Nepal is an incredible country and I would rate it in my top 5 I’ve ever visited. Nepal is very cheap, has mind-blowing scenery, amazing art, chilled people and fantastic hashish. For a small country, it has an incredibly diverse culture and a wide range of ethnic groups and languages.
Pros of travel in Nepal
- Spectacular landscapes. Nepal has hands down the best scenery in the world. The stunning mountains and lakes reminded me of New Zealand, but then you look up and there is a whole new layer of breathtaking mountains over 7000m. Nepal is home to 8 of the 10 highest mountains in the world. Enough said.
- People. It is a generalization, but Nepal’s people are really chilled out. Maybe is has something to do with:
- High quality hashish. Nepal was for decades a fixture on the hippie trail and hash was legal until 1973 when the USA forced Nepal to change its laws as part of its disastrous war on drugs. Note that cannabis remains illegal in Nepal to this day and users should exercise extreme caution, especially in Kathmandu’s tourist area, Thamel, where street dealers are prevalent.
- Art. Nepal has some incredible art, which I rate as some of the best I’ve ever seen. Specifically, you will find galleries in Thamel and Pokkhara selling Buddhist Thangka art and mandalas from Nepal and Tibet. These incredibly intricate mandalas take months to paint.
- Unique culture and architecture. Nepal is located between India and China and is home to over 100 ethnic groups. Nepal has its own unique temples and palaces which reflect diverse religious influences, primarily Buddhist and Hindu.
- Costs. Nepal is a very cheap country to travel in. Very basic rooms cost less than $10 per night and a meal can be had for $1-2. A good room in a mid-range hotel can be had for $30 per night.
- Food. In addition to Indian food, Nepal has its own unique cuisine. Vegetarians and Vegans are well catered for. Pokhara has plenty of juice bars and cafes with healthy options. Be sure to try Momo, or stuffed dumplings.
Cons of travel in Nepal
- Safety. Nepal is generally a safe place and you are more at risk of being pick pocketed in the street than being a victim of violent crime. The real risk is death or injury from road and air accidents. Nepal is a poor country beset by corruption. Its infrastructure is therefore poor. Roads are terrible, the driving standard is extremely low. Airlines have some of the worst safety records in the world. This is due in large part to the location of the airports in mountainous areas, which make takeoff and landing hazardous. Kathmandu airport has only one runway, meaning planes must often circle in a queue waiting for their turn to land. This has resulted in at least one major air crash when the plane ran out of fuel.
- Traffic. It’s a nightmare. Plan additional time, especially when traveling to Kathmandu airport. Then add some more. It is quite normal for traffic in Kathmandu to not move for up to 5 minutes, then inch forward a few meters and stop again for another 5 minutes.
- Hygiene. In Nepal, I saw some of the most disgusting toilets of my 25 year traveling career and glimpses inside the kitchens of some of the restaurants revealed scenes which were not much better. It reminded me of my first trip to India in ’95. Expect to get sick. I did.
Nepal is without doubt worth visiting. I rarely visit the same place twice, but can say without hesitation that Nepal is a place you could visit again and again.