Nepal Travel Guide

 

Overview
Nepal, the land of Great Himalaya and the birthplace of Buddha, is the cultural and historical center of South-East Asia. It borders with China in the north and India in west, south and east. Some dozen major ethnic groups, speaking as many as hundred different languages and dialects, coexist in this state, while two of the world's largest religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, overlap and mingle with eachother. The philosophical treasures, spiritual lifestyle, ancient literature and majestic mountains make Nepal a desireable place to travel to.

As a cultural and historical destination of Asia, Nepal offers sightings of medieval palaces, monasteries and Hindu temples. The unlimited adventure options in high Himalaya and mighty rivers offers trekking, rafting and mountaineering opportunities. 

History of Nepal
The people of Nepal Himalaya have had a continuous civilization since 2000 B.C., when the inhabitants of the valley civilization developed and sustained by agricultural trade. With every passing new century, Nepal witnessed many rulers and dynasties play contributing roles in molding Nepal to present day's Modern Nepal. The Kirantis ruled Nepal from 10th century B.C. to 2nd century A.D. After that Licchavis took over Kirantis from 3rd to 13th century and then were followed by the Malla dynasty. Then Shah Dynasty held the reign. King Prithvi Narayan Shah is solely responsible for today's modern day Nepal for he is the one who united different kingdoms into one single nation in 1769. In 1846, the massacre led by Jung Bahadur Rana back seated the power of monarchy and made Rana regime more powerful.

In 1950 King Tribhuvan with the support from Nepali congress party restored monarchy. A coalition government comprising the Nepali congress party and the Ranas was thereafter installed with the promise of free elections in 1952. In1960, King Mahendra, son of King Tribhuvan tactically established Panchayat system, meaning 'five councils system', by engineering a coup, declaring a new constitution, imprisoning all the leaders of the then government and enforcing a ban on all political activities. People's movement of 1990 opened up a new chapter for a decade of democracy in Nepal which led to multiparty democracy with constitutional monarchy. Democracy came with heavy price leading to incompetent political leaders, political conflicts, Maoist insurgency, corruptions and downfall in national economy. Royal family massacre in 2001 left whole world in complete shock. King Gynendra was crowned Nepal's king after his brother, King Birendra's assassination. With the advent of 2006 all major political parties committed to reform their past mistakes and Maoist rebels came together with the support from Nepali people and jointly went on several days strikes to restore democracy. And finally, from King Gynendra Nepali people seize over the political power and democracy was once again restored in Nepal.

Geography
With its mind-bending diversity - from snowcapped mountains to tropical rain forests, crusty old bazaars to chichi designer boutiques, tranquil temples to feisty festivals, ramshackle rural villages to techno-savvy urban hubs - it's hardly surprising that Nepal has been dubbed the planet's most multidimensional country. Stretched across diverse picturesque landscape, Nepal lies geographically sandwiched between China and India. Nepal encompasses total surface area of 147,181 sq. km from the Himalayan range in the North to the Indo-Gangetic lowlands in the South at the latitude 26°12' to 30°27' North and the longitude 80°4' to 88°12'. Topographically, Nepal has lowland Terai Region in the south, central lower mountains and hills in the middle and Mountain Region in the north. On the basis of diverse ecological settings, regions have been divided into Terai, Siwalik (Chura Bhavar), Middle Mountain, High Mountain and High Himalaya. Terai lies in the northern part of Indo-Gangetic plain extending nearly 800 km from east to west and about 25-40 km from north to south occupying 17% of the total land area with average elevation below 750 m including Terai region, Chura Bhavar Terai and Inner Terai. Siwalik is also called Churia Hills and has elevation ranging from 700 to 1,500 m. Middle Mountain is also referred as Mahabharat range which stretched on 65% of the total land area with elevation ranging from 1,500 to 2,700 m. Nepal's great rivers Kosi, Gandaki, Karnali and Mahakali meet the middle mountain at many junctions. High Mountains range from 2,200 to 4,000 m and are naturally resourced with schist and quartzite. The soil found here being shallow resist weathering. Where as High Himalayas occupy 16% of the total land area of Nepal with elevation ranging from 4,000 to above 8,848 m. This region accommodates the eight of the highest peaks in the world; Mt. Everest [(8848m], Kanchanjunga [8586m], Lhotse [8516m], Cho Oyu [8201m], Dhaulagiri [8167m], Mt. Makalu [8463m], Manaslu [8163m] and Annapurna I [8091m].

CLIMATE & WEATHER
Nepal has two distinct seasons, a dry one, which lasts from October to May, and a wet monsoonal one from June to September. The traditional trekking season is October to May. During the trekking season the nights can be very cold in the mountains, but the bright sun makes for pleasant daytime temperatures up to about 25 degree Celsius, falling to 5 degree Celsius, at night, between 1000m and 3500m. At higher altitudes temperatures range from about 20 degree Celsius down to -10 degree Celsius. Mornings are usually clear, and then clouds can build up during the afternoon, disappearing at night to reveal spectacular starry skies.

After May, summer (Jun, Jul and Aug) is monsoon so visibility and rain are an issue. Mornings are usually clear with cloud build-up occasionally bringing afternoon rain. Treks can last from two days to a month or more, and the first consideration will be to choose a trek that fits into your available time and physical condition. You'll also need to strike a balance between trekking in the best weather for the area you wish to trek in and avoiding the crowds the good weather attracts.

Social Conventions & Custom of Nepal
Be careful to respect local customs: never step over the feet of a person, always walk round; never offer food and drink that you have tasted or bitten; never offer or accept anything with the left hand, use the right or both hands. It is rude to point at a person or statue with a finger (or even with a foot).

Often when people shake their head, it means 'yes'. Footwear should be removed when entering houses, especially kitchens, or shrines. Do not stand in front of a person who is eating. Shaking hands is not a common form of greeting; instead press the palms together in a prayer-like gesture (Namaste).

Casual wear is suitable except for the most formal meetings or social occasions. However, bikinis, shorts, bare shoulders and backs may not be appreciated. Men only remove their shirts when bathing. Overt public displays of affection, especially near religious places, are inappropriate. Seek permission before entering a temple, and do not take leather articles inside them.

Photography: Always ask permission first. In general, it is allowed outside temples and at festivals, but not at religious ceremonies or inside temples; however, there is no hard and fast rule and the only way to be sure of not giving offence is to ask first and accept the answer.

A number of faiths and religions have merged in Nepal and exist simultaneously. Nepal is a country with "Unity in Diversity". This diverseness in culture makes Nepal a unique country in the world with a lot of different customs and traditions. Traditions and rituals in Nepal have become an integral part of everyday life. Customs of Nepal are a major attraction for the tourists coming here.

Right from birth to death, a Nepalese keeps on performing various customs and traditions. Almost every occasion in Nepal (birth, engagement, marriage, death and so on) has a ceremony attached to it.

Following are some of the Nepalese customs:
Birth Ceremony

Soon after the birth of a child, a ceremony for naming the child takes place. A priest tells the first alphabet from which the name of the child should start.

Traditional Welcome
Nepalese believe in the phrase "Atithi Devo Bhava", meaning a guest is the reflection of God. In the traditional welcome, the guest is garlanded and a tika (vermillion) is put on his/her forehead. Even the Tourism Ministry of Nepal has launched the 'Atithi Devo Bhava' campaign to make people aware of Nepal's rich culture and traditions.

Wedding Ceremony
Weddings are conducted in Nepal with great fanfare, following various customs and rituals. The wedding is not a single day affair in Nepal; rather, the functions carry on for 3 - 4 or even more days.

Namaskar/Namaste
The most popular form of greeting, especially the elders, is to say Namaste with the hands joined at the chest level. It is also used at the time of farewell.

Lighting Lamp/Diyo
In almost every Nepalese household, a lamp/diyo is lighted before the altar of God in the morning. Some people light the lamp in evening also.

Prostrating Before Parents and Elders
Nepalese prostrate before their parents, elders and teachers by touching their feet. The elders in turn place their hand on prostrating person's head and bless him/her.

Death Ceremony
After a person passes away, the cremation is done according to certain rituals. The rituals continue a few days after the death.

In the above lines, we have mentioned only some of the customs and traditions of Nepal. Other important occasions when different customs and rituals are followed are the Nepalese festivals. Come and visit Nepal to know more about the other fascinating aspects of Nepalese customs and rituals.

Electrical Plug/Outlet and Voltage Information for Nepal
Nepal uses 220-240 volts and 50 MHZ to power their appliances, as well different plugs. Some other countries use 110-120 volts of electricity, and accept very specific shaped plugs. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for both types.

Rules of Thumb for Appliance Voltage Compatibility
It's important to understand that there's no such thing as a "standard" electrical input/output for electrical appliances. The information below is just a general guideline, and it may or may not be correct for your specific brand and model. The only way to know for your specific appliance is to check.

Electric Plugs in Nepal are of two or three round prongs, but not flat prongs as found in use in the United States or in other countries.

If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for both types.

If you are planning on taking a hair dryer, electric shaver, curling iron, laptop computer or other electrical devices on your travels, in these cases, you will need to obtain either a voltage adapter (electrical converter) or a plug adapter for your travels, most often both. Most voltage adapters for travel convert 220-240 to 110-120, usable by your American and similar appliance. A plug adapter, on the other hand, allows you to plug into a foreign outlet.

In some countries you may only need one or the other (voltage converter or plug adapter), but in Nepal you may require both. Note: you may need many different plug adapters if your travels extend to more than one country, but one voltage adapter is okay to work in one country.

We recommend getting a universal adapter and converter kit if you plan to take many electronics. It can be found in many hardware stores, travel shops and online retailers. Virtually all laptop computers and some electric razors take universal voltages. Check your equipment to be sure. If the only electric device that you plan to take with you is an electric shaver, you may consider buying a different model which accepts universal voltages, to avoid carrying around a heavy and bulky voltage adapter. Always be sure to check with the manufacturer of the appliance for proper use and conversion.

Electricity flow is not smooth in Nepal. Electricity often goes off and on. Voltage fluctuation is very common and it is advised that you use an adapter with quality power surge protector for your electronics.

Nepal has not been able to produce enough electricity to meet the high demand, so in dry seasons there is power outage (load shedding) for hours, however hotels and businesses cover their electrical needs via fuel cells and generators.

NOTE: You can find any of the transformers, plug adopter and converters to buy in Kathmandu and other major cities easily.

Primary Socket Types in Nepal:

 

Nepal/India, Euro plug, i.e. with round two prongs or three prongs
For Multi-voltage appliances (laptops, etc.) your need: A plug adapter
For 110-120V electronics your need: Plug adapter + step-down transformer
For Hair dryers, curling irons, etc your need: Plug adapter + voltage convert

Passport and Visa Requirements
All foreigners require a visa for entry into Nepal (except Indian nationals). It is your responsibility to obtain the entry visa. You can get from a Nepalese embassy overseas or on arrival in Nepal. Most people will obtain their visa on arrival to Kathmandu airport.

You will need one passport photo and the following fees dependent upon the duration of the multiple entry visa:

In Nepal you will require a visa which can be obtained in advance from the Nepalese Embassy from your country or you can get on arrival at the airport in Kathmandu.

Multiple entry 15 days US$ 25 or equivalent convertible currency
Multiple entry 30 days US$ 40 or equivalent convertible currency
Multiple entry 90 days US$ 100 or equivalent convertible currency

You will require visa fee in cash (this is payable in any major currency but NOT travellers cheques) and 2 passport photos to purchase a Nepal visa on arrival at Kathmandu airport or at the Nepal entry point.

Please note regulations and costs do change frequently so it is advisable to check the current rules with your nearest Nepalese embassy or consulate.

Travel Tips
(a) All baggage must be declared on arrival and departure.
(b) Certain goods including cameras, videos and electronic goods may only be imported duty-free if they are exported on departure. They may not be left in Nepal.
(c) Export certificates need to be obtained from the Department of Archaeology for the export of any metal statues, sacred paintings and similar objects.

Prohibited Exports
It is illegal to export goods over 100 years old.

Nightlife
There's no wild nightlife scene in Kathmandu, but there are plenty of late bars and nightclubs, some with live music, around Thamel and the city's 5-star hotels. Some restaurants put on traditional Newari dance shows for tourists and there are a couple of casinos. Watch movie blockbusters on DVD in restaurants around Thamel or sample Hindi films at cinemas.

Shopping in Nepal
Whether you are searching for a shoppers' paradise; Kathmandu should be your best destination combining a mix of the modern and the traditional items. Visit the best shops and galleries for accessories, unique objects and art work so you can bring the multi-ethnic creation by humans to your home. The remarkable choices of handicrafts made in Nepal are immensely popular throughout the world. The brilliant workmanship and artistic creations are unique. Much of the handicrafts also carry religious significance and in fact many are meant for religious purposes. Nepal ranks high when it comes to making statues and statuettes of copper, bronze, silver or gold. Exquisite wood carvings are in great demand and entire beds made of carved wood are exported to the west fetching mind boggling prices. Extremely popular and exported regularly are the wood carved windows. Recently products made of rice paper have been quite popular and amazingly a large number of funny hats are exported. Other souvenir pieces are the famous Gurkha knife or Khukuri, prayer wheels, stone carvings, singing bowls, papier-mâché masks, Thangkas and Pauvas, Pashmina, carpets, jewelry, etc.

Trek/Tour advice
Nepal Vision Treks & Expedition advice to trekkers: use authorized guides and porters only; be careful with matches around wooded or grassy areas as forest fires can cause serious damage; be economical with all fuel, especially local firewood (campfires are not recommended); trekkers are strictly forbidden to cut any green forest reserve or kill any wildlife; use washing and toilet facilities provided or, if none are available, make sure to be at least 30 meters away from any water source; use biodegradable items as much as possible; when visiting temples or Buddhist shrines, respect local religious customs (see Social Conventions in the Travel Tips section); take necessary precautions when suffering from altitude sickness (for details, see the Health section).

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