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Ultimate backpacking guide while traveling to Nepal

The idea of backpacking is to travel cheaply and Nepal is undoubtedly one of the cheapest destinations in the world. Besides being a cheap country to travel which is located between two giant nations; India and China, Nepal is small yet offers diversified travel destinations and most important of all, is safe for the solo travelers and even women.

Backpacking in Nepal is one of the simplistic yet budget travel methods to experience touristic life and understand the culture, people and lifestyle of the country. So, what’s stopping you from backpacking to Nepal? Umm… We can understand! No proper and authentic information about backpacking, right? And that’s why we are here with. This article is developed for this very purpose and we’re here to provide you with all the information you need before backing to Nepal.

So let’s get started.

nepali kids doing namaste

Visa Provision in Nepal

First and foremost, it is important to know about the visa system and get it before embarking on a journey to Nepal. But the visa provision is very simple here.

For most nationalities, the government of Nepal without any hassle easily issues the visa on arrival. One has to simply fill up the visa application form at his/her arrival in Tribhuvan International Airport, pay the visa fee, submit the receipt to the counter of immigration along with your visa form and passport and then obtain a visa.

In the case of the high tourist season, you can expect more tourists staying up in a long queue. Or else, everything should be fine. During the peak tourist season, one can also choose to apply for a visa via Nepalese diplomatic missions positioned in their respective countries. If one chose to do so, one has to apply beforehand before his arrival in Nepal.

Here’s the online visa application to be filled by the travelers to get the visa: http://online.nepalimmigration.gov.np/tourist-visa

Nepal has a provision of gratis visas to SAARC citizens (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Maldives) except for Afghanistan up to 30 days if traveling for the first time in Nepal. Afghanistan nationals can receive a gratis visa upon recommendation made by the department of immigration. Similarly, NRN (Non-residential Nepalese) cardholders, children below 10 years and Chinese citizens are issued Gratis Visas as well.

All kinds of the visas obtained during the entry and exit points are “Tourist Visas” including that of Gratis Visa.

Here are visa fees as per the number of stays in Nepal:

15 days = $ 25 (USD)

30 days = $ 40 (USD)

90 days = $ 100 (USD)

It is important to have some cash (small changes) with you while making payment despite the provision of payment through other modes.

Visa Extension

Visa extension can be made for a maximum length of 150 days (5 months) in a calendar year. First of all, one has to fill up the visa extension application form, which is the same as the one to be filled during the visa application during the arrival. The only difference is to mark on the “extension”.

Here’s the cost of visa extension as per the number of days to be extended:

15 days or less= $ 30 (USD)

After 15 days or more, $ 2 (USD) per day

30 days = $ 50 (USD)

Culture of Nepal

Languages of Nepal

Before boarding on a flight to Nepal, knowing the cultural aspects of the country is imperative. “Nepali” is the official language of Nepal. But this doesn’t limit Nepal in terms of language. There are more than 123 spoken languages in Nepal. “Namaste” is one of the most commonly used terms in Nepal, which literally means “salutation to you” with respect.

Learn about more commonly used phrases: Basic Nepali Words And Phrases For Travelers To Help You Get Around

nepali dress
Image Source: Pinterest

Foods of Nepal

Dal Bhat Tarkari (Lentil, Steamed Rice and Curry) is the most popularly eaten food, which can also be considered as the national food of Nepal.

Newari Khaja Set (One of the ethnic groups’ traditional food), Momo (dumplings served with spicy soup), Chowmein and Thukpa (Noodle soup) are some of the other important foods in Nepal.

Learn about more foods of Nepal: 35 Traditional Nepalese Food and Drink That You Should Not Miss

Dress and Sensitivity

As a foreigner, you are expected to maintain decency in terms of clothing. While going to temples and stupas, you are supposed to cover your knees and shoulders. Nepalese people are sensitive in many instances. So you should be careful enough not to offend them while you are backpacking in Nepal.

Public display of affection is considered to be offensive in Nepal. Instead, replace your affection with “Namaste” which is regarded respectful and the Nepalese will be happy with your gesture.

More things to know about Nepal: Things to Know about Nepal

Currency of Nepal

A Nepalese rupee, which is written as NRs. in abbreviation, is the official currency of Nepal. Here are the estimated conversion rates of Nepalese rupees in widely accepted currencies of the world.

$ 1 (USD) = NRs. 100

£ 1 (Pound) = NRs. 140

¥ 1 (Yuan)= NRs. 16

₹ 1 (INR) = NRs. 1.6

€ (Euro) = NRs. 120

$ 1 (AUD) = NRs. 80

PS: the conversion rate is subject to change slightly on a daily basis. It’s just an estimated rate. For the official conversion and changes in exchange rate, please follow Nepal Rastra Bank’s official site.

1 dollar to nepali rupees
Image Source: The Himalayan Times

ATM Cards

There are plenty of ATM machines around the Kathmandu valley and Pokhara region. Biratnagar, Dharan, Janakpur, Chitwan, Birgunj, Nepalgunj, and Lumbini are the other major cities of Nepal which have a considerable number of ATMs. However, these machines are scarcely built in other places in Nepal. In the remote and village areas of Nepal, there is no provision of ATMs. So it is important to be prepared by yourself and have enough backup money while traveling to remote places. But the ATMs charge you an international fee of NRs. 500 while withdrawing money from International ATM Card.

In Kathmandu, Pokhara and some other major cities of Nepal, there are shopping centers, hotels, travel companies, and restaurants, which accept credit cards while making payments.

SIM Cards in Nepal

SIM Cards are easily available at the airport and also in other places of Kathmandu, Pokhara or any places of Nepal. Normally, the cost of SIM Cards starts from NRs. 100 ($ 1) and the price increases depending on the top-up you need in your SIM card.

Ncell and NTC are two of the most popularly known telecommunication companies in Nepal with wide connectivity over the country. You can opt to use any one of them. Both of these SIM cards are prepaid unless chose to go for postpaid. This means you have to keep on topping up your phone with recharge cards which you can get in almost every shops in the country. The instructions on how to top up are included behind the recharge cards.

Before getting a valid SIM card, you will be required to submit a filled up application form requesting for the issuance of SIM card, a copy of your passport and a passport sized photograph.

Be careful with the usages of the Internet plan. If you don’t use the specified Internet data plan, you’ll have to pay more. Know the procedures of getting Internet data plans so that it’ll be easier for you during your stay in Nepal.

Image Source: Nepal Cabs

Transportation in Nepal

The public transportation system is very cheap in Nepal but the cost of taxis and any other rented vehicles are considerably higher. In Kathmandu, the bus fare starts from NRs. 15 as minimum price and is less than NRs. 30 in most of the places. If the end destinations are far, it might be a bit more than that but is never more than NRs. 50 inside Kathmandu Valley. Similarly, the bus fare is slightly more in Pokhara. It’s because Pokhara has better-conditioned vehicles than in Kathmandu. Less crowded as well.

If a taxi driver sees a foreigner, you are sure to be asked more. Not the same in the case of everyone. There are kind people as well. But it’s best to bargain with them while commuting and also it’s best if you keep the information in the first place. Who knows? Maybe your bargain works. This will help you prevent yourself from being cheated on and also makes you prepared.

Normally the price of taxi inside Kathmandu is around $5 (one way) centered from Thamel. Bhaktapur is way too far and so costs more than above-mentioned price.

Also, there’s a mobile app called “Sarathi Cab” through which you can travel cheaply, reliably and is trustworthy as well. Similarly, you can also choose to travel on a motorbike by the use of mobile applications: “Tootle” and “Pathao”. They are also cheap and reliable.

You can also choose to ride on a rented motorbike. Motorbikes can be easily rented in Thamel areas and also in Pokhara. It can be a very good option to explore the city. But be aware of getting into an accident. Also, make sure you are carrying an international driving license and all the necessary documents provided by the rental people.

Bicycling can be another great idea, especially in Pokhara. Kathmandu is more crowded and polluted as well. Amongst all these options, you can choose whichever suits you the best. 😊

Costs of bus tickets in Nepal:

Kathmandu to Pokhara: NRs. 500 (for a normal microbus)

Kathmandu to Pokhara: NRs. 1000 to 1500 (Tourist Bus)

Kathmandu to Bandipur: NRs. 400

Kathmandu to Chitwan: NRs. 800 (Tourist Bus)

Getting Budget Hotels in Nepal

During your stay in Kathmandu, Thamel, Paknajol and Freak Street are the places to go for. There are plenty of options to choose from. One can get the budget hostels for as less as NRs. 300 to 500 ($3 to $5) per person per night. Hotels with private rooms will charge you more.

In Pokhara, Lakeside area is fully stationed with budget hotels and hostels. The cheaper hotels have now moved to a happy village, which is situated on the northwestern side of Pokhara. Similarly, you can find cheaper hotels and hostels with little more hunting and efforts. Surfing the Internet is the first step and then you can go door-door asking people about the room prices. Also, you can find the low-end hotel rooms in Lakeside, which costs you around $10 per room per night.

If you are trekking in Nepal, the cost of your stay is around $1-$2 per night. In the higher altitudes, the price might be slightly higher.

Staying in Lumbini and Chitwan will be way higher than you expect if you choose to travel booking a tour package to these places. On the other hand, if you wish to travel via local bus and search budget hotels, you can easily reduce the cost with ease. You can easily get the budget hotels in those places. Either you can book them earlier or roam around to find the ones that best suit your budget range.

Best season to backpack in Nepal

Normally, the backpackers are told to travel Nepal during the time of spring and autumn. However, Nepal has way too many things to offer. The reason why most people recommend backpacking to Nepal during the spring season (which falls on the month of March to May) is primarily because of blooming flowers, pleasant weather and clear skies. Autumn season that falls between September to November witnesses clear skies letting the mountain vistas to open up. It’s true but the remaining seasons; summer and monsoon (June to August) and winter (December to February) have diverse options to offer as well. Traveling to the plain Terai regions of Nepal during that time gives a different feel, which other people are missing out. Also, trekking to rain shadowed areas; Manang, Mustang, and Dolpa can be a decent option to choose during those times.

So we stress on the fact that Nepal welcomes its travelers all year around and not just for two seasons (Spring and Autumn).

Further reading: Best Time to Visit Nepal

What to pack for your trip to Nepal?

The things you need to pack for your backpacking trip to Nepal depends on what kind of travel is it going to be. If you are here for tours around the places with the intention of staying in hotels/hostels, you don’t need to bring much. If you are planning to trek to off beaten trails, you will need to bring a lot of stuff. Here is the list of things you need to bring if you are planning to go on a trek in Nepal:

  • Tents
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Waterproof jacket/pant
  • Gloves
  • Diaries
  • Dairy
  • Photocopies of your passport
  • Passport sized photographs
  • Trekking Poles
  • Woolen Caps
  • Thermals
  • Down Jacket
  • Summer hat
  • Sunglass
  • Trekking shoes
  • Sandals
  • Trekking bag
  • Sunscreen cream
  • Headlight
  • Power bank
  • Camera with extra batteries

Budget Visit to Heritage Sites in Kathmandu

One of the best ways of being budget-friendly while visiting to the heritage sites in Kathmandu valley or within Nepal is to SHARE. Sharing a taxi ride is the best option to considerably decrease the transportation cost.

Durbar Squares world heritage sites of Nepal

Share a taxi ride to Changu Narayan and then visit Bhaktapur Durbar Square on the same day. If you don’t want to get inside the Durbar Squares, you can roam outside and you don’t need to pay for the entrance fees. For instance, taking a walk around three directions of Patan Durbar Square i.e. Eastern, Southern and Western part doesn’t require you to get a ticket. You can choose that. Or there are cafes around the square, which offer a rooftop view of those places.

Pashupatinath aarti (evening musical session) takes place every day after 7 PM and you don’t need to pay for entrance fee during that time. You can opt to go there after 7 PM and roam around the temple. As Bouddhanath stupa and Pashupatinath temple are nearby, you can visit both of them in one go.

Here’s the list of UNESCO heritage sites and the entrance fee you are supposed to pay during the visit there:

S.N. Sites Entrance Fee for SAARC nationals Entrance fee for Foreigners
1. Pashupatinath temple $ 10 (Free for Indian nationals) $ 10
2. Boudhanath Stupa $ 1 $ 4
3. Swayambhunath Stupa $ 0.5 $ 2
4. Kathmandu Durbar Square $ 1.5 $ 10
5. Bhaktapur Durbar Square $ 5 $ 15
6. Patan Durbar Square $ 2.5 $ 10
7. Changu Narayan Temple $ 1 $ 3

Further reading: Top 10 things to do in Kathmandu

Budget Eating for Backpackers in Nepal

Famous and Traditional Nepali foods

Eating at local restaurants means spending less money. But in the name of saving money, don’t head to the streets of Thamel or any other places and eat street foods, which are normally unhealthy and unhygienic. However, you have to avoid eating at the fancy tourist restaurants charging you VAT and service charge.

There are plenty of local restaurants that serve freshly cooked foods at a cheaper price. Normally vegetarian foods are cheaper than the meat products. A bottle of beer costs you somewhere between NRs. 300 to 500.

Here’s the sample budget breakdown of foods in Nepal;

A plate of Dal-Bhat: NRs. 200 (if you eat meat, it’s slightly more; about Nrs. 100 or so)

A plate of momo: NRs. 150

A bottle of beer: NRs. 300 to 500

Budget trekking for backpackers in Nepal

Source: “tourist trekking along the yak trail in Upper Dolpo” by Great Himalaya Trails – Under Creative Commons License

Trekking is one of the best ways to see the mountains closer. If done carefully, trekking can be pretty cheap than you expected it to be. Here are some of the tips to be taken care of while trekking:

  • Trek without a guide. If you take a guide with you, you’ll have to pay him. Without a guide, your cost of the trek will be reduced considerably. But if it’s your first time trekking, it is highly recommended that you take one. There are a lot of cases in which travelers have been missed.
  • Don’t book your trek from a trekking company. It might sound cheaper to book your trekking package from a company but in reality, it’s not. Getting TIMS card and paying national park fees on your own means lesser money spent.
  • Get travel insurance. During the trek, if you’re troubled and need to be rescued you have to pay thousands of dollars. But if you have travel insurance, the insurance company will get you covered. So getting travel insurance is a must.

Further reading: 20 thrilling adventurous activities to do in Nepal

Festivals in Nepal

rato macchindranath jatra

In Nepal, there are more festivals than the total days in a calendar year. You might be surprised but that’s the truth! People from diverse religion, culture, ethnicity and geographical backgrounds have different festivals on their own and so the number of festivals outnumbers 365 days in a year.

Further reading: Festivals of Nepal

What things interest you? Aren’t you excited to backpack in Nepal? Plus, Nepal is celebrating Visit Nepal 2020! Nepal welcomes all the travelers the whole year around! Pack your bags and leave for Nepal asap!

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