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Whenever we go on a trip, the fun part starts right from the planning stages! I just love the entire process of budgeting, route planning and looking to interesting places to visit in the destinations we travel to. So, last year when Vidur and I decided to head to Nepal for a one-month motorcycle tour, the excitement began months before we landed in Nepal After all, it was going to be our first Nepal holiday.
It was the first time we would be riding in a foreign country so the excitement was coupled with a little bit of anxiety as well. The fear of the unknown is always something that bothers a lot of us and the only way to tackle is with good amount of research. Our Nepal holiday needed to be a budget tour since it was spread over a month’s time. And here is how we went about planning our Nepal holiday.
Pick the right destinations
This the key to any successful trip and the toughest part since all the research needs to be done online without any real-world information. I had to go through tons of blogs, videos, google map routes, destination guides, etc. to decide on which places and the routes that need to be covered. The plan was simple – cover the areas around Kathmandu and then explore some well-known destinations like Chitwan, Pokhara and Nagarkot.
How do you go about picking places? Well, if it’s an unknown destination, look for safety. Popular destinations will have choices in accommodation that are close to main attractions. For example, in Pokhara our hotel was located right next to Phewa Lake. Pick a place that is interesting but also within your travel limits. Here’s a list of places you can add to your itinerary
Kathmandu Chandragiri Nagarkot Dhulikhel
Calculate the daily travel time
Nepal isn’t a big country but the road conditions are not as great as you’d want them to be. Roads can get bumpy and if you venture towards off-beat destinations, then there are plenty of off-road lanes as well. Decide how many kilometers you will cover each day and this will help you plan your routes and itinerary. We didn’t know much about roads in Nepal so we kept nothing more than 200 kilometers of riding every day. And our itinerary had plenty of rest days to counter all the riding we were going to do. Remember to build in sufficient buffer time in case you experience a break down, get lost or stay somewhere longer than expected.
Book your flights well in advance
Airline tickets are a major expense in any travel itinerary but since our Nepal holiday plans were made well in advance, we did manage to save some money on the tickets. You will get the best prices on Indigo airlines on Cleartrip as the tickets we booked there were much cheaper than others and suited our schedule. Indigo has non stop flights from major destinations in India and you can book the tickets from the Cleartrip website.
This is tough since most of us won’t know the best place to stay in a city we’ve never been to. But a little bit of online research should help you get this information. In Kathmandu, we were told that the touristy area was Thamel. It is a crowded area full of narrow lanes, plenty of hotels and café and was in close proximity to the local markets and motorcycle vendors. It was convenient to stay there as everything we would require was in Thamel. Even in Pokhara our hotel was next to the Phewa Lake.
Pick hotels that are close to major attractions so that you don’t waste too much time traveling. Unless you’re looking to venture into the serenity and calm of the countryside. Check Google Maps to see where each hotel is located and you should get a fair idea about what’s nearby. Read about our stay experience in Pokhara, Patan and Chitwan.
What & where to eat?
This is simple. If you go to cafes and mid to high end restaurants in Nepal, you will not quite get the local taste. During your Nepal holiday, we highly recommend you to eat the Thakali and Newari thalis which is their traditional meal and very similar to food you get in the Northeastern states of Sikkim, Assam, and Meghalaya.
The entire time we were in Nepal, we went hunting for small, family run messes that served local food. And 98% of the time, we ended up with a satisfying meal. Momos, thukpas, thalis, Sel roti, Gunruk, Chatamari and Sandheko are the must try dishes and most of these are available with street food vendors as well! If you are in Pokhara, get prepared to pay double the price for everything there. If you want to cut down on food cost, eat in small local eateries located away from the lake.
Kathmandu, Patan, Bhaktapur and Pokhara are great places to shop especially if you are into adventure gear, apparel, shoes and souvenirs. Pack light if you want enough luggage space for all the shopping you do. One visit to the markets to Patan will surely have you splurging on clothes and local handicrafts! We hardly had any space left in our luggage and after some serious amount of forced stuffing, we were lucky we didn’t pay for excess baggage.
It’s advisable to take a local SIM card as soon as you land in Kathmandu. Just before you step out of the arrival gate, you will see counters of Ncell and Nepal Telecom. All you will need is your ID proof, fill out an application form and you will get a prepaid SIM card in about 20 minutes. We took Ncell as it boasts of good coverage all across Nepal. For two SIM cards, with a 28-day pack with good amount of data we paid INR 800.
Hiring a two-wheeler
Cabs can be expensive in Nepal and since they don’t follow a meter system, chances of getting fleeced are high. In Kathmandu, you can hire a gearless scooter for as low at INR 600 a day. There are couple of vendors in Thamel and we used the services of City Motorbike located in JP Marg, 600 meters from Nepal Pavilion. They have a good collection of scooters and motorcycles and can provide helmets, riding jackets etc.