Monday, October 03, 2016

Visit Kathmandu 2016 - 10 things you need to know to plan your trip to Nepal

Kathmandu - A Tourist Destination?

I just returned from Kathmandu after the First Humanitarian Mini maker Faire held in Kathmandu.

I did some travel, and let me introduce Kathmandu to you.

1) Kathmandu has 4 seasons, and it has polluted air... and it floods easily when it rains.

If you are planning to go, make sure you are not there during the monsoon season to avoid the rains, and bring the right clothes. Kathmandu has 4 seasons and it does snow sometimes.

There are plenty of old diesel buses and trucks, and air is polluted. Bring some form of breathing mask to help you walk around outside.

2) Power Cuts. There is no power in Kathmandu during some part of the day. It can range from 7 hours daily to 14 hours depending on season. Remember to have solar chargers to charge your phones and other essentials.

3) Water and food is safe -- only for restaurants, hotels or guest houses. Remember to buy bottled water. Avoid ice and local food places. There may be a high chance your stomach cannot take the level of bacterial found in their local water.

4) Internet Access -- You can get Internet access by buying a Ncell card with credits. There 3G/4G is available, and you can use GPS / Smartphone to navigate. Everything is relatively low cost as well.

5) Nepal is safe -- Don't worry about rape or getting mugged. Although the people are relatively poor, the country as a whole is safe. There are no street lights however, and lots of idiots who are on the roads. Everyone is impatient and road is bad. So be careful walking in the streets at night and take care crossing the roads.

6) Poor infrastructure -- India was bad, Latin America was bad... Kathmandu is much worse. The roads are bad, public transportation overcrowded and traffic sucks. Plan your route well. Ask a local. The taxi can get you around and you need to know landmarks around the area you want to go.

Taxi is very cheap, each trip can be from US$1 - US$5 (Patan Durbar Square - Kathmandu) but at night, expected to pay 2 times more, and in the rain, pay even more. Same trip that cost you $US3 (about 300 rupees) can cost $15 (about 1500 rupees) but you can always bargain and find other drivers.

7) Tourist attractions are relatively undamaged by the earthquake. Repairs are ongoing and looking good. Except for the Darahara Tower, everything else escaped damage and is ongoing repairs.

Within Kathmandu there are a few must go sites.

1) Bouldanath Stupa
2) Patan Durbar Square
3) Swyambunath Temple
4) Bhaktapur
5) Kathmandu Durbar Square

They are not really damaged, and you can find a way around the entrance of each place to aviod paying entrance fee. Instead, support local economy by buying handicrafts and food.

8) Guest Houses are relatively cheap. -- If you can plan around showering in the later afternoon (solar water heater) you definitely should stay at guest houses. They range from shared bathrooms to a tiny bathroom in your own room.

The cost in Patan and Kathmandu is from about US$8 - US$15, and maybe slightly more in Pokhara.

9) Food is relatively inexpensive and good. I've walked into Japanese restaurants and paid US$4 for ramen, and US$5 for Bulgogi... Having momos (steamed dumplings) will cost you US$2. Beers at bars are about US$3 - US$5.

10) And remember, when you visit Nepal. Buy handicrafts and do eat out. The Nepalese community is relatively tight, and even when you spend $$$ in Kathmandu and the cities, the money does trickle down to the villages.

Most of the food is locally grown, and organic as farmers can't afford pesticides and fertilizer. Instead of donating money, there are lots of fair trade handicraft stores which sells bags, boxes and much more. These stores also hire people from marginalized communities to plan to end poverty.

If you are planning to travel. Please consider Nepal. It is very much different from other countries, and definitely very affordable.

-- Robin Low