Nepal: 15 useful tips you need to know before your travel. Our journey to Nepal continues. I got so impressed with this country and our December travel that I feel like sharing more with you. The previous two articles about Nepal can be found here: Nepal: Nine amazing reasons you can’t miss it & Fascinating Nepal: Top 10 popular short treks in the Himalayas.
Nepal has always been high on my travel dream list. Yet, the trip was very spontaneous, like most of our travels. We took the decision ten days before we traveled. With the approaching Christmas holidays, I had very little time to get familiar with this country and its capital, Kathmandu.
I knew a lot about the country, but more from the Himalayas perspective. From the climbing books, documentaries, and movies. Less from the actual day-to-day life perspective. And although the country is very similar to India, where we live, I noticed many unique things. I prepared fifteen useful tips, some small, some less expected than the others. Let’s discover this practical list of travel tips. Get prepared, a bit better than me, for your Nepali trip!
15 USEFUL TIPS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOUR TRAVEL
#1 TIME ZONE
It was my first wrong assumption about Nepal. I was somehow sure that it is within the same time zone as India, IST one. Nepal has its own time zone, a unique one!
Nepal’s time zone is called NPT (Nepal Time). NPT is +5:45 hours to UTC/GMT. It is the only country globally and one out of three territories with a 45-min offset from UTC. NPT is an approximation of the local mean time in Kathmandu, which is 5:41 hours ahead of UTC. This time zone was established in 1986, advancing the clocks by 15 min, from previously used IST time.
#2 INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
How is the international flights terminal in Kathmandu?
When landing in Kathmandu, we did not realize how is the airport. The process was pretty smooth, yet many people were there. We changed our view on the way back. Our flight was late in the afternoon. We were advised to be at the airport 2.5-3 hours earlier. We opted for 2-2.5 hours, thinking it shouldn’t be so busy. I have traveled a lot. But I have never encountered such a hectic airport. Be ready to arrive earlier and queue for a bit. Currently, a pre-validation of Covid tests is required before entering the airport. Our focus was to pass all the checks etc. And once we reached the departure area next to our gate, we realized that there was no coffee place. So we waited patiently for the flight.
Disclaimer: Flights from Nepal to India have one extra security check, just when about to board the plane. That’s a standard procedure. Again, something new for me. And I wasn’t ready for it, especially with a small child in my arms.
#3 LOCAL SIM CARD
Whenever we travel abroad, we explore the option of local sim cards to lower the cost of phone usage and always stay connected. We check the options already at the airport. Nepal surprised us!
During your travel to Nepal, opt for the local sim card. Buy it already at the airport, just before the exit. The queues are small, the process is pretty smooth (passport details + on-the-spot picture taking for the identity proof), and the cost is so low! The new sim card with 3 GB of data valid for a week costs about 100 Nepalese Rupees (less than $1!). It is super worth it. Remember that the connection in the country, especially in the off-road areas or during the trekking might be poor or not there. Yet, the local sim is a great option in Nepal.
#4 DOMESTIC AIRPORT
If you visit Nepal, there are big chances that you will decide on a domestic flight. Getting closer to the Himalayas is very tempting and attractive!
We had our domestic flight at 6:30 AM. We left the hotel at 5 AM. We were at the airport before 5:15 AM (the best time to travel by car – no traffic!). Just that the airport was closed. Somehow, we were not prepared for that. Many people were waiting for their domestic flights, all by the airport door. And it was cold, especially as we were not dressed warmly. We just had a sightseeing flight, so we didn’t wear extra layers of clothes.
Officially, the airport opens at 6 AM and closes at midnight. Luckily, they opened the airport door a few minutes before 5:30 AM. I was so happy to find the coffee and tea counters after our check-in and security check!
A big lesson here for me! Did you know the below items?
- Most of the transactions in the country (except for the hotels) are done by cash so it is good to carry money when roaming around.
- When you pay higher rates (e.g., for day tours, etc.), you can pay directly with USD or EUR.
- Since there are many ATMs, withdrawing money is not an issue.
- It is illegal to take Nepalese Rupees out of Nepal, hence withdraw or exchange only needed amounts.
- As a result of the above, Nepalese Rupees can’t be exchanged abroad; in this case, a visa on arrival needs to be paid in Nepal with USD or EUR.
- You can exchange the remaining money at the airport. Otherwise, try to “fit” with your expenses and give the remaining money as a tip to the airport driver 🙂
- If you are traveling from India: Indian rupee notes of 500 and 1000 are illegal in Nepal and can’t be exchanged.
- You can’t pay in Nepal with a broken or damaged ticket. Do not accept such notes during shopping, and if it happens to you to have one, you can exchange it at the bank.
#6 LOCAL TAXI
Wondering about local taxis in Nepal? All I knew before our travel that Uber doesn’t operate in the country.
There are two main options for getting a private taxi in Nepal: a spontaneous one or pre-arranged one. There are many local companies (like Trekking Addiction or Himalayan Masters) that apart from their core activities, for example, trekking, also provide taxi service. It might cost similar to the taxis called by the street. In case of is an extra premium to the price, there will be benefits too. You might get a better quality of the car, timely pickups, and waiting time. Another option is calling the taxi when you need it, potentially for shorter rides. Taxis are available in many places. The charges might fluctuate a lot, especially for foreign tourists. A typical cost of the taxi charge in Kathmandu would be around 300-500 Nepalese Rupees.
Are you wondering about traffic in Kathmandu? Get ready for it! 🙂
Traffic in Kathmandu can be unexpected! And, it is very intensive! Somehow we thought that it could not get worse than Bangalore. However, in practice, it can. The traffic is intensive, and the driving style even more pressing and forceful. The busiest hours are 9-10 AM when people leave for work and 5-6 PM when people return, plus Saturdays. Saturday is the only free day during the week. Driving outside of Kathmandu can be more rewarding. However, the quality of the roads might be even worse. It is an experience to live!
Another new learning for me. That’s one of the reasons why I love traveling so much!
Saturday is the only not working day in Nepal. The working week is between Sunday and Friday. Yet, many shops (~80%) remain open on Saturday. So how can it impact you? Since only Saturday is off in the country (also for schools), the tourist attractions get very crowded on those days. Avoid, if possible, any sightseeing on Saturday. Instead, dedicate it to trekking, shopping, or emerging in the peace of Nepal.
#9 ENTRANCE FEE
When booking our BuddhaAir Mount Everest sightseeing flight, I noticed that the flight tickets vary between our family: there is a different cost for the Nepal and Indian citizens and other nationalities. The difference was very significant.
In Nepal, I learned that this difference applies to most of the places that require an entrance fee. Nepal’s key industry is tourism. As a result of it, expect entrance charges in many places. If you are from Nepal or India, the fee will be low. There might be additional discounts for other SAARC countries or China. Remember to carry all the time with you to the passport to prove your nationality. The good news is: the OCI card (Overseas Citizen of India), in many places, can help you with the same discount! Don’t leave it in the hotel, if you have one.
#10 SHOPPING – BARGAINING
I think I should start another series of my blog posts: Travel & Shopping! 🙂
Are you considering some shopping in Nepal? I am sure you do! Maybe a pashmina shawl, singing bowl, khukuri (the Gurkha knife), or Buddhist flags. Just like in many other Asian countries: don’t forget to bargain. Challenge the price as it might be increased, especially for the foreigners. Bargaining in Nepal doesn’t apply only to actual shopping. Negotiate also the price of your taxi ride or package tours. Good luck!
#11 TEMPERATURE IN WINTER
How is the weather in Nepal during the winter months? This item I researched before our travel. Main two reasons: we were traveling with our girls, and our winter clothes are in our home in Poland. We had to know what minimal we had to buy.
Luckily, we didn’t have to buy a lot. Why? We did not plan any climbing or trekking. The weather in the winter months in Kathmandu and its vicinity (e.g., Chandragiri, Nagarkot) is better than, for example, in Delhi. The temperatures you are used to will also play a role here. We traveled in the second part of December. The temperature during the days was 17-19’C, sunny. During the nights, the temperature was dropping to 5-7’C, mornings and evenings were more chilly. For me, it felt pleasant. Many summer days are like this in Poland. 🙂 Nights felt more like springtime. A light jacket and a shawl were enough! If you are coming from a warmer place, it might mean more winter to you!
#12 TEMPERATURE IN the HOTELS
Who would bother about the temperatures in the hotels? In Nepal, you should! This item I partially checked in advance before our travel.
Initially, we did not know which hotel to select. As a result, I compared many offers and read plenty of reviews. We decided to opt for the Kathmandu Marriott hotel, the best choice! When comparing other hotels, I noticed that not all the hotels had heated / AC rooms. So cross-check it in advance, especially by reading comments. In some hotels, you might receive a hot water bottle in your bed to keep you warm during the night. It might be a great experience. Since we traveled with our daughters, we preferred to skip that option. One more highlight: although your hotel room might have AC / heating, most probably, the rest of the hotel areas might not be so warm. For example, a hotel lounge or a breakfast area might be a bit more chilly, especially in the winter months. It is worth considering.
#13 OUTDOOR SWIMMING POOLS
I wish I have known it earlier! So at least my hopes would have been managed better in advance. 🙂
All outdoor swimming pools in Nepal are not heated. The temperature of the water is also not controlled. From October to April, the temperature at night is at the maximum of 14’c in Kathmandu. It can go down to, on average, 2’c. My rule during travel is one: swimming costume always travels with me. Just that in Nepal, my swimming costume enjoyed the warmth of my suitcase.
If you enjoy swimming in the cool water temperature, Nepal will be heaven for you. Outdoor swimming pools, very often, come with an incredible view. Just like this one, in the picture, in Nagarkot village, 32m away from Kathmandu. The Hotel Mystic Mountain has one of the best views by the pool I have ever seen in my life.
14# trekking – solar panel
I love to learn from my friends’ travel experiences. Before our travel to Nepal, I connected with another Polish soul – Magda – a mountain girl from the Tatras mountains. Explore her IG profile; it is impressive!
In the comments under one of her posts, Magda shared an excellent tip for trekking. It is universal and applies to any location, of course, including Nepal. If you plan any hiking, trekking, or climbing activities in the Himalayas, carry with you a solar panel. In Nepal, power cuts are very frequent. In the mountains, it might be even more challenging. For better efficiency, buy it with the original power bank. Magda suggests Goal Zero company. You can attach the panel directly to your backpack and charge it while walking.
#15 MONKEYS – FOOD
Last but not least! Especially important when visiting Swayambhunath Stupa.
When visiting any place where there are monkeys, and there are a lot of them in the Swayambhunath Stupa area, avoid carrying any food. Monkeys can try to take it away. And you might be risking not only your food but maybe also some other belongings. If possible, leave in the car, avoid during that visit, or eat before yourself. Sometimes, not sharing is caring too! 😉
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Have you traveled already to Nepal? If yes, what would you add to this list? Is there anything else that you were not ready for during your journey? If you haven’t traveled to Nepal yet, which suggestion surprised you the most? Or maybe something made you smile. 🙂
Moments that matter, no matter the tip.