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Revision as of 18:13, 25 April 2009

[[File:
Kathmandu, city of Patan
|250px|frameless|Nepal]]
Location
[[File:noframe|250px|frameless]]
Flag
[[File:Np-flag.png|108px|frameless]]
Quick Facts
Capital Kathmandu
Government Republic. Monarchy was dissolved by Constituent Assembly on 28 May 2008.
Currency Nepalese rupee (NPR)
Area total: 140,800 km2
water: 4,000 km2
land: 136,800 km2
Population 27,676,547 (July 2006 est.)
Language Nepali (official; spoken by 90% of the population), about a dozen other languages and about 30 major dialects; note - many in government and business also speak English (1995)
Religion Hinduism 86.2%, Buddhism 7.8%, Islam 3.8%, other 2.2%
Country code +977
Internet TLD .np
Time Zone UTC+5:45

Nepal [1] is a landlocked country in Southern Asia, between China and India. It contains eight of the world's 10 highest peaks, including Mount Everest - the world's tallest - on the border with Tibet. It recently was declared a republic and has abolished the monarchy.

Regions

Nepal is divided into five development regions, from east to west:

These are further divided into fourteen administrative zones called 'anchal'.

Other regions (most of these are popular names, not official district/region titles): Annapurna, Everest, Kathmandu Valley, Langtang, Mustang, Terai

Cities and Towns

  • Kathmandu – capital and cultural center of Nepal
  • Pokhara - Picturesque lake-side town, and the base for many activities. Great live music scene, with plenty of cool bars and hotels. Fast becoming the destination of choice for travelers due to the scenery, adventure sports and nightlife.
  • Bhaktapur – well-preserved historical city, center of Nepali pottery making.
  • Biratnagar – this city is in eastern Nepal near Dharan and famous for political reason.
  • Birgunj – business gateway between India and Nepal. It is in mid-southern Nepal.
  • Janakpur - a historical religious centre and home to the 500-year old Janaki Temple.
  • Namche Bazaar – a Sherpa settlement located in the Solu Khumbu region - popular with trekkers
  • Nepalgunj – the main hub for the Mid- and Far-Western Development Region. Bardiya National Park is close-by
  • Patan – sister-city of Kathmandu and metal working center

Other Destinations

Map of Nepal
  • Chitwan National Park[2] - See tigers, rhinos and animals in the Jungle.
  • Khumbu - At the foot of Mt. Everest.
  • Nagarkot - A hill station one hour from Kathmandu offering excellent views of the Himalayan Range.
  • Daman - A tiny village in the mountains offering panoramic views of the Himalayas - especially stunning at sunrise and sunset.
  • Annapurna area - Popular trekking region of Nepal, where the world-famous Annapurna Circuit is.
  • Dang-Deukhuri - Lowland valleys in western Nepal inhabited by Tharus who have a very distinctive culture.
  • Dhorpatan - Large east-west valley south of the western Dhaulagiri Range. It connects the far western Karnali-Bheri basin that is the birthplace of the Nepali language (and probably its rulers) to the Gandaki basin that they migrated into before unifying the country. This is also a trekking gateway to the far west, the Dhaulagiri Range, and to Dolpa and other high valleys with Tibetan culture beyond the Dhaulagiris.
  • Rara Tal (Lake) - Large, deep subalpine lake at the foot of Kanjiroba Himalaya, far western Nepal. Another gateway to transhimalayan Humla and Dolpa regions.

Sacred Sites

Locked between the snow peaks of the Himalayas and the seething Ganges plain, Nepal has long been home to wandering ascetics and tantric yogis. Consequently, the country has a wealth of sacred sites:

  • Lumbini is the sacred site of the Buddha Shakyamuni's birth. Today it a small village, located 27 km (17 mi) from Sunauli on the Indo-Nepal border.
  • Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu.
  • Parping in the Kathmandu Valley is the site of several sacred caves associated with Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Haleshi (often known by the Tibetan name of Maratika) in Eastern Nepal is the site of a mountain cave where Padmasambhava attained a state beyond life and death.
  • Muktinath between the upper valley of the Kali Gandaki and the Annapurna Range, this pilgrimage objective has 108 fountains where the faithful bathe and perpetual flames fed by natural gas. This region is also famous for Shaligrams -- fossil ammonites said to be a manifestation of the god Vishnu.
  • Pashupatinath. Hindu temples and cremation ghats on the Bagmati River in Kathmandu. The main areas are closed to non-Hindus.
  • Dakshinkali. Hindu temple complex south of Kathmandu on the Bagmati River where it enters a gorge through the Mahabharat Range.
  • Janaki Mandir - A temple complex in the city Janakpur in the eastern Terai marking where semi-divine figure Sita was born and raised, and married Rama, hero of the epic Ramayana. A seven-day festival celebrates Sita's birth at the end of April/beginning of May. Probably the exact dates vary from year to year, being set astrologically.

See also: Sacred sites of the Indian sub-continent

Climate

Nepal has a Monsoonal climate with four main seasons - though traditionally a year was categorized into six distinct climate periods: Basanta (spring), Grishma (early summer), Barkha (summer monsoon), Sharad (early autumn), Hemanta (late autumn) and Shishir (winter).

Below is a general guide to conditions at different seasons:

  • Heavy monsoonal rains from June to September - the rains are generally lighter high in the Himalayas than in Kathmandu, though the mountain peaks are often lost in cloud.
  • Clear and cool weather from October to December - after the monsoon, there is little dust in the air so this is the best season to visit the mountains.
  • Cold from January to March, with the temperature in Kathmandu often dropping as low as 0°C (32°F) at night, with extreme cold at high elevations. It is possible to trek in places like the Everest region during the winter, but it is extremely cold and snow fall may prevent going above 4,000 - 4,500 meters (13,000 - 15,000 feet). The Jomosom trek is a reasonable alternative, staying below 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) with expected minimum temperatures about -10°C (14°F) (and much better chances of avoiding heavy snow.)
  • Dry and warm weather from April to June - there is an abundance of blooming flowers in the Himalayas at this time, with rhododendrons, in particular, adding a splash of color to the landscape. Terai temperatures may reach or exceed 40°C (104°F) while Kathmandu temperatures are about 30°C (86°F).

Understand

Geography

Elevation Zones

Nepal can be divided into elevation zones, south to north:

  • Outer Terai - Level plains, a cultural and linguistic extension of northern India. Nepali is spoken less than Awadhi and Bhojpuri dialects related to Hindi and Maithili related to Hindi and Bengali. Lumbini, Buddha's birthplace and Janakpur, Sita's birthplace are in this zone. Other cities -- Dhangadhi, Nepalgunj, Bhairawa, Butwal, Birgunj, Janakpur and Biratnagar -- are transportation hubs and border towns more than travel destinations. Nevertheless the Terai may offer opportunities for intimate exposure to traditional Indian culture that have become less available in India itself.
  • Siwalik Range or Churia Hills - the outermost and lowest range of foothills, about 600 m (2,000 ft) high. Extends across the country east to west but with significant gaps and many subranges. Poor soils and no agriculture to speak of. No developed tourist destinations, however the forests are wild and the sparse population of primitive hunters and gatherers is unique.
  • Inner Terai - large valleys between the Siwaliks and higher foothills to the north. The Dang and Deukhuri valleys in the Mid West are the largest, offering opportunities to experience Tharu art and culture. Chitwan south of Kathmandu is another of these valleys, known for Royal Chitwan National Park where tigers, rhinos, crocodiles, deer and birds can be observed. Originally these valleys were malarial and lightly populated by Tharus who had evolved resistance and developed architectural and behavioral adaptations limiting exposure to the most dangerous nocturnal mosquitos. Suppression of mosquitos with DDT in the 1960s opened these these valleys to settlers from the hills who cleared forests and displaced and exploited Tharus. Nevertheless remoter parts of these valleys still have a Garden of Eden quality - forests broken by indefinite fields, lazy rivers, fascinating aboriginal peoples.
  • Mahabharat Range - a prominent foothill range continuous across the country from east to west except for narrow transecting canyons, with elevations ascending up to 3,000 m (10,000 ft). Steep southern slopes are a no-man's land between lowland and Pahari (hill) cultures and languages, which begin along the crest and gentler northern slopes. Given clear skies, there are panoramic views of high himalaya from almost anywhere on the crest. Underdeveloped as a tourist venue compared to India's 'Hill Stations', nevertheless Daman and Tansen are attractive destinations.
  • Middle Hills - Valleys north of the Mahabharat Range and hills up to about 2,000 m (6,500 ft). are mainly inhabited by Hindus of the Bahun (priestly brahmin) and Chhetri (warriors and rulers) castes who speak Nepali as their first language. Higher where it becomes too cold to grow rice, populations are largely Magar, Gurung, Tamang, Rai or Limbu, the hill tribes from which the British recruited Gurkha soldiers while the soldiers' families grew crops suited to temperate climates. Men in these ethnic groups also work as porters or may be herders moving their flocks into the high mountains in summer and the lower valleys in winter. Trekking through the hills is unremittingly scenic with streams and terraced fields, picturesque villages, a variety of ethnic groups with distinctive costumes, and views of the high himalayas from high points.
  • Valleys - Kathmandu and to the west Pokhara occupy large valleys in the hills The Kathmandu Valley was urbanized long before the first europeans reached the scene and has historic neighborhoods, temple complexes, pagodas, buddhist stupas, palaces and bazaars. Its natives are predominantly Newar farmers, traders, craftsmen and civil servants. Newar culture is an interesting synthesis of Hindu and Buddhist elements. Unfortunately a range of hills north of this valley limit views of the himalaya. Pokhara has fewer urban points of interest but outstanding views of the nearby Annapurna Himalaya. Pokhara's Newar population is confined to bazaars. Elsewhere upper caste Hindus dominate, whose ancestors probably were Khas peoples from far western Nepal. Both valleys offer excellent opportunities to experience Nepal without strenuous trekking. Narrower valleys along streams and rivers are important rice-growing centers in the hills. There is a limited amount of this land and most of it is owned by upper caste Hindus.
  • Lekhs - Snow occasionally falls and lasts days or weeks in the winter above 3,000 m (10,000 ft), but melts away in summer below about 5,500 m (18,000 ft). Treeline is about 4,000 m (13,000 ft). This zone is used for summer pasturage but not year-round habitation.
  • Himalaya - North of the lekhs, the snowy high himalayas rise abruptly along a fault zone to peaks over 6,700 m (22,000 ft) and even over 8,000 m (26,000 ft). Himalaya means 'abode of snow', which is uninhabited. Valleys among the peaks are inhabited, especially along trade routes where rice from the lowlands was traded for salt from the Tibetan Plateau along with other goods. Trade has diminished since China annexed Tibet in the 1950s but catering to trekkers and climbers has become an economic engine. People living along these routes have Tibetan affinities but usually speak fluent Nepali.
  • Trans-Himalaya - Peaks in this region north of the highest himalayas in central and western Nepal are lower and gentler, mostly around 6,000 m (20,000 ft). Valleys below 5,000 m (17,000 ft). are inhabited by people who are essentially Tibetan and have adapted to living at much higher elevations than other Nepalis. Roads have not yet penetrated this far and travel is expensive by air or arduous on foot. Nevertheless, it is a unique opportunity to experience a very significant and attractive culture in spectacular surroundings.

River Basins

are also important geographic divisions. The Mahabharat Range is a major hydrologic barrier in Nepal and other parts of the Himalaya. South-flowing rivers converge in candelabra shapes to break through this range in a few narrow gorges. Travel is usually easier within these candelabra drainage systems than between them, so high divides between river systems became historically important political, linguistic and cultural boundaries.

Karnali-Seti-Bheri

The Karnali system in the far west is the birthplace of Pahari ('hill') culture. It was settled by people called Khas speaking an indo-european language called Khaskura ('Khas talk') that was related to other north indian languages, all claiming descent from classical Sanskrit.

East of the Karnali proper, along a major tributary called the Bheri and further east in another basin called the Rapti lived a Tibeto-Burman people called Kham. Khas and Kham people seem to have been allies and probably intermarried to create the synthesis of aryan and mongoloid features that especially characterizes the second-highest Chhetri (Kshatriya) caste. It appears that Khas kings recruited Kham men as guards and soldiers. Khas and Kham territories in the far west were subdivided into small kingdoms called the Baisi, literally '22' as they were counted.

Nepal has one of the world's highest birthrates because Hindu girls usually marry by their early teens, causing their entire reproductive potential to be utilized. Furthermore, men who can afford it often take multiple wives. This may trace back to Khas culture, explaining relentless Khas colonization eastward as finite amounts of land suitable for rice cultivation were inevitably outstripped by high birthrates.

Rapti and Gandaki

The Rapti river system east of the Karnali-Bheri had few lowlands suitable for growing rice and extensive highlands that were not attractive for Khas settlement but were a barrier to migration. However the Rapti's upper tributaries rose somewhat south of the Himalaya. Between these tributaries and the Dhaulagiri range of the Himalaya, a large east-west valley called Dhorpatan branching off the upper Bheri provided a detour eastward, over an easy pass called Jaljala into the Gandaki river system further east. The Gandaki is said to have seven major tributaries, most rising in or beyond the high Himalaya. They merge to cut through the Mahabharat and Siwalik ranges. In this basin elevations were generally lower and rainfall was higher compared to the Karnali-Bheri and Rapti basins. There was great potential for rice cultivation, the agricultural base of the Khas way of life. A collection of small principalities called the Chaubisi developed. Chaubisi literally means '24', as these kingdoms were counted. Not all were Khas kindoms. Some were Magar -- a large indigenous hill tribe people related to the Kham. Other kingdoms were Gurung and Tamang. Several Gandaki tributaries rose in the transhimalayan region where inhabitants and rulers became increasingly Tibetanized to the north.

  • Emergence of Shah Dynasty from Gorkha

Within the Chaubisi kingdoms of the Gandaki basin, Gorkha was a small valley east of Pokhara ruled by a Khas family now called Shah, an honorific title that may have come later, however any earlier name seems to be forgotten. In 1743 A.D. Prithvi Narayan Shah became the ruler of Gorkha after his father Nara Bhupal Shah died. Prithvi Narayan already had a reputation as a hotheaded upstart. Resolving to modernize Gorkha's army, he was bringing modern arms from India when customs officers demanded inspection and payment of duties. Prithvi Narayan refused and attacked the officers, killing several before escaping with his arms and men. He also visited Benares to study the situation of local rulers and the growing encroachment of British interests. Prithvi concluded that invasion was a chronic danger to rulers on the plains of northern India, whereas the hills were more defensible and offered more scope to carve out a lasting empire.

Kathmandu Valley (Bagmati)

Prithvi Narayan must have been a charismatic figure, for he recruited, equipped and trained a formidable army and persuaded his subjects to underwrite all this from his ascension until his death in 1775. Through conquest and treaty, he consolidated several Chaubisi kingdoms. As his domain expanded, Khaskura became known as Gorkhali, i.e. the language of the Gorkha kingdom. Then he moved east into the next river basin, the Bagmati which drains the Kathmandu Valley that held three small but prosperous urban kingdoms. Like the Rapti, the Bagmati rises somewhat south of the Himalaya. Unlike the Rapti basin, this valley had once held a large lake and the remaining alluvial soil was exceptionally fertile. Between the agricultural abundance, local crafts, and extensive trade with Tibet, the cities were prosperous. Prithvi Narayan encircled the valley, cutting off trade and restricting ordinary activities, even farming and getting water. With a combination of stealth, brutality and intimidation he he prevailed and deposed the local kings in 1769, making Kathmandu his new capital. This was the high point of Prithvi Narayan's career, however he continued consolidating the Kathmandu Valley with the Chaubisi and Baisi federations to the west until his death in 1775. Gorkhali was re-dubbed Nepali as 'Nepal' came to mean not only the urbanized Kathmandu Valley, but all lands ruled by the Shahs.

Koshi

Prithvi Narayan's heirs Pratap Singh, Rana Bahadur and Girvan Yuddha continued expansion of their kingdom into the Koshi river basin east of the Bagmati system. Like the Gandaki, the Koshi traditionally has seven major tributaries descending from the Himalaya before joining forces to break through the Mahabharat and Siwalik ranges. Ranges drained by Koshi tributaries include Mount Everest and its neighboring peaks, as well as the western side of the Kangchenjunga massif. Kangchenjunga and a high ridge to the south are the watershed between the Koshi and Tista basins as well as the border between Nepal and the former kingdom Sikkim that India annexed it in 1975.

Containment by British

The Shah dynasty's expansion continued eastward across Sikkim and westward across Kumaon and beyond Dehra Dun to the Sutlej River, until the British declared war in 1814 and finally defeated Nepalese forces in 1816. The British wanted a buffer state between British India and the Chinese empire that ultimately controlled Tibet, so it trimmed Nepal back approximately to its present size and let it remain independent.

Informal Settlement in Sikkim and Bhutan

Nevertheless Nepalese eastward colonization beyond the Kosi continued informally, still driven by high birthrates. By the 1800s land-hungry Nepalis were settling in the Tista basin, which happened to be a different country, Sikkim. In the 1900s they were settling beyond Sikkim in the kingdom of Bhutan. This kingdom -- where late marriage and low population densities prevailed among the indigenous, culturally Tibetan population -- saw the demographic writing on the wall and expelled as many as 100,000 Nepalis in 1990.

Caste, Ethnicity, Religion and languages

The caste and ethnic groups of Nepal according to the 2001 census are classified into five main categories: (a)Castes originating from Hindu groups (b) Newars (c) the ethnic groups or janajati (d) Muslims (e)Others.

Hindu Groups

These Hindu castes had migrated to Nepal after 11th century due to Muslim invasion of northern India. The Hindu caste system is based on the four Varna Vyawastha "the class system". It has four hierarchical levels, from top to bottom, these are; Brahmans, Chetris, Vaishyas and Shudras. Among these castes there are again further subdivisions of each, into at least three categories; high, middle and low caste Hindu groups. The Brahmans and Chhetris are the so called ‘high’ caste Hindu groups, and the ‘low’ caste Hindus are the so called ‘Dalits’ of the hill and Terai regions.

Chhetri comprise 15.8 per cent and the Bahun 12.7 per cent of the total population. These four varnas are found in the Terai but in the Hills there are Bahun, Chhetri and Dalits, but not the Vaisya. Social hierarchy, and purity and pollution of castes and foods characterize varna and caste systems.

Dalits

‘Dalits’ are those communities who, by virtue of caste-based discrimination and so called ‘untouchability’, are stigmatized in social, economic, educational, political and religious fields. They are traditionally deprived of human dignity and social justice. The National Dalit Commission (2002) has listed 28 cultural groups as so-called Dalits. Some peoples argue that the use of the term Dalit will never ever help to abolish caste-based untouchability. (Literally, 'Dalit' translates to 'suppressed' in Nepali.) There are suggestions that the Dalit term should not be used because it not only breeds inferiority but also it is insulting.

Newar

The Newars, the indigenous people of the Kathmandu valley, follow Hinduism and/or Buddhism. According to the 2001 census they can be classified into 40 distinct cultural groups all of which speak a common language called Nepal bhasha. However, whilst the caste based Hindu groups of the hills will speak Nepali, the groups in the Terai on a day to day basis speak the dominant local languages of the region, such as Maithili, Bhojpuri and Awadhi.

Indigenous Peoples

The ethnic groups of the hills, Terai and mountain areas are grouped as Janajati. According to the National Foundation for Development of Indigenous Nationalities (NFDIN), ethnic groups are those “who have their own mother tongue and traditional customs, a distinct cultural identity, a distinct social structure and written or oral history all of their own" (NFDIN, 2003). A total of 61 Adibasi Janajatis have been recognised by the Nepal Government, 5 are from the mountain regions, 20 from the Hills, 7 from inner Terai and 11 from the Terai region. A Janajati is a community who has its own mother tongue and traditional culture and yet does not fall under the conventional fourfold Varna of the Hindu system or the Hindu hierarchical caste structure[3]. Many of these ethnic groups are Hinduized to some degree, although Hindu practices supplement rather than replace more ancient beliefs and practices. Unlike the Hindus, many indigenous nationalities of Nepal such as the Sherpa people as well as the people of Muslim & Christian faiths, have a culture of eating beef.

Other caste and ethnic groups included in the ‘other’ category are; Sikhs, Christians, Bengalis, and Marawadis.

Different indigenous nationalities are in different stages of development. Some indigenous nationalities are nomads, e.g. Raute, and some are forest dwellers, e.g. Chepang and Bankaria. Most of the indigenous nationalities rely on agriculture and pastoralism and very few are cosmopolitan, e.g. Newar.

Religion

The census of 2001 has listed 8 religions—Hindu, Buddhist, Islam, Kiranti, Christian, Jain, Sikh and Bahai. In addition, are animism or Bon are still practiced. Hindu comprises 80.6% and other religions are 19.4%.

Get in

Visas

Visas for citizens of most countries are available on arrival at the land borders and at the airport in Kathmandu. If crossing in by land from India, you will likely need to pay this in Nepali Rupees or US dollars... Indian rupees are not usually accepted.

By plane

The ceasefire signed by the Maoists has seen the opening up of routes with new airlines in the country. There are direct flights from Kathmandu to Bangkok [4], Singapore [5], Hong Kong with Dragon Air/Cathay Pacific [6]. Many European destinations can be reached via Doha with Qatar Airways [7], Abu Dhabi with Ethihad [8], Dubai with Emirates [9], Bahrain with Gulf Air [10]. Flights are also available via Delhi on Jet Airways and UAE on Air Arabia.

Nepal's Tribhuvan International Airport is located just outside of the Ring Road in Kathmandu. The terminal is a one-room brick building with a large wooden table serving as both customs and immigration. [11]Tourist visa of 15 days or more is available on arrival. Money can be changed to the local currency as well, but these services are only available directly after scheduled arrivals.

Outside the airport, all 'representatives' of the tourist industry are required to remain 10 meters (about 30 feet) from the front door. This does not prevent them from waving large signs and yelling in an attempt to encourage you to choose them as your guide/taxi/hotel/luggage carrier. Make your choice before crossing the line, or better yet, arrange your first night's accommodation before you arrive and ask the hotel to send someone to meet you. Many hotel and guest houses offer complimentary pick up and delivery from the airport. Fixed priceTaxis are also available before you exit the building but you may get a cheaper fair if you are willing to haggle!. As always, negotiate the price beforehand with the driver. A taxi ride to Thamel or Boudha should be around 300 NRS. Otherwise, order a taxi at the pre-paid booth inside the airport, which costs 400+NRs (and rising). This is more than the normal taxi rate, but it saves the hassle of long negotiations.

By car or motorcycle

Car rental in Nepal is almost unheard of, as is renting a car in India and taking it across the border.

Many travellers drive from India on Royal Enfield motorcycles. Technically, foreigners have to pay customs at the borders but most don't bother. Selling the bike in Nepal is easy as other travelers are looking for bikes to ride back to India.

The petrol crisis is an added disadvantage, however, if you are coming form India you will find driving in Nepal a lot less chaotic! The roads are amazing and the new east-west highway currently under construction with support from the Japanese will open up new destinations for those interested in exploring Nepal by motor-bike.

By bus

There are four border crossings open to tourists. The Sunauli-Bhairawa border crossing is the closest to Varanasi, the Raxaul-Birganj crossing to Patna, Kolkata, and Siliguri-Kakarbhitta is to Darjeeling. The Banbassa-Mahendrenagar border crossing in the extreme west of Nepal, is the closest to Delhi.

The crossing between Nepal and Tibet via Kodari is open to independent travelers entering Nepal, but only to organised groups entering Tibet.

  • Top Level Tour - A tour agency based in China and have office in Kathmandu. They can arrange different Tibet package tours.

By train

A cargo train began operating between Sirsiya in southern Nepal, and the Indian town of Raxaul in 2003. Internal train network is limited to few kilometers of train network in Janakpur

Get around

  • Micro Bus has become very popular lately. They are 10-12 seater with very fast service. It has almost replaced local bus service given its fast service. However, apart from previous few routes, Micro Bus has come up with many other alternate routes and now has got good coverage. The fare is more expensive than the local bus.
  • Super Express Bus - or 'Supper Express' as the ticket says is somewhere between a micro and a local bus. These generally depart between 5 - 7 am and do not stop to pick up locals along the way. People are not allowed to sit on the roof. The 'supper express' is more expensive than a local bus but cheaper, (and faster) than the micro.
  • Local Bus - Although the system can be confusing they are cheap. They can be crowded at times both with people and domestic animals such as goats, ducks etc. Some buses will not depart until full to a certain quota.
  • Tourist Bus - Book a few days ahead at a Kathmandu or Pokhara travel agent (or your hotel will book for you). A few steps above local buses (no goats, everyone gets a seat) but not much safer.
  • Rickshaw - Good for short jaunts if you don't have much luggage and don't mind being bounced around a bit. Bargain before you get in, and don't be afraid to walk away and try another.
  • Tempo - These come in two types. One is a three wheeled electric or propane powered micro-bus for 10-13 passengers. They run in different routes around the city and cost 5-12 NRs. The other type is a newer Toyota van running the same routes at a higher price and a bit faster and safer. Be prepared for a crowd
  • Taxis - There are two types of taxi -- "private", which pretty much run from the airport to your (upscale) hotel; and "10 Rupee", which don't leave until they are full. When haggling for fare remember that Taxi drivers have been hit hard by the petrol crisis sometimes queing up overnight to get 5 litres of petrol at twice the market price. So be sympathetic but don’t get ripped off! Offer to pay 'meter plus tip', 10% is more than enough.
  • Tram - The old-fashioned street cable-car that ran from Kathmandu (near the stadium) to Bhaktapur is currently closed due to 'non-existing maintenance' and the fact that none of the drivers paid for the power.
  • Custom or classic motorcycle - Hearts and Tears in Pokhara offer lessons, guided tours around Nepal and rental of gorgeous bikes. It's a professional, European-run shop and has built a great reputation over the past 4-5 years. They specialise in teaching complete beginners and have a superb safety record. [Perhaps a bit of self-promotion here?]
  • Local motorcycle - Another choice is to rent a small motorcycle. And it can be rented in the Thamel area. Again with the petrol crisis, motorcycle rental has become a costly choice, depending on availabily 1 litre of petrol will cost you 120-250 NRs on top of the rental fee (250-500NRs).
  • On Foot - although motor roads are penetrating further into the hinterlands, many destinations can only be reached by foot (or helicopter). See the section on trekking, below.

Talk

The great biological and cultural diversity of present-day Nepal is matched by its linguistic diversity. Nepal boasts 123 living languages an impressively large number for a country with a small land mass like Nepal. Nepal has more distinct and individual languages in one country than the whole of the European community.

The official language of Nepal is Nepali. It's related to Hindi, Punjabi, and other Indo-Aryan languages, and is normally written with the Devanagari script (as is Hindi). While most Nepali speak at least some Nepali, a large percentage of the population has as their mother tongue another language, such as Tharu around Chitwan, Newari in the Kathmandu Valley, and Sherpa in the Everest area.

Although Nepal was never a British colony, proximity to India has made English somewhat widespread among educated Nepalis. Nevertheless learning even a few words of Nepali is fun and useful, especially outside of the tourist district and while trekking.As Asian languages go, Nepali has to be one of the easiest to learn, and the traveler making the effort isn't likely to make worse blunders than many natives with a different first language.

See: Nepali phrasebook,

A disturbingly large number of Nepal’s mother tongues are severely endangered and will likely be reduced to symbolic identity markers within a generation. So why not try to pick up a few phrases!

See: Sherpa phrasebook, Tamang phrasebook, Thami phrasebook, Majhi phrasebook

Do

Trekking

The spectacular view from Annapurna Base Camp.

A total of 101,320 trekkers visited Nepal in 2007. Out of total 60,237 (59.4%) visited Annapurna area while those visiting the Everest and Langtang regions accounted for 26,511 (26.5%) and 8,165 (8.1%) respectively.

"Tea-House Trekking" is the most easy way to trek as it doesn't require support. Tea Houses have now developed into full-scale tourist lodges with hot showers, pizza, pasta and beer. The day's hikes are between lodge-filled settlements or villages: there's no need for tents, food, water, or beer-- all those things, plus luxuries such as apple-pie, can be purchased along the way. Physical requirements go from very soft to strenuous.

Facilities available in remote areas are less extensive than in the more popular areas. It may be advisable to visit such regions with organised groups, including guide, porters and full support. Manaslu, Kanchenjunga, Dolpo, Mustang and Humla are in remote areas. Many of them require also special permits.

Annapurna Region Treks

Annapurna - North of Pokhara, from lush middle hills into high mountains.

  • Annapurna Circuit: A 3-4 week trek around the Annapurna mountains, leads up the Maryangdi river to Manang, over Thorung La (5400m) to the Hindu temples at Muktinath. Down the Kali Gandaki on the Jomsom trail- The last week of the Annapurna Circuit, done in the opposite direction. Known as the "Apple-Pie Trek" partly for crossing the apple growing region of Nepal, and partly for being one of the easier treks, enjoying Gurung and Thakali hospitality. Up through spring rhododendron blooms to Poon Hill for a dawn Himalayan vista.
  • Annapurna Sanctuary: A trek up into the very heart of the range an awesome 360' high mountain skyline.

Everest Region Treks

Everest lies in the region known as Khumbu - To get here, take a bus to Jiri or fly to Lukla then hike up to Namche Bazzar, capital of the Sherpa lands at the foot of Everest. Main "teahouse trek" regions, in each of these areas there are a number of trail options, there is plenty of scope for short treks of less than a week to much longer if you have time and wanderlust.

  • Everest Base Camp Trek: Lukla to EBC, Stunning scenery, Wonderful Sherpa people. The most popular trek is up to Everest Base Camp and an ascent of Kalar Patar. Visit the Buddhist Tengboche monastery for the Mani Rimdu festival in November.
  • The 'Classic Everest Base Camp Trek': Jiri to EBC
  • Gokyo: Lukla to the sacred lakes of Gokyo. Explore the Gokyo valley with its sacred lakes and stupendous views of four 8000m peaks. Or a circuit of the region crossing the high passes or Cho La and Renjo La.
  • Numbur Cheese Circuit Trek through the largest cheese producing area, via the sacred lakes of Jata Pokhari and Panch Pokhari to Numburchuili base camp.
  • Island Peak Trek in the Everest region takes in some of the most spectacular scenery in the Himalayas. See 'Regions' - Khumbu
  • Pikey Cultural Trail
  • Dudh Kunda Cultural Trail

Trekking Peaks

Trekking Peaks require a qualified "climbing guide", permits and deposits to cover camp waste disposal

  • Island Peak Trek - The Island Peak trek in the Khumbu region takes in some of the most spectacular scenery in the Himalayas.
  • Mera Peak Climbing - Enjoy panoramic views of Mt. Everest (8,848 m; 29,030 ft), Cho-Oyu (8,201 m; 26,910 ft), Lhotse (8,516 m; 27,940 ft), Makalu (8463 m; 27,770 ft), Kangchenjunga (8,586 m; 28,170 ft), Nuptse (7,855 m; 25,770 ft), and Chamlang (7,319 m; 24,010 ft).

Langtang Region Treks

  • Helambu Langtang Trek: a short taxi ride from Thamel to the roadhead at Shivapuri leads to a trail through the middle-hills countryside of Helambu, either circuit around and return to Kathmandu or cross the pass to the sacred lake at Gosainkhund, descend and then hike up the Langtang valley beneath mountains that form the border with Tibet. Descend back to catch a bus on a rough road through Trisuli to Kathmandu.
  • Tamang Heritage Trail

Pro-Poor Rural Treks

Tourism is a dynamic sector of economy and accepting it as a vehicle of poverty reduction is a relatively new concept in Nepal. Nepal is a predominantly rural society, with 85% of the population living in the countryside. Naturally, Nepal’s rich culture and ethnic diversity are best experienced in its village Community’s. You can engage in local activities, learn how to cook local cuisine or take part in agricultural activities like kitchen gardening, etc.

According to the NTB rural tourism in Nepal focuses on "Village Trek" visits to indigenous people that “… will make tourists, experience rural life and Nepalese hospitality off the beaten path with all the beautiful scenery and cultural diversity of Nepal.”

In the rural Nepal context, pro-poor tourism means expanding employment and small enterprise opportunities especially pro-Indigenous Peoples, youth and pro-women. Recent pro-poor initiatives in Nepal include the UNDP-TRPAP [12] and ILO-EMPLED [13] projects.

Trekking on the Indigenous Peoples Trail and the Numbur Cheese Circuit is a means for Nepali as well as foreign visitors to experience the rural and traditional Nepali way of life, and for the local Community to participate in and benefit directly from tourism. You'll feel better knowing that your visit is genuinely helping your hosts. And if you want to simply lie on a beach.... well, The 'Majhi Fishing Experience' on the Sun Koshi in Ramechhap features one of the best beaches in Nepal!

'Ethno-Tourism' or Cultural Treks

Ethno-tourism is increasingly popular in Nepal and is designed to maximize social and economic benefits to the local communities and minimize negative impacts to cultural heritage and the environment. Ethno-tourism is a specialized type of cultural tourism and can be defined as any excursion which focuses on the works of humans rather than nature, and attempts to give the tourist an understanding of the lifestyles of local people.

Remote Treks

Other more remote regions will require a bit more planning and probably local assistance, not least as the required permits are only issued via Nepali guides/agents. Camping is required on one or more nights.

  • Kanchenjunga - far eastern Nepal, accessible via Taplejung (from Kathmandu 40min by plane, 40hrs by bus), a strenuous trek through sparsely populated country to the third highest mountain.
  • Dolpa - Upper Dolpa is the remote Land of the Bon, almost as Tibetan as Nepali. Lower Dolpa is more accessible and can me reached by plane
  • Manaslu - Unspoiled trails through remote villages and over a wild pass to circuit an 8000m mountain

Social Responsibility and Responsible Travel

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and hiring a local company will benefit the local economy, however the involvement of travel agents in Kathmandu must be approached with caution. The numbers of travel, trekking and Rafting agencies registered in 2007 were 1,078, 872 and 94 respectively. The rapid growth in tourism in Nepal coupled with the absence of a self-regulating code of conduct has helped to grow unhealthy competition among travel agents with regular undercutting in tariffs. Such undesirable actions take away benefits not only from trekking guides and porters but also from others engaged in supplying goods and providing services to the tourists. By paying lower tariffs tourists may save money but directly at the expense of local Communities. Try to use 'socially responsible' tour operators that promote proper porter treatment and cultural and environmental sensitivity among their clients in line with the UN-WTO Sustainable Tourism Criteria [14]

  • Organised Group Trekking or Independent Trekking?

There is considerable debate over the advantages and disadvantages of independent trekkers and group trekking. Many groups do not contribute to the local economy, as they bring their food supplies and guides and porters as a result a major portion of tourism benefit remains in Katmandu. In comparison, independent trekkers do not pre-purchase necessities from Katmandu but utilize locally available products and services. Independent trekkers contribute to the local rural economy because they stay and eat in locally run lodges.

  • Tourism Concern and ACTSA are two UK-based organizations dedicated to encouraging community-based and fair-trade tourism in Nepal. Tourism Concern UK [15] publishes a list of those operators who are working with Tourism Concern's porters campaign, using or developing guidelines on porters' working conditions. Conversely there is also a list of UK tour operators who do not have, or have not demonstrated to Tourism Concern proof of policies on porters' rights and working conditions.
  • Keep working conditions and wages in mind when selecting a trekking company. For visitors from the west, hiring guides and porters is affordable and an extra few dollars can make a big impact in the life of a guide or porter. In order to feed themselves and their families, porters take on the job of carrying heavy loads to high elevations. Some of the problems porters face are underpayment by companies, not receiving the full amount of tip intended for them, inadequate clothing and gear, being forced to carry excess weight, insufficient food provision and poor sleeping facilities. Sometimes these issues leave porters open to illness and neglect on the mountain. As porters have no job security, they have little room for complaint.
  • There are a number of websites that facilitate direct contact with recommended trekking guides and porters. The standard wage for a porter is 300 NRs per day and you pay for food and accommodation (approx 200 NRs) or 500 NRs per day without food - Most porters prefer this arrangement as they may save a few rupees by staying with relatives along the trail!
  • The International Porter Protect Group’s (IPPG) [16] was set up in response to these issues, to improve health and safety for the trekking porter at work in the mountains and reduce the incidence of avoidable illness, injury and death. This is achieved by raising awareness of the issues among the trekking community and travel companies, leaders and sirdars. IPPG recommends the following guidelines that:
  • Adequate clothing is made available for protection in bad weather and at altitude. This should include adequate footwear, hat, gloves, windproof jacket and trousers, sunglasses, and access to a blanket and pad above the snowline.
  • Leaders and trekkers provide the same standard of medical care for porters they would expect themselves.
  • Porters must not be paid off because of illness without the leader or trekkers being informed.
  • Sick porters are never sent down alone, but rather with someone who speaks their language.
  • Sufficient funds are provided to sick porters to cover the cost of their land rescue and treatment. Also, we select strong and experienced porters!
  • All trekking porters should have provision for security, personal protective equipment including shoes and clothes, depending on the weather.

Other Trekking Companies and Information: NOTE: The Companies & individuals below are listed by individual editors for personal & business purpose, and do not represent government or Wikitravel recommendation.

  • Api Saipal : The Best Nepal Tours, Travels, Treks & Expedition Packages.[17]

- Api Saipal Treks & Expeditions Center provides the best Nepal holiday packages including Nepal Tours, Trekking in Nepal, Jungle Safari, Rafting, City sightseeing and many more... - Listed: Nepal Holiday Packages


  • Mountain Sherpa Trekking & Expedition (PVT.LTD) is one of the reputable Local own Sherpa Trekking Company operating all Nepal trekking & tours as well as Tibet & Bhutan tours since 1980. This company provides best travel packages & quality Service Among many local & international Company. This Company donates 20% of total profit for different orphanage, School & social organization Every Year.Mr. PASANG SHERPA Director of this Company provides you right information within 24 hrs. Are you planning to visit Nepal? If so you could contact Mr. Pasang Sherpa direct by e-mail at: [email protected] For More information about this Company visit at: http://www.guidenepal.com
  • A Local Village organization [18], Empowering Women, Children, provides Education, Health, Teaching, Local Development, Environment awareness, Volunteer Placement. Groups of Local People, We have charity trip and providing to you some charity trip to make village sustainable.
  • Nepal Tibet Bhutan India Travel Informatin [19] - We are wholesal tour operator to Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India.
  • ExoticBuddha.com [20]- an online social travel community for Nepal.
  • Austravel & Tours Nepal P. Ltd. www.trekandtournepal.com is socially responsible Tour & Trekking holiday operator in Nepal. Team of young and dynamic people headed by Mr. Rammani Khatiwada has vast experience in the service he offers. Contact to: [email protected]for a reliable local agency on affordable price as well as a tribute to eco-tourism.
  • Nepal Travel Information [21] - Nepal travel and trekking information. Includes, tour, adventure, hiking, expedition, peak climbing, holidays, hotels, rafting, biking, jungle safari and sightseeing adventure trips. (Best Recommended Reading in Nepal)
  • Friendship Nepal Tours [22] is a premier Tour Operator located Kathmandu, Nepal with highly trained team of individuals with over two decades of experience in the travel industry offers Tours and trekking in Nepal and inbound and outbound tour to Tibet, Sikkim, India and Bhutan.
  • One reliable and highly recommended trekking company is run by the very experienced Ngawang Sherpa: [email protected]
  • Ker & Downey Nepal [23] The most popular Lodge to Lodge Trekking service provider in Annapurna Region. We have deluxe types Trekking Lodges in Birethanti, Ghandrug, Dhampus and Majgaun in Lumle. Trekking and Rooms are available on advance booking. [email protected]
  • Adarsha Nepal Adventure Tours and Travels [24] is a reliable adventure tour operator with expertise in Nepal and Tibet Travel.
  • Firante Treks & Expeditions Pvt Ltd [25] fully licensed Nepalese Adventure Company run by team of experts.
  • Ngawang Yonten Sherpa. An experienced guide and native of Solu Khumbu - many years of leading groups and organizing treks in the Everest Region: [email protected]
  • Trekking With Shiva [26] offers adventure, nature and culture treks for groups and individuals to every region of Nepal. Phone: +977-9846040820,+977-61-462693

You may hear often late because he will leads treks for several days in mountains.

  • There is one trade union of Trekking guides and porters called UNITRAV ( Union of trekking travels rafting workers Nepal). They are only authorized trade union in this field. For more information please visit their site www.unitrav.org

For your Full travel activites remember Unique EuroLines Travels and TOurs, Thamel KTM ,Phone-+977-1-4265358/4251957 Email:[email protected] or contact MR. Surya Prakash Tiwari. 9841446491

Rafting

Rafting trips for various durations and all levels of experience leave from Kathmandu and Pokhara. For detailed itineraries visit the Nepal Association of Rafting Agents [27]. The main rivers are:

  • Bhote Koshi
  • Kali Gandaki
  • Karnali
  • Seti
  • Sun Koshi
  • Trisuli
  • Arun
  • Tamor
  • Marshyangdi
  • Bheri

Motorcycling

Nepal's geography and climate makes for some of the best motorcycling roads in the world. The traffic is a little chaotic, but not aggressive, and the speeds are low.

Perhaps the best and most original way to explore the country is by motorcycle. Kathmandu should be avoided by beginners, but the rest of Nepal is simply amazing. Hearts and Tears Motorcycle Club in Pokhara is run by a European couple with experience on the race track and around the world. They specialise in teaching and touring, and have a great collection of custom bikes. It's a professional set-up with imported safety equipment, structured training, and well organised group tours.


  • Jungle Safari - Royal Chitwan National Park offers elephant rides, jungle canoeing, nature walks, and birding, as well as more adventurous tiger and rhino-viewing.
  • Parties - "The Last Resort", near the Tibetan border, has frequent Full Moon Trance Parties, lasting 2-3 days. Watch for posters and check music shops. Pokhara has started featuring its own brand of Full Moon raves and interesting Western takes on Nepali festivals.
  • Massage - "The Healing Hands Center", in Kathmandu, has monthly five-day, ten-day and one-month Ancient Massage courses.

Buy

Traveller's checks are your best bet outside of the major cities. There are banks in Kathmandu, Pokhara and in several other major cities that will allow you to retrieve cash from ATM or credit cards. You may be charged a service fee, depending on your bank. There are quite a number of ATMs now in those cities that are open round the clock. Although Indian currency is valid in Nepal, the Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 currency notes are not acceptable. Carrying 500- and 1000-Indian rupee notes is a punishable offence in Nepal. Be sure to keep all currency exchange and ATM receipts as they are required at the airport bank to convert back to your original currency. If you don't have them, they will refuse to convert your currency but they will suggest going to the Duty Free shop upstairs, eventhough it isn't a licensed money changer.

Eat

The Nepali national meal is daal bhaat tarkaari (spiced lentils, boiled rice, vegetable curry). This is served in most Nepalese homes and teahouses, two meals a day at about 10 AM and 7 or 8 PM. If rice is scarce the grain part may be cornmeal mush called Ato, barley, or chapatis (whole wheat 'tortillas'). The meal may be accompanied by dahi (yogurt) and a small helping of ultra-spicy fresh chutney or achar (pickle). Traditionally this meal is eaten with the right hand. Curried meat -- goat or possibly chicken -- is an occasional luxury. Pork is eaten by some tribes but not by upper-caste Hindus. Since Hindus hold cattle sacred, beef is forbidden. Buffalo and yak are eaten by some but considered too cow-like by others.

A variety of snacks may be available at other times. Tea, made with milk and sugar is certainly a pick-me-up. Corn may be heated and partially popped, although it really isn't popcorn. This is called "ka-ja", meaning "eat and run!" Rice may be heated and crushed, called "chiura", usually translated as "beaten rice". It can be eaten with yogurt, hot milk and sugar, or other flavorings. Fritters called 'pakora' and turnovers called "samosa" can sometimes be found, as can sweets made from sugar, milk, fried batter, sugar cane juice, etc. Be sure such delicacies are either freshly cooked or have been protected from flies. Otherwise flies land in the human waste that is everywhere in the streets, then on your food, and so you become a walking medical textbook of gastrological conditions (ie. if you eat at cheap places)

Many dishes are Tibetan in origin and not very spicy. Some dishes to look for include momos, a meat or vegetable filled dumpling - similar to Chinese pot-stickers -often served with beer, and Tibetan Bread and Honey a puffy fried bread with heavy raw honey, great for breakfast. One delicacy that you do not want to miss while in Nepal is the dried meat (it especially complements with beer/alcoholic beverages).

Newars, an ethnic group, are connoisseur of great foods who lament that feasting is their downfall (whereas sexual indulgence is said to be the downfall of Paharis), so watch for Newari Restaurants. Some of them even come with cultural shows... a great way to enjoy good food while having a crash-course in Nepalese culture. In the Everest region try the local Sherpa dish of potato pancakes (rikikul). They are delicious eaten straight off the griddle and covered with dzo (female yak) butter or cheese.

Pizza, Mexican, Thai and Chinese food, and Middle-Eastern food can all be found in the tourist districts of Kathmandu and Pokhara. If you are on a budget, sticking with local dishes will save a lot of money.

Note that many small restaurants are not prepared to cook several different dishes; try to stick with one or two dishes or you will find yourself waiting as the cook tries to make one after another on a one-burner stove.

Drink

Alcohol:

  • Raksi is a clear and fiery liquid, similar to sake or cheap tequila. As anywhere else, taste and strength differs from each 'distillery', usually homemade. This is by far the cheapest drink in the country. It is often served on special occasions in small, unbaked clay cups that hold less than a shot. It works great as a mixer in juice or soda. Note that it may appear on menus as "Nepali wine".
  • Jaand (Nepali) or chyaang (Tibetan) is a cloudy, moderately alcoholic drink sometimes called Nepali beer". While weaker than raksi, it will still have quite an effect. This is often offered to guests in Nepali homes. Unfortunately it is likely to be mixed with unsafe water.
  • Beer in Nepal has seen a lively industry. Some local beer's are now also exported, and the quality of beer has reached quite international standards. International brands are popular in the urban areas.
  • Cocktails can pretty much only be found in Kathmandu and Pokhara's tourist areas. There you can get watered-down "two for one drinks" at a variety of pubs, restaurants, and sports bars.

Tea:

Although not as internationally famous as Indian brands, Nepal does in fact have a large tea growing industry. Most plantations are located in the east of the country and the type of tea grown is very similar to that produced in neighboring Darjeeling. Well known varieties are Dhankuta, Illam, Jhapa, Terathhum and Panchthar (all named after their growing regions).

  • Chya is a tea drink with added milk and also sometimes containing ginger and spices such as cardamom.
  • Suja. Salty tea made with milk and butter - only available in areas inhabited by Tibetans, Sherpas and a few other Himalayan people.
  • Herbal teas. Most herbal teas are made from wild flowers from the Solu Khumbu region. In Kathmandu, these teas are generally only served in high class establishments or those run by Sherpas from the Solu Khumbu.

Water: Problematic due to lack of sanitary facilities and sewage treatment. It is safest to assume water is unsafe for drinking without being chemically treated or boiled, which is one reason to stick to tea.

Sleep

Budget accommodation in Nepal ranges from around 100 NPR to around 250 NPR for a double. Cheaper rooms usually do not have sheets, blankets, towels, or anything else besides a bed and a door. Most budget hotels and guesthouses have a wide range of rooms, so be sure to see what you are getting, even if you have stayed there before. Accommodations will often be the cheapest part of your budget in Nepal.

Learn

  • Yoga
  • Massage - The Healing Hands Center [28]. Classes in Ancient Massage / Thai Massage. Five-day course, ten-day course and one-month professional course every month.
  • Nepali
  • Motorcycling Professional training with Hearts and Tears Motorcycle Club in Pokhara
  • Buddhism - Rangjung Yeshe Institute [29]. An international institute for Buddhist higher studies in Boudhanath, Nepal, modeled on a traditional Tibetan Shedra.
  • Meditation - Nepal Vipassana Centers [30]. Vipassana Meditation as taught by S. N. Goenka.

Work

Volunteer in Nepal

Volunteering in Nepal can be a rewarding alternative to simple tourism. Currently in Nepal, the tourism industry is far removed from the everyday village life of most of the population. Trekking or package tours often move too quickly through the country to provide an appreciation of the natural beauty and diverse cultures. Volunteering is sometimes the only way to see remote areas outside the Kathmandu Valley and well-trod trekking trails.

Unfortunately, volunteer tourism has sometimes become more profitable than real tourism. Foreign operators and Nepali agents have found an inexhaustible supply of well-meaning but naieve people who will pay big money to "volunteer" in Thamel, Lakeside and Chitwan.

Teaching English is a popular project for volunteers and is often combined with courses in computer literacy or health and physical education. The Nepali school system, which many children only attend for a few years, requires English fluency so there is always a demand for native English speakers of all ages, races, and nationalities. There are no prerequisites for teaching beyond English fluency and, in some programs, any university level degree.

There are many options for finding volunteer opportunities. Several international organizations, such as Explore Village [31], Travel to Teach [32], United Planet [33], People and Places [34] will find you a project, room, and boarding-- either at the school or with a local family-- for a fee. This fee can range from 500 USD to 2000 USD depending on the type and length of program. Some of this money will go to the school and host family, often they are too poor even to support a volunteer, but the bulk often goes to the agency. In some cases the agency will provide language and culture lessons as well as general teaching supplies and support. Once you make a deposit on a particular program there may be limited options for change. Programs can last from two weeks to six months, but keep in mind the longer stay is more rewarding for both you and the school, as it can take several weeks to get into the swing of things.

An alternative to paid placement is to find a local, grassroots program, or to contact schools directly in Kathmandu when you arrive. Local hostels and restaurants usually have bulletin boards full of requests for volunteers. More and more local groups are placing ads on the web as well. These programs are more likely to charge only for room & board, but you will need to do some research to find out the specifics of each group and what, if any, support you will receive. Waiting until you arrive also lets you get to know the areas you can volunteer in and allows you to shop around for a situation that best suits you. These placements tend to be longer term (3-6 months), but this is always negotiable with a specific school or project.

  • Hands for help [35]. Can help you find a volunteer placement. It's not clear if they charge a fee or not.
  • Co-operative Youth Organization Nepal (COYON) [36]. You can have a volunteering opportunity with this youth organization for free of cost but you have to bear your living and other expenses during your volunteering period in Nepal.

Stay safe

There are strikes ("bandas") and demonstrations to contend with. Businesses close and transportation halts. Ask about strikes at your hotel and make sure you have enough money to last. Food and water are still available in hotels, and much business goes on behind closed doors. Rallies and demonstrations are routinely charged by police wielding laathis or long sticks. Tourists are advised to keep a low profile, and to avoid confrontations.

The Maoist insurgency has ended in 2006 after they signed comprehensive peace agreement with then government. Their combatants are still in camps (as of September 2008) with their future to be decided by the government. The former rebels are now leading the government and their activists on the ground have not harassed the tourists. The trekking routes and other tourist destinations are safe for travel. If your country has an embassy or consulate in Nepal, let them know your whereabouts and plans, and at least listen seriously to any cautionary advice they offer.

Nepal's cities are safer than most. Even pickpockets are rare. Still, don't flash cash or make ostentatious displays of wealth, out of respect for the nonmaterialistic reality of the people.

Be cautious about transportation. Roads are narrow, steep, winding and frequently crowded. Seatbelts are an aberration. Not many traffic cops are ticketing unsafe drivers out in the boonies. If you read the papers regularly, you may notice articles about busloads of people falling into gorges.

Scheduled flights are safer than the roads, but planes occasionally fly into clouds and find mountains. The risks are greatest before and during the monsoon season when the mountains are usually clouded over. Helicopters may be better at avoiding this, but sometimes crash due to mechanical complexity and dubious maintenance. If you are flying with a company that has no pilots older than 30, you might wonder why. Aviation was already fairly well developed by the 1960s; where have all the old pilots gone?

Nevertheless if you should be seriously injured or sick out where there are no motorable roads or airports, medical evacuation by helicopter may be your last best chance. This can get very expensive. If there is no firm guarantee that the bill will be paid, companies offering these services may demur, so look into insurance covering medical evacuations. Also ask if your embassy or consulate guarantees payment; another reason for introducing yourself, even if they seem a bit stuffy.

Stay healthy

  • Minimizing gastrointestinal problems - Since most of Nepal still gets along without modern sanitation, these are endemic. They range from self-limiting attacks of diarrhea where dehydration is the main risk, through intestinal parasites, amoebic dysentery and giardiasis which are chronic without proper medical treatment, to immediately life-threatening infections like cholera and typhoid. Habituation even to common intestinal flora generally takes about a year and many unpleasant bouts of stomach problems, so tourists contemplating shorter stays should take extensive precautions. Filter or treat your own water, use bottled water, checking to make sure lid is sealed (limit use of bottled water since there's no place to dispose of the used bottles) or stick with beverages made from water that has been thoroughly boiled and filtered. Tea or coffee from cafes catering to tourists are 'generally' safe.
    • When trekking carry iodine or other chemical means of treating water and be sure to follow directions, i.e. don't drink the water before the specified time interval to ensure that resistant cysts are deactivated. In trailside teashops, although glasses may be washed in questionable water, tea is made by pouring boiling water through tea dust into your glass. The chances of disease-causing organisms surviving that are small but not zero.
    • Brush teeth with prepared drinking water and avoid water entering the mouth when showering.
    • Salads, especially in the wet season, should be treated as a suspect.
    • Wash hands regularly and especially before eating.
    • Thoroughly wash fruit and vegetables for raw consumption using boiled and filtered water. Also consider peeling them.
    • Look for freshly-cooked food and avoid anything that has been cooked and then left sitting around without refridgeration (which can expose you to a buildup of bacterial toxins), or without protection from flies (which can transfer disease organisms and parasite eggs to the food).
    • Also see the Food poisoning article.
  • Get vaccinated and consider prophylactic treatment. You may be exposed to typhoid, cholera, hepatitis malaria, and possibly even rabies. Read the article on Tropical diseases and review travel plans with your health care provider.
  • Practice safe sex or do without. Nepali women are sought after in India and the Middle East and so there is human trafficking. Victims may be allowed to return home when health issues become a liability, then continue 'working' as long as possible. The incidence of STDs is rising and the government has not always been proactive about treatment and promoting awareness. Unless your Nepali is extremely fluent, your chances of finding out about a prospective partner's sexual history are slim.
  • Altitude sickness Permanent snow lines are between 5,500 m and 5,800 m (18,000 ft and 19,000 ft), so base camps and passes in the Himalaya are usually higher than Mount Blanc or Mount Whitney. This puts even experienced mountain climbers at risk of altitude-related medical conditions that can be life-threatening. Risks can be minimized by choosing routes that don't go high, such as Pokhara-Jomosom, or routes and trekking companies where gamow bags or other treatment are available, and by sleeping not more than 300 m (1,000 ft) higher per day. According to the "climb high, sleep low" mantra, it is good to take daytime conditioning hikes that push acclimation, then to return to a more reasonable elevation at night.
  • Hypothermia is a risk, especially if you are trekking in spring, autumn or winter to avoid heat at low elevations. When it is a comfortable 30°C (85°F) in the Terai, it is likely to be in the teens Fahrenheit or -10°C (14°F) at that base camp or high pass. Either be prepared to hike and sleep in these temperatures (and make sure your comrades, guides and porters are equally prepared), or choose a trek that doesn't go high. For example, at 3,000 m (10,000 ft) expect daytime temperatures in the 40s Fahrenheit or 5 to 10 degrees Celsius.
  • Rabies - Dogs are not vaccinated and catch this fatal disease from other dogs or wild animals with some regularity. All mammals are potentially vulnerable. Dogs are considered ritually polluting and are widely abused, so it can be impossible to know whether a dog bit you because it is paranoid about people or because it is rabid. You should be vaccinated against rabies before going to Nepal, but this is not absolute protection. Be on the lookout for mammals acting disoriented or hostile and stay as far away as possible. Do not pet dogs, cats or pigs no matter how cute. Keep a distance from monkeys, especially in places like the Monkey Temple in Kathmandu. If bitten or exposed to saliva, seek medical attention. You may need an extended series of injections that provides a higher level of protection than routine vaccination.
  • Snakebite - The risk is greatest in warm weather and at elevations below 5,000 ft (1,500 m). Poisonous snakes are fairly common and cause thousands of deaths annually. Local people may be able to differentiate poisonous and non-poisonous species. Cobras raise their bodies in the air and spread their hoods when annoyed; itinerant snake charmers are likely to have specimens for your edification. Vipers have triangular heads and may have thick bodies like venomous snakes in North America. Kraits may be the most dangerous due to innocuous appearance and extremely potent neurotixic vemom. Kraits are strangely passive in daylight but become active at night, especially around dwellings where they hunt rodents. Krait bites may be initially painless, causing only numbness. However without proper antivenin numbness can progress to deadly paralysis, even with bites from small, seemingly harmless specimens. Wearing proper shoes and pants rather than sandals and shorts provides some protection. Watch where you put your feet and hands, and use a flashlight when walking outside at night. Sleeping on elevated beds and on second stories helps protect against nocturnal kraits.

Respect

Greet people with a warm Namaste (or "Namaskar" to an older or high-status person) with palms together, fingers up. Show marked respect to elders. Be friendly, be patient.

Feet are considered dirty. Don't point the bottoms of your feet (or your bum!) at people, or at religious icons. In this vein, be sure not to step over a person who may be seated or lying on the ground. Be sensitive to when it is proper to remove your hat or shoes.

The left hand is considered unclean because it is used to wash after defecating. Nepalis carry a small jug (called a lota) of water for this purpose in lieu of toilet paper. It would be insulting to touch anyone with this hand.

Accept tea.

Circumambulate temples, chortens, stupas, mani walls, etc. clockwise. (ie, with your right side closest to the object or respect)

When haggling over prices, smile, laugh, and be friendly. Be prepared to allow a reasonable profit. Don't insult fine craftsmanship, it's much better to lament that you are too poor to afford such princely quality.

Many Hindu temples do not allow non-Hindus inside certain parts of the temple complex. Be aware and respectful of this fact, as these are places of worship, not tourist attractions.

Being a non-Hindu makes you moderately low caste, but not an untouchable. Avoid touching containers of water; let someone pour it into your drinking container. Likewise avoid touching food that others will be eating. Make sure you are invited before entering someone's house. You may only be welcome on the outer porch, or in the yard.

Wash hands before and after eating. Touch food only with the right hand. The left hand can be used to hold glasses, bowls, and probably eating utensils. Outside the main cities, be prepared to eat rice meals with your (right) hand as Nepalis do, or bring along a fork and spoon.

Contact

The use of email is growing, although its avaliability is most widespread in Kathmandu (especially in Thamel and around the Boudha Stupa in Boudhanath) or Pokhara. However, Namche, in the the Everest region, has several internet cafes that use satellite connections, but the cost is much higher than in Kathmandu . Mail can be received at many guesthouses or shipping offices if you arrange ahead. Phone calls are best made from any of the international phone offices in Kathmandu-- Voice over Internet (VOI) is usually a fraction of the cost of a normal call.

The standard Nepalese electrical outlet is a three-pronged triangle, but some have been retrofitted to accept US and European plugs. Simple adapters can be purchased inexpensively in Kathmandu to change the shape of the plug (but not the voltage of the electricity!); some have fuses built in.

Get out

  • By motorcycle - Buy an indian registered bike in Nepal, ride it to India and sell it at the end of the trip. For the more adventurous, a Nepali registered bike can be ridden around the world - or back home. Hearts and Tears Motorcycle Club in Pokhara are highly experienced in training people for such trips, and providing great bikes and equipment. [looks like the author is advertising for personal gains here]
  • Mount Kailash - Actually in Tibet, a short distance beyond the NW corner of Nepal. Hindu and Buddhist cosmology describes the cosmos as a central mountain, Mount Meru, surrounded by the earth's continents and seas, then by the rest of the universe. Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple complex is actually an architectural representation of this schema. As geographical knowledge developed, Mount Kailas was proclaimed the physical manifestation of Mount Meru. Factually it is the hydrologic hub of the subcontinent. The Karnali, Sutlej Indus and Brahmaputra rivers all begin near this mountain. Hindus and Buddhists gain religious merit by circumambulating the mountain.



This country guide is usable. It has links to this country's major cities and other destinations (and all are at usable status or better), a valid regional structure and information about this country's currency, language, cuisine, and culture is included. At least the most prominent attraction is identified with directions. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!