Map of the Indian sub-continent where Nepal is marked in the green colour.
Nepal is a unique mountain kingdom lying to the north of the plains of central India. It is bounded on three sides by India and by Tibet (An autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China) to the north. A friendly, proud and courteous people, steeped in culture and traditions, combined with unrivalled scenery and varied environments, will help make your visit an exquisite, lifelong memory.
Long-and-thin is a well-used phrase to describe its geography; Nepal is about 880 km. east to west but only 145 – 240 km. north-to-south. Within this short distance are three distinct zones, each with it own outstanding natural beauty. The south is an extension of the alluvial plains of northern India; this gives way to the Terai, a region of forested foothills and valleys. The northernmost region contains a substantial part of the Himalayan mountain chain, including Mount Everest, Makalu and Annapurna – the three highest mountain peaks in the world. Here spectacular, invigorating scenery awaits you at every twist and turn of your journey.
Nepal’s origins can be traced back to 1769 when an ambitious Gorkha – or ghurka -king conquered the many small kingdoms and fiefdoms in the region. He moved his capital to Kathmandu – in the central valley of the Terai region, and established the shah dynasty. The dynasty persisted until 2008 since when Nepal has been a democratic republic.
History and geography have placed Nepal at cultural, economic and religious crossroads within continental Asia. For instance, Hinduism and Buddhism have co-existed throughout the ages, with appreciable numbers of the population following Islam, Jainism, Sikhism and Christianity instead. Its 26 million people come from over 100 ethnic groups; ninety-three languages or dialects are spoken, though Nepali is the official language countrywide. In recent decades Nepal has been a major supplier of labour to other countries eg. Middle East, with around 10% of its population employed outside Nepal.
When to go
The low-lying southern zone enjoys warm summers and mild winters. In contrast, the mountain region has very severe winters with below-freezing temperatures for much of December to March. The optimum time for visiting Nepal, including for trekking, is early Spring (late February to April) or late autumn (October and November). During June to September period, the monsoon affects most of Nepal, but nevertheless a good time for your enjoyment and convenience.
Nepali people are friendly by nature, and warm to friendliness that is reciprocated. The caste system is still important in Nepali society. This, together with strong traditions, mean certain customs and protocols should be kept to, including:
- In public places, please wear sensible clothes that cover arms and legs;
- Always remove your shoes before entering someone’s house;
- Always ask formal permission before entering a Hindu temple;
- Do not take photographs within Hindu temples;
- Always remove your shoes when entering a temple;
- Always ask permission before photographing objects;
- Please do not photograph Nepali people without seeking their approval
Choice of clothing will be very dependent upon the areas of Nepal you wish to visit and choice of outdoor activities. In the low-altitude zone cotton clothing is suitable for most of the year. For the mountain region, warm woollen clothing and protection from wind, rain and snowfall eg. anorak, hat, etc – as well as stout walking boots that provide ankle support, are recommended at all times.
Nepalese rupees (Rs or NRs). Indian rupees are not an acceptable equivalent. The Nepalese rupee is made up of 100 paisa. Nepali notes are issued in 1000, 500, 100, 50, 25, 10, 5, 2 and 1 rupee denominations.
All international credit cards (Mastercard, Visa, etc) are accepted in leading hotels, shopping centres, bars and restaurants in Kathmandu, and in the major towns. Outside these, most payments should be made in cash with Nepali rupees.
Banks and cash machines
Exchange cash in Nepal is easy and safe. Traveller’s cheques are generally accepted at banks, moneychangers and can be used as payment at many tourist merchants. Cash machines or Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are plenty in most cities and many will accept cards issued by any of the major international banking networks (Cirrus, Plus etc).
Nepal uses 220 volt, 50Hz mains electricity similar to the United Kingdom supply; most UK electrical equipment will operate. Plug sockets are round pin (2-pin or 3-pin) as in most Asian countries. We recommend you purchase a travel multi-adapter plug before leaving your country of residence.
Vaccinations and health requirements
Nepal does not require tourists to have any specific immunisation. Your doctor can advise you on appropriate vaccinations. Please obtain this advice a few months in advance of your travel so there is adequate time to complete any course of injections.
Acute mountain sickness
Because much of Nepal is at high altitude, many travellers can suffer from this condition for a day or so, after which they tend to acclimate. Symptoms vary widely but include breathlessness, headache, lethargy and a decrease in visual acuity. If you have concerns, please speak with your doctor before leaving for Nepal.
We advise you to take out a medical/accident insurance policy in your country of residence. It should include cover for helicopter evacuation.
Skin, head and eye protection
The higher altitude ie. Thinner atmosphere, and low pollution mean that the effects of sunlight are more pronounced even in cloudy conditions. We advise you to wear an appropriate factor sun block, to take a wide brimmed hat, and have sunglasses. Most of these can be purchased in Kathmandu.
Landline telephone services are fair quality. Mobile/cellular phones operate in most non-mountainous regions. Internet accessibility is available on your smart-phones via local mobile/cellular phone operators but the coverage may vary depending on mountainous regions and signal networks.
Frequently asked Questions
Is English spoken?
Staff in many government and business offices, and in major hotels will normally be able to speak English.
Do I need a permit to trek in Nepal?
Permits are only required in certain restricted areas. Before trekking anywhere, you should register your intention and general plans with your country’s embassy or consulate in Nepal.
Are there some regions that I should avoid?
Caution should be exercised if you plan to visit some of the most remote areas of Nepal. These areas may have a low-level Maoist insurgency. More Up-to-date information is available on the Foreign Travel Advice Nepal Section or the consulate in Nepal.