Nepal Country Guide

Nepal has many breathtaking attractions, but the essence of the country is its smiling, friendly people and its rich cultural heritage. Situated between India and Tibet, Nepal is filled with many different ethnic groups, customs and traditions reflected in its wonderfully diverse geography. This little mysterious country is a place where one visit is usually not enough and travellers often find themselves heading there for a second time.

A visit to Nepal can open your eyes and make you see the world differently!

Our Nepal country travel guide below will tell you all you need to know when visiting Nepal. Take a look at our Nepal Destination Guide if you are more interested in what there is to see and do. The best way to see the 'real' Nepal and learn more about its culture is to take a local Nepal tour.

Check out the latest Nepal Travel features on YouTube.

Nepal Country Guide

Useful information on this page includes:

Average Costs Top

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Climate/Weather Top

Nepal has five major climatic zones depending on the altitude. It also has five broad seasons: spring, winter, autumn, monsoon and summer. The monsoon wind patterns are limited in the north by the Himalayas, which block the cold winds that blow from Central Asia during the winter. However, due to mindless deforestation, these regions, which were once covered with dense forests, have been eroded and their ecosystems degraded.

The tropical and subtropical zones are situated below 3,940 feet (1,200 metres). The temperate zones are found between 3,900 feet and 7,875 feet (1,200 metres-2,400 metres). The cold zone is located between 7,875 feet and 11,800 feet (2,400 metres-3,600metres). The sub arctic zone lies between 11,800 feet and 14,400 feet (3,600 metres-4600 metres). The arctic zone lies above 14,400 feet (4,400 metres).

Follow the link to our Nepal weather page for futher information about the climate and weather in Nepal.

Communication Top

The telephone services in Nepal are unevenly distributed and far from adequate. District headquarters and cities have a concentration of landline services. There is roughly less than one telephone for every 19 people. The country is connected more extensively through mobile telephony, thanks to its increased network and affordability. In 2005, Nepal had about 1, 75,000 internet connections which suffered intermittent disruptions of signals after the imposition of emergency. However, after the second People's Revolution, which sought to end the absolute power of the King, there have been no interruptions in internet connectivity.

Currency/Money Top

The Nepali Rupee (English) or the Nepali Rupaiyaah (Nepalese) is the currency used in Nepal. It differs from the other Asian rupee currencies like the Sri Lankan Rupee, Pakistani Rupee and Indian Rupee. The image of the king is printed on the notes or minted on the coins as the case may be. The Paise is the smallest unit of the Nepalese Rupee. 1 Rupee is made up of 100 Paise. Coins are available in denominations of 2 Rupees, 1 Rupee, 50 Paise, 25 Paise and 10 Paise.

Notes are available in the denominations of 1000 Rupees, 500 Rupees, 100 Rupees, 50 Rupees, 25 Rupees, 20 Rupees, 10 Rupees, 5 Rupees, 2 Rupees and 1 Rupee.

The Nepalese Rupee is fully convertible and universally accepted. It can be exchanged for any currency with the money exchangers who can be found everywhere in Pokhra and Nepal. Smaller towns do not have many exchangers, but even so, you can definitely find one or two of them. Money exchangers are either affiliated to the Government or operate on their own. If you are not very conversant with exchanging money, it is better to deal with the government affiliated exchangers. But if you are familiar with the nuances of exchanges, then you can save yourself a few dollars by dealing with the private exchangers.

Follow the link to view the latest Nepalese exchange rate as listed on OANDA.com.

Electricity Top

Nepal runs off a 230V/ 50Hz system. Adaptors required a generally the Type-C (European 2-pin) round pin attachment.

Embassy Locations Top

To view a list of Nepalese embassies around the world, as well as foreign embassies within Nepal, check out http://www.embassy-worldwide.com/.

General Information Top

Population: 29,519,114 (July 2008 est.)
Total Area: 147,181 sq km
Capital: Kathmandu
Time Zone: UTC +5.75 hours

Follow this link to view the current time in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Language  Top

Nepali is designated the official language of Nepal and is spoken by about 60% of the people in the country. This language is said to be similar to, and derived from, Sanskrit. It was initially called Khaskura. The name was changed to Nepali in the twentieth century. Newari or Nepal Bhasa is spoken in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. Various other ethnic groups speak more than 12 languages in around 93 dialects.

It is very interesting to see that all languages spoken in Nepal are designated national languages and are accepted for documentation and other official purposes. English is the medium of instruction in many private schools in Kathmandu and other cities. It is widely spoken in business and government offices.

Public Holidays Top

Follow the link to view a list of public holidays in Nepal.

Religion Top

Religion is woven into the basic fabric of Nepal. It has many major mythological and religious connections. Sita Devi, the consort of Rama, the protagonist of the famous Indian epic Ramayana, is said to have been born in the kingdom of Mithila, to King Janaka. Lord Buddha is believed to belong to the lineage of Sage Angirasa. Dr. Eitel and some other scholars believe the Buddha descended from the lineage of Sage Gautama. Whatever the beliefs, Hinduism is the predominant religion of Nepal and Lord Shiva is revered as the guardian deity. In fact, the world's biggest Shiva temple, the Pasupatinath Temple, is found in Nepal. Hindus from around the world visit this famous temple.

Buddhism is the other important religion of Nepal. But here in Nepal, differences between Hinduism and Buddhism are essentially academic and subtle as many beliefs are common to both these religions. Both Hindus and Buddhists share places and deities of worship and some practise both religions. While most Gurkhas are Hindus, natives of the Rai, Limbu, Sunwar and Magar communities are also Hindus by choice. The influence of Hinduism is not as strong among the Thakali, Bhutia and Gurung communities. Their religious ceremonies are conducted by Buddhist monks.

The predominant festivals of Nepal are all Hindu festivals. The Machendrajatra is the most major festival in Nepal. It is celebrated to mark the birth of Saint Gorakhnath from whom most Gurkhas have descended. Shaiva Siddha is another important Hindu festival that is celebrated by the Buddhists as well. Important priests are called "Tirthaguru Nemuni" after Ne Muni, the sage who is believed to have founded Nepal.

Visas/Passports Top

Before they apply for a visa to visit Nepal, foreigners must possess a passport or any document comparable to a passport, issued by their government, permitting them to visit another country.

A) Entry: No foreigner is permitted to enter and stay in Nepal without an official visa. Tourist Entry visas for stipulated durations can be had from the Nepalese Consulate or Embassy, immigration offices and mission offices located at the entry points of Nepal.

B) Chinese citizens are not granted visas on arriving in Nepal. They are required to apply before they arrive - at any of the Nepalese Diplomatic Missions or the Nepalese Embassy.

Pilgrims from Sri Lanka who wish to visit Lumbini will be granted a single entry visa for 15 days, at a fee of US$ 10 or an equivalent value in any other convertible currency.

Multiple Entry visa will be valid for 150 days or one visa year.

C) Tourist Visas Extension:

Tourist visas can be extended by the Immigration Office at Pokhra and the Department of Immigration (Kathmandu) for a period of 120 days. Thereafter an additional extension of only 30 days is permitted, if there are valid grounds for the extension. The authorities ensure departure from Nepal within one visa year or 150 days.

1. Tourist visa extension fee and additional late fee are as follows:

Extension for 30 days, without facility for re-entry: US$ 30 in equivalent Nepalese currency.
Extension for 30 days, with facility for multiple entry: US$ 80 in equivalent Nepalese currency.
If you already have a multiple entry visa valid for the same visa year, you will be required to pay only US$ 30 for the extension.

2. Late fee for regularizing tourist visa

For the first 30 days: US$ 2 per day in equivalent Nepalese currency
For 31days to 90 days: US$ 3 per day in equivalent Nepalese currency
For more than 90 days: US$ 5 per day in equivalent Nepalese currency

3. Fee Exemption of Tourist visa

 Children under the age of 10 years are not charged a fee for their visa. Children under the age of 16, with foreign passports, but born of Nepalese parents, or children whose either parent is a citizen of Nepal, are also exempted from the visa fee. A citizen of Nepalese origin who has obtained a passport for the first time from a foreign mission in Nepal is again exempted from the visa fee, until his departure to another country.

US citizens who do not wish to go through the trouble of dealing with the red tape themselves can count on the professional services of Travel Visa Pro to speed things up: Apply for Nepal Visa Online. If you need to renew, add pages, change name, or just get new US passport, you can Apply for New US Passport here.

Geography Top

Nepal is shaped like a trapezium, and is spread over an area of 56,827 square miles (147,181 square kilometres). It is 500 miles (800 kilometres) long and 125 miles (200 kilometres) wide, with an unusually diverse geography.

The list of territories by size indicates the comparative size of Nepal.

Nepal is divided into three ecological belts, the Terai Region, the Siwalik Region and the Mountain Hill region, which run from east to west. They are divided vertically by Nepal's rivers, which flow from the North to the South.

The southern lowland Plains, located at the northern edge of the Indo Gangetic plains, share a border with India. These plains were created by the rivers Kamali, Narayani and Kosi, which in turn nourish them. This region has a humid and hot climate.

The Pahad (Hill) Region lies alongside the mountains and ranges from 3,300 feet to 13,125 feet (1000 metres-4000 metres). It is dominated by the Shiwalik Range (Churia Range) and the Mahabharat Lekh range. Nepal's most urbanised and fertile region, the Kathmandu valley, is located here. Unlike in the Bhitri Tarai Uptyaka or the inner Tarai valleys, the heights above 8,200 feet (2,500 metres) are thinly populated.

The Mountain Region constitutes the northern territory of Nepal. It is located in the Great Himalayan Range and houses the regions of highest altitude in the whole world. Sagarmatha or Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, at a height of 29,035 feet (8,850 metres), is situated here, at the border of Nepal and Tibet. Seven out of the ten highest mountains of the world are found in the Mountain Region of Nepal. They are Manaslu, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Kanchenjunga, Cho Oyu, Makalu and Lhotse.

To view a map of Nepal, click on this link to WorldAtlas.com.

History Top

The earliest civilization in Nepal can be traced to the sixth century, when settlements flourished in the Kathmandu Valley. This valley corresponds to the capital city of Kathmandu as we know it today. Prince Siddartha Gautama was born in this region in 563 B.C. He later went on to become Buddha, the enlightened one and founded the religion of Buddhism.

Over the years, the Indian influence in Nepal became stronger and by the twelth century, Hinduism had replaced Buddhism as the predominant religion in Nepal. Dynasties like the Gopalas, Kiratis and Licchavis followed and sought to expand their kingdoms. But it was only during the rule of the Malla kings between 1200 and 1769 that Nepal assumed the size in which it exists today.

King Prithvi Narayan Shah unified the kingdom of Nepal. Shah and those who succeeded him expanded the Nepalese kingdom to reach Kashmir in the west and Sikkim in the east. But in 1768, Prithvi Narayan Shah was forced to flee to India by the Moghuls, who had conquered vast areas in the region. Later on, the dynasty signed a commercial treaty in 1792 with the British. Yet another treaty was signed with the British East India Company in 1896, following year-long hostilities.

From 1846 to 1951, the Rana family ruled Nepal and they always held the position of prime minister. But in 1951, the king wrested all power and declared Nepal a constitutional monarchy. Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah was installed king in 1955 and ruled till 1972. He succumbed to a heart attack in 1972 and was succeeded by Prince Birendra who was then only 26 years of age.

Nepal has just now successfully tided over the transition from a monarchy to a republic. In an election held in April 2008, millions of Nepalese voted to elect a Constituent assembly, with a strength of 601 seats, in the hope of writing a new constitution for Nepal. The Mao rebels, who had carried on a decade-long guerrilla insurgency against the monarchy captured 120 of the 240 direct seats. In May, the existing assembly dissolved the monarchy (which had ruled for 239 years) and declared Nepal a republic. King Gyanendra left the traditional Narayanhiti Palace to begin life as a commoner in June 2008.

Health  Top

Food and Drink
In Nepal, it is best to use sterilised or boiled water for drinking, making ice and even brushing your teeth. The quality of water is highly suspect and these basic precautions are most desirable. Milk is unpasteurized and has to be boiled before it is consumed. It is a good idea to avoid dairy products, which may have been produced from unboiled milk. Do settle for the powdered or tinned milk that is widely available all over Nepal. Eat only well cooked fish and meat. Do also ensure that your vegetables are cooked and fruits peeled.

Other risks
It is recommended that you are inoculated against hepatitis B, tuberculosis, meningococcal meningitis, and Japanese B encephalitis. Do also take precautions against altitude sickness. The Himalayan Rescue association offers help and advice on how to tackle attitudes. Do ascend gradually and descend immediately if you start feeling nauseous or dizzy or develop a headache. If you are trekking or touring in the rural areas, do carry a medical kit.

Health Care
Medical insurance is a necessity. In case of need, head for the Patan Hospital at Lagankhel. The Mission Hospital at Tansen, the Manipal Hospital and the Western Regional Hospital at Pokhara also offer adequate facilities. In Kathmandu, the Infectious Diseases Clinic dispenses free inoculations. All Western medicines are available at the pharmacies in Kathmandu.

People/Culture Top

'Culture is a way of life for the society' and more so in Nepal, which is supposed to have one of the world's richest cultures. The Nepalese culture comprises the code of conduct, language, dress, norms of behaviour, rituals and beliefs that govern every aspect of Nepalese life.

Nice to Know
Nepal's culture is a harmonious blend of novelty and tradition. Newer customs have sprung up in order to keep in step with the changing scenario and yet traditions are followed meticulously.

Nepal is a multilingual and multi-ethnic nation. Various cultural groups like Newars, Ahir, Yadav and Tharu enrich the literature, religion, architecture and music of this mountain state.

The Nepalese are probably among the most hospitable people in the world and that explains why tourists from all over revisit this country. Affectionate and warm, the Nepalese, who are essentially rural, will not think twice before inviting you home for a cup of tea or a meal.

Nepal Dress
Labeda Suruwal or the Daura Suruwal is the traditional attire of the Nepali and is replete with religious connotations. The five pleats (Kallis) signify the Pancha Ratna or the Pancha Buddha. The closed high neck of the garment symbolises the snake around the neck of Lord Shiva. And the eight strings with which the garment is tied around the body symbolise the lucky number of the Nepalese, viz. eight.

The Nepalese women wear Guniu, a cotton sari, which is becoming popular even outside Nepal.

Rituals
The Nepalese follow their rituals zealously. Ritual experts perform distinct functions in every ritual. Rituals in a person's life begin with the naming ceremony at birth, followed by the rice feeding ritual, the ritual for tonsure, a ritual for giving the Guniu (the sari) and an elaborate wedding ceremony, finally ending with the funeral rites.

Cultural Sites
Of the ten heritage sites of Nepal, seven are designated World Cultural sites by the UNESCO. These temples, edifices, monasteries and stupas reflect Nepal's rich heritage.

The World Cultural Heritage Sites of Nepal are:

- The Patan Durbar Square
- The Kathmandu Durbar Square
- The Bhaktapur Durbar Square
- The Swayambhunath Stupa
- The Changu Narayan Temple
- Lumbini
- Pashupatinath Temple
- Bouddhanath Temple

There are also other important pilgrim sites which showcase Nepal's rich culture, like the Barah Chetra, Janakpur, Halesi Mahadev, Pathibhara, and Tengboche in Eastern Nepal. In Central Nepal there are the Kathmandu valley, Tansen GosainKunda, Muktinath, Lumbini, Gorkha and Manakaman. You can also visit the religious destinations of Swargardwari and Khaptad Ashram in the Western Region.