Nepal is the country that stole my heart. I’ve visited a countless number of times, and I loved it so much I even moved here! I’ve created this monster guide to backpacking in this beautiful country to help you see as much of it as you can! Here’s everything you need to know about backpacking Nepal (whether you’re a trekker or not).
So, you want to backpack Nepal. You’re going to have the greatest adventure! Nepal is one country that’s absolutely stolen my heart, and I think backpacking Nepal is a great way to see it. You could definitely make it a part of a South Asia or South East Asia trip, or you could dedicate some time to backpacking Nepal on its own. Personally, I loved backpacking in Nepal and India, and I think they’re good to group together.
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Best Months to Backpack Nepal
Nepal has a brutal rainy season lasting from June until early September. Winter travel should be no problem if you AREN’T planning on trekking. If you do want to trek, try to stick to late Autumn and late Spring.
How to Backpack Nepal on A Shoestring Budget
It’s sooo easy to travel Nepal on a shoestring, but trekking quickly makes a Nepal trip more expensive. If you’re looking to see the mountains, but you’re on a TIGHT budget, I’d skip the big treks and head to Pokhara and go to Australian Base Camp (super cheap!). You can read about that in the Pokhara section. If you have the extra money for special activities, though, I HIGHLY recommend some of the longer, higher treks. They’re once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
If you want to see if trekking is within budget, here’s my Everest Base Camp Budget Breakdown (it’s relevant for all unguided treks in the Everest and Annapurna regions). Don’t forget to add permit costs to your budget.
If you want to know how to travel cheap in Nepal, you’re already halfway there. Eat at more local places (pick places that are busy to find safer food!), stay in basic shared dorms, and take local buses (though check the prices, because sometimes tourist buses are the same price as local ones and they arrive much faster). Nepal is incredibly affordable if you look around for budget options.
You could definitely get by on roughly $20 USD per day. A meal will cost you anywhere from 300 rupees to 1000. A hostel bed might set you back 400 to 600 rupees, and you’ll have some leftover money to pool towards activities. Nepal is a great budget travel destination.
Backpacking Nepal Alone
Nepal is an amazing place for solo travellers. I’ve travelled to Nepal both alone and with others. I loved it so much I even briefly moved there! You’ll always meet friendly faces in Nepal, so if you’re a little worried about socialising while travelling, you can relax! I found it especially easy to meet people on buses, in hostels, in bars and restaurants, and trekking… so pretty much everywhere. Seriously, it’s almost impossible to NOT make a friend in Nepal.
Ladies, I can here you asking, “but is it safe for solo female travellers?” I’ve answered this question in this post, but short answer: yes, if you take precautions. I’d avoid going out alone on Holi, but other than that, I’ve had no problems!
What draws most people to this incredible country is the Himalayas! Trekking in Nepal is one of my favourite activities. Some of the most popular treks are the Everest Base Camp trek, Annapurna Base Camp, the Annapurna Circuit trek, and the Three Passes trek. If you’re looking for a shorter trek, Australian Base Camp only takes around a day, and Poon Hill takes just 3 days. These are possible without a guide, which makes them significantly cheaper than treks in the Langtang Valley or Mustang Region. If you’re going trekking, you really need to invest in travel insurance. It’s important that it covers medical evacuation by helicopter. I’ve seen LOTS of people go down in helicopters because of the altitude and it’s so important to have good insurance. A lot of the time, this will be an add-on cost. Read the fine print!
Sagarmatha National Park or the Annapurna Conservation Area?
I’ve done all the popular unguided treks in Nepal, and I honestly don’t think you can go wrong! Sagarmatha National Park is incredible because it has Everest. To be honest, Everest isn’t my favourite mountain, and you don’t see it too often in Sagarmatha National Park. You DO get a fantastic view of Ama Dablam, however, and you get to see the incredible sherpa mountain culture. If you venture a little further away from the commercialised Everest Base Camp Trek, you’ll get to see the people who actually live up here full time (along the Gokyo Lakes trek or Three Passes Trek). Weather is a huge factor in your Everest region trekking. Bad weather could mean you’re stuck in the mountain towns (so I’d avoid this if you HAVE to catch a specific flight out/can’t spare extra days). The best trekking seasons here are from October to November and from March to May.
The Annapurna Conservation is home to the Annapurnas (duh), which are some of my favourite mountains. Treks here are special because they’re slightly less commercialised than the Everest region, and there are LOTS of side treks you can do (I loved Tilicho Lake). You don’t see as much of the mountain porter/sherpa culture, but you do see a variety of cultures and landscapes. Annapurna Base Camp misses out on a lot of the culture, but it’s a great hike if you don’t have over two weeks to trek, and at Base Camp, you’re surrounded by a fishbowl of mountains, which is unlike anything else. The Annapurnas are in a rain shadow, which means it gets less rain, and you can push your treks earlier or later into the season.
If you’re stuck between different treks, one in the Annapurna region and one in the Everest region, I’d look at the actual treks and see what seems better for your fitness level and time frame. You can’t go wrong with any decision.
Travelling to Nepal Without Trekking?
If trekking isn’t your thing, don’t worry! There’s still a TON of stuff for you to do. Kathmandu and Pokhara are the two main cities travellers head to (more on those later) and they’re absolutely worth a few days each.
Safaris are another popular activity in Nepal. While most people flock on over to Chitwan National Park, I prefer Bardia National Park. Chitwan is great if you’re on a limited time frame, but Bardia is what Chitwan was like 20 years ago- it’s much less touristy and developed. Chitwan is easily accessible by bus from Kathmandu or Pokhara (it takes around five to seven hours from both), whereas Bardia is accessible by from Kathmandu by $200 plane (and then a 3-hour bus), or from Kathmandu and Pokhara by 20-hour bus. I found the bus ride worth it and I absolutely adored Bardia.
Riverrafting down one of Nepal’s rivers is another popular activity, as is paragliding (head to Pokhara for that – more info below!).
Lumbini is another good place to go if you’re interested in Buddhism. It’s where Buddha was born!
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How to Get Around Nepal
Flying in Nepal
The most popular flight route is taken by those who are flying into Lukla for the Everest Base Camp trek, but it’s also possible to fly between Kathmandu and Pokhara, as well as other places. Flights are roughly $100 USD (unless you’re flying into Lukla, in which case they are much more expensive). Helicopter rides are also pretty popular, but more as a scenic tour rather than a method to get around. Of course, if you’re doing the Everest Base Camp trek, helicopters can be used to take you to and from Lukla in case the weather is too bad for flights to take off. Expect those helicopter rides to cost around $250 USD.
Buses in Nepal
Buses are probably the most popular method of travel in Nepal, though they take a considerable amount of time. The bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara is roughly 7 hours.
If you’re going on a bus journey, take snacks! That’s one of my biggest Nepal travel tips! You’ll have a few stops along your journey to buy food and go to the toilet, but it’s best to be prepared. Expect to eat local food (curries and Thali sets) at the roadside stalls. I’ve never been sick from eating at these stalls; in fact, they’ve served some of my favourite meals! My favourite snacks are masala munch and moong daal.
If you’re a woman and taking a long bus journey in Nepal, wear either a LONG shirt and leggings or a dress on your bus trip. Bathroom stops (going to more local places, not between Kathmandu and Pokhara) are along the side of the road, and most buses are filled with men, so it’s nice to have the privacy of a long skirt when doing your business.
Jeep Travel in Nepal
It’s possible to hire Jeeps to take you to more remote places. This can be quite expensive, but it’s nice because you can say when you need to stop for the restroom, food, or car sickness. If you get carsick easily, this is a good option, as you can pull over when you’re feeling unwell.
Kathmandu Travel Guide
Kathmandu is where you’ll fly into! It’s a dusty, vibrant, chaotic city, and I’ll admit, it took me a while to actually like it. After finding it’s hidden gems, I’ve fallen in love!
Where to Stay in Kathmandu
Thamel is the main touristy area. It’s filled with trekkers, hippies, and expats alike. The streets are exploding with shops that sell tie-dye, trekking gear, books, tea, and everything you could imagine. Thamel is the heart of Nepal backpacking. There are soooo many hotel options here and most are decent.
Here are some good ones:
If you’re looking for a hostel, The Sparkling Turtle is good, but a bit further from Thamel.
Where to Eat in Kathmandu
Thamel also has some GREAT restaurants. I personally like the following:
Western Tandoori: this place is popular with foreigners and locals alike! The Thali sets are incredible and I can’t recommend their mutton curry enough – I dream about it. This is also an incredibly affordable meal (about 300 to 400 rupees per person). One of my favourite places in the world.
Or2K: this is an Israeli restaurant that is super chill – I like to come here with work to do, a book to read, or friends to chat with. You sit on cushions on the floor and eat at low tables. I recommend the mint lemonade (HEAPS of fresh mint in there) and the hummus. The pizza is also really good.
Places: This is possibly the pricest place on this list, but it’s worth spending a little more. I love the fusions at Places – pumpkin momos with spicy chocolate sauce?! Count me in! It’s a great place to grab a drink at or to share some plates with your friends. I absolutely rave about Places.
Himalayan Java: This is the place to go if you need a cup of coffee and good wifi.
What to Do in Kathmandu
As for things to do, Kathmandu’s packed with ’em! And if that’s not enough, there are tonnes of places within reach in the Kathmandu Valley. Patan and Bhakpatur are worthwhile trips!
Durbar Square is a must visit when in Kathmandu – whilst it was affected by the 2015 earthquake, it’s still intact and the reparation efforts paid off! Durbar Square is where the former palace of the Kathmandu Kingdom resided, and there’s still a Kumari (princess) who can sometimes be seen.
Swayambunath is one of my favourite places in Kathmandu. You follow a loooong set of stairs up to the temple, but the view is absolutely incredible. This is one of my favourite places to take photos in Nepal. After walking around the temple, I like to head up to a rooftop restaurant to have a cup of masala chai. A perfect way to spend the afternoon.
Getting lost is honestly one of my favourite ways to explore Kathmandu’s endless alleys. I seem to find some new area every time I let myself explore. When I’m tired, I stop for a cheeky treat and carry on! Once I’m truly lost and tired, I take a taxi or a rickshaw back to Thamel.
If the liveliness of Kathmandu is starting to get to you, the Garden of Dreams is a beautiful spot to get away from it all, and it’s located right in Thamel.
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Pokhara Travel Guide
When I lived in Nepal, I knew I had to move to Pokhara. I had visited before after completing the Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna Base Camp, and that was it – that was the place for me! Over the time I spent in Pokhara, I found so many things to do and to love. Here are my recommendations!
Where to Stay
Pokhara, like Kathmandu, is filled with loads of guesthouses. The cheaper ones are situated on the far end of Lakeside (going towards Krazy Gecko Restaurant), but you can find some good options closer to town, too!
Where to Eat
If you’re into food, Pokhara is a GREAT place to be. There’s everything from pho to a classic English breakfast to acai bowls!
My favourite restaurant in possibly the whole wide world is Mo2’s. Oh my goodness you MUST get the jhol momos – they are life-changing. They’re also pretty cheap. I think I ate here at least twice a week for two months straight. Everything on the menu is good. But trust me- get the jhol momos. Also, see if you can spot my name on their wall!
If you’re feeling a little health kick, go to The Juicery Cafe. They have smoothie bowls, great juices, and GOOD french toast (maybe not the healthiest but certainly quite tasty!).
Perky Beans is one of my favourite breakfast spots. They have full English breakfasts and good coffee.
Or2k is anther favourite – I wrote about this place in my Kathmandu bit.
Krazy Gecko is a bit further from central lakeside, but the food is amazing and you can sit on hammocks over the water. It’s a romantic and absolutely stunning spot.
Godfather’s Pizza does AMAZING pizza. On Valentine’s Day, my friend and I ordered two large pizzas, got a tonne of chocolate from the convenience store near my place, and watched a romcom. This pizza was enough to get me out of a single girl’s valentines day funk – it’s THAT good.
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What to Do in Pokhara
Earlier in this post, I mentioned Australia Base Camp. This is the hike for those of you that are on a shoestring budget. From Pokhara, it costs like 300 rupees round trip on the bus, and if you want to spend the night, it’s something like 500 rupees, plus your food bill. Not too shabby! Although it’s a little more expensive to spend the night, you’ll see the mountains clearly at sunrise, and it’s an incredible view. More details on how to do this day hike can be found here.
The International Mountain Museum is a small, but very informative museum about the highest mountains in the world. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’ve just gone trekking. My favourite section is the part where they have all of the old mountaineering equipment on display. It’s amazing that people were able to climb with that gear! It makes what we have now look incredible.
Catch some live music at the Busy Bee. This bar is one of my favourites – it’s easy to have a great time here. There are friendly people, cheap drinks, and pool tables! If you want to go to a bar in Pokhara, this is my top pick. I’ll never forget my nights here.
You can’t go to Pokhara without going on Phewa Tal! This lake is big and beautiful, though I wouldn’t swim in it (the town’s sewage is apparently dumped here and I wish someone had told me BEFORE I swam in it haha). You can either rent a boat or have someone paddle you out into the lake. You can also hire someone to take you to the other side of the lake so you can walk up to the Peace Pagoda. There’s a pretty view from the top!
If you ARE looking to swim in a lake, Begnas Tal is much cleaner than Phewa Tal, though it’s about 45 minutes away. It’s much quiter than Phewa Tal, however, and I think it’s beautiful! If you have spare time, I think its worth it. Go with your friends and it’ll be lovely.
Sarangkot is where everyone flocks to for sunrise views of the Annapurnas. You can’t really see the Annapurnas from Pokhara anymore, due to pollution, so if you’d like to see them, I recommend visiting here for sunrise. The views can be amazing (though I still prefer Australian camp if you’re looking to hike a little). This is also where you go paragliding from. Paragliding is REALLY fun and disorienting, and it’s safe to do in Pokhara. Just make sure your paragliding buddy has experience. You can book a paragliding experience with almost any of the tour agencies in Pokhara, and they’ll be able to book you with a good instructor. It should cost less than $100.
While everyone likes to hang around Lakeside (and for good reason – it’s lovely!), don’t miss out on the other parts of Pokhara. I think Pokhara’s old town is absolutely charming. The markets and streets are definitely worth an explore around. The architecture is my favourite part.
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My Nepal Travel Tips
Put yourself out there. I love travelling solo in Nepal because I find it easier to meet other travellers. If you’re travelling with others, don’t forget to meet other people! Backpackers and travellers in Nepal are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met and my adventures wouldn’t be half as incredible without the new friends I’ve made.
Don’t Compare Nepal to India. While there are similarities between the two countries, I also find them completely different. I think it’s important to distinguish the differences between the two countries so you can appreciate them separately.
Be Smart About Food and Water. Don’t drink tap water and be careful about where you eat! If it’s a busy street food stall or restaurant, go for it! If there’s no line, skip it. Make sure the fruit you eat can be peeled, or rinse it under bottled water. Bring a Lifestraw or water filter- mine was invaluable and it helped me avoid using up a million plastic bottles.
Try local food and snacks! Masala munch is my favourite bus ride snack (you can find it at basically any convenience store or roadside stall) and Fuse Bars are my all-time favourite chocolate bar. Stock up! Oh, and dal bhat is going to be your new favourite food. Order it at as many places as possible because they’re all done slightly differently. And eat ALL the momos!
Bring a backpack. Don’t even think about travelling with a suitcase here! Kathmandu’s dirt roads will make lugging a suitcase around really difficult, and everywhere else will be impossible! Bring a backpack (40-50 litres should be enough) and make sure it has a rain cover! Bags are often put on the roof of buses and you don’t want your stuff to get soaked if it starts to rain.
Backpacking Nepal Itineraries
Nepal Itinerary 5 Days
Day 1: Arrive in Kathmandu, explore Thamel and Durbar Square
Day 2: Take the bus to Pokhara
Day 3: See the International Mountain Museum, go out onto Phewa Tal
Day 4: Take the bus back to Kathmandu, go to Swayambunath
Day 5: Leave Nepal
1 Week Nepal Itinerary
Spend Days 1 & 2 in Kathmandu (see all the main sights!)
Day 3: take bus to Pokhara
Days 4 & 5 in Pokhara (Phewa Tal, cafe hopping, Mountain Museum, Sarangkot)
Day 6: bus back to Kathmandu (more sightseeing and shopping)
Day 7: Leave Nepal
2 Week Nepal Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive Nepal
Day 2 and 3: Kathmandu
Day 4: Take the Bus to Pokhara
Day 5 and 6: Pokhara
Day 7: Take the Bus to Bardia National Park (or spend a couple days in Chitwan and then go to Lumbini)
Day 8 – 11: Bardia National Park
Day 12: Bardia to Kathmandu
Day 13: Kathmandu
Day 14: Leave Nepal
2 Week Nepal Trekking Itinerary
You could either do Annapurna Base Camp or Everest Base Camp.
Annapurna Base Camp
If you choose to do Annapurna Base Camp, your itinerary will look something like this:
Day 1: Arrive Nepal
Day 2: Kathmandu to Pokhara
Day 3: Start trek
Days 4 through 10 or 11: Trek
Days 11 and 12: Relax in Pokhara
Day 13: bus back to Kathmandu
Day 14: leave Nepal
Everest Base Camp
If you choose to do Everest Base Camp, you’ll have to go when the weather looks good (or you might have to pay more for a helicopter).
Day 1: Arrive Nepal
Day 2: Fly to Lukla, start trekking
Days 3 – 13: trek
Day 14: Fly from Lukla to Kathmandu, and then from Kathmandu home.
This itinerary is a bit tight, so it might be better if you have three weeks.
If you have three weeks or more…
The Three Passes or the Annapurna Circuit are both absolutely incredible treks. I highly recommend both of them. You could finish these treks and have time to relax in either Kathmandu, Pokhara, or both! If you have over a week at the beginning or end of your trek, I highly recommend Bardia National Park.
Whatever you do, travel to Nepal! Travelling Nepal is an experience that everyone should have in their lifetime!
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