Nepal is a small country between two large countries, China and India, with Its capital in Kathmandu. Nepal has eight mountains more than 8,000 meters high including Mount Everest (8,848 m) and nine others taller than 6,800 meters. Nepal’s main river systems originate in the Himalayas. The people are generally honest and quick to have a laugh. Nepal is home to about 27 million people including the famous Gurkhas (indomitable warriors) and Sherpas (skilled mountain climbers). The Newars of Kathmandu are accomplished artisans.
The country occupies some 147,181 sq km (56,827 sq miles) of land and is ahead of GMT by 5.45 hours. The official language is Nepali but English is spoken widely in the bigger cities. Nepal is a secular country with the following religions: Hindu (81%), Buddhist (11%), Muslim (4%) and others (4%). The Nepali calendar is called Bikram Sambat (BS) which is about 57 years ahead of the English calendar. The Nepali year begins in mid-April and is divided into 12 months. Saturday is the official weekly holiday. Nepal shares its borders with India to the east, west and south and Tibet to the north and northwest. The flora and fauna of the country includes rhododendrons and orchids and snow leopards, Royal Bengal tigers, gharials, elephants, wild buffalo, one horned rhinos and deer as well as a large number of bird species.
The climate ranges from subtropical in the south and temperate in the hills to arctic at the higher altitudes. The monsoons begin in June and continue up to September. There are four seasons:
- March to May: Spring
- June to August: Summer
- Late September to November: Autumn (most popular trekking season)
- December to February: Winter
The Nepalese Rupee (NPR, Rs) = 100 paisa. Foreign visitors have to pay their airline tickets, trekking permits and hotel bills in foreign currency. This does not apply to Indians. Currency exchange can be done with authorized dealers (banks, hotels and licensed money changers).
A visa can be obtained for a specific period from any Royal Nepalese Embassy or Consulate or at entry points in Nepal. All foreigners except Indians need a visa to visit Nepal. A tourist visa can be extended for upto 150 days. An additional 30 days can be granted on payment of US$ 50. Visitors cannot stay beyond 180 days, and for any extension beyond 30 days up to 150 days, a fee of US $1 is charged per day.
Restricted area trekking permits are issued only at the immigration offices in Kathmandu and Pokhara. Fees for treks to restricted areas range from US$ 70 per day (10 day minimum) for Mustang to US$ 90 per week for Humla and Manaslu. You also have to pay for a government official to accompany you. Nepal has 16 National Parks, wildlife reserves and conservation areas. Admission fee for SAARC country visitors is Rs. 200 and for other foreign visitors it is Rs.650 per person per day at all the parks except in Annapurna and Shivapuri where one has to pay Rs. 250 and Rs.2000 respectively.
Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu is the country’s only international airport. You can travel to Kathmandu via Frankfurt, Bahrain, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Singapore. If in India, you can fly to Nepal from Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Bangalore and Varanasi. China Southwest Airlines operates flights from Lhasa to Kathmandu on Saturdays and Tuesdays. You can also fly Druk Air from Paro in Bhutan, or take a flight from Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Precautionary Measures while traveling to Nepal
Ensure that the water you use has been sterilized. Vaccinations for Japanese B encephalitis, meningococcal meningitis, tuberculosis and hepatitis B are recommended. Altitude sickness is a hazard for those going on high altitude treks so make sure that you gain altitude gradually. Additional advice is available from the Himalayan Rescue Association.