Five Things First Time Travellers To Nepal Should Know
- You can use three different currencies while in Nepal. Besides the Nepalese rupee, the US Dollar and Indian rupee are accepted. However, the Indian 500 rupee and 1000 rupee notes are illegal to use in Nepal.
- Don't drink the tap water. Stick to bottled water and use the water refill stations around town. Most hotels will provide you with water, or you can buy bottles from local vendors. If you're planning on trekking, you'll need to treat your water with purification tablets.
- Bring your own toilet paper. While your hotel will have toilet paper, if you're using public toilets, you won't find any in the stalls. Be on the safe side and keep some in your bag throughout your trip.
- The internet is slow. In fact, Nepal is the second slowest country in the world for internet speed. You won't find any WiFi hotspots working either, so plan ahead and enjoy the disconnect.
- Power outages are a regular thing. Luckily, they are scheduled ahead of time (there's even an app), but occasionally they happen without notice. Try to keep your gear charged as much as possible.
Best Time To Visit Nepal
The best time to visit Nepal for trekking is in autumn. From September to November, the mountains are at their peak visibility, the weather is pleasant, and there is little chance of rain. It's also a great time of year to experience Nepalese culture as two major festivals, Dashain and Tihaar, happen during this period.
The only downside is that the perfect hiking weather means it's peak tourist season. Expect to find higher hotel rates, expensive flights and busy trails.
February to April is another popular time to visit Nepal. The weather is warm, the days are longer, and the Rhododendrons are in bloom. If you're trekking, you won't be able to see the mountains from lower elevations due to haze, but it's possible to hike above it.
If you aren't planning on hiking while in Nepal, the monsoon season shouldn't be ruled out. From June to September, the landscape is lush, and fresh fruit and vegetables are abundant. The lack of tourists means you'll have the country's sights all to yourself and you'll save big on room rates and airfare.
Kathmandu is the capital and largest city in Nepal. For hundreds of years, it was one of the three royal cities and is full of historical buildings and artefacts.
Despite its most famous site and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Durbar Square, being damaged in the 2015 earthquake, there is still plenty to see.
Make sure you stop at the Swayambhunath temple and visit the remains the Golden Temple.
Located on the banks of Lake Phewa, Pokhara is one of Nepal's most scenic cities. It's surrounded by some of the tallest mountains in the world and is the gateway to the Himalayas.
Spend your days trekking through the Annapurna region, paragliding off the highest peaks or paddle boating on the calm lake water.
Lumbini is the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha and an important site for Buddhist pilgrims. The city is a must-visit for history buffs and is full of some of Nepal's most important archaeological treasures.
Visit the many monasteries, explore its beautiful gardens and learn about its past at the Lumbini Museum.
Top Attractions in Nepal
Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to an abundance of wildlife. Inside its 932 square kilometres, you'll find over 500 species of birds and rare animals like the Bengal tiger, leopards, elephants and sloth bears.
The best time to visit the national park is from January to March. The tall phanta grass is cut down by villagers, making it easier to spot the park's most elusive animals.
If you want to try your luck at spotting a tiger, plan your visit for April or May. During this dry season, the tigers are often seen drinking at the watering holes and rivers.
One of the most popular trekking regions in Nepal is the Annapurna mountain range. Located near the city of Pokhara, there are three main routes to choose from.
If you have the time, the Annapurna Circuit is the most popular and takes 21 days to complete. For travellers with only a few days to spare, you can hike to the Annapurna Sanctuary or Muktinath.
The region is also a great option for newbie trekkers. The paths are all well-maintained, and there is good infrastructure on the routes with plenty of lodging options along the way. Just be sure to pack good hiking boots and break them in before you start your trek.
Everest Base Camp Trek
Nepal is home to the highest mountain on Earth, Mount Everest. Standing at 8,848 metres high, many hikers dream of reaching its icy summit.
But if you don't have time or endurance, hiking to the Everest Base Camp is the next best thing. You'll be able to see the mountain and beautiful panoramas from the various viewpoints - just be sure to wake up early before the clouds start rolling in.
If you want to save money, hire your guide in Kathmandu or Lukla. It's way more expensive to book from your home country, and you'll be able to make sure you're supporting the locals and not large corporations.
Located 7km outside of Kathmandu is one of the largest stupas in the world. Dating back to the 6th century, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Boudhanath Stupa is a must-visit.
It's considered one of the holiest Buddhist sites in the country and is a symbol of enlightenment. The stupa's five elements of earth, water, fire, air, and sphere represent the attributes of the Buddhas.
Despite being damaged in the 2015 earthquake, it's still in good condition and open to the public. To get to the stupa, you can either take a taxi for NPR 400 or the local bus for NPR 25.
Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple)
Legend has it that a lotus cut from the valley turned into Swayambhunath, earning it the name "self-created". Built 2,000 years ago by Manadev, the first Licchavi king, it's the second most important shrine in the Kathmandu Valley.
Today, it's known for its troop of resident monkeys. These furry creatures are considered holy and many people stop to feed them.
At the top of 365 stairs, you'll find the main complex surrounded by many small shrines and temples. While the 2015 earthquake did cause damage, the majority of the building survived.
Besides its historical importance, Swayambhunath also features an impressive panoramic view of the valley below.
Major International Airports in Nepal
- Tribhuvan International Airport