[Travel Advice] Nepal – Pokhara

Random Observation/Comment #409: Wherever we go and whatever we do, safety first – stories later.

see lemons in pokhara

Things Nepal Does Well:

  • Delicious Indian food (vegetarian). I can’t say much about the meat products since I was a vegetarian the entire Nepal trip, but all the stews, curries, and momo dishes were extremely flavorful and delicious. I also found it to be quite healthy because I wound up losing 5 lbs from just the change of diet.
  • Inexpensive Everything. There are certainly tourist inflated prices for all goods, but even with that, everything was extremely inexpensive. Assuming 100 rupees is 1 USD, Bottles of water are 20 cents USD and a plate of curry from one of the nicest restaurants in Kathmandu is $2 USD. The most expensive meal we had where we ordered 7 dishes and 2 rounds of beers was only $25. That being said, you should know that the average factory worker makes literally $2 a day. Their rent is $30 a month and taxi drivers are probably the most profitable occupation.
  • Nice people. There were quite a few times that we thought people were going to give us wrong directions or be dishonest to us to get a better deal, but in the end, we were just being cynical. Overall, people are really nice.
  • Amazing sunrises. In Pokhara, the sunrise view of the Annapurna mountain peaks was majestic. We took a 1000 rupee taxi arranged by the hotel at 5:30AM and hiked up 20 minutes to the top. Definitely check for clear weather.
  • Parahawking. Pokhara is the only place where you can go paragliding and have a vulture eat from your hand while floating around watching the Himalayas shine around you. I’ll be writing a blogpost about this incredible $200 experience shortly.

Lessons learned:

  • Nepal Visa
    • You can get the visa in Nepal, but bring your own 2×2 passport photo. If you forget it, the 1-minute, $5 USD passport photo will work. Considering it costs $7 to get from the airport to Thamel, the passport photo can be seen as a rip off.
  • Transportation
    • It’s good practice to ask for prices of taxis between places from your hotel staff.
    • You can haggle taxi prices (and haggle all prices). It approximately costs 700 rupees from the airport to Thamel and 350 rupees from Thamel to the airport.
    • Tipping is optional, but they’ll be ecstatic from 5%.
    • There are no traffic laws and traffic lights in Kathmandu. If you’re a worrier, do not look out the front and know that everyone rides the horn. Your car will be driving towards incoming traffic most of the time.
  • Weather
    • Nepal has large temperature variations. In February, it was 70 degrees in the sun and 50 degrees in the shade. Bring layers and sunglasses.
  • Hygiene
    • Dust from the unpaved roads and crowded streets tend to billow. Bring a face mask or a light scarf to cover your nose/mouth.
  • Food
    • As a general dining rule, only eat at places where there are other people present (better with locals). Empty places may not be clean.
    • Get the masala tea – it’s super delicious honey spiced milk tea
    • If you go to Kathmandu Guest House, order the Vegetable spring rolls. They are surprisingly yummy.
    • Water is not potable since it comes from the river and the river is used for washing and other bathroom functions. There is literally a percentage of fecal matter in the water because the filters don’t a good job, so be careful with eating raw vegetables.
    • Avoid eating questionable Street food from vendors. I went to a place by the river and got a samosa chat and the guy at my hotel room gave me this look like I was going to die in an hour.
  • How Far Money Goes
    • The average salary in Nepal (for unioned factory workers) is around 200 rupees a day, which is around $61 USD a month. Remember the guy taking photos and charging $5? That’s a fine gig.
    • Just for being a tourist, you will absolutely get shaken down for all tourist attractions.
  • Living Arrangements
    • There are daily power outages. There was a Saturday where we only had 1 hour of power the whole day. They will keep at least one light on (either the bathroom light or a small door light), but the others will be off. This also means no power from the outlets, so do your charging during the day.
    • Hot water does exist, but it’s usually powered by solar panels, so normal showering times in the morning and night will have cold water
    • Again, the water is not potable, so brush your teeth with bottled water
  • Say Thank you: Dhan-ye-bad– Nepali people (and generally all locals in every country) are very happy when you make an attempt to speak the local language.

Pokhara is ten times better than Kathmandu in every way. There’s less dust and more nature. Kathmandu is just a jumping point to anywhere else.

FYI: Getting to/from Pokhara from/to Kathmandu:

  • By Airplane. Takes 25 minutes on a 18-person propeller plane. Fly on a large airline like Yeti air. This will cost around $80 per person.
  • By Car. Ask your hotel if they can provide a driver. This will take 5-6 hours through the one winding road around mountains and costs around $100. I recommend doing this method.
  • Public Bus. This will take around 7-8 hours through the same path, but the buses are known to be hot and stuffy. People also ride on top of the bus during peak seasons. The bus ticket costs around $5 per person.

Overall, Pokhara is a very low key adventure junky little town. Things happen slowly and that was quite alright. I left my schedules back home and just went with the flow. Also, go Parahawking. Its completely worth it. If you go paragliding, I would suggest not going for the lowest price – better safe than sorry.

Our Itinerary:

  • Day 1: Kathmandu wandering. Eat at the Kathmandu Guest House in Thamel for the safer side.
  • Day 2: Pokhara morning flight (25 minutes) from Yeti Air; Pokhara lakeside boat ride
  • Day 3: 5:30AM sunrise (1000 rupee taxi arranged by the Sacred Valley Inn); wandering Pokhara; afternoon massage
  • Day 4: Seeing Hands blind Massage and relaxing by the lake
  • Day 5: 9:30AM Parahawking and hot stone massages
  • Day 6: Hired a 10,000 rupee driver for a 5-hour car drive from Pokhara to Kathmandu; more relaxing
  • Day 7: Flight out of Kathmandu

~See Lemons Love Pokhara