I've been an active Search & Rescue volunteer since 2007 with the Coconino County Sheriff's SAR Team in northern Arizona.
Traveling To The Land Of The Himalaya
Since I'll be going from the United States (Arizona, to be specific) to Nepal for three months beginning in early May, I thought I'd keep track of my travel plans and information here, in case it might be of help to anyone else planning a trip. I'll also update the information when I return. (Edited to add: which I have.)
If you have any questions or suggestions for me about Nepal travel, please leave them in the guestbook below.
There's also a 10-question, multiple choice quiz to test your knowledge of Nepal. See how you do!
A Map Of Nepal [I'll be flying into Kathmandu and then traveling to the town of Pokhara and beyond.]
A New Passport for Nepal
My first order of business
I needed a passport for my Nepal trip, since mine had expired years ago. And the prices have gone up quite a bit since I was a teenager. Now it costs $75 for the passbook and another $25 for the application fee paid to the post office.
First, I downloaded and printed the application form from the U.S. Department of State website. I filled it out but didn't sign it, as instructed. That I had to do in front of the lady at the post office.
Before going to the post office to submit the application, I went to a local Walgreens store to get a passport photo taken. Passport photos have to be 2 inches square and show a full face view from the shoulders up. You need to submit two copies with the application.
I then pulled out my birth certificate and old, expired passport, both of which were damaged from a flash flood several years ago. (It's not necessary to have your old passport to obtain a new one, but do bring it along if you have it.) When I gave these items to the lady at the post office, she said that they may be a little too damaged to be acceptable, but she'd send them in, she said, and if the birth certificate in particular comes back denied, she said it's easy enough to get a new one on Vitalchek.com. (My birth certificate will be returned by mail.) She also made a copy of my drivers license to submit with the application.
For more information on obtaining a passport and where to apply in your area, see the U.S Department of State Passports information page.
1/11 Update: Got my passport! No new birth certificate was necessary, and they returned the original, along with my old, expired passport and the new one. On to the next order of business I go: a travel visa.
Nepal Travel - A great overview of the country (photos and video footage)
A Lonely Planet Guide to Nepal
A Travel Visa For Nepal
Required for any length of stay
Now that my new passport has arrived, I'm looking into getting a 3-month travel visa. I know you can get one upon arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu or at a number of land border points of entry, but I'd like to be able to take care of this ahead of time if possible. So I called the Embassy of Nepal in Washington, D.C. at 202-667-4550 and left a message, since no one was available at the time. I'll try calling again in a couple of hours.
You can visit the Department of State website to learn more about Nepal's entry and exit requirements, including information about the fluctuating airport exit tax collected from all foreigners, regardless of their length of stay, by the airlines or travel agents. (It's advised to retain 1100 rupees for airport tax when departing Nepal by air.)
1/13: Okay, I got right through to the embassy the second time I called, and I was instructed to go to the Embassy of Nepal website, where I can download a visa application. Off to do that now....
2/10: I just mailed off my visa application, the $100 fee for a 3-month, multi-entry visa (cashier's check or money orders only), and my passport, along with return postage. The man at the post office suggested I send the material Priority with delivery confirmation. Return will be Priority as well.
2/15: Got my 90-day visa! So my passport is back, and now it's time to buy my airline ticket.
Pokhara, Nepal -- Where I'll Be Spending A Lot Of Time - Considered Nepal's Second City
Although it's really more of a town, located at the foot of the Anapurna range about 200 kilometers (124 miles) west of Nepal's capital, Kathmandu.
Immunizations For Nepal
Shots ... my least favorite part of this whole travel thing
According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention's Health Information for Nepal page, the following vaccines are recommended for those traveling to the country, in addition to being up-to-date on regular immunizations (ie. the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) vaccine, polio virus vaccine, etc.):
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese encephalitis (if visiting rural farming areas)
- Polio (or an adult booster if necessary)
I'm going to feel like a pincushion! But I'll be discussing all of this with my family doctor well before the trip.
Antimalarial medications are also recommended for certain areas of Nepal below 4,000 feet.
See the CDC website for up-to-date health and immunization information and travel notices.
Note: A friend of mine suggested I request Thimeserol-free shots (Thimeserol = mercury preservative). I'd not heard of that before, but it sounds like good advice.
My Nepal Immunization Log
2/25: I made an appointment with the County Health Department to get my shots. The lady said I'll be on the "accelerated" schedule for the Hepatitis immunizations, because I leave in just two months, and usually the shots are more spread out. She said the Hep A and B are combined into one shot (good, fewer pokes!). I'll get one next week, one the following week, and one two weeks later.
I'll also get an adult Polio booster. She advised me to get prescriptions for Malaria and Typhoid pills from my family doctor, which I take two weeks before leaving. I have an appointment with my family doctor for April 2nd, so that will be plenty of time.
The lady at the Health Department advised against getting the Japanese encephalitis shot. She said that the chances of getting it are so low that it's not worth the possible "complications." Yikes.
3/30: After getting my first in a series of Hepatitis A and B vaccines at the County Health Department, I contacted Ingo about the rest of the immunizations and medications recommended by the CDC for travel to Nepal.
And this is what he told me....
Ingo says I "absolutely do not need malaria medication since we are not planning to go to the Terai-Low-Lands at the Indian border. There is no Malaria anywhere else in Nepal.The altitude is too high for that. A booster for tetanus is recommended if you have been vaccinated longer than 10 years ago."
As far as rabies goes, he says that all of their dogs are up to date on their vaccines and that "it is not recommended to take such vaccine before as protection. ... It is very rare that a visitor is bitten and needs treatment. Happens of course to locals and therefore every health post and clinic that is in reach of a larger population has the vaccine."
Regarding Typhoid, he tells me that "if you do not drink any water from unknown sources (which we will not allow anyway as long as we are together with you) and if you do not fall to the temptation to eat greens or raw stuff like lettuce, slices of radish, cucumber and tomatoes etc. in any restaurant or munch unwashed unpeeled fruit," there is no need for Typhoid pills either.
Hmm, I'll have to think about that one. There were "ifs" in there.
Ingo advises that I should not eat food from street vendors and no ice cream or fresh-pressed juice except in "real good restaurants" that he and the team recommend. The food "their guys" cook is safe, meaning the meals that will be provided to me by the HRDSN.
Ingo says, "Lately, there are also all the medicines thinkable against anything that can befall a visitor to Nepal simply available in the local pharmacies. And as for Nepal, no prescription by a doctor is needed, because there are not enough doctors in Nepal anyway. I am a pharmacist for tropical disease by first profession, so do not worry; you are in good hands. You should more worry about Giardia and amoebas. That is the most common illness that tourists catch in Nepal while going out eating in restaurants."
He goes on to recommend....
"Having a pack of Tinidazole 2000 mg with you is the best you can keep for just in case. Amoebas and Giardia can also get to you if you eat clean food and well cooked food with unwashed hands or touch a toilet doorknob, a dirty restaurant garden chair, a table and then touch your sandwich with the same unwashed hands. Tinidazole 2000... is cheaper to buy it here though. Every street corner pharmacy has it. The package costs between 1 and 2 Dollars."
Some things to think about there.
Airline Tickets To Nepal
I'm currently in contact with a travel agent, who's researching fares for me. So far, they seem to be hovering around U.S $1,600, round-trip. I'll update this information, including the route (these long flights all have significant stopovers in at least one other country, such as Thailand), the travel time, and which airline/s I'll be flying once I settle on a ticket.
3/14: I bought a ticket! I'll be flying from Phoenix to LAX to Hong Kong to Kathmandu. 23 hours and 17 minutes of flying time and 14 hours, 48 minutes of waiting in between those flights, and I'll be in Nepal. The airlines will be U.S. Air and Cathay Pacific, and I signed up for Frequent Flier programs with both.
I'll have a long layover in Hong Kong, so there will be time to walk around AND get a hotel room for the night ... and there is actually a hotel in the airport terminal as well as at least one next to the airport.
My round-trip airline ticket was $1,197 including taxes and fees, but I'm also purchasing travel insurance, which adds another $379! But that's because I'll be in the country for so long. I'm purchasing the insurance through TravelSafe.com.
Flying From Kathmandu To Pokhara
The two main tourist centers in Nepal
While one can take a bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara, I was advised to avoid the long, rough, and uncertain bus trip and instead take a short plane ride--a half-hour compared to a six- to eight-hour (or longer!) bus ride. And that's if there hasn't been an accident or landslide along the often narrow road.
So, I looked up flight schedules and costs. The fare was just US$67 at most. And, at 1580 Nepalese rupees, it's even cheaper if you pay in the national currency. (Less than $22 according to the currency calculator I'm using. Hm, if that's the case, I'm paying everything in rupees!)
I'm told that I can get a plane ticket from Kathmandu to Pokhara once I arrive, which I'll do because I'm not sure how long I'll want to stay in Kathmandu.
5/8: Actually, it doesn't matter if you pay for a plane ticket in rupees or foreign currency; there is a certain price for foreigners, another price for foreigners who live in Nepal and yet another price for Nepalis. I ended up paying U.S. $92. It was extra because the ticket was obtained by the guest house manager via an agent.
Exchanging Foreign Currency For Nepalese Rupees
I've learned that major hotels, stores and restaurants in Nepal accept most foreign currencies as well as credit cards such as American Express, Visa and Master Card, but I'll need rupees for taxis and smaller vendors. It's recommended that travelers carry small bills, as many shops aren't able to make change for the large denominations.
As far as exchanging foreign currencies for rupees, travelers must do so through a bank exchange counter or authorized agent, such as those located in some major hotels. And it's advised to ask for a receipt when changing money, because when you leave the country via Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, if you have leftover Nepalese rupees, you can exchange at least part of that money back to about 10 or 12 different foreign currencies.
US dollar traveler's checks can be purchased from American Express major banks in Kathmandu, including Durbar Marg. There is usually a charge of 1% of the face value to cash traveler's checks.
See VisitNepal.com Traveler's Guide for more information on money and banking in Nepal.
As of 1/13/10, the exchange rate is 72.6 Nepalese rupees per U.S. dollar. (See Exchange Rates Table for the American Dollar on x-rates.com for the current rate.)
And here's a handy currency calculator you can use. Besides how inexpensive things seem to be in Nepal in U.S. dollars, I'm finding that they're even cheaper if you pay in rupees rather than U.S. dollars (or other foreign currency), where U.S. dollars are accepted in the first place.
Use a Travel Belt in Nepal to Keep Your Money, Passport and Other Valuables Safe
Nepal, as with many other countries and certainly some places here in the U.S. are known for having a pick-pocket here and there, so using a travel belt is always a good idea, especially in the cities. I've used mine on a number of trips, regardless of the chance of being robbed. The belt is great because I always knows where these important items are, keeps them close at hand and prevents me from dropping or misplacing them.
Take The Nepal Quiz Challenge
How much do you know about this little country?
Here are 10 questions to test your Nepal knowledge.
For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.
- What is the total area of Nepal in square kilometers (and miles)?
- 100,200km2 (38,687mi2)
- 140,800km2 (54,363mi2)
- 165,020km2 (63,715mi2)
- 190,440km2 (73,529mi2)
- 210,668km2 (81,339mi2)
- What is the capital of Nepal?
- What is the approximate population of Nepal (2009)
- 18 million
- 22 million
- 30 million
- 42 million
- 56 million
- What is the most practiced religion in Nepal?
- In the middle of which month does the Nepal year begin?
- Which statement about Nepal is FALSE?
- Nepal is among the poorest and least developed countries in the world with nearly half of its population living below th
- The agriculture sector in Nepal contributes 41% of the GDP and employs an estimated 81.2% of labor.
- Nepal has a climate that ranges from subtropical summers with mild winters in the southern lowlands to an alpine climate
- Nepal has no reserves of oil or gas, and only small coal reserves.
- All of the statements above are true.
- What is Nepal's national flower?
- Nepal is landlocked between which two countries?
- India and Thailand
- China and India
- China and Burma
- India and Pakistan
- Thailand and Bhutan
- Which mountain is not at least partly located in Nepal?
- What type of goverment does Nepal currently have? (2010)
- Parliamentary Democracy and Constitutional Monarchy
- 140,800km2 (54,363mi2)
- 30 million
- All of the statements above are true.
- China and India
- Parliamentary Democracy and Constitutional Monarchy
More Information About Travel To Nepal
- U.S. Department Of State Nepal information page
Including entry and exit requirements, threats to safety and security, medical facilities, money exchange and more.
- U.S. Embassy in Nepal
The mission of the United States Embassy is to advance the interests of the United States, and to serve and protect U.S. citizens in Nepal.
A Nepali Photo Montage
- People Of Nepal
Photography of a colorful mix of cultures
How To Dress in Nepal [Added after my trip]
When I packed my suitcases for my trip to Nepal, I included lots of shorts and a couple of pairs of jeans, but I rarely used any of them, instead buying inexpensive and more appropriate clothing during my stay. The shorts I'd packed were too short for what's considered acceptable, especially for women, in Nepal, and the jeans were often too warm and, again, not the best choice if you want to follow local custom more closely.
Your best bets for traveling in Nepal are long, synthetic or cotton pants, mid-calf skirts, and, if you're going to wear shorts, make them long shorts that come down to just above the knee or, better yet, those short pants (like capri pants) that reach to just below the knee. I also recommend easy-fitting convertible pants, with zippers just above the knee. T-shirts are fine, but I'd leave the "muscle shirts" at home.
Nepalis are conservative when it comes to clothing, so keep that in mind when packing for your trip, especially if you'll be visiting small villages.
- Dress Code: Nepal and India
A forum discussion about what to wear in these countries
- Clothing for Nepal
A discussion about clothing appropriate for the country and the conditions
Have you been to Nepal?
If so, please share any advice or travel tips you have. Add your comments to the guestbook below.