Nepal is a small, landlocked country, 800km long and 200km wide making a total land area of 147,181 sq. km. The landscape soars from just 150m above sea level to 8848m at the tip of Mt. Everest. Nepal covers only 0.1% of the world's surface area but is home to 8% of the world's species of birds, including 72 critically endangered species.
Geographically, Nepal can be divided into three regions:
1. Himalayan (snow peaks) Region
2. Hilly (mountain) Region
3. Tarai (plain) Region
Quick View of Nepal
• Capital Kathmandu
• Literacy rate 48.6%
• Life expectancy 62 years
• Population 29.5 million
• 10 of the worlds 14 tallest mountains
• 2% of all the flowering plants in the world.
• 8% of the world's population of birds (more than 848 species)
• 4% of mammals on earth.
• Electricity 220-240 Volts, 50 Hz
Top Picks for Nepal
1. Pokhara: Hang out by Phewa Tal and gaze across the lake towards the Annapurnas
2. Annapurna Circuit: Hit the Apple Pie Trail on Nepal's most popular trek, or just enjoy short hikes from Jomsom
3. Tansen: Tour ancient temples, visit traditional villages and hike to hilltops with Himalayan views
4. Lumbini: Meditate on the nature of existence amidst a sea of monasteries at the birthplace of the Buddha
5. Bandipur: Soak up the medieval atmosphere and the views in this living museum of Newari architecture
6. Chitwan National Park: Track tigers and rhinos on elephant-back at Nepal's most famous nature reserve
7. Langtang National Park: Get to the mountains quickly on the nearest trek to Kathmandu
8. Kathmandu: Immerse yourself in one of world's most fascinating and tourist-friendly cities
9. Rafting & Canyoning: Raft down the Bhote Kosi River or abseil down a thundering waterfall for the ultimate white-water rush
10. Mountain Flights: Hitch a ride into the heavens, so close you can almost touch the Himalaya
11. Everest Region: Take it slowly up the classic trek to Everest Base Camp and the gorgeous Gokyo Valley
12. Patan: Prepare for temple overload, with some of the finest Newari architecture in Nepal
13. Bhaktapur: Stroll along traffic-free backstreets and witness the unchanging rituals of Newari life
14. Janakpur: Join the pilgrims to this ancient Hindu centre, scene of the famous Hindu epic the Ramayana
15. Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve: Escape to this water world of thatched villages and rice paddies where bird species outnumber tourists 400:1
(source: lonelyplanet guidebook)
The climate of Nepal can be broadly divided into two seasons: The dry season runs from October to May and the wet (monsoon) season runs from June to September. Because of the varied topography, the weather in Nepal can vary from one region to another. As a general rule, temperatures fall and rainfall decreases the higher up we go. The most popular season to visit Nepal is the dry season i.e. October to May, with October and November recognized as having the best weather for trekking; the landscape is green and lush from the recent monsoon rains, the air is crisp and clean and the views of the Himalaya are crystal clear. During this season the nights are cold in the mountains, but the bright sun makes for pleasant daytime temperatures. At higher altitudes temperatures range from about 20 degree Centigrade down to -0 degree Centigrade at night. By early December winter is starting to creep in and the cold can be bitter and dangerous at high altitudes and the trails are often blocked by snow.
The pre monsoon period from May to early June is very hot and humid with temperatures soaring above 30 degree Centigrade. From mid June to September the monsoon rains lash Nepal turning the foothill trails into the mud river, rafting rivers become more furious and roads are often blocked by floods and landslides.
Nepal's location between India and Tibet, the diversity of its 60 or more ethnic groups, its isolating geography and myriad languages have resulted in a complex pattern of customs and beliefs. The dominant Nepali cultural concepts are those of caste and status, both of which contribute to a strictly defined system of hierarchy. Caste determines a person's status and marriage partner. Nepal sweeps you along crooked, ancient streets flanked by dazzling, multi-roofed pagodas, gold-topped stupas and arcane stone sculptures, and into low-ceilinged rooms cluttered with horror-eyed masks, spinning prayer wheels, Buddhist thangka scrolls and Tibetan carpets. Either it is muttered chants of Buddhists monks in monastery or an early morning worship of Kathmandu's housewife in a local temples, it is believed that the divine is everywhere. In Nepal, Hinduism and Buddhism is mingled wonderfully into a complex, syncretic blend like nowhere else.
Festivals & Events
Magh Sankranti : First day of Nepali month Magh, marking the end of winter.
Losar: A two weeks festival celebrating Tibetan New Year.
Maha Shivratri: Sacred night dedicated to Lord Shiva burning bonfires throughout the night to seek Shiva's blessings. Thousands of pilgrims descend upon the Nepal's holiest Hindu temple Pashupatinath and other temples on this occasion.
Holi: This festival is a merry affair of throwing water and daub red powder on each other's faces
March- April (Chaitra)
Seto Machhindranath: On this day a large chariot of Machhindranath is built and dragged to southern part of old town. The day is deemed auspicious by astrologers, the Kumari (living goddess) presides over a ceremony during which Macchindranath is bathed by priests.
April-May ( Baisakh)
Mata Tirtha Aunsi: Nepali Mother's Day.
Buddha Jayanti: This is a celebration of Buddha's birthday.
Nag Panchami: This is the day worshipping Snake God by pasting a picture of Nag (snake) over the doorways and performing prayers and giving offerings for Snake Gods.
Janai Purnima: Celebrated on the full moon day of August is the festival of sacred thread and sprouted beans are cooked in every houses.
August –September ( Bhadra)
Krishna Janmastami: Celebration of Lord Krishna's birthday
Teej: Festival of Nepali wives fasting from dawn to midnight to ensure that their husbands have long life and good fortune. Heavily bejeweled women dressed all in red dance and sing the day away.
Dashain: The 10 day festival of Dashain is celebrated for the triumph of Goddess Durga over evil and is the biggest festival of Nepal. This is celebrated by all creeds and castes sacrificing animals in honour of Durga and taking the blessings from elders on the tenth day called Bijaya Dashami.
Tihar: The festival of lights is the second most important festival of Nepal, during which people pay homage to Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. Hundreds of oil lamps and candles are lit in every houses, firecrackers are tossed.
In addition to these there are many regional festivals and ceremonies celebrated by different ethnic groups and castes.
All foreigners, except Indians, must have a visa. However, effective from October 2000, Indians traveling to Nepal by air have to show upon arrival at entry point a valid photo identity like a passport, voter's identity or an identification card issued by the Indian government. A Nepali visa is valid for entry for three to six months from the date of issue. Children under10 require a visa but are not charged a visa fee. Citizen of South Asian countries and China need visas but these are free. Your passport must have at least six months validity. Nepali Embassies and Consulates overseas issue visas with no fuss. You can also get one on the spot when you arrive in Nepal, either at Kathmandu's International Airport or at road borders.
It's a good idea to keep a number of passport photos with your passport so they are immediately handy for trekking permits, visa applications and other official documents.
You can download a visa application form from the websites of the Nepali embassy in Washington DC (www.nepalembassyusa.org) or London (www.nepembassy.org.uk).
To obtain a visa on arrival by air in Nepal you must fill in an application form and provide a passport photograph. Every visa extension requires your passport, money, photos and an application form. Collect all these before you join the queue.
1. Tourist Visa & Fees:
a) The Immigration Officer of the entry point or the Nepalese missions abroad issue Tourist visa for fifteen, thirty and ninety days entry visa.
b) Fees to be levied while issuing tourist visa by the Mission or entry point:
a. US Dollars 25 for 15 days multiple entry visa.
b. US Dollars 40 for 30 days multiple entry visa.
c. US Dollars 100 for 90 days multiple entry visa.
d. No visa fee shall be applicable to the passport holder of member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) for 30 days and for the children under 10 years.
e. Visas are valid for 60 days on first visit to Nepal in a visa year (1 January - 31 December), but only valid for 30 days when national is visiting Nepal for the second or more time in a visa year. If you stayed longer than 15 days in Nepal, your second 30-day visa in the same visa year is free.
c) Fees to be levied for renewal or regularization of tourist visa:
a. Nepalese currency equivalent to 2 US dollars per day to renew the validity of tourist visa.
b. In case where request has also been made for the facility of multiple entry, just valid for the renewal period an additional amount in Nepalese currency equivalent to U. S. Dollars 20 to the fee.
c. In regularizing visa of any foreigner stayed without renewal of validity of the tourist visa, Nepalese currency equivalent 3 US dollars per day shall be levied in addition to the normal amount to be paid for renewal of the validity of visa.
d) Multiple Entry Visa: At Nepali embassies abroad it's possible to get a multiple-entry visa (US$80 or equivalent), which gives you multiple trips into Nepal for a year, with each stay valid for 60 days, up to a total of 150 days in any calendar year. Multiple-entry visas are useful if you are planning a side trip to Tibet, Bhutan or India. You can change your single-entry visa to a multiple-entry visa at Kathmandu's Central Immigration Office for US$50.
e) Transit Visa: If you are just planning a lightning visit to Kathmandu it's possible to get a free non-extendable three-day transit visa at Kathmandu airport, as long as you have an air ticket out of the country within three days. Transit visas are non-extendable.
2. Points of Entry or Exit:
The point of entry and exit for the purpose of the foreigner entering into or departing from Nepal by obtaining a visa shall be as follows:
1. Immigration Office, Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu
2. Immigration Office, Kakarvitta, Jhapa (Eastern Nepal)
3. Immigration Office, Birganj, Parsa (Central Nepal)
4. Immigration Office, Kodari, Sindhupalchowk (Northern Border)
5. Immigration Office, Belahia, Bhairahawa (Rupandehi, Western Nepal)
6. Immigration Office, Jamunaha, Nepalgunj (Banke, Mid Western Nepal)
7. Immigration Office, Gaddachauki, Mahendranagar (Kanchanpur, Far Western Nepal)
You can get up-to-date visa information at the website of the Department of Immigration (www.immi.gov.np).
Getting into Nepal
Nepal is a traveller-friendly country and arrival is straightforward. All entry points to Nepal offer visas on arrival and money exchange. Since Nepal is a landlocked country and has India in its three sides and Tibet (China) in the north, entry to Nepal can be either by land or air.
By land there are six main entry points into Nepal: five from India and one from Tibet (China). Five entry points through India being Kakarbhitta, Birgunj, Bhairawa, Nepalgunj, and Mahendra Nagar and the Kodari Pass in Nepal-China border is the entry point to Nepal from China. There are no international bus or train services; everyone changes buses at the borders.
Kathmandu is the site of Nepal's only international airport, Tribhuvan Airport.
Nepal Airlines is the national flag carrier of Nepal with flight connections to: Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore in India; Bangkok in Thailand; Osaka in Japan; Hong Kong, Shanghai in China; Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia; Dubai in United Arab Emirates and Singapore. Other international airlines connecting Kathmandu to other parts of the world are Biman Bangladesh to Dhaka in Bangladesh; China Airlines to Lhasa in Tibetan Autonomous Region of China; Druk Air to Paro in Bhutan and New Delhi in India; Gulf Air to Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates; Indian Airlines to Delhi, Kolkata, and Varanasi in India; Qatar Airways to Doha in Qatar; Thai International to Bangkok in Thailand.
The main health concern in Nepal is the high risk of acquiring either traveller's diarrhoea, a respiratory infection or a more exotic tropical infection. Along with these diseases, it is recommended to gather information about the following infectious diseases too, while planning your trip to Nepal: Conjunctivitis, Hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, Rabies, Typhoid Fever and specially Altitude Sickness if you are planning to trek. As prevention is better than cure, it is recommended to drink purified water and eat in clean outlets only.
Although Nepal does not officially require any immunisations for entry into the country, the risk of becoming ill can be reduced by obtaining the proper immunizations. Plan ahead and schedule your vaccinations as some require more than one injection, while others should not be given together. Vaccinations you should consider for a Nepal trip include the following: Diphtheria & Tetanus, Hepatitis A & B, Influenza, Japanese B Encephalitis (JBE), Meningococcal Meningitis, Polio, Rabies and Typhoid. The only vaccine required by international regulations is yellow fever, in case you have visited a country in the yellow fever zone within six days prior to entering Nepal.
Following is a list of items you should consider including in your medical kit:
• aspirin or paracetamol (acetaminophen in the USA) for pain or fever
• antihistamine for allergies, eg hay fever; to ease the itch from insect bites or stings; and to prevent motion sickness
• cold and flu tablets, throat lozenges and nasal decongestant
• antibiotics, particularly if you're travelling well off the beaten track; see your doctor, as antibiotics must be prescribed, and carry the prescription with you
• anti-inflammatory (ibuprofen) for muscle and joint overuse and pain; also for headache and fever
• loperamide or diphenoxylate 'blockers' for diarrhoea
• prochlorperazine or metoclopramide for nausea and vomiting
• insect repellent, sunscreen, lip balm and eye drops
• calamine lotion, sting-relief spray or aloe vera to ease irritation from sunburn and insect bites or stings
• antifungal cream or powder for fungal skin infections and thrush
• antiseptic (such as povidone-iodine) for cuts and grazes
• bandages, crepe wraps, Band-Aids (plasters) and other wound dressings
• water purification tablets or iodine
• scissors, tweezers and a thermometer
Altitude Sickness either in the form of HAPE or HACE or sometime both can arise if we don’t give enough time to our body to adjust to higher altitudes with low oxygen concentration. Our bodies have the ability to adjust to higher altitudes if given enough time and this process is called acclimatization. If you are planning for trek at altitudes above 3000m, you should get information on preventing, recognizing and treating Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).
Types & Symptoms: In altitude sickness, fluid begins to leak from blood vessels, most often in the brain or in the lungs.
HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema) - If fluid collects in the lungs, you become breathless more easily while walking, and eventually more breathless at rest. Severe symptoms include breathlessness, dry, irritative cough which may progress to the production of pink, frothy sputum.
HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Oedema) - If fluid collects in the brain, you initially develop a headache, loss of appetite, nausea and sometimes vomiting.
HAPE or HACE can occur singly or in combination. If any one of these symptoms occurs, you become increasingly tired, develop a problem with your balance and coordination (ataxia). Eventually you lie down and slip into coma.
Prevention: The biggest risk factor for developing altitude sickness is going too high too quickly. Therefore, ascend slowly and have frequent rest days, spending two to three nights at each rise of 1000m. Also, once above 3000m, care should be taken not to increase the sleeping altitude by more than 300m per day. Drink extra fluids, eat light, high-carbohydrate meals and avoid alcohol and sedatives.
Rule 1: Learn the early symptoms of altitude sickness and be willing to recognize when you have them.
Rule 2: Never ascend to sleep at a new altitude with any symptoms of AMS.
Rule 3: Descend immediately if the symptoms are getting worse while resting at the same altitude.
Treatment: Treat mild symptoms by resting at the same altitude until recovery, which usually takes a day or two. Paracetamol or aspirin can be taken for headaches. If symptoms persist or become worse, however, immediate descent is necessary; even 500m can help. Drug treatments should never be used to avoid descent or to enable further ascent.
The drugs acetazolamide and dexamethasone are recommended by some doctors for the prevention of AMS; however, their use is controversial. They can reduce the symptoms, but they may also mask warning signs; severe and fatal AMS has occurred in people taking these drugs.
A travel insurance policy that covers medical expenses, evacuation, theft and loss is recommended. Make sure the insurance also covers all the adventure activities during your stay in Nepal.
Nepalese Rupees are found in denominations of 1000, 500, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, 1 notes. Coins are found in denominations of 1, 2, 5 rupees. One rupee equals 100 paisa. Major international currencies, including the US dollar, euro and pounds sterling, are readily accepted. In Nepal the Indian rupee is also like a hard currency - the Nepali rupee is pegged to the Indian rupee at the rate of INRs 100 = NRs 160. Be aware that INRs 500 and INRs 1000 notes are not accepted anywhere in Nepal, apparently due to forgeries. Banks in Katmandu are open 10 am to 3:30 pm Sunday through Friday.
Credit Cards: Major credit cards are widely accepted at midrange and better hotels, restaurants and fancy shops in the Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara only. Remember to keep your Foreign Exchange Encashment, Receipt while making foreign exchange payments or transferring foreign currency into Nepalese rupees. The receipts may be needed to change left-over Nepalese Rupees into foreign currency before leaving the country.
ATMs: The major banks have ATMs in Kathmandu and Pokhara where you can get cash advances on both Visa and MasterCard 24 hours a day. But it is suggested to use an ATM attached to a bank during business hours will minimise the hassle in the rare event that the machine eats your card.
Official exchange rates are set by the government's Nepal Rastra Bank and listed in the daily newspapers. Rates at the private banks vary, but are generally not far from the official rate. Please check http://www.kantipuronline.com/forex.php for further information.
Nepal! When you think of Nepal, The Himalayas comes to mind instantly. With more than 240 peaks over 20,000 ft (6,096 m) above sea level, and 8 of the world's highest peaks, including Mount Everest the highest point on earth, are located in The Himalayas, in the northern part of Nepal. No such massive mountain ranges can be found anywhere else in the world. The Himalayas is also the source of many major rivers that flows all over the country and form beautiful lakes, making Nepal the second richest country in water resources.
Tibet, the roof of the world and the land of snow, is a distinctive and mysterious land with very early history, great geographical significance, high valued religions, preserved traditions and customs, live culture, and breathtaking natural sceneries; everything that makes you feel Tibet is indeed a heaven on earth.
A hearty welcome to the land of Shangri-La, at the top of the world. Bhutan, the legendary mountain kingdom of the Himalayas, lies wedged between two Asian giants - India to the south, east and west, and China to the north. It also borders Nepal on the west.