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Nepal Travel Guide

ABOUT NEPAL

Covering area of 147,181 sq km, Nepal is small, landlocked strip of land, 800km long and 200km wide though it fits a lot of terrain into it. Heading north from the Indian border, the landscape rises from just 150m above sea level to 8848m at the top of Mt Everest. Around 64% of the country is covered by mountains, yet almost half the population live on the flat plains of the Terai, which accounts for just 17% of the landmass of Nepal.

This dramatic landscape provides a habitat for and incredible range of plants, animals and people. Nepal is home to 59 recognized tribes, who make up 37% of the total population

FACT SHEET OF NEPAL

Official Name:  Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal
Abbreviation  NP
Capital  Kathmandu
Head of State  President Ram Baran Yadav
Head of Government  Prime Minister
Population  26620000 (2011 estimate)
Area  147,181 sq. km. (54,633 sq. mi.)
Time Zone  5 hours 45 minutes ahead of GMT
Language  Nepali (official)
Religion  Hinduism(major) and Buddhism, Islam and Catholic.
Unit of Currency  Rupee
National Flag  Nepal Information
National Emblems  The rhododendron; a white cow; a green pheasant; two Gurkha soldiers, one carrying a khukri and a bow and an arrow &   the other a modern rifle; peaks of the Himalaya Mountains; the moon and the sun, both with faces showing Hindu caste marks, two crossed Nepali flags and khukris; the footprints of Gorakhnath, the guardian deity of the Gurkhas; and the royal headdress. At the base of the design a red scroll carries the national motto in Sanskrit: “The Motherland Is Worth More than the Kingdom of Heaven.”
National Song  “Sayau Thunga Phool Ka”
National Holidays

 Republic Day: 28th May, State Declaration: 15th Jan and Independence Day: 18th Feb

National Calender  The Nepali year begins in mid-April and is divided into 12 months: Baisakh, Jestha, Asadh, Shrawan, Bhadra, Aswin, Kartik,  Marga, Poush, Phalgun, Chaitra. Saturday is the official weekly holiday
Quality of Life Index N/A
Date of Unification 1768 (by Prithvi Narayan Shah)
Date of Constitution The constitutional Assembly of 601 parliament memebers is in process of drafting the country’s constitution under the provision provided by Interim constitution drafted on 28th may, 2007. (1951, 1959, 1962, 1990 are prevoius constitution enacted dates).
Per capita income $170 (FY92)

 
ENTERING NEPAL 

Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu is the only international airport in Nepal. The national flag carrier, Indian Airlines, Thai airlines, BB airways and other international airlines connects Kathmandu with major cities around the world. Alternatively, you can enter Nepal through surface via India. There all together 7 points through which all visitors coming to Nepal by land can enter country.                           
      – Pani Tanki/Kakarbhitta
      – Raxual/Birgunj
      – Sunauli/Belahiya
      – Rupaidiya/ Nepalgunj
      – Mohana/Dhangadi
      – Banbasa/Mahendranagar, Gaddachauki and
      – Khasa,Liping/ Tatopani on the Tibet,China-Nepal border.
Overland travelers’ ’ entering the country with their vehicles must possess an international carnet or complete customs formalities. 

VISA AND IMMIGRATION FORMALITIES

Nepal entry Visa can be obtained upon arrival at the Tribhuwan International Airport in Kathmandu or at the nearest Nepalese Diplomatic Agency in your home country.
a. US Dollars 25 or other convertible foreign currency equivalent thereto for 15 days multiple entry visa. 
b. US Dollars 40 or other convertible foreign currency equivalent there to for 30 day multiple entry visa.
c. US Dollars 100 or other convertible foreign currency equivalent thereto for 90 days multiple entry visa.
d. Notwithstanding anything written in clause (a) and (b), no visa fee shall applicable to the passport holder of member states of the South Asian Association for Regional cooperation (SAARC) for 30 days.                                          
To expedite the visa application procedure, please ensure that you have 5 passport size photos with you.

FESTIVALS

Any visit to Nepal is almost certain to coincide with at least one of the country’s spectacular festivals. Celebrations range from masked dances to epic bouts of tug of war, but the most impressive are the chariot processions, during which hundreds of enthusiastic devotees drag the 20, tall chariots through the crowded city streets. Exact festival dates change annually due to Nepal’s lunar calendar, ask your guide for any local festivals.

INSURANCE

We highly recommend you that you have travel insurance which covers all the risk and covering any expenditure incurred by rescue helicopter. 

CURRENCY

The national currency of Nepal is rupee (Rs) and is divided into 100 paisa (p). There are coins for denominations of one, two, five and 10 rupees, and bank notes in denominations of one, two, five, 10, 20, 25, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 rupees. As of today April, 2013, the exchange value is Rs 87.06 to the 1$ US Dollar. 

Visa and American Express credit cards are accepted in most of places but have a limited use. Traveller’s cheque as well as US and Hong Kong Dollars, Pound Sterling, Euros and Japanese Yen can be exchanged at local money exchange, banks and at most hotels.

ACCOMMODATION

While hotel in Nepal cannot equal international standards, but all hotels are comfortable, clean, and reasonably well run. The hotel is divided into different category from one star to 5 star, budget hotel, guesthouses and lodges. You can find all type of hotels in the major cities. 

GUIDE

All trekking guide and tourist guides are licensed and trained in programs conducted by the Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management (NATHM), a government authorised body responsible to produce quality and skilled manpower for tourism. 

Most of the Guides speak fluent English and also speaks other international language.
We suggest you not to hesitate to ask any related questions, they will go the extra miles in terms of service.

FOOD

You can eat like a king in major cities including Kathmandu, Pokhara. Over the years international travellers have brought dishes from home to Nepal. As a result, restaurants in tourist areas are a wold map of cuisines, with dishes from Tibet, China, India, Japan, Thailand, Mexico, Italy, France and Middle East. 

The staple meal of Nepal is daal Bhaat tarkari – literally lentil soup, rice and curried vegetables and pickles.

DRINKS

It is safer to drink bottled, boiled and filtered water. A reasonable variety of both hard and soft drinks are available in hotels, restaurants and shops in most towns. You can purify your own water if you carry a canteen or water bottle and iodine drops or tablets. Many Nepali enjoys drinking traditional home made alcoholic brews made from wheat, millet or rice.

TRANSPORTATION

Transportation facility is reached all over the cities. But it is advisable that you put mask in order to avoid dust and smoke. We provide modern 4WD land cruisers, cars, Van, hiace, minibus and coaster buses as per the different group sizes. 

Road Connection in Nepal

air connection in nepal

Picture Showing Air and Road Connection to Nepal

ALTITUDE

One-third of the total length of the Himalaya lies inside Nepal’s borders and the country claims 10 of the world’s 14 tallest mountains. The Himalayan range is broken up into groups of massifs divided by glaciers and rivers draining down from the Tibetan Plateau.

Because of the southerly latitude (similar to that of Florida) and the reliable rainfall the mountains are cloaked in vegetation to a height of 3500m to 4000m.

If you are doing trekking or going over 3000m acclimatization is very important. You may be likely to experience some of the minor symptoms and discomfort of altitude sickness (headaches, mild nauseas, loss of appetite) until your body adjusts to the elevation.  This can take from a few hours to a couple of days depending on the individual. Do not exert yourself and drink plenty of non-alcoholic liquids. It is very important to drink at least 4-5 liters of liquids daily to avoid any altitude sickness; this is probably the best remedy for AMS.

Do not forget – the common effects of altitude such as : 
      – You may feel breathlessness on exertion.
      – Some headache which is treatable by aspirin.
      – May be some difficulty sleeping and a little loss of appetite.
      – You might also wake up suddenly at night trying to catch your breath. Do not panic! Your metabolism has simply slowed down.
      – You may also experience an exaggerated thumping headache, which will not go away, breathless  even at rest, extreme nausea. The lack of oxygen in the system will first affect either  the brain (HACE – Height Altitude Cerebral Edema) causing loss of physical and mental coordination OR the lungs (HAPE – Height Altitude Pulmonary Edema),  coughing up persistent sputum or both.
      – Do not drink any alcohol on the outward trek. It seriously impairs the ability to acclimatize, and confuses the symptoms of AMS.

The do’s and don’ts to aid acclimatization:

Do drink copious quantities of water-even 5 liters a day is recommended by some medical sources. Dehydration through perspiration and increased breathing rate seriously inhibits acclimatization, and is the most common cause of altitude related problems.

Do not drink any alcohol if you are above 3000m It seriously impairs the ability to acclimatize, and confuses the symptoms of AMS.

The following medication has been found to be helpful:  

Diamox the common name for Acetazolamide originally developed as a diuretic, but pragmatically found to aid acclimatization available in Kathmandu pharmacies. Some people feel it is ‘cheating’, but as trekking at altitude is not a competition and you are here to enjoy it to altitude, not just mask the symptoms. It will make you pee more as intended, and possibly give you a tingly feeling in your fingers, but is understood to have no more serious side effects. Taking it is entirely down to personal choice, but if you do decide to use it as a preventative we have found that a half a 250 mg tablet works just as well as a whole one and minimizes the side effects, each morning and evening, from the night before the trek through to the start of the descent from the highest point.

EDUCATION
Modern education in Nepal began with the establishment of the first school in 1853; this school was only for the members of the ruling families and their courtiers. Schooling for the general people began only after 1951 when a popular movement ended the autocratic Rana family regime and initiated a democratic system. In the past 50 years, there has been a dramatic expansion of education facilities in the country. As a result, adult literacy (age 15+) of the country was reported to be 48.2% (female: 34.6%, male: 62.2%) in the Population Census, 2001, up from about 5% in 1952–54. Beginning from about 300 schools and two colleges with about 10,000 students in 1951, there now are 49,000 schools (including higher secondary), 415 colleges, five universities, and two academies of higher studies. Altogether 7.2 million students are enrolled in those schools and colleges who are served by more than 222,000 teachers. 

(i) School Education
   (a) Primary Level
   (b) Middle School/Lower Secondary Level (S.L.C.)
   (c) High School/ Secondary Level
   (d) 10+2/ Higher Secondary Level 

(iI) Higher Education
     (a) Bachelor’s/Undergraduate Level
     (b) Master’s Level/Graduate/Degree Level
     (c) Post Graduate, M. Phil. Level
     (d) Ph.D. Doctoral Level
Nepal Ranks 11th Among the Leading Countries of Origin for International Student in the United States of America.

ECONOMY

Nepal was rated one of the least developed nations in the world by the United nations. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, providing a livelihood for three-fourths of the population and accounting for a little over one-third of GDP. Industrial activity mainly involves the processing of agricultural products, including pulses, jute, sugarcane, tobacco, and grain. Most people involve in tourism and it is main source of foreign currency earning.

Nepal has considerable scope for exploiting its potential in hydropower, with an estimated 42,000 MW of feasible capacity, but political instability hampers foreign investment. Challenges to Nepal’s growth include its landlocked geographic location, civil strife and labour unrest, and its susceptibility to natural disaster. 

LANGUAGE

Nepali is the widely spoken and official national language of Nepal. Nepali is commonly written in the Devanagari script. There are over a hundred languages in Nepal, most belonging to the Indo-Aryan and Sino-Tibetan language families.

Three quarters of the 120-some languages native to Nepal belong to the Tibeto-Burman language family; this includes Nepal Bhasa (Newar) (the original language of Kathmandu), the Tamang, Magar and various Rai and Limbu languages. However, the official and numerically most important language, Nepali (Gorkhali), belongs to the Indo-Aryan (Indic) branch of the Indo-European family, so that Indic languages constitute 79% of the population to Tibeto – Burman’s 18%, even though most languages of both families are spoken by small numbers of people. 

CULTURE AND CUSTOMS (do’s & don’t)

Nepal is rich in culture. Its culture consists of the social customs and traditions. Nepal has a unique culture. The rich cultural heritage of Nepal, has evolved over the centuries. This multi-dimensional cultural heritage encompasses within itself the cultural diversities of various ethnic, tribal, and social groups inhabiting different altitudes, and it manifests in various forms: music and dance; art and craft; folklore and folktales; languages and literature; philosophy and religion; festivals and celebration; foods and drinks.

Some tips on the common etiquette practiced by Nepali people should be useful to visitors.
       – The form of greeting in Nepal is “Namaste” performing by joining both palms together.  It literally  means “the divine in me salutes the divine in you”. 
       – As a mark of respect Nepalis usually take their shoes off before entering someone’s house or  place of worship.
       –  Food or material that has been touched by another person’s mouth is considered impure  or “jutho” and, therefore, is not accepted unless among close friends or family.
       – Touching something with feet or using the left hand to give or take may not be  considered auspicious.
       – Women wearing skimpy outfits are frowned upon especially in the rural parts of the country.
       – As a part of the tradition some Hindu temples do not allow non Hindus to enter.
       – Leather articles are prohibited inside some temple areas.
       – Walking around temples or stupas is traditionally done clockwise.
       – To avoid conflict photography is carried out after receiving permission from the object or person.
       – Public displays of affection are considered scandalous.
       – Nodding of head means “Yes” while shaking of head means a “No”. A slight dangling of head  from left to right means “OK”. 

PHOTOGRAPHY

Some of the monastery/fortress/temple/museum do not allow to take photo inside. Also, some Hindu temples do not allow other religion people to enter in. We advise you to consult with Guide before taking picture of temple and any sensitive monument.

NO SMOKING
Authority in Nepal has strictly prohibited smoking in public areas such as hospitals, trade centre, canteen, schools, local market etc. 

TIME
Nepal is 5:45 Hrs ahead of GMT and 10:45 hrs ahead of New York (summer time) Tibet/China is 2:15 hrs ahead of Nepal time and there is only one time zone throughout the country.
 
ELECTRICITY
Nepal’s Electricity is 220 Volt and 50 MHZ (50 Cycles per Second). Electric Plug is two or three round prongs, but not flat prongs as found in use in the United States or in other countries. If you do bring electrical appliances, take along an international converter kit complete with a set of adapter plugs. The sockets are round. 

HEALTH

The main health risks are similar to other South Asian countries, namely diarrhoea, respiratory infection or more unusual tropical infection. Although vaccinations are not mandatory they are recommended. When trekking, there are also risks associated with altitude sickness and accident if you are doing any high altitude trekking. In the event of health problems there are basic hospital facilities in each district headquarters. Bring all your personal medicine and first aid supply.

It is hard to ignore meal with spicy and chilly in Nepal, however, please inform guide if you are not used to having too much of spices and chillies.

SAFETY
It is safe to take a walk around the city from morning to late evening until the shops are closed. But you are advised not to trek alone. Trekking with a guide from a registered agency is the best security. Do not display your cash or expensive items. Always lock your room and baggage. The Tourist Police at Bhrikuti Mandap is there to help you with security and travel-related problems. If any valuable item is lost, you can contact the Tourist Police to prepare documents for theft to claim insurance.

It is advisable that you keep a safe distance and be in your rooms else you may visit the town in groups or with your guides.

Also please ensure that your belongings especially your passports, route permits, cameras, wallets and purses are properly secured. There have been some incidents where visitors found their important documents missing. 

COMMUNICATIONS

All major towns have basic communication facilities, including post, telephone, fax and telegraph. Television, internet and can be accessed from most towns and cities. In trekking areas, it may be hard to find such facilities also sometimes very expensive

SHOPPING

“Shop till you drop” should be your motto as Kathmandu is a shoppers’ paradise. Many of the shops, galleries and boutiques various wares providing that special something for you and your loved ones.

There are numerous tourist shops on the main streets and in the hotel arcades brimming with tempting jewelry, statues, and other typical Nepalese handicraft. Each place has its specialty product which is unique. Bhaktapur, for instance, is the place to buy pottery. The Traditional Craftsman’s Colony in Patan is a famous center for Nepalese handicraft. You may get carved-wooden items while at Patan. As for jewelry, buyers can opt for loose gems or custom-made items.

Experience everything from luxury boutiques, malls and department stores to street markets and local designers.

CLIMATE AND WEATHER
Nepal’s climate varies with its topography. It ranges from tropical to arctic depending upon the altitude. The Terai region, which lies in the tropical southern part of the country, for instance, has a hot, humid climate. The mid-land regions are pleasant almost all year around, although winter morning and nights are cool. The northern mountain region, around an altitude above 3,353 meters has an alpine climate with a considerably lower temperature and thin air in winter as can be expected.

Spring is colorful season which is punctuated by the odd shower of life-giving rain but the heat gradually builds until the monsoon relief arrives. During summer the Monsoon; moisture-laden wind, gathers in the Bay of Bengal and sweep up across India to spend its force on the Himalayan mountain chain. Autumn is renowned for clear skies and pleasant temperature. By winter the high hills take dry brown shades and the mountains are occasionally dusted with fresh snow. However due to Nepal’s vast range of diversified land orientation as well its amazing climatic variation effects regular seasons different and are six in Nepal. 

Nepali Seasons

       Spring        –  Basanta       April-May     
       Summer    –  Grishma      June-July     
       Monsoon   –  Barsha          Late June-Mid September      
       Autumn     –  Sharad         September-November     
       Winter       –  Hinud           December-January     
       Windy        –  Sisir               February-March    

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
   Kathmandu 19-2 20-4 25-8 30-11 30-16 30-20 30-21 29-20 27-19 23-15 23-4 20-2
Pokhara 20-8 21-8 27-11 30-16 30-19 30-20 30-21 30-21 29-20 27-18 23-11 20-8
Chitwan 24-7 26-8 33-12 35-18 35-20 35-23 33-24 33-24 32-22 31-18 29-12 24-8

 Fig : chart showing Average Maximum – Minimum Temperatures (In degrees Celsius) 

TIPPING

We suggest US$30-50 per week to Guide. It is not compulsory to tip, only if you believe staff have done remarkably good job putting extra effort to make your trip enjoyable. 

WHAT TO BRING
Nepal airlines observes a baggage weight limit of 30 kilogram’s in economy class and 40 kilogram’s  in business class so it may be troublesome and expensive to carry too much. Casual clothes are generally most suitable though a set of formal wear might come in handy as might rain gear, windbreakers, sun caps and sunglasses. You should come prepared for vast contrasts of weather. Sun cream and lip protection will help.

Strange as it may seem you may wish midway through your stay that you had brought along a set of ear plugs, a Swiss army knife or useful equivalent, a small backpack, and a soft suitcase instead of one made of less versatile material.

CHECK LIST:
Clothing 
Cold Season (September – March)
       – Thermal underwear
       – Down Jacket
       – Warm Trousers and sweaters
       – Woolen Shirts full slip
       – Hat (ear cover)
       – Gloves water proof
       – Woolen socks

Warm season (April – August)
       – Comfortable trousers
       – T-shirt
       – Windproof jacket
       – Fleece jacket
       – Scarf 

Normal checklist:
       – Casual wear and comfortable walking shoes
       – Sleeping bag (if you are trekking or using guest houses)
       – Bring all your films
       – Cosmetics
       – Personal toilet items that you will need from home
       – Wind breaker
       – Sun hat
       – Food snacks along way (power bars)
       – Water Bottle
       – Sunglass
       – Swiss knife
       – Sun Cream
       – Toilet paper
       – Flash light batteries
       – Day pack camera and enough film
       – Mask: roads can be very dusty
       – Rain Jacket
       – Personal medical kit
       – Recommended Guide Book (Foot Print by Gyurme Dorje)
       – Map (easily available in Thamel) 

READING LIST
LonelyPlanet Nepal  : 
A guide book of Nepal.
Annapurna  : A book by Reinhold Messner about his expedition experience in the dead zone of Annapurna.
Trekking in Nepal : Written by Stephen Bezruchka is an nice book for all treks with and bibliography of additional books.  
Caravans of the Himalaya :
Based on the journey by Erric Vallie and his wife to the Dolpo region which was done for making famous film “Caravan”. If you are traveling in Dolpo, this book is the best one.
Trekking and climbing in Nepal : Written by Steve Razzetti, this book gives comprehensive knowledge of major trekking trails and climbing peaks.
Nepal Handbook  : By Kerry Morgan. Recommended specially for Kathmandu Valley sightseeings.
Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya : By Stan Armungton. This book has detailed trek descriptions including restricted areas of Mustang, Manaslu, Dolpo and kailash. 

Have a great time in Himalaya country Nepal !!