Nepal is a land locked country in Himalayas which shares its boundaries with India. India maintains a strong bilateral relationship with Nepal and hence Indians have an easy access to the country. However it doesn’t mean you can just head to Nepal without some planning. There are a couple of things to keep in mind before you plan your trip to Nepal to make your travel a smooth experience. Following tips are based on my experiences from recent trips to Nepal which might be useful in your planning.
- Indians do not need a visa to enter Nepal. However you need to have either your passport or voter id card to get an entry . You can enter Nepal via land and in that case both documents would work (I don’t know the exact process but should be available online). But if you are flying in you better carry your passport or check with airlines in advance if you read about voter id card being acceptable on any forum.
- Carry plenty of cash from India as Indian currency is widely accepted. Notes of 100 Rs. or less denomination are accepted everywhere. Rs. 500 or 2000 notes may or may not be accepted so better avoid carrying them in large amount. A straight conversion rate of 1INR = 1.6 NPL is followed everywhere. Important point to note here is that your international debit/credit card may or may not work there so you need to check with your bank in advance. Just see the reverse side of your card and you will see a note about card not acceptable in Nepal and Bhutan for forex. My HDFC card didn’t work there but ICICI and CitiBank worked fine. Even if the card work, transaction charges are quite high for cash withdrawal. In case of credit card, merchants will charge you a fees in range of 3.5 – 5 % on total purchase value.
- A lot of people go to Nepal for trekking as there are plenty of trek circuits available with various difficulty levels. Research out which treks suits your plan if you want to go on a trek. I had not gone on a multi day trek in the past as I am not too excited about idea of camping but Nepal offers treks called tree house treks. These treks pass through villages where basic guest houses are available. These offer a small but clean room and shared bathrooms. So I went on a three-day trek in Annapurna region and I will share the experience in a different post. If you are like me then Nepal is your best bet to go on a trek :).
- When you go to higher elevations in mountain, prices of commodities start climbing too. Expect to pay double or higher prices in mountains as its difficult to carry things up. To give an example a cup of tea would cost you 200 NPR and an apple 100 NPR. So plan your expenses accordingly and carry sufficient cash as you will not have access to ATM/banks.
- Kathmandu although official capital of Nepal doesn’t live up to its name at all. Its crowded, dusty, polluted and disorganized. As it is your entry and exit point for Ariel route you can’t avoid it but if you have limited number of days in hand, spend minimum time in Kathmandu and rest of the days for your other destination. The only place I visited in Kathmandu was Pashupatinath temple which is considered very sacred temple for Hindus.
- Pokhara is one of the tourist hub in Nepal and starting point of lots of treks are accessible from here. The town itself is very well-managed and tourist infrastructure is very good. Many adventure activities like paragliding, bungee jumping etc are arranged from various tourist agencies. If you don’t want to go for any of them, you still have lakes, waterfalls and other tourist places easily accessible from here.
- Pokhara is accessible from Kathmandu both by flight and road. However if you are Indian national then its better to take a flight as you get same rates as Nepalese and it’s quite cheap. You can get a flight from yeti airlines for as low as 2000 NPR. Foreign national have to pay much higher price so there is a trade-off available between money and time for them. The bus would take longer and although the route is scenic, you will be tired by the time you reach destinations. Tourist bus tickets cost 700-800 NPR and your journey time depends upon the traffic situation in Kathmandu. The travel time mentioned is 6 hours but on a bad day like I had, It may take up to 10 hours thus wasting your entire day. I took a flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara and realized later that should have taken flight for return journey too specially when I had limited number of days in hand. A lesson learnt hard way.
I made a couple of mistakes on Nepal trip in terms of planning the trip which I could have avoided with a little bit of research. I had just booked return tickets from India and had landed in Nepal with a very rough itinerary in hand. Since I had visa free access and the destination was less expensive than India, I was a bit over-confident. But it just proved that no matter how much experience you gain, you will always make some mistakes. The ultimate goal is to learn from them and move on. Isn’t It ?