Nepal is a very beautiful nation, landlocked between two neighbouring nations India and China. Nepal is geographically divided into three regions (Himalayan, Hilly and Tarai). The elevation is so dramatic that within the range of about 200 km, the elevation starts rising from 70m (Kanchan Kalan) to 8848m (Mount Everest), the highest point on Earth. Between the plain Terai and the gigantic Himalayan region, mountainous Nepal nestles with dense green vegetation, wide inhabitant valleys, more than 6000 fresh Himalayan rivers and rivulets and numerous hilltops with striking Himalayan views. Out of 14, 8 Himalayan peaks above 8000m, more than 90 peaks above 7000m and 1300 peaks above 6000m stand tall in Nepal. Thousands of glaciers and glacial lakes cover a huge portion in the Himalayas.
Culturally, Nepal is enriched with more than a hundred different ethnic groups dwelling at different places. Kathmandu is the capital city of Nepal along with its neighbouring cities Bhaktapur and Patan conserve the cultural affluence of the nation. These cities are embellished with culture, history and sacred religions and hence the numerous monuments and shrines in the cities are enlisted as UNESCO Heritage Sites. Besides, the Peace Ambassador and founder of Buddhism “Lord Buddha” was also born in Lumbini, Nepal.
Nepal is rich in biodiversity because of its unique geography and dramatic attitudinal variations that have resulted in 11 bio-climatic zones. Nepal has established a wide network of protected areas to conserve biodiversity. The protected areas are widely scattered all over Nepal from lowlands of Terai to Everest region, the highest point on Earth, thus encompassing an expansive range of different bioclimatic zones. The protected areas, which cover about 19.67% of the country’s landmass, are classified into National Parks, Wildlife Reserves, Conservation Areas, Hunting Reserves and Ramsar Sites. There are altogether 9 National Parks, 3 Wildlife Reserves, 6 Conservation Areas, 1 hunting Reserve and 10 Ramsar Sites. Among them Chitwan National Park, the home of One-Horned Rhino and Royal Bengal Tiger; and Sagarmatha National Park, the home of Mt. Everest are enlisted in UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These protected areas especially Chitwan National Park, Bardia National Park, Sagarmatha National Park, Langtang National Park, Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, Annapurna Conservation Area, Manaslu Conservation Area are popular tourist destinations.
Accommodation in Nepal ranges from luxurious hotels to basic teahouses owned by local people. In developed cities like Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan etc you have extensive choices ranging from five star to budget hotels and lodges. However, accommodation during trek differs from the area and the type of trekking you have chosen. Normally, Everest and Annapurna region have comfortable teahouses throughout the trail. Everest region even has a few luxurious hotels. However, in most of the cases, local guesthouses and teahouses with common dining room and toilets are readily available. You have to share the room as well. In some remote trekking areas, teahouses can be quite basic with small bedroom and detached toilets. In such places, during peak time you may even have to accommodate in dormitory also. So, you need to keep your adventure spirit intact while trekking in remote regions. If you have chosen “tented camp”, you will be sleeping in tents throughout the trek.
Climate & Weather in Nepal:
The climate of Nepal ranges from tropical to arctic depending upon its topography and elevation. The southernmost part called a Terai region lies in the tropical region and has a hot and humid climate. The climate in the mid-land region ranges from subtropical to temperate with the increment in the altitude. The regions are pleasant almost all year round with cold mornings and nights during the winter season. The mountainous region towards the north, above 3000m, has an alpine climate with considerably lower temperature and thin air. Above 5000m are snowline region resembling polar regions with perennial snow and no human habitation. Beyond the snowline, lies the trans–Himalayan region. It has cold desertic terrain which features cold and dry climate with very less precipitation.
Unlike the western seasonal pattern, Nepal has 6 seasons; Spring from mid-March to mid-May, Summer from mid-May to mid-July, Rainy season from mid-July to mid-September, Autumn season from mid-September to mid-November, Pre-winter from mid-November to mid-January and Winter from mid-January to mid-March.
Spring is the most attractive season throughout Nepal. Especially hilly regions offer the most spectacular sight to behold because of the overladen rhododendrons. During this season, there is occasional shower and wind; and the heat starts building up gradually. The heat that has started to increase, continue to increase throughout Summer making it the hottest season of all. During this time, farmers start cultivation. The heat recedes only after the advent of Monsoon or Rainy season. Monsoon season is particularly important for farming country like Nepal. There will be extensive wet days which give the life-giving rain for farmers. Extra lustrous hills and farms laden with industrious farmers engaged in farming are a delightful spectacle for anyone. The weather starts getting drier as Autumn starts. The season is known for pleasant weather, clear skies and festivities as the country’s two major festivals Dashain and Tihar fall during this season. With the advent of Pre winter season, the temperature starts decreasing and skies start getting greyer. The temperature continues to decrease until February and remain constant until March. Though mornings and evenings are cold, days are milder. However, the mountainous region receives snowfall and chilling weather.
The Best climate for Trekking:
1. Autumn is considered to the best season for visiting Nepal. During Autumn, the skies are sparklingly clear allowing the superb view of hills and Himalayas. As the weather is also neither cold nor hot, trails are dirt and bug-free, travelling becomes pleasant. The country also observes its two major festivals Dashain and Tihar. So, the season also offers some delightful cultural experiences.
2. Spring is the another best season for travelling in Nepal. As mornings are clearer, and days are warmer and longer; the time is ideal for travelling. Trekking becomes a wonderful experience as hills are bedecked by rhododendron bloom and the high passes are free of snow. The time is also perfect for a wildlife safari.
City tours are possible all year round. There are some good treks that can be done during monsoon. Like Mustang, Manang, Dolpo and Simikot are partially in the Himalayan rain shadow; so trekking conditions are good throughout monsoon season in those places. During winter, most of the treks are impossible.
Before travelling to Nepal, it is highly recommended to consult your doctor for vaccination requirements. Well-facilitated hospitals and health care centres are easily available in cities. In addition to that, Kathmandu and Pokhara have CIWEC Clinic Travel Medicine Center, a fully resourced travel medicine centre established for providing health services to travellers and expatriates. In remote areas, there are health posts with limited facilities. For minor first aid services, trekking guides carry first aid kit with standard medicines prescribed by trekking doctors. However, they have very scanty medical knowledge and are not certified, practitioners. Hence, it is advisable to bring your own medical supplies that include your regular medicines (if you are taking any), pain-killing pills and medicines for cold, diarrhoea, nausea and fever; and any other medicines for those who have special health conditions. In case of emergency, the one and only priority of the company is to evacuate the traveller to the hospital as earliest as possible. In most of the cases, rescue and evacuation are done by helicopter. So, for this purpose, the traveller needs to have the insurance that covers rescue and evacuation.
The air is thinner by half than the sea level at the altitude of 18,000 ft (5500m) and by one third on the top of Mount Everest. Trekkers can suffer from Altitude Sickness from 2400m (8000ft) and higher, or even from lower in some cases. But, acute mountain sickness can be traced from 10,000 ft (3000 m) and above. Mild symptoms of acute mountain sickness or AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) are headache, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, lack of sleep and dizziness. In normal cases, the trekkers will feel normal after some days if remained at the same altitude. If the symptoms persist, the person needs to descend to lower altitudes as quickly as possible. If AMS is ignored, it can progress to High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE). Both are potentially fatal if not treated in time.
The chances of altitude sickness are low while travelling in Nepal as the itineraries are customized in such a way that they give enough room for proper acclimatization. However, one needs to be on guard and take all the necessary precautions while travelling.
Permit and Entry Fees:
Travellers in Nepal have to pay certain permit and entry fees while trekking, climbing peaks and visiting protected areas and heritage sites. It may sound like a hassle but you don’t need to worry as your local agency will arrange all the permit and entry fees on your behalf.
Monument Entry Fees: All foreign visitors have to pay an entrance fee while visiting the Heritage Sites and museums. The rate of entry fees is different for SAARC nationals (comparatively cheaper) and other foreign visitors.
TIMS: All the trekkers in Nepal should have TIMS (Trekkers’ Information Management System) card issued jointly by Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) to ensure the safety of trekkers and to control illegal trekking operations. The fee of TIMS card is different for group trekkers (Blue TIMS cards), FITs (Green TIMS cards) and South Asian visitors. Please visit the link for further details http://www.taan.org.np/pages/about-tims
Area Permit: There are some areas in Nepal where the entry of foreigners is controlled by the Government due to environmental, cultural or political reasons. So, while travelling in such areas, travellers require a special permit issued by the Department of Immigration of Nepal Government. Please visit the link for further details http://www.nepalimmigration.gov.np/content/trekking-permit-fees.html
National Park/Conservation Area Permit: If you are visiting protected areas or your journey trails through any such areas, you are required to pay entry fees before entering the areas. National Park entry fee is to be paid to Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) whereas Conservation Area Permit is issued by National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC).
Peak Permit: Climbing permit or Peak Permit is applicable while climbing mountains in Nepal. The permit for such peaks is issued by Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) and Department of Tourism.
In Nepal, airways and roadways are the most commonly used means of transportation. All cities have inner roadways and are connected by highways. You can easily get public and private vehicles like car, taxi, bus, van etc in cities. Rural areas are also connected by road networks through the roads get muddy and bumpy during monsoon, especially in the hills. In remote areas especially in the Himalayan region where the road is not accessible, animals like mules and yaks are used for transportation. Air transportation is more expensive than road transportation. Nepal’s major cities and some district headquarters are connected by airways. Private airlines and helicopter companies offer both regular and chartered services. In some cases, like travelling to Lukla, Jomsom, Simikot, air transportation is preferred as travelling by road takes a much longer time. Nepal has very limited railway connections. It has two connections with India; one from Raxaul (India) to Amlekhganj (Nepal) and another from Raxaul (India) to Janakpur (Nepal). Water transportation in some places is used just for recreational purposes.
Trekking in Nepal is organized in three ways.
1) Guide, Accommodation and Porter trek (GAP trek)
This type of trek comes with guide, accommodation and porter, that’s why it is called a GAP trek. The travel company provides an English speaking local guide, arrange for local porters and accommodation in the local teahouses. The travellers have to pay for the meals by themselves. It is an economical way to trek in Nepal.
2) Camping trek or Fully organized trek (FOT)
Camping Trek or Fully organized trek, as the name suggests is inclusive of all services that include meal, accommodation, porters and guide. As accommodation in this type of trek is done in tents, the trekking crew also includes sirdar, cook, kitchen help and assistants depending on the size of the group. It is the most expensive type of trekking as the gears and equipment are to be ferried throughout the trek by the help of porters and all the necessities are to be carried along. This type of trekking is appropriate in the areas where the accommodation facility is scared.
3) Lodge or tea house trek
This type of trek is similar to GAP trek, but it includes a meal as well. So, this type of trek includes Guide, Accommodation, Porter and Meals. The accommodation is done in local teahouses as in GAP trek.
All foreigners, except Indians, must have a visa while entering Nepal. You can get the visa from Nepali embassies and consulates overseas or it is easily available on arrival at Tribhuwan International Airport or at road border entry points. However, some nationalities do not get visas on arrival. Please be informed about it prior to your arrival. To obtain a visa upon arrival, you need to fill in an application form and provide a passport photograph and pay the visa fee. Visa application forms are available on a table in the arrival hall, though some airlines provide this form on the flight. If you have electronic passports, you don’t have to fill the form manually. After inserting your passport in the registration machine, it will automatically fill out your visa form. Your passport must be valid for at least six months and you will need spare pages in your passport for visa stamp. Children under 10 years need not pay any visa fee. A Nepali visa is valid for entry for three to six months from the date of issue.
For a single entry visa, the fee structure is:
- a) The US $ 30 for 15 days Visa
b) US$ 50 for 30 days Visa
c) US$ 125 For 90 days Visa
If you intend to have a side trip to India, Bhutan or Tibet, its better to take multiple entry visa, which will incur an additional US$ 20. The tourist visa can be extended up to a maximum period of 150 days in a single visa year i.e. from January to December. You can visit the immigration offices in Kathmandu and Pokhara for the extension. Visa extension fee for 15 days or less is the US $ 30 (payable in rupees only) and visa extension fee for more than 15 days is US$ 2 per day (payable in rupees only). Please visit the links for further details.