Kathmandu

WARNING: A strong 7.9 earthquake occurred on 25 April 2015 in and around Kathmandu with initial reports indicating heavy property damage including building collapses. At least 8,733 people have been killed and the death toll is expected to be high. It is the most powerful earthquake to have hit Nepal since the 1934 earthquake that affected the country.

Life in Kathmandu is now starting to stabilise and it is safe to visit. Infrastructure damage has been minimal with only a small number of roads closed in the city. A number of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites are currently closed, but others are open to tourists and more should be opening on 15 June. Kathmandu needs visitors to help re-establish the tourist aspect of the economy.

Kathmandu Durbar Square

Kathmandu (काठमाण्डु) is the largest city and capital of Nepal and the namesake of the Kathmandu Valley. Once thought to be the fabled and inaccessible Shangri-La, Kathmandu is now a hub for independent travellers as well as a growing vacation spot catering to all budgets. As a result of considerable urban growth in recent decades, it is now part of one continuous urban area together with Patan to the south.

Understand

According to a census conducted in 2011, Kathmandu metropolis alone has 2.5 million inhabitants, and the agglomerate has a population of more than 3 million inhabitants. The metropolitan city area is 50.67 square kilometres (19.56 sq mi) and has a population density of 3000per km² and 17000 per km square in city.

The city stands at an elevation of approximately 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley of central Nepal. It is surrounded by four major mountains: Shivapuri, Phulchoki, Nagarjun, and Chandragiri. Kathmandu Valley is part of three districts (Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur), has the highest population density in the country, and is home to about a twelfth of Nepal's population.

Historically, the Kathmandu Valley and adjoining areas were known as Nepal Mandala. Until the 15th century, Bhaktapur was its capital when two other capitals, Kathmandu and Lalitpur, were established. During the Rana and Shah eras, British historians called the valley itself "Nepal Proper". Today, Kathmandu is not only the capital of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, but also the headquarters of the Central Development Region of Nepal. The Central Region comprises three zones: Bagmati, Narayani, and Janakpur. Kathmandu is located in the Bagmati Zone.

Kathmandu is the gateway to tourism in Nepal. It is also the nerve center of the country's economy. It has the most advanced infrastructure of any urban area in Nepal, and its economy is focused on tourism, which accounted for 3.8% of Nepal's GDP in 1995–96. Tourism in Kathmandu declined thereafter during a period of political unrest, but since then has improved. In 2013, Kathmandu was ranked third among the top 10 travel destinations on the rise in the world by TripAdvisor,and ranked first in Asia.

The city has a rich history, spanning nearly 2000 years, as inferred from inscriptions found in the valley. Religious and cultural festivities form a major part of the lives of people residing in Kathmandu. Most of Kathmandu's people follow Hinduism and many others follow Buddhism. There are people of other religious beliefs as well, giving Kathmandu a cosmopolitan culture. Nepali is the most commonly spoken language in the city. English is understood by Kathmandu's educated residents.

Kathmandu's sister cities (Lalitpur Patan) and Bhaktapur are integral to Kathmandu's cultural heritage, tourism industry, and economy; therefore UNESCO's World Heritage Site lists all three cities' monuments and attractions together under one heading, "Kathmandu Valley-UNESCO World Heritage Site".

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 19 21 25 28 29 29 28 29 28 27 24 20
Nightly lows (°C) 2 5 8 12 16 19 20 20 19 13 8 4
Precipitation (mm) 14 19 34 61 124 236 363 331 200 51 8 13

Kathmandu Valley is in the Warm Temperate Zone of Nepal (elevation ranging from 1,200–2,300 metres (3,900–7,500 ft)), where the climate is fairly temperate, atypical for the region. This zone is followed by the Cool Temperate Zone with elevation varying between 2,100–3,300 metres (6,900–10,800 ft). Portions of the city with lower elevations have a humid subtropical climate, while portions of the city with higher elevations generally have a subtropical highland climate. In the Kathmandu Valley the average summer temperature varies from 28–30 °C (82–86 °F). The average winter temperature is 10.1 °C (50.2 °F).

The city generally has a climate with warm days followed by cool nights and mornings. Unpredictable weather is expected given temperatures can drop to 3 °C (37 °F) during the winter. During a 2013 cold front, the winter temperatures of Kathmandu dropped to −4 °C (25 °F), and the coldest temperature was recorded in January 10, 2013 at −9.2 °C (15.4 °F). Rainfall is mostly monsoon-based (about 65% of the total concentrated during the monsoon months of June to August), and decreases substantially (100 to 200 cm (39 to 79 in)) from eastern Nepal to western Nepal. Rainfall has been recorded at about 1,400 millimetres (55.1 in) for the Kathmandu valley, and averages 1,407 millimetres (55.4 in) for the city of Kathmandu. On average humidity is 75%.

Get in

For information on visa requirements and immigration procedure, see Nepal#Get_in

By plane

International Flights

Most international flights to Kathmandu arrive from Delhi, UAE, Qatar, or Bangkok.

International airlines serving Kathmandu include:

Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu

Domestic Flights

Commercial domestic flights are available to/from Bhadrapur, Bhairawa, Bharatpur, Biratnagar, Dhangarhi, Janakpur, Nepalganj, Pokhara, Simara, and Tumling Tar. Domestic flights take about an hour and cost USD100-175. The primary domestic airlines are air viva, Yeti, Nepal Airlines, and Buddha Air. Domestic flights are almost always delayed and afternoon flights run the risk of cancellation as delays from the morning compound.

Baggage Handlers & Concerns

Your luggage is vulnerable entering and leaving this airport. Do not keep anything of value in checked bags, and if you lock the bag, the zipper may be forced open and broken. There is little to no security for your bags. You should also be aware that most luggage is treated quite poorly in Nepalese airports. It is recommended that all fragile and valuable items are kept in your carry on luggage.

Be aware that when you collect your luggage, an "airport baggage cart collector" may appear and assist you with a baggage trolley. Unless you insist on handling your own baggage, your items will be loaded on the trolley and will be conveyed with you to the entrance of the terminal. You will then be expected to pay a tip to this person. Arriving just beforehand in Nepal, you will often only have larger denomination foreign currency in your pocket, making the issue of a tip a bit of a problem. It's fine to pay the tip in foreign currency but make sure you have some small bills or coins on hand (even a dollar or two will be significant to Nepalis).

Money Exchange at the Airport

Try not to exchange money at the airport as there are service charges and lower rates offered than what you can get in Thamel or elsewhere in the city.

Getting to and from the airport

There are no trains in Kathmandu and renting a car without a driver is not possible.

By bus

For more information, see Nepal 'Get in' section.

There is frequent and cheap bus service between Kathmandu and nearly all parts of Nepal. However, due to poor roads and frequent delays the buses are some of the slowest and least comfortable in South Asia.

From Pokhara

Tourist buses (NPR800, 6-7h) and crowded local buses/microbuses (NPR400-600, 6-7h) travel the 200km journey between Kathmandu and Pokhara almost every 15 minutes starting at 07:30 through late afternoon. Night buses are available, but the ride is painful. Greenline operates a convenient bus every morning between the popular tourist areas of Thamel in Kathmandu and Lakeside in Pokhara (USD20, lunch included). The road is winding and includes many switchbacks and offers wonderful views of hills and rural Nepalese lifestyle. The drivers will generally not drive too fast but some will calmly weave in and out of the stream of opposing traffic and slam on the brakes when a stop is required, making for a scary ride if you look out the front window. During the rainy season, there may be problems with the roads and flying may make more sense.

From Tibet

Buses and minivans run between Kathmandu and the Nepalese border town of Kodari, across the Sino-Nepal Friendship Bridge from the Tibetan city of Zhangmu. The 123km journey takes 6+ hours and costs NPR500. Buses depart until the early afternoon. Private jeeps (USD60 for up to 4 people) are a faster option, and can make this journey in 4 hours.

Get around

Map of central Kathmandu

If you fly in, be sure to pick up a free Kathmandu Valley map at the airport. The first thing some visitors notice about Kathmandu is the general lack of house numbers and street names except for major roads such as Tri Devi & Ring Road (loops around the city). In most cases directions are given relative to the nearest chowk or tole (an intersection or square, often with a market) or a noteworthy location or building (such as a temple or restaurant). In the tourist district of Thamel, the Kathmandu Guest House & Hot Breads bakery are two main landmarks.

By foot

It is possible to get around Kathmandu by foot, but some may not always find the walking pleasant. It's worth considering, however, whether any form of public transport would be easier or more convenient than walking when you consider the crowds, the narrow streets and lanes, the traffic and everything you might want to see.

By rickshaw or taxi

If you consider public transportation for anything more than wandering around a specific area, there are several options. Pedal rickshaws can be found around the tourist areas of Thamel and taxis are everywhere. It's often difficult to go more than a short anywhere without being offered the services of both forms of transport. Negotiate a price before you get in a taxi or rickshaw. If you can't agree, ask another driver. Prices go up after dark and in less busy areas. Taxis are easy to find; they park near all major streets & have fare-meters. After 22:00 it can be very difficult to find taxis away from central tourist areas or major hotels. It should be possible to hire a taxi from Thamel for NPR300 one-way to Patan and around NPR1,200 to Bakhtapur from Thamel or the airport. For longer trips and to hire a taxi by the day negotiate with the driver. Haggle hard and you will easily find another driver if you are not satisfied. The meter is your best bet if you are not confident enough to negotiate, however very few drivers will agree to using them. Sometimes the proper operation of meters can be suspect so if you know exactly where you're going, it might be better to negotiate a suitable price in advance.

By microbus

The Tempos, small three-wheeled buses, and microbuses are a very cheap (NPR15) way to get around the city. The Tempos come in two varieties - green (electric) and blue (petrol) and run on predefined routes through the city. These routes are numbered, sometimes with both Nepali and European numbers. There does not seem to be a map of the routes in existence, but you can get the hang of their paths quite quickly by asking and observing what numbers go on which road. Microbuses are typically minivans with a surprising number of seats crammed in - they have a "conductor" who leans out of the door and shouts the destinations, which are also often written on the front (in Nepali). If you have time, you can ask if they are going your way and hop on. These also typically cost NPR15.

By bus

There are also buses for longer trips within the valley, i.e. Patan, Bakhtapur, Boudha, etc. that can be used for trips in and around town. See below for tips on travelling outside of the valley. Blue buses & green buses constantly drive in circles/loops around the city on "Ring Road" - for NPR15-20 - depending on the distance. Every bus has a cashier/attendant who can tell you where it stops & alert you upon arrival. Riding the buses with the local people can be very pleasant & interesting. The buses are typically very old and rough.

Tourist Information

See

Kathmandu Royal Palace
Pashupatinath, a Hindu Temple, Entrance

Kathmandu Durbar Square

Hanuman Dhoka in Durbar Square

This ancient square is crowded with palaces and temples, including the current incarnation of the Kasthamandap or "Wooden house" that gives the city its name. The square has been occupied since the construction of a palace around 1000AD. This site is the most popular UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nepal.

The Square is particularly fascinating in the very early morning as all the various merchants set up their wares and when many devotees make their offerings at the various shrines and temples. There will be a number of young men who will offer to be "guides." Be firm with saying "no" if you are not interested. The entrance fee for foreigners is NPR750. If you plan to be in the area for more than one day, it's worth being directed to the Site Office where you can exchange your single-entry ticket with a multiple-entry pass allowing you to wander in and out as you wish. You will need your passport and one passport photo. The whole process takes only a few minutes. Your entry pass gives you access to all open parts of Durbar Square as well as the Hanuman Dhoka. In Nepali, Durbar means "palace" and this is where the monarch was crowned and from where he ruled.

It is possible to climb the steps of many of the temples for a better look and to join others seated near the top watching the activity below. There are more than a dozen buildings and statues of note in this small area. They include:

Do

The Pashupatinath Hindu temple to Shiva

Kathmandu city itself has limited activities for visitors beyond the amazing sightseeing and general experience of being there.

Adventure Sports

Kathmandu is the starting point for numerous adventures in the rest of the country including trekking, rafting, jungle adventures, and more extreme sports.

Cinema

Flightseeing

Connecting with locals

Festivals

A Lakhe (demon) dancer during the Yenya festival.

Kathmandu and Dubar Square is the centre for many of Nepal's festivals. Note that many businesses are closed for all of these holidays—and often a few days before and after. Dasain in particular tend to shut down much of the city for October.

Parks

Other Sports

Dasarath Rangasala Football Stadium

Theatres

Learn

Buddhism

Bodnath Stupa

Meditation Courses

Yoga Courses

Massage Courses

Library

Environment

Buy

There are many ATM machines in Thamel, however, not all accept foreign cards. Those that do implement a charge of NPR400 per transaction. Nabil Bank ATMs have the highest withdrawal limit of NPR35,000 per transaction. All shops will accept Nepali rupees and many will also accept US dollars.

If you are staying in Thamel, the Shop Right Supermarket, near Kathmandu Guest House, offers the cheapest prices for basic necessities and snacks, including NPR15 for a 1L bottle of water.

Market on Asan Tol

Banks

Books

Kathmandu is a great place to stock up or trade in reading material. Used bookshops have stock including backpacker favourites, classics, local history and culture.

Malls

Markets

Shops

Eat

Momo, a type of dumpling

The most popular food in Kathmandu could be the momo, a dumpling which has its roots in the Tibetan mountains. They are available fried or steamed and stuffed with buffalo, chicken, or veggies. Prices can vary depending on the location and what they are filled with, but expect to pay between NPR150-250 for a dozen. Kathmandu is also a good place to sample traditional Newari and Tibetan dishes.

A Nepali set meal will usually include rice, daal, vegetable/meat curry, a vegetable dish, pickle (achar) and curd. Expect to pay around NPR140-280 at a tourist place, much less at local places. Chiya, a milky spiced tea similar to the Indian chai, is ubiquitous and good for a break to calm one's nerves.

Note that most restaurants that cater to tourists will add a 10% service charge and then a 13% VAT charge (total of 24.5%) to the prices stated on the menu. These additional charges must be clearly stated on the menu.

Thamel

Sel roti. A popular Nepali traditional home-made, sweet, ring-shaped rice bread/doughnut

There are dozens of tourist restaurants clustered in the Thamel district serving everything from Middle Eastern to Mexican food. Indian and Nepali dishes are always the best tasting and the best priced. Don't hesitate to state your preference for spiciness. Visitors venturing into smaller places are often rewarded with better prices and friendlier staff.

Freak Street

A few good places to eat, such as the Ganesh restaurant halfway along the street next to a small shrine. Try the cakes at the tiny, bright blue "Snowman" cakeshop.

Near the Airport

If you're looking for a quick cheap snack of tasty curry or momo check out the small roadside stand across the ring road right at the airport. With your back towards the airport its just 200 m left of the Airport Hotel, at the junction of a small dirt road.

Patan

Elsewhere

Drink

Coffee

Nepal is a coffee producing country, though the people are famously tea drinkers. Most often coffee is of the instant-type, although fresh coffee is available. When ordering, try ordering "strong coffee", as opposed to just "coffee", if you don't want instant coffee. Expect your cappuccino to be anywhere from very little froth in large cup to something laced with whipped cream, and there is little difference between latte and cappuccino. Places to look for fresh, ground coffee are:

Bars

Beer and mixed drinks are available at almost every bar and restaurant. For a quick drink and cheap cultural experience, try the local 'Nepali wine' (raksi) or 'Nepali Beer' (chang) neither of which taste anything like their namesakes. Gorkha Beer, Everest Beer, Nepal Ice, San Miguel, Carlsberg, and Tuborg beer are the principal conventional beers served in Kathmandu. Local beers tend to be more reliable than the imports.

Sleep

Virtually all tourist accommodation is in Thamel. Upmarket hotels tend to be a few blocks away on Durbar Marg near the former Royal Palace. A few guest houses still remain on Freak Street south of Durbar Square. They tend to be somewhat cheaper, and a bit less well cared for than Thamel, but the neighbourhood is quieter.

Remember anyone on the street who takes you to a hotel will be receiving a commission from the hotel and that will be included in the price you pay. It is better to find a place on your own.

Prices can range from NRP500-35,000 for a double room.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

Canadian Consular Affairs, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth office, and the US State Department provide travel advice. Currently Nepal is safe to visit but caution must be taken. After the Maoists joined the government in about 2006, Nepal become relatively peaceful and more stable. However, visitors should avoid public demonstrations and may want to register with their consulate on arrival. Although tourists haven't been directly targeted by politically motivated violence, it is possible to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The frequent strikes, locally known as bandh or banda, that are still held on occasion, are a major inconvenience for most tourists as all transportation stops, and many shops and restaurants close. One recent example was in the 10-day period leading up to the Constituent Assembly Elections in November 2013. During most of that time, very few public buses were operating so getting to the beginning of a trekking route immediately became very difficult.

Load-shedding (power cuts) during the dry season can make life in Nepal very difficult. Due to the lack of street lights, tourists should watch out for the double hazards of opportunistic crimes in the darkness, and tripping or twisting ankles when walking the uneven, unlit streets by night.

Following the news and government warnings is important. Be sure to check on current road conditions before leaving Kathmandu. As of April 2010, long-haul bus trips through the Eastern Terai were to be avoided as there was a risk of Maoist activity in this area. That seems to have improved more recently but there were problems before and after the elections in November 2013 that could indicate a return to some degree of instability. Time will tell. There used to be reports of Maoists stopping buses and setting them alight, although allowing passengers to disembark first. Check daily newspapers or NepalBandh, for advance warning of planned strikes (bandh), when it may be better to stay away from the main roads in town.

While in Kathmandu, always keep an eye on belongings. Violent crime is rare; pickpockets are not, especially in crowded places. If your hotel room door doesn't have a good lock or safe windows, store valuables on your person or in a hotel safety deposit box at all times. As with any large city, avoid walking alone in unlit areas.

Stay healthy

Connect

Most cafes & restaurants in tourist areas have free Wi-Fi for customers. Computer/internet rentals are almost stacked on top of each other in Thamel & near the stupa at Boudha. You can surf to your heart's content for about 15NPR to 20NPR an hour (10NPR in Putalisadak). Though not adequate for video conferencing the 128-256kbit/s NTC backbone often used by the cafes is more than adequate for VOIP calling. Please avoid downloading anything large, as most connections are limited. ISD and STD telephone services are available in almost all internet cafes. Services such as Skype are available in most tourist areas.

Kanti Path,  +977 1-4227499.

Cope

Embassies and Consulates


Airline offices

Many airline companies have their offices on Hatisser road, about 20min from north Thamel/Jyatha on foot, if you need to buy or change a ticket.

Visas and Trekking permits

To extend your Nepal tourist visa, up to a maximum of 150 days per year, you need to visit the Nepal Immigration Office. Bring your passport, a passport photocopy and one passport sized photo (even though you've already given these details to get your original visa!). Visa extensions can only be bought per day, at a rate of USD2 a day, although you can pay in local currency. If you have questions, they speak quite good English +977 1 4438868. Their site is of little help, but it can be found here: http://www.immi.gov.np/contact-us/3-contact-us/1-contact-us

TIMS card - to register for a Green TIMS card for independent hiking, you need to visit the Nepal Tourist Office either in Kathmandu or Pokhara. More information about TIMS, permits and entrance fees is described in Trekking in Nepal.

Go next

Nearby

Further Away

Commercial domestic flights are available to/from Bhadrapur, Bhairawa, Bharatpur, Biratnagar, Dhangarhi, Janakpur, Nepalganj, Pokhara, Simara, and Tumling Tar. Domestic flights take about an hour and cost USD100-175. The primary domestic airlines are air viva, Yeti, Nepal Airlines, and Buddha Air. Buddha Air has a reputation among local expatriates as the safest domestic airline. Flights are typically delayed more later in the day and therefore it is better to take an early morning flight.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, February 06, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.