NEPAL…What’s that one place that comes to your mind when you think of Nepal? Kathmandu? Mt. Everest? Well! Most of you would say Kathmandu because that’s the capital city and much known amongst travelers. I just came back from Nepal spending a few days there, and I am delighted with the beauty of that country and of course... with the natives. Though I spent my time equally in Pokhara, Kathmandu, and Sarangkot, I will only talk about Kathmandu in this blog. I have now been traveling for quite a longer period of time sticking to my tiny budget. If even you wish to travel longer and easier get the best Tips to Cut Your Expenses and save Money for Travel. And if you are planning a trip to Kathmandu soon, I think the following details are what you are looking for.
- What are the things to do in Kathmandu?
- Where to stay in Kathmandu and how much will it cost?
- How to travel within Kathmandu? (Local transport in Kathmandu)
- Kathmandu Currency
- Must try food and what are the best places to eat in Kathmandu?
- Local shopping in Kathmandu
- What is the best time to visit Kathmandu?
- How much would you spend per day in Kathmandu?
- What are the things to carry while traveling to Kathmandu?
- Some additional information on traveling within Kathmandu
What Are the Things to Do in Kathmandu?You would be surprised to know that in 2013 Kathmandu was ranked third amongst the top ten upcoming travel destinations in the world by TripAdvisor, and ranked first in Asia. Travelers travel to Kathmandu for multiple trek experiences and to take the best view of the Mount Everest. Big news: I didn’t go for any of the treks. Keeping it for the next time there are more amazing things to do, see or visit in Kathmandu other than some fantastic treks like Everest base camp trek, or Langtang Trek. Let’s take a look at more awesome things to do in Kathmandu.
- Enjoy the great nightlife at Thamel: Starting with my favorite place Thamel, I would say this is the most happening part in Kathmandu. Thamel is a complete marketplace where you will find handicrafts, apparels, souvenirs, local food, and friendly people. I stayed in Thamel for one entire day and realized it is a place that never sleeps. Even at 3 am in the morning you will hear music all over the Thamel area and see youngsters partying all night. Well! It’s amusing to be there, and that’s the reason Thamel tops my list. Another big reason will be if you love collecting souvenirs and handicrafts, grab a lot of variety from Thamel.
- Spend some peaceful time close to the Valley: The capital is surrounded by the Kathmandu valley. Where places like Thamel and other famous temples are situated at the heart of the city, there’s a much peaceful and calm environment close to the valley.
- Explore the Kathmandu Durbar square: So there are 3 Durbar squares in Nepal, The Bhaktapur Durbar square, the Patan Durbar square and the Kathmandu Durbar square. I visited the one in Kathmandu. The Earthquake that came back in 2015 has damaged a few parts of the Durbar Square, but its beauty is intact. It’s home to a lot of pigeons just wandering over the entire area. Just in front of the square, you will find an old royal palace of the former Kathmandu kingdom and the Kumari house. Kumari is the living goddess of Nepal who stays in the Kumari Ghar and is worshipped by both Hindus and Muslims and is hardly seen in public.
- Capture the Kathmandu city view at the Swayambhunath complex: Swayambhunath is a Buddhist temple in Kathmandu. It is also known as the monkey temple, and I could realize the reason behind it when I was entirely surrounded by monkeys. Well! They are considered to be holy and doesn’t harm anyone who wants to reach the Stupa, a dome-shaped building erected as a Buddhist shrine. So you need to climb 365 steps, almost a kilometer to reach the top where the Stupa is. Once you are there, you can see the entire Kathmandu city. Swayambhunath is like a small world uphill where you will witness some beautiful architecture, magnificent paintings, exquisite handicrafts, and friendly locals. Believers usually take a round of the stupa spinning the prayer wheels. The Swayambhunath Complex is calm and peaceful with a mesmerizing city view.
- Shop at Low prices from the Kathmandu Durbar Square Market: I came across a vast market area while walking towards the Kathmandu Durbar Square. The Durbar square market is a wholesale market where you can shop a lot of cheap and authentic things including, apparels, footwear, handicrafts, utensils, souvenirs, snacks and much more. I would recommend this place over Thamel only if you are determined to spend less and much less. It's really cheap!
- Enjoy the Boudhanath circle: Boudhanath is another famous Stupa in Kathmandu. It is similar to Swayambhunath, but it’s more enormous than that. Boudhanath is surrounded by a market area, again selling stuff similar to what you get at Swayambhunath, beautiful architecture, magnificent paintings, exquisite handicrafts. You will also find some excellent rooftop restaurants where you can sit and take a better look of Boudha. The Boudhanath square is also the home to a lot of monks and believers who spend most of their time close to the Stupa.
- Attend the evening Aarti at the Pashupatinath Temple: Pashupatinath is a temple with a brilliant architecture. Every evening the priests conduct the Aarti next to the Bagmati river within the temple. The evening prayer is quite energetic, and the entire crowd participates in it by chanting, singing and dancing. It’s the most mesmerizing ritual I could witness in Kathmandu.
- Explore the cafes and bars at the Durbar Marg: Durbar Marg is another happening street of Kathmandu after Thamel, but it’s definitely less crowded. It’s an attractive lane with many rooftop cafes. You will also find casinos there. Like Thamel, it’s a street that never sleeps.
Where to Stay in Kathmandu and How Much Will It Cost?Kathmandu is a total budget place, especially concerning stay. Talking about how I choose my stays, I would say when I travel to different countries I prefer staying with locals in the homestay. My second and third options are hostels and hotels respectively. Well! In Kathmandu, you will find a lot of homestays, hostels, and hotels as an option. For booking a homestay you can pick a home of your choice from Airbnb, that’s my favorite way of looking for the ideal homestay. For searching for homes, I would also recommend Homestay.com. So, in Kathmandu, renting a house would cost you around NPR 800 - NPR 1100, that’s around $7 to $9.5 per night. Another stay option would be staying in a low price hotel. You can look for hotels in Kathmandu on booking.com. A pretty decent hotel would cost you around NPR 1600 - NPR 2400 per night. The last and the best option for budget travelers are staying in a hostel. The hostel also has options, like a private room, a double sharing room and dorms with 6-8 beds. The cost of dorms is NPR 320 - NPR 640, that’s the per person cost for a night. You can book hostels with hostelworld, hostels.com, or zostel. Since Nepal is a culturally rich country, spending more time with locals is something travelers love. So, my recommendation would be staying in a homestay and spend time with locals to know the place better and try some delicious local cuisine.
How to Travel Within Kathmandu? (Local Transport in Kathmandu)Local transport is a bit of struggle in Kathmandu. There are no local trams/metro/trains and cab services like Uber. You can travel locally on a public bus, or you have to look for private cabs. Since a car is a luxury in Nepal and the petrol and diesel rates are high, the cab charges are expensive too. For going as far as 3-4 km, they would ask for NPR 500 - NPR 600, so you really have to be good at bargaining. Negotiating with the cab drivers is the key to local budget travel within Kathmandu. If you are staying in Kathmandu for a more extended period of time, the best thing you can do is instead of randomly picking cabs, exchange contact details with one of the cab driver available around the airport or in the local area. And you can then contact him for all of your domestic travel at reasonable rates. Since you will be a regular customer for him, he will lower the prices for you. You can also go for walk tours, exploring Kathmandu by walking for up to 1-10 km based on your capacity to walk. I did walk a lot.
Kathmandu CurrencySince Nepal is the third most visited country in the world, travelers around the globe keep coming here at all times of the year. Let me list down the Currency exchange rate of Nepal.
Must Try Food and What Are the Best Places to Eat in Kathmandu?Okay! So this is my favorite thing to talk about, FOOD. 😀 When I talk about food, I cannot miss on the local cuisine so let me first introduce you to the traditional Nepali Food, THAKALI DAL BHAT. Thakali comes in Veg, Chicken, and Mutton. This local meal includes rice, dal (Pulse), bitter gourd, fried potato, chicken/mutton/greens, salad and tomato pickle (homemade only). I tried thakali in a restaurant, and the next day I tried it in my homestay and went mad over it. So, that’s another benefit of living in a local home, you get to taste incredible local food. Other than thakali you should also try famous Nepali street foods like Laphing, Momos, Dhindo: made of buckwheat and Kamchemba: buckwheat fries. So, the must-try Nepali food is:
Best places to eat in Kathmandu
- Thamel: You will find all the local, traditional, and international, cuisines in Thamel. Thamel is a hub of restaurants and local street food. One of my favorite restaurants is Bluebell, it serves the best meal I had during my entire Nepal trip.
- Durbar Marg: Another place is the Durbar Marg. As I mentioned earlier, it’s an excellent lane with many rooftop cafes. My favorite place there is Sam's one tree cafe, it’s a rooftop place with a massive tree in the middle and Tandoor live stations around.
- Boudhanath: You will get the best street foods like laphing, kamchemba at the Boudhanath circle. I would recommend the Roadhouse cafe, it serves delicious continental cuisine with a great view of the Boudhanath Stupa.
Local Shopping in Kathmandu
- Shop low price things from the Kathmandu Durbar Square market: Just a few meters before you reach the Durbar square, there is a huge wholesale market in Kathmandu. If you plan or wish to buy anything as souvenirs to take back home, you can explore this place. You will also find a variety of Nepali packed snacks for long travel journeys. I bought various types of Titaura, it’s the famous Nepali snack with multiple flavors. Also since it’s a wholesale market, you will get everything at a meager price, and if you are good at bargaining, you are the king here. 😛 There is no fixed price system here, and the shopkeepers of this market are more than happy to decide the price mutually and sell off things.
- Authentic and traditional Nepali stuff at Thamel: The biggest con of Thamel shopping experience would be it’s expensive, and shopkeepers generally don't allow you to bargain. But still, it’s total luck. But for souvenirs, handicrafts, paintings and for other traditional items Thamel is the place for you.
What Is the Best Time to Visit Kathmandu?Summers are not really pleasant and the rainy season is a huge trouble, so the best time to visit Kathmandu or the best time to visit Nepal is from September to December. Since Nepal is a place where you get multiple trek options, the Sep-Dec season is also the perfect time to go for the treks. Even for other activities like river rafting, paragliding, bungee jumping, kayaking, canyoning, rock climbing, this is the best time of the year.
How Much Would You Spend per Day in Kathmandu?The following is the average per day cost to travel Kathmandu. This calculation is based on my few days of travel in the capital city of Nepal.
- Stay: NPR 400
- Food: NPR 450 (All day meal)
- Local travel: NPR 400
- Miscellaneous: NPR 50
What Are the Things to Carry While Traveling to Kathmandu?
- Pollution Mask: Okay, so there is something you wouldn't like about Kathmandu: the bad air quality, making Kathmandu the most polluted city in Nepal. The city, especially the central area near Thamel is much-polluted part of Kathmandu, and I will recommend you to carry pollution mask to avoid getting sick.
- Water Bottles: Instead of buying water bottles carry your own bottle and refill it from the homestay or hostel you are living at.
- Raincoat: Nepal is quite uncertain regarding rain so keep the raincoat in your bag to be prepared in case of sudden showers.
- Sunscreen: If you have a plan to wander in the city all day long, don’t forget to carry your sunscreen to avoid getting tanned.
- Insect repellent: You will meet new friends sometimes, like I met a giant cockroach while sleeping so don’t forget to carry insect repellent cream.
- First aid and other emergency medicine: In case of emergency carry all your medications.
- Map: So, in my experience Google maps took me to a hell lot of wrong places in Kathmandu so buy a copy of map.
- Day backpack: Take along a day backpack to carry all your things in a tiny bag for any emergency.
Some Additional Information on Traveling Within Kathmandu
- Prefer cash over credit/debit cards: Since Kathmandu is much more dependent on paper bills, they mostly accept cash; and the card doesn’t work at all places. It’s always smart to convert your national currency into NPR at the airport itself.
- Keep your cash in different places: Don’t keep all your cash in one place, in case you lose it, you lose everything.
- Be safe with your things while walking late at night: Even though Kathmandu is a safe city, it’s all quiet and calm at night, so you need to be careful while traveling alone after 10 PM.