Nepal Basics

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The Basics

Time: Local time is GMT +5.

Electricity: Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round two and three-pin plugs are used.

Money: The official currency is the Nepalese rupee (NPR) which is divided into 100 paisa. As getting change can be a problem, one recommends visitors have a supply of small notes handy. Tourist activities are often quoted in US Dollars. It is advisable to carry new dollar bills in varied denominations. There are ATMs in Kathmandu and Pokhara. Visa, MasterCard, and American Express credit cards are accepted in many tourist hotels, shops, restaurants, and travel agencies. Banks and moneychangers are present in all tourist centres and major cities. All receipts from foreign exchange transactions should be kept so rupees can be exchanged back into foreign currencies on departure. Cash is needed when trekking.

Currency Exchange Rates

NPR100.00 = USD 0.89GBP 0.69CAD 1.17AUD 1.31ZAR 13.00EUR 0.80NZD 1.41
Note: These rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

Language: Nepali is the official language. English is spoken in all major tourist areas.

Entry requirements for Americans: US citizens must have a passport that is valid for six months beyond their date of arrival in Nepal. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival for a maximum of 90 days.

Entry requirements for UK nationals: British citizens must have a passport that is valid six months beyond their date of arrival in Nepal. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival for a maximum of 90 days.

Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid six months beyond their date of arrival in Nepal. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival for a maximum of 90 days.

Entry requirements for Australians: Australian citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond their date of arrival in Nepal. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival for a maximum of 90 days.

Entry requirements for South Africans: South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for six months beyond their date of arrival in Nepal. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival for a maximum of 90 days.

Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealand citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond their date of arrival in Nepal. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival for a maximum of 90 days.

Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond their date of arrival in Nepal. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival for a maximum of 90 days.

Passport/Visa Note: Most foreign passengers to Nepal can obtain a tourist visa on arrival in the country. These visas are valid for a maximum of 90 days, and cost between USD 25 and USD 100 (depending on the length of intended stay). Note that extensions of touristic stays (up to 150 days) can be arranged after arrival, by applying at the Department of Immigration in Kathmandu or Pokhara (fee: USD 20, plus an additional charge of USD 2 per day extended). All tourist visas are valid for Kathmandu Valley, Pokhara Valley, and Tiger Tops (Meghauli airport) in Chitwan. However, if travellers wish to visit other places, or trek in Nepal, permits can be obtained from the Central Immigration Office. Note also that passengers who need a visa for India, and who also want to visit Nepal, should hold a visa valid for two entries into India; and that persons wishing to re-enter into Nepal, and having in their passports any previous Nepalese visas cancelled (invalidated) by the Central Immigration Office, will be refused entry and deported. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required, if arriving in Nepal within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Travel Health: Travellers arriving from infected areas require a yellow fever vaccination certificate. Malaria is a health risk between June and September in the low-lying areas of Nepal, including Chitwan National Park, but not in the common trekking areas. Travellers should consult their doctor about whether malaria prophylaxis is necessary. Outbreaks of Japanese encephalitis occur annually, particularly between July and December, and vaccination is advised. Vaccinations are also recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid. Those who will be in contact with animals, especially bats, may want to consider a rabies vaccination as well. Cholera outbreaks occur and food and water precautions should be followed. Untreated water must be avoided; visitors should buy bottled water or purify their own. When trekking it is preferable to treat river water rather than leaving a trail of plastic bottles behind. Purifying water with iodine is the cheapest and easiest way to treat water. Altitude sickness is a real risk for trekkers: many people suffer from altitude sickness above 8,202ft (2,500m); if symptoms persist it is wise to descend as quickly as possible. The standard of care in hospitals varies, but there are traveller's clinics in Kathmandu and numerous pharmacies in the major towns. Medical insurance is essential, and should include air evacuation. All required medications should be taken into the country in their original packaging and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing what they are and why they are needed.

Tipping: Restaurants and hotels may add 10 percent to bills, in which case no further tip is required. Otherwise, a 10 percent tip is customary in places that cater to tourists. It is customary to tip guides and porters on treks. Elsewhere, gratuities are not expected but always appreciated.

Safety Information: There are safety concerns in Nepal. Demonstrations and public gatherings should be avoided as there is a risk of violence. Due to previous bomb attacks and shootings in public places, including the main tourist areas of Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Lukla, as well as on popular trekking routes, visitors are warned to be particularly vigilant. Tourists have been involved in several violent incidents, with foreigners targeted in recent attacks in the Thamel district of Kathmandu. All visitors are advised to be cautious after dark and to stay in a group at night. There have been incidences of violent robbery against trekkers and there is an armed Maoist presence on many of the major trekking routes who demand a 'tax' before allowing trekkers to pass. Trekkers are advised to stay on established routes and walk in groups or with professional guides. Foreigners have been attacked in the Nagarjun Forest Reserve just outside Kathmandu and visitors are advised to be cautious in the area and to travel in a group.

Local Customs: Nepal has numerous cultural practices that may be unusual for foreigners. In the tourist areas, there is a high degree of tolerance towards visitors. But away from these places, foreigners should be sensitive to local customs. Never accept, offer, or eat anything with the left hand. Do not eat from someone else's plate or offer food from one's own. Women should dress conservatively and cover up as much as possible. Permission should be sought before taking photographs, particularly at religious sites. Public displays of affection between men and women are frowned upon.

Business: The Nepalese are warm and friendly, with business conducted with a combination of formality and sincerity. Much time is given to small talk and socialising. Handshakes are fairly common but one should wait to see if offered a hand. Alternatively, a traditional namaste greeting involves a small bow accompanied by hands clasped as if in prayer. Visitors should return the greeting as it is given. Dress tends to be formal and conservative, with suits and ties the norm. Titles and surnames are usually used. The elderly in particular are treated with great respect and the word 'gi' is added after the name as a polite form. Punctuality is important, although it may take some time to get down to business, and negotiation can be a long process. English is widely spoken and understood. But discussions in Nepali may occur between locals within a meeting. Business hours are usually 9.30am or 10am to 5pm, Sunday to Thursday. Closing time is 4pm in winter. Saturday is a holiday.

Communications: The country code for Nepal is +977, and the outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the UK). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)1 for Kathmandu and (0)41 for Pokhara. Two mobile phone operators provide GSM 900 network coverage in the main cities and towns. In the main tourist centres of Kathmandu and Pokhara, there are internet cafes on every corner.

Duty Free: Travellers to Nepal do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 20g of tobacco. 1.15 litre of spirits or wine, and perfume for personal use. It is illegal to export goods that are over 100 years old.