Fascinated by the mysterious country that a gateway to Mount Everest? I was too. Lured here by the promise of raw adventure, towering Himalayan peaks, rare wildlife and ancient culture, I spent a couple of months backpacking Nepal: hitchhiking in some of the world’s most pimped out lorries, eating and drinking the local delicacies, rafting in the wilderness, and exploring the Annapurna Circuit.
My experience in Nepal simply blew me away. Backpacker bargains are everywhere and the locals are keen to ensure you have a good time. The landscapes are simply some of the most striking in the world, and if you make the effort to get off the beaten track, backpacking Nepal is a one of a kind adventure.
Just watch out for the rice wine!
My research for the trip consisted of binge-watching Planet Earth and reading tales of adventurers trekking Nepal. This guide is meant to give you much more information than I had! Nepal is opening its doors to backpackers, and for many nationalities it is extremely easy to get a visa on arrival. As one of the cheapest countries to travel in the world, there’s no excuse not to go!
Nepal was one of the greatest adventures I’ve had in nine years travelling the world. And so, amigos, fasten your seatbelts and check out the Broke Backpacker Guide to backpacking Nepal on a budget!
Table of Contents
- Where to Go Backpacking in Nepal
- Best Travel Itineraries for Backpacking Nepal
- Places to Visit in Nepal
- Trekking in Nepal
- Backpacker Accommodation in Nepal
- Top Things to Do in Nepal
- Nepal Travel Tips
- Staying Safe in Nepal
- What to Pack for Nepal
- Nepal Travel Guide to Getting Around
- Nepal Backpacking Costs
- Must Try Experiences Backpacking Nepal
For such a small country, there is so much to do and see in Nepal, especially if you are trekking!
Generally, backpackers stick to these regions: Pokhara and the nearby Annapurna Region, and Kathmandu, Kathmandu Valley, and the Everest Region. You can also trek the Langtang Region for a minimal permit fee. Mustang and Menalu require hefty permit fees (hundreds of dollars) but are supposed to be incredible. Many backpackers also make the trip to Chitwan National Park to see rhinos and elephants.
Best Travel Itineraries for Backpacking Nepal
Below I have mapped out a few itineraries for backpacking Nepal: two focus on the Kathmandu region and the other focuses on Annapurna and Pokhara. I have also mapped out which treks work best for each respective itinerary.
Backpacking Nepal 2 Week Itinerary #1: Kathmandu Valley and Langtang
2 Weeks: Kathmandu Valley and Langtang
If you only have 2 weeks in Nepal, but still want to hike in the Himalayas, I highly suggest trekking in the Langtang region, a rewarding trail with minimal crowds and epic views. Plus, it only takes 7 days. You can then add on the rest of this itinerary, though it will be a bit rushed.
If you are flying into Nepal, you will more than likely start your trip in Kathmandu. As a city, Kathmandu gets mixed reviews. It is dusty, polluted, and a bit hectic, but in my opinion, it’s nothing compared to cities in neighboring India. There is still plenty to do and see in Kathmandu, and it’s a good place to get ready for a trek in the Everest of Langtang Region.
From Kathmandu, you can visit several beautiful towns in the Kathmandu Valley: I’m talking beautiful temples and delicious food all day everyday. I recommend checking out Bhaktapur and Patan just outside the city. Bandipur and Gorka are two more great towns to visit not too far out. Kathmandu and the valley can easily keep you busy for a week or more, especially if you are interested in Nepal’s history. While this area was heavily affected by the 2015 earthquake, you can still get a good sense of how incredible the squares and temples were.
Backpacking Nepal 4 Week Itinerary #2: Kathmandu Valley + Trekking
4 Weeks: Kathmandu and the Everest Region
You will most likely land in Kathmandu. Spend a couple days here exploring the city, and getting ready for your trek(s). The flags on the map represent the two treks mentioned below.
If you have 3 weeks or more in Nepal, you can hike the Everest Base Camp Trek or Gokyo Ri Trek. Both take a minimum of 14 days to complete.
More experienced and fit trekkers may want to allocate 3+ weeks and attempt the epic Three Pass Trek, which as the name suggests leads you over 3 passes over 5,000 meters, including Everest Base Camp. Due to the elevation gain and strenuous climbs, this hike is not for the faint-hearted.
Once you’re back, you’re going to want a few days of chilling. I suggest doing this in Kathmandu, which may not be chill, but sure is convenient. From there, you can explore the Kathmandu Valley, and essentially tack on the first itinerary above.
Backpacking Nepal 4 Week Itinerary #3: Annapurna and Chitwan National Park
The map above is meant to give you a rough idea of the Annapurna Circuit (as marked by the flags), Pokhara, Lumbini, and Chitwan National Park.
Pokhara attracts backpackers and hippies from all over the world, as well as most of Nepal’s trekkers, who are getting ready or coming back from the Annapurna region.
Most people end up spending at least a week here before/after trekking in the Annapurna Region. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants to keep you busy, as well as a couple day trips.
Another great excursion you can set up in Pokhara is a rafting expedition. You can book anything from a half day to two weeks! There are plenty of tourist shops in town, so bring your haggle game. The best time for white-water rafting and kayaking is after monsoon season in September and October.
If you are trekking in the Annapurna Region, I highly suggest the Annapurna Circuit. Catch a bus to Besisahar and just start walking! The hike takes a minimum 14 days – if you are just catching a bus from the Jomson area, as many hikers do. If you hike the entire circuit it will take up to 22 days.
Many people add the Poon Hill trek to the end of the Annapurna Circuit, but Poon Hill can be hiked as a 3-day hike from Pokhara too.
Another popular alternative is the Annapurna Base Camp, which takes 7-10 days. Most people complete it in 9. This hike requires a lot of stairs, but it takes you into the Annapurna Mountain Amphitheater; whereas, the circuit takes you around the range.
If you have 3+ weeks to trek, and you’re a badass, it’s possible to add the base camp hike to the end of the Annapurna Circuit. You can always decide this at the end since your TIMS permit covers both trails – though tell the officials you plan to do both so they write it down.
After your trek, you’re going to want to chill in Pokhara for a few days. Once you’re rested, you can catch a bus south to Lumbini, which has extreme significance for Buddhists as this is where Buddha was born.
Next, catch a bus to Chitwan National Park and set up an eco-friendly tour in the park. You can take a tour in a jeep or a walking tour! You can expect to see rhinos and elephants in the park. Tigers live here as well, though I hope you don’t see one on a walking tour!
From Chitwan, you can get to the border to cross into India, or you can go to Kathmandu to catch a flight out of Nepal.
This is the starting point for most backpackers travelling Nepal; get ready for organised chaos and sensory overload! While not as mental as the streets of Delhi in India, Kathmandu can be pretty overwhelming.
There is so much to see, smell, eat and marvel at it’s hard to know where to start. I recommend spending at least 3 days in Kathmandu to get over the jet lag and explore! Head to Thamel, Kathmandu’s backpacker neighborhood. Here you will find an array of guesthouses, bars, shops, and restaurants.
UNESCO protected Durbar Square is a popular spot when backpacking Nepal. It’s a square filled with the history of rulers and royalty. (Durbar literally means palace.) Many of the buildings around the square are actually older than the square itself; Kasthamandap is the oldest building in the valley, at three stories and made out of wood, it’s a beautiful ancient sight to awe at. You can easily spend a day wandering the streets, exploring the temples, people watching and enjoying a refreshing beer on one of the rooftop cafes.
Don’t leave Kathmandu without spending some time at the Hanuman Dhoka. Nepal’s Royal Palace has some incredible history; founded in the 4th to 8th centuries AD and then expanded to what it is now in the seventeenth century by the king. You can spend aday exploring the sprawling palace and it’s 10 courtyards. Plus, it is free to enter if you have a ticket to visit Durbar Square! Sadly the palace felt the effects of the 2015 Earthquake and some areas are undergoing repairs. Don’t let this stop you from visiting though; most of the palace is now accessible and restored to its previous beauty.
Stop by Swayambhunath, one of Nepal’s most incredible temples. Mobbed by monkeys, Swayambhunath is often referred to as ‘the monkey temple’. Make friends with the locals as you explore this sprawling ancient and chaotic mixture of Buddhism and Hinduism. Perched on a hill overlooking the city, on a non-hazy day it boasts one of the best views over Kathmandu City.
Bhaktapur was once described as the best preserved medieval state in Kathmandu. This beautiful place was devastated by the 2015 earthquake and many buildings were destroyed. That said, this is one of my favourite cultural places in Nepal. Pick your way through the damage and you’ll find beautiful medieval streets, incredible hand carved temples, and artisans making cloth chiselled wood and pottery.
Stop and chat to the local craftsman and try your hand at making some traditional pottery or chiselled wood. You’ll need to bring your passport with you to enter this ancient state and pay a $15 fee, which goes towards the upkeep.
Many people visit Bhaktapur as a day trip from Kathmandu, but in my opinion it’s worth staying here a couple days to soak it in. This really is an incredible city!
For many travellers, this is the start of their Nepal trekking adventure and the gateway to the mighty Mt Everest and the Himalayas. The thrill starts on the plane ride in; Lukla is said to have ‘one of the most dangerous airports in the world’. I would say it’s one of the most thrilling and beautiful plane rides you’ll ever experience!
At 2680 metres above sea level, there is not much for backpackers in Lukla unless you are planning to trek the Himalayas or to Everest Base Camp. For those trekking, Lukla is a great place to pick up last minute essentials, hire a guide, adjust to the altitude and plan the next stages of your trip. There’s also very limited backpacker accommodation available. For a place to crash, check out La Villa Sherpani, it is one of the cheaper options available but again, worth booking in advance as it’s often full.
Welcome to a glimpse into the past. Here, time almost seems as though it has stood still and Bandipur offers a beautiful insight into what Nepal once was.
Explore the old streets on foot, there are no cars here giving the old streets a European feel. Tourism has saved many of the derelict Newari houses and buildings many of which are now cafes and lodges offering some of the best Chai in Nepal. There are some local guesthouses that put up backpackers and the Bandipur Samira Homestay is one of the most popular.
Put on the map by backpackers travelling Nepal off the beaten track and other tourists on pilgrimage, Gorkha is an extremely religious small town. Newar’s here on Pilgrim often believe the Shahs living here are reincarnations of the God Vishnu. Visit the Gorkha Durbar which used to be a palace for the Shahs and is now a popular historical site with views of the village.
Scaling The world’s highest mountain is the dream of many mountaineers. The reality is that climbing Everest is an extremely challenging and expensive endeavour – the permit alone costs $11,000!
Trekking the Himalayas to Everest Base Camp is a popular backpacker route, which is a lot more affordable and doesn’t require technical experience; however, the Everest Base Camp trek is crowded and busy and I recommend finding something a bit quieter during high season (October, November, and April) because large tracts of the Everest Base Camp trek have been trashed. (Check out our Trekking in Nepal section right below!)
Don’t fancy hiking? Treat yourself and blow your broke backpacker budget on an unforgettable helicopter tour of Mt Everest, a knuckle whitening experience which will leave you grinning like an idiot for days…
Often described as ‘Goa in the Mountains’ it is easy to fall in love with this small town surrounded by mountainous scenery. Escape the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu and take some down time to chill out and relax before venturing into the mountains.
Most Nepal trekking adventures start here; Pokhara is the gateway to the incredible Annapurna Circuit Trek. At the local bars, you’ll bump into plenty of backpackers finishing or starting the trek. Check out the Silk Road and the Busy Bee for good company, good food and cheap beer.
There’s more to Pokhara than the initial chilled out vibe, it also caters to those looking for adrenaline packed adventures. Arguably one of the most beautiful places in the world to jump off a mountain and sail through the air, paragliding is hugely popular here.
For those needing more adrenaline; Pokhara is surrounded by some beautiful white water rivers so grab your kayak! After all the adventure grab some beers, your camera and head to the lake to catch the sunset, it’s a perfect way to end the day.
One of my favorite past times in Pokhara was catching one of the nightly movies at the Movie Garden, which had a wonderful atmosphere and projector screen under the stars, or at the restaurant Blind Tiger, which offered free movies while you eat!
Lumbini is the birthplace of histories most loved and respected figures, this is where Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) was born. It’s unsurprising to learn that this beautiful town attracts those on pilgrim from all over the world. The town is also protected by UNESCO and was one of the most humbling places I visited on my travels to Nepal.
Check into the Siddhartha Lodge and spend at least one night here on exploring the fascinating town and making the overnight bus worthwhile. If your haggle game is strong you can expect to pay around 250 Rupees per night! If that’s full, check into Ananda Inn where you can get a room for $25.
The highlight of Lumbini is definitely the beautiful Maya Devi Temple. Learn about the birth and rise of ‘The Buddha’ while marvelling at the beautiful architecture and carvings surrounding the temple.
Backpacking Chitwan National Park
Arguably one of the world’s most successful protection sites for Rhinos, Chitwan National Park is a wildlife lovers paradise. Granted World Heritage Protection in the 1980s Chitwan is home to Tigers, Rhinos, Birds, Elephants and many more incredible animals. Often it is a bit too pricey to stay in the luxury lodges around the national park so most backpackers head to the small town of Sauraha close by and check into the Chilax House – a private double room is $3 a night.
Spend at least two full days exploring Chitwan National Park, if you are an animal lover like me, you’ll be here a lot longer. Trek through the bush in search of some of the rare and protected wildlife, hop in a dug out canoe and get up close and personal with alligators and the local bird life. Chitwan is an experience you will not regret whilst backpacking Nepal. Elephant tourism is popular here in Chitwan and whilst the majority of sanctuaries care for the Elephants well, do your research before booking experiences with Elephants. And seriously, don’t ride them…
Backpacking Bardia National Park
Often described as Chitwan 30 years ago before a high influx of tourism, Bardia is very dedicated to the protection and conservation of the wildlife in Nepal. The park itself protects 968 square kilometers of forest and grassland as well making up one of the largest stretches of Tiger habitats in all of Asia.
It’s a long journey here but totally worth it to have a more chilled out, off the beaten track, wildlife experience compared to Chitwan.
Trekking in Nepal
Trekking in Nepal is an absolute must… The country is truly incredible and boasts friendly people, stunning temples, unexplored caves and untapped white water rafting but really at the end of the day, it’s the mighty Himalayas and the amazing Himalayan treks that keep calling backpackers to Nepal.
Before you leave Kathmandu make sure to go to ‘Shona’s Alpine Rental’ on Jyothi road near Thamel Chowk. It is run by a British climber and he has barrels of practical advice on pretty much all treks in Nepal. He also sells and rents trekking gear. Make sure you have a down sleeping bag if you are hiking at high elevation. He can offer more up to date advice on the rest of the equipment than I can.
On most of these hikes you do not need camping gear, but if you are trying to get off the beaten path and camp, you should being your own gear. Although you can stay in guesthouses and buy food as you go it can be handy to have a backpacking tent and a cooking stove.
Never go trekking without a head torch in your pack, it can save your life – check out this post for a breakdown of the best value headtorches around. Pack a water filter bottle so you can be sure you can drink the water without getting sick and using excess plastic, which is frankly a huge issue in Nepal.
You can buy very decent trekking gear in Nepal for a pretty good price, providing you haggle, but no matter what, bring your own hiking shoes. You do not want to break in new shoes on the trail.
Before you leave Kathmandu you must also arrange your TIMS card and pay a fee to protect the National Parks’ natural beauty. Though if you are starting in Pokhara, you can arrange permits for the Annapurna region there. Treks for Mustang are arranged out of Jomson, which is on the Annapurna Circuit. You can easily arrange permits yourself the day before a hike, so do not pay a middle man.
I do not recommend hiring a guide or porter for any of the hikes listed below – unless you are particularly unfit – though many feel comfortable hiring a guide for Everest. Still, generally any of the tea house hikes are hard to get lost on. Any guesthouse in Kathmandu will happily store any gear you don’t want to carry whilst trekking. This is almost always a free service.
The Everest Base Camp Trek
This trek is extremely popular and known for in your face mountain views. It gets busy but there are some other routes in this region that will get you more off the beaten path.
Goyko Ri Lake Trek
This trek is becoming a popular alternative to the crowded Everest Base Camp. This 14-day trek starts in Kathmandu, and takes you to the Goyko Glacier lakes high in the mountains. Gokyo Ri itself provides exceptional views of Everest and the Himalayas. You also get to marvel at the massive Ngozumpa Glacier and the Gokyo valley from Gokyo Ri.
Annapurna Circuit Trek
There are loads of different treks around the Annapurna range but this is definitely one of the best.
The Annapurna Circuit trek starts in Besai Sahar and officially finishes in Naya pul. The new road has ruined part of the trek though and I recommend finishing in Jomsom to avoid the dust. Bank 14 days so you have a couple of acclimatisation days in Manang. The trek itself can be pretty arduous so try to acclimatise. When I did this trek there was no phone signal and only basic supplies along the way, but now most villages have WiFi… how times have changed.
When in Manang, check out the awesome day treks and the little cinema for some chill time. Before you trek, make sure you have stocked up on chocolate, snacks and any clothing you need – you can buy stuff on the way but it will cost triple what it costs in Kathmandu.
You can get free accommodation everywhere if you ask around and promise to eat your meals at that guesthouse, although this may only apply during the quieter months of March and September. Ask around before you choose which Nepal backpacking trek to go for. Find out more about my adventure on the Annapurna Circuit Trek here.
For a more up to date report, check out my mate Kaspar’s post on trekking the Annapurna Circuit independently in 2017.
Annapurna Basecamp Trek
Possibly one of the most popular multi day hiking trips in Nepal, the Annapurna Basecamp trek puts you in (what feels like) touching distance of some magnificent peaks. Make sure to stop in Pokhara or Kathmandu before venturing onto the trail to pick up your TIMs and Permit for the track.
It’s only around forty dollars for both the TIMs and the Permit and these are essential if you want to go trekking in Nepal! Easily accessible, you just need to hitch a ride to the ‘starting point’ which is about an hours drive from Pokhara. I don’t recommend hiring a guide or a porter for this trek; the walking distances each day are not long and really unless you are super unfit it’s an unnecessary expense!
The Annapurna Base Camp trek starts and finishes just outside of Pokhara, you’ll just have to hitch a ride in and out. Easy! The path is pretty well trodden and due to its accessibility and year round trekking options, you will come across people often!
I still carried a route map with me while I trekked, which came in handy when I would sidetrack off the main path… The trek will take you around 7 – 12 days to complete. It took me ten days to finish this trek, but if you are new to trekking in altitude I would plan to take the full twelve days.
There are plenty of accommodation options in the villages and mountain towns along this trek; from fancy lodges to the more popular, teahouses in the mountains. The teahouses offer hearty meals for hikers, you’ll find the price and variation doesn’t change much from teahouse to teahouse and the beds can sometimes be no more than a mattress on the floor. Not that I complained after a long day of hiking with achy legs!
The Langtang Trek in Northern Nepal is often overlooked and is massively underrated. What it lacks in mighty peaks, it more than makes up for with epic views and beauty. Hop on a bus at Kathmandu and make the 8 hour ‘local’ journey to Syaphru Besi, the official starting point of the Langtang trek.
Ensure to bring your TIMS card with you (or get one from Kathmandu before arriving), and enough money to pay the National Park fee (roughly $35). This is all easy to organise on your own, and don’t pay a middleman! The Langtang Trek is well marked and easily done solo rather than guided, so I wouldn’t recommend hiring a guide or porter for this trek.
The Langtang Trek will finish in the small town of Dhunce and will take you around a week to complete if you avoid the day trips, which would be a mistake! There are some awesome add on routes along this trek and my favourite is the Langtang Glacier which is further up the valley.
I hired a tent from the small village of Kyanjin Gompa to spend the night here as there are no teahouses in the area and wow, it was definitely the best part of the hike!
Hearing the cracks of the glacier while star gazing in the evening was the perfect end to a few days hiking. If a Glacier is just not enough you can also scale the peaks of Tsergo Ri (4984m) and Kyanjin Ri (4773m) both round trips from Kyanjin Gompa. The Langtang track itself is a relatively easy hike; the first two days will be hard inclines but after giving yourself a break and time to acclimatise, the last stretch of the journey is relatively flat before dropping down to Dhunce.
Enter into the hidden world of Lo. Once part of Tibet, this region is relatively untouched by visitors and hikers, making it an incredibly unique hiking experience. Expect to see some incredible ancient buildings contrasting with the surrounding unspoiled nature; time to get lost in some awesome wilderness. Starting and ending in Jomson, the easiest way to get here is via a plane ride from Pokhara or a rickety bus on the worst road in the world.
Before landing, you will fly through the deepest gorge in the world, Kali Gadaki, an unforgettable entrance to what is one of my favourite hikes in the world.
The upper Mustang Trek requires permits and TIMS. These can all be arranged yourself, I wouldn’t pay a middle man as the permit itself is $500 without a middle man fee! Don’t let the price of the permit put you off, the money all goes towards protecting the beautiful national park.
The Mustang Trek follows the ancient Salt Caravan route and is well marked into the ground with a number of markers along the way to keen you on track. It can take up to 14 days to complete this track, I wouldn’t recommend doing it any quicker or you will miss out on some incredible sights and also, the altitude is pretty intense!
Ensure to stop at some of the ancient monasteries and schools along the way, in particular the Amchi School: a place which teaches the art of traditional Tibetan medicine and keeps the practice alive! The highlight of this trek for me, however, was stopping at the oldest monastery in the world built by an ancient Tibetan magician, Guru Rinpoche. Although I am in no way religious this was an incredible experience! It’s around a 5 day walk from Lo Manthang and it’s close to Dhakmar.
The best time of the year to hop on this trail are the months of June to August when the rest of the country experiences a lot more rain. Throughout the trek, the accommodation will be mainly homesteads and tea houses. If you enter a tea house and no one is around, pop your head into the kitchen. Why? Well in traditional Tibetan culture the kitchen is pretty much the centre of the house and where most people will gather…. just like what happens at house parties.
Check out my Ultimate Guide to the best hostels in Kathmandu
Back in the day, most Nepalese accommodation was family run guesthouses. These are still around and offer a great chance to meet a local family. Backpacker hostels have now started to pop up in the tourist hotspots, like Pokhara, and there’s a lot of cool places to stay.
There is some incredibly good value Airbnb options in Kathmandu. On a recent visit (April 2017) I scored a great apartment, in an awesome location, with AC, a balcony overlooking the street (which was the highlight of the room), and lightning fast WiFi for $16 – check it out here and grab $35 free credit for Airbnb here.
You can pick up other Airbnb apartments for as little as $9 so if there’s two of you, Airbnb will be cheaper than a hostel. Most of the hostels in Nepal fall in the $4 – $7 range for a dorm bed. If you’re doing some trekking it’d be a good idea to pack your camping hammock & sleep outdoors for free!
|Location||Accommodation||Why Stay Here?!|
|Kathmandu||Shangrila Boutique Hotel, Family Peace House, Kathmandu Home Hotel||Check into any of these kickass hostels. There's some dirt cheap beds around and many hostels include a basic breakfast.|
|Pokhara||Ice View, Harvest Moon Guest House||Dorm rooms in a backpacker institution for $8 a night.|
|Chitwan||Chilax House, Eden Jungle Resort||Get a private double room at only $3 a night!|
|Lukla||La Villa Sherpani, Yeti Mountain Home Lukla||There's very limited backpacker accommodation available but these two are some of the cheaper options available at roughly $40 a night.|
|Bandipur||Himalayan Hideaway Guest House, Riverside Spring Resort||Again not too backpacker friendly, the cheapest accommodation you'll find here will be around $30 for a room.|
|Lumbini||Hotel Ananda Inn, Hotel Peace Palace Nepal||Epic rooms with a view, about $25 a night.|
Top Things to Do in Nepal
1. Trekking in the Himalayas
There is no question that trekking in the Himalayas is a highlight to anyone’s Nepal trip. There are so many options as well! Everest Base Camp and the Annapurna Circuit are the most popular, but there are plenty of well-marked trails with far less people. I recommend picking up a Lonely Planet: Trekking in Nepal copy to start researching which hike is best for you!
2. Explore Kathmandu Valley
There are many beautiful old cities to explore in the valley with ancient temples and squares.
3. Participate in a Homestay
There’s no better way to really embrace Nepali culture whilst backpacking Nepal than staying with the locals. You’ll often find yourself being invited to stay with the locals when travelling the rural areas and the hiking regions. Take the offer; not only is it a free bed and some awesome company, but it will be the highlight of your trip to Nepal… it certainly was for me!
4. Go White Water Rafting
I do love a good adrenaline kick and white water rafting in Nepal certainly has it! With numerous river systems, there are plenty of opportunities to jump in. Whether you take a guided rafting trip or for the more experienced, jump in a solo kayak, you’ll be in for a thrill!
Many tours run multi-week excursions where you camp along the river banks!
5. Live it up in Thamel
Shopping, drinking, smoking, partying or cheap accommodation, Thamel has it all. Known for being incredibly backpacker friendly, you’ll be able to snag yourself a deal here for pretty much anything. Also, it’s great to find some smoke and a good party… A must do place to check out on your backpacking Nepal adventure!
6. Hang out at the Pokhara Lake at Sunset
Whether you hire a man with a boat or grab a few beers, a few mates and chill; get yourself on the lake for sunset.
7. Track Rhinos at Chitwan National Park
There are few places left on earth that you can see rhinos so easily.
Below is an in-depth travel guide chalked full of travel tips, budget costs, what to pack, the best time to visit Nepal, and so much more!
Books To Read while Travelling Nepal
Below I’ve highlights some amazing books set in Nepal. Enjoy!
The Backpacker Bible – Get it for free! Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building a life of long-term travel with an online income. To inspire and help the next generation of Broke Backpackers, you can now grab ‘How to Travel the World on $10 a Day’ for free! Get your copy here.
The Mountain: My time on Everest: Everest is the ultimate goal for serious altitude climbers and no one knows this better than Ed Viesturs. He’s climbed all fourteen of the world’s 8000 metre peaks and eleven expeditions to Everest with seven summits, amazing! In this book, he describes the personal, harrowing, deadly, and inspiring tales of the mountain. Couldn’t stop reading this for a while day!
Into Thin Air: You’ve probably seen the movie, but the book is just woah! This book is about an incredible account of the unfortunate and devastating disaster on Mt Everest in 1996 which claimed five climbers lives and left countless others in pieces. This book will grip you, I couldn’t put it down and it still didn’t put me off hiking!
Lonely Planet Nepal: Not often one for guidebooks but the Lonely Planet actually really helped me out whilst backpacking Nepal. Great maps, tips for getting to even some of the most remote places and heaps of advice for trekking! Well worth carrying around.
While the Gods Were Sleeping: A Journey through Love and Rebellion in Nepal: I literally couldn’t put this book down. A great read describing the culture, religion and life in Nepal from an ‘outsider’ trying to make a new life in Nepal.
Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring home the lost children of Nepal: Funny and tragic are not normally two words I would use in the same sentence, but it works for this book. The title says it all, read how Conor dives into the darker side of Nepal battling to save the lost children. Have tissues at the ready…
The Best Little Guidebook for Trekking the Everest Region (Nepal Insider Editions): If you’re planning to do any hiking in Nepal, this is the only ‘guidebook’ you’ll need. Gives great information on gear, expels myths, offers loads of info on hiking trails and alternative walks to avoid the crowds. This book was my bible when hiking Nepal.
Nepal (National Geographic Adventure Map): Calling all adventurers and hikers, this map is for you. Offering greatly marked hiking routes or just an excellent wall decoration. This was better than any map I could have bought on the streets of Thamel.
The Snow Leopard: Wildlife and adventure all rolled into one. No wonder I freakin loved this book. Read how Matthiessen ventures into the Himalayas not only to study the incredible rare wildlife up there, but also on a spiritual quest for Buddhism.
The Violet Shyness of Their Eyes: Notes From Nepal: Possibly one of the most relatable and real tales of Nepal. Written by a woman who lived, worked and travelled there. If this book doesn’t inspire you to travel Nepal, I don’t know what will.
Nepal Travel Phrases
If you get through a trip to Nepal without picking up any phrases, I will be surprised. While many Nepalis have a great grasp of English, (even some of those in the ruralist of areas) they are incredibly keen to teach you some Nepali.
Whilst it is a difficult language to pick up, especially for native English speakers, grasping the basics will help you build instant friendships. Throughout backpacking Nepal I used uTalk Go, a free language learning app, to get to grips with the language and learn a few phrases.
Staying Safe in Nepal
Nepalese people are friendly and always willing to help. Nepal is a safe country to travel in. As always, keep an eye on your valuables, especially in Kathmandu or when a bus is unloading. I walked around at night in Kathmandu and Pokhara with no issues; however, be on your guard late at night or have a couple buddies. This is just common street smarts!
If you are trekking in Nepal, you must be aware of the symptoms and consequences of Altitude Sickness. People die from altitude sickness in Nepal every year! Truthfully, it affects people different, and often has nothing to do with physical fitness. Make sure to acclimatize on the trail, and descend whenever you have any symptoms.
The mountains have a mind of their own. Even on popular treks you need to be aware of the potentials of avalanches and snow storms. The chances of this heavily increase during winter, especially in January and February. Don’t hike during monsoon season (June – August).
I strongly recommend travelling with a headlamp whilst in Nepal (or anywhere really – every backpacker should have a good headtorch!). This is especially important on the trails; you will have a couple days where you hike before the sunrises or have to walk around in the dark. Moreover, power outages are frequent in Nepal! Check out my post for a breakdown of the best value headlamps to take backpacking.
Check out Backpacker Safety 101 for tips and tricks to stay safe whilst backpacking.
Pick yourself up a backpacker security belt to keep your cash safe on the road.
Check out this post for plenty of ideas on ingenious ways to hide your money when travelling.
Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll in Nepal
Backpacking Nepal is not complete without a party, Nepalese style. Expect plenty of homemade Rice Wine (Vodka), karaoke, dancing and weed.
Alcohol is widely accessible and you’ll be able to find a happy hour in the bars of Thamel. However, the party really starts when you venture out of the cities, meet the locals, and get invited to some rowdy house party, which I had the pleasure of experiencing a couple of times…
Alcohol is widely available in the big cities, but once you move into the more rural areas don’t expect to find imported beer. Rice wine is a popular home brewed alcohol, which tastes more like vodka with the strength of absinthe: all the great ingredients for a rowdy night.
The Hindu paint throwing festival of Holi is probably the greatest party I have ever been to and if possible you should try to make sure your visit coincides with Holi!
Drugs in Nepal are of course illegal, but this is a fairly recent event and up until the 1970s, marijuana was legal. However, it is pretty common for guys in the street to approach you with a tempting offer in your ears as you wander the streets of Thamel. Be careful what and who you buy from; the police are cracking down hard on tourists using drugs, especially in the cities.
Rural Nepal has some of the best, and cheapest, weed in Asia. Ten grams of pollen cost me 1000 rupees, which was probably too much, in Kathmandu from a cycle rickshaw dude. He originally asked for $150, at which I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. Quality shit – you just need to be able to haggle hard to get a reasonable price.
Nepal is a relatively traditional country and although I did have a couple of instances where girls were making eyes at me, it’s hard to approach as usually young women are our with a chaperone – their mother or brother! My mate Aiden went on a date with a Nepalese girl, and to his surprise she brought her brother along for the ride!
Check out Blazed Backpackers 101 for tips and tricks to stay safe whilst partying.
Insurance For Backpacking Nepal
Even if you are only going on a short trip, you should always travel with insurance. Have fun on your Nepal trekking adventure but please do get insurance – take it from someone who has racked up tens of thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it.
Moreover, if you are going to be trekking at high altitudes, there is always a risk of needing a doctor or evacuation!
As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be travelling. – so be sure to get your backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on a backpacking adventure! Travelling without insurance would be fucking stupid. I highly recommend World Nomads.
Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.
What to Pack for Nepal
Nepal is a pretty religious place and the presence of the two main religions, Buddhism and Hinduism, are felt everywhere. Conservative dress is the best option to avoid unwanted attention. Basically, just wear what you would back home on a casual day. Jeans and T-shirts (that cover shoulders) are widely worn throughout Nepal.
That being said, the touristy areas are pretty used to Western clothing. If you’re coming from India, you’ll immediately notice how much more relaxed Nepal is about dress. Still, don’t wear anything too revealing, and always cover up in loose clothing from shoulders to knees at temples.
On every adventure, there are five things I never go traveling without:
1. Security Belt with Hidden Pocket: I never hit the road without my security belt. This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off. This is hands down the best way to hide your cash.
2.Travel Water Bottle: Always travel with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. AR bottle are tough, lightweight and maintain the temperature of your beverage – so you can enjoy a cold red bull, or a hot coffee, no matter where you are. For every AR bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an initiative to reduce plastic in our oceans!
3. Microfibre Towel: It’s always worth packing a proper towel. Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.
4. Headtorch: I would never travel without a headtorch. Even if you only end up using it once, a decent head torch could save your life. If you want to explore caves, unlit temples or simply find your way to the bathroom during a blackout, a headtorch is a must. Currently, I’m using the Petzl LED headlamp with red light (which insects can’t see).
5. Hammock: Taking a tent backpacking is not always practical but hammocks are lightweight, cheap, strong, sexy (chicks dig hammocks) and allow you to pitch up for the night pretty much anywhere. Right now, I’m rocking an Active Roots parachute hammock – it’s light, colorful and tough.
For plenty more inspiration on what to pack, check out my full backpacking packing list.
Best Time to Travel in Nepal
Centred around the summer monsoon, Nepal has four seasons. They are all important to consider when making the decision to backpack Nepal. No doubt the mountains have attracted you here. You don’t want to rock up in the wrong season only to find the mountains hidden by haze and cloud.
Overall, the better time of year to visit Nepal is late September – late November (Autumn). This tends to be peak season for visitor though. Expect optimal viewing of the mountains, great trekking conditions with less pollution and bugs thanks to the monsoon rains, but also the crowds and prices to go with it.
This is also the best time to go rafting.
Want more specifics? Let me break down the rest of the year for you amigos planning to backpack Nepal…
Winter (Dec – Jan): While it will never snow in the likes of Kathmandu, the nights will be chilly and the mornings dank. You will find trekking regions pretty deserted and many guesthouses will shut up for the winter. If you can bare the bitter cold, December is still a great time to trek. You can still get clear days and way less crowds than in November.
Spring (Feb – April): This is another popular ‘tourist season’. The weather is getting warmer, the nights are getting longer, and the flowers are in bloom. A great time of year for wildlife viewing and photographers alike. The growing heat in this season can cause some hazy mountain backdrops, but when trekking you are likely to walk above the haze, which is pretty cool! If you can rock up in late February/ early March, it will still be a bit cold but there won’t be many other tourists around, this is my favourite time to go backpacking in Nepal.
April is the busiest time in spring.
Pre Monsoon (End April – June): Temperatures around this time are growing by the day. It is a lot more humid in anticipation for the oncoming monsoon. If trekking at this time of year, choose treks taking you higher to enjoy the cooler temperatures and be prepared for funny tummies.
Monsoon (June – September): Often described as the most ‘Nepali’ time of year. The air is pretty clean, the flowers and fields are alive with colourful plants, butterflies are in abundance and the fruit is just Yum! Trekking, however, becomes a little tricky. Expect floods, bridges can be washed out and tracks/roads blocked by landslides and views of the mountains are rare.
Useful Apps to Download Before Backpacking Nepal
XE Currency – My go to currency app when travelling, you will definitely need this when travelling Nepal. If not, you have some fantastic maths skills! A great way to keep track of how much your spending and understanding the exchange rate.
Google Translate – This app helped me out BIG time! Especially when exploring the rural areas not yet blessed with English signs. Working offline you don’t have to worry about a huge data bill. It won’t necessarily help you learn the language but it’s great for practical and quick day to day scenarios.
Maps.Me – The most useful app you will ever download. Download the full map of the country before you go and use it offline while you backpack and Trek Nepal. No data used and a minimal amount of time getting lost means more time for fun stuff!
HIDE.ME – I always have a VPN ready to go on both my phone and laptop, I personally use Hide.Me which is one of the fastest and most reliable options out there. This particular VPN allows for up to five connections which is handy for keeping all your devices connected without having to purchase multiple VPN packages.
Nepal Travel Guide to Getting Around
Nepal is perfectly sandwiched between India and Tibet, and also shares borders with Bhutan. Many travellers will enter Nepal overland from India. With visas now being available on arrival, entering overland is super easy.
There are plenty of tour companies in India offering transfers to Nepal; however, you can easily get yourself there by bus. Taking the train or bus? I recommend the overnight service and trust me, it’s worth splashing a little extra for A/C and a bed…
It is increasingly difficult to enter Nepal overland from China, as you have to pass through Tibet. It is impossible to enter from Bhutan unless you are on an organised tour.
For those backpacking Nepal without the luxury of time, the best way in is to catch a flight to Kathmandu. There are flights with the likes of Etihad (via Abu Dhabi), Jet Star (Via, Delhi), Delhi Airlines, and an ever-increasing number of other airlines. I found the best deals to Nepal with Jet Star and Air Asia. Both are indirect, but the layover connections are good and fast!
Most flights will land in Kathmandu, and from here you can fly or bus to other parts of the country, such as Pokhara and Lukla.
Entry Requirements for Nepal
The cost of a visitor’s visa into Nepal will range from $25 – $100 depending on your nationality and the length of the visa you require, which really isn’t bad compared to outrageously expensive India…
Immigration is beginning to take overstaying your visa slightly more seriously. If you do overstay you will be charged around $5 a day and you will be detained until you are able to pay. Thankfully, to extend your visa it’s just a quick visit to the Nepalese Department of Immigration at Kalikasthan, Kathmandu.
You can obtain a 30, 60, or 90 day visa on arrival and almost any nationality is able to get the visa on arrival… Just bring USD! They will only accept USD at the border, and if you don’t have dollars you will have to exchange whatever you do have for a bad exchange rate.
You can extend a visa up to 90 days while you are in Nepal, but it is cheaper to get a longer visa on arrival. If you know you are staying in Nepal longer than 30 days, get it sorted at the border.
How to Travel in Nepal
Travelling Nepal is definitely its own adventure. Get ready for narrow roads, intense traffic, musical horns and some of the best views in the world! Nepal has numerous transport options and incredibly friendly locals helping you to explore the country. The bus network is getting better and for long distance, they are a great way to get across the country!
By Bus: Most backpackers will opt to travel Nepal via the long distance bus network. Buses in Nepal are cheap and with so many ‘companies’ offering rides, even some of the most remote and rural areas are becoming more accessible. Micro/Minibuses are perfect for those short on time.
The drive from Kathmandu to Pokhara will take anywhere from 6-12 hours! There is a lot of construction on these single lane highways, so be preferred for traffic jams.
Minibuses tend to be new, with good brakes, A/C and will hold a comfortable maximum of ten people. Although the drivers will often cram far more people in to make as much money as possible from one trip.
Alternatively, hop on a tourist coach if you have a bit more time and want to stop along the way. I recommend Greenline coach services. They take longer than the minibuses but will stop along the way and trust me, you’ll want to stop for some of the views. Or at least to take a break from the windy roads…
By Domestic Flight: For those short on time, domestic flights are a great way to explore a country and Nepal is no exception. However, domestic flights in Nepal are notoriously unreliable due to changing weather conditions so try to be a little flexible! Easily organised in the country, your accommodation can often book flights for you. Make sure to grab a window seat so you don’t miss out on the spectacular views, especially if you are taking the flight from Kathmandu to Lukla!
Taxi: Definitely not a rarity in the city, and you’ll be asked if you need a ride before you even start looking. Just be sure to use a metered taxi or haggle and agree on the price before you get in. Nepalese taxi drivers have a reputation of touring you around town and offering to take you to friends shops promising good deals.
Be firm with directions and if you uncomfortable stopping somewhere, tell them. The Nepalese are extremely helpful though, even the taxi drivers, so much so they will often agree to take you to a place, even if they don’t know where it is. Try to have the address in Nepali available and don’t panic if the driver stops to ask people for directions.
Motorbike: Not for the faint hearted, motorbikes are becoming an increasingly popular way to explore Nepal. With a motorbike, you have a lot more freedom and will see a side of the country that is completely inaccessible if you are travelling by bus.
Best of all, motorbiking Nepal can work out pretty damn cheap as you can simply sell your used motorbike to another backpacker at the end of your trip. That being said, it is much cheaper to buy a bike in India and drive it over the border. Just make sure to have the right paperwork!
The road quality in Nepal is questionable with many tight corners and heavy traffic. Driving is definitely for the experienced bikers. While backpacking Nepal I was a passenger on the back of many motorbikes and only drove my own bike in Pokhara. If you are an experienced driver, travelling Nepal on a motorbike will be an awesome adventure, but if you’re new to real motorbiking then Nepal is not the place to learn.
Hitchhiking in Nepal
Backpacking Nepal can be made an even more unique experience if you hitchhike!
Hitchhiking in Nepal is incredibly easy and believe it or not, incredibly common. This is a popular method for locals to get from place to place so of course while I was travelling Nepal I had to give it a go. I hitched my way all over parts of Nepal, and managed to catch a ride even when in the middle of nowhere.
The thumbs up method we’ve all see in movies works in the main tourist areas such as Pokhara and Katmandu. Venture into the more rural areas and locals will attract the attention of oncoming cars and trucks by a waving motion with one arm.
It never takes too long to catch a ride in Nepal. Most people will stop out of curiosity or concern, and inevitably – after asking some questions – offer you a ride. It is rare buses will stop to offer you a lift when hitchhiking in Nepal. The majority of your lifts will be in cars, trucks and lorries.
Don’t always expect a seat. Many times when hitching I sat in the back of a pickup truck. The views from the back of a pick up are pretty epic though!
While hitchhiking in Nepal I was only asked for money a handful of times. The best way around this is to explain you have none before you hop in. A Nepalese phrase book was my godsend when hitching; once away from the tourist trail, many people do not speak English, but will still try to chat to you anyway… so it’s more fun when you have a rough idea of what’s being said.
Onwards Travel in Nepal
The only international airport in Nepal is in Kathmandu, and it is small! With only 5 gates, it’s pretty common for flights to be delayed. Furthermore, with unpredictable mountain weather, internal flights can be cancelled with a moment’s notice.
There are several border crossings between India and Nepal. They are all relatively hassle free, but you need to apply for an India visa beforehand.
It is increasingly difficult to cross into China because of the strict visa process for Tibet. You cannot cross into Bhutan unless you are on a tour.
Travelling in Nepal is easy to do on a broke backpackers budget, especially when you move out of the cities and into the rural areas. I spent on average around twenty dollars a day in Nepal. Sometimes a little more when opting for a cheeky smoke along the way. It could be done for less if you camped out everywhere, and only eat street food, which is certainly an option.
Assuming you are staying in homestays or local guesthouses, taking the local bus instead of the tourist coach, hiring a local guide, trying the local delicacies and occasionally splurging for an awesome activity; you can expect to spend no more than forty dollars a day. Honestly, that might be quite a hard amount to spend in Nepal! I would say $25 a day is a very comfortable backpacker budget.
If you are trekking between tea guest houses, there really isn’t a need to hire a guide, especially in the Annapurna region. You will stay in local guesthouses and eat at them too. Always bargain and offer to eat dinner and breakfast at the guesthouse in exchange for a free bed. This worked everywhere except the pass and Menang.
I spent about $20 a day on the trail (2018), though $25 is a safe budget. Food is more expensive, but that’s also all you are buying. I could have spent less if I’d eaten less Apple Pie, but many people spent more (if you’re ordering meat and yak steak more frequently).
The more remote you are, the more expensive the food. There are no ATMs on the trail, so budget $30 a day just in case.
Money in Nepal
Asia is great for making us broke backpackers feel loaded! Nepal certainly doesn’t disappoint. $25 = 2,720.80 Nepalese Rupee, pretty awesome huh?
Easy to confuse with the Indian Rupee, the Nepalese Rupee is a closed currency meaning you can’t obtain it before arrival. If you are coming from India and have some Indian Rupee these can be spent in Nepal, but try to avoid large notes and expect your change in Nepalese Rupees. Entering by air? The best currency to bring is the US Dollar; it’s easy to exchange and you’ll need USD to pay your visa fee anyway.
When exchanging your money try not to have too many 1000 Rupee notes. Yes, it might make you feel pretty cool but you may have a hard time spending them. Many local shops, rickshaws and taxis will simply not have enough change to give you when you hand this bad boy over.
Cash machines are widely found in the major tourist areas such as Pokhara and Kathmandu, but many of these, charge pretty insane withdrawal fees so it’s advisable to avoid small ATM transactions and get out a bunch of cash at once – just make sure you hide it well.
Try to use ATMs that have security guards or look like they are in telephone boxes. It’s not because the streets are a big bad place, but it just keeps you and your money extra safe and away from the attention of pickpockets. If you need to transfer money internationally, use Transferwise, it’s the fastest and cheapest way to move money around when traveling.
Once you head into the rural areas don’t expect ATMs anywhere. Carry cash with you, just enough for what you will be doing and a hidden backup stash in case of delays.
Top Tips For Broke Backpackers
Eat the local delicacies: Food is part of the experience after all! And with the local delicacies being so delicious and super cheap, why would you not? Plus, supermarkets are not so cheap or easy to find….
Stay with new friends: When you meet some awesome locals while hiking and they invite you in for a cup of chai/rice wine and offer you a mattress, take it. It’s a massive compliment for the host (your new best friend) and also a free bed! Plus an amazing experience you’ll look back on forever.
Keep it Local: Where possible drink the local beer, eat the local delicacies and for day trips, try to use local companies and guides. By using local companies you can haggle a bargain price that larger, international tour operators won’t offer. Plus supporting local businesses is awesome!
Be Your Own Guide: Unless you are super unfit you really don’t need porters, mules and guides for most of the trekking routes in Nepal. All you need is a map, your backpack and some motivation and you are good to go. Trekking without a guide/porter will save you up to $25 a day!
Hitchhike: Take a break from the overcrowded taxies and chaotic buses. Wave down that pimped out lorry and jump in! Hitchhiking in Nepal always guarantees an adventure and a new friend. Hands down my favourite way to travel Nepal and it’s free!
Pack a travel water bottle and save money every day!
Volunteering in Nepal
Long term travel is awesome. Giving back is awesome too. For backpackers looking to travel long-term on a budget in Nepal whilst making a real impact on local communities, look no further than World Packers. World Packers is an excellent platform connecting travelers with meaningful volunteer positions throughout the world.
In exchange for a few hours of work each day, your room and board are covered.
Backpackers can spend long periods of time volunteering in an awesome place without spending any money. Meaningful life and travel experiences are rooted in stepping out of your comfort zone and into the world of a purposeful project. World Packers opens the doors for work opportunities in hostels, homestays, NGOs and eco-projects around the world. Broke Backpacker readers get a special discount of $20 – just use this discount code BROKEBACKPACKERand membership is discounted from $49 a year to $29.
Backpacking Nepal For Free
Are you a native English speaker looking to earn cash whilst traveling the world? Teaching English online is a great way to earn a consistent income—from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection. Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills! It’s a win-win! Check out this detailed article for everything you need to know to start teaching English online.
In addition to giving you the qualifications to teach English online, TEFL courses open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.
Broke Backpacker readers get a 35% discount on TEFL courses with MyTEFL (simply enter the code BACKPKR), to find out more, please read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.
Whether you are keen to teach English online or looking to take your teaching game a step further by finding a job teaching English in a foreign country, getting your TEFL certificate is absolutely a step in the right direction.
Internet in Nepal
In the main cities, you can get free wi-fi at pretty much any cafe or hostel. It’s free, though not always reliable or lightening speed. Daily power outages are common throughout Nepal, though in my experience they wouldn’t last long.
Surprisingly, you can find wi-fi in the villages in the mountains now, but power outages are even more common here, and the power can be shut off for days or weeks at a time. It’s total luck of the draw.
Must Try Experiences Backpacking Nepal
People in Nepal
I didn’t really know what to expect before travelling to Nepal. As a country, it is often portrayed in the media as extremely poor, chaotic and to be a place with some serious crime problems. I fully expected that once I arrived, and at first I was constantly be on my guard to avoid being conned.
Looking back I can’t believe this thought entered my mind at all. The Nepalese people are some of the most incredible, kind and genuine people I have ever met. There wasn’t a moment I felt unsafe when backpacking Nepal.
Whilst backpacking Nepal I was invited into numerous family homes, they offered me food, a free bed and smokes while refusing to accept any form of repayment from me. Even when trekking, Nepal sherpas would offer hot cups of chai as I stumbled up endless switchbacks, much to their amusement. Nepalese hospitality opened my eyes to just how freaking awesome backpacking Nepal is. I was never short of local friends and family who helped me explore this incredible country in such a unique way.
Food in Nepal
Nepal is a country made up of people from different backgrounds and ethnicities and this is reflected through the food. As well as tasting amazing, Nepalese food is generally one of the healthiest South Asian food. Made using local produce, with a heavy focus on lean meat and chunky veggies and flavoured to perfection you won’t be disappointed.
Check this article for some yummy must try foods in Nepal.
Unsure of where to start or what’s good? Here’s some must try foods when backpacking Nepal…
Daal Bhat – If Nepal had a national dish this would be it! Basically made up of rice, lentils, potato and curry. It’s especially popular with hungry backpackers because it’s usually all-you-can-eat style. A must try for all travellers.
Momos – Nepal’s version of dumplings, but better (in my opinion). Traditionally filled with meat and vegetables, these are the perfect snack!
Sel Roti – A perfect cross of doughnut meets bagel. Often eaten during religious festivals and as a breakfast treat. These are best made fresh from street vendors.
Gorkhali Lamb – Slow cooked lamb curry, with incredible flavours served with rice and potatoes. Seriously, I’m salivating just at the memory. A great dish to end a hard trek.
Festivals in Nepal
Maha Shivaratri (February): Devout Hindus bathe early in the morning and fast on this day, then visit Shiva (God of Destruction) temples. The best place to witness the festival is at the Pashupatinath temple of Kathmandu, where thousands of Sadhus (Hindu holy men) smoke marijuana and hashish.. People also drink Bhang, a drink made by mixing ground nuts, spices, herbs and extracts of marijuana into milk.
Holi (March-April): Holi is a very colourful and playful Hindu festival where people smear coloured powders on everyone in the streets. This is an excellent festival to visit while backpacking Nepal.
Nepali New Year (April 14th): A particularly lively place to spend the day is Bhaktapur, where the Bisket Jatra festival takes place. A huge chariot carrying the god Bhairab is pulled through the streets, ending with a tug-of-war chariot battle in one of the squares.
Buddha Jayanti (April 29th): Buddha’s birthday is observed at Buddhist shrines and monasteries throughout Nepal, but a particularly grand ceremony is held at Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini.
Rato Machchhendranath (May-June): This is Nepal’s longest and largest festival, held in Patan, to welcome the monsoon season. A large chariot is used in a procession all throughout Patan.
Dashain (October): Dashain is the most important festival to Nepalis, where they celebrate good prevailing evil. People return to their home villages and spend the fifteen-day festival with their families. .
Tihar (November): In each of the three days, a different deity is worshipped: on the first day the crow, the messenger of Yama; on the second, dogs; and on the third, the goddess Lakshmi is worshipped by lighting houses with oil lamps, candles and colorful lights.
Brief History of Nepal
The history of Nepal has been influenced by its position in the Himalaya and its two neighbours, modern day India and China. It is a multi-ethnic, multiracial, multicultural, multi religious, and multilingual country.
Much of Nepal’s history can be defined by a series of kingdoms and dynasties. In the 14th century one of them, Jayasthiti Malla. introduced the caste system into Nepal. Like India, this caste system ranked people by their birth family, though it’s not very popular anymore.
The power of the Malla dynasty reached a peak in the 15th century. However, after his death in 1482 his kingdom was divided between his 3 sons.
For most of the 20th century, Nepal remained under the king’s power, but in 1990 widespread protests led to the restoration of democracy. Nepal gained a new constitution and then in 1994 a minority Communists government took power. This struggle for democracy continues today, though generally things are much better.
In May 2008 the monarchy was abolished and Nepal became a republic. Nepal gained a new constitution in 2015. Their current maoist communist government has made friends with their neighbor China, who is now assisting with rapid infrastructure development in Nepal. This has led to an astranged relationship with their other neighbor India, who they conduct almost all of their trade with.
Today Nepal remains a poor country. Most of the people live by farming and tourism, but things seem to be looking up.
Being a Responsible Backpacker in Nepal
Reduce your plastic footprint: Perhaps the best thing you can do for our planet is to make sure you do NOT add to the plastic problem all over the world. Don’t buy one-use water bottles, the plastic ends up in landfill or in the ocean. Instead, pack a tough travel water bottle.
Go and watch A Plastic Ocean on Netflix – it’ll change how you view the plastic problem in the world; you need to understand what we are up against. If you think it doesn’t matter, get off my fucking site.
Don’t pick up single use plastic bags, you’re a backpacker – take your daypack if you need to go to the shop or run errands.
Bear in mind, that many animal products in countries you travel through will not be ethically farmed and won’t be of the highest quality. I’m a carnivore but when I’m on the road, I only eat chicken. Mass-farming of cows etc leads to the rainforest being cut down – which is obviously a huge problem.
Recently, my gear-venture, Active Roots has started to sell water bottles. For every Active Roots water bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an awesome initiative aimed at educating people on the risk of single use plastic and helping to clean up our oceans. Help save the planet, whether you take an Active Roots bottle or not – TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for your plastic footprint, don’t be a dick.
Need more guidance? – Check out our post on how to be a responsible backpacker.
It isn’t hard to be a responsible traveler in Nepal. Above all, treat the people with respect. If you are hiring a guide or porter, pay them properly and make sure they are well-equipped to handle the high elevation and cold.
Always give back to the local communities. You can do this by staying in local guesthouses and eating their food. Be respectful when you are visiting religious temples and sites. Make sure to cover up. I shouldn’t have to say this, but don’t write stuff on the temples!
If you are visiting a national park in Nepal, use eco-friendly and conscious tours. Let’s try to create a more green and ethical industry in Nepal.
And speaking of being green, my least favorite part of Nepal is all of the waste and trash among such beautiful nature. Tourists are a large reason for this! Pack out your trash like you would at home. Don’t buy plastic, and bring a water filter instead. DO YOUR PART!
Backpacking Nepal has truly been one of the greatest adventures of all of my travels. You can spend years exploring the Himalayas and never get bored. You’ll find it easy to meet other backpackers in hotspots like Pokhara and Kathmandu, and there’s always a party around. Enjoy Nepal. I know I have!
Want to learn how to travel the world on $10 a day? Check out the Broke Backpacker’s Bible for FREE!
Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a book or sort your insurance, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse crap. Your support helps me keep the site going.
Need More Inspiration?
- 20 Best Hostels in Kathmandu (Updated for 2018)
- Backpacking Pokhara Travel Guide
- The Best Hiking Boots To Carry on your Adventure
- Onwards to Backpacking India Travel Guide
- Is Nepal Safe?
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