From its historic towns and breathtaking stupas to it’s colourful markets and unique character, it’s easy to see how anyone can fall in love with Nepal as much as I have. It’s the ultimate backpacking destination, with its undiscovered charm and culture influenced by its neighbours — India, Tibet, China and Mongolia. I’ve always wished I’d had more than just a few days to explore all it has to offer. Here are some things I learned on my trip that I hope will help travellers make the most of theirs.
Take more than a week
While getting to know Nepal in just a week is doable, I wouldn’t advise it. Like India, the country is best enjoyed if you take the time to get to know all its hidden wonders. Don’t just stay in Kathmandu, but make sure you also visit other popular parts of the country such as Pokhara, Nagarkot, Langtang and Jomsom. There are also a lot of companies who operate tours to Bhutan, so if you have the time to do that, I’d suggest you do.
Go in the winter
Nepal has four seasons — spring from March to May, summer from June to August, autumn from September to November and winter from December to February. I went in March, and, while my trip was blessed with beautiful, sunny days, there was one thing that made me wish I’d travelled there during the winter: the views. If you want to see the Himalayas in all their glory, go when the skies are clear, which is usually during the colder months of the year.
Wear good shoes
Whether you’re making your clockwise circumambulation around the stupas, exploring the expansive squares or trekking the Himalayas, it pays to have comfortable footwear in Nepal because you will definitely be doing a lot of walking or, at the very least, standing. If you have to buy a new pair for your trip, don’t forget to break them in beforehand to make sure they are ready for the long walks you will be taking.
Ask locals for tips
Before going on your trip, ask locals for some travel tips and advice. You can send an email to your hotel and, most of the time, they are very willing to help. On my trip to Nepal, the place we stayed in Kathmandu actually hooked us up with a private car hire that took us around town. It never hurts to ask.
Plan for delays
Part of Nepal’s charm is that it’s not as modern and overly-developed as other destinations, which gives it a very authentic appeal. The downside, however, is that Wi-Fi is not as fast and power outages are all too common (even in the capital, Kathmandu), so make sure you’re well-prepared for these situations. Another thing you should think about is that flights, too, often get delayed due to unpredictable weather, so make sure you’ve taken possible delays into consideration on your itinerary.
Relax and don’t worry too much
We tend to worry too much when exploring unfamiliar territory. I’m not saying you should throw caution in the wind, but it’s good to set aside worry (whether it is worrying about the weather, figuring out the transportation, or about the food), so you can enjoy the destination for what it truly is.
Exchange your currency before leaving
Taking Nepalese Rupia out of the country is prohibited (even illegal), so make sure you’ve used up all your local currency in Nepal. Or at least have it exchanged to the currency of your choice before going back home, because it is highly likely you will be able to exchange it back to dollars in Singapore.
Always ask before taking photos of Sadhus
Sadhus are wandering monks, and you will find a lot of them in Nepal. People tend to snap photos of these holy men because of how interesting they look, but, before you start doing that, make sure the one you encounter is cool with having his photo taken. There are also some, especially in the touristy areas, who may expect a small payment for photographs, so make sure you’ve asked them first.
Learn a few words in the local language
While most people in Nepal can speak English or at least understand it, it’s always to a traveller’s advantage when you know some local phrases. In Nepal, here are some handy ones you can use:
Namaste – Hello
Namaskar – Formal way to say “hello”
Subha prabhat – Good morning
Subha sandhya – Good evening
Subha din – Good day
Ho – Yes
Hoena – No
Dhanyabad – Thank you
Maapha ganus – Sorry
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Main image: istockphoto/kapulya