Nepal

OVERVIEW
Usual business hours are from 9.00 am till 5.30 pm and offices generally close for lunch between 12.30 pm till 1.30 pm. Shops usually open till late even on public holidays. Saturday is the weekly holiday in Nepal where all banks and offices are closed. Most shopping areas are open even on Saturdays.

Nepal is a beautiful country and you can have a chance to see nature from very close. You do not see affluence but you will find people very humble, friendly and eager to know you. Even while trekking, you might be stopped by some villager in some remote area – offering a cup of refreshing “chai” before you go on your route. Whether you hike around cities or you go on a trek adventure, natural beauty will surely mesmerize you. These places will keep calling you back, again and again.

Whether you are visiting Kathmandu to visit to ‘hippy-trail’ of 70’s or you want to see Tiger and one-horned Rhinoceros in Chitwan National Park or the Himalayas, your visit will definitely prove to be a memorable experience. The country has gone past its turbulent period and democracy is firming up in this land of Gorkhas.

 

DESTINATION INFO
This information has been compiled for your reference in good faith but please use this only as a general guide. We advise you to check with relevant authorities with regard to the latest requirement for passport, visa, travel advisory, entry restrictions, health requirements, local currency etc. as these are subjected to change with without prior notice and our information given below may not be as updated.
 

Best time to go: Nepal mainly has two seasons – monsoon from June to September and rest of the year quite dry. May and early June can be quite warm in plains and Chitwan National Park (Park is closed every year during wet season). October to April is a good time to visit Nepal, whether on a cultural trip or for trekking. During December & January which is supposed to be their winter, it is generally cold during early and late hours. 

Visa: New Zealand passport holders need a Visa to enter Nepal. Visa can either be obtained prior to departure from New Zealand or on arrival as well. However, since it can take unusually long at times to get the Visa on arrival, it is advisable to get the Visa prior to your departure. Your passport needs to be valid for at least 6 months after your expected departure date from Nepal. Please check with Nepal Consulate for latest regulations. 

Currency: Nepal’s currency is called Rupee and the currency notes come in denomination of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000 Rupees. US Dollars are more acceptable by stores though you can change all major currencies at the hotel or at money changers. Always insist on a receipt when you change currencies as there are people illegally trading in foreign currencies. All major credit cards are accepted by Hotels and big stores but you will need Nepali Rupees is small shops and also while trekking away from big cities. 

Health: Nepal does not have any particular health risk but general hygienic conditions are not the same as in New Zealand. There are a few precautions recommended – avoid eating food exposed to natural elements, ensure that mineral water bottle is properly sealed when you buy it, cover arms and legs in the evening to avoid mosquito bites. Travellers planning for trekking in mountainous areas should be of good health and well prepared for high altitudes in rather basic conditions. Carry your general medication with you and consult your doctor well in advance to prepare for the trip. 

Food and drinks: Nepali food is heavily influenced by large neighbour India. In Kathmandu and surrounding plains, food available is mainly Indian – curries, vegetables, boiled rice and roti. Food in mountainous regions or generally on the northern trekking routes is mainly Tibetan. Food quality in Nepal is excellent but please avoid eating at roadside joints where hygienic conditions are below acceptable levels. Mineral water is recommended but please ensure that it’s properly sealed before you buy it. Popular beverages are tea (“chai”), lassi (made from curd and water) and Chhang (local beer). There is a huge variety of beers from India, Thailand and Singapore available in Nepal. 

Safety & security: Like in any other part of the world, a few precautions need to be taken to avoid any problems. Please do not leave your bags unattended at any times. Please use safe deposit in your hotel room or Reception to keep your money or valuables including passport. When you leave the room, it is recommended that you lock your suitcase. It is also recommended to carry a copy of your passport including the visa page. 

Clothing: You can dress up casually. Shorts and t-shirts are absolutely fine but revealing dresses should be avoided in public areas to attract less public attention. In Kathmandu, you may visit a temple where you will be required to cover your shoulders and knees. During winter months and in mountainous areas, it can get cold and you should carry woollens and jacket (for morning and evening hours). Please prepare yourself as per the region you are going to visit. Please take good walking shoes with non-slip sole as you will be required to walk frequently during your sightseeing programs and sometimes on uneven surface. Travellers going for trekking should be prepared accordingly. 

Language: Nepali is the official language of Nepal though most people can converse in English. People in villages and mountainous areas speak Nepali in a different accent. There may be a slight language problem interacting with local while trekking in mountains but the accompanying guide or Sherpa come in handy there. 

Gratuities: Tipping is not mandatory but it is highly appreciated by the people who serve you. Before you tip, please check if the service charge has been added. Some suggested guidelines could be : Rs 15-20 per piece of luggage on arrival or departure at Hotel; 8%-10% of the total bill for your lunch or dinner (provided Service Charge is not included). No tip required for taxi driver but you could give Rs 250 per half day each to your car driver as well as local guide. 

Airport tax: Generally your international air ticket should include airport tax on international departure. Domestic taxes are also included in the air tickets. 

Internet: Internet is common in hotel rooms and a lot of hotels also have internet facilities at their Reception or Business Centre for use by guests at a small fee. Cyber cafes are popular especially in Thamel area in Kathmandu or lake-side in Pokhara as these are more frequented by tourists. 

Telephone: Nepal has a dialling code of +977 from New Zealand. Telephone numbers of Hotels arranged by us will be supplied to you in your itinerary. While calling New Zealand from Nepal, you will need to dial +64… Calling Booths (or PCOs) are easily available and calling New Zealand is reasonably cheap; however calls made from Hotels are almost 10 times more expensive. You also have to pay a charge to the Hotel for collect calls as well. 

Time Difference: Nepal is 7h15m behind New Zealand from April to September and 6h15m from October to March. 

Photography: Taking photos of airports, government buildings and military establishments are prohibited. If you are taking photos of local ladies, please politely ask for prior permission. 

Electricity: Voltage supply in Nepal is 220 volts and 2-pin or 3-pin (round pins) are used in Nepal. Most Hotels have adapters available which you could borrow free of charge during your stay. You may have a problem using your equipment during trekking routes are adapters are not available in villages and remote areas – might be a good idea to carry one from home. Please visit this website for more information on plugs: http://kropla.com/electric2.htm

Postage: Sending letters and post-cards from Nepal is cheap but it can take 2-3 weeks before it’s delivered. Post offices and letter boxes are conveniently located in each city but the Concierge at Hotels keep stamps and they can post the letters/cards for you at no extra charge.

 

CITIES OF INTEREST

Kathmandu
Kathmandu is the capital & also largest city in Nepal and is populated with 1.5 million inhabitants in the Kathmandu Valley along the Bagmati River. The city is encircled by the Ring Road and most travellers head to the old part of the city, between the Vishnumati River and Kantipath, the main north-south road. Durbar Square, home to the old Royal Palace, lies between the river and Kantipath Ganga Path, the city’s busiest road. To its south is Freak Street, once the centre of hippy Kathmandu. Thamel, the new tourist epicentre, is about 20 minutes’ walk north of Durbar Square. Kathmandu is the hub of Nepal’s traditional culture and arts. This is the place for rest, relaxation and easy-day sightseeing of historic and artistic temples and monuments, and mountain views. Kathmandu is a fascinating portrayal of orthodox but vibrant Buddhist and Hindu traditions and well preserved architecture. The city will keep you entertained as long as you stay here.


Pokhara
Pokhara valley occupies the central location in Nepal and is dominated by the peaks of Annapurna range. If Kathmandu is the cultural hub of Nepal, Pokhara is its centre of adventure. Its unique setting may be judged from the fact that the town of Pokhara (91 3 metres), is only fifty kilometres from Annapurna 1 (8,091 metres), clearly seen from the valley. An enchanting city nestled in a tranquil valley; it is the starting point for many of Nepal’s most popular trekking and rafting routes. The atmosphere on the lake-side is an exciting one as backpackers crowd the numerous bars and restaurants exchanging views and recommendations on accommodation and things to see. Pokhara is a place of remarkable natural beauty. The serenity of Phewa Lake and the magnificence of the fish-tailed summit of Machhapuchhre (6,977 m) rising behind it create an ambience of peace and magic

Pokhara has many lakes, Phewa, Rupa and Begnas being the most famous ones while Khaste, Dipang and Mardi are some other smaller lakes situated further away. On a small island is a temple dedicated to Varahi, and in contrast to the gaiety of holiday makers, devotees go about their worship undisturbed by the goings-on in the water as well as occasional barbeques on the banks of the lake. Apart from the lakes, the floor of the valley is made up of a layer of gravel, cut into intricate terraces and deep canyons by various tributaries of the Seti River.

The tropical plain and low hills are the home of mainly Newars, Brahmans, Chhetris and other Hindu castes, while the temperate highlands are mainly inhabited by tribal Gurungs, hardworking farmers and valorous warriors who have earned worldwide fame as Gurkha soldiers. There are also two Tibetan settlements near Pokhara where one can see women weaving exquisite carpets using traditional designs and methods handed down to them for generations. Both these settlements are famous for traditional Tibetan handicrafts and souvenirs.


Chitwan National Park
Royal Chitwan National Park, the oldest national park in Nepal, is situated in the subtropical inner Terai lowlands of South-Central Nepal. The park was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1984 and it stands today as a successful testimony of nature conservation in South Asia. The park covers an area of 932 sq. km is situated in the subtropical inner Terai lowlands of southern central part of Nepal. Earlier, Chitwan valley was well known for big game and was an exclusive hunting reserve for the Rana Prime Ministers and their guests until 1950. In 1963, the area south of Rapti River was demarcated as a rhino sanctuary. In 1970, His late Majesty King Mahendra approved the creation of Royal Chitwan National Park.

The park consists of churia hills, ox-bow lakes, and flood plains of Rapti, Reu and Narayani rivers. The Chitwan valley is characterized by tropical to subtropical forest. 70% of park vegetation is predominantly Sal forest, a moist deciduous climax vegetation type of the Terai region. The grasslands form a diverse and complex community with over 50 species. The Sacchrum species, often called elephant-grass can reach 8 m in height.

There are more than 43 species of mammals in the park. The park is especially renowned for the protection of the endangered one-horned rhinoceros, tiger, gharial crocodile along with many other common species of wild animals. The estimated population of endangered species of animals such as gaur, wild elephant, four horned antelope, striped hyena, pangolin, Gangetic dolphin, monitor lizard and python etc. Some of the other animals found in the park are samber, chital, hog deer, barking deer, sloth bear, common leopard, ratel, palm civet, wild dog, langur, rhesus monkey, etc. More than 45 species of amphibians and reptiles occur in the park and some of which are marsh mugger crocodile, cobra, green pit viper and various species of frogs and tortoises.

There are over 450 species of birds in the park. Among the endangered birds found in the park are Bengal florican, giant hornbill, lesser florican, black stork and white stork, Few of the common birds seen are peafowl, red jungle fowl, and different species of egrets, herons, kingfishers, flycatchers and woodpeckers. The best time for bird watching is March and December.

The park is under the tropical monsoon climate with relatively high humidity. The winter, spring and monsoon are the three main seasons. The cool winter season occurs from October to February. The spring begins in March and is soon followed by summer that ends in early June. The Park closes annually for visitors from 01 June till 30 September.


Nagarkot
Nagarkot is a popular tourist resort in Nepal situated at an altitude of 2175m above sea level. It is located at the eastern periphery of the Kathmandu Valley. After an hour long exciting and winding drive you will be above to feel the cool breeze of air blowing endlessly into your face, and see the widest range of Himalayas including Mount Everest with your bare eyes from here on a clear day. It is also one of the best spots to visit for the most stunning views sunrise and sunset. Nagarkot is an ideal getaway for those longing for some really refreshing environment, to be free from hectic busy schedules in the crowded Kathmandu. Nagarkot provides a scenic beauty and divine peace far from heat, dust, smoke and city’s hustle bustle. Nagarkot is also an ideal place to start small trekking trips to Sankhu, Changu Narayan, Dhulikhel, Sundarijal, Nala, etc.

The best month to visit Nagarkot is from October to April so that you can have a clear view of the Himalayan Peaks. Nagarkot is much colder than in Kathmandu, so it is recommended to bring warm clothes such as sweaters, pullovers, hi neck shirts, woollen clothes, etc.
 

Dhulikhel
Dhulikhel is located 30 km east of Kathmandu and is popular for its natural scenic beauty and ancient traditions. Dhulikhel once an important trade route between Tibet and Nepal has the old buildings, cobbled streets and ancient temples. Dhulikhel offers the travellers the superb views of the snow-capped mountain ranges and many places for day hikes. The hike would be a time to witness the country side and the unique culture. The travellers can also visit the old part of the town and get to see the old structures and several temples. One can also take a day trip to Tibet border that is popular for hot springs. There are plenty of short hikes to undertake but one of the best is the pleasant half-hour uphill from Dhulikhel to the telecommunication tower. Walk through a lush forest echoing with the chattering of racquet tailed drongos and turtle doves to come to a temple dedicated to Kali. If you can manage to wake up early and get up there, it is a sunrise you will remember for years.

Dhulikhel still has several ancient temples, each with an interesting story related to how they came into being and a few Buddhist Stupas in memory of the old days.


Lhasa
Let Lhasa transport you to another world. Lhasa is arguably one of the most dreamt-about cities in the world mainly due to the aura of mysticism and its impressive heritage of over a thousand years of cultural and spiritual history. It is the centre of Tibet’s politics, economy and culture. The splendour and grandeur of the Potala Palace in Lhasa remains a world-famous symbol of amalgamation of amazing architecture, religion and politics in this often turbulent region. Often described as the heart and soul of Tibet, the capital of this province is a magnet for monks, nomads and now travellers have the opportunity to soak up the magical atmosphere. Explore the religious sites of the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and Drepung Monastery, seek out the Kyi-chu valley scenery and take your time to wander the Barkhor Circuit.

Lhasa is at a high altitude and proper preparation needs to be done prior to start of a trip in Tibet. March to October is generally a good time to visit but even then, warm clothes can be required during early and late hours. To visit Tibet, you need to have a Permit which can be sponsored and organized by our local operators and as per the government regulations, your entire stay has to be pre-booked and each day is filled with some pre-arranged activity.

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