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I’m turning into a bit of a trip advisor now that I am out journeying around the world by myself. I thought it was pretty cool when a couple of the members of the product development team from Patagonia contacted me about visiting Bali, now I’m giving advice to a teenager who is coming to Nepal to work on an organic farm. My road warrior advice is yours for the taking!


How to stay in touch with family and friends, attractions that I have visited and recommend, and what to pack have been at the top of the list on all emails that I have received from readers.


For today, here are my insights for the country where I am based now...the Kingdom of Nepal.

How to Travel in Nepal

 

MAKING CALLS IN NEPAL

Buy a cheap pay-as-you-go phone at Wal-Mart that uses a SIM card. Call the service and have them unlock the phone – that is a necessary requirement, otherwise the phone does you no good and you can only use that carrier’s service. After it is unlocked, you now have a phone that you can use anywhere in the world. Buy a SIM card once you get to Nepal and add whatever amount of time/cost you would like. You can buy a recharge amount in whichever denomination you need. I usually keep it on the low side of 50NPR a week (.80USD) to do all of the texts and calling that I need here in Nepal. If your phone has the capability for wifi, save surfing the net for spots where you get free wi-fi. Which leads us to calling home on Skype. If your phone has the capability, go ahead and add the app for Skype and set it up on your phone. Make Skype calls from your phone via wifi when you are at a free wifi spot.

CALLING HOME

Skype is the best and easiest thing. Buy an unlimited month subscription. I started with a 120 minute month subscription and had burned through it in a week. Once you start talking 20 minutes passes in no time! If you want a permanent Skype number, buy it AFTER you buy the subscription and you can get it for 50% off (yes, I am the budget traveler). That way your circle of friends will have your number programmed in and know to pick it up ASAP. The time difference does make it a bit whacky with staying in touch. You will want to bring earbud and microphone set with you if you plan on using your laptop, iPad or iPod for making Skype calls. The background noises can be a bit loud at times.

SHARING PICTURES

Facebook RULES for a reason. Quite honestly, that is the best way to upload and share pictures with everyone. Set up your own Page about traveling to share with whomever you would like. -one different than your personal page so that it focuses entirely on your travels and looks more professional. Just remember to direct everyone to that page from your personal page every other day…they all seem to forget.

INTERNET SERVICE

The funny thing about internet, I have had better connections in Nepal than Hong Kong or Bali. I have been based from Bhoudhanath in a homestay with speedy (but spotty) internet. Mind you, speedy here is half the speed of slow service in the United States. I do all updates, all photo uploads, everything via the internet here at my homestay. There are plenty of cafes with free wifi, so you don’t need to pay if you have your own laptop or iPad. There are also plenty of internet shops with computers to use. I had one friend tell me that it cost 100R for an hour long Skype call one time. Not a bad deal if you don’t want to lug you own electronics around. I would suggest bringing your own ear buds with speaker if you want to have a Skype call from one of the internet shops.

SPEAKING THE LANGUAGE

Nearly everyone speaks English or some type of broken English here in Nepal. I do suggest for buses and taxis that you write down the destination on a piece of paper to show the bus "hustler." The not-so-nice ones will tell you yes and take you in the complete opposite direction. Most fares are under 40NPR – it’s 22R from Thamel to Boudhanath on a mini for me. Always watch how much the locals give and then foreigners pay 15 to 20R more.

FOOD

Get ready for a complete change in your diet! DO NOT eat from a street vendor. Choose your restaurants carefully. ALWAYS drink water from the bottle. Possibly choose to be a voluntary vegetarian while you are here – I have!

Why do I say all of the above?!? Hygiene. It’s not the same as it is in the United States. Meat is left out on a countertop, sometimes stored in a refrigerated container when the shop is closed, but usually not. My breakfast is now porridge sometimes toasted with an egg scrambled into it to give me more protein, lunch is vegetable and tofu stir-fry and dinner the same. I have a great kitchen at my homestay so I save money and stomach problems by cooking 95% of my meals myself. At other times I eat at Toast or Flavors in Boudhanath…the only two restaurants that have not caused me major sickness the following night or day.

WATER

Always drink water out of a bottle that you twist the cap off yourself. I was walking past the back door of a restaurant yesterday and saw the big blue water container being refilled from a garden hose….that IS NOT the sanitary, filtered water that the label on the container claims it to be. It will take a while for your stomach and body to become used to the water. If you plan on staying a few weeks stick to bottled water only. If you plan on staying for months or a year, ease your body into it gradually. Everyone here is used to drinking water out of the tap, for foreigners it brings on a mean case of Montezuma’s Revenge!

BE AWARE

All Nepalese are not book smart (the majority only have 2.5 years of education) but certain unreputable characters are very crafty. I have been lucky to be surrounded with very, very nice people. After you have been hit upon by the first one you will understand of which I speak. So far I’ve had one stalker who first claimed that he wanted to practice English, I soon discovered that he wanted marriage and a green card. One practice session over tea the entire time looking at his pictures and his commenting on how good looking he was, opened my eyes to the real reason he wanted to “practice his English.” There is also the one fellow at the Stupa who walks up to me, never recognizing me and asks which country I am from. He then starts in on the sob story. I’ve only told him no 5 times. Now I just act like I don’t understand what he’s saying and can’t speak the language...I do this really great mixture of Spanish/French accent and confusion.

Don't go out after dark (the sun sets at 6:30ish here) unless you are with a large group of people - even then be careful. There is not a huge night life here so shouldn't be a problem. Even my friends who are from here don’t go out after dark. Big problem with high street kids.

EVERYONE wants to "practice their English." Most will then ask for money, some will propose marriage, very few actually need or want to practice unless they are sitting in a classroom where you are volunteering to teach.

There are plenty of beggars, I pass the same exact 6 every single day. I saw one get out of the taxi to go to his spot at the Stupa last week (even I don't take a taxi because I consider it too expensive compared to the mini bus). I don’t think any amount of money given to them will make them improve their lot in life. Give them money if you want, just remember they will be in the same exact spot the next day.

WATCH FOR PICKPOCKETS!

Especially on buses. I caught one fellow unzipping the pocket on my cargo pants red-handed. Thankfully a friend was there and picked him up by the collar and threw him off the bus; otherwise, I don't know what would have happened. I honestly was in shock since he had chummed up to me and had been talking me up. Watch the friendliest strangers because they are the ones who are usually up to something. I actually have a luggage lock on my backpack and keep it locked at all times. That is probably what prevented him from starting there.

Just be aware. Don’t become the statistic of the foreign visitor who got used. There is a high probability of that. A lot of the unsavory types look for the light skin, different clothing and makeup and come after you like ants on honey.

WHAT TO PACK

Pack everything in a big backpack or an easy-to-carry roll-along bag (there are no good sidewalks or streets here – rolling really isn’t an option). Bring a flashlight, an adapter kit, an umbrella, a towel, a sheet and a pillowcase. For clothing you only need hiking boots or tennis shoes, a pair of flip flops are a must, 2 pairs of pants, shorts (depending upon season), 3 t-shirts, whatever to sleep in, and a ballcap. Most people only have 2 outfits here. Wearing the same thing day after day is not frowned upon here like it is in the States which makes travel easy...that is why I wear those cargo pants in every single picture. Just plan on washing your prior day’s clothes each morning when you take a shower. That’s the easiest routine I have found.

Also bring a surgical mask and sunglasses and put them on the minute you step outside the airport - the pollution is HORRIBLE. If you don’t, you may spend your first two weeks with a BAD sinus infection. It happened to me and to every single newbie that I have met. Get over the looks of it...everyone (who is smart) is doing it! Right now everyone is also getting sick from the weather change and there is some viral flu/infection/something that is going around in the smaller villages and has caused a couple of deaths. If you get sick go to a pharmacy, describe your symptoms and they will give you exactly what you need.

Bring your own dosage of pepto or mylanta because the food will rock your world for a couple of days and you don’t want to be running for the pharmacy when your gut is screaming at you. Mosquito repellent is needed! Hand sanitizer too. Carry it around in your pocket and use after touching most anything...the level of cleanliness is not great.

ELECTRONICS

Everything here is EXPENSIVE and the one mobile phone that I had to buy ended up being a knock-off. Bring everything electronic that you think you will need – camera equipment, cards, batteries, etc. If you have a solar power charger that is easily transportable, bring it...you WILL need it. I live in a guest house with a battery backup for the power outages...even then it is a pain. We are usually without power for 8 hours a day, if not more. A solar charger is the one thing that I really wish I had for my laptop and camera. If you can get by without a laptop (I can't) bring a iPad or Kindle for doing all internet work - smaller and easier to carry.

HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOU NEED?

You need cold hard cash in your pocket for the visa that you will get upon arrival when you land at the airport. 15 days is $25, 30 days is $45 and 90 days is $100. You DO NOT want to deal with getting an extension...it is no fun. I would opt for spending more there at the airport than trying to extend it later if there is any question in your mind as to changing your date of departure.

I have managed to LIVE off of $300 per month while I have been here. My homestay is $100 USD per month, I cook most of my own food, meals are around 300R, bus fares around 30R. Depending upon how long you stay and where you should be able to do it on an affordable budget. You’ll spend most money on trinkets to bring home and doing the tourist attractions and treks.

WHEN TO VISIT

I came during the summer months, monsoon season. The rain here basically shuts down all of the fun stuff that I was hoping to experience.

High seasons here are: March, April, May and late September, October and November.
I’ve been told the winter is brutally cold. From experience the summer is way too wet.

Places to visit that I didn’t have the chance to see, but was told that I should: Pokhara, Lukla and
Chitwan National Park. I know that there are plenty of others locales, but those are the primo spots that are mentioned first.

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copyright 2011-2017 Loxley Browne

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