This in-depth travel guide covers tips on where to stay, what to do, what to expect, and what to pack for a trip to Nepal.
Nepal is a country of shocking natural beauty and immense spiritual kindness. Home to eight of the world’s ten highest mountain peaks, including Mount Everest, and a host of jungle valleys, rolling hills, and fertile river basins, Nepal offers numerous opportunities for photographers and outdoor enthusiasts.
The country is also notable as the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, as well as being home to a number of impressive Hindu temples, making it the perfect destination for travelers interested in hiking, photography, and ethno-tourism.
Nepal Travel Guide & Packing Tips
How to Get to Nepal
On-arrival tourist visas are available for citizens of most countries at several border entry points, as well as Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. This makes flying into Nepal an easy travel option.
Should you be visiting from Tibet or India, crossing by car or bus at a designated border crossing is also possible. Keep in mind that if you plan to volunteer while in Nepal, that is technically considered “work” and you can be fined if volunteering on a tourist visa without prior permission.
Transportation in Nepal
Once in Nepal, microbuses, taxis, and long-distance tourist buses can get you around from location to location, or you can rent a motorbike. There are also several domestic airlines which provide regular flights between Kathmandu and popular destinations like Pokhara and Bharatpur.
Trekking is also popular amongst tourists, with each region offering its own set of circuits. Treks can be arranged through IPPG approved tourism centers or trekking companies if you wish to join a group or explore less traveled circuits.
If you’re not used to independent travel in developing countries, you may want to look into booking a guided tour — even if it’s just for a portion of your trip. This tour covers a lot of the same locations I visited and 12 days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Nepal. I would, however, add more time if you plan on doing some trekking. Here is a 8-night tour option as well.
Nepal is one of the few countries I’ve ever booked a group tour and I’m honestly glad I did. I’ve traveled independently through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Indonesia and these countries were cake walks compared to Nepal.
Even with a tour guide, my trip to Nepal still had its challenges. That being said, I would travel back here in a second; the friendliness of the locals and the beauty of the landscape are incomparable to anywhere else in the world.
Food & Culture in Nepal
Hinduism and Buddhism are the two largest religions in Nepal, but there are also a number of indigenous ethnic groups, mostly rural or nomadic, which have their own traditions and beliefs.
Since the large majority of inhabitants are Hindu, there is a strict division of castes and you should be aware of the rules surrounding eating and drinking, such as eating with your right hand, washing your hands before and after meals, and avoiding touching water containers or others’ food when eating in a group. You should also avoid touching others with your left hand.
Nepalese food is eaten with the hands, which is why these considerations are so important. Spiced lentils and boiled rice with curry, pickled vegetables, or yoghurt is the national dish, and demonstrates the Nepalese diet’s dependence on spices and rice. Depending on the region, you may also encounter local specialties of fresh fruit, meat and veggie dumplings, and yak products.
Due to sanitary concerns, only drink boiled or bottled water and be sure that all food is fresh and thoroughly cooked.
Currency: Nepalese Rupee (NPR)
Packing Essentials for Nepal
Headlamp: Nepal is the trip that prompted me to ALWAYS keep a headlamp in my carry-on bag. There are power cuts in Nepal that can reach up to 14 hours per day. In addition to fumbling around in the dark in my hotel room, many times I was stuck walking into town in the pitch dark with only the sounds of growling dogs. Come prepared with at least one headlamp and several extra batteries!
Comfortable Shoes: Another must-have item! Bring comfortable shoes that can be worn with pants or skirts plus a pair of hiking shoes, if you plan on doing any trekking.
Luggage: I don’t recommend bringing wheeled luggage to Nepal; pack light and bring everything in a large framed backpack. If you do bring wheeled luggage, just be prepared to carry it everywhere. The streets are not conducive to wheeled luggage and many of the hotels don’t have elevators.
Batteries: Again, bring extra batteries for your headlamp and/or flashlight.
Voltage Converter & Adapter: You’ll want a C & D adapter for your electronics and if they cannot handle 220v, then bring a converter too.
Clothing: Pack comfortable clothes that can be dressed up or down. For the ladies, I recommend bringing a colorful silk scarf to dress up your outfits, a maxi skirt, fleece-lined leggings to wear under a tunic, and a couple of short and long-sleeved cotton t-shirts to layer. Bring the essentials and leave room in your bag to add some local attire!
Hats & Gloves: Bring a pair of gloves (these are fleece-lined and work with all touch screen devices!) and a winter hat if you are traveling in cooler months or if you’ll be doing any hiking.
Things to Do in Nepal
Trekking: As previously mentioned, trekking has become a popular tourist activity and is a great way to see the country. From solo “tea-house trekking” to group cultural treks and rigorous peak trekking up Everest and other mountains, there are a number of hiking and backpacking options available. You can either hire local guides or go through a trekking company.
Royal Chitwan National Park: The wildlife tours and jungle safaris are not for the faint of heart! You will have the opportunity to see crocodiles, rhinos, birds, monkeys, sloth bear, and possibly even tigers up close. Unless things have changed since we visited the area, we wouldn’t recommend visiting the Elephant Breeding Center; the elephants are chained and don’t seem to be well taken care of.
Kathmandu Valley: The valley around Nepal’s capital is full of temples and pilgrimage sites, such as Boudhanath, Pashupatinath, and the famous Monkey Temple. You can book a private day tour which visits all of the main temples for a very reasonable price.
Bhaktapur: Bhaktapur is the only place in Nepal which has remained untouched by western culture and it’s recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Nagarkot: Nagarkot is known as the top spot for amazing Himalayan views right from your hotel! Club Himalaya is one of the best hotels in the area and it offers 360 degree views of these jaw-dropping mountains.