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Nepal: our full travel guide for a great journey

nepal

Our advice and tips to prepare your trip to Nepal: visa, organized trip, transport, budget, flights … 

Let’s cut short the questions. No, you will not visit a field of ruins. “Nepal will rise again”, trumpet the Nepalese, haunted by the idea of ​​impertinence. And for good reason: earthquakes, these devout Buddhists and Hindus have seen others, starting with that of 1934. It is not certain that many remember them. Yet this violent earthquake had been just as devastating and deadly as that of April 25, 2015.

With a magnitude 7.8 on the Richter scale (which has 9), the results of recent events show 9,000 dead, 22,000 injured, 700,000 homes destroyed. Colossal. This is without counting on the resilience of the Nepalese who are rebuilding, brick by brick, their thousand-year-old heritage. Sometimes allowing ourselves some architectural extravagance, not always to our liking. Bakhtapur, the most violently affected , has not lost its luster. It will take a few years before Nepal regains its splendor, which should not discourage the barge from going there. International solidarity was implemented, hampered by corruption at all levels of society.

On the ground, associations are taking action to help disaster-stricken populations. Volunteering attracts Westerners who wish to get involved, lasting several months for the more daring of them. The NGO Karuna Shechen , created by the Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, is a benchmark of integrity and efficiency. Watch for offers for volunteers.

Nepal, flagship destination for globetrotting trekkers
Nepal, flagship destination for globetrotting trekkers© Reuters

Alone, with a guide, or in a group?

The renowned tour operator Asia specializes in the destination. The trips are organized à la carte, according to the desires and budgets of each. Alone or in a group. From € 2,106 for 11 days.

A flagship destination for globe-trotting trekkers, Nepal is the playground for the most experienced of them as well as for novices who would like to learn about it. Many forums offer to find walking companions. Go through them so you don’t travel alone. Some trekkers will appreciate the presence of a “porter”, who will lighten their hikes. This practice is common in Nepal. Remember to tip your porter and your guide (15% of salary). In return for paying your host, you can stay with the locals, in basic comfort, and share a “dal Bhat”, the traditional vegetarian “lentil rice”.

Choose the trails

The months of October and November will have the best days for you to trek, even if rainy episodes are not to be excluded. Naturally, tourists flock during this period. Less frequented, trails to the east or west are to be preferred. The low altitude treks, from Pokhara, can be done in winter, from January or February, but the highest passes are not accessible until mid-April. The monsoon is in full swing between July and September. On the program, muddy trails (beware of landslides) and leeches. Take refuge under the “Himalayan umbrella”, the Dolpo and the Mustang.

Nepal
Nepal© Reuters

What other destinations to combine?

It is possible to add other destinations to your trips. Apart from India, a classic, Tibet, Bhutan, Burma or even Thailand are popular destinations. From India, 3 days by train are necessary to reach Kathmandu via Delhi. Contact Asia to organize your trips.

By car, on foot or by bus?

Car traffic is chaotic in Nepal. It is saying little! All the roads are not paved, which sometimes makes them difficult, including on board tourist vehicles … The country is crossed by two roads, from North to South, and from East to West. The greatest caution is required as accidents remain daily, despite experienced drivers in the most extreme driving … For these reasons, motorcycles, scooters and ATVs are not recommended. Tourists are prohibited from driving on Nepalese roads. Hitchhiking, not very common in Nepal, can be considered.

Travel times are not an exact science in Nepal. Do not rely on the applications on your mobile. The roads are congested, in sometimes average condition. You have to be patient. Damaged vehicles will double your travel time. From Kathmandu to Pokhara, allow 6 hours if the traffic is smooth. It is better to travel by plane, the unique opportunity to photograph the Himalayas …

Traveling by bus is possible (it is also the most economical solution to travel in the Kathmandu Valley), however, the best option is to afford the services of a private driver and a passenger vehicle. that you spot by their green license plate.

Kathmandu, Nepal.
Kathmandu, Nepal.© Reuters

For short distances, the taxi is still rather affordable (but not cheap). Polluted and sprawling, Kathmandu makes taxi traffic sometimes essential. Fix the price of the race before boarding one of these cars… not all of their first youth! On foot, in Kathmandu, the crossings from one sidewalk to another are carried out without warning. Impose yourself!

Your two legs will remain your best allies, because Nepal requires long hours of walking. Nepal, which can be visited on foot, by sometimes steep paths, is not recommended for parents of young children. Good physical condition is essential.

When to go?

There are not four but three seasons in the Indian Sub-Continent. The period from October to November is undoubtedly the best to see the peaks of the Himalayas and the most popular with walkers for its temperate heat. The vegetation, luxuriant at that time, is the promise of green rice fields. In stand-alone mode and in spring, the mercury drops after nightfall. Bring warm sweaters.

Less expensive, the months of June, July and August are also those of the monsoon. If the rains are not continuous, they make the tracks muddy, sometimes difficult to pass. You should not be discouraged by the heat and humidity.

Nepal
Nepal© Reuters

For what budget?

Nepal is a pretty cheap destination. You will find many “resorts” and “lodges” of sometimes average standing, far enough from Western standards that they like to imitate. A rather expensive solution for the region. Tighter budgets will fall back on the very popular “guest houses” with unbeatable value for money.

Some monasteries have their own guesthouse, like that of Shéchèn , in Bodnath (Kathmandu). Serenity guaranteed. The “Rabsel Café” is vegetarian, without GMOs. Taste mutton, made from wheat and soy protein. 8 euros per double room in high season, breakfast included.

Access to the historic city center is often subject to a toll. Accept without reluctance to put your hand in the wallet. Nepal, among the 10 poorest countries in the world, is in the process of reconstruction. More than ever, its survival depends on tourism. Plan for change, and watch the change!

Now is the time to choose your guide. French speaking, Italian speaking, Chinese speaking … There is something for everyone. Only the Nepalese exercise, the activity is reserved for them. Prices (indicative) vary according to their skills:

  • A French speaking tourist guide: 40 € / day
  • A trekking guide: between 20 and 25 € / day
  • A porter: 15 € / day

Add to that a trekking permit, another to access protected areas, the cost of your accommodation, not to mention tips.

The El Dorado of vegetarians?

Eating veggie is never a challenge in Nepal where more than half of the population is vegetarian. The buffet formula is widespread in Nepal. For your information, the meat dish is often at the end of the race. In Nepal as in India, the cow is sacred, and is not on the menu. Special mention for Ethiad Airways which offers vegetarian menus (vegan on request, upon reservation) which are generous and delicious.

Also read. Nepal: 9 must-see places you shouldn’t miss

Nepal.
Nepal.© Reuters

Prepare your trip

Obtain your visa

The formalities can be carried out on site, upon arrival. From France, you can appoint an agency to present your request to the embassy. The solution for those in a hurry. Contact Rapide Visa for a quote. For all information on the country, consult the France-Diplomatie website

Which company to choose?

Ethiad Airways , the official company of the United Arab Emirates, provides regular connections from Paris, with a stopover in Abu Dhabi, its capital. The opportunity, if your timing allows it, to visit the brand new Louvre in Abu Dhabi. Allow half an hour by taxi from the airport to which you will add an hour of visit. From Abu Dhabi to Kathmandu, on a clear, clear sky, the Himalayan ranges are visible from the cabin. During our flight, they were on the right of the aircraft. Enjoy, you might not see them anytime soon!

An effective price comparison!

Passing through Paris to catch your flight? If you are arriving from Orly airport, south of Paris, Bus Direct line 3 takes you directly to Roissy-Charles de Gaulle. 21 euros one way. The Citizen M welcomes you in a trendy and affordable atmosphere. The RER B, a 3-minute walk away, reaches Notre-Dame de Paris in less than three quarters of hours.

Algolfy is an efficient price comparison tool to pay for your ticket at the best price. Its algorithm determines whether you should buy now or wait. Watch for flash offers from companies whose site does not notify you. You can also book your tickets on Opodo , which is perfectly secure.

What medications to take?

Analgesics, sunscreen, gastrointestinal dressings will fit in your first aid kit. Acute mountain sickness (AMS), beyond 2500 meters, must be immediately identified by the trekker: loss of appetite, insomnia, nausea, headaches… Pulmonary and cerebral edemas can occur. If necessary, descend to altitude as quickly as possible.

A consultation at the center for infectious and tropical diseases of Pitié-Salpétrière , in Paris, will provide you with information on the vaccines required according to the current epidemiology. A reservation center is accessible online.

Kathmandu, Nepal.
Kathmandu, Nepal.© Reuters

Exchange Nepalese currencies

Whether they are going there or coming back, some tourists, rather smart, seek to exchange their currencies. A clever solution to save the often exorbitant airport exchange fees (to be avoided!).

To read :

  • References: Lonely Planet or the Guide du Routard.
  • Half a century years in the Himalayas, Matthieu Ricard, editions de La Marinière

Useful information

Jet lag

+ 3h30 in summer and + 4h30 in winter. Atypical, the Nepalese half hour cultivates independence with India, theoretically on the same time zone.

Sockets, wifi, mobile communications

SIM cards can be purchased for your mobile communications. 300 rupees for a three month package or 100 rupees for a blocked package. WhatsApp is widely used by Nepalese. Disable cellular data on your mobile, which will blow up your plan.

Nepali / Language

In the Kathmandu Valley, English (sometimes approximate) is spoken by many Nepalese, although it is not the country’s official language. Simple notions allow you to communicate easily. Some of the guides you will call on have a perfect command of Molière’s language. Bluffing!

Get dressed

Bring comfortable walking shoes. The temples and monasteries you will visit require you to take your shoes off… Think practical!

To negotiate

It is customary to negotiate prices. Check with the seller if the prices are fixed. Stay courteous and moderate.

Tips

Tips are not the sole concern of tourists. In restaurants and in the hotel, this is obvious, but don’t forget your guide, your driver or your porter.

Environment

Pollution is ubiquitous in the Kathmandu Valley. In Kathmandu itself, it is not uncommon for locals to wear masks to protect their airways from fine particles.

For the more eco-responsible tourists, taking a bag allows you to collect plastic bottles and other packaging that you can find on your way. The Kathmandu Valley sometimes looks like an open dump.

Potable water

On the spot, only consume encapsulated water. Check the composition of the drinks. Lassis sometimes contain water, ask to know the source.

Pictures

Use the photo sparingly. Some populations were hit hard by the 2015 earthquake, please be respectful.

Showing the snapshot of the person you have just photographed is often appreciated by locals. With some exceptions, it is forbidden to photograph in the temples. Inquire.

Children

It is not recommended to give money to children so as not to fuel crime.

Animals

Dogs are ubiquitous in the streets of Kathmandu as elsewhere in the country. Local associations such as Katcenter sterilize and vaccinate (especially against rabies) the dog population of Kathmandu. In Chitwan National Park and Bardia National Park, elephant riding activities attract many tourists. Refuse to ride on the backs of these convicts deprived of water, food, beaten, chained to obey.

Behaviour

Showing affection in public (kissing, or even holding hands) can be offensive to Nepalis. Discretion is the rule. Smoking in the street is prohibited.

Transgender Welcome!

Nepal is one of the first countries in the world to recognize the third sex. “Woman”, “Man”, “Other”: as soon as you arrive at Kathmandu airport, the tempo is set… Transgender friends, welcome!

Asia organizes tailor-made trips, with guide, driver and private car. More info: www.asia.fr / 01 56 88 66 75

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