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General information || Weather conditions || People & Culture || Local customs
Things to know || Airlines & travel || Trekking || Dining & drinking || Entertainment
Emergency number || International organizations

1. GENERAL INFORMATION

"Roof of the World" , Nepal's well known nickname explains why so many come here to view it's beauty, challenge it's natural structures, and see a place many believe to be the center of earth. Cradled amongst the highest mountains in the world, it is no wonder that Nepal has come to be known as the kingdom where deities mingle with mortals. Close to a billion people revere the Himalayas as sacred, as this country boasts the highest point in the world, Mt. Everest, known to the Nepalis as "Sagarmatha" (Mother of the Universe), which reaches 8,848 (29,028 ft) high. Another given nickname for Nepal, "A Root Between Two Stones", describes the unique positioning of this beatiful country, Tibet to the north and India to the south.

Hundreds of millions of years ago continents where structure far differently than they are today. A sub-continent (India) and an Eurasia continent collided, creating this massive mountain range. Even today the continent of India continues to push in to Asia at a rate of about 2 inches per year. This suggest that the Himalayas are still young and will continue to grow for millions of years.

Population
19 million (50% under the age of 21)

Capital
Kathmandu (city population 500,000) (Kathmandu Valley 1 million)

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2. WEATHER CONDITIONS

From the eternal snow of the higher peaks to the tropical expanses of the lowlands, Nepal enjoys an extreme variety of climates. Altitudes and exposure to sun and rain are the most influential factors. Sitting at an elevation of about 1,350 meters (4,400 ft), the Kathmandu Valley knows three seasons.

The cold season from October to March is the best time to visit the country. The night time temperatures may drop to nearly freezing point, but the sun warms the atmosphere by day, so that the morning hours see the mercury climb from 10 degrees C to 25 degrees C (50-77 F). The sky is generally clear and bright; the air is dry and warm.

From April to June the weather becomes hot and stuffy, with occasional evening thunder storms. Temperatures ranges from 20 degrees C to 30 degrees C, but can get as high as 36 C (97 F).

By the end of June the monsoon arrives, heralded by pre-monsoon rains. The rainy season lasts 3 months during which the Himalayas usually remain out of site. The monsoon ends around mid-September, bringing clearer skies and cooler nights.

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3. PEOPLE AND CULTURE

The people of Nepal are as diverse as it's landscapes and religions. Generally though they are all very religious, polite, and accomodating. Don't be alarmed at how openly they will address foreigners in a somewhat playful way, especially the children. The young ones may treat you as if you are from a strange land visiting their playground. They are aware of the many advantages the west has and are eager to implement some of these things in to their lifes. They like to joke and test you with questions, then run away quickly laughing amongst their friends. The older generation are more orthodox and conservative. The women usually marry early, though their life does not change much until they give birth. Their mates often must work for their parents-in-law for 2 to 3 years before they earn the right to marry the daughter. Age defines authority in the family; the old man is the overlord and the mother or elder sister rules over the female side of the household.

Ethnic Groups
Nepalis: Tribal groups include Gurung, Limbu, Magar, Newar, Rai, Sherpa, Tamang ad Tharu. Major casts are the Brahmans and Chhetris. Large numbers of Tibetans and Indians make their home in Nepal.

Languages
Nepali 58% (official language), Newari 3% (mainly in Kathmandu), Tibetan 19% (mainly in hill areas), Indian 20% (mainly in Terai lower plains).

Religion
Officially 90% Hindu, 8% Buddhist, 2% Islamic, but these figures are misleadig and more like 25% is in reality Buddhist. Hinduism and Buddhism do overlap somewhat.

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4. LOCAL CUSTOMS

Nepalis are basically uderstanding people, however it is always best to be aware of things that are important in daily life to the people of the country you are visiting. You are the foreigner coming to their place of residence, work, and religious grounds.

A bad source of feeling may arise if you are asked not to enter a certain precinct or not to photograph a shrine. Comply with good grace. The reason for enforcing a taboo are as evident to the local people as they are obscure to you. Respect and open-mindedness are essential. Nepalis beliefs are deep-rooted and ever-present.

Stepping over the feet or the body of a person rather than walking around him or her is not permitted. Never make the mistake of offering to share "polluted" food (food you have tasted, bitten into, or even touched with a spoon or fork). Water is used with the left hand to cleanse oneself after going to the toilet. Therefore nothing should be accepted, and especially not offered with the left hand. It is best to give or receive something with both hands. When entering a house or dwelling, shoes should always be removed. Nepalis often squat when eating. Do not stand near a person who is eating, as your feet would be right next to their food. If you need to converse, it is better to sit or squat next to them. The showing of anger or shouting is concidered highly offensive. Remain calm and in control. It will speak much for your personal demeaner to the Nepalis.

Business
Business is done in a professional manner, remembering the important customs listed above (such as giving and receiving business cards with both hands). Some business will likely be done over meals. At the conclusion of the meal it is considered polite to attempt to pay the bill. Most likely you will be refused, however make an effort if possible.

Suits and ties are expected in daily business, however if your hosts or hostesses are dressing casual for a social/business occasion, be careful not to out-dress them.

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5. THINGS TO KNOW

Businesses and Store Hours
Government offices are open from 10am to 5pm Sunday through Thursday for most of the year and close early at 3pm on Fridays. They close an hour earlier during the winter months, mid-November to mid-February. Banks open at 10am and close at 2pm except Friday when they close at 12 noon. Saturday is the rest day in Nepal, Sunday being a full working day for offices and banks. Only embassies and international oraganisations take a two-day weekend; they are generally open 9am or 9:30am to 5pm or 5:30pm during the rest of the week. Shops, some of which remain open on Saturdays and holidays, seldom open before 10am but do not usually close until 7pm or 8pm.

Festivals

Tipping
Tipping is not customary, except in big hotels. If a service charge has been added to the bill, tipping isn't necessary.

Restaurants
If a restaurant service charge is included, a tip is not necessary but will be very much appreciated.

Taxis
Taxis are available to go most places in the Kathmandu Valley. They have black registration plates with white numbers whereas private cars have red plates with white numbers. Make sure their meters are working. Due to the rising cost of gasoline, be prepared to pay a small surcharge. A short ride within the city will cost from Rs. 15-30. To hire a taxi for half a day or a day trip within Kathmandu, negotiate a price before starting; do not pay more than Rs. 600 per day, gasoline included.

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6. AIRLINES AND TRAVEL

Airlines Telephone Numbers

Trains
Within India trains are a convenient means of transportation but there is no railway to speak of in Nepal. Buses are the suggested means of transportation.

Car Rental
Avis is represented in Nepal by Yeti Travels and Hertz by Gorkha Travels, both located in Durbar Marg. It is not advisable to hire self-drive cars as roads can be treacherous.

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7. TREKKING

Trekking Trails
There are an overwhelming number of trekking trails to choose from in Nepal. Your choice depeds upon the length of time you have available, the season, as well as your personal interests. It would be adviseable to let the experts do all the preparatory work. Once in Nepal, contact one of the trekking companies. The following list was compiled by Mountain Travel Nepal (Tel: 414508 and Fax: 414075).

In January and February low level treks at elevations up to 3,000 meters (10,000 ft) offering pleasant sunny days with clear skies and good mountain views is a good choice for this time of year. Three good treks are recommended. The Royal Trek (3-4 day trek). The Kali Gandake Trek (15-18 days), and the Langtang and Helambu Treks (Higher altitude trek, so be prepared for snow, frozen waterfalls, and few other trekkers. The latter is quite a beautiful trek, yet somewhat physically demanding).

March brings some other treks to different areas. The Solu Khumbu Trek from Jiri is suggested. All Langtang, Helambu and Pokhara-based treks are feasible in early March, however, it is best to attempt these in the latter part of the month.

April is the favored season for alpine treks and for climbing. Flowers are in high bloom and in the lower altitudes temeratures are warm, although there is a likelyhood of afternoon clouds and showers in most areas. This is a superb month to spend high in the mountains around Manang and climbing is possible on Chulu and Pisang. After mid-April the Thorong La pass is usually open, critical to completing the classic Annapurna Circuit trek. Beware of avalanche danger in the Annapurna Sanctuary , though the Machhapuchhre base camp area is good for wildlife after the middle of the month. This is a good time for treks to the higher altitudes, such as in east Nepal, to the Milke Danda ridge and alpine treks to the base camps of Kangchenjunga and Makalu.

May and June bring haze and heat to all the lower areas. If you are trekking during these months, aim to get to higher altitudes quickly such as Khumbu, flying in and out of Lukla, and Rolwaling. Kathmandu Valley walks are pleasurable.

July through Mid-September are the monsoon months. Although generally not recommended for trekking, the terrain is lovely in the higher regions and rain-shadow areas, such as Muktinath, Manang and Langtang to a certain extent as well as Dolpo and the far west.

Mid-September to Mid-October the monsoon tails of and the countryside is fresh and green. Recommendations for trekking routes are much the same as for April and May, though high passes may be snowed over. Mid-October to Mid-November is the "high season" for trekking and with good reason. It is the classic time for high-altitude alpine and climbing treks and in general has the most reliable clear weather. The more popular routes are congested at this time; these include the Khumbu where the sheer weight of numbers create inevitable flight delays at Lukla. Even more crowded is the Pokhara region, especially the Kali Gandaki valley though weather-wise the Annapurna Sanctuary is at its best. This is the time to get off-the-beaten-track and enjoy trips to east or west Nepal, Jugal Himal, Ganesh Himal and Tirudanda or routes between Pokhara and Kathmandu.

Mid-November to December offers stable, winter weather as the rain and snow of true winter usually does not start in Nepal until mid-December. This period has the added advantage of avoiding the previous month's crowds. Low level and short treks up to about 3,700 meters (12,000 ft) are at their best at this time of year. The Pokhara region is ideal as are Helambu, Lagtang and Gorkha. Remember that most high passes can not be crossed safely after mid-December.

There are three hills surrounding the Kathmandu Valley that provide worthwhile hikes for the energetic with spectacular views. The six-kilometer (four-mile) trail to the top of Phulchoki begins behind Godavari school and is particularly beautiful with the spring flowers. From Budhailkantha, it is a four hour climb to the top of Shivapuri with panoramic views of the Himalayas and the Kathmandu Valley. The summit of Champa Devi above Pharping in the south of the Valley can be reached from above Hatiban, only two or three hours of climbing.

Trekking Agencies

River Trips Operators

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8. DINING AND DRINKING

Restaurants have vastly improved in the last few years in Nepal. Prices are low by Western standards. Indian, Chinese, Tibetan, Japanese, and even Thai cuisines can be found in Kathmandu, as well as a variety of European and Western menus. Large international hotels have three or four restaurants each, some of them excellent. Outside of Kathmandu it is often difficult to find appealing food in the Valley, even for a snack. Travellers on day outings should carry their own food. Hotels will provide packed lunches or you may prefer to take a snack from one of the bakeries or fresh fruit stands and make-do for a midday picnic.

Despite centuries of isolation and, in some places, a very fertile soil, Nepal has failed to develop a distictive style of cooking. The Nepalis enjoy eating sweets and spicy snacks. It can be an interesting free-for-all in Nepal when it comes to food.

The national drink, "chiya" (tea brewed together with milk, sugar and sometimes spices), is served in small glasses, scalding hot. Another popular home-made mountain drink is "chhang", a powerful sort of beer made with fermented barley, maize, rye or millet. Coca Cola and Pepsi is bottled in Kathmandu. Excellent Nepal brewed beer is widely available.

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9. ENTERTAINMENT

Not much of a night life in Nepal. Even in Kathmandu everything seems to close down by 10pm. However, Casino Nepal is in the premises of the Soal Oberoi Hotel. Here Indians toss small fortunes to the wind on baccarat, black jack, roulette, and other games. No Nepalis are permitted entry. This is one of the very few international casinos between Malaysia and Suez. If you decide to come, the casino will provide a free bus service back to your hotel and some complimentary play coupons for showing your incoming plane ticket stub within a week of arrival.

Some of the bigger hotels have traditional dances on certain evenings. Movie houses feature mainly Indian tear jerkers. There are a few western theaters.

When traveling to a country with the natural outdoor beauty as Nepal, it would be wise to be to sleep early and rise early. There is so much to see and do during the daylight ours.

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10. EMERGENCY AND OTHER NUMBERS

Police: 226999
Himalayan Rescue Association: 418755
Fire: 221177
Red Cross Ambulance: 228094

International Access Code: 180
International Operator: 186
Directory Assistance:197

Country Code: 977
Kathmandu City Code: 01

When calling from within the same city, delete the city code from the number. When calling to another city within Nepal, use the entire city code. When calling from outside Nepal, delete the first digit (0) from the city code.

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11. INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

DON'T FORGET TO LOOK FOR " Y E T I "

ENJOY YOUR TRIP!


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