Nepal is a special place. It is probably the one country I have been to that continued to take me by surprise as each day passed that I spent there. It is incredibly diverse and there really is something for everyone - from the hot, flat and rice paddy-covered Chitwan to the chilly, majestic Himalayan region to the charming old town of Bhaktapur. After spending 2 weeks immersing myself in the Nepali way of life and then eight days travelling the tourist path, I put together some useful tips for anyone planning a trip to Nepal.
Be prepared for difficult travel
One of the things that surprised me most was how difficult it is to get anywhere. The only way to get from each of the main tourist points is to take the bus, as there are no train lines. The roads themselves are, for the most part, in horrendous condition and you are likely to spend more time in the air than on your seat. Journeys will therefore take much longer than they should. There are a few options for buses, and the ‘tourist’ buses are much more comfortable than the local buses. I’d recommend taking a local bus for a short trip, purely for the surreal experience of being cramped on a tiny bus with as many locals as can possibly fit! This post explores the infamous Nepali buses in more detail.
Don’t expect things to run on time
As I mentioned in my post about my volunteering experience, Nepal is notorious for having its own time-system. Buses rarely run on time and you won’t be offered a reason as to why. You really have to go into your trip to Nepal with a patient and open mind; and be prepared to add at least a few hours to each of your estimated travel times.
Schedule enough time for trekking
The only real way to get close to the Himalayas is to trek to them. While you can see a spectacular view of the Annapurna region from Pokhara on a clear day, it is still a fair distance away. Treks range anywhere from a few days to several weeks, but again the shorter treks are unlikely to get you up close and personal with the mountains. I wish we had scheduled more time for trekking, as we were only able to fit in a two day trek from Pokhara - Australian Base Camp. If you do have limited time, I would recommend this trek - I found it highly enjoyable and not too challenging.
Although Nepal has increasing numbers of tourist visitors each year, many Nepalese people will still be surprised to see you, especially in the more rural areas (if you venture there). They will, therefore, also be surprised and intrigued by the way you dress. As a female, I felt much more comfortable in long clothes, be it a dress or light trousers. The few times I did wear shorts, I got a lot of stares, so if you know you won’t be comfortable with that, then pack long clothes and cover up when you can.
Embrace the chaos!
While a country with its own time-system and hectic roads may sound slightly confronting, Nepal is a fantastic and eye-opening place to visit. In my experience, the Nepali people are cautious and reserved but kind and genuine. They have their own way of doing things, but it works. Embrace the chaos of Kathmandu and the disorganised travel system and be glad you are lucky enough to be part mayhem!
All pictures were taken in Nepal and are my own.