We arrived in Kathmandu around 18:00.
Right away you can tell you are, let’s say, “not in kansas anymore”
The airport is dated, dark woods, old floors, looks like it has not been renovated in about 30 years. Baggage claim is tiny and guards actually check your luggage tag with the sticker you are given (on the back of your ticker – presumably to stop people from stealing bags which I guess happens.
Once you are out of the airport, all you see is taxi drivers trying to get your attention.
Advice: book a hotel or hostel that will pick arrange your airport transfer for you because these taxi drivers waiting at the airport will most definitely overcharge you because you are a tourist.
Our hotel did arrange airport transport but we were not able to send them our flight information in advance due to internet issues. We thought it would not be an issues. However, upon landing we realized it was. Both ATMs in the airport were broken and taxis do not accept credit cards.
We were able to call our hotel though and they sent a car for us right away so it all worked out fine.
Advice: Come to Nepal with US dollars. These are worth much more to locals than their own currency.
We did not have US dollars as we came from Denmark and Dubai and we made out just fine, but having some USD will make your trip to Nepal that much easier.
Our hotel for the first few nights was lovely. We stayed at Madhuben Guest House.
The rooms were basic but clean. Our room had an ensuite bathroom and a TV. Our booking included the airport pick-up for free if you stay 2 nights or more and they included a very nice breakfast every morning.
The hotel is also just around the corner from the Thamel neighborhood, the best place for tourist to be in Kathmandu – full of restaurants, shops, etc.
The hotel also had a travel desk to help with tours of the city, booking treks, etc. Later we found that this travel desk was actually part of a separate company called Adventure Bound. Rajan helped us so much! We arranged city sightseeing with him as well as our trek (more on that in another post).
Kathmandu is a very large city and is NOT very walkable. Most of the streets are either not paved or are in disrepair. There are nearly no sidewalks. The streets are narrow, people and scooters everywhere.
So, to see the main sights we booked a private car for the day and a guide to show us around. BEST DECISION EVER! The car and guide only cost $30 for the entire day + cost of entrance fees to each attraction.
Note: foreign tourists, aka westerners, pay a higher entrance fee than tourists from neighboring countries but the entrance fees are minimal – between $5 and $10 so we did not have a problem with this.
First we visited the Boudhanath Stupa, one of the largest stupas in the world
Turning the mani wheels for good luck
Next we visited Pashupatinath Temple, a hindu temple and a UNESCO world heritage site. This is also a major site for cremation (bodies are cremated in the hindu religion).
This temple is situated on the banks of a holy river which eventually joins the Ganges in India.
Our last stop of the day was Durbar Square, also a UNESCO world heritage site. This square was the home of the Nepalese Royal family and includes the old palace along with numerous Hindu temples.
We happened to be in Kathmandu during an important hindu holiday Dashain. Each year for this holiday a goat is sacrificed to the gods and the intestines are strung up over the doorway of the palace. Here you can see this years and last years.
These three sites basically filled our day so we visited the fourth major tourist sit the next day. Our trek guide Raman met us at the hotel to meet us and to take us to Swayambhunath, aka the monkey temple.
A very fun part for me was the monkeys. Coming from America and Denmark I am not used to seeing monkeys outside of a zoo so seeing them hop around the temple just did not get old.
It is important to remember though that monkeys are very naughty, they will steal from you if they have the chance and they do bite so be careful.
General Notes about Kathmandu
1. Do not drink the water – it will make you sick
It is very easy to buy bottled water. You can also purify the water with iodine tablets or a UV stick.
We actually had Lifestraw water bottles which filter out bacteria which worked out perfectly – thanks to two of our friends for the very practical wedding gift!
2. electricity is not consistent in Kathmandu
Power outages are common.
Most areas have a daily electricity schedule and the power is out for average 8 hours per day (in 4 hour time blocks).
Most hotels and hostels have back-up generators to power the lights but be sure to charge your phones, tablets, cameras, etc when you know you have power.
I also recommend carrying a small flashlight at night for when the power is out. There are no street lights, so when the power is out in the shops the streets are very dark.
The flashlight with help you to see where you are going and will also help cars and scooters to see you.
3. There are stray dogs everywhere!
the good news is they are generally sweet and do not bother you, however, do not tempt fate by petting them.