Nepal Travel: Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting
Nepal is the home of Mount Everest, ancient cities and kingdoms, and a country that was shut away from foreign visitors up until 1951. After the regime of isolation ended in the 50s, just two short years later two mountaineers summited Mount Everest and brought the Himalayas of Nepal to international fame. If you’re planning to visit Nepal, we’ll cover everything you need In this guide, you’ll find details on how to organize your visas, the best thing to do in Nepal, and essential information for a successful trip.
Most foreign countries require a visa for visiting Nepal, but it’s relatively easy to apply for one. Most people go for the on-arrival visa process, where you can apply for a visa directly when you arrive at the international airport in Nepal.
Head to the kiosk right after the arrival gate, then spend a good five to 10 minutes entering all of your information. Then you’ll receive a printed paper, which you’ll need to take to the counter for payment before passing through customs.
Here’s the thing I’ve noticed about the counter: If possible, bring the exact amount of US Dollars or Nepalese Rupees. They’ll always tell you that there have no change, but they actually do. The tricky part is, all merchants in Nepal do not accept old US Dollar notes, so make sure you have new notes in your pocket.
And here’s my friend’s nightmare: She paid at the counter for 15-day visa and got back an old $50 USD note for change. Then she was stuck with a $50 she couldn’t spend in Nepal because it’s literally not accepted anywhere. If that happens to you, carry it out of Nepal and spend it elsewhere, like Vietnam or Cambodia.
Costs for a Nepal Visas:
- 15 Days – US$ 25
- 30 Days – US$ 40
- 90 Days – US$100
Note that visa can only be extended to a maximum of 150 days in calendar year, from January to December. You can also apply online before going to the immigration office.
Currency in Nepal
The main currency used in Nepal is the Nepalese Rupees. However, some restaurants and tourist agent offices accept US Dollars, or even Indian Rupees.
But still, if possible, change your foreign notes to Nepalese Rupees from the money changers, because if you pay with foreign notes, the rates are generally unfavorable. You’ll find plenty of money changers in tourist hubs like Thamel in Kathmandu and the Lakeside of Pokhara. Be sure to compare the rates among multiple money changers!
SIM Cards in Nepal
SIM Cards in Nepal are mostly prepaid, so you’ll have to top up by buying a prepaid card whenever you need more credit.
Most travelers prefer using Ncell because they have the best coverage in the country, and it’s actually quite cheap. It’s available for sale in the airport, and also literally every shop in Kathmandu and other cities. But the tricky part, again, is that the prices vary a lot depending on where you buy it—in the airport, it might cost a few times more expensive than buying outside.
If you really want to save money on SIM Cards, avoid buying one in the airport or the Thamel neighborhood in Kathmandu. I bought mine in Shankhamul, a residential area in Kathmandu. (Since I volunteered there as a teacher for a month, I had to get used to riding the public buses.)
If you’re new to Nepal and feel insecure without a SIM Card, you can definitely buy it in Thamel and save troubles—it will just cost you. Want an exact number? A guy in Thamel quoted me Rs 300, while I bought mine for Rs 150 in Shankhamul. You could also try Chhetrapati, a mere five minute walk from Thamel—they have everything cheap over there.
Getting Around in Nepal
Traveling in Nepal can be very different compared to traveling in other countries in the world. Everything here can be DIY (Do It Yourself), or you can pay for services and guides. To truly experience the way of life in Nepal, of course, I’d recommend riding the public buses to get around the city.