Nepal is a landlocked country in Southern Asia, between the Tibet autonomous region of China and India. It contains 8 of the world's 10 highest peaks, including Mount Everest - the world's tallest - on the border with Tibet, and Lumbini, the birth place of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.
- With a land area of 147,000 square kilometres, Nepal is about the size of England and Wales combined. Useable land, however, is in short supply due to the precipitous terrain and a growing population of 27 million or more, over a third of which is less than 15 years old.
- Eight of the world’s ten highest mountains are found in Nepal, including Everest, the tallest of them all.
- Prior to 1951, only a handful of Westerners had ever been allowed into Nepal. Today, the country receives as many as 500,000 tourists annually; increasingly they are coming from neighbouring India and China.
- Despite the fame of its Tibetan and Sherpa Buddhist communities, Nepal was long the world’s only Hindu kingdom, and Hindus still officially make up some eighty percent of the population. In truth, many Nepalis combine worship of Hindu gods with shamanic and animist practices.
- The decade-long Maoist insurgency ended in 2006, along with the career of the notorious King Gyanendra. Nepal‘s politics are now noisily turbulent but peaceful.
- With an average per-capita annual income of US$470, Nepal ranked 157th out of 186 countries in the UN’s 2011 Human Development Index. Half the population survives on little more than a dollar a day.
In the autumn and spring tourist high seasons (late Sept to mid-Nov and late Feb to late March), flights to Kathmandu – Nepal’s only international airport – often fill up months ahead. Most people book tickets through to Kathmandu, but you can also make your own way to a major regional air hub such as Delhi, and arrange transport from there. Airfares depend on the time of year, but timings of the high, low and shoulder seasons are calculated differently by each airline, and may not always coincide with tourist seasons.
You can sometimes cut costs by going through a specialist flight agent such as STA Travel (statravel.com) or Trailfinders (w trailfinders.com), but the best deals tend to be found online (compare prices on an aggregator like w momondo.com or w kayak.com). Round-the-World tickets are worth considering, but cheaper off-the-peg tickets don’t generally allow you to fly both into and out of Kathmandu. Figure on around £1500/US$2400 for a ticket that includes Nepal.
There are no direct flights from London, Ireland or indeed Europe as a whole to Kathmandu, so you’ll have to make at least one stop en route. Fares are seasonal, and airlines generally charge full whack (around £650–900) from late September to mid-November, late February to late March, and during the Christmas period. It’s often possible, however, to find discounted fares (around £550–600), especially on less convenient routes, and prices drop outside of these periods, when you may be able to get a flight for £450–500.
From London, Gulf Air (w gulfair.com), Emirates (w emirates.com) and Qatar Airways (w qatarairways.com) offer the most direct routings via the Middle East. Another good option is to fly on Jet Airways (w jetairways.com), Kingfisher (w flykingfisher.com) or Air India (w www.airindia.com) via Delhi. Travelling by other routes takes longer (often with two or more stopovers), but relatively inexpensive deals can often be found on carriers such as Sri Lankan Airlines (w srilankan.com) and Biman Bangladesh (w biman-airlines.com). Flights on Thai Airways (w thaiairways.com) and Singapore Airlines (w singaporeair.com) aren’t really worth considering because you’ll have to double back from Bangkok or Singapore.
Travellers from Ireland will generally have to journey via London or another European city.
If you live on the east coast it’s quicker to fly to Nepal via Europe and then – typically – the Middle East or India (see below). From the west coast it’s easier to go via the Far East on a carrier like Singapore Airlines (w singaporeair.com), Thai Airways (thaiairways.com) or Cathay Pacific (w cathaypacific.com). Expect to spend 20–24 hours on planes if you travel via these routes.
Seasonal considerations may help determine which way you fly; note that these airline seasons don’t necessarily coincide with Nepal’s autumn and spring tourist seasons. Most airlines consider high season to be summer and the period around Christmas; low season is winter (excluding Christmas), while spring and autumn may be considered low or shoulder season, depending on your route. High-season prices from both the east and west coasts are around US$1500–2000.
From Canada, the cheapest flights tend to be from Toronto, flying eastwards, and cost around Can$1600–2000 in the high season.
Flying to Nepal from Australia or New Zealand invariably means travelling with Thai Airways (thaiairways.com) via Bangkok or Singapore Airlines (w singaporeair.com) via Singapore, with a stopover en route. Fares to Delhi are about the same as to Kathmandu, so another possibility – although not the most economical – is to fly into India and fly or travel overland from there. A final option is to fly via Hong Kong.
Airfares depend on the time of year. Generally, low season runs from mid-January to late February, and from early October to the end of November; high season is from around mid-May to August, and early December to mid-January; shoulder season takes up the rest of the year. Low-season prices to Kathmandu via Singapore or Bangkok start at roughly Aus$1800 from Australia, and NZ$2400 from New Zealand, and can be several hundred dollars (in either currency) higher in peak season.
From South Africa, Thai Airways (thaiairways.com) and Singapore Airlines (w singaporeair.com) both have regular flights from Johannesburg to Kathmandu, via Bangkok and Singapore, and various carriers travel via India. Expect to pay from around ZAR13,000.
Many travellers combine Nepal with a trip to India, even if they’re just making the connection with a flight to or from Delhi. There are numerous border crossings between the two countries, and overland routes can easily be planned to take in many of northern India’s most renowned sights. Travel agencies in India and Nepal offer bus package deals between the two countries, but these are generally overpriced and it is far better to organize things yourself.
Three border crossings see the vast majority of travellers: Sonauli/Belahiya, reachable from Delhi, Varanasi and most of North India (via Gorakhpur); Raxaul/Birgunj, accessible from Bodhgaya and Kolkata via Patna; and Kakarbhitta, serving Darjeeling and Kolkata via Siliguri. A fourth, Banbaasa/Mahendra Nagar, in the little-visited west of Nepal, is handy for the Uttar Pradesh hill stations and (relatively speaking) Delhi too. All these border crossings are described in the relevant sections of the Guide. Two other border points (near Nepalgunj and Dhangadhi) are also open to tourists, but they’re rarely used. Other crossings near Janakpur, Biratnagar and Ilam rarely admit foreigners.
Flying between Delhi and Kathmandu rewards you with Himalayan views and opens up a wider choice of international flights. Air India (w airindia.in), Jet Airways (w jetairways.com), JetLite (w jetlite.com), SpiceJet (w spicejet.com), IndiGo (w goindigo.in) and Nepal Airlines (w nepalairlines.com.np) all serve this route.
Travel from Tibet is possible as long as you have the correct permit; entering Tibet from Nepal, however, is limited to group tours. It is also possible to fly to Kathmandu from Bhutan.
The classic Asia overland trip is just about alive and kicking, and several operators, including Dragoman (see below), run trips to Nepal.
Kids always help break the ice with strangers, and Nepal can be a magical place for a child to visit. Arranging childcare is easy, and Nepalis generally love kids. Some children (especially those with fair skin and blond hair) may be uncomfortable with the endless attention, however.
Parents will of course have to take extra precautions in the light of Nepal’s poor sanitation, dogs, crowds, traffic, pollution, bright sun, rooftops and steep slopes. It may be hard to keep hands clean and yucky stuff out of mouths, and you’ll have to keep a firm grip on small children while out and about. If your child comes down with diarrhoea, keep them hydrated and topped up on salts – have oral rehydration formula on hand.
Naturally, you’ll want to plan a more modest itinerary and travel in greater comfort with children than you might on your own. In tourist areas it should be no problem finding food that kids will eat, though in other places it might be more challenging. Baby food and disposable nappies/diapers are available in Kathmandu and Pokhara, but are hard to come by elsewhere. Some toys and books can be bought in Nepal, but bring a supply of your own. Carry small tots in a backpack or papoose – a stroller or pushchair will be virtually useless.
Trekking with children is generally a wonderful experience, though it can be logistically awkward if they’re too old to ride in a backpack and too young to hike on their own (though mules or horses can often be arranged).
Nepal’s climate varies significantly through the year, with seasons showing themselves very differently at different altitudes. The pre-monsoon period, generally very hot and humid at lower elevations, lasts from mid-April to early June, while the monsoon itself, when travel is difficult but not impossible, dominates the period between mid-June and mid-September. Autumn sees pleasant temperatures and dry weather, while winter is generally cool and clear.
Your money goes a long way in Nepal. Off the tourist routes, it can actually be hard to spend $30–40 a day, including food, transport and accommodation. On the other hand, Kathmandu and some of the other tourist traps can burn a hole in your pocket faster than you might expect. Even so, it’s still possible for a frugal traveller to keep to $20 a day in the capital, although the figure can effortlessly balloon to $50 or more simply by choosing slightly nicer hotels and restaurants. If you like to travel in greater luxury, you should reckon on spending $60–80 or more per day, depending mainly on standard of accommodation.
You’ll inevitably pay over the odds for things at first, and it may even feel as if people are charging you as much as they think they can get away with, but that’s hardly a market principle exclusive to Nepal. Bargain where appropriate, but don’t begrudge a few rupees to someone who has worked hard for them.
Many hotels (and most tourist restaurants) quote their prices exclusive of the 13 percent “government” tax (essentially a value-added tax) and charge another 10 percent service charge.
No matter how tight your budget, it would be foolish not to splurge now and then on some of the things that make Nepal unique: organized treks, rafting, biking and wildlife trips are relatively expensive, but well worth it.
Nepal is one of the world’s more crime-free countries, but it would be unwise not to take a few simple precautions.
The main concern is petty theft. Store valuables in your hotel safe, close windows or grilles at night in cities to deter “fishing”, and use a money belt or pouch around your neck. Some public bus routes have reputations for baggage theft. Pickpockets (often street children) operate in crowded urban areas, especially during festivals; be vigilant.
If you’re robbed, report it as soon as possible to the police headquarters of the district in which the robbery occurred. Policemen are apt to be friendly, if not much help. For insurance purposes, go to the Interpol Section of the police headquarters in Durbar Square, Kathmandu, to fill in a report; you’ll need a copy of it to claim from your insurer once back home. Bring a photocopy of your passport and your Nepali visa, together with two passport photos.
Violent crime is rare. An occasional concern is a certain amount of hooliganism or sexual aggression in the Kathmandu tourist bars, and late-night muggings do sometimes occur. In addition, there have been a couple of well-publicized armed robberies and sex murders in the national parks on the edge of the Kathmandu Valley. A few Western women have been raped, but most problems come about within relationships with Nepali men – trekking or rafting guides, for instance – not due to attack by strangers. The countryside, generally, is very safe, though there is a small risk of attack by bandits on remote trekking trails. In the Terai, there are a number of armed Madhesi groups, but tourists are not targets and you are unlikely to be affected much beyond the odd delayed bus, roadblock or bandh.
There are several ways to get on the wrong side of the law. Smuggling is the usual cause of serious trouble – if you get caught with commercial quantities of either drugs or gold you’ll be looking at a more or less automatic five to twenty years in prison.
In Nepal, where government servants are poorly paid, a little bakshish sometimes greases the wheels. Nepali police don’t bust tourists simply in order to get bribes, but if you’re accused of something it might not hurt to make an offer, in an extremely careful, euphemistic and deniable way. This shouldn’t be necessary if you’re the victim of a crime, although you may feel like offering a “reward”.
The worst trouble you’re likely to run into is one of Nepal’s all-too-common civil disturbances. Political parties, student organizations and anyone else with a gripe may call a chakka jam (traffic halt) or bandh (general strike). In either case, most shops pull down their shutters as well, and vehicles stay off the roads to avoid having their windows smashed. Demonstrations sometimes involve rock-throwing, tear gas and lathis (Asian-style police batons), but you’d have to go out of your way to get mixed up in this.
Drugs are illegal in Nepal, but it is impossible to walk through Thamel or any of the other tourist hotspots without being approached by a dealer offering hash. It would be incredibly stupid to go through customs with illegal drugs, but discreet possession inside the country carries relatively little risk. While the drug dealers are often shady characters, they are not generally informants.
Power comes at 220 volts/50 cycles per second, when you can get it: lengthy power cuts (“load shedding”) are a daily occurrence. Smarter hotels and restaurants have backup generators. Tourist guesthouses usually offer sockets that accept almost any kind of pin, but the European standard two-pin is the most common.
Dial 100 for the police. Hospitals and other organizations have their own telephone numbers for an ambulance, but get a Nepali-speaker to do the talking. Registering with your embassy can speed things up in the event of an emergency.
All foreign nationals except Indians need a visa to enter Nepal. These are free (for 30 days) for nationals of other South Asian Area Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries: Pakistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh. All other nationals have to pay for them. Tourist visas are issued on arrival at Kathmandu airport and official overland entry points. At the former, queues can be long, so you may prefer to get one in advance from a Nepali embassy or consulate in your own country. Otherwise, have a passport-size photo at the ready. At the airport, you can pay the visa fee in US dollars, euros, pounds sterling or other major foreign currencies. At overland entry points, officials tend to demand US dollars or Nepali rupees.
The fee structure at the time of writing was $25 for 15 days, $40 for 30 days and $100 for 90 days; all are multiple-entry visas. Fees may change without warning, however, so double-check at w immi.gov.np before setting out. Tourist visas can be extended up to a maximum of 150 days in a calendar year: an extension of 15 days or less costs $30; for more than 15 days, it costs an extra $2 per day. Extensions are granted only at the Kathmandu or Pokhara Department of Immigration offices. Submit your passport and one passport-size photo with your application. A transit visa, valid for 24 hours and non-extendable, costs $5.
Don’t overstay more than a couple of days, and don’t tamper with your visa – tourists have been fined and even jailed for these seemingly minor infractions.
It is no longer necessary to have a trekking permit to visit the most popular trekking regions, but you will need the TIMS card, which amounts to much the same thing. You’ll have to pay national park entry fees for the Annapurna, Everest and Langtang areas. A handful of remote regions are still restricted, and require permits to enter.
It’s worth noting, too, that a few sites in the Kathmandu Valley, including the entire city of Bhaktapur, charge entry fees.
Customs officers are fairly lax on entry, but checks are more thorough on departure, and it is illegal to export objects over 100 years old (see Ethical shopping).
While the gay scene in Kathmandu is growing slowly, and the government is taking a more progressive line than in the past, homosexuality is still very much frowned upon. (Lesbianism is barely even considered a possibility.) In a society where men routinely hold hands and often share beds, gay couples may feel a certain freedom in being able to be close in public, but otherwise the same advice on sexual behaviour in public applies as for heterosexual couples. The only approach a gay traveller is likely to get is from touts who, at the end of a long inventory of drugs and “nice Nepali girls”, might also offer “boys”. But it’s nothing like the scene in, say, Thailand. For more information, contact the Blue Diamond Society (w bds.org.np), a Kathmandu-based gay rights pressure group.
It’s worth taking out insurance before travelling, to cover against theft, loss and illness or injury. Before paying for a new policy, however, check whether you’re already covered: some all-risks home insurance policies may cover your possessions when overseas, and many medical schemes include cover when abroad. A typical policy usually provides cover for the loss of baggage, tickets and – up to a certain limit – cash, as well as cancellation or curtailment of your journey. Most of them exclude so-called dangerous sports unless an extra premium is paid: in Nepal this can mean whitewater rafting, trekking (especially above 4000m) and climbing. Many policies can be tailored – for example, sickness and accident benefits can often be excluded or included at will. If you do take medical coverage, ascertain whether benefits will be paid as treatment proceeds or only after return home, and whether there is a 24-hour medical emergency number. When securing baggage cover, make sure that the per-article limit will cover your most valuable possession. If you need to make a claim, you should keep receipts for medicines and medical treatment, and in the event you have anything stolen, you must obtain an official statement from the police.
Cyber cafés are abundant in Nepal. Beyond Kathmandu and Pokhara, however, connections can be painfully slow. Expect to pay around Rs25–100/hr. Find out whether a power cut is due before going online, as only a few cyber cafés have backup generators. Many hotels and restaurants in touristy areas offer wi-fi access.
Most hotels and guesthouses provide laundry services, generally charging around Rs50–100/kg. In Thamel and other tourist areas, numerous laundries offer a same-day service. If you’re doing your own, detergent is sold in inexpensive packets in cities, or you can buy a cheap cube of local laundry soap almost anywhere.
The media is fast-developing in Nepal and even remote places now have access to newspapers, TV and, increasingly, the internet.
Despite a literacy rate of less than 50 percent, Nepal boasts more than a thousand newspapers – an outgrowth of two noble Brahmanic traditions: punditry and gossip. Several are published in English, the most readable and incisive being the weekly Nepali Times. Of the dailies, the Kathmandu Post remains the frontrunner, overshadowing The Himalayan Times and República. All are hard to find outside big cities, but are available online.
A number of magazines are published in English, the most interesting being Himal (w himalmag.com) and ECS Nepal (w ecs.com.np). Foreign publications such as the International Herald Tribune, Time and Newsweek are available from bookshops in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
As well as several terrestrial Nepali channels, cable and satellite TV – broadcasting programmes from India and the West – is widespread, and more and more hotel rooms have TVs. The influential government-run Radio Nepal (w radionepal.org) on 103 FM has English-language news bulletins daily at 8pm. Local FM stations are sprouting like mushrooms and increasingly using ethnic languages and local dialects. There are a couple of English-language ones in the Kathmandu Valley; the trendiest is Kantipur (w radiokantipur.com) on 96.1 FM. If you have a short-wave radio, you can pick up the BBC World Service: w bbc.co.uk/worldservice lists the frequencies.
Nepal’s unit of currency is the Nepali rupee (rupiya), which is divided into 100 paisa (which you will never see). At the time of writing, the exchange rate was around Rs79 to US$1, Rs127 to £1 and Rs108 to €1. Most Nepali money is paper: notes come in denominations of Rs1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 25, 50, 100, 250, 500 and 1000.
More upmarket tourist businesses quote prices in US dollars, and may even expect payment in that currency. A fistful of rupees will very rarely be refused, but if you’re planning to stay in classy hotels, or book flights or rafting trips, it’s worth bringing some US currency. A selection of denominations is useful; make sure the bills are relatively new. Euros and pounds sterling are accepted too, converted on the basis of the bank’s tourist rate, or the one printed in that day’s newspaper. The Indian rupee, also widely accepted, is known as IC for Indian Currency.
One minor annoyance of travelling in Nepal is getting change. Outside tourist areas, business people will hum and haw about breaking a large note. It gets to be a game of bluff between buyer and seller, both hoarding a wad of small notes for occasions when exact change is vital. It pays to carry a range of smaller bills.
Top-end hotels and some travel agents, shops and mid-range guesthouses accept credit cards (charging a processing fee for doing so), but most others places don’t. Most towns covered in this guide have at least one ATM, and places like Kathmandu have hundreds: almost all accept foreign debit and credit cards (though you may face a few problems if you have a Cirrus card) and have instructions in English, and many are open 24 hours. Annoyingly, however, most have an Rs10,000 withdrawal limit for each transaction. Let your bank know you intend to use your card in Nepal before leaving home, as they sometimes stop cards used abroad for fear that they have been cloned or stolen.
Some banks also issue credit card cash advances, and American Express cardholders can similarly draw money at the Amex office in Kathmandu. A good alternative to debit or credit cards are the pre-paid “cash passport” cards (w cashpassport.com) issued by companies such as Travelex.
Using banks in Nepal is, by south Asian standards, hassle-free. Numerous banks vie for tourist business, as do a horde of government-registered moneychangers. The former tend to give slightly better rates, though the latter are often more convenient.
Moneychangers can be found wherever there are significant numbers of tourists, while banks are more widespread. Hours for foreign exchange vary: at least one Kathmandu airport moneychanger operates around the clock, Nepal Bank’s central Kathmandu (New Road) branch stays open seven days a week, and some private banks keep extended hours, but lesser branches generally change money only from 9am to 3pm Monday to Friday, often closing early on Fridays. Moneychangers keep generous hours (usually daily 9am–8pm).
Hold onto all exchange receipts in case you want to change money back when you leave. Some banks (including those at Tribhuwan airport and official border crossings) will buy rupees back, though they may only give US dollars in return. If you’re entering India, changing Nepali currency into Indian currency is no problem.
In the Kathmandu Valley, government offices and post offices are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm (sometimes closing at 4pm between mid-Nov and mid-Feb); outside the valley, they often open on Sunday as well.
Museums are usually closed at least one day a week; opening times are fairly similar to office hours. Shops keep long hours (usually 9–10am to 7–8pm), and in tourist areas generally open daily. Some banks in tourist areas and Kathmandu are also generous with their hours, but elsewhere you’ll generally have to do your transactions between 9am and 3pm from Monday to Friday. Moneychangers keep longer hours. Travel agents tend to work from around 9am to the early evening; airline offices are open roughly the same hours as government offices, and often close for lunch between 1pm and 2pm.
Nepal’s hectic calendar of national holidays can shut down offices for up to a week at a time. Dates vary from year to year – Nepal has its own calendar, the Vikram Sambat, which began in 57 BC. The year starts in mid-April and consists of twelve months that are a fortnight or so out of step with the Western ones. Complicating matters further are religious festivals, which are calculated according to the lunar calendar, while Tibetan and Newari festivals follow calendars of their own.
All tourist areas and major towns have telephone/internet shops that offer a variety of ways to make cheap international calls, including on Skype. Most have backup generators for power outages. Simpler telephone-only outfits, which advertise themselves with the acronyms ISD/STD/IDD, can be found almost everywhere there’s a phone line.
Mobile phone coverage is now found across the country, even in some trekking areas. You can generally use foreign SIM cards in Nepal, but it is far cheaper to buy a local one: Ncell is currently the most popular network, though it is not the best choice when in the mountains. When you buy a SIM (from Rs99) you’ll need to take photocopies of your passport and visa and a passport photo.
Nepali numbers are always eight digits long: in the Kathmandu Valley the 01 area code is followed by a seven-digit number; elsewhere, a three-digit area code is followed by a six-digit number; mobile phone numbers are ten digits long. You don’t need to dial the area code when you’re calling landlines from within that area. Numbers in the Kathmandu chapter of this guide are listed with codes, but note that you’ll need to remove 01 when dialling from within the Kathmandu Valley. The international dialling code for Nepal is +977. For directory enquiries call t 197 or t 535 000.
Post generally takes at least ten days to get to or from Nepal – if it arrives at all. Postcards (Rs25–30 to anywhere in the world) go through fine, but envelopes or parcels that look like they might contain anything of value sometimes go astray. Letters can be sent to a hotel or a friend’s home, or care of poste restante in Kathmandu. Mail should be addressed: Name, Poste Restante, GPO, Kathmandu (or Pokhara), Nepal. Mail is held for about two months, and can be redirected on request. In Kathmandu, American Express handles mail for cardholders and those carrying Amex cheques, and US citizens can receive mail c/o the Consular Section of the American Embassy.
When sending mail in Nepal, there’s rarely a need to deal directly with the postal system; most hotels will take it to the post office for you. Book and postcard shops in tourist areas sell stamps, and many also have their own, largely reliable, mail drop-off boxes. Where no such services exist, take your letters or cards to the post office yourself, or wait to send them from Kathmandu. Never use a public letterbox: the stamps will be removed and resold.
Parcels can be sent by air or sea. Sea mail is cheaper but takes a lot longer (three months or more) and there are more opportunities for it to go missing. Again, the private sector is much easier to deal with than the official postal service. Shipping agents and air freight services will shield you from much of the frustration and red tape, but for this they charge almost twice as much as the post office. Be sure you’re dealing with a reputable company.
Nepal is 5 hours 45 minutes ahead of GMT. That makes it 5 hours 45 minutes ahead of London, 10 hours 45 minutes ahead of New York, 13 hours 45 minutes ahead of Los Angeles, and 4 hours 15 minutes behind Sydney. Nepal doesn’t observe daylight saving time, so daylight saving time elsewhere reduces/increases the time difference by one hour.
Most restaurants automatically include a percent service charge in the bill. Trekking porters and guides have their own expectations.
Toilets range from “Western” (sit-down) flush options to a shed over a hole. In basic lodges the norm is a squat toilet. When travelling by bus you’ll almost always find a bathroom available at stops – but sometimes there is nothing but a designated field. If in doubt, ask Toilet kahaachha? (“Where is the toilet?”). Don’t flush toilet paper: put it in the basket provided. Note that paper is not provided in more basic places; Nepalis use a jug of water and the left hand.
As many villages have no covered toilets, it’s deemed okay to defecate in the open – but out of sight of others, in the early morning or after dark. Men may urinate in public away from buildings – discreetly – but women have to find a sheltered spot.
The handful of Nepal Tourism Board offices inside the country are generally friendly, if not necessarily full of information. You’ll get the most useful information from guesthouse staff and other travellers. Check the notice boards in restaurants and guesthouses around the tourist quarters for news of upcoming events or to find travelling or trekking companions. In the capital, the Kathmandu Environmental Education Project (KEEP) and the Himalayan Rescue Association can provide trekking information. Nepal’s English-language newspapers and magazines are also good sources of information, and there are several useful websites.
Nepal is a poor country without the means to cater for disabled travellers. If you walk with difficulty, you’ll find the steep slopes, stairs and uneven pavements hard going. Open sewers, potholes, crowds and a lack of proper street crossings will all make it hard for a blind traveller to get around. That said, guides and porters are readily available and should be prepared to provide whatever assistance you need.
With a companion, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy many of Nepal’s activities, including elephant rides, mountain flights and sightseeing by private car. If you rent a taxi, the driver is certain to help you in and out, and perhaps around the sites you visit. A safari should be feasible, and even a trek, catered to your needs by an agency, might not be out of the question – mules or horses can be used on a number of trekking routes, for example.
Basic wheelchairs are available in Kathmandu’s airport, and smaller airports, including Pokhara, are mostly at ground level. Generally, however, facilities for the disabled are nonexistent, so you should bring your own wheelchair or other necessary equipment. Hotels aren’t geared up for disabled guests, though the most expensive ones have lifts and (sometimes) ramps.
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