For the last few years I’ve been coming to Nepal with my kids for at least a few months a year. So I gathered for you all the things I thought would help planning a trip there. I tried giving you a more general image as well as going into detail, in points that I found important.
Neighbor to India and China, half an hour flight from Delhi, an hour and a half from Bangkok.
Budget for a family per month:
–Low budget- cheap hotels, cheap restaurants, and one short trek, 1000-1200$
–Medium budget- decent hotels, average restaurants, a trek and rafting, 1200-1400$
–High budget- good hotels, expensive restaurants, good private transportation, treks and rafting, 1400-2000$
I recommend Turkish or Qatar airways.
You can also take a bus from India, but be prepared as it’s a grueling 30-40 hours’ drive.
In Nepal you get visa upon landing, 45$ a month or 100$ for three months. You can extend afterwards (up to a combined 150 days a year) in Pokhara or in Kathmandu at the cost of 2$ a day in the immigration office.
Children under 10 don’t pay (and don’t let them charge you for them).
There’s a machine at the airport through which you fill a form and have your picture taken, print the form and wait in line for the Visa.
There are two good seasons a year, from early February until April, that starts cool and clear and gets warmer and wetter, and from late September to late November, that starts warm and a bit rainy and gets cooler and clearer. There’s also the winter, which is very cold but doesn’t get any rain, that’s in December to early February. Late December and early January are the best for view (the clearest visibility).
The Nepali currency is called Nepali rupee (npr), and it’s worth less than an Indian rupee in a ratio of 1-1.6 (1 Indian rupee is worth 1.6 Nepali rupees). 1$ is worth about 100 npr.
Kathmandu- the capital city (the tourist zone is a neighborhood called Thamel). A noisy, bustling city.
Pokhara- the second biggest city. A calm, quiet city on a lake shore. (The tourist zone is an area called lakeside, and it’s right on the lake).
Places we recommend:
Lakeside Pokhara- a quiet, relaxed neighborhood on Pokhara’s Fewa Lake.
Australian base camp- a stunning village in the mountains, two hours’ drive from Pokhara, with amazing views, good guesthouses and restaurants.
Astham village- on the Himalayan foothills, the Annapurna range, a small village with a sweet eco lodge.
Fishling-Charoundi area- halfway between Kathmandu and Pokhara, an interesting point on the Trisuli River. You can stay in resorts and participate in extreme water sports (kayaking canyoning etc…) or just chill on the beach. Great local food, meeting with the local and an introduction to real Nepal.
Foods to try:
Dal-Baht- a meal consisting of rice, lentil soup, vegetable curry, steamed greens, and a type of “pickle”- what puts the spicy in it all- that can come in a number of ways (tomato sauce with chilly, spiced chopped radishes, etc…). Sometimes they add a plate of meat (chicken/fish/buffalo). The Nepalese eat it every day twice a day, breakfast and dinner.
Momo- steamed Tibetan dumpings filled with vegetables or meat.
Thukpa- a Nepali style noodle soup (there’s a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian version) and sometimes has momos inside.
-Nepal is home of the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest (8848m’ or 29,029ft). The first woman to get to the summit was Japanese, in 1975
-In Nepal there are many gorgeous rivers, and the Everest and Annapurna mountain ranges, both a part of the Himalayas. The villages still preserve an ancient culture, the houses are made of stone and mud, and the cooking on an open fire, the food taken straight from the field, shower is in the river, etc…
-Food is mostly rice or corn based.
-The national dish is Dal-Baht- a rice dish they eat with their hands, twice a day, every day.
-The national drink is a milk Chai tea they call Chia, and Alcohol – they have a few different kinds of homemade drinks made from Semolina or Rice- Roxi, Chang, Tumba.
-The most special Tikka is the “Tihar” (brother-sister festival) Tikka- given by the eldest sister to her younger brothers. This is one of the most important and holy festivals in the Nepali culture and is celebrated every year around October. (Joins the “Dasai”, the year’s most important festival).
–The important holidays- are celebrated towards the end of October. That should be taken under consideration as most Nepalese like to go back home to their families (that includes taxi drivers and trekking guides…), traffic is high, roads are full to bursting, and there’s a shortage of manpower as they’re all celebrating.
–Holidays in March-April: the two biggest ones are “Shiva Ratri”- where they smoke marijuana for the god’s birthday, and eat sugarcanes. In the evening they light bonfires and roast the sugarcanes on the flames and after it gets very hot, they slam it against the ground, which creates a loud bang. They afterwards eat the flowing syrup straight from the cane…
The other one is known as “Holy”- the color festival. A whole day where people throw colorful powder on each other in the street. Go with your spare clothes and be prepared for street color fights (they mix the powders with water and sometimes eggs…). Keep a close eye on the kids as there usually are hundreds out in the street on that day.
-clothing: most people wear regular western clothing. Bracelets on the wrists signify marriage.
-The Nepalese are charming, gentle and love kids. They’ll go to them straight away, play with them and carry them around in their arms. If that’s hard for you, put limits on thing and tell your kids it’s ok to refuse if they don’t like it.
Money and ATM machines: ATMs today are easy to find in any city. Usually they even work. The recommended bank is “Nabil Bank”- look for the green ATMs, they allow you to pull 35,000 at one go, for a 500 rupee commission per pull. And you can do that up to 3 times in a row.
Water: you can easily find mineral water in any store both in cities and villages at the cost of 25 rupees a bottle. Hot water for a shower- some places have only solar heating, others also an electric. There won’t always be hot water in the shower so better make sure before going in
Rain: the rains in Nepal get very heavy, and come very suddenly. When it rains the streets turn to rivers. Take umbrellas with you, and waterproof jackets (easy to get anywhere) and it’s best to just go with flip-flops
Temperature: in Nepal they don’t really have any heater/coolers in most hotels. There’s a ceiling fan (that only works when there’s power) but it doesn’t help with humidity. If you come at very hot or cold seasons prepare accordingly.
Inside the cities you can get around by taxi or simply walking. You should always agree on the taxi price before getting in that taxi. Between cities- the tourist bus is fast, reliable and comfortable. A usual price per seat is 600-700npr (you can share a seat with your young children and not pay for them). The drive is 6-8 hours with 2 stops in the middle, but take under consideration traffic jams and road blocks. Always take some snacks with you.
Another option is a flight. A ticket costs 100-120$. It’s a short flight recommended for those short on time.
Communication – sim card and internet:
The biggest telecommunication company in Nepal is Ncell. To buy a sim card you’ll need a photocopy of the visa page on your passport. Or you can buy a ‘black market’ sim card in some stores. You get call minutes by buying a recharge ‘balance’ card (you can find those at most convenient stores, 20, 50,100, 200 rupees’ worth and so on). You can also buy 3G data, which is usually fast.
Wifi there’s almost everywhere and it’s usually a decent speed.
**plastic bags: it’s getting harder and harder to find simple a plastic bag. In stores they give ecological paper bags, and if you don’t want to have to buy them every time, it’s best you bring a bag with you to carry everything around. I recommend you bring a few plastic bags with you from home because sometimes that’s exactly what you need.
Things to do with kids in Nepal:
Rafting: a must for every family. A trip of 2-3 days (or more if you want), on a river raft, high or low extreme levels (up to you). What’s wonderful about rafting is that it’s not just the river, but also the views, the encounter with nature, the little villages along the way, camping meals (that the stuff cooks with impressive competence!).
The rafting company I recommend for family trips is Adrenaline-Rush, their office in right on Pokhara’s main junction (Halown-chawk). They’re not the cheapest but their level of service is very high.
Trekking: of course, there are many routes, of varying difficulties. Go to an agency and check. There’s no need to learn it all in advance, it’s even preferable to get there and get all the info and explanation about the treks. They’ll also know which routes are open and safe, weather-wise. You can decide today to leave tomorrow. There are also trekking equipment stores everywhere. They also rent so everything is nice and organized.
Recommended trek with kids at a very low difficulty level- Dhampus trek, includes the Australian base camp. A short trek that doesn’t go into dangerous altitudes, with picturesque villages and excellent views of the Annapurna range.
For more adventurous families- “around Annapura” trek. I recommend consulting with a doctor before going about how to deal with high altitudes, correct behavior in high altitudes, signs are and warning signs.
**families with younger kids- it might be best to hire a porter to help you with the young ones. In some places, its better an experienced porter carry them (slick trails, steep stairs, river crossings, etc…).
Kathmandu: the monkey temple. Near the Thamel there’s also a very nice artificial rock climbing wall you should try.
Pokhara: the Mountain Museum (recommended before trekking), paragliding (right above the Himalayas!), rafting, mountain biking, the fishing village Pame, Bengas lake. The Tibetan refugee camp and their temple (highly recommended, there are also basic rooms, if you want to experience the temple on another level. There are children learning in the temple…).
Movie garden- open air cinema, great atmosphere. Sit on the couches, or on the floor, and get pillows and blankets if you want, big screen, popcorn, pizza and drinks (including beer). On Saturdays they play children’s movies, and kids get free admission. Movies start at 7:30, but get there half an hour ahead of time just to find a place to sit.
Volunteering: in the Organic Shop in Pokhara they recommend a number of farms ro volunteer in (free of charge), and there are also a few orphanages. More organizations can be found in Kathmandu (more info can be found in “Places” restaurant)
Chitwan- Nepal’s biggest and most famous national park with safari trips where you can see elephants (some safaris are done riding Elephants!), rhinos, tigers and more. Usually what people do is order a tour with one of the agencies that arranges them, including transportation, stay, and a number of activities, if you want to do it yourself you can take a bus, book a hotel and arrange activities through it or through a local agency. The packages offer good value. It’s not recommended to arrive at summer or winter because it gets both very hot and very cold there:-).
Nepal is also mentioned in my new ebook, “How to travel with kids for1400$ a month (or less), as a recommended destination for a low budget family trip. if you want to learn more, please click and download the ebook.