Nepal 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. Read more...
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Cities and Destinations in Nepal
Nepal 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.
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. Two month tourist visas are available on arrival. Money can be changed 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 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. Taxis are also available. As always, negotiate the price beforehand with the driver. A taxi ride to Thamel or Boudha should be around 250. Otherwise, order a taxi at the pre-paid booth inside the airport, which costs 300 NRS. This is more than the normal taxi rate, but it saves the hassle of long negotiations.
Car rental in Nepal is almost unheard of, as is renting a car in India and taking it across the border. Some travellers have bought motorcycles in India and driven them into the country, but road conditions and erratic local drivers make this an adventurous choice.
There are four border crossings open to tourists. The Sunauli-Bhairawa border crossing is the closest to Varanasi, the Raxaul-Birganj crossing to 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.
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
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 the same as the standard bus service.
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.
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.
Motorcycle-Another choice is to rent a motorcycle. And it can be rented in the Thamel area at a low cost.
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.
When to go
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.
In the countryside, Maoist insurgents may not have completely laid down their weapons. People with guns (whether actual Maoists or thieves posing as Maoists) may still be asking for 'donations', an offer you might not want to refuse. According to party policy, all donations are supposed to be voluntary and money-collection by means of threats is strictly prohibited. This is not always followed. Haggling is possible. Actual Maoist party workers will usually issue you a receipt.
Whether the present truce will outlast negotiation and deal-cutting about the country's political future is somewhat speculative. If things start heating up, best get out of the country or at least to a major city like Kathmandu or Pokhara before the shooting starts up again. It is unlikely that tourists would be targeted, but war often means collateral damage. 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.
Insurgencies aside, Nepal's cities are much 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.
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 around 18 or 19, 000' (5, 500m), 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 1, 000'/300m 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 85F/30C in the Terai, it is likely to be in the teens Fahrenheit or-10C 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 10, 000'/3, 000m 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' (1, 500m). 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 are strangely passive in daylight but become active at night, especially around dwellings where they hunt mice. 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 innocuous 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.
Quick Facts about Nepal
27,676,547 (July 2006 est.)
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)
Country Dialing Code
Nepalese rupee (NPR)