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Nepal Guide & Travel Advice

Getting there

It's not currently possible to fly directly from the UK to Nepal. There are a range of alternative options, flying with airlines including British Airways, Emirates, Virgin Atlantic and Qatar Airlines from Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester. The most common connecting flights to Nepal with these carriers are Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Delhi.

Flying times from UK

The average flight times between the UK and Tribhuvan International Airport, located six kilometres outside of Kathmandu, is 12 hours, although this depends on the length of your stopover.

Time zone

Nepal is +5¾ hours ahead of GMT.

Visa requirements

Visitors can obtain a 15, 30 or 90 day tourist visa on arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport and at certain land border crossings. Visas can be paid for in Pounds Sterling, but it is advisable to check the exact cost before you travel as it is subject to change. You will also need to provide two passport photographs. Visas can be obtained in advance from the Nepalese Embassy in London.

Do’s and don’ts

When visiting temples and other holy places, you should dress respectfully. Women are advised not to wear shorts or sleeveless tops when visiting these sites.

Do ask permission before taking photographs, particularly of older people and parades or ceremonies.

Always remove your shoes before entering someone’s home, a monastery or temple. You should also remove all leather items before entering a Hindu temple.

When eating, only the right hand should be used. Nepalese culture considers the left hand to be unclean.

Money

The currency of Nepal is the Nepali Rupee (Rs), with denominations of one, two, five and ten rupees available as both coins and notes. Notes are also available in 20, 50, 10, 500 and 1,000 rupee denominations. Since the abolition of the monarchy in 2008, all notes are printed with an image of Mount Everest. Be aware that may be difficult to change 1,000 rupee notes with smaller traders, including rickshaw drivers, or in rural areas so it is always advisable to carry smaller denomination notes.

Tipping

Tips are generally accepted in Nepal to recognise good levels of service. It’s not necessary to tip for short taxi rides. A guideline for tipping drivers and guides will be advised prior to travel.

Food and drink

Nepal’s cuisine is a fantastic blend of the flavours of its neighbouring countries. Generally, Nepalese food is considered to be healthier than other South Asian cuisines as it focuses less on cooking with oils and fats and instead uses chunky vegetables, meats and pickled dishes. Lentils, potatoes and yoghurt are common staples across Nepal, along with a wide variety of spices which give the dishes a complex, subtle flavour. Considered Nepal’s national dish, Dal Bhat is a must-try. Expect to receive a variety of side dishes around a rice, roti or mixed-grain centre. These side dishes can include curries, fish dishes, chutneys and pickles, with an almost unlimited amount of combinations possible.
For something more hearty and warming, why not try some Gorkhall lamb? This delicious dish combines slow-cooked lamb with chunky onions, potatoes and an array of spices to create an intense curry that is best served with roti or rice.

Holidays, festivals and celebrations

Nowhere does festivals quite like Nepal. If you’re lucky enough to be in Nepal to witness one of their festivals, expect to see a riot of colour and huge street processions. Here's a quick run-though of some of the country’s biggest festivals:

‘Navavarsha’ (Nepali New Year) is celebrated in the second week of April and is a national holiday, celebrated with localised parades. It also marks the end of a five day festival in Bhaktapur, which is famous for its combination of religious observation and a lively tug-of-war to mark the arrival of the New Year.

Holi, Nepal’s version of the springtime water festival common across many Asian countries, is celebrated between February and March. Be warned, if you are in Nepal during Holi, you are a fair target for water balloons and coloured powder!

September sees the celebration of the end of the harvest, with the festival celebration of Indra Jatra. Expect to see the streets filled with masked dancers, manifestations of the living Goddess Kumari and take the opportunity to sip rice beer from the mouth of a god, said to bring good fortune for the coming year.

If you are thinking of attending a festival during your time in Nepal, it is best to verify the exact dates before you travel, as different tribes and religious groups operate their own calendar systems, which differ from the Gregorian calendar used in the UK. The Nepalese also have a different system for marking the passing of the years, which run from April to March.

Shopping

Visitors can pick up many unique items including clothing and textiles, jewellery, tea and incense. Singing bowls are also a popular souvenir. These metal bowls are rubbed in a circular motion to produce sound, with the vibrations said to have healing powers.

Suggested reading

For a good introduction to visiting Nepal, you cannot go wrong with a Footprint or Rough Guide. ‘Traveller's Tales Nepal: True Stories of Life on the Road’ by Rajendra Khadka contains some fascinating true accounts of traveller’s experiences in Nepal. Other interesting personal accounts include ‘Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt Everest Disaster’ by Jon Krakauer and ‘The Strict Economy of Fire’ by Ava Leavell Haymon. If you are looking for novels set in Nepal, there are plenty to choose from including Holly Robinson’s ‘Sleeping Tigers’ on one woman’s journey to Nepal or the action-packed ‘Kathmandu’ by Gerry Virtue.

Health

Your doctor is the best person to advise you on staying healthy whilst abroad but current recommended vaccinations are Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus and Diphtheria. Yellow Fever is compulsory, but only if you have visited an affected Yellow Fever area within 5 days prior to your arrival. In some instances anti-malarial tablets may also be needed. For current information on health advice you may wish to visit the Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad (MASTA) Web Site on www.masta.org. The NHS ‘Fit for Travel’ website (www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk) is also a useful resource.

Travel advice

For current information on Nepal the best resource is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice) which is a comprehensive resource and updated regularly. We would also recommend visiting the Safer Tourism Foundation website (https://safertourism.org.uk/) before you travel and will be happy to address any questions or concerns you may have.

Nepal Holiday Ideas

China, Mongolia, South Korea, Central Asia, Nepal and Bhutan Holiday Review

I was lucky enough to be given a three month career break and wanted to do some extensive travelling in Asia. I emailed a number of travel companies with a request to prepare a tailor made tour across certain specific dates. Pettitts were the first to reply and from that moment on provided a superb service. Initially there were a number of changes requested to the itinerary, but they were able to accommodate all changes and flex the programme according to our needs. The countries visited were China, Mongolia, South Korea, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Nepal and Bhutan. Pettitts have clearly identified high quality international partners given that we were impressed with all travel guides in each country.

Pettitts assisted with all questions we had during the planning of the trip and were very quick to get in touch with us on the one occasion they needed to during the trip. Pettitts were excellent and I cannot recommend them highly enough. Their service was first class and I would be more than happy to use their services again.

SG - China, Mongolia, South Korea, Central Asia, Nepal and Bhutan - July 2018

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