Sunday, January 5, 2014

When In Nepal: Travel Tips You Need To Know

I visited Nepal for nine days in December 2013. I spent most of my time within the Heritage Sites of Kathmandu Valley. And during my travel, I have learned about things that foreigners should do when visiting Nepal for the first time. Here is a list of things you should be aware of:

1. WEAR A MASK. A dust mask for your face is required when you are travelling the city whether you are walking, in a motorcycle and even inside a non air conditioned bus. The city has bad air pollution problem and the air is thick with smoke and dust which makes it difficult for breathing at any time of the day.

2. SLEEPING. During my 9 days in Nepal, I have read news about 2 gas poisoning incident both caused 2 casualties in two different occasions. Most traditional guesthouses uses gas heater and if your room is air tight, this may cause gas poisoning when you are asleep. Our guesthouse owner advised that I turn on the gas heater while awake and make sure I turn it off when the room temperature is warm enough before I sleep.

3. AVOID OILY AND FRIED FOOD. If you have tasted Indian food, Newari (Nepali) will not be a strange feeling on your tastebuds. But locals advise that foreigners should avoid fried and oily food as Nepali cooking oil may upset the stomachs of people who are not used to it.

4. GOING TO THE COUNTRYSIDE. When you are planning to visit the countryside and interested to hire a car, make sure the car you hire is suited for off road travelling. When I travelled to Lumbini (7 hours west of Kathmandu) and was given a regular Toyota Camry, the journey was just quite uncomfortable. During the entire journey, I think 90% of the road we passed through is dirt road and it was the longest bumpy ride I ever had.

5. PIGEONS. The city is home to quite a number of pigeons. They add to a photographic backdrop in the heritage sites of the city. Although they look pleasing and somehow quite amusing when they flock your surroundings, it can also cause a lot of mess as bird poops are all over the place as well. You have to be careful when taking a seat in stone benches or street pavements as bird poops are all over there too.

6. MOTORBIKES. I stayed in Thamel area on my first day. I was amazed when I passed by, while I was on my hotel service to the guesthouse, on how narrow the streets are and how its decorated with different souvenir shops, cafes, travel agents and restaurants on both sides. The snake roads of Thamel can get you lost unless you keep an eye on landmarks in every turn. So when I decided to have a walk, that is when I noticed on how many motorcycles were also plying the streets and were all very uncautious of people who were walking. It was quite a dangerous site to see.

7. TOURIST GUIDES IN THE SQUARES. As it is a tourist haven, there are a lot of tour operators and independent tour guides that flock the durbar squares to offer you their services and give you insights about the history of the durbars and about their people. While it is an advantage to gain additional knowledge about it as you gaze upon the centuries old heritage sites, you have to be aware of these independent tour guides before you hire them. Arrange for the price before you hire them. NR 500 (USD 5) for 1 hour is their usual offerred rate but if you are good in bargaining,  you can probably bring the price down. If you are not really keen on hiring a tour guide, make sure you avoid them and avoid giving eye contact. Once you give them an opportunity to talk, they won't just stop persuading you. One time, there was one guy who kept on insisting no matter how much I said no to him and ignored him yet he followed me almost half around the Kathmandu Durbar Square which was totally annoying.

8.TAKE VITAMINS. The air pollution in the city is enough to make you feel like you smoke a pack of Marlboro Lights everyday. So stay healthy by taking vitamins.

9. WEAR YOUR TOURIST ID. There are three major squares within the Kathmandu Valley. Kathmandu,  Patan and Bhaktapur. Each square have different fees (NR 500, NR 200 and NR 1100 respectively) and will provide you a ticket or ID that you have to make visible while touring within the premises. If officials did not see you wearing or holding it, they will keep on approaching you and ask you to wear it.

10. IF POSSIBLE, GET YOUR VISA PRIOR TO YOUR FLIGHT. When I arrived in Kathmandu airport, the queue for visa on arrival took me about 2 1/2 hours of waiting while processing it took only a mere 10 minutes. People say it is actually quite fast before but during the time we arrived, there were two other big commercial flights that arrived as well, which jammed up the queue for visa on arrival. Better check online on how many flights arriving with you at the same time. I took the AirAsia flight from Kuala Lumpur that arrived at 1410H. When the planned arrived, I also saw a Thai Airways flight and China Southern flight where passengers were already disembarking from their planes. And while all passengers from 3 planes queued up for only 2 counters for visa on arrival, another Qatar Airways flight arrived half an hour later. You can easily secure a Nepal visa first in your country (List of Nepal Embassies) without any touble before your flight to avoid the hassle of waiting.


J Gerald C Legaspi is the Filipino author of and is currently working and travelling in and around South East Asia but spends most of his time in Jakarta, Manila and Singapore.

1 comment:

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