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Know Before you Go
General Information and Insider Tips
Residents of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand do need a visa for travel to Nepal. This can either be applied for through your nearest Nepalese Consulate office, or obtained on arrival. 15, 30 and 90-day tourist visas are available for different fees, and can be extended an additional 60 days through the Nepalese Department of Immigration.
You can obtain a Visa-On-Arrival from Tribhuvan International Airport. Applications can be filled out online and a digital photo uploaded, then printed and brought with you. Kiosks with web cams are also available at the airport, or you can fill out a printed form, but will then you will need to bring a passport-sized photo.
Your passport must be valid for at least six months prior to arrival in Nepal and have at least two blank pages available.
If you are travelling from or through the United States, and are not a US national or resident, you will need to obtain an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), ideally at least 72 hours prior to departure. ESTA has replaced the paper form that used to be filled in prior to landing in the US. The authorization costs $ 14 USD and needs to be paid by credit card. Canadian nationals are exempt and do not need an ESTA.
It is your own responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of valid and correct travel documentation.
Insider Tip: Treks (including the Annapurna Circuit) require an additional permit. This can be coordinated through your local expert, or through the Nepal Tourism Board. Application, two passport-sized photos and fee are required.
There are no particular requirements for Nepal, but make sure all routine vaccinations are up to date (MMR, polio, tetanus, etc.). Hepatitis A and Typhoid are recommended. Malaria isn’t a threat in Kathmandu and Pokhara, and only a potential concern for long-term travel in rural areas. Seek medical advice about anti-malarials and whether or not they are needed. We recommend all vaccines be completed at least six weeks prior to travel.
Altitude sickness can be a problem above 8,000 feet (2,500 meters), so inquire about altitude sickness pills before you arrive. They are often only available by prescription. With or without pills, be sure to stay hydrated. Trekkers in need of medical attention are often transported to Kathmandu, so be sure your medical insurance covers evacuations.
Tap water in Nepal is NOT safe to drink. If using your refillable Dopper bottle, we recommend combining with a Steripen.
Insider Tip: Most rural restrooms don’t supply toilet paper so carry tissue packets. More primitive system will have a bucket of water and scoop instead of a mechanical flush.
The safety of our clients is of the utmost importance to us, and our local experts are always well-informed about the current situation in Nepal. For up-to-date information about safety, security and travel warnings, please refer to the US State Department, UK Foreign Travel Advice, or your local government resource.
Insider Tip: Orphanage scams are unfortunately an issue in Nepal, which is why we don’t include visits as part of our itineraries. Read more here.
Sockets use rounded two-prong (Type C) and rounded three-prong (Type D and Type M) plugs. Bring a flashlight/torch and cell phone battery pack for scheduled brown-outs.
At Better Places Travel, you book your own international flights. Your travel expert will gladly advise you on the best option. Read here for more information and tips.
When to go
There are four distinct seasons in Nepal, with the monsoon hitting in the summer between June and August. Monsoonal rains, however, mostly arrive during the night. The Kathmandu Valley has relatively mild temperatures as the Himalayas block much of the winter winds. Spring and autumn are considered high season with October and November being the peak.
Insider Tip: While it is monsoon in Nepal, June and July are popular months for overland crossings to and from Tibet.
The national language is Nepali. Here are some useful words to learn:
Thank you Dhanyabad (“thank you” is also commonly understood)
Excuse me Maapha ganus
Insider Tip: Namaste, said with hands in prayer position, is a common and respectful greeting you’re likely to see and hear throughout Nepal. To show even greater respect for someone, use namaskar.
Nepal is a mix of Buddhist and Hindu traditions going back more than 2,000 years. Lumbini, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the birthplace of Buddha. Customs and etiquette here are similar to neighboring India. If eating with your hand, always use your right one. It is considered impure to eat or drink after someone else has touched it, so if sharing a bottle of water or soda, tip the bottle back and pour it into your mouth without touching (it may take some practice!).
Dress here is conservative, so best to cover shoulders and knees as a general rule. Shorts are acceptable when trekking and tolerated in Kathmandu, but you will not blend in with locals. If walking around a Buddhist temple or stupa, always walk clockwise. Haggling is part of the culture in Nepal and there are rarely price tags. It should, however, be a polite exchange; never adversarial. When you hit the lowest price the vendor will offer, pay or walk away. Touts are prevalent in tourist areas and shop owners often call out to tourists to come inside their shop. While it can get tiring after a while, smile warmly and continue walking.
Insider Tip: It is common for male friends to hold hands or put their arms around each other in public. Overt displays of romantic affection, however, are frowned upon.
The local currency is Nepalese Rupee (NPR)
Credit cards (including American Express) are widely accepted in large cities and tourist areas, although Nepal is largely cash-based. ATMs are prevalent in big cities, but near impossible to find in rural areas and trekking areas. If traveling “off the grid,” make sure you have ample cash with you. US dollars, Canadian dollars, British pounds and Australian dollars are all exchangeable in Nepal, although we recommend carrying a small supply of US dollars for emergencies.
Insider Tip: Most taxi drivers don’t use meters and fares must be negotiated in advance. Ask your hotel how much you should pay before negotiating.
- Restaurants- At higher-end restaurants, a service charge is often included. At smaller restaurants or where no service charge is included, 5-10% would be appreciated.
- Cabs- No tipping, but you can round up the change if you want.
- Hotels- Tip bellmen 10 rupees per bag
Insider Tip: When it comes to treks, $3-5 USD per day is generally a good tip for guides, whereas $2-4 USD per day is acceptable for porters. And if you won’t be needing some of your gear at the end of your trek, guides will put it to good use.
Since the culture in Nepal is conservative, long pants, long and short-sleeved shirts, below-the-knee skirts and dresses are most appropriate. Clothing should be loose-fitting for both cultural and comfort purposes. Layers are advisable, especially if visiting the mountainous region. Swimsuits are not commonly seen, so if cooling off in a lake or stream, wear clothes or cover up with a sarong.
Insider Tip: Pashminas make great gifts, but most labeled as 100% pashmina or 100% cashmere are anything but. Touch is your best sense-it should be soft, lightweight and delicate. Finding a reputable shop away from the tourist center of Kathmandu is your best bet. And definitely research pricing.
Must-pack trekking items:
- Good quality walking shoes or hiking boots
- Sport sandals
- Jacket (see note below about renting in Kathmandu)
- Water purification tablets or Steripen
- Rehydration salts for possible altitude sickness or stomach issues
- Dopper water bottle and/or Camelbak
- Mosquito repellant
- Sunglasses and hat
- Microfiber towel or sarong
- Simple medical kit with over-the-counter drugs and first aid (including anti-diarrheal and stomach meds)
- Hand sanitizer or wet wipes
- All prescriptions
- Power bank for cell phone charging
- Tissues for when toilet paper is unavailable
Insider Tip: Trekking gear is widely available in Kathmandu, so head to Thamel (the tourist area) to pick up anything you may have forgotten. You can even rent sleeping bags and parkas.
Be sure to check out our Sustainability Checklist for more tips on how to respect the environment and local culture while travelling.