
23
58
122
246
373
345
155
38
8
3
Sun (hrs)
6
6
8
6
5
2
2
3
5
10
10
9
Temp (Max)
18
19
25
28
30
29
29
28
28
27
23
19
Temp (Min)
2
4
7
12
16
19
20
20
19
13
7
3
Days of Rain*
1
5
2
6
10
15
21
20
12
4
1
0
Hum (%)
70
68
53
54
61
72
82
84
83
81
78
73
* denotes number of days with at least 1.0 mm of rainfall

Currency

Nepalese rupee (Rs)

1 US$ = 89 Rs (June 2012)
1 UK£ = 137 Rs (June 2012)

Common notes

  • 1 Rs
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  • 5 Rs
  • 10 Rs
  • 20 Rs
  • 25 Rs
  • 50 Rs
  • 100 Rs
  • 500 Rs
  • 1,000 Rs

NB changing larger notes can sometimes be difficult in small villages.

Money can be changed at any bank, exchange kiosk or hotel (lowest rate). Banks are open from 10am to 2pm from Sunday to Thursday and until noon on Friday. Traveller’s cheques are widely accepted but will entail a service charge, usually per cheque. ATM’s are only available in Kathmandu and Pokhara, and accept all major credit/debit cards. Credit cards are generally accepted, with Visa and MasterCard being the most popular. Cash advances are also available at banks. No black market exists in Nepal.

Holidays & festivals

New Years Day-1st January
National Unity Day-11th January
Martyrs' Memorial Day-29th January
Lhosar (Tibetan New Year)-February
Holi (coloured water and powder festival)-March
Maha Shivratri-February/March
National Democracy Day-18th February
International Women's Day-8th March
Ram Nawami-March/April
Nepali New Year-April
Buddha's Anniversary-April/May
Krishna Janamashtami-August/September
Bijaya Dashmi-October
Constitution Day-9th November
Lakshmi Puja, Diwali (Deepavali)-October/November

Exact dates of holidays and festivals in Nepal for the coming year.

NB Banks and government offices are closed during public holidays.

Most Hindu festivals follow the Indian lunar calendar and therefore change from year to year when using the Gregorian calendar.

There are also numerous regional holidays, festivals and fairs throughout the year.

Religion

Hindu 90%, Buddhist 5%, Muslim 3%, other 2% (1981) - note: only official Hindu state in the world, although no sharp distinction between many Hindu and Buddhist groups.

Vaccinations

Recommended vaccinations and other health protection measures vary and are subject to change. You must consult your GP on current vaccinations needed for your destination. You can also visit our travel health website at:

TravelHealthZone

This has links to up-to-date information on vaccination requirements as well as much more general travel health information and advice.

For direct, up-to-date information on vaccination requirements for Nepal please click here

Customs

  • Greetings are traditionally accompanied with a small bow, a big smile, and hands together in prayer, however the handshake is becoming more and more populare, especially amongst men.
  • Always take your shoes off before entering a temple and remember to dress conservatively, shorts are not allowed, and never touch carvings or statues of deities. You may also be required to remove leather items such as belts and bags. When visiting Buddhist temples always walk around them in a clockwise direction.
  • Indian women are generally conservative and should not be touched without their consent. Public shows of intimacy are considered inappropriate and you should try to dress conservatively wherever possible.
  • The feet are considered as unclean and should not be used to point to things or to touch someone with. Try not to touch the head, as this is also considered rude.
  • Always use your right hand for communal eating and other social interaction as the left hand is reserved for toilet duties. Nepalis traditionally eat with their hand rather than with eating utensils, but this is not expected of westeners. If you have been invited into a local's house to dine, always remove your shoes before entering and wash your hands before eating.
  • When trekking or visiting more remote areas be aware that food on offer and cooking facilities are often limited. However it is not uncommon to find large menus, even in the smallest restaurant or guesthouse, but this does not mean that you should order without thought. Try to order simple dishes (preferably dal bhat, the staple dish of Nepal) and if in a group try to order the same dish - unless of course you are happy to wait a long time for your dinner.
  • Tipping is usually expected in restaurants and should be around 5-10% of the meal. Tipping for services is dependent on the service provided, and how well it is performed - 20Rs or less is normally fine. Remember; if you are not happy with the service don't tip.
  • Haggling is an integral part of Nepal life. You should expect to haggle for just about everything, but for the best results do so with a smile and a light-hearted approach. Always be wary of street sellers, as what they sell may not always be what you think it is
  • Be considerate when taking photographs. Avoid taking photos of religious ceremonies, funerals, and people bathing as this is most likely to cause offence. Always ask permission before taking pictures of people and try to avoid flash photography inside temples and around light-sensitive paintings or artwork.

Security

The Maoist insurgency of the last several years in Nepal now appears to be finally over, with the Maoists actively involved in the government, and disarming. It is early days however, you should follow the local news, remain vigilant and avoid any public demonstrations.

The most common form of crime against tourists is theft, usually by stealth rather than violence, so visitors should take care to secure their personal possessions at all times. In more remote areas the risk of muggings and robberies does exist but remains very low.

The majority of Nepal is safe to travel in, however the recent problems with Maoist rebels means that certain remote rural areas are now just becoming accessible again. There may be various restrictions on travel and curfews in place across Nepal and you are advised to respect these.

If trekking, you are advised to remain on established routes, to walk in groups, and with reputable trekking agencies.

Know before you go

In association with the ‘Know Before You Go’ Campaign, we are working with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to do all that we can to help British travellers stay safe overseas. Before you go overseas, check out the FCO website at www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo. It is packed with essential travel advice and tips, and up-to-date country information.

FCO know before you go logo

Visas

Most foreign nationals can get a  15-day visa for US$25 or a 60-day visa for US$30 upon arrival at Kathmandu airport or any of the land borders with India. You can also obtain a double entry visa for $US55, or a multi-entry visa for $US90. Other visas, including work visas are obtainable for a fee.

If you wish to extend your visa you can apply for a 30-day extension at the immigration department, which will cost $US30, and can be paid for in local currency.

Trekking permits are not required in most areas, though some more remote districts are restricted and do require permits. You will also need an entry permit if you are visiting the Annapurna Conservation Area. Any permits required are included in our tour prices but you may need to bring some passport photos with you.

How to get there

By Air

There is only one international airport in Nepal, in the capital Kathmandu, and we therefore start and finish nearly all our Nepalese tours here. The national airline, Nepal Airlines, has regular flights to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Dubai, Doha, Kualalumpur and Delhi. However, most people will arrive in Nepal after flying with an Indian, Far East, or Gulf airline. You can also arrive in Nepal by air from Lhasa in Tibet, or Paro in Bhutan.

Flying from the UK

If you are flying from the UK, there are no direct flights to Kathmandu. Indirect options are available from London Heathrow with Jet Airways or Kingfisher via Delhi, Qatar Airways via Doha, Gulf Air via Bahrain, Etihad via Abu Dhabi, or Thai Airways via Bangkok. Fares start at around UK£550 if you book well in advance, but do increase significantly during busy periods. In general anything close to UK£600 is a good price. Qatar Airways offer a one-stop flight option from Manchester through Doha, though the stop-over times aren’t great. Flying from most regional airports therefore involves transiting via London.

Where to book

We hold an ATOL, and you are welcome to book your flights with us. Please discuss your ideal dates and departure airport with our sales staff, and we will send you a selection of airlines, flight times, and prices. You can then choose whether to book your flights through us, or to make your own arrangements. If you book your own flights, we will still include both your arrival and departure airport transfers.

By Land

India

There are several border crossings between India and Nepal and we use these on some more extensive tours combing both countries. The most popular border is through Sonauli in the centre of the lowland Terai region, close to Gorakhpur and accessible from Varanasi in India. You can also enter through Mahendrenagar in the far west of the country. This border is a long day’s drive from Delhi, and is often used to access Bardia National Park in the west of Nepal.

Tibet

The overland drive from Tibet into Nepal is spectacular and crosses several 5,000m+ passes. We can use this road on tours combining the two countries, often starting in Nepal and driving to Tibet, and then flying back from Lhasa to Kathmandu.

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Factfile

Time: GMT+5¾
Dial code: 00 977
Area: 140,800 sq km
Elevation: Lowest point: Kanchan Kalan 70m Highest point: Mount Everest 8,850m
Population: 29,519,000 (2008)
Capital: Kathmandu
Government: Paliamentary democracy
Language: Nepali (90%) and other regional dialects, English is also used in government and business

News & features

Koshi Tapu Wildlife Reserve, Nepal

Situated in the southeast of Nepal, Koshi Tapu wildlife reserve is certainly worth the extra effort required to get there.

Pokhara, Nepal

This lakeside town is the starting point for trekking into the Annapurna region and makes a great place to chill out.

Bardia Eco Lodge

Community oriented, eco friendly wildlife lodge your travel to Nepal helps support.

Trekking grades

Understand more about how we grade our treks in Nepal, Bhutan & Tibet.

Rafting in Nepal & Bhutan

Comprehensive guide to whitewater rafting in Nepal & Bhutan.

View more news & features


Customer feedback

"Our guides, Ram and Deepak made the trip incredible."

Victoria Wilson (Everest Base Camp)

Read more feedback


 

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Nepal Uncovered, Head office: Leigh House, Varley Steet, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS28 6AN

Phone: +44 (0) 845 130 48 49 Fax: +44 (0) 845 130 48 84

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