Himalayan Travels and Tours
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>> Travel Nepal

Draped along the greatest heights of the Himalayas, Nepal is a land of sublime scenery, time-worn temples, and some of the best walking trails on earth. It's a poor country, but it is rich in scenic splendors and cultural treasures. The kingdom has long exerted a pull on the Western imagination. It's the kind of country that lingers in your dreams long after you leave it. This is why so many travelers are drawn back to Nepal, armed the second time round with a greater appreciation of its natural and cultural complexity, a stout pair of walking boots and a desire for sculpted calf muscles.

Surrounded by the greatest heights of the Himalayas, the kingdom of Nepal is a land of eternal attraction, a place where one visit is hardly ever enough. It's a land of colorful cultures, ancient history and people, superb scenery and some of the best walking on earth.

Behind the old temples and places of the Kathmandu Valley, above and beyond the hills that surrounding the valley, another kingdom' rises skyward. The abode of snows' which is what Himalaya means in Sanskrit, is a natural kingdom' and a magnet to mountaineers from all above the world. You don't have to be a Sherpa or Hillary in order for you to get in amongst these great mountains. With a touch of enterprises and a modicum of fitness most travelers can walk the trails that lead into the road less heights of the Himalayas. In Nepal one trek is rarely enough, and many visitors soon find themselves planning to return. Fascinating old town, magnificent temples and great walking are not all Nepal has to offer. Many visitors come to Nepal expecting to find these things but also discover how outstanding friendly the Nepalese are.

Trekking is not the only activity which draws visitors, it also has some superb white-water rafting opportunities, mountain biking, which is become more and more popular, and down in the jungle, safaris on elephant-back into the Royal Chitwan National Park are another not-to-be-missed part of the Nepal experience.

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Basic Information:

Time Zone: GMT +5.75, IST +.15
Dialing Code: 977 Kathmandu: 9771
Currency: Nepalese Rupee ( 1 US dollar = 74 nepalese rupees appx)
Electricity: 230V ,50Hz
Weights & measures: Metric
Internet and Telecom Facilities: Easily available in all urban areas.
Credit Cards: Visa, Master Card and American Express accepted normally everywhere.
Lodging: Five star to budget hotels available
Dining: Kathmandu has cuisine restaurants from all over over the world. Other places mostly nepali food.
Nightlife: Kathmandu has excellent bars, nightspots and casinos. Not much nightlife outside Kathmandu

Visas:

All foreigners (except Indian nationals) require visas, which can be obtained in advance or on arrival.

Visa fees: If you are applying for the first time in the current year, the following fee will be charged:
(a) Free Visa for 3 (or less than) days single entry;

(b) US $ 30.00 for 60 days single entry;

(c) US $ 80.00 for 60 days multiple entries


If you are re-applying within 150 days of your last visit to Nepal, within the same year, the following visa fee will be charged
(i) US $ 30.00 for 30 days single entry

(ii) US $ 30.00 for 30 days multiple entries

There will be no charge for children under 10 years. However, visa is required.

Visa once issued cannot be withdrawn, visa fee cannot be refunded after visa is issued, and it must be used within six months from the date of issue.

It takes 7 business days to issue visa after the application is received at the Embassy.

Consulates: The Royal Nepalese Consulate General in New York issues tourist visas, whose address is:
820 Second Avenue, Suite 17 B, New York, NY 10017. Tel. (212) 370 3988/89 Fax (212) 953 2038

Canadian and/or non Canadian nationals currently residing in Canada may also apply for visa to the Honorary Royal Nepalese Consulate General at,

Royal Bank Plaza, South Tower, 32nd Floor, P. O. Box 33, Toronto, Ontario M5J 2J9, Tel: (416) 865 0200, Fax: (416) 865 0904.

Visa on Arrival: Tourist visa may also be obtained at any of the following entry points:
Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu; Biratnagar (Jogbani), Birgunj (Raxaul), Bhairahawa (Sunauli) and Kakarbhitta (Panitanki) on Nepal-India border and Kodari on Nepal China border.

Visa Extension: Tourist traveling on a short duration visas can get them extended if they so desire. The Department of Immigration, Kathmandu and Pokhara Immigration Office extend visas and charge US $ 30.00 for 30 days for a total period of 120 days. Tourist visa for further period of 30-days can be granted if the Department of Immigration is satisfied with the reason furnished by the applicant without exceeding altogether 150 days between January and December of the current year.

Important: Tourists carrying more than 2,000.00 US dollar or equivalent foreign currency are requested to declare in the Custom Declaration Form at the time of arrival in Nepal. Those returning from Nepal with undeclared money exceeding US $ 2,000.00 or equivalent foreign currency may be interrogated for further legal actions in accordance with Foreign Exchange Regulation Act of Nepal.

Tourists traveling by car should possess a valid Passage de Carnet

Visas permit travel around the Kathmandu Valley, Pokhara and Chitwan National Park in the Terai. Trekking permits are required if you intend striking out from the main areas; they can be obtained from immigration offices in Kathmandu and Pokhara.

Getting There:
There are few direct flights to Nepal, which means most travelers from Europe, North America and Australia have to change aircraft and/or airline en route. Nepal's only international airport is Kathmandu's Tribhuvan Airport. If you want to see the mountains as you fly into Kathmandu, make sure you sit on the right-hand side of the plane. The departure tax for international flights is US$15, or US$10 to destinations on the Indian subcontinent.

The classic overland routes between Nepal and India are still popular. Buses are usually the quickest and easiest form of transport between Nepal and India. The main crossing points are Sunauli-Bhairawa, Birganj-Raxaul Bazaar and Kakarbhitta-Siliguri. The Sunauli border crossing is the best one from Varanasi, the Birganj crossing is the easiest from Kolkata, and Kakarbhitta is the obvious choice from Darjeeling.

The crossing between Nepal and Tibet via Kodari is open to organized groups but not to individual travelers heading north. Be prepared with alternative plans if you're thinking about using this route, because landslides regularly make it impassable during the monsoon


When to Go
Climatic factors are very important in deciding when to visit Nepal. October-November, the start of the dry season, is in many ways the best time of year: the weather is balmy, the air is clean, visibility is perfect and the country is lush following the monsoon. February-April, the tail end of the dry season, is the second-best period: visibility is not so good because of dust, but the weather is warm and many of Nepal's wonderful wild flowers are in bloom. In December and January the climate and visibility are good but it can be chilly: trekkers need to be well prepared for snow, and for cheaper hotels in Kathmandu - nonexistent heating makes for rather gloomy evenings. The rest of the year is fairly unpleasant for travelling: May and early June are generally too hot and dusty for comfort, and the monsoon from mid-June to September obscures the mountains in cloud and turns trails and roads to mud.

Budgeting:
Currency: Nepali Rupee

Meals

Budget: US$2-3
Mid-range: US$3-10
High: US$10+

Lodging

Budget: US$3-10
Mid-range: US$10-50
High: US$50+
If you stay in rock-bottom accommodation and survive on a predominantly Nepalese diet, you could live in Nepal on US$5 a day. If you prefer to stay in comfortable lodgings, eat in tourist-oriented restaurants and take the occasional taxi, your living costs are likely to be between US$15 and US$40 a day. The high-life, including an organized trek thrown in will sting you US$40-US$50 a day. An independent trek between village inns, should cost between US$10 and US$15 a day, as long as you don't indulge in too many 'luxury' items, like beer and chocolate.

There are effectively three exchange rates in Nepal: the rate set by the government's Nepal Rastra Bank, the slightly more generous (but still legal) rate set by the private banks, and the even more generous black-market rate set by carpet shops and travel agents. The daily newspapers list the Nepal Rastra Bank's rate, which is a useful reference point. Exchange rates and commissions can vary quite significantly, so shop around.

When you change money legally, you are issued with a Foreign Exchange Encashment Receipt showing the amount of hard currency you have exchanged. If you leave Nepal via Kathmandu airport and haven't spent all your rupees, you can exchange up to 15% of the amount shown on these unused receipts back into hard currency.

Major international currencies such as the US dollar and pounds sterling are readily accepted, and the Indian rupee is also considered a 'hard' currency. Outside the Kathmandu Valley, it may be difficult to use large-denomination Nepalese notes, so keep a decent portion of your money in small-denomination notes. If you're trekking, take enough small-denomination cash with you to last the whole trek.

Tipping is becoming fairly common in upmarket restaurants in Kathmandu, so leave around 10-15% of the bill if service was good. There's no need to tip in cheaper establishments or to tip taxi drivers. Porters on treks, however, should be tipped around Rs 100 per day. Bargaining is commonplace in markets and tourist shops, but treat it as a form of polite social discourse rather than a matter of life and death.

Destinations:

1. Kathmandu and Vicinity
Kathmandu is really two cities: a fabled capital of convivial pilgrims and carved rose-brick temples, and a splenetic sprawl smothered in dirt, monkeys, beggars and the pollution of diesel fumes. It simultaneously reeks of history and the wear and tear of increasing modernity.

Bhaktapur: Bhaktapur is in many ways the most medieval of the three major cities in the Kathmandu Valley. Despite recent development, the city still retains a distinctly timeless air, with much of its glorious architecture dating from the end of the 17th century. Most sights can be easily traversed by foot and include yet another Durbar Square, which is infinitely larger than Kathmandu's and has its fair share of temples, statues and columns, many with grisly histories behind them. For instance, the sculptor of the Ugrachandi & Bhairab Statues had his hands chopped off to prevent him from duplicating his masterpieces.
Bhakatapur's second main square is Taumadhi Tole, which features Nyatapola, the highest temple in the valley, and Til Mahadev Narayan, an important place of pilgrimage. Nearby is Potters' Square, where thousands of clay pots are made and sold. East from here, through the sinuous streets of the old city centre, is Tachupal Tole, another square containing temples and monasteries plus craft museums.

Sometimes it's best to take a break from temples and sit back and watch the unchanging rituals of daily life: the laying out of grain to dry in the sun, families collecting water or washing under communal taps, children playing simple games, dyed yarns flapping in the breeze or potters at work throwing clay.

Bhaktapur is about 35km (22mi) south east of Kathmandu's city centre and is easily reached by bus, minibus or trolley bus. You may have second thoughts about the minibuses, though, as they are overcrowded and can turn a 35 minute trip into an hour long torture; the Chinese trolley-buses are a better option.

Must See Places:

Kathmandu Valley: Apart from Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, there are a number of other fascinating villages, temples and stupas scattered around the valley. One of these is probably the best known site in Nepal - the Buddhist temple of Swayambhunath. The temple is colloquially known as the 'monkey temple', after the large tribe of garrulous monkeys which guard the hill, amusing visitors and devotees with their tricks, including sliding gracefully down the long double bannisters of the main stairway. The soaring central stupa is topped by an aureate block featuring the watchful eyes of Buddha. Set around the base is a continuous series of prayer wheels which pilgrims, circumambulating the stupa, spin as they pass by.
Beyond Swayambhunath, on the banks of the Bagmati River, is Pashupatinath, the country's pre-eminent Hindu temple and one of the most significant Shiva temples on the subcontinent. As the Bagmati is a holy river, Pashupatinath has become a popular place to be cremated - the ghats (river steps) immediately in front of the temple are reserved for the cremation of royalty, while those a little further south are for the riffraff.

Another site with a religious bent is the huge stupa of Bodhnath, which is the largest in the country and among the largest in the world. It's also the centre for Nepal's considerable population of Tibetans. Late afternoon is a good time to visit. This is when prayer services are held and the locals turn out to walk around the stupa (if you want to join in, remember to walk in a clockwise direction). Surrounding Bodhnath are a number of monasteries, but be discreet and respectful if you intend visiting them.

The valley also offers plenty of opportunities to get off the beaten track, with treks to and from the resort villages of Nagarkot and Dhulikhel, wallowing in Tatopani's hot springs, exploring cloud forests in Pulchowki, and mountain biking in the regions of Chapagaon and Bungamati.

Most of the valley attractions around Kathmandu can be reached on foot but the easiest way to get around is by bicyle. If that sounds a bit too energetic, consider hiring a taxi for the day.

Must See Places:

Patan: Patan, the second-largest city in the valley, lies just across the Bagmati River from Kathmandu, but it's a much quieter and less frenetic place to visit. The city is justly proud of its temples and artisans and it is their handiwork that provides the focus of the stunning Durbar Square - choc-a-block with the largest display of Newari architecture in Nepal. It includes the Royal Palace, which contains a richly decorated bathtub, and the two-tiered brick Jagannarayan Temple. Look up to the roof struts to see carvings of figures engaged in quite athletic acts of intercourse.
A few minutes' walk north of the square is the Golden Temple, a Buddhist monastery guarded by sacred tortoises that potter around the courtyard; and the Kumbeshawar, reputedly the oldest (1392) temple in Patan. South of the square is an area of charming streets lined with metalsmiths and brassware shops.

Patan's other attractions are flung further afield. Among them is a collection of four stupas, thought to have been built over 2500 years ago, and Nepal's only zoo, which features a reasonable assortment of rhinos, tigers, leopards and bird life. Palm readers gather in the park outside - they may be able to point out which animal you'll be reincarnated as. Tibetan carpets can be bought in Jawalakhel, east of the city.

It's an easy 5km (3mi) from Thamel in Kathmandu to Patan and you can get there by bicyle, taxi, bus, or tempo.

2. Pokhara
The city of Pokara is renowned for its setting rather than its historical or cultural endowments. Its quiet lakeside location and proximity to the mountains mean it is an ideal place for recovering from (or gearing up for) a trek, taking leisurely strolls or simply putting your nose in a good book. And wouldn't you know it, Pokhara has some of the country's best accommodation and restaurants as well. There's a batch of Tibetan settlements, a hilltop monastery and the pretty Devi Falls nearby. Day walks can be taken to Sarangkot (1592m), the limestone caves at Mahendra Gufa or Rupa and Begnas Tals lakes. More exertion (but not much more) is required to tackle the three to four-day Annapurna Skyline Trek.

There are daily flights between Pokhara and Kathmandu. For Himalayan views sit on the right-hand side if you're heading to Pokhara and the left if heading to Kathmandu. The bus trip between the two towns takes about eight hours.

Must See Places:

3. The Terai ( the plains)
If you come to the Terai expecting snow-clad mountains and jaw-dropping vistas, you'll soon be disappointed. What you get instead is hot subtropical plains and some of the most fascinating attractions in Nepal. Foremost among them is the magnificent Royal Chitwan National Park, once the hunting ground of British and Nepalese aristocrats. Today, the animals - elephant, rhinoceros, tiger, leopard and deer - are protected, not shot. Probably the greatest thrill here is to scout for wildlife on the back of an elephant. If that's too uncomfortable, you can do the same thing in a jeep or canoe, or go jungle walking with experienced guides. Watch out for leeches, which operate with stealth-like efficiency during the monsoon.

Janakpur is an attractive city, bustling with tourists - Indian pilgrims that is, not Western backpackers. The city's religious significance is due to its role as the birthplace of Sita (Rama's wife in the Hindu epic Ramayana). During festivals, when vignettes from the Ramayana are re-enacted, it almost feels as if the ancient myth has come to life. If you can overcome its bewildering tangle of streets, Janakpur is packed with worthwhile sights including temples, pilgrim hostels and tiny sacred ponds. On the city's outskirts is the Janakpur Women's Development Centre, a must-see if you're interested in traditional painting and ceramics or the role of women in local society. Beautiful Devghat and Lumbini, now confirmed as the birthplace of Buddha, are also important devotional sites in the Terai.

Janakpur is over 135km (84mi) from Kathmandu, and a little less than that to the Chitwan National Park. A number of airlines fly to destinations within the Terai, but the most popular mode of transport is bus, more through economic necessity than choice. Usually they are overcrowded, stopping-all-stations affairs that leave you battered and bruised. If you've got a bit of extra cash, hiring a car is a comfortable way to see the region or, alternatively, a good mountain bike will get you there, back and around.

Must See Places:

Lumbini, the place where Lord Buddha was born, it has been a popular destination for Buddhist pilgrims along side visitors from many parts of the world, which has become a symbol of peace and understanding for the world community. Lumbini like Buddha stands peacefully and calm, away from the crowds of the cities, on the southern plains of the country, surrounded by forests. Buddha was believed to be born in Lumbini as Prince Sidhartha, when his mother Queen Mahamaya of Kapilbastu stopped to rest on her way to her parent's palace in a neighboring country some 2,600 years ago. People here also believe that she chose the place because of its peaceful setting. Although there are no cities or heavy population nearby, there are plans to develop the area, with gardens, trees, canal, accommodation facilities and even a library. Adequate lodging is available to the visitor and pilgrims, including a luxury hotel made by the Japanese.

Must See Places:

Trekking:

Trekking in Nepal will take you through a country that has captured the imagination of mountaineers and explorers for more than 100 years. You will meet people in remote mountain villages whose lifestyle has not changed in generations. Most people trust foreigners. Nepal is one of only a handful of countries that has never been ruled by a foreign power.

Many of the values associated with a hiking trip at home do not have the same importance during a trek in Nepal. Isolation is traditionally a crucial element of any wilderness experience but in Nepal it is impossible to get completely away from people, except for short times or at extremely high elevations. Environmental concerns must include the effects of conservation measures on rural people and the economic effects of tourism on indigenous populations. Even traditional national park management must be adapted because there are significant population centres within Sagarmatha (Mt Everest) and Langtang national parks.

Trekking does not mean mountain climbing. While the ascent of a Himalayan peak may be an attraction for some, you need not have such a goal to enjoy a trek. As far as most people are concerned, trekking always refers to walking on trails.

While trekking you will see the great diversity of Nepal. Villages embrace many ethnic groups and cultures. The terrain changes from tropical jungle to high glaciated peaks in only 150 km. From the start, the towering peaks of the Himalayas provide one of the highlights of a trek. As your plane approaches Kathmandu these peaks appear to be small clouds on the horizon. The mountains become more definable and seem to reach impossible heights as you get closer and finally land at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan Airport.

During a trek, the Himalayas disappears behind Nepal's continual hills, but dominates the northern skyline at each pass. Annapurna, Manaslu, Langtang, Gauri Shankar and Everest will become familiar names. Finally, after weeks of walking, you will arrive at the foot of the mountains themselves - astonishing heights from which gigantic avalanches tumble earthwards in apparent slow motion, dwarfed by their surroundings. Your conception of the Himalayas alters as you turn from peaks famed only for their height to gaze on far more picturesque summits that you may never have heard of - Kantega, Ama Dablam, Machhapuchhare and Kumbhakarna.

Whether you begin your trek at a roadhead or fly into a remote mountain airstrip, a large part of it will be in the Middle Hills region at elevations between 500 and 3000 metres. In this region, there are always well-developed trails through villages and across mountain passes. Even at high altitudes there are intermittent settlements used during summer by shepherds, so the trails, though often indistinct, are always there. You can easily travel on any trail without the aid of ropes or mountaineering skills. There are rare occasions when there is snow on the trail, and on some high passes it might be necessary to place a safety line for your companions or porters if there is deep snow. Still, alpine techniques are almost never used on a traditional trek. Anyone who has walked extensively in the mountains has all the skills necessary for an extended trek in Nepal.

Though some treks venture near glaciers, and even cross the foot of them, most treks do not allow the fulfilment of any Himalayan mountaineering ambitions. Nepal's mountaineering regulations allow trekkers to climb 18 specified peaks with a minimum of formality, but you must still make a few advance arrangements for such climbs. Many agents offer so-called climbing treks which include the ascent of one of these peaks as a feature of the trek. There are a few peaks that, under ideal conditions, are within the resources of individual trekkers. A climb can be arranged in Kathmandu if conditions are right, but a climb of one of the more difficult peaks should be planned well in advance.

Common Areas for Trekking

  • The Everest Region
    • Everest Expedition Route
    • Instant Everest
    • The Khumbu Traverse
  • Annapurna Region
    Annapurna Panorama
    • Jomsom Trek
    • Annapurna Sanctuary
    • Around Annapurna
    • The Royal Trek
    • Trek to the Kingdom of Mustang
  • Central Nepal
    • Langtang and Gosainkund Trek
    • Jugal Himal
    • Around Manaslu
  • Eastern Nepal
    • East of Everest
    • Kanchenjunga South Base Camp
    • Makalu Base Camp
  • Western Nepal
    • Jumla to Rara Lake
    • Jumla to Dolpo
    • Humla to Mt Kailas

Health risks:

Altitude Sickness, Hepatitis, Malaria (This occurs in low-lying areas only), Meningococcal Meningitis (This occurs in the Kathmandu Valley region), Typhoid