Also known as the 'Roof of the World', Nepal is a lovely Himalayan country where the snow-capped mountains disappear into the clouds like stairways to heaven. Apart from the mountain peaks, Nepal is also a major religious hub, housing pilgrimage sites for followers of Buddhism and Hinduism. The crime rate is also very low, making it a very safe travel destination.
Generally speaking, Nepal is divided into 11 states and 5 development regions. However, the basic divisions are dependent on the regional elevation. These are: Himalayas, Kathmandu Valley, Middle hills, Western Tarai and Eastern Tarai.
December - March is the best time to visit Nepal
Despite very low temperatures and snowfall, winter is the best season to visit and enjoy Nepal in all its spirit. Being a Himalayan country, Nepal during this time is serene and beautiful.
Amazing climate at all times. Picturesque surroundings. Rich cultural history.
Poor roads and transport infrastructure. Threat of natural hazards.
Nature lovers. Adventure junkies. Pilgrims. People fascinated by cultural history.
Hotels are easily available in all cities and towns in Nepal. However, hotels with ratings lower than 3 stars may not be suitable to stay in. The most unique and delightful stay experiences in Nepal are at Buddhist monasteries.
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Nepalese are very religious by nature. They are bound by their beliefs and principles and follow them very diligently. 85% of the population follows Hinduism, 8% follow Buddhism and there is a small Muslim minority of 4%. Nepalese is the most common language spoken. Other languages that the locals speak include Bhojpuri and Maithili. English is only spoken in business groups and among trading personnel.
The Nepali national meal is daal bhaat tarkaari. It is essentially spiced lentils poured over boiled rice, and served with tarkari. Locally-grown tropical fruits are sold alongside subtropical and temperate crops from the hills. Jackfruit is a local delicacy. Some popular dishes include momos, a meat or vegetable filled dumpling (similar to Chinese pot-stickers) often served with beer, and Tibetan Bread and Honey - a puffy fried bread with heavy raw honey that's great for breakfast.
Be careful about exchanging all of the NPR before leaving, since it is a federal crime to take the currency beyond borders. Avoid buying or consuming water that is not bottled. Have a flashlight handy at all times.
Nepalese Rupee (NPR)
Nepalese Rupee comes in the form of coins of denominations 1, 2,5 and 10 and paper notes of denominations 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 25, 50, 100, 250, 500 and 1000. Credit and debit cards Visa, MasterCards, AmericanExpress etc. are all accepted at hotels and malls.
The rates for exchanging to NPR overseas are poor and it is illegal to take the Nepalese currency outside Nepal. The currency can be exchanged at any of the numerous foreign exchange conversion units in Nepal, including at the airport. ATMs can be found in abundance There are ATMs available easily and most of them accept cards from major banks.
Nightlife in Nepal comprises mainly of drive-in theatres, bars, pubs and discotheques. However, recently, concerts and DJ nights are gaining popularity in Kathmandu. Club OMG in Kathmandu is one that houses the concept of a live DJ night. Cafes and some restaurants are also open after hours, barring which most of the night clubs and pubs are closed by 10:00 PM.
There are a lot of things that can be bought from Nepal. The list of 'must buy' things includes Cashmere/Pashmina Shawls and Scarves (NPR 200), rice paper items (NPR 120), handicraft items (NPR 200 - 300), tea & spices (NPR 50 - 150), thangka paintings (NPR 1500), singing bowls (NPR 300) and trekking gear.
Nepal celebrates a lot of Hindu and Buddhist festivals. The major festivals celebrated here are Holi, Jatra, Dashain, Diwali, Mani Rimdu and the Kathmandu Film Festival. The Jatras are basically for the deities that they worship.
Nepal was originally governed and ruled by the Shah dynasty. They expanded the geographical territory of the Kingdom up to Sikkim (India) and beyond the Sutlej river. However, the British, who ruled in India, declared a war in 1814 and ultimately conquered Nepal in 1816. It was because the British wanted a buffer state between India and China that the geographic territory was reduced to approximately the current size and kept independent from colonization.
There are no specific vaccinations that would be pre-requisites to visiting Nepal. However, hepatitis, meningitis, and typhoid shots are recommended. Since unbottled water is generally not treated, it is always advised to buy bottled and sealed water. Always carry a first aid kit containing over-the-counter medicines along with a mosquito repellent. Marijuana is commonly found along the hill sides - but it has its side effects and it is advisable to not consume it.
The culture in Nepal is a blend of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan-Mongolian traditions. Auspicious signs, such as the trident or the swastika are considered pious and often displayed in homes, cars and workplaces to attract positive energy. The customary greeting is joining palms, bowing down and saying 'Namaste'. Hospitality is a key feature of their customs. Display of affection between people of different sexes publicly is not well received and may even be a taboo in certain parts of the country.