NEPAL TRAVEL INFORMATION
Passport and Visa: Tourist visa is essential and can be purchased upon arrival in the Airport. To obtain a visa upon arrival by air in Nepal you must fill in an application form and provide a passport photograph. Visa application forms are available on a table in the arrivals hall, though some airlines provide this form on the flight. For people with electronic passports there are now visa registration machines in the immigration hall which, after inserting your passport, will automatically fill out the visa form for you. However you do it, getting through immigration can take up to an hour, depending on the numbers. A single-entry visa valid for 15/30/90 days costs US$25/40/100. At Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport the fee is payable in any major currency, but at land borders officials require payment in cash US dollars; bring small bills. We haven’t yet heard of it happening to anyone else but the last time we entered Nepal by air and asked for a ninety day visa we were also asked to show our driving license.
Multiple-entry visas are useful if you are planning a side trip to Tibet, Bhutan or India. You can change your single-entry visa to a multiple-entry visa at Kathmandu’s Central Immigration Office for US$20.
Customs & Duties: You must clear your luggage at the port of entry. Here’s a list of the things you may bring and their volumes so they do not attract duty.
Cigarettes: 200 sticks or
Cigars: 50 sticks
Liquor: 1 bottle not larger than 1.15 liters, or 12 cans of beer
You are also allowed to bring in a still camera (15 rolls of film though 400X film is more easily available all over Nepal than in some cities in India); one movie camera (12 rolls) or one video camera; something to listen to your music on; one pram, one tricycle, one walking stick, one sleeping bag and one pair of binoculars. It’s illegal to export antiques.
Time: Nepal is 4 Hours and 45 minutes ahead of GMT standard time.
Weather: Nepal has four distinct seasons. Spring from March to May, is warm and dusty with rain showers. Summer is from June to August, and much of the season is dominated by the monsoon, when the hills turn lush and green. Autumn from late September to November, is cool with clear skies, and is the most popular trekking season. In winter, from December to February, it is cold at night and can be foggy in the early morning, but afternoon are usually clear and pleasant, though there is occasional snow in the mountains. The weather is warmer and winter is much milder at lower elevations, including Kathmandu at 1400m. It rarely snows below 2000m.
The monsoon creates a rainy season from mid June to mid September. It is hot during the monsoon and it rains almost every day, but it is a considerate rain, limiting itself mostly to the night. During this season Trekking in middle hills is difficult but it is the best season for trekking in Tibet Kailash Manasarover holy Yatra and other Tibet tours. Trekking in Trans-Himalayan regions such as Mustang and Tibet via Simikot of Nepal is possible during monsoon as well. Most of the precipitation in the Himalaya occurs during the summer monsoon. It usually doesn’t rain for more than a few days during the entire autumn season from mid-October to mid -December. During winter and spring there may be a week or so of rainy days, and occasional thunderstorms blanket the hills with snow. The Himalaya makes its own located weather, which varies significantly over a distance of a few km. Expect clouds in the afternoon and be prepared for occasional rain.
There is less snow on the mountains and on many of the high trails during winter. Winter snowstorms in December and January may make an early spring pass crossing difficult and can present an avalanche danger, especially on the approach to the Annapurna Sanctuary. During the spring, sudden violent thunderstorms, accompanied by high winds blow down trees and tents as cause streams to swell.
Hours: Nepal has her ‘Sabbath’ on Saturday, which is the day all government and financial institutions are closed. Most banks are open from 10 a.m. till 2:30 pm Sunday to Thursday. Fridays are half working days and banks open from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.
Safety: Nepalese are among the most gentle and hospitable people in the world. However, cases of mugging, theft and worse aren’t completely unheard of. Maoist rebels often picket police stations so be prepared for road blockages which won’t harm you in any way except by throwing plans off track. Women would be safer not wandering along deserted streets or trails on their own and at all times, except perhaps in Chitwan, Kathmandu and Pokhra, dressing conservatively.
Health Issue: The rural areas couldn’t have fewer health services if they tried. However, each region does have at least one major hospital. Not all of these are in the pink of health but with the amount of aid that Nepal is receiving from WHO and other aid agencies, things are fast getting better.
For climbers and mountaineers, look out for symptoms of altitude sickness/acute mountain sickness. If you ascend above 3500meters too fast you might feel nauseous, sleepless, and your head may ache. In this case your body’s telling you that you’re having acclimatization problems so let’s descend, buddy. Jokes aside, this is a very serious situation to be in and the only thing to do is to descend. Also carry sunscreen with minimum SPF 20 to escape sunburn.
Electricity: 220 volts/50 hertz is the frequency at which electricity is available WHEN it is! Power cuts and ‘load shedding’ is a regular feature in all the areas where electricity has reached. If your electric razor has flat-pin plug then carry a combination plug that will feed into a round-pin socket: across the sub continent plug point sockets are round rather than flat.
Currency & Costs: The Nepali rupee is also referred to as NC for Nepali Currency. The Rupee is divided into 100 Paisa. It is available in the denominations of 1000, 500, 100, 50, 25, 20, 10, 5, 2, 1.
Coins are available in denominations of 50, 25, and 10.
Major credit cards and Visa cards find wide acceptance in this extremely traveler-friendly country. You must however, have paper money too if you are venturing into a small town. All foreigners except Indians are expected to pay hotel bills and pay for air tickets and trekking permits in foreign currency. Even then, it will never be overwhelmingly expensive. Outside Kathmandu there aren’t any 5-star hotels. You could splurge on souvenirs but these are to be paid for in Nepali rupees. Food too is reasonably priced. At the swankiest restaurant in Kathmandu a meal for two with drinks would rarely exceed 800 rupees.
Banks & Money Changers: Banking is still quite primitive in Nepal. With the exception of Kathmandu, Pokhra and some bazaar towns, Nepali towns have only a local branch of a nationalized bank. Folk still store their fortune in traditional assets like gold and land. Change your money only at accredited bureaus; all other transactions are illegal. Always retain your Foreign Exchange Encashment receipts. It helps in getting visa extensions and trekking permits if you can show that all your financial transactions have been above board and you’re not selling personal stuff in the market to bankroll your stay. These also help when you’re reconverting Nepalese currency while exiting. Except Indians all foreign nationals
have to pay for trekking permits and air tickets and pay hotel bills in foreign currency. Except Indians no other foreign nationals are allowed to carry Indian currency into Nepal. Most money changers are open for 12 hours in the day.
Language: Nepali is the National language of Nepal and written in Devanagari script, this is an official language too. Classification of population by mother tongue as reported in the population census 1991, shows that population speaking Nepali as a mother tongue are 50.3% of the total. Languages spoken in Nepal are Maithili (11.8%), Bhojpuri (7.5%), Tharu (5.4%), Tamang (4.9%) and Newari (3.7%) respectively. Avadi, Magar, Gurung, Darai, Chepang, Rai, Limbu languages are also spoken in Nepal. However most educated Nepalese can speak and write English.