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A country of extreme beauty and spiritual significance, Nepal will capture your heart…

Nepal is a country with many claims to fame. The Himalayas are reportedly roamed by Abominable Snowmen, Lumbini is believed to be the birthplace of the Lord Buddha, and the country is overlooked by the world’s tallest mountain. But you don’t have to scale Mount Everest to discover the best of what Nepal has to offer.

It’s the smaller things that make Nepal such a fascinating place to visit – the diverse culture, beautiful temples, and astounding landscapes. Throughout your trip, you’ll become accustomed to the way that locals always greet you with a hot cup of tea and a polite ‘namaste’. Whether you take a relaxed approach to holidays or you like to seek out adventure, Nepal is waiting for you.

 

Culture and history

Nepal is a secular country, despite the many temples that can be found throughout the land. Most Nepalis are Hindus, but there’s also a significant Buddhist community in Nepal. These two religious groups work together in harmony and regularly worship in the same temples.

Nepal’s deep rooted sense of culture and etiquette is extremely important to the country, and it’s important that visitors bear this in mind during their stay. When you greet someone by saying ‘namaste’, you should hold your hands together in a prayer position and bow slightly. Avoid going overboard with this greeting, as it should only be used once a day due to its formality. As an alternative, ask ‘tik chha?’, meaning ‘how are you?’, and you’ll be met with a positive response. 

Another custom to remember is that you should only use your right hand to eat food. A typical Nepali meal would be dal (lentil soup), bhat (boiled rice) and tarkari (curried vegetables). Curried meat is popular but relatively expensive, so it is saved for special occasions. Momos (steamed or fried dumplings) are the most popular snack and well worth a try.

Be careful not to pass an item to someone else using your left hand, as it’s considered unclean. When offering people money, either use both hands or hold your right wrist with your left hand.

History-wise, Nepal has changed shape many times over the centuries and with such mighty neighbours as India and China it’s no wonder. This Himalayan land was the birthplace of Buddha, born in Lumbini in the 6th century, and as such has played an important part in the history of Buddhism and of Asia as a whole.

The Kiratis – a Mongol Hindu people who arrived around the 7th century BC – were the first to rule Kathmandu Valley. With its strategic position on the trade route between India, Tibet and China, Kathmandu was always a sought after and prosperous place. As such the Kiratis were eventually overthrown by an Indian dynasty, which was later invaded by Tibetan forces, then Kashmiri… you get the picture.

Kathmandu as we know it today was unified by Shah, the ambitious ruler of the hilltop kingdom of Gorkha – a diminutive place located between Kathmandu and Pokhara. By 1769 he had achieved the unexpected and Nepal was unified under the Shah dynasty, which has ruled to this day.

Not wishing to stop there the country expanded over the years incorporating territories from Kashmir to Sikkim. Eventually though, in 1816, after a two-year war with the British Raj, the Gurkhas suffered a decisive defeat and Nepal’s boundaries were limited to its present day form.

Things to do

Nepal is full of treasures, and you can explore them all on a Saga holiday. Guided walking tours, visits to intricately designed temples, and wildlife spotting at expansive national parks are among the activities that you can expect. Lace up your walking boots, charge your camera and get ready to bask in the beauty of Nepal. 

Phewa Lake

For travellers who want to experience the Himalayas without having to undertake a long trek, a visit to Phewa Lake is the perfect compromise. Take a ferry trip across the lake and you can enjoy uninterrupted views of the Annapurna Mountain Range. As you cross the water, you’ll notice a small island with a two-storey pagoda temple built on it.

This is the beautiful Tal Barahi Temple. Popular with locals, who come to pray, the temple and its serene surroundings will leave you feeling content and at peace in a way that only a trip to a temple can. Tourists are encouraged to remain quiet throughout a visit, though, as a sign of respect. 

Chitwan National Park

The first ever national park in Nepal, Chitwan National Park is a World Heritage–listed reserve that contains a huge range of native animals. The area boasts 68 different species of mammals, 126 species of fish, and 544 species of birds – including 22 endangered birds!

Visiting Chitwan National Park is a unique opportunity to see some rare and extinction-threatened species of the world. Local conservation efforts look to help endangered species of the area, including the greater one-horned rhinoceros, the Bengal tiger, and the gharial crocodile. 

Chitwan offers jeep tours, walking tours for avid bird watchers, and even elephant jungle tours! Make sure to opt for tours run by the park, as all the profits go back into the preservation of the park and its wildlife. For a really special experience, stay in one of the lodges on the outskirts of the park, and use some binoculars to spot animals in the evening! 

Kathmandu

Kathmandu Valley is steeped in history – it has seen dynasties come and go, embraced Buddhists and Hindus alike, and even welcomed hippie travellers back in the 60s.

Exploring its tangle of alleyways can be overwhelming, but you’ll be rewarded with sights of hidden medieval temples, colourful Hindu celebrations and much more besides. Dodge the tourist touts in the bustling Thamel District, gaze at the palaces around Durbar Square and watch the prayer flags flutter at the lovely Boudhanath stupa.

Boudhanath

Boudhanath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nepal’s capital city, Kathmandu. The dome-shaped building is called a stupa, which is a traditional Buddhist shrine. The dome is topped with a small, brick pyramid which is painted with the ‘all-seeing’ eyes of the Buddha. Boudhanath is a truly stunning sight, and both a place of worship and of joy.

Multi-coloured flags hang from the highest point of the stupa, connected to the surrounding buildings, as though the stupa is in a permanent state of celebration. Walk around the stupa and you’ll find an equal number of tourists and worshippers admiring the building.

Flight time

Depending on the length of your layovers, flights to Nepal from London take between 12 to 15 hours. Make the most of this time to sit back, relax, and prepare for an unforgettable holiday.

Currency

Rupee -

Nepal uses the Nepalese rupee which is made up of 100 paise.

You can only get hold of the Nepalese rupee once you’re in Nepal, so exchange your pounds for rupees at the airport or a local bank when you arrive.

Passports and visas

British citizens will need a visa to enter Nepal. You can purchase one at Kathmandu airport, and Nepal’s other main airports and land borders.

Just make sure that you have two passport sized photos and at least 6 months’ validity left on your passport. If you’d prefer to, you can apply for a visa in advance by writing to the Nepalese Embassy in London.

Visit GOV.UK for more advice on passports and visas.

Phrases

Learn a few basic phrases before your break and you’ll be able to navigate Nepal with ease!

Namaste – Hello

Tik chha? – How are you?

Subha prabhat – Good morning

Ho – Yes

Hoena – No

Parchha… – I need…

Ke tapain English bolnuhunchha? – Do you speak English?

Chiya – Tea

Piro? – Spicy?

Subhakamana! – Cheers!

Timezone

Nepal’s time zone is ahead of the UK by 5 hours and 45 minutes, or 4 hours and 45 minutes during British Summer Time (BST).

Electricity

In Nepal, people use both Type C and D sockets. Type C sockets are employed across Europe and are compatible with a two-pin plug, whereas Type D sockets need a three-pin plug.

India and Madagascar also have Type D sockets, so if you’ve visited these countries in the past, then you’ll probably have an appropriate adapter at home! To keep your options open, it’s best to find a universal adapter which will work with either design of socket.

Language

Nepali - Nepal’s national language is Nepali, but there are over 120 languages spoken here! Many people who work in the tourist industry understand basic English, so in most cases you’ll be able to ask for directions and order food in English if you need to.

Tipping

Many larger establishments will include a service charge in your bill, but smaller restaurants and hotels are unlikely to do this. It’s reasonable to leave a tip of around 10% in a restaurant, and contribute to the hotel’s tipping box when you leave.

Taxi drivers won’t expect tips for short trips, but the regional custom is to round up a fare on longer trips. That’s if your taxi has a meter!

Many visitors trek across Nepal’s mountainous landscape with the help of local guides. If you’re one of them, then you should tip a day’s pay for each week of your trip. This amounts to a weekly sum of roughly £28 for guides and cooks, and £10 to £21 for porters.

You should give your guides their tips in an envelope on the last evening of your hike – this is more discreet for your guide, who may also not be available the following morning.

Climate

Nepal’s climate varies widely depending on the altitude of the specific area. Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, experiences monsoon season in June and August, and the preceding months are very hot and humid with highs of 29 degrees Celsius.

The best time to visit is during the cooler, drier months of March and April or October and November. For trekkers, September to November offer the best opportunities for clear mountain views, and many religious festivals also take place in Nepal during these months.

Health

In some parts of the country you may be susceptible to altitude sickness. The symptoms include shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea.

As health information can change at any time, we’d advise you to consult your GP at least 12 weeks before departure.

Country-specific information and advice on possible health risks is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and The British Foreign and Commonwealth Travel Advice Unit provides important health and safety information for British nationals travelling abroad.

Population and size

Nepal may be dwarfed by giant neighbours, with China to the north and India to the south. But the country makes the most of its land area of its 147,181 square kilometres.

Nepal’s population is around 28 million, and the national capital Kathmandu is home to one million inhabitants. Many Nepali people live in small towns and villages, and this means that the country has a number of different ethnic groups, languages, and dialects.

Smoking

Public smoking laws in Nepal are very similar to those in the UK. Smoking in public places is prohibited and only acceptable in designated smoking areas.



Climate