Kathmandu – the gateway to Nepal
In the 1950s Nepal opened its doors to allow climbers access to look for the route to Everest. Ever since that time Kathmandu has been the start and finish points for all expeditions to Nepal. A city of great mystique and reputation, it is on every travelers, not just climbers, list to visit.
You will not be disappointed.
If this is your first visit to Asia however you may find it slightly overwhelming to begin with, as it is very, very busy.
Most travelers now arrive in Kathmandu by air into Tribuvan airport. On arrival you will need to pick up a visa, the cost of which is dependent on the length of your visit. Current costs for this can be found at www.immi.gov.np/
Once you have picked up your bags, a quick taxi ride of 20 minutes will take you through the gates and into the heart of the city. If you have booked your accommodation online check the website as many hotels offer a free airport pick up in which case they should be waiting for you at the exit with a sign.
Most visitors stay in the tourist area of Thamel. This is a hive of activity with more outdoor equipment shops than you can ever imagine, together with loads of chilled out cafes and restaurants. Internet and wifi abound.
If you are an independent traveler it is best to book accommodation online before you leave, at least for the first night. There are loads of places though that don’t have websites so if you are really on a budget just book one night and then have a look around when you get there. A word of caution though; October into November is the busy season and it often becomes difficult to find a bed in Thamel so if you plan to arrive or depart then booking is advisable. As a guide $20 would find you a pretty nice place to stay.
There are lots of travel agents in Kathmandu and all will offer sightseeing and it is worth spending some time exploring this city.
At the very least try and see:
- Durbar Square
- The Royal Palace museum
- Pashupatinath (Hindu cremation site)
- Swayambhunath (the Monkey Temple)
Or if you fancy travelling a bit further – visit the city of Bhaktapur, about an hour outside Kathmandu. Negotiate with a taxi and they will wait for you and bring you back.
Here’s a few of our favorites:
- New Orleans
- Road House
- Third Eye Indian restaurant
- Kru Thai
- Rum Doodles
- Fire and Ice
- Himalayan Java
Sometimes in the busy season they can get crowded but you can book in advance or just wander around and find another.
There are lots of ATMs now in Kathmandu. Unless you are there in winter when there is sometimes a problem with electricity getting rupees is pretty straightforward. Just ask when you get into Thamel. Remember to take some emergency cash in dollars with you. Dollars work everywhere.
The traffic is pretty busy all over Kathmandu but at peak times it can be chaotic and best avoided if you can. Be careful of motorbikes and scooters as they weave in and out of the rickshaws through the narrow streets. Lastly watch out for potholes and broken pavements; you are more likely to twist an ankle here than on trek.
You can buy lots of cheap equipment in Kathmandu but often difficult to tell if it is fake or not. The last thing you want is when it’s cold and wet is a jacket that does not keep you dry or warm. It is possible to rent good quality gear at Shona’s Alpine Rentals this is 50 meters from the new Rum Doodles.
Health and Emergencies
The CIWEC clinic is open Monday – Friday 9 – 5 and for emergencies 24 hours. It is situated just opposite the British Embassy in Lainchaur. You will need to pay for medical treatment but this can be claimed back on your insurance. For up to date medical information on Nepal visit http://www.ciwec-clinic.com
The American dental clinic is also situated here.
Remember Don’t Drink the Water
Even though it says it’s filtered. Buy bottled from a shop or supermarket. Never, ever from the tap. Brush your teeth in bottled water and don’t open your mouth in the shower.
There is no departure tax now for international flights but domestic flights to Lukla still require you to pay 200 rupees both in Kathmandu and in Lukla
Kathmandu is an amazing city. Enjoy!