Complete Guide for your Nepal Visit
Are you planning to visit Nepal but have no idea where to start from?
Here is a complete guide for your best experience in Nepal. Starting from Visa Processing and Packing to the best destinations for shopping and food to your departure, we have everything you need to know to prepare yourself for the ride.
Like most of the other countries, all tourists require to get a visa before entering Nepal. The visas are arrival both at the border crossings and on the arrival at the airport. You can also apply for visas online 15 days prior to your visit. You will get six months travel period after the approval of tourist visa.
Ensure you have 6 months period left in your passport and you have passport-sized photos with you. The cost is around US $30, $50 and $125 for 15 days, 30 days and 90 days single entry visa.
The steps you need to follow for the visa processing are:
•Fill in the Nepal immigration arrival card.
•Fill in ‘Tourist Visa’ online form. You can fill it 15 days prior to your arrival or fill it using the kiosk machines upon your arrival at the airport.
•Make payment at the counter as per your visa requirement.
•Get the receipt and keep it safe.
•Pass through the passport control.
You can also extend your visa easily for which you will need to fill up the online visa extension form on the Nepal Immigration website and visit the Immigration Office with the copy of your confirmation along with your passport sized photos, the original and a copy of your passport. You’ll be asked to take a quick interview and then pay for the extension period as required. The fees is around US $40 for 15 days extension.
Pack only necessary items and try to limit stuffs to travel size as much as possible. You can leave heavy books, leather items (since it is not allowed in most of the religious sites), unnecessary electronics and expensive jewelries, tight or revealing clothes. You can buy or rent sleeping bags, wool hats and sweaters, hiking sticks other gears easily in Thamel.
Meanwhile, do not forget to pack your necessary medicines and prescriptions, comfortable clothes and shoes, portable charger, necessary documents and some passport sized photos.
Airport and Rules
•Customs at arrival
There are two channels –Red and Green, for custom clearance. Passengers not having any dutiable items can proceed through Green channel, however, if you are in doubt about the dutiable and non-dutiable goods, proceed to the red channel. Passengers must declare the foreign currency if they are carrying more than US $5000.
Tribhuvan International Airport is well equipped facilities such as CIP (Commercially Important Person) lounge, Duty Free Shop, VIP Lounge, Airport Restaurant, Money Exchange Counter and Refund Counter on the first floor.
The other facilities include Baggage Wrapping Service, Post Office, Souvenir Shop, HAN (Hotel Association of Nepal) Counter, Currency Exchange, Tourist Information Centre, Airlines Check-in Counter and Snacks, Tea, Coffee and confectionaries in the ground floor. The airport is also fully-equipped with lifts, escalator, special washrooms and other facilities for handicapped persons.
For further information on tariffs and charges please visit: http://www.customs.gov.np/en/tv_rates.html
Crossing Land Borders
The other way to enter Nepal besides air is the Land Borders. You need to apply for visa online before your arrival if you are the citizens of Afghanistan, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iraq, Liberia, Nigeria, Palestine, Somalia, Swaziland, Syria, and Zimbabwe. Other nationalities can apply for visa on arrival by filling out forms and handing out some passport sized photos. For border-crossing, you will need to visit the Immigration Office with a photocopy of your passport and visa. You will need to pay certain fees as per your visa requirements. In most of the cases, Indians do not require to apply for visa. The fees is payable in US dollars and Indian rupees.
Travelling a new land comes with both fun experience and risks. You can travel with or without travel insurance but many travel agencies, hiking groups and even adventure sport requires a mandatory travel insurance. Make sure your travel insurance covers trip cancellation, travel medical insurance, emergency medical evacuation, flight accident, luggage lost and other losses incurred while traveling. World Nomads, Travel Guard, Tugo, BMC, 1Cover Travel Insurance & Insure and Go are some of the well-known agencies for travel insurance.
Get a Sim Card
It is always better to get a local sim card, especially if you are visiting Nepal where wifi is comparatively slower and most of the times not available. You can get sim card from Ncell, NTC and Smart whichever has the best offer. However, Ncell is mostly preferred by travelers for its wider coverage.
For Ncell, you can get a sim for Rs.99 to Rs.150 depending upon the type of sim you ask for, with starter credit facilities. You will need to provide one passport-sized photo and your physical passport for copying and fill out the form for sim card registration. To recharge, you can buy recharge cards worth Rs.50 to Rs. 1000 at local vendors or top-up online.
You can buy prepaid sim cards ranging from Rs. 500 to Rs. 2110 including different data and call package. You can also apply for free NTC sim card at the airport which comes without credit facility.
You can buy the sim card at airport or any local sim-card vendors.
Cash and Money Exchange
You can exchange your money at the airport or around the tourist areas where you can easily find numbers of money exchange counters. You can only carry maximum US $3000. However, you can use VISA cards and ATMs to withdraw more.
DO not expect ATM machines and facilities everywhere. Make sure you have some change in your pocket since most of the shops and vendors only accept cash and specifically Nepalese rupees.
You must also know that taking Nepalese currency out of Nepal is illegal so make sure you exchange the Nepalese rupees back to your currency while you are leaving.
Hiking or Trekking requirements
•Best time and cost
You can buy packages offered by hiking and trekking agencies according to your budget and also get discounts for group package. In case you want to go solo or explore personally, make sure you research properly about the best time for visit and the estimated cost. Also check out the weather and availability of hotels and transportation facilities beforehand.
You can shop for the hiking and trekking equipment in Thamel. Prepare a list of things to avoid confusion. The weather in the base camps and trekking routes can be harsh despite the best knowledge of the weather, so be prepared before you head for it. Buy warm gloves, socks, bags, water bottles, caps, goggles, thermals and jackets.
•Permit and Guides
You will need trekking permit to hike in Nepal. If you are going through travel agencies or with guides, they will do in your behalf but if you are on your own, you need to register at the Nepal Tourism Office. Besides, you might need to get special permits for remote treks like Mustang and Dolpa. Also, do not trust everyone and avoid fake tourist guides.
Plan where you are going to stay. There are plenty hotels, home stays, lodges and guest houses in Nepal. It is safe to book hotels online prior your arrival and ask them to pick you up from the airport. However, you can book hotels from the airport or check out some of the options by yourself in Thamel and surrounding areas.
If you are planning to travel out of the city, make sure you learn about the availability of hotels before leaving. Sometimes, the hotels remain closed due to heavy snowfall or other problems.
Transportation and Traffic
Negotiate the fare before you get into the taxi. If you’re taking a taxi from airport, you can go for prepaid taxi service on the left as you step out of the arrival gate. If you have already booked the hotel, negotiate with them for the service.
Generally, you can ask for the service to the hotel you’re staying at for city tour. Besides, you can take a taxi or local vehicles like Bus, Micro-bus, Tempo and Rick-saw. You can also use apps like Tootle and Pathao to book taxis or bike-ride online.
If you are planning to go on cycling or hire bike/cars, the traffic in Nepal is left-handed.
If you have visited Nepal before, you are well aware about the pollution in the capital of the country. Always wear a mask and carry your own water bottles and hand sanitizer. Also, the weather may not follow the forecast and change dramatically, especially in the hilly and Himalayan regions, so dress appropriately and carry warm clothes with you. Altitude sickness is not a joke, if you are planning to go up-hills. Carry basic medicines for headache, cold, vomiting, pain-killers, glucose and important medicines if you have prescription.
Carry a power bank and power adapters with you if you are going for a hike or travelling to remote areas. While the power cuts have drastically lessened compared to how less one could see the bulbs glow in Kathmandu, the problem may still exist in the rural areas of the country. Despite, you may be charged extra money to charge your phone and camera batteries in some places.
The Dos and Don’ts
There are certain rules related to social etiquettes that you must follow in Nepal. Start with learning few Nepali words like Namaste. Not everybody you meet knows English but they try to understand and communicate as much as they can. Use simple English and avoid larger terms like idioms and heavy words. Avoid using left hands for eating, giving or taking something.
Read the notice boards carefully, around the places you visit and ask for help with the nearby authority if you do not understand anything. Also take off your shoes before entering homes, temples and religious sites. For more dos and don’ts read the article: Things to-do and not-to-do in Nepal
Your Nepal tour won’t be complete without the food hunt. While you can easily order all-time meals in the hotel you are staying at, most people prefer to eat outside… reason being hotels charge double the price for the same meal you can get at any local restaurants and also to try the local snacks and beverages that may not be available in the hotel.
Do not stick with the famous tourist spots only. Roam around on your own or with guide and learn more about the life and culture of people in the area. Hunt down the popular local cuisines and also carry dried fruits, Chhurpi and Nepali Teas with you.
Thamel can be the one-stop for everything you need to buy from the travel equipment and clothes to buying souvenirs to take with you. The other popular shopping destinations around the valley are Bhaktapur, Ason Bazaar, Lalitpur, Kathmandu (Basantapur), Swoyambhu and Boudha.
If you are buying in local market like Bhrikuti Mandap and Ason bazaar, learn some bargaining skills. Also, compare the prices at different stores before settling.
Make sure you haven’t missed anything in the hotel room. Get to the airport at least 60 minutes earlier if you are not checking luggage and 90 minutes earlier if you are checking luggage. For International flights, we suggest you to be there at least 2 hours before the flight. Once your baggage have been checked, you must fill in the embarkation card in immigration area before you proceed to the sterile zone of the departure hall.
While stuffing little gifts like singing bowl, pashmina and handicrafts into your baggage is easy, you can also ship your goods to your home safely and without any hassle. Be careful not to include any coins, Nepali currency or drug in your bag. You can ship wooden frames, Thangka paintings, antique decorations and jewelries without any damage. The more you ship the cheaper the cost gets so do not worry about it. There are plenty of Nepali courier services and some international names like DHL and FedEx. Do not forget to write out an itinerary of what you are shipping.
Enjoy your Nepal visit and have the best experience.