Nepal is a wonderful country anyone would want to travel to. Whether it be to explore the wonders of the Himalayas or just for leisure, Nepal has immense opportunities for tourism. One of its major upsides includes its welcoming nature to all kinds of travelers.
Not just high spending tourists, Nepal also welcomes backpackers seeking to travel on a low budget. The friendly nature of the people and the low costs for accommodation and other essential services make this country a possible and even an enjoyable destination for backpackers.
Backpacking isn’t an easy way of travel. It can be difficult to get through the entire trip with a very limited budget, and to travel without basic information can even be fatal. Thus, all backpackers require guides or tips that can help them tackle obstacles that may come up during their travel.
It is very important to know at least the basic and mandatory costs that will be needed and a few more other costs that can be avoided. Nepal is a safe and affordable place to travel. With a variety of options ranging from a wide spectrum of prices, Nepal is indeed a perfect travel destination for backpackers.
Arrival in Nepal
When you first arrive in Kathmandu, you land at the only international airport in Nepal–Tribhuvan International Airport. Here, you are required to issue a “visa upon arrival”. Visa fees cost $25 for 15 days, $40 for 30 days and $100 for 90 days.
You may have already exchanged some cash at home, but if not, you can always find foreign exchange booths easily in the city. ATMs will accept your card but banks may charge you NRs. 500 per transaction. You may also want to get a SIM card to make some calls or to use the internet.
You can find a SIM card store inside the airport where you can register a card on your name by providing a passport photo and some identifications. The initial cost for registering a SIM card is NRs. 100 after which you can top up the balance as you like.
The next thing you want to do is to get a cheap but good enough room to stay in. You can find plenty of options with their respective prices online.
But not all hotels and lodges have uploaded their information online; mostly cheap ones do not resort to such activities. Thus, it is a good idea to look around the city and ask locals for hotels.
There are plenty of restaurants available everywhere. The most common dishes found around restaurants are Momo (dumplings), Noodles, traditional Dal Bhat set, etc. A meal costs anywhere from NRs. 100 and above.
Most backpackers eat the Dal Bhat set which comes with rice, lentils, vegetables, and meat curry (optional). Two sets of Dal Bhat a day can get you running for 24 hours, thus the statement “Dal Bhat power, 24 hours”. A typical set costs around NRs. 200 or more. There are plenty of restaurants with foreign cuisines available in the city, but having a meal at these places can be expensive.
The best way to travel as a backpacker is to travel by public vehicles like buses and micro vans, apart from taxis. They get you around the city for NRs.20-30 per ride. You can ask around for which bus to catch and hop on to reach the destination. Traveling by bus or vans can be massively cheaper than traveling by cab. A cab can cost you anywhere from NRs. 300 and above per ride.
While you’re in Kathmandu, you will want to explore this beautiful valley. There are a total of ten UNESCO world heritage sites in Nepal, out of which seven are located inside Kathmandu valley. Each site will charge you its entrance fee.
On a global scale, these entrance fees are not so high compared to other countries. But when you are on a budget, every penny you spend counts. You can cut costs by traveling to these sites on the bus. Make sure you have a map with you so you know where to go and what to see.
Next, you may want to visit other cities in Nepal. Traveling by road is always cheaper than flight. You can easily get a bus ticket that takes you to the city of your choice. Bus ticket prices are around NRs. 500 to 1000, depending on the destination and the type of bus. Some of the most popular cities to visit are Pokhara, Chitwan, Lumbini, Bhairawa, etc.
One of the major attractions of Nepal in the Himalayas and most people visiting this country arrive here to witness the surreal beauty of the mountains. Certainly, backpackers also want to experience the beauty of trekking in the Himalayas.
For trekking in Nepal, you can either sign up with a tour operator or simply choose to trek alone. The advantage of traveling with a tour operator is that you do not have to worry about accommodation, food or getting lost in the wild.
On the other hand, the benefit of traveling alone is the money you save. But if you choose to travel alone, you have to pay all the fees and permit charges yourself at the respective places. While doing so, some may feel lost not knowing where to go or what to do.
By trekking alone you save money as you do not hire guides, but if you are trekking in Nepal for the first time, it is highly recommended that you at least hire a guide. With a guide, you get familiar with the system and the dos and don’ts so that next time you’re trekking in the Himalayas, you can do things on your own.
Permits and entrance fees can be expensive, make sure you know the costs beforehand. If you cannot pay the charges, you can opt for short hikes or treks that do not include any permits. Some of the most popular options to do so are Nagarkot, Dhulikhel, Dhampus, etc.
Lastly, if you choose to trek alone you must know the details of the routes. You must have intermediate experience of trekking if you want to trek alone in the Himalayas. Before you go for your trek alone, make sure someone knows about your plans and your schedule.
Also, get travel insurance that includes trekking and high altitude traveling. In any case, if you require emergency attention, services are very expensive in these areas.
Cutting costs where possible
- There are plenty of spaces you can cut costs if you are willing to. Sometimes you can share rooms with other backpackers, which will cost you only half the price for the room. Thus, don’t feel shy to interact with others. Ask around and go for a low-end hotel/teahouse rather than the expensive ones.
- Medical costs are very high for foreigners in Nepal. Make sure you have travel insurance to avoid high costs in cases of emergencies.
- Bargaining can sometimes get you a good price in the urban areas, but don’t try bargaining in the rural areas.
- Do not try to cut costs regarding your health and safety. If you feel unsafe about traveling alone, spend a few bucks and hire a guide.
- Plan out your spending beforehand and avoid spending unnecessarily.
The budget you require for traveling in Nepal is entirely dependent on what you plan to do here. If you visit here to relax, you may do well with just $10-15 a day.
But for trekking, the costs can be a little higher. An average trekker can spend $20 -$25 per day, excluding the permit or entrance fees. Be prepared and plan out your trip properly.