Nepal General Information

Banks

Normally banks are open between 09:00 A.M. to 3:00 p.m, Sunday to Friday. Saturdays are oNepali currency fficial holiday in Nepal and not Sundays. So, on Saturdays and other public holidays, they are open for shorter hours and for cash withdrawals and deposits only (not other services).  Other days some banks operate evening counters (till 6 or 7 Pm) in Kathmandu and Pokhara. So, in general you can assume that banks are open 365 days, in Kathmandu and Pokhara (but not in other cities or small towns).
You are supposed to pay in local currency, called Rupees (Rs), in the local market for any shopping and payments. However you must pay in foreign currency for air tickets and for visa charges. Airport departure taxes can be paid in Nepali Rupees. There is no departure tax / airport tax on international flights but on domestic flights including the mountain flights, there is an airport tax of Rs 200.


You can exchange your foreign currency at hotels, at banks or your travel agent can do this for you. Foreign currencies like US Dollar, Euro, Japanese Yen, and British Pound are accepted in hotel, travel agencies, restaurants and other establishments easily. However, other currencies are accepted only at banks and we recommend you not to carry these currencies to avoid inconvenience.
Visa and Master cards are widely accepted in the cities, mostly Kathmandu and Pokhara. Bigger hotels and restaurants accept them but smaller hotels and restaurants will not accept them.
There are ATM machines at several places in Kathmandu, Pokhara and some other cities including some at Kathmandu airport. The credit card service charge is normally 3.5% in Nepal.  You can also get Nepali Rupees against travelers cheques at banks.
If you are heading for a trek to the mountains, make sure you have enough Nepali cash for your personal expenses. Some lodges in the mountains may accept US dollars but the exchange rate offered is very low.
Important: If you are traveling via India, you can use your remaining Indian rupees in Nepal. However Indian Rupees of 500 denominations are illegal to carry in Nepal and the authorities may confiscate it at the airport.


Electricity

All cities and towns in Nepal have electricity and rural electrification in selected areas are currently underway. Some villages on the popular trekking trails of Annapurna, Everest and Langtang have electricity. You can charge your camera batteries at some of these places. Voltage available is 240-220 volts AC & 50 cycles throughout the country. Load shedding is frequently experienced in Nepal but mostly during dry months only. In Nepal we use round pins instead of flat pins to insert in the plugs.

Most of the good hotels will have back up for electricity and all the 4 star and 5 star hotels will have power back up throughout the loadshedding. But other hotels might give the power only during certain hours and not during the day time.

 

Language

Nepali is the official language. However, English is understood by majority of people in the cities. The country is a home of more than 60 ethnic groups & sup-groups and has over 70 different languages & dialects.

 

Climate

Climatic conditions of Nepal vary from one place to another in accordance with the geographical features. In the north summers are cool and winters severe, while in south summers are tropical and winters are mild. Nepal has namely five major seasons: spring, summer, monsoon, autumn and winter. An average temperature drop of 6°C occurs for every 1,000 m gain in altitude. In the Terai, summer temperatures exceed 37° C andhigher in some areas, winter temperatures range from 7°C to 23°C in the Terai. In mountainous regions, hills and valleys, summers are temperate while winter temperatures can plummet under sub zero. The valley of Kathmandu has a pleasant climate with average summer and winter temperatures of 19°C – 35°C and 2°C – 12°C respectively. And you will get to see the green paddy fields even on the outskirts of the valley.

An interesting fact is that there is no seasonal constraint on traveling in and through Nepal. Even in December and January, when winter is at its severest, there are compensating bright sun and brilliant views. As with most of the trekking areas in Nepal, the best time to visit are during spring and autumn. Spring is the time for rhododendrons while the clearest skies are found after the monsoon in October and November.  Activities like treking, climbing, rafting etc; undergo a temporary halt from mid June till September due to monsoon rains.  Summer is ideal season for Trans Himalayan treks like Upper mustang, Dolpo, Nar Phu valley and whole of Tibet. There is no rain in these rain shadow zones, it is warm and vegetations grow and flowers bloom. Cultural tours and short hiking can be done all the year round.

 

 Religion

 Nepal was declared a secular country by the Parliament on May 18, 2006. Religions practiced in Nepal are: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Sikhism, Bon, ancestor worship and animism. The majority of Nepalis are either Hindus or Buddhism. The two have co-existed in harmony through centuries.

Buddha is widely worshipped by both Buddhists and Hindus of Nepal. The five Dhyani Buddhas; Vairochana, Akshobhaya, Rathasambhava, Amitabha and Amoghasiddhi, represent the five basic elements: earth, fire, water, air and ether. Buddhist philosophy conceives these deities to be the manifestations of Sunya or absolute void. Mahakaala and Bajrayogini are Vajrayana Buddhist deities worshipped by Hindus as well.Hindu Nepalis worship the ancient Vedic gods. Bramha the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer, are worshipped as the Supreme Hindu Trinity. People pray to the Shiva Linga or the phallic symbol of Lord Shiva in most Shiva temples. Shakti, the dynamic element in the female counterpart of Shiva, is highly revered and feared. Mahadevi, Mahakali, Bhagabati, Ishwari are some of the names given. Kumari, the Virgin Goddess, also represents Shakti.

Other popular deities are Ganesh for luck, Saraswati for knowledge, Lakshmi for wealth and Hanuman for protection. Krishna, believed to be the human incarnation of Lord Vishnu is also worshipped widely. Hindu holy scripts Bhagawat Gita, Ramayan and Mahabharat are widely read in Nepal. Vedas, Upanishads and other holy scriptures are read by well learned Brahmin Pundits during special occasions. You will see candles, lamps being lit in all the temples and monasteries.


Customs


The diversity in Nepal in terms of ethnicity again makes room for various sets of customs. Most of  these customs go back to the Hindu, Buddhist or other religious traditions. Among them, the rules of  marriage are particularly interesting. Traditional marriages call for deals arranged by parents after the boy or girl come of age.

Nepalis do not eat beef. There are several reasons for this, one being that the Hindus worship cow. Cow
is also the national animal of Nepal. Another interesting concept among Nepalis is division of pure and impure. “Jutho” referring to food or material touched by another’s mouth directly or indirectly, is considered impure by Nepalis. Nepalis consider cow dung to be pure for cleansing purposes.

 

Festivals

Nepali festivals have an important part in the life of Nepalese. The most important festival in Nepal is Dasain which usually celebrated nationwide in October. It features the biggest animal sacrifice of the year. Right after Dashain is the festival called Tihar (November) which is known as the festival of lights. Gai Jastra Festival

Other festivals celebrated nationally include the water-tinged Holi (March) and Chaitra Daisan (April), Hindu festivals number the Haribodhini Ekadashi (November) and Maha Shivaratri (March), both celebrated in Pashupatinath, the Gai Jatra (August) in Kathmandu and the Krishna Jayanti (August/September) in Patan. Buddhist celebrations are just as thick on the ground, and include Mani Rimdu (November) in Solu Khumbu, Buddha Jayanti (May) in Kathmandu, and Losar (Tibetan New Year) (February) in Swayambhunath, Jawlakhel and highland communities.

Food

Nepal does not have a distinct cooking style. However, food habits differ depending on the region. Nepali food has been influenced by Indian and Tibetan styles of cooking. Authentic Nepali taste is found in Newari and Thakai cuisines. Most Nepalis do not use cutlery but eat with their right hand
Nepali meal
The regular Nepali meal is dal (lentil soup), bhat (boiled rice) and tarkari (curried vegetables), often accompanied by achar (pickle). Curried meat is very popular, but is saved for special occasions, as it is relatively more expensive. Momos (steamed or fried dumplings) deserve a mention as one of the most popular snack among Nepalis. Rotis (flat bread) and dhedo (boiled flour) also make meals in some homes.

There are plenty of choices of resturants and cuisines in Kathmandu and Pokhara. You can find restaurants serving Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Continental, French, Mexican, Italian, Korean, Thai etc foods. There are also restaurants serving typical Nepali dishes in Kathmandu and Pokhara.

TM Nepal Tourism Year 2011

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