If you’re looking for the very cheapest place to travel in the world is, Nepal is certainly close to the top. It was one of the cheapest places to travel the first time I landed there in the mid-90s and it still is today.
Looking back at my notes from those days, it’s surprising how few things have gone up. (Back then I was writing down prices just because I was amazed, not because I had any plans of putting out a book.) The actual prices are the same, not the inflation adjusted ones. There are a few exceptions—beer prices being the main bummer—but Nepal is definitely a place you can stretch your budget a very long way.
Here are actual prices from Kathmandu, Pokhara, and trekking in the Annapurna region, staying at tea houses. Prices are in U.S. dollars at the rate of $1 equals 100 rupees.
Lodging and Hotel Prices in Nepal
No matter where you stay in this country, you won’t pay much for a room. You’ll nearly always have solar hot water and internet, though in the mountains you’ll give up both sometimes or pay a buck extra when available. It’s a bargainer’s market in the off season.
Double/triple in a tea house with shared bath when trekking: $2 to $3 per person
Basic room in tourist areas of the cities: $3 to $8 (The whole first page when you pull up Pokhara hotels on Agoda!)
Room in a hotel with a swimming pool: $18 – $25 including breakfast
4-star Kathmandu hotel: $24 – $75
5-star Kathmandu hotel: $94 – $199
Food & Drink Prices in Nepal
If you’re a vegetarian and you don’t drink alcohol, Nepal is one of the cheapest places on the planet to eat. If you buy vegetables and cook yourself, prices are too low to believe. If you eat out, local joints can feed you for a buck or two and even the nicest tourist restaurants are a tiny fraction of what you would pay at home. Drinking beer or wine is really going to cost you though: both are heavily taxed and are a major source of revenue for the government.
Kilo (2.2 pounds) of local fruit or vegetables: 20 – 75 cents
2-4 samosas at a street stall: $1
Sandwich/non-beef burger at a take-out stand: $1.50 – $2.50
Plate of momos at a basic local restaurant: $0.75 – $2
“Bowl meal” at a basic local restaurant: $0.80 – $1.50
Dahl bhat (add 50 cents to $1 for chicken) – $2 – $6
Set breakfast: $1.50 – $3
Western meal in a nice restaurant: $3 – $10
180ml small bottle of whiskey/rum – $1 – $3
Large beer (500 ml) in a store: $1.60 – $3
Large beer or glass of wine in a bar/restaurant – $2.75 – $7 (latter in a hotel)
Cup of tea in a restaurant: 40 cents to $1.25 (in the mountains)
Good cup of coffee: $0.80 to $2
“Trekkers Choice” biscuits or local granola bar: 20 – 40 cents
Transportation Prices in Nepal
Walking is free of course and that’s what you’ll be doing most on the trekking routes. Otherwise it’s cheap when you’re in one place, but can be rough going from place to place. Taking a one-hour flight can literally save an entire day of bumpy bus travel with delays.
Bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara – $8 (open windows) – $25 (air-con and lunch buffet)
Flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara – $90 – $120
Bus Kathmandu to Nagarkot: 60 cents (local buses, not advised) – $4 (direct)
Bicycle rickshaw ride: 40 cents to $2
Taxi ride: $1.50 (short hop) – $10 (an hour across the capital)
Boat ride across Phewa Lake in Pokhara: $4 for the boat
Other Prices in Nepal
Trekking porter to carry bags: $8 – $15 per day (two can share)
One-hour massage: $15 – $20
Organized yoga classes: $2 – $8
Internet cafe: 50 cents/hour
3-hour laundry job: $1 per kilo (cheaper overnight)
Basic haircut: $1 – $2
Haircut with shave and head/shoulders massage: $2.50 – $5
Local Sim card: $10 – $15
Entrance to all of Durbar Square buildings/museums, Kathmandu: $10
Entrance to all of Bhaktapur buildings/musuems: $15
Local museums: $1 – $5
TIMS trekking registration card: $10 – $20
Nepal visa on arrival: $25 (for 15 days, $40 for 30 days)
Keep in mind some of these are inflated tourist prices (locals don’t get massages or go to yoga classes) and some are ways to fund rebuilding of shattered temples. Nepal is one of the world’s poorest countries, so after you spent a grand to get there, you’re going to pony up a bit more to help the cause. The Nepalis can really use the help, so this is not a great place to bargain super hard on handicrafts, especially if you’re buying close to the source. Spending locally on goods and services will have more impact than giving to a charity here most of the time.