Nepal was already one of the cheapest places in the world to travel and it’s usually on my short list when travelers ask where there money can stretch the most.
Lately though, Nepal has gotten even cheaper. The U.S. dollar is currently worth more than 100 Nepalese rupees, meaning an effective 20% decrease in prices over this time last year. For 100 rupees you can get a full meal, a bus ticket, a pot of ginger tea, a short tuk-tuk ride, and much more.
Nepal already had some of the cheapest accommodation in the world, with sub-$5 cheap guesthouses that have solar hot water and nice hotels with maid service and breakfast for under $20. When I searched HotelsCombined for Kathmandu for a night in mid-September, high season now, there were double rooms for under $10, the 3-star Chillout Resort for $13 double including breakfast, and I had to go six pages deep before crossing the $50 a night mark. There are only a few hotels where you can pay more than $150 a night in the capital in high season: the Yak & Yeti, Radisson, Hyatt, and Crowne Plaza—where spending that much gets you on the executive floor. In the countryside, spend $40 a night and you’re probably in the best hotel in town.
If you’re going trekking, you’ll have to lay out some money for permits and if you hire a porter you’re looking at $10-$20 per day including his expenses. But you can do without one if you’re fit (no need to bring a tent) and on the trails, tea house lodges and meals are very cheap.
Here’s a good rundown on the currency situation from a blog on Nepal, but as usual there, the good news comes with some accompanying bad news. Getting there is still going to be difficult and expensive. The decrepit airport in Kathmandu can’t handle large planes.
CAAN has issued a request letter to international airlines to restrict their payload to 196 tonnes until Sept 30 to prevent damage to the runway of the country’s sole international airport.
This provision means, for example, Thai Airways which flies Boeing 777 aircraft has to offload almost 100 passengers from its aircraft to meet the aviation regulator’s obligation. “And the payload restriction request has come when the airlines’ major business season is almost at hand,” said Shyam Raj Thapaliya, managing director of Osho World Travel Nepal.
International flights to Nepal tend to be pricey. I couldn’t find one from the USA for under $1,000 for any city for random upcoming dates. So a lot of the backpackers you see in Nepal have come overland via India (grueling, but cheap) or have come on a shorter flight from China, Thailand, or India.
Because of this issue and just a general fear of travel there that is a hangover from the long-running insurgency in the past, Nepal is not nearly as thronged with tourist as you probably think. Here are the official numbers the Kathmandu Post put up recently: “On aggregate, Nepal received 368,386 foreign visitors, down by 2.29 percent year-on-year in the first eight months (January-August) of 2013.”
Fewer than 50,000 visitors per month in such a gorgeous country? Orlando, Florida probably gets that many on a Saturday. You could probably put up that many people in just one block of Vegas hotels. It’s still a buyer’s market in Nepal, even though it’s probably the cheapest country on Earth for travelers. Well, the cheapest one that’s actually worth spending weeks or months in, that is.
[Nepal Flickr photos by Nomad Tales and Jeane Menjoulet.]