Nepal never ceases to conjure up the mysteries of the orient in travellers imagination. From mountain top monasteries filled with saffron robed monks to the chaos of rural marketplaces every traveller has a distinct picture of Nepal. Those that travel there come back with some of the speculations validated and still more new impressions imposed upon them by this small but wondrous country. Nepal due to its poverty is also a very popular destination for GAP placements and most major GAP year organisers run placements in the country.
It should be noted that due to a Maoist people's war declared in 1996 the political situation in Nepal does bear some consideration. A current ceasefire has put an end to hostilities but it is still advisable to register your travel itinerary with your home embassy in Nepal upon arrival. It is also recommended to exercise caution when travelling in the more remote areas of the country.
- Currency: Nepalese Rupee (Rs) = 100 paisa
- Time Zone: GMT +5.45
- Language: Nepali
- Telephone Services: Country Code +977, International access code 00
- Emergency Numbers: Not present
Nepal benefits from quite a stable and predictable climate, there is a monsoon period between July and September but the rest of the year is pleasantly dry. During the winter temperatures drop to below freezing and most of the mountainous areas lie under a thick blanket of snow. Spring and Autumn are the most pleasant times to visit although don't expect the mountains to be warm at any time of the year.
Things to see and do
The countries capital, Kathmandu has often been described as a living museum due to the immense amount of history and culture that this city exudes. There are areas of modern hi-rise buildings but you will be refreshed to see that much of the old way of life is preserved throughout the city. The city is literally littered with temples and religious sites but one of the most popular is Durbar Square which houses several museums as well as both Buddhist and Hindu temples complete with excellent examples Nepalese stone-craft. Four of the temples in this are have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites so they are well worth a look. Although some temples are open to visitors there are many in the city which are not open to non-worshippers, for this reason it is important to respect the local customs and always ensure you have permission to enter a sacred site.
The city of Bhaktapur is a slightly off the beaten track and as a result is in many ways a richer experience than visiting Kathmandu. The city itself is largely unchanged since the 17th century with only a few modern developments. The city is small enough to get around all the major attractions by foot and is also a great city to explore in. Not letting itself by outshone by the nations capital Bhaktapur has a bigger and better Durbar Square complete with the ubiquitous temples, museums and statues. Of particular interest is the Ugrachandi Statues which were reputedly so good that the sculptor has his hands amputated to prevent him duplicating his work.
For those tired of temple trekking the Nagarjun Forest Reseve is one of the finest examples of untouched forest in Nepal. The wildlife here is abundant and if you are lucky you might be able to spot pheasants or even deer herds. There are plenty of walking and hiking trails through the forest and there is also a lookout post which gives excellent views of the surrounding countryside.
Nepal has only one railway, the Nepal Janakpur-Jayanager Railway operated by Nepal Transport Corporation. It was originally established in 1933 by British rules in India for the transportation of timber. Unfortunately not a lot has changed since. Whilst travel is cheap it is incredibly sub standard and several bodies have questioned if the railway is safe enough to carry passengers. This leaves buses as the only real form of transport in the country.
Buses are cheap and plentiful run chiefly by enterprising locals, if you wait on any road for long enough there will almost certainly be a bus travelling down it. Unfortunately the conditions are pretty hair raising, expect your ride to be slow, uncomfortable and shared with various livestock.
With all public transportation somewhat substandard many people opt to use a bike for short journeys. These can be hired in most major towns but there is no getting away from the fact that the most reliable method of travelling in Nepal is by foot. For this reason ensure that you have a good pair of hiking boots and that you stock up on bottled water whenever you are in town.
Kathmandu boasts a decent number of international class hotels but these get extremely busy during the peak travelling season so it is advisable to book well in advance. Other larger towns have a fair selection of comfortable hotels although the standards might not be as high as that in Western Europe or even in the more commercial areas of Asia. The Hotel Association of Nepal carries full details of hotels as well as further information regarding accommodations.
There are numerous hostels and lodges scattered around the country, these are particularly suited to trekkers and backpackers. The best way to find out more information is to contact the Nepal Tourism Board, the relevant adrees can be found in our "Useful Addresses" section.
Medical Facilities in most of the country are poor, there are hospitals in major population centres but standards are not as high as in Western Europe or the US. Most large hotels have on call doctors and Pharmacies in cities like Kathmandu carry a decent range of Western drugs at cheap prices. It is essential that you have a comprehensive travel insurance policy which will cover the cost of medical treatment and repatriation before departing for Nepal.
Cholera is a problem in Nepal and you should seek advice from your GP about whether you require a vaccination before you visit. Vaccinations for typhoid and polio are recommended and can be dispensed by your local GP for approximately £40. Malaria is also present in the country, particularly the Vivax strain. Medical advice should be sought about what anti-malaria treatments to carry with you.
Water is not safe to drink and water used for washing or consumption should have been boiled or sterilised first. Where possible it is best to stick to bottled water. Dairy products are un-pasteurised and should be avoided in all parts of Nepal. Vegetables should be peeled and washed before consumption and meat should be thoroughly cooked and eaten hot.
The Nepalese Ministry of culture, tourism and aviation provides advice for travellers to Nepal.
The Hotel Association of Nepal carries full details of hotels as well as further information regarding accommodations.