Nepal is a culturally rich country. Despite being a small country, in its size, Nepal is a home to 123 languages and a melting pot of diverse ethical values and norms, wandering in past, from India, Mongolia, and Tibet. Over the centuries, various legendary rulers did rule, and also got overthrown in the history of Nepal. Each ruler brought along their distinct tradition and beliefs, which, in the present context, have converted Nepal into a colourful garden. Likewise, the cultural heritage of Nepal has also evolved over the centuries. A Hindu temple to be seen next to a Buddhist temple is a common sight in Nepal. People of Nepal offer uttermost respect to every religion, temples, and beliefs. Nepal has been enjoying the state of inter-religious harmony since centuries. Lord Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal, and the most pious temple of Lord Shiva; Pashupati Nath is in Kathmandu, Nepal, which crowns Nepal for being a most spiritual country. Nepal is renowned for its arts and crafts. Thanka paintings, Nyatapola style temples and castles, and hand-made statues of gods have inspired many liberal artists from all around the world. Nepal, as an entire country, celebrates as many festivals as there are days in a year. People of Nepal like to be happy – like to enjoy the moments and celebrate occasions.
Nepal is a small landlocked country, sandwiched between China to the north and India to the south. Just 800km long and 200km wide, it covers every altitude from 150m to 8,848m, the highest point in the world at the top of Mount Everest.
Although nearly two thirds of the country is covered by mountains, almost half of the population lives in the narrow lowland belt of the Terai that covers only 17% of the country’s landmass.
Nepal is home to a wide variety of people, animals and birds and landscapes. There are over 100 languages, with over 50 officially recognized tribes or ethnic groups.
Geologically, millions of years ago Nepal was once under the ocean, as seen in the Kali Gandaki river bed, where ammonites can still be found. The Himalayas are in fact a very young mountain range, still moving upwards a few millimeters every year.
Nepal can be divided into distinct zones: the southern plains, the mountain areas and in between, the hill regions.
Terai in the south form the flat lowland area that runs along the length of Nepal, bordering with India. The Chure Hills, with an average height of about 1,000m, forms a minor ridge that runs the length of the country, separating the Middle Hills from the Inner Terai area.
Middle Hills North of the Inner Terai are the Middle Hills or Mahabharat Range which vary between 1,500 and 2,700m. Between these hills and the Himalaya lays a broad belt of cultivated land that is known as the Pahar zone, including the valleys of Kathmandu and Pokhara. After the Terai, this area is the most densely populated area of Nepal.
The weather and climate vary from hot summers to severe winters and its topography and altitude. It ranges from the tropical to the arctic. In Spring (March – May) the temperature is mildly warm in the lowlands while moderate in higher altitudes with plenty of opportunities to have a tryst with the mountain views. Summer (between June – August) is the monsoon season in Nepal.
Monsoon in Nepal is not the typical monsoon of Asia. It mostly rains during night time leaving the sky clean and clear by the morning making the Himalayan view even more dramatic.
Autumn (September – November) is the best tourist season in Nepal. This is the peak season for hiking & trekking as mountain views are stunning and guaranteed. It is also the season of festivals as Nepal celebrates the biggest Hindu festival Dashain followed by Tihar.
In Winter (December – February) the weather is cool and the sky is clear with occasional snowfalls at higher altitude; perfect weather for hiking & trekking in the lower parts of the Himalayas. Mornings and nights are cold but the days are warm when sunny.
Time & Date : GMT +5.45
Nepal the currency is the Nepalese Rupee (NPR). This is fixed to the Indian Rupee and is a soft currency, which means it cannot be changed outside the country. It is fixed to the Indian Rupee at 100 IPR to 160 NPR. It is best to bring a mixture of cash in major currencies – USD, CAD, EUR, AUD – and ensure you have a mixture of large and small denominations. Exchange – Money may easily be exchanged at Kathmandu airport on arrival and banks and licensed moneychangers in the cities (shop around as at money changers, a small amount of bargaining can sometimes get a more favorable rate). Bank rates and commission tend to vary. There are many licensed moneychangers in Thamel and Pokhara, though anywhere else is more difficult. The rates at the money changers is slightly lower than banks, but their opening hours are longer and usually you don’t have to queue. There are a number of banks that can provide money transfers and foreign exchange.
Standard Chartered is the only international bank in Nepal and has several branches in Kathmandu and Pokhara. Outside of Kathmandu and Pokhara however, banks are unlikely to be able to provide these services. Credit cards and ATMs – Credit card cash advances and ATM withdrawals are in NPR only. ATM machines can be found in Kathmandu and Pokhara, and other larger towns, but not in smaller places. Outside these places, in general credit cards are not widely accepted and invariably payment is processed using the paper slips, often with an additional charge of 3-4%. How much you will need for shopping is difficult to predict, but most people buy more than they plan to. If you want to buy quality art works including hand-painted thangkas, carpets or traditional jewelry you can easily spend USD200+ for top quality items.
The 2011 National census lists 123 Nepalese languages spoken as a mother tongue (first language) in Nepal. Most belong to the Indo-Aryan and Sino-Tibetan language families. The official language of Nepal is Nepali, formerly called Khaskura then Gorkhali. According to the 2011 national census, the percentage of Nepali Bhasi people is about 44.6%.[dead link] Maithili is the second largest Nepalese language and according to 2011 Census, the percentage of Maithil people is 11.57%.[dead link]Most of their languages are written using the Devanagari script including their indigenous languages. English is understood by the majority of population.
Traditional Nepali food is plain and simple, not very spicy, but full of flavors. Restaurants are many and varied in Kathmandu and Pokhara, though the selection is much more limited once out of these cities.While trekking in the mountains, (especially in Everest and some parts of Annapurnas), the Tibetan influence becomes more evident in the food. Many Indian dishes are found in the plains in the south.
Dal-bhat-tarkari – a thick lentil soup (dal), with rice (bhat) and vegetable curry (tarkari). This is the Nepali staple and for most Nepalis, their favorite meal above all others. ‘Achar’ or pickles spice up this dish and sometimes it will be served with curd or yoghurt, and meat (‘masu’), usually chicken or mutton (which is invariably goat).The Newars of the Kathmandu Valley have their own much more exotic and varied cuisine. They use spices and ingredients in a much more creative way, with a wide range of spicy dishes. They are great meat eaters, with buff or buffalo as a preferred meat (cows are sacred). Using chili and other spices, the food is very flavorsome and to be recommended. Tibetan food is less spicy, with momos being the favorite that you can find everywhere. These are small dumplings or parcels of pastry filled with meat or vegetable, usually steamed or fried. For dessert, if you have a sweet tooth you’ll find plenty to tempt you. Like India, there are many sticky sweets usually made from milk and curd. Curd is widely available. Vegetarians are well catered for. Many Hindu Nepalese are vegetarian, though many are more through economy than choice.
Bottled water (pani) can be found in most places. Avoid drinking the water unless it has been boiled or filtered, as tap water is not drinkable. Chang is a mild beer made from millet or rice and is the home brew of the Himalaya. This is made with local water, so be aware that it might not be safe to drink. Raksi is a country liquor usually made from millet, wheat or corn, and sometimes rice. This is distilled, so should be safer to drink, other than the hang-over if you drink too much! The Nepali morning normally begins with a cup of tea (chiya). Nepali tea or masala tea is a special tea with spices like cinnamon added, that gives a wonderful flavor. Tea invariably comes with sugar already added, once you are away from tourist places. Locally produced soft drinks are widely available, as well as Coke and Fanta. Slice is a delicious mango juice and Dew is a local alternative to the imported soft drinks that tastes a bit like Sprite. Lassi is a curd based drink which may be either savory or sweet. It is popular and refreshing. The legal drinking age is 18.
Do not drink the water unless you are sure it has been filtered or boiled thoroughly. The same applies to ice. Bottled water is readily available in the main centre although a much more environmentally-friendly option is to take water purification tablets with you (iodine tablets are best), or a camping bottle with an in-built filter. If you don’t like the taste of the iodine, you can easily use effervescent vitamin tablets (C) or ascorbic acid to neutralize the taste.
When buying your travel insurance, always check the small print – some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities’, which could be anything from scuba diving to horse riding. You should check whether the medical coverage is on a pay first, claim later basis and, more importantly, ensure that your medical coverage includes the cost of medical evacuation.
Visa for Nepal: All foreign nationals (except Indians) require a visa to enter Nepal. Visas are obtainable from embassies abroad or on arrival at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan airport. If getting the visa at the airport be prepared for queues. There have been instances when passengers were asked to show return flight tickets. You will also need to provide two passport photos and the following fees in US dollars cash only. You do not pay for the visa in Nepal Rupees on arrival at the airport, but if you extend your visa at Immigration in Kathmandu or Pokhara, only then, you will have to pay in Rupees.
Multi entry visa valid for 15 days – US$25,
Multi entry visa valid for 30 days – US$40,
Multi entry visa valid for 90 days – US$100.
Please note if you are staying in Nepal for less than 24 hours while in transit, a transit visa can be issued on presentation of your international flight ticket. There is a nominal charge of US$5 and two photos are required.
To go trekking, in most places a TIMs permit is needed and when the trek is in a national park or protected area, fees will apply. RMT normally covers these charges.
Nepal has one major international airport: Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu.
Currency: Nepali rupee
Population: 28.98 million
Official languages: Nepali