Before you go
Ker & Downey Nepal offers the finest, most complete adventure programs in Nepal. Our programs enable you to experience all aspects of this wonderful exciting country. The following information has also been prepared to help you get the most from your trip to Nepal, by providing important details on pre-tour preparations.
Passport, Visa, & Trek Requirements
All travelers to Nepal must hold a valid passport. Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your expected date of departure from Nepal. An entry visa for Nepal is also required. It can be obtained either in advance from your local embassy or upon arrival in Nepal. If you plan to obtain it in Nepal be sure to bring one extra passport size photo with you for this purpose.
Climate & Time Zone
Temperatures tend to be quite cool in the mornings and evenings, but heat-up at midday due to the strong, direct sunlight at high altitudes. The Terai Plain, where Chitwan National Park is located, is about 3000' (915m) lower in altitude than Kathmandu, and is consistently warmer than the rest of Nepal.
Climatically, the country ranges from subtropical to temperate and alpine. There are four main seasons:
Mid-October / November:
Clear skies, hot during the day, cool evenings. Temperatures steadily decrease during these months. Highs in the low 80° F, lows in the mid 50° F (mid 20°–8° C). In the Terai, highs in the mid 80° F and lows in the high 60° F (30°–18° C).
December / January / February:
Clear skies, warm days but cold at night. Highs in the low 70° F, lows in the low 40° F (27°–5° C). In the Terai, the mornings are misty, with the sun only breaking through the dew for a couple of hours per day. Midday high is in the upper 60° F, evenings and mornings are in the mid 40° F (20°–8° C).
March / April / May:Clear mornings, afternoon hazy skies, hot during the day and cool evenings. Highs in the low 80° F, lows in the low 60° F (27°&ndash8° C). The Terai is hot at this time with highs consistently in the upper 80° F and lows around 70° F (31–21° C).
We suggest you pack in a soft-sided bag in order to keep the weight down. Departing Nepal, the weight limit is 44 lbs. (20 Kg.). Only 2 check-in bags and 1 carry on bag are allowed. Excess baggage is charged at up to US $15 per Kg. Make sure you have locks for the bags.
Clothing & Eqiupment
Unless you are attending a special party, ceremony or official function, dress informally. In middle-to-higher priced establishments, men wear slacks and a sports shirt; women wear a casual dress, or a skirt or slacks outfit. Conservative dress is always appropriate. Both in the cities and along trekking trails, tight revealing clothing and shirtless men may offend the modest norm. However, outside of Kathmandu loose-fitting shorts are acceptable for both men and women.
Comfortable clothes of fabrics that breathe are essential. Shorts and a loose shirt of lightweight cotton are ideal during the day, since it is always warm. Comfortable trousers would also be appropriate. Bring a thick sweater or fleece swear shirt to wear in the evenings, when temperatures decline considerably. A lightweight jacket or windbreaker will also be useful.
The most important item you will require is suitable footwear for trekking. Lightweight walking boots with ankle support and rubber soles with thick tread are best. Unless you're trekking during the rainy seaon, they needn't be waterproof. It is essential your walking boots be comfortable and broken-in; uncomfortable boots can ruin a trek. Your boots should be worn with thick natural-fiber socks.
For your convenience, Ker & Downey Nepal will provide each traveler with a day pack as well as a rain poncho, umbrella, walking stick, cotton scarf and sun hat. Down jackets, wool gloves and hats are provided in each of the lodge rooms.
All travelers should bring a supply of personal toiletries. Trekkers sometimes suffer from blisters, colds, coughs and minor stomach upsets. We recommend every traveler bring a basic medical kit containing nail scissors, moleskin, Band-Aids, sunscreen, diarrhea tablets, aspirin and a remedy for colds and coughs. Taking Acidophilus tablets a few weeks before travel can help prevent bacterial diarrhea abroad. Acidophilus is available at most health food stores. Cipro, available by prescription, is the best known treatment for bacterial diarrhea. Your trek leader is first-aid trained and will also carry a standard medical pack. Or if you wish to bring your own, please do so. If you are taking any particular medicines, it would be best to bring these with you.
In addition to personal effects, foreign visitors may import the following into Nepal duty-free: up to 200 cigarettes or 20 cigars; one quart of distilled liquor or twelve cans of beer.
There are limitations on importing certain electronic goods, including 16 mm video cameras, for which a special permit is required. Still cameras and 8 mm video cameras for your personal use may be imported duty-free, though you may be asked to declare them on arrival.
There are limitations on the export of Nepalese antiques and items of archaeological or historical value. If you purchase any such item, ask the shopkeeper to assist you in obtaining an export license from the Department of Archaeology; reputable dealers are usually willing to assist. Antique carpets, brass metal statues, and Thankas (finely detailed paintings depicting Buddhist themes) are among the items in this category.
Remember, it is illegal to import any items made from any endangered species of wildlife into most countries.
To assist you in planning your trip, we have prepared a suggested packing list. It is meant as a guideline only. Always take your own preferences into account when determining what to bring.
- Pair of walking/hiking boots for trekking (lightweight boots with ankle support and thick tread)
- Pair of tennis shoes, for wearing at lodges in the evenings
- Field shirts; 2 long-sleeved and 2 short-sleeved
- Thick sweater or fleece sweat shirt
- Lightweight, wind proof jacket
- Pairs of shorts (women may wear skirts if they prefer)
- Pairs of comfortable trousers, or skirts
- Track suit
- Set of warm sleepwear
- Pairs of socks
- Pairs of thick, natural fiber walking socks
Sundries & Miscellaneous:
- Passport size photograph if you plan on obtaining your visa on arrival
- Passport and airline tickets
- Pair of sunglasses with high UV protection and sun cream
- Flashlight with strong bulb
- Pair of lightweight binoculaurs
- Notebook and pencil
- Supply of personal toiletries, including a small wash cloth
- Camera, plenty of film, extra camera batteries
- Basic medications and first aid supplies (see previous section)
- Any prescription medications you require (in their original containers), including malaria pills
- Snacks, such as trail mix or candy, if desired
- Books on tape and a walkman
- Pocket knife
If you're participating in white water rafting, add a pair of rubber sandals and a pair of quick drying shorts. We will provide life jackets, helmets and waterproof drums for your equipment.
If you're visiting Chitwan National Park some of your clothing should be in neutral colors, like khaki. White and bright color clothes disturb the wildlife.
If you're trekking during the off-season, heavier (waterproof) boots and outerwear will be required.
Electricity is mainly available in the Kathmandu Valley, where the current is 220 V/50 Cycles. Sockets have either three round pins or two thick round pins. If you are travelling with any electrical appliances, an international converter kit and a set of adapter plugs will be required. Alternatively, it is more practical to travel with battery-operated appliances where possible. While trekking, you can recharge your batteries in our lodges as we use generators. However, no electricity is available on the river or in the Terai.
The unit of currency is the Nepal rupee, divided into 100 paisa. Commonly circulated coins are of 5, 10, 25 and 50 paisa, and one rupee denominations. Paper notes come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 25, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 rupees.
Major credit cards and travelers checks are accepted by most local hotels, but only accepted in some restaurants and shops. Master and Visa Cards are the most widely accepted credit cards.
All foreign currency taken into Nepal must be declared on arrival. It is essential that you save at least one exchange receipt for you must produce a receipt when reconverting money upon departure. The exchange receipt needs to be of the same value or greater than the amount that you are changing back.
While staying at Ker & Downey properties, all food and drinks are included in your tour cost. You will need very little local currency. US $300 should be enough for meals in Kathmandu, extra snacks, soft drinks or Tibetan curios along the way.
This should be carried in small denominations as change is hard to come by in the villages (100 rupee notes are the easiest to trade). If you enjoy shopping, you may want to bring extra money as there are very good deals to be found both in Kathmandu and Pokhara (wall hangings, carvings, clothes etc…). You can spend anything from US $ 50 to US $ 3000. We urge travelers to carry all purchases home with them and not have anything shipped. Shipping can be unreliable and is a cause of great frustration. Keep some free space in your baggage for bringing back your purchases.
Kathmandu: A 10% service charge for hotels is included in the hotel rate. This service charge is divided equally amongst all hotel staff. Local restaurants add a 10% service charge to the bill, which is equally divided amongst the entire restaurant staff.
A small service charge has been included for your Ktm representative. However you may wish to tip a little extra if you have received excellent service. Service charge for your city sightseeing guide and Kathmandu driver is not included. Tipping for these individuals is at your discretion.
Pokhara and Trekking:
Tipping for your trek guide and porter is not included. Tipping for these individuals is at your discretion. A small service charge for your lodge staff and Pokhara driver is included. However you may wish to tip a little extra if you have received excellent service. There are tip boxes in the dining rooms for this purpose.
Tipping for your raft guide and crew is not included. Tipping for these individuals is at your discretion and would be done at the end of the raft trip before your onward transfer. A small service charge for your camp staff and driver is included. However you may wish to tip a little extra if you have received excellent service. There is a tip box in the dining room for this purpose.
A 10% service charge for is included in your stay. This service charge is divided equally amongst all resort staff. However you may wish to tip a little extra if you have received excellent service. There is a tip box for this purpose.
Banks are open for money exchange and other transactions from 10:00am to 3:00pm, Monday–Thursday. On Friday many banks are open from just 10:00am–12:00 noon, but branch offices remain open until 5:00pm. All banks are closed on Saturday and Sunday. You can also change money at hotels. There is a thriving black market in Kathmandu; but please be aware that it is unlawful to change money on the street.
While trekking is not extremely strenuous, you must be in reasonable health, as medical facilities are generally unavailable in trekking areas. The altitude in Kathmandu is 4500'. We trek between 3500'–7000', so altitude sickness should not affect you at these heights. However, almost everyone suffers some shortness of breath on some uphill sections. Anyone with breathing difficulties should consult a physician to determine their fitness for travel.
Although no inoculations are required for Nepal, you should consult your local health department, the Center for Disease Control, or your personal physician for the updated recommendations. The most important inoculations are gamma globulin (for hepatitis) and tetanus.
Unboiled water is not safe to drink anywhere in Nepal. Most hotels provide a flask of purified drinking water in each room: when in doubt, stick with bottled drinks. Local mineral water is perfectly safe to drink or treat your own water with purification tablets. Remember that ice must be avoided as well.
Uncooked vegetables are also not safe to consume, unless they've been properly treated by soaking in a solution of iodine. You should always peel your own fresh fruit. A pocket knife would be useful.
In the event of an emergency while trekking, a helicopter will be summoned. You will then be flown, with your guide, to Kathmandu where you will be met by our office staff and taken to the international hospital. If necessary, an onward international medical flight will be arranged. Anywhere else on the trip, you will be taken by road to Kathmandu where the same process will occur. Ensure that your insurance policy covers you for such unlikely eventualities. Medical evacuation by helicopter has to be paid for by guests prior to departure from Kathmandu.
Thefts do occasionally occur in Nepal. Valuables should be protected. Always carry your passport, airline tickets, and other valuables with you, or lock them in a hotel safety box. We recommend leaving valuable jewelry at home, and using lockable baggage.
Trekking Conditions & Preparation
Our trekking itineraries are only moderately difficult and follow a leisurely pace. Each morning, after an early breakfast we set out at about 8:30am, stopping mid-morning for tea and continue trekking until stopping for lunch around midday. The trails are winding and well worn, but are generally in good condition. Along the way there is plenty of time to stop and photograph the breathtaking Himalayan backdrop, and to explore the countryside. Following lunch, we continue along to our overnight accommodations, where we arrive around 4:00pm. During the day we walk 6–8 miles per day. While a considerable amount of the trek is downhill, this can sometimes be as tiring as uphill trekking. To condition yourself, we recommend a program of exercise at least two months prior to arrival in Nepal. Step class and stairs prepare one for the hills as well as jogging or bicycling on an incline; these exercises should be done in conjunction with proper stretching.
The highest ascent is in the middle of the trek, when we climb 3500', from Birethanti to Ghandruk, which at 7000', is the highest point on the trek. Otherwise, we trek mostly at altitudes of 3500'–5500'. Anyone in good health who enjoys hiking should find this trek enjoyable and should be able to accomplish it with ease, although somewhat of a challenge at times.
We urge our guests to purchase adequate trip cancellation, medical and baggage protection. Please ask for additional information.
While Nepal is generally a relaxed and informal country, there are a few practices the visitor should be aware of. When visiting temples you must remove your shoes. The same applies when you are entering a Nepali house. In some temples, it is forbidden to wear any leather goods. Other temples, such as those in Pashupatinath, do not allow non-Hindus to enter. These are normally marked with a sign in English, and we urge you to respect such practices.
Always ask permission before taking photos inside any temples, and before photographing any local people. Many villagers are unfamiliar with cameras and are unwilling to be photographed for religious reasons or for reasons of personal modesty. When permission is granted, always be sensitive when photographing people, and non-intrusive when shooting inside temples when prayers are in progress. Generally, photography is allowed outside Buddhist and Hindu temples and at religious ceremonies and festivals.
An unfortunate impact of begging is that it may create dependency. We discourage giving anything to beggars, particularly to children. If you wish to contribute, it is more beneficial to give to your tour leader who will distribute the donation to the local schools. Exceptions are made for giving to the physically handicapped and to wandering religious mendicants, called Saddhus.
Minimizing Your Impact
Ker & Downey strictly subscribes to an environmental policy of minimizing travelers' impact on Nepal's fragile environment. By utilizing lodges rather than camps while trekking, we minimize use of precious firewood. Solar power and generators are used for heating water at the lodges and kerosene is used for cooking. We urge all travelers to join us in seeing that no litter is left along trails.
A good standard telephone system is readily available in Kathmandu and Pokhara. Fax machines and E-mail are also available in Kathmandu and Pokhara. Neither phone nor fax are available while rafting, trekking or in Chitwan. Please give your postcards and the appropriate amount of rupees for stamps to your Ker & Downey Guide. He will mail them for you at the post office, which is more reliable than leaving them at the hotel reception.
The national language is Nepali, with distinct dialects spoken in different areas. All of our guides speak English, as do the porters at a more basic level. In the cities and towns, English is widely spoken, particularly among those serving tourists; but in villages and other more remote areas, the local people you encounter probably will not speak English.
Nepal is 15 minutes ahead of Indian Standard Time; 5 hours and 45 minutes ahead of Greenwich Mean Time; and 10 hours and 45 minutes ahead of Eastern US Standard Time. Therefore, when it is 12:00 noon (standard time) in New York, it is 10:45pm in Nepal.
We recommend bringing all the camera equipment and film you'll need for your trip. Most people find Nepal more photogenic than they anticipated, so bring more film than you think you'll need. However 100, 200 and 400 ASA films are widely available in Kathmandu and Pokhara and are relatively inexpensive. The amount of film depends on the individual. For the most part, slower films will be needed, though it's a good idea to bring a few high speed rolls for interior shots. Due to the high altitude, the sunlight is very intense in Nepal, and we recommend bringing a sun filter to cut the glare. Bring some extra camera batteries too.
Food and Drink
Kathmandu has a surprising variety of restaurants serving many types of international cuisine. Remember that Nepal is a relaxed culture and service is usually much slower than Westerners are used to. Outside of the cities, the food is primarily a combination of Nepalese (which has a large Indian influence), and Tibetan. Rice, lentils and vegetables are staples, with a variety of meats used somewhat sparingly. Tasty soups, fresh breads and steamed dumplings filled with meat or vegetables are among the local favorites.
The national drink is a sweet tea brewed with milk. The local beer is quite good, though it's not always served ice cold. Locally produced rum, vodka and gin are of good quality. Imported spirits are also available but are rather expensive, so if you have a favorite brand, consider using your duty-free allowance to bring a bottle with you. While Coke and Fanta sodas are available in Nepal, diet and decaffeinated beverages are not. Coffee is usually instant.
Although we have a picnic lunch each day while trekking, some travelers also bring their own snacks along, such as trail mix and candy.
Please refer to the "Health" section for details on food and water precautions.
Metered taxis are readily available. However, they generally do not use their meters for Westerners. Be sure to negotiate the fare before getting in or insist they use the meter. Taxis can also be hired for day outings at a fixed price. Hotels can organize taxis or private cars. Tipping taxi drivers is not customary in Nepal.
Three-wheeled scooters, known as tempos, are slightly cheaper than taxis.
These two-seater tricycles are a fun way to see the city. Be sure to negotiate the fare before getting on.
Bicycles and Motorcycles:
Bicycles can be rented from bike shops or hotels by the hour or day. Motorcycles can also be rented, and a driving license is required.
Location In Kathmandu
|French + Asian||Chez Caroline||Barber Mahal Revisited|
|Asian + Western||Rumdoodles||Thamel|
|Asian + Western||Cafe New Orleans||Thamel|
|Asian + Western||Cafe Mitre||Thamel|
|Continental||Thomas Kilroy 1905||Kantipath|
|Pizza||Fire & Ice||Thamel|
|Pizza/Pasta||Fire & Ice||Thamel|
|Indian||Ghar E Kabab||Annapurna Hotel|
Location In Pokhara
|Asian + Western||Moondance||Lakeside|
Recommended Reading List
- Nepal, APA, APA Publishers
- Nepal, Nelles, Nelles
- Trekking in Nepal, Bezruchka, Mountaineers
- Nepal, Lonely Planet, Lonely Planet
- Tiger for breakfast, Michel Peissel, T.B.I.
- Annapurna, Maurice Herzog, Harper Collins
- Snow Leopard, Peter Mattessen, Collins Harvill
- Travels in Nepal, Charlie Pye-Smith, Penguin
- The Mountain is Young, Han Suyin, Grafton
- Escape From Kathmandu, Stanley-Robinson, Unwin
- Shopping For Buddhas, Jeff Greenwald, Harper Row
- Forget Kathmandu, Manjushree Thapa
- The Royal Ghosts, Samrad Upadhyay
- Aama in America, Broughton Coburn
- Nepali Aama: Life Lessons of a Himalayan Woman, Broughton Coburn
- The Gurkhas, Sandro Tucci, Hamish Hamilton
- The Mountain Kingdom, Col. B.M. Niven, Imago (available through our USA office)
- The Honey Hunters, Eric Valli/ Diane Summers, Abrams
Note: Nepal has a number of excellent bookshops where novels (new and second hand) and reference books can be purchased.