Nepal Budget Travel Guide: Backpacking Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara under P30,000 All-In

NEPAL

Nepal, sandwiched between China and India, is a landlocked country in South Asia. The country has a very diverse geography. It is home to eight of the ten highest mountains in the world including Mount Everest – the highest point on Earth. Hiking and trekking at different nature trails is the most popular activity here. You may choose different treks varying in difficulty. If you’re up to more challenging trails, a hike to Annapurna Base Camp and Everest Base Camp are the two most popular options.

If you’re not planning to hike like us, there are still plenty of things to do and sites to see. You may explore multiple cities and visit numerous intricately designed temples to truly immerse yourself with their culture and religion. Visiting view points in Sarangkot and Nagarkot is also a great activity for an amazing view of snow-capped mountains in Annarpurna and Himalayan mountain ranges.

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View of the Himalayan Mountain Range from Nagarkot View Tower
HOW TO GET THERE (VISA ON ARRIVAL)

There are no direct flights between Manila and Kathmandu. Affordable options to connect to are Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.

We booked our Kuala Lumpur – Kathmandu – Kuala Lumpur flights via AirAsia (P7,400 round trip) eight months in advance. Then we waited for Cebu Pacific’s seat sale promos for Manila – Kuala Lumpur  (P2,300 one way) and Kuala Lumpur – Manila (P1,900 one way) flights. To compare, regular rates range from P3,300 to P6,000 both for Cebu Pacific and AirAsia.

Another option is the country’s flag carrier, Nepal Airlines, which flies directly to Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Hong Kong. However, online booking service is unavailable so you need to visit their offices in the respective cities.

A 15-day tourist visa is available upon arrival which only takes 10 minutes. In their immigration area upon arrival, there are kiosks where you just scan your passport, take a photo and pay $25 for the visa. No other documents needed. It’s good to have return trip tickets with you just in case.

WHEN TO GO IN NEPAL

There are four seasons in Nepal- spring, summer, autumn and winter. We visited last December 2016, the start of their winter season, where the temperature can drop to 3 degrees celsius at night (depending where). Weather is comfortable when the sun is out and can get really cold early in the morning and after sunset. Dust and pollution is also quite intense during the season because of the capital’s topography. Rainfall during the winter period (December – February) is rare. If you do not mind the cold, we recommend going during Winter season since it’s their lean season (rates can be lower). The peak season for trekking is at autumn (September – November) and their monsoon season is during summer (June – August) where it rains almost everyday.

Winter experience: The capital of Kathmandu can get really cold at night and will have a chilly pleasant weather all throughout the day up until sunset, when the temperature drops again. Its’ neighboring cities of Patan and Bhaktapur also have a similar pattern. Although, Bhaktapur’s climate is colder especially if you go up to Nagarkot (where we experienced 3 degree-weather). Pokhara also has a similar pattern.

WHERE TO GO IN NEPAL

Kathmandu (1 day)

Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, is the gateway to adventure spots like Pokhara and world heritage sites like Bhaktapur and Patan. The city, although quite dense and populated, should not be missed. There are a lot of sites and temples worth visiting in this culturally rich city, from small river-side shrines to massive temples in Durbar Square. Here’s a detailed travel guide to Kathmandu.

Places of interests: Kathmandu Durbar Square, Boudhanath Stupa, Pashupatinath, Swayambunath or The Monkey Temple and Kopan Monastery

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Katmandu Durbar Square

Patan (1 day)

Patan, also known as Lalitpur, is Nepal’s third largest city next to Kathmandu and Pokhara. It is one of the three Royal Cities in Kathmandu valley along with Kathmandu and Bhaktapur. Located just 7 kilometers south of the capital across Bagmati River, it is a city worth checking out if you are in Nepal. Here’s a detailed travel guide to Patan.

Places of interests: Patan Durbar Square, Mul Chowk, Sundari Chowk, Tusha Hiti Step-well, Krishna Temple and Patan Museum or Keshav Narayan Chowk

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Patan Durbar Square

Pokhara (3 days)

Pokhara is a popular tourist destination in Nepal known for its amazing views of the Annapurna mountain range – home to three of the ten highest mountains in the world. The city is a perfect destination away from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu. You may also hike different nature trails nearby, visit waterfalls and view the Annapurna mountain range up close at Sarangkot. The city is also the jump-off for hikers going to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC). Here’s a detailed travel guide to Pokhara.

Places of interests: Phewa Lake, Tal Barahi, World Peace Stupa, Sarangkot view point, Devi’s Falls and different nature hikes

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Sunrise view from Sarangkot

Bhaktapur (1 day)

One of the three royal cities in Kathmandu Valley is Bhaktapur. Among the three, its’ Durbar Square is the most serene and peaceful because only pedestrians are allowed inside.  The city itself is well preserved where most building are made of red bricks. Nearby is Nagarkot, a peaceful hill-top town famous for its amazing panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain range where the small tip of Mt. Everest can be seen. It’s definitely worth a visit. Here’s a detailed travel guide to Bhaktapur.

Places of interests: Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Golden Gate, 55 Window Palace, Taumadhi Square, Nyatapola Temple, Pottery Square and Siddha Pokhari

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Nyatapola Temple

Nagarkot (2-3 days)

After exploring the city of Bhaktapur, you may visit Nagarkot, A hill-top town famous for its amazing views of the Himalayan Mountain Range. Since it’s nearing the end of our trip in Nepal, we decided to stay here for three days to rest and to have a peaceful break from all the exploring we did in different cities (Kathmandu, Pokhara, Patan & Bhaktapur). A good way to end your Nepal trip. Here’s a detailed travel guide to Nagarkot.

Places of interests: Nagarkot View tower and hiking at different nature trails

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WHERE TO STAY IN NEPAL

Kathmandu

There are a lot of hotels and guesthouses scattered all over Kathmandu. Thamel is the area where most tourists stay. Here’s a list of hotels in Kathmandu. To scan for hostels and guesthouses you may also try Airbnb or Hostelworld. You may also try Booking.com to compare prices. Here’s a list of hotels from Booking.com. Other tourists stay away from Thamel because of its busy streets, although its location is good since it’s near Durbar Square and the bus pick-up point to Pokhara.

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Patan

Patan is very near Kathmandu. We recommend booking a hotel in Kathmandu since half a day is enough to explore Patan. You may book a hotel in Thamel, Kathmandu – the tourist area of the capital. There are a lot of accommodation options here depending on your budget.

Bhaktapur

There are a lot of guesthouses in Bhaktapur. You may book a hotel or guesthouse inside the Bhaktapur Durbar Square for the complete experience. We got a room with two single beds for 1000 Rs/night near Taumadhi Square where Nyatapola Temple is located. Aside from the capital city, we recommend spending a night here as well. Here’s a list of hotels in Bhaktapur. You may also book through AirBnb, Hostelworld or Booking.com. (List of Bhaktapur hotels from Booking.com)

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Nagarkot

We suggest that you pre-book your hotel or guesthouse before heading to Nagarkot. Guesthouses can be fully booked especially during peak season. We decided to “splurge” a little bit and stayed at a Himalayan view room at Peaceful Cottage. Rooms are at least Php 1,500/night. (Alternative: Hotel at the End of the Universe). Here’s a list of hotels in Nagarkot. (Compare prices: list of Nagarkot  hotels from Booking.com)

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Pokhara

Most hotels and guesthouses in Pokhara are located at Lakeside. There’s a range of accommodation options here; from affordable guesthouses to expensive hotels. It is also home to different lakeside (Phewa Lake) restaurants and cafes where tourists usually hang out. Multiple souvenir shops are also located here.

When getting rooms, request for a mountain view room to get amazing views of the Annapurna mountain range. The snow-capped mountains can be seen from Lakeside early in the morning and during sunset. Get a top floor room for unobstructed views. Lakeside is walkable from Pokhara bus terminal – around 15 – 20 minutes. You may also take a taxi for 200 Rs. Here’s a list of hotels in Pokhara. (Compare prices: list of Pokhara hotels from Booking.com)

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BUDGET
ACTIVITIES RF USD PHP PHP/head
Roundtrip Airfare 11,600 11,600
Philippine Travel Tax 1,620 1,620
Visa on Arrival (15 days) $25 1247 1247
KATHMANDU
Durbar Square Entrance Fee Rf 1000 464 464
Taxi to Boudhanath Rf 600 279 139.5
Boudhanath Entrance Fee Rf 250 116 116
Taxi to Pashupatinath Rf 200 93 46.5
Pashupatinath Entrance Fee Rf 1000 464 464
Taxi back to Thamel Rf 300 139 69.5
Accommodation (2 nights) Rf 2000 928 464
Meals (Rf 350/meal x 6) Rf 2100 975 975
PATAN
Taxi to Patan from Thamel Rf 400 186 93
Patan Durbar Square Entrance Fee Rf 1000 464 464
Taxi Back to Thamel Rf 300 139 69.5
Accommodation (Stayed in Thamel, Kathmandu) Rf 0 0 0
POKHARA
Tourist Bus Tickets to/from Pokhara (Rf 700/way) Rf 1400 645 645
Taxi to Sarangkot (Roundtrip) Rf 1,500 696 348
Sarangkot View Tower Entrance Fee Rf 50 23 23
Accommodation (2 nights) $30 1496 748
Meals (Rf 350/meal x 6) Rf 2100 975 975
BHAKTAPUR
Taxi to Bhaktapur Rf 1,300 603 301.5
Bhaktapur Durbar Square Entrance Fee Rf 1,500 696 696
Accommodation (2 nights) Rf 2,000 928 464
Meals (Rf 350/meal x 6) Rf 2100 975 975
NAGARKOT
Taxi to Nagarkot (Roundtrip, ave. Rf 1,000-1,500/way) Rf 2,000 928 464
Roundtrip Taxi to Nagarkot View Tower Rf 1,000 464 232
Accommodation (2 nights) Rf 4,500 2089 1044.5
Meals (w/ breakfast, Rf 350/meal x 4) Rf 1,400 650 650
TOTAL       25,398

We spent a total of nine days in Nepal visiting the following cities (in order): Kathmandu (2 nights) – Patan (0.5 days) – Pokhara (2 nights) – Bhaktapur (1 night) – Nagarkot (2 nights) – Bhaktapur (1 night).

TIPS AND FAQs
  • Where can we stay on a budget?

There are a lot of budget guesthouses when you walk around Thamel priced at 1000 Rs a night which is roughly Php 450- 500/night. Although, rooms can be very basic. If you’re going on a winter make sure to ask if they have room heaters or at least a heated shower. You’re going to need it.

  • Where can we buy souvenirs?

Thamel, Kathmandu has a lot of souvenir shops scattered around the area. Items here are “priced” higher but the variety is better compared to counterparts in Patan. We bought our souvenirs in Bhaktapur. Do not forget to haggle! Some store owners will really jack the price up at the first offer.

  • Is taking a taxi the only way to get around?

No, there are public buses available in Ratna Bus Park, the downside – time schedules can be irregular. Taking a taxi is more convenient even though it costs more. Do not forget to agree on a price first before riding.

  • Are there good food options and is it safe?

Yes, there are a lot especially in Thamel, Pokhara and Bhaktapur. These areas are very commercialized so there are quite a number of restaurants in the area. (Italian, Indian, Nepalese, American etc.) We recommend eating at established restaurants instead of local ones. Food safety can be an issue in some local restaurants.

  • Tap vs. bottled water?

We recommend buying bottled water just to avoid problems. Their bottled water is cheaper (compared to here in the Philippines). The price of one 1 L bottled water is only 20 Rs at some shops (around Php 9 – 10). Bottled water price at restaurants is at 50 – 100 Rs.

  • Should we bring dust masks?

Yes, especially if you’re going on winter. The city’s topography traps all the pollution. You will immediately notice it upon arrival. It can be really helpful especially when walking around the cities of Bhaktapur, Patan and Kathmandu.

  • Is it safe to walk around the city?

The city generally felt safe. We never encountered any problem. Although, it is good to keep in mind that there are always bad “elements” in any city so just keep an eye on your belongings. Be careful when crossing the streets. The traffic is crazy and pedestrians lanes are ignored. Also, honking is very common so do not be surprised.

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2 thoughts on “Nepal Budget Travel Guide: Backpacking Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara under P30,000 All-In

  1. Very helpful! Thank you for sharing the experience and all these information. But, how did you get that low fare from KL to Kathmandu?

    Like

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