| Frequently Asked Questions: Travelling to Nepal
The Himalayan kingdom of Nepal is a land of scenic mountains, time-worn temples and some of the best walking trails on Earth. It’s a small country, but it’s rich in scenic splendour and exotic cultures. The people of Nepal are as diverse as their country and represent distinct cultures and races. Though they speak a variety of tongues and practice different religions, they are the friendliest people that you would ever meet.The kingdom has long exerted a pull on the Western imagination and it’s a difficult place to dislodge from your memory once you return. So, wait until you’re actually here in Nepal.
Beyond Kathmandu, its another world altogether. Most travelers to Nepal want to check out the truly spectacular Himalayas along with the higher hills. A few go there to scale the high mountains, but many are nature lovers who trek along landscapes filled with deep valleys, lush forests, snow trails, terraced fields, and above all, the most hospitable people. See the FAQ on Trekking for more.
Travelers to Nepal also love making a safari trip to one of the National Parks in Nepal. The most popular one is the Chitwan National Park in the southern plains which hosts a diverse wildlife reserves including the rare Asian one-horn rhino.
In order to fly directly to Nepal from your home country, Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu is the only international airport in Nepal. TIA has direct airlink with Osaka, Shanghai, London, Frankfurt, Hongkong, Singapore, Bangkok, Delhi, Dubai, Bombay and Calcutta. Lufthansa, Royal Nepal Airlines (RNAC), Air India, Singapore Airlines, Thai are the airlines that carry most of the foreign travelers into Kathmandu; and if you buy tickets from any other airlines, you will probably connect with one of these airlines for the final leg of your flight.
Alternatively, if you have time and enthusiasm, traveling overland to Nepal via India is an option. British overland travel operators can take you from London to Kathmandu on a six to eighteen week trip for anywhere between $1200 to $ 2500 depending upon the nature of your trip. You will travel from continental Europe through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to Nepal. For specific details on traveling overland from India to Nepal, read below.
Anyone who has done any traveling on air can tell you that one can never say for sure how much they cost. However, an economy class round trip ticket to Nepal from North America, should cost between $1400 to $1700 depending on what airline you fly and when. From western Europe, the fare should be about the same too. From most of East Asia, the cost is about $300 for one-way. If you are flying into Nepal from India or other South Asian cities, one-way fare would be between $100 to $200: Delhi ($150), Varanasi ($80), Bombay ($200), Calcutta ($100), Karachi ($150), Dhaka ($80). These figures are only estimates, and you should check with your travel agents for details.
It’s not a bad idea to tag along with organized tours though it can cost many times more than a self arranged trip. Nevertheless, since Kathmandu is a small city and can be explored easily without organized tour, I recommend people to do self-visit to different places in Kathmandu.
The weather is probably the best guide for deciding when to plan your trip to Nepal. October and November are considered the best times of the year. The monsoon will have just ended, and clear skies with optimal temperature will prevail. The main festivals of Dashain and Tihar (Hindu equivalent of Christmas in terms of festivity) fall during these months. However, this is also the busiest tourist season, and the main tourist centers and trekking trails tend to be crowded with travelers like you. The tourist flow ebbs a little, but not significantly, between the winter months of December and mid-February. It catches up once again between mid-February and mid-April. From mid-June to early October, it’s the monsoon, during which time it rains almost everyday and most of the Himalayas are hidden behind the clouds. Check the weather section of this FAQ for more details on weather. In short, plan to visit Nepal between October and May, keeping in mind that October-November and February-March are the best times (but crowded with other travelers).
You can fly between Delhi and Kathmandu for about $150 with RNAC or Air India. The actual flight time, not counting the endless delays and cancellations, is only a little more than an hour. However, note that Delhi-Kathmandu-Delhi flight is very busy and without proper reservations (or proper strings to pull) can be booked weeks in advance. Make your reservations and buy your ticket well in advance.
Alternatively, you can travel overland to Nepal from India. Buses are usually the quickest and easiest form of transport for this. There are three main crossing points: Sunauli-Bhairawa, Birganj-Raxaul and Kakarbhitta-Silguri. The Sunauli border crossing is the best one from Varanasi, the Birgunj crossing is the easiest from Calcutta; and Kakarbhitta is the best crossing from Darjeeling. These trip can be quite long and stressful, both in terms of time (it takes about two days and nights) and what you may go through during the trip (with tickets, safety, weather, border harassment etc). Not recommended for those people who want to have carefree travelling.
If you plan to enter Nepal in a car, make sure you have a carnet de passage en douanes. These are required to exempt you from customs duty for three months. You may also be required to pay a fee for each day that your car is in Nepal. As in India, in Nepal, vehicles are driven on the left side of the road.
The crossing between Nepal and Tibet via Kodari is only open to organised groups but not to individual travellers heading north. Be prepared with alternative plans if you’re thinking about using this route, because landslides regularly make it impassabe during the monsoon.