Currency: Nepal Rupee – 150 rupees are roughly £1 as of October 2018
Language: Nepali – नेपाली
Capital: Kathmandu – काठमाडौँ
Places visited in Nepal: Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan, Kathmandu (again)
Expect to pay around £10 a night for a private double room in Kathmandu, £6 a night in Pokhara and £4-5 in Chitwan. If there are two of you it’s often cheaper to book a private double room than stay in dorms.
Toilet roll, towels and soap are not usually included and the room is not normally cleaned between check-in and check-out. If you need your bin emptying, leave it outside your room or take it down to the staff yourself.
Get used to refreshing cold showers – bathrooms are usually basic with little to no hot water. The shower is usually directly above the toilet bowl so you have to remember to put the lid down to stop it filling and flooding (or getting a wet bum when you next go to the toilet).
When choosing somewhere to eat, watch out for service charge and tax! It will usually say at the bottom of the menu whether this is included, but with some places charging 10% for service and 7% tax, it can soon make your meal more expensive than you’d expected. Be sure to ask if you’re unsure, or go somewhere that specifically states ‘no service charge or tax.’ It’s a big selling point!
Dal bhat is the main Nepali dish, which consists of a portion of plain rice, a small bowl of runny dal, some salad (usually cucumber, carrot and/or tomato), a vegetable curry, papad and some chutneys/pickles. If you choose, you can also add meat or seafood depending on where you are. You can pick up a tasty, traditional dal bhat for between 80-200 rupees (50p – £1.50ish). It’s really delicious and fills you up all day – there are many t-shirts around saying ‘dal baht power – 24 hour’ and it’s true what they say! I found it really wholesome and nutritious and I never needed to eat much more than a snack later if I had dal baht in the daytime.
Many Nepalis are vegetarian so you’ll see an abundance of vegetarian eateries wherever you go. It used to be like India where vegetarians didn’t eat eggs either, but apparently this is becoming less common and many Nepali vegetarians now do eat eggs. They absolutely LOVE dairy, so being vegan can be tricky. They do not consider paneer to be cheese, so if you ask for no cheese in your meal, you may still get paneer. I had some luck by asking for things with ‘no milk products’ but usually I had to explain myself and accept that I’d probably have my food cooked in ghee or there’d be some cream added at the end. I did my best!
I did come across two vegan restaurants in Kathmandu and an abundance in hippie Pokhara, which you can read about in my guides to the different areas of Nepal.
We lived comfortably on £10 per person per day, excluding accomodation.
We excluded accomodation because we usually booked on hotels.com and booking.com to maximise cashback and reward programmes, which meant paying on card in our local currency. I recommend looking into cashback sites and reward programmes as it’s a really easy way to save and/or make extra money for nothing whilst you’re travelling.
What to wear
In Kathmandu, I felt the need to dress quite modestly as when I did wear shorts one morning I felt quite uncomfortable as I thought people were staring at me. You can buy lots of baggy trousers and tops (for both males and females) cheaply whilst you’re there – otherwise I recommend buying trousers or maxi dresses/skirts which aren’t too tight or figure hugging, and tops which are loose, unrevealing and cover at least your chest and shoulders. I often wore a vest top with a large baggy button-up shirt and/or silky scarf so I could de-layer if I got hot and felt able to bare a little more skin.
The roads and paths are more like dirt tracks and it’s so busy you’ll get stepped on constantly. I therefore recommend a good pair of comfortable trainers (I have Sketchers) rather than sandals or flip-flops. If your feet are exposed they’ll be filthy the moment you step out the door and if it rains they’ll also be wet through.
It was less necessary to cover up so much in other parts of Nepal like Pokhara and Chitwan, where I felt able to wear shorts. There were lots of tourists in these areas wearing western style clothing too.
Cultural notes – how to behave
Nepalis are very friendly and welcoming but I did also mention that I found there to be a lot of discrimination against tourists/non-locals. Do bear in mind that you’ll pay more than locals for just about everything and you’ll usually be expected to make way for locals ahead of yourself, including sitting at the back of buses.
‘Namaste’ is the Nepali greeting and although I’d read that most people put their hands together and bowed their heads during the greeting, I didn’t find this to be the case, except for when being greeted by children. I’m not sure if it’s reserved for a sign of respect (e.g. a child to an adult) or whether it’s just dropped out of custom as times have moved on.
Nepalis don’t say thank you quite like we do in the West, (I mean does anyone really, apart from us Brits), so bear in mind that if you’re not thanked it’s a cultural difference rather than a rude statement. It’s still fine for you to say thank you as normal, and they will usually respond with ‘welcome’ every time. It’s quite funny if they’re laying your table and you say ‘thank you’ every time they put an item down, like we just do in Britain automatically – you realise just how much we say it because each and every time they respond with ‘welcome’ and it’s actually quite awkward when you notice it!
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