Kathmandu Travel Guide 2019

Published March 19, 2019
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Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, is the main entry point to exploring the country. Whether you’re there for hiking or for sightseeing, you’re bound to go through its busy streets with colorful prayer flags.

In this post, I will breakdown all the major information you should know before you plan your trip. I will also include some of the most popular and must-visit attractions in and around the largest city in Nepal.

Early morning at Nagarkot #JustWokeUp

Early morning at Nagarkot #JustWokeUp

Getting Around

There is public transportation but it’s not as reliable as you would hope for. Unless you’re willing to take a cramped bus with your luggage, then it’s better to take a taxi. It’s actually pretty cheap to hire a taxi to get around the city. You can even hire one for a whole day to tour you around the tourist attractions. Prices vary depending on how you bargain, but it’s usually around 2-10 USD (NPR 220.00 – 1,100.00) around the city. For a whole-day rent, it might be better to go to a travel agency and fix a price with them since they most definitely have contacts to different taxis/private cars. A taxi to/from the airport is usually USD 7.00.

Busy street outside Boudanath Stupa

Busy street outside Boudanath Stupa

Money Exchange

There are plenty of money changers in Thamel. Since it’s the tourist hub of Kathmandu, rates are competitive and you will definitely get a good rate if you look and compare. They accept major currencies, but just to be safe, just bring US Dollars. We also found very good rates outside major attractions like the Boudhanath Stupa.

Another way of exchanging money is through travel agencies. If you already have talked to a travel agency and have availed their tour packages, you can ask them if they know a money changer with a good rate and they will take you to their go-to place. When we did this, we got a different rate than what was posted. We got NPR 112 for every dollar, against the 109 that was given to their normal customer. So if we exchanged USD 300, we got 33,600 Rupees instead of 32,700. That’s a difference of 900 Rupees which is a lot!!!

Accommodation

I would always recommend Thamel as a starting point if you have a flexible plan. Nepal is a very exciting country and it’s best explored with a rough outline that you may or may not follow, instead of a strict hour-by-hour schedule. So start at Thamel, talk to other people, take suggestions, and go from there.

Getting accommodation in Thamel is easy, you can just show up and look around for the one that suits your style. But you can also prebook online, which I realized is a little bit cheaper than walk-in. There websites like Agoda, Booking.com, OYO that aggregates all the available beds/rooms and you can just easily sort by price or amenities.

Price for a standard double bed with shared bathroom is around NPR 1,000.00. For a private bathroom, it’s around NPR 2,000.00. So expect cheaper prices than those for dorm types.

There are also hotels around major attractions like the Boudhanath Stupa and Bhaktapur Durbar Square. What’s great with these ones is you get to stay within the historical sites, which is an experience on its own.

Street in Bhaktapur

Street in Bhaktapur

Attractions

Kathmandu Durbar Square

There are 3 Durbar Squares in Kathmandu Valley, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We only got to visit two of them, but it was enough for us to be amazed by the architecture and artistry of the Newar people.

Out of those 3, this is the most accessible one since it’s just south of Thamel. You can easily walk from your hotel if the weather’s nice.

There is an admission fee but it was not strictly imposed. It’s still better to pay for them if you see a ticketing booth in the area.

Admission Fee: NPR 1,000.00 per person

Kathmandu Durbar Square

Kathmandu Durbar Square

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

This royal palace of the Bhaktapur Kingdom houses some of the most iconic landmarks in Kathmandu Valley. One of which is Nyatapola Temple, the biggest and highest pagoda ever made in Nepal. The complex is huge and it’s better to hire a tourist guide for a better understanding of the place. Price for the guide depends, but it’s usually around NPR 1,000.00 and a tip.

Admission Fee: NPR 1,500.00 per person

Nyatapola Temple at Bhaktapur

Nyatapola Temple at Bhaktapur

Patan Durbar Square

This was a royal palace of a prosperous city in the ancient times. Most of the current architectures date back to 1600 and are considered a marvel of Newar craftsmanship.

This was the one we didn’t get to visit so I couldn’t say much.

Admission Fee: NPR 1,000.00 per person

 

Swayambhunath Stupa

Also known as Monkey Temple, this is an ancient religious site that sits on top of a hill overlooking the city. The short trail to the top is very easy, but it gives you a really satisfying view. The stupa also has a lot of monkeys that you can interact with but I’d suggest not to. It’s better to leave them be and just take a few snaps before they take your camera from you. Visiting this site is great early in the morning or at sunset, and expect a more local crowd.

Admission Fee: NPR 200.00 per person

Fixing the prayer flags at Swayambhunath Stupa

Fixing the prayer flags at Swayambhunath Stupa

Pashupatinath Temple

Majority of the population in Nepal practice Hinduism and Pashupatinath Temple is a sacred place that, according to our tour guide, is a mecca for Hindu people. The actual temple is prohibited to non-Hindus but we were allowed to explore other areas around. Since it is located along the banks of Bagmati River, it also houses cremation sites. The burning of bodies happens 24/7 and onlookers can only observe across the river. We hired a tourist guide for NPR 500.00 but he didn’t seem pleased with our payment.

Admission Fee: NPR 1,000.00 per person

Cremation site at Pashupatinath Temple

Cremation site at Pashupatinath Temple

Boudhanath Stupa

Located on the outskirts of Kathmandu, this is one of the largest stupas in Nepal. Surrounding the stupa is a village with restaurants, guest houses, souvenir shops, and more. The whole area radiates with a festive and vibrant feeling. This is one of the most beautiful stupas we’ve ever seen.

Admission Fee: NPR 400.00 per person

Boudhanath Stupa

Boudhanath Stupa

Nagarkot

When visiting Nepal, seeing the Himalayas should always be part of the plan. Hiking a part of it would be great, but for people like me who are not very active, a sight of it is enough. One of the best viewing areas for the Himalayas is Nagarkot located east of Kathmandu at an elevation of 2,195 meters. Especially great for sunrise or sunset viewing.

The ranges that you can see there include Annapurna range, Manaslu range, Ganesh Himal range, Langtang range, Jugal range, Rolwaling range, Mahalangur range (Everest range) and Numbur range.

Sunrise view of the Himalayas at Nagarkot

Sunrise view of the Himalayas at Nagarkot

Thamel

This list wouldn’t be complete without the traveler haven, Thamel! Perfect as a starting point of your trip, this place will give you everything you need to know and have to prepare for a journey across the country. A variety of shops line its streets from hiking gears, antique souvenirs, or even knock-off apparels! There are restaurants all over the area with local delicacies and cuisines from around the world. Cheap guest houses and classy hotels can also be found in Thamel. And of course, there are travel agencies to help you with your plans whether you want to go to a helicopter tour or join a hiking group to the Himalayas.

Streets of Thamel

Streets of Thamel

Food

For a detailed guide on Nepalese Food and Snacks, click here!

Dal Bhat at Muktinath Thakali Kitchen

Dal Bhat at Muktinath Thakali Kitchen

~

Kathmandu is a great city to welcome you to Nepal. It shows you how crazy the country can be, but also how spiritual your experience is going to be. Wherever your next destination is, Pokhara, Chitwan, Everest, this city will be your gateway to the beauty of the landscapes of Nepal.

To see our Nepal 10 Days DIY Itinerary that includes Kathmandu, Bandipur, Pokhara, and more, click here!

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