Why Nepal Should be on your Bucketlist
As soon as I arrived in Nepal, it was as though every tension, every worry I had lifted. I was in constant awe of the beauty, the culture, the people, it felt like a magical fairytale. Whether you are interested in culture, trekking, or spiritual cleanses Nepal has a true beauty about it.
There is no doubt Nepal is full of fun adventurous things to do, I am not sure what I was expecting but it 100% exceeded all my expectations. I arrived in Nepal after India, and I opted for a bus that runs from Varanasi, India directly to Kathmandu, via the Sonauli border. You can book this bus at the train station in Varanasi or on Redbus online. The bus ride took about 35 hours, with only 1 minor break down.
Visas for Nepal
I purchased my visa on arrival, at the Sonauli boarder. It was a very quick and easy boarder crossing. I would recommend checking the the Nepal Government website before you arrive for the latest tourist VISA requirements. In July 2018, it was 15/30/90 day tourist VISAs for $25/40/100. To speed the process up make sure you have ready:
One photocopy of your passport
One passport picture
US dollars to pay for the visa
It is worth noting the officials are very strict with the dollars and any money that has writing on it, a small tear, or is very crumpled will not be accepted. They also do not accept US dollars that are older than 2003, so make sure your dollars are from 2003 or newer. I would also recommend changing all your money into US dollars before arriving at the border to save being ripped off.
Getting Around Nepal
Since Nepal is covered by mountains there are no trains and the only way to get around is by bus. There are loads of bus companies that mostly cost around $8 USD. However, since Nepal suffers pretty badly from landslides, the roads are a little bumpy...but after a few bus journeys, you will get used to swinging around the mountains at high speed.
The views are beautiful with valley after valley of greenery, waterfalls, and rivers. And the buses stop a few times in little villages where you can get off and buy food and drinks. Often the food is buffet style with a set price and you can take as much as you like. It can be slightly more expensive but the food is super delicious. If they stop at somewhere a little cheaper you can get veggie samosas for as little as 3 for $1 USD.
Top Things to Do in KATHMANDU
If I had to try and describe Kathmandu, it is probably the oldest city I have ever been in. You are almost scared to breathe too heavy or sigh, in fear you might blow a building over. All around you, there is a sense of history and the hustle and bustle of people.
I have never seen so much traffic in my life, there are no road markings, it is simply everyone trying to get anywhere and everywhere, and from what I gathered there are no traffic rules…you will probably never not hear the sound of a car horn while you are here.
In 2015 a huge earthquake happened in Nepal which was devastating, over 9000 people lost their lives, and lots of the ancient buildings, temples, and people's houses fell. The city is trying to build itself back up however all around you will see rubble and construction and the city has pretty bad dust pollution. One of the most famous parts of Kathmandu is Dubar Square, a lot of the square has fallen down due to earthquake but it is pretty cool to walk around and learn about the history and there are lots of little markets and stalls down side streets.
Swayambhu stupa which stands above Kathmandu is top of my list. I walked, with a few others from the hostel to the temple, however, we jumped in a taxi on the way back since it was pretty dark and split between 4 of us it was very cheap. The temple is bustling with excitement; prayer flags are spread all along the stairs, which are pretty much vertical at the top, if you have been trekking this should be a walk in the park for you. I would recommend going up here for sunset or sunrise it is beautifully peaceful and one of the most sacred places among Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Watch out for the pesky monkeys at the top.
Of course, a trip to Kathmandu is not complete without getting lost and exploring Thamal markets, backpacker heaven. This is a series of alleyways, full of shops, bars, stalls, and one of the best places to get lost and have some cheap food and drinks.
Top Things to in POKHARA
Compared to the busy, chaotic, dusty city of Kathmandu, Pokhara is a peaceful place to relax, with Pewa lake, nice restaurants, and the backdrop of the Annapurna mountain range.
One of my favourite days in Pokhara was when we hired Kayaks and explored the lake. You can paddle over to Tal Barahi Temple, a pagoda temple, in the middle of the lake.
The Peace Pagoda is also a beautiful stupa that sits above the lake and if it's a clear night would make for a wonderful sunset with a great view of the city below. Honestly, this is a great place to relax, especially if you are planning on going trekking, there are lots of shops where you can stock up on anything you need for trekking and great places to eat.
If you have a little extra money saved up, you can book to go paragliding over the Annapurna Mountain Range or white water rafting, I didn't get the chance to do this but we did meet a few people who had and it sounds like a pretty great activity to put on your list while you are in Nepal.
Where To Stay: Pushkar Backpackers Hostel, very friendly and helpful staff, backpacker vibe and movie nights on the roof.
I would also recommend if you have enough time making a trip to Chitwan National Park where there is the possibility to see wild rhinos, elephants, crocodiles, and even tigers.
Top Tips for Nepal
Namaste means hello and goodbye in Nepal
You must try momos, a Tibetan dumpling served with a spicy dip
Make sure to have an Everest beer or two