Nepal is one of the cheapest countries in Asia for travelers and it’s easy to explore this beautiful, culturally rich country on a budget. There are plenty of cheap places to stay and eat, public transport is very good value, entry fees for attractions are low by international standards and those mountain scenery amazing are free.

However, costs rise in the Kathmandu Valley and you can easily end up spending more than you expected on activities such as trekking, mountain biking and wildlife safaris, as well as accommodation and tourist transport.

Here are some tips to keep your costs down when traveling to Nepal on a budget.

Avoid high season

Flight, accommodation and tour costs peak during the peak season from October to November in Nepal, which coincides with the best weather for trekking. For slightly lower prices, visit the shoulder season from March to April, which always enjoys good weather for hiking and wildlife viewing.

You can save even more money by traveling to Nepal in winter, a great time to explore the warmer lowland regions such as the Terai. The cheapest time to visit Nepal is during the monsoon (approximately June to September), although views disappear behind heavy clouds, and getting around can be a challenge due to floods and landslides.

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It is often cheaper to travel via India

Only a few airlines fly directly to Kathmandu, currently Nepal’s only functioning international airport (although airports in Pokhara and Bhairawa are expected to start receiving international flights in the near future). Getting to Nepal usually involves a change in Asia or the Middle East, and one of the cheapest options is to fly to Delhi and catch a connecting flight to Kathmandu from there (although you you may need to get an Indian visa to do so).

For even more savings, you can travel overland from India. The Sunauli border post near Bhairawa is easily accessible from Delhi and Varanasi, with express buses running to and from the border in both directions.

The great stupa of Bodhnath at sunset, illuminated by hundreds of lights © Glen Allison

Enjoy free airport pick-up

Many hotels in Kathmandu and nearby Patan will pick you up from the airport for free if you have booked a room in advance. If not, it’s not the end of the world – a taxi into town from the fixed price counter in the arrivals hall of Tribhuvan International Airport costs 750 rupees (5.60 US$).

Public buses are an economical way to get around

If you want to save money traveling in Nepal, inexpensive public buses serve virtually all parts of the country, although some services only run early in the morning. Although slower and less comfortable than dedicated tour buses, domestic flights or private transfers, public buses are easily the cheapest way to get from A to B.

While it may be tempting to take a night bus to save on accommodation costs, be aware that fatal road accidents are common after dark and night buses are best avoided.

Negotiate a discount on the price of your room

You’ll find an incredible array of cheap accommodation options in Nepal, from hostels and homestays to simple lodges and basic budget hotels. It’s always worth haggling to get the best price: room rates fluctuate considerably throughout the year and you can often negotiate significant discounts (sometimes 20-40%) for longer stays or periods. calm, especially outside the high and medium seasons.

Note that mid-range and high-end properties typically don’t include the 23% government and service tax in their listed rates, so take that into account when budgeting.

A platter of daal bhaat tarkari in a restaurant in Nepal
Daal bhaat tarkari (rice, vegetables and lentil curry) is Nepal’s friendliest meal © Maya Karkalicheva / Getty Images

Eat like a local

Tourist hotspots such as Kathmandu and Pokhara are full of restaurants serving dishes from around the world. However, prices – while inexpensive by international standards – are generally higher than at places serving local food to a local crowd. Catering costs can quickly add up if your budget is tight.

To save a few rupees, head to the local instead bhojanalayas – simple joints aimed at a Nepalese clientele, serving inexpensive local staples such as daal bhaat tarkari (dal, rice and vegetable curry). Nepal also has excellent and economical street food, including samsah (samosas) and momo (meat or vegetable ravioli), which come with a cup of sugar chiya (tea).

Choose a shorter hike or an independent hike

Nepal is famous for the myriad of hiking trails that wind through the dramatic landscapes of the Himalayas, but going on an organized trek with a guide and porters can cut your budget considerably, especially if you choose a longer route or if you have to go to the trailhead. .

To save money, opt for a shorter trek: there are several interesting options in the Annapurna region, including the memorable three-day Ghandruk Loop. Look for starting points you can reach without flying – most treks in the Langtang Valley and Annapurna region can be easily and inexpensively reached by public bus.

Another great way to save is to trek independently, instead of joining an organized trek. Many popular routes are relatively easy to follow without a guide, with many teahouses offering simple accommodation and food (beer, however, can be expensive). Top choices include the Annapurna Circuit and Everest Base Camp treks.

Note that independent trekking does not mean solo trekking – it is never wise to hike completely on your own. If you need companions for an independent hike, inquire at guesthouses in Kathmandu or Pokhara, or post a note on notice boards in tourist areas.

Make the most of Kathmandu Durbar Square

Most foreigners have to pay a tax of Rs 1,000 (8.50 USD) to access Kathmandu’s famous Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site lined with magnificent medieval palaces and temples. Although the entrance ticket is only valid for the date stamped, you can extend it for the duration of your tourist visa free of charge at the site office, allowing you to visit multiple times during your stay. And you can do the same at the equally impressive Durbar Squares in the nearby towns of Patan and Bhaktapur.

Sadhus (holy men) outside a temple in Kathmandu
Sadhus (holy men) invade Kathmandu’s many temples and shrines © Hady Nyah / Getty Images

Skip the “budget” safaris in Chitwan

Many tour companies in Kathmandu and Pokhara offer “budget” two-night, three-day Chitwan National Park safari packages, but while these all-inclusive deals sound tempting, they are a false economy. You only have a day and a half in the park, you have few choices of activities and accommodation and food are often below average.

It is far better to travel to Chitwan independently and make the arrangements yourself. you’ll save money and have a much more enjoyable experience. Buses run from Kathmandu to Sauraha on the edge of the park, where there are dozens of inexpensive lodges.

Reduce your phone bill

Buy a local SIM card upon arrival at Kathmandu airport or from retailers across the country to avoid being stung by a hefty mobile phone bill when you return home. Your phone must be unlocked and you will need a photo ID to register. If you need to make landline calls, use local call centers rather than using the phone in your hotel room.

Get a SAARC discount

Travelers from member countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as well as Nepal – pay lower entrance fees than other visitors foreigners in most museums. , national parks and heritage sites. You may need to show quality identification documents.

Plan your own mountain biking adventure

Nepal is a dream destination for mountain bikers, thanks to its plethora of fast downhill trails. Although taking an organized guided bike tour with an operator such as Dawn Till Dusk and Himalayan Single Track is the easiest option, many routes can be taken independently, which significantly reduces costs.

Bikes can be hired from many rental companies in Thamel in Kathmandu, and many routes start just outside the Kathmandu city limits. For a taste, try the 3-day Kathmandu Valley Loop via Nagarkot and the Buddhist pilgrimage site of Namobuddha.

Buying an up-to-date map and learning a few basic Nepali phrases to be able to ask for directions will make your life much easier. If you’re feeling less ambitious, consider taking short round-trip walks to small towns and temples dotted around the Kathmandu Valley.

Daily costs in Nepali

  • Hostel dormitory bed: 10 USD
  • Basic room for two: 15 to 25 USD
  • Room and half board in a trekking lodge: 12-15 US$
  • Kathmandu-Pokhara public bus (125 miles/201 km): USD 3-5 one way
  • Dinner for two: 4 to 10 USD
  • Coffee or chiya (tea): US$1-2
  • Beer: 2.50 to 3.50 USD