Passport and Visa: Tourist visa is essential and can be purchased upon arrival in the Airport.
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 litres, 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 5 Hours and 45 minutes ahead of GMT standard time.
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.
Postal & Communication: Internet kiosks are aplenty in Kathmandu. Surfing speed is click-and-go fast and rates are a very reasonable 1 Re a minute.
In the rest of Nepal however, the net is considerably slower and rates much higher. All the major courier expresses have branches in Kathmandu. Postal services are available but can be so slow as to give a whole new dimension to the phrase “snail-mail”.
STD, ISD services are readily available at public call booths as are fax machines.
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. Please visit our Safety Concern page for further information.
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.
The entire Indian sub continent has the same health hazards so one line of defence should cover you on all territories. Like in India, the major risks to your health in Nepal from the armies of mosquitoes are malaria, encephalitis, kala azar and dengue. Cover your arms and legs; be liberal with the repellent and go ‘noonoo’ (Nepali for sleep) under a mosquito net. Traveller’s diarrhoea is another running problem and year after year traveller after traveller gets the ‘loosies’. Ensure it’s nothing nastier by avoiding green salads, uncooked food, and water that you haven’t sanitized by dropping an iodine pill into.
More serious is the risk of contacting AIDS, Hepatitis B and other sexually transmitted diseases. For your sake and the sake of the people you’re visiting always use a condom. Have safe responsible sex.
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 traveller-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 moneychangers 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.
Media : The major English dailies are The Rising Nepal and The Kathmandu Post. BBC World and Voice of America are on the radio. Music rules the waves on FM like everywhere else in the world. The Nepalese like their music mellow on the rocks. Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, the Straits….. they still love them here. Cable TV brings its stable of entertainment channels of which some are in English. Several international news magazines are available at stands in Kathmandu. The south Asian issues magazine ‘Himal’ is published every month.
Tipping: It is customary to tip at restaurants, hotels, and when in Chitwan, also the mahout (before the ride so he can reward you with an extra good showing), the Sherpa guide and porter on the mountain trail. Taxi drivers and the small stalls that serve piping hot tea and snacks don’t expect a tip. Good-natured bargaining is okay and even expected at smaller shops but haggling hard is going to get you nowhere especially not any closer to your desired buy.