Back to Nepal: A little inside of the country and my first night in Kathmandu
Last August, I visited the country for the first time as a tourist. Less than six months later, I returned to explore more beautiful places in Nepal. Armed with pre-booked flight tickets, online visa, a backpack along with USD 750, CNY 1000, and a host of other foreign currencies, I returned to the land of gods with great enthusiasm.
After 47 hours journey, I landed at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu on Wednesday, February 28, 2018, at around 21:20 local time. Upon arrival at the airport, I rushed to the visa payment counter. After queuing for ± 20 minutes, it was my turn to pay the Visa on Arrival (VOA) fee. The payment process was fast and smooth.
The Government of Nepal provides three tourist visa options based on length of visit; 15 days (USD 25), 30 days (USD 40), and 90 days (USD 100). Please note that VOA payments at the airport can be made using any major currency such as; GBP, EUR, CHF, USD, CAD, AUD, SGD, MYR, CNY, HKD, JPY, and some other foreign currencies.
Payments in currencies other than USD will be adjusted to the USD rate on the day. At land borders, officials require payment in cash US dollars. So bring small bills with you if you happen to enter Nepal by bus from India or other bordering countries.
Once I got the receipt, I had to queue again for the immigration process. This time the line was shorter. In less than 5 minutes I was greeted politely by the immigration officer.
“Good evening Sir, welcome to Nepal, may I have your passport please?” said the immigration officer politely.
“Good evening, thank you! Here are my passport, online VISA application, and the receipt” I replied calmly.
The immigration process went smoothly and quickly, at around 21:55, I was at the airport exit. Before leaving the airport, I purchased a tourist SIM Card with a 10 GB 4G data and voice (30 days validity) for NRS 1800. With an internet connection in hand, I was ready to embark on another adventure in Nepal.
Online Taxi in Nepal
Online cab service is unpopular in Nepal. EddyCab is the only online cab provider there. This application offers fairer rate than the conventional taxi.
Unfortunately, since the service is relatively new, waiting for drivers can take up to 30 minutes. Tho, it’s still worth a wait because some cab drivers in Nepal prefer to provide tourist prices than put their taximeter on. Another downside, EddyCab only connect taxi drivers who are willing to use the meter with the prospective passengers. So no private cars available.
Just like Uber, EddyCab also has its own meter on the app. So that, although the driver sets their meter on before starting the journey, passengers only need to pay the fees that appear on the screen when they arrive at their destination. The fare might be different depends on the distance and travel time. According to my personal experience, using EddyCab to roam around Kathmandu helped me save some money.
Visiting Nepal during the festival season
September-November is known as tourist season in Nepal. However, in February-April there are still a lot of tourists visiting the country. Besides the weather is relatively warm, tourists will also spoil by festivals and celebrations.
Maha Shivaratri, Ghyalpo Losar, Prajatantra Diwas, Holi (festival of colours), Ghode Jatra, Ram Navami, Nepali New Year, Loktantra Diwas and Buddha Jayanti are some of the festivals that are celebrated throughout Nepal between February and April. My visit to Nepal this time is also to celebrate Holi in Kathmandu. Holi aka the festival of colour is really popular among the countries with a Hindu majority. During the celebration, tens of thousands of people gather on the streets and throw colourful powders and water onto each other. This year, Nepali people celebrated Holi on March 1-2, 2018.
Hotels across Kathmandu in festival season
Festival season makes room prices 3-5 times higher than usual. Last August, the cheapest room at one of 4-stars hotels in Kathmandu is around USD 53/night (before discount). March 2018, the price increased up to USD 228/night (before discount) for the same room.
During my last visit, the cheapest room at one of 3-stars hotels in Thamel was only USD 42/night (before discount). The rate included airport transfer, welcome drink, free internet and breakfast. Last month, for the same room, the hotel charged USD 160/night (before discount). Airport transfer wasn’t included. The hotel charged another USD 10 for each ride from/to Airport.
However, you can still get lower rates if you make a reservation 3-6 months in advance. You can also take advantage of the “pay later” and “free cancellation fee” features on Agoda and Booking.com. Unfortunately, only people with credit card can use the features.
A chaotic night
Back to the story, once I exited the airport building, I looked for a local friend who promised to pick me up. He wasn’t there! I assumed he went back home because I arrived almost two hours late.
I called him, and he told me that he was at home. He couldn’t pick me up because it was almost 11 PM already. He also didn’t show up at the airport last time, so I had anticipated it already. I sent three emails to the hotel on previous day, informing them that my plane was delayed.
I was looking for a driver who held a sign with my name on it. Ironically, he was nowhere to be found. I called the hotel, and the staff said a driver was waiting for me at the airport. 20 minutes later, the front desk asked me to take a prepaid cab, and they promised to refund my money at the hotel.
I arrived at the hotel around 23:30 local time. It turned out that my adventure hasn’t ended yet. The receptionist had to transfer me to another hotel because the hotel was fully booked. I still had to walk for 10 minutes to another hotel, what an experience!
According to a friendly security guard who accompanied me walking through a small muddy road, overbooking is common during the festival season. I assumed that the staff were too busy and failed to open my online reservation. Otherwise, they could prevent the inconvenient event.
Luckily, in Nepal, majority of hotels are member of a coorporate group, so each hotel most likely has an affiliation with another hotel within proximity. It means, transfering guests within hotels is easy. The most popular hotel group in Nepal is OYO.
Anyway, once I arrived at the new hotel, the receptionist borrowed and copied my passport. Apparently, he noticed my tired face, so he didn’t ask me to fill any forms at all. Instead, he filled it himself and asked me to check it and give my signature afterwards. The check-in process was quick. It took around 5-7 minutes only.
The same guy brought me to my room. Finally, my adventure that night ended in chamber 202. Although I felt quite exhausted, jet lag kept me awake till 3 AM. I ended my might by watching youtube videos until I fell asleep.
That’s all folks! Thanks for reading this blog. Some readers suggested me to use this writing style to make my blog more varied, what do you think pals? Hope you like it as well. You can read my other blogs here. As always, don’t forget to share this blog with your family and friends! Happy Easter and have a great holiday!