Nepal is the only official Hindu kingdom in the world. Eighty per cent of the population are Hindus, the remainder are mainly Buddhist, especially the Sherpa peoples. The two religions live harmoniously together. Travellers to Nepal should dress modestly, particularly when visiting religious areas.
English is fairly widely spoken throughout Nepal, especially in the major centres. The official language of Nepal is Nepali. It is similar to Hindi which is spoken widely in India. In the Everest region, the Sherpa language is also spoken, a derivative of Tibetan.
Area (sq. km):
140,800 square meters
Nepal is 5 hours 45 minutes ahead of GMT.
Nepal is located in the northern hemisphere on the same latitude as Egypt and Florida. Consequently in the lower altitudes, temperatures can reach over 30*C. In the higher altitudes, winter temperatures can plummet to -25*C. The seasons are fairly distinct in Nepal as outlined below, but variations can occur. Mid-September to End November (autumn) - autumn is usually associated with clear skies and little precipitation. Temperatures are warm in lower to middle altitudes (shorts and T-shirts by day, jumper at night). It will be very cold at night over 4000 metres (duvet jacket-provided by us and thermals). This is the most popular time for trekking. December to February (winter) - winter is generally very dry with clear skies. The temperatures are at their lowest. In the lower altitudes the cool temperatures are perfect for trekking (lightweight clothing during the day, thermals and warm clothing at night). At higher altitudes night- time temperatures can be extremely cold (thermals and jacket/jumper during the day; duvet jacket, thermals, gloves and hat at night). To be comfortable during this season you should pay particular attention to ensure you have the correct equipment. March to May (spring) - spring is the season for flowers, particularly rhododendron. Temperatures rise from March onwards. In April and May you may expect heavy showers late in the afternoon, with hazy skies. At lower altitudes temperatures can be very warm, (shorts and T-shirts during the day, light jacket at night) while at higher altitudes they can still fall well below zero at night (jacket/jumper during the day, thermals and duvet jacket at night). It is a popular time for trekking. June to August (summer) It is very wet and often raining and is not conducive to trekking in Nepal. Although we trek at times of the year when weather conditions are usually stable, do be aware that we have no more control over those conditions than you have over your weather at home! It is possible that it will rain or snow at any time during the trekking season, or that views will be affected by cloud, mist and fog. This is one of the factors inherent in walking tours almost anywhere in the world, and something over which we have no influence or control!
Between mid September and late May are the best trekking times for Nepal as the country experiences monsoon rains from late May to August.
Tribhuvan International Airport is the international point of arrival. Domestic flights to the Everest region fly from Kathmandu to Lukla and domestic flights for the Annapurna region fly from Kathmandu to Pokhara.
The international dialling code for Nepal is +977. Telephone calls, especially international ones, can be expensive when made from a hotel. We suggest you check the price first. If you have a mobile phone it should be a relatively simple procedure to arrange ‘global roaming’ with your service provider; however, charges are generally very high so be sure to check this option thoroughly before using it. Phone calls made using local SIM or phone cards are generally your cheapest option.
Voltage in Nepal is 220 volts (50 cycles). You will need an international adaptor. Most sockets are two pins - round. Electricity supplies are subject to occasional disruption. Once on trek, only a few lodges have electric power points.
Kathmandu has many excellent and exciting restaurants offering Indian, Nepalese, Tibetan, Chinese and Western menus. Your leader will have the latest information on the best restaurants. All of these restaurants serve hygienically prepared food and are reasonably priced - US$5-US$15 will get you an excellent meal. Some of those on our list are: Shangri La Hotel The hotel has an excellent garden café and Chinese restaurant and the room service food is very good Chimney Room A cosy restaurant at the Yak and Yeti Hotel. The most expensive place listed here, but excellent food. (Often necessary to book.) Fire and Ice If you can't live without a pizza this is the best place in town. Located on the left as you enter Thamel. Ghar-E-Khebab In Durbar Marg, the best Indian food in Kathmandu, with live music. Opposite the Yak & Yeti hotel Kilroy’s In Thamel. Run by an Irishman, with great European food. Rum Doodle In Thamel. The trekkers’ bar and restaurant with excellent food. Café Mitra In Thamel. A small boutique eatery! Possibly the best western menu in Kathmandu. The Third Eye In Thamel. Excellent Indian food. Mike's Breakfast For an exceptional breakfast. An old favourite of our leaders, in Naxal next to the Police H.Q. A 20-minute walk from the hotel. The Trekking Menu Menus are a mixture of local, Asian and western cuisine. On both our camping and lodge treks we provide three great meals a day. The emphasis is on a healthy variety, with many meals given a local touch. Breakfast usually consists of porridge or muesli, with local-style breads, then eggs, jam, peanut butter, tea, coffee, and hot chocolate. For lunch there is a lighter meal, maybe a fresh salad with tinned fish and cheese, followed by fresh or tinned fruit with cordial juice and tea. Dinner is a three-course meal with soup, a main course of rice, dhal, vegetables, a mild curry, followed by chocolate cake, tea, coffee or hot chocolate. All meals are cooked on kerosene stoves and are prepared to strict hygienic standards. Do note that on high altitude treks, due to the remoteness and availability, the food may be a little more basic and with slightly less variety. We can cater for vegetarians, but this must be requested at the time of booking.
The majority of the places of interest, restaurants, trekking shops, etc. are within walking distance from the hotels. Taxis and auto rickshaws are available with metered fares, though rates double at night. Rickshaws demand good negotiating skills to get a fair price. For safety we do not recommend the use of cycles.
Opening hours for most shops are from 10am until late in the evening in some cases, from Sunday to Friday. Some shops will also be open on Saturday. Try Thamel and Jochen Tole (Freak Street) for tourist souvenirs. Asan Bazaar is particularly good for local craft ware - copper pots, brass bowls, etc. There is a really busy food market here and it is well worth visiting. Also well worth visiting are Patan and Bhaktapur, Kathmandu's sister cities in the valley, for wood-carvings. Try Swayambhunath, Bodhnath and Patan for Tibetan carpets where you could find some bargains. Talk to your leader about the possibilities because they will know the best places and the best prices.
There are many shops in Kathmandu that sell a wide range of trekking equipment. Nowadays, most of this equipment is made in Kathmandu, even though some brand names may suggest otherwise! Limited supplies of second-hand equipment, brought from past expeditions and trekkers, are available. Prices are not especially cheap, however. We do not recommend that you rely on buying equipment for your trek in Kathmandu, as availability can be very erratic. Most shops are situated in Thamel.
The Bluebird Supermarket is located just near the Shangri La Hotel and there are other supermarkets in the Thamel area. They stock a wide range of goods. You will need to pay cash (Nepalese rupees) for your purchases, and change is sometimes a problem.
All foreign nationals (except Indians) require a visa to enter Nepal. Visas are obtainable from embassies abroad on arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport and at some land borders (including borders with India and Tibet).
Getting a visa at the airport can sometimes take time due to long queues. There have been instances when passengers were asked to show return flight tickets. You will also need to provide two passport photos and the following fees in US dollars cash. Other currencies are also accepted although rates may differ. The following costs were correct at time of writing:
- Multi entry visa valid for 15 days - US$25
- Multi entry visa valid for 30 days - US$40
- Multi entry visa valid for 90 days - US$100
Please note if you are staying in Nepal for less than 24 hours while in transit a transit visa can be issued on presentation of your international flight ticket, there is a nominal charge of US$5 and one photo is required.
Your visa application form may require you to state the dates on which you enter and exit that country. Please note we suggest you list your date of entry a few days before, and date of exit a few days after, your intended dates in case you encounter any delays or problems en route. To help calculate the exact dates of these crossings we have found the website www.timeanddate.com to be very useful.
For good general guides to Nepal, India, Tibet and Bhutan, the Lonely Planet guide-books are very helpful. (They even have phrase-books which are very handy.) There are numerous books written about the Himalaya. Check your local library, new and old book-shops, and also the Internet can provide useful information on books to read. Kathmandu has many excellent bookshops where many of the books below can be found.
Travellers Tales and Guides Nepal Lonely Planet Guide: - (Hugh Finlay, Richard Everist, Tony Wheeler)
Tiger for Breakfast-Peissel-1966 Schoolhouse in the Sky-Hillary-1968
When Men and Mountains Meet-Keay-1977
Many People Come, Looking, Looking Rowell-1980
Natural History Birds of Nepal-Fleming-1976
Forests of Nepal-Stainton-1972
Stones of Silence-Schaller-1980
Heart of the Jungle-Gurung Himalayan Flowers and Trees-Meirow/Shreshta-1978
Mountaineering Into Thin Air-Krakauer-1997
Everest the Hard Way-Bonnington-1976
White Limbo-Hall-1985 Annapurna-Herzog-1952
Ascent of Everest-Hunt-1953
The Climb-Anatoli Boukreev Left for Dead-Beck Weathers