Nepal has always been an independent country. It is well-known all over the world for its ancient history and the bravery of Gurkhas. Nepal was originally divided into smaller states which are ruled by several kings until its unification in 1768 A.D. by King Prithvi Narayan Shah. Then, there was the autonomous rule of the Rana regime for a long period of 104 years in Nepal. After that, King Tribhuwan introduced democracy in 1950 A.D. and Nepal became a democratic country since then. The democratic movement (Loktantrik Andolan) led by the Communist Party of Nepal (the people’s revolution which lasts for almost a decade) in 2006 A.D. brought an end to the absolute monarchy power in Nepal. Consequently, Nepal was then declared as the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.
Geography/Weather & Climate
Nepal is a beautiful country bestowed with rich biodiversity and natural wonders at its best- spectacular Himalayan ranges and mountain peaks, picturesque landscapes and terrains, lush green valleys and unique species of flora and fauna. It is a landlocked country with an area of 147,181 sq. km. bordered by Tibet and China to the north, and India in the east, west, and south. It also covers a vast area of great distance from the Mechi river in the east to the Mahakali river in the west. The country is divided into three types of landscapes: mountainous regions, hilly areas, and the Terai grasslands. Well-known to be the birthplace of Gautama Buddha (the roots of Buddhism) and the land of Mount Everest (the highest peak in the world), Nepal is also home to many endangered species, world site heritages, many other world’s tallest mountains, rivers and rivulets, and a wide range of ethnicity with different cultures, custom, tradition and lifestyles.
Nepal has a diverse climate and its vegetation vary according to different topographies. The Terai region lies in the tropical south and has a hot and humid climate with temperature up to 45 degree Celsius during summer. The northern mountain region has considerably lower temperature while the hilly or the midland regions have a moderate climate. Generally, there are four seasons in the country. However, due to the varying climate and diverse landscape, it has six distinct seasons namely: spring/Basanta (April-May), summer/Grishma (June-July), monsoon/Barsha (late June to mid September), autumn/Sharad (September to November), pre-winter/Hemanta (December to January) and winter/Shishir (February-March).
Spring or Basanta Ritu is a colorful and pleasant season with occasional pre-monsoon rainfall. You can see an array of blossoming buds and blooming rhododendron and mountain flowers. Grishma Ritu or the summer is also the monsoon season in Nepal. During this time, both heat and daily rainfall are inevitable. Rainfall usually enhances the lush vegetation in the mountains and valleys and creates pleasant experiences through the earthy scent of petrichor. Autumn, on the other hand, usually has clear skies and gives a pleasant temperature/climate which is cool and breezy. You will experience some of the coldest days during winter or the Shishir Ritu with the temperature dropping as low as -2 degree Celsius.
For all international visitors (excluding Indian citizens), a valid passport is a must. The most convenient way to obtain a Nepalese visa is by applying for an on-arrival visa upon your arrival at the Tribhuwan International Airport in Kathmandu. Likewise, visa can also be obtained in advance from any Nepalese Embassy or Consulate in foreign countries. If you are traveling by road, visa can be obtained at the immigration office at the border.
Your passport must have a validity of a minimum of six-month period from the date of issue. You will need to fill up an application form and enclose it with one passport size photos. Payment for a visa is by cash.
Tourist Visa Fees
Multiple entry 30 days US$ 40 or equivalent convertible currency
Multiple entry 90 days US$ 100 or equivalent convertible currency
Free visa for a period of 30 days is available for citizens from any of the SAARC countries.
Although a visa for Indian citizens is not required, they must present their passport or any identification card issued by the Indian government at the entry point to Nepal. This rule is not applicable to children under 10 years old.
Tourist Visa Extension
Tourist visa can be extended from the Department of Immigration for a maximum total of 150 days. The fee for visa extension for a period of 15 days or less is US$ 30 or equivalent convertible currency and visa extension fee for more than 15 days is US$ 2 per day.
Getting to Nepal
Tribhuvan International Airport is the only gateway to Nepal for tourists traveling by air. For those who travel by road, the following are possible entry points:
Bhairahawa (Sunauli), Birgunj (Raxaul) & Kararbhitta (Siliguri) from India or
Kodari (Zhangmu) if you are entering from Tibet
Nepal time is 5 hours and 45 minutes ahead of the standard GMT (or GMT +05:45) and is 15 minutes ahead of the Indian time zone.
Money and Banking in Nepal
Nepalese Rupee or NPR is the official currency of Nepal. Normally, bank services are available between 09:00 A.M. to 3:00 p.m., from Sunday to Friday. Some banks may operate during the weekends but for shorter hours for the purpose of cash withdrawal or deposit only. Nepal Bank Ltd., Nepal Banijya Bank, Himalayan Bank, Bank of Kathmandu are some of the major banks that have branches in most parts of the country. Banks like Nepal Bangladesh Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Nepal Arab Bank, State Bank of India, ICICI Bank are some foreign ventures that offer services to tourists. If you have bring extra foreign currencies, you may also exchange them to Nepali rupee at any money exchange outlets.
ATM machines are widely available throughout the country such as the Standard Chartered Bank, Everest Bank, Nabil Bank and Himalaya Bank which accept American Express, VISA and MasterCard. These credit cards are also accepted by major shops or retail outlets, hotels and restaurants. VISA is generally preferred than MasterCard. Therefore, we suggest that you always have extra cash in hand.
There are some facilities money wiring services through Western Union Money Transfer or MoneyGram as well. Money can be wired through banks through foreign remittance but it may be time consuming.
Currency and Exchange Rates
You can exchange your currency at banks, hotels or travel agencies. Major foreign currencies like US Dollars, British Pound, Euros, Yen are widely accepted by these outlets; however, it may be a good idea to avoid carrying too many different currencies to avoid any inconveniences.
Forex rates and information can be obtained via English dailies such as The Kathmandu Post and The Rising Nepal or by asking/inquiring from the money changers. Nepalese Rupees comes in various denominations of 1000, 500, 100, 50, 25, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1. Coins appears in denominations of 5, 2 and 1. Indian rupees are usually accepted and converted into Nepalese Rupees. 100 Indian Rupees is approximately equivalent to 160 Nepali Rupees. Please note that a 500 Rupee Indian note is illegal in Nepal.
As a rule of thumb, it is always best for you to keep Nepali Rupees in small-denomination/notes for ease of travel and payments.
Food & Restaurant
Visit the busy and tourist areas of Thamel, Basantapur and Jhamsikhel, and you will encounter a lot of restaurants that serve Continental, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, Thai, Tibetan and Nepali foods. Tibetan food like MoMo (dumplings), Thukpa (noodles soup), laphing (cold noodles soup) are quite popular. With a diverse ethnicity in Nepal, you get a variety of local and ethnic dishes like Thakali Khana or you can taste authentic Newari cuisines that has dominant flavors of hot spices and chilly, where aromatic mustard and sesame and the raw flavor of fresh garlic are the finest in Newari restaurants. You can also enjoy typical and staple Daal-Bhat (boiled rice, lentil soup, veggies, pickle) or Dhido-Gundruk, a traditional Nepali dish as well. You will be amazed with a wide range of options when you opt for street foods as you strolled along the lanes and streets of Kathmandu.
If you fancy a drink or two, you can always visit lounges and bars for some international or local beverages. Remember to try some home-made millet beer, barley beer or rice beer during your stay in Nepal. Nepal is also quite popular for its finest tea and coffee.
Religions in Nepal
Hinduism is the dominant religion in Nepal with the majority of the population being Hindu. Buddhism is another main religion that people followed as well. Apart from these, Nepal also has other religions like Kirat, Islam, Christianity, Jainism and so on which have co-existed peacefully in harmony.
Festivals in Nepal
Nepal celebrates numerous festivals throughout the year. Nepalese are strongly inclined to religious and spiritual practices. All festivals have its unique significance and are celebrated meaningfully to commemorate events that are associated with it. Dashain and Tihar are the two main festivals of the Nepalese. Other festivals include Buddha Purnima, Yomari Purnima, Sakela/Sakewa, Lhosar (or Tibetan New Year), Christmas, Eid Mubarak, Ramadan, Maghe Sankranti, Chaitra Dashain, Mata Tirtha Ausi and Kuse Ausi (mother’s day and father’s day respectively), Janai Purnima/Rakshya Bandhan, Krishna Astmai, Ram Nawami, Ghode Jatra, Gai Jatra, Maha Shivaratri, Holi, Kumari Jatra, Bisket Jatra, Machhindranath Jatra, Indra Jatra, Shree Panchami and so on.
Arts and Architecture
The magnificent beauty of arts and colorful crafts are essential components of the Nepalese cultural heritage. Most architectures found in the country are strongly influenced by religious beliefs and custom traditions, which reflect and showcase the cultural aspects of Nepal. Paintings and sculptures, which embed outstanding and finest arts are famous and globally known. You can visit Bhaktapur and Patan to explore and study ancient architectural designs by closely examining the relics and buildings in these heritage sites. In general, there are three main categories of the architectural style: the Pagoda style, Stupa style and Shikhar style.
A pagoda refers to a pyramidal structure like a stack of pyramids piled up together, one above the other. Balbahu (often named as Araniko in Chinese) who is a young architect, painter and sculptor was the pioneer behind this architectural style. Both Kasthamandap and Pashupatinath are examples of the Pagoda-styled architectures. Meanwhile, the Stupa style features a hemispherical mound supported by square bases that usually contains holy relics within it. Such architectural designs are apparent for both Swayambhunath and Boudhanath shrines. Lastly, the Shikhar style resembles a tower-like conical structure that is built by stone and is decorated with intricate carvings. Krishna Mandir of Patan is one notable example of this style. Do appreciate these historical and heritage sites of Nepal during your stay in Nepal.
Nepali is the national language of Nepal. Educated Nepalese understands English but speaks less. Nepal is home to many people of different origin and ethnicity, thus there are hundreds of local languages and dialects which are spoken throughout Nepal.
Saturday marks the official weekly holiday in Nepal. Museums remained closed on Tuesday so check your dates before you plan for museum visits.
Major urban areas have access to electricity; however, different load-shedding schedules are observed and followed in different parts of the country. Re-chargeable batteries, power banks or other energy-saving gadgets may be handy.
Thangkas (Buddhist paintings), Buddhist singing bowls, prayer wheels, Nepali handcrafts and Nepali paper, Pashminas, Cashmere and Dhaka shawls, accessories and jewelries, gemstones, Rudrakshya Mala and Shaligrams, Tibetan incense, Nepali spices and tea are some of the best souvenirs you can buy to bring home for your family and friends.