Browsing Posts tagged Nepal travel

As we head toward the end of 2013, here’s what’s going on in some of the cheapest places to travel in the world.

Political troubles in Thailand never seem to go away for very long. The Thai prime minister just asked the monarchy to dissolve parliament after weeks of street protests in Bangkok and the whole opposition party resigning en masse to protest the legitimacy of the prime minister. Read more here, but be advised, it’s complicated…

Honduras had an election last month, but the outcome is still up in the air. Officially the ruling party candidate won, but there are plenty of fraud accusations and there have been regular protest marches. A recount is going on now to see if the 37% to 29% victory by Hernandez will hold up. If you’re traveling there, avoid the capital—which is actually a good idea anyway as its one of the most dangerous cities in Latin America.

India just had an election too and it doesn’t bode well for the ruling party for a larger one coming up in May. That might not be the best month to visit as there is a lot of anger in the streets over rising prices and poor infrastructure. This is a great time to visit overall though if you’re coming in with hard currency. Here’s how the exchange rate has gone against the US dollar since this time three years ago:

India travel

The chart looks almost identical for Nepal, where you can now get almost 100 Nepalese rupee for one US dollar. Meanwhile, the world’s oldest Buddhist shrine was discovered in Lumbini, Nepal recently and it suggests Buddha was born 300 years earlier than previously thought, about 600 years before Christ.

Egypt is still a police state, but some travelers report that the country is functioning much better than it was after the Muslim Brotherhood took over. There was some rare good news on the human rights front recently as female protestors that had received long jail sentences were released after an international outcry. Meanwhile, train service between Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan resumed last month, but the country’s deputy chief of the railways has been suspended from traveling out of the country after a crash in Giza killed 30 people.

Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria saw protests every week in November, with police clashing with students demanding political reform and an end to corruption. This is no fringe movement though: polls show more than 2/3 of the people in the country are behind them, leaving the government forces in a tricky minority.

 

cheap travel nepal

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.

Nepal trekking

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.]

When I get the inevitable question about the place on this planet I’ve liked the most in my travels, I always answer the impossible with some kind of hedging answer. When I look back on the greatest adventures though, my three-week Annapurna Circuit trek in Nepal was a highlight for sure, as superlative as the height of its mountains.

Unfortunately, the fondness I feel is twinged with sadness. I know the experience I had then is not possible now. Roads now creep further up the mountains in the formerly pedestrian-only areas, bringing more noise, more disposable products, more machinery. Then the Maoist separatists started getting aggressive with tourists, increasing the danger in a formerly super-safe region.

The safety situation improved after the power-sharing peace accords, though the country still doesn’t really have a functioning government. Unfortunately though, that same quasi-government recently announced a heavy-handed, odious tax on independent trekkers and added a requirement that they hire a local as a porter or guide. For most independent hikers, the two new mandatory fees would essentially double the cost of completing the circuit.

The spin on why they added this tax and hiring requirement was laughable. Officially it was touted as something to deal with “violent incidents,” though this Telegraph story had to go back to 2010 to find one before a bizarre one-off death that happened to a lone trekker in June. Will paying a tax keep a lone crazy away? Will having a skinny porter along help a 200-pound German with metal walking sticks defend himself better?

The sad part is, the people that would be hurt most by this are the ones who live off independent trekkers. The lodging and restaurant owners, the trailside tea houses. The porters and guides are hired from the valley and many of the tour companies are paying group rates or camping, skipping the local businesses altogether.

This part really made me cringe:

“The new policy will involve an additional fee of $10 per day for Free Individual Trekkers (FIT), which Anjan Thapa, treasurer of TAAN has called, “a very nominal amount which won’t effect tourist arrivals.”

Yeah, right. Charging backpackers $10 a day on a hiking trip where they usually spend less than $20 a day, on a hike that can take three weeks, will not put off anyone. No, not at all, because we’re all so rich anyway. Right?

Thankfully, someone stepped in and at least delayed the plan. On the TAAN site it now says the decision is “on hold until further notice.”

So for now, Nepal has proven it’s just the Lindsay Lohan of destinations, not the Amy Winehouse. Comfort in small victories.

If you want to vent your opinion on the subject, here’s the official government tourism site with contact info.

It’s time for a new issue of Perceptive Travel, home to the best travel stories on the web. If you don’t believe me, check out the just-announced results of the Solas “best travel writing” awards. We took home six of them. I got two golds, Luke Armstrong won a gold, Beebe Bahrami got a gold, Chris Epting got a silver, and Gloria Kirchheimer got a silver. This is a month after scoring another five from NATJA. Sweet.

In this issue we travel to Norway with Chris Epting to see if the place painted in The Scream actually exists.

Luke Armstrong takes us to a festival in Guatemala around Day of the Dead where people try to get giant handmade kites aloft.

Michael Buckley tries parahawking in Nepal. Parawhat? Check out the cool video of his below to get a sampling.

We’ve also got a new batch of travel book reviews and world music reviews.

Are you signed up for the newsletter? ‘Cause each month we give away something cool. This time it’s a great camera backpack from LowePro. See the home page for a picture and link.

I can’t be everywhere and do everything, so time to hear from some others who are vagabonding around the world in some of the cheapest places to travel.

Landing in Marrakesh, Morrocco, Christine Gilbert of Almost Fearless says, I don’t have to love every place I visit. This one brought back memories of hassles on the road and is a great reminder how reading Travel + Leisure will give you a very warped impression of your destination.

$22 Vietnam hotel, photo from With2KidsinTow

Here’s a good rundown on Vietnam from a family that just traveled through the country. Deals still abound ($15-$20 a night on average for quite good hotel rooms for 4), but everyone is still trying to gouge you everywhere you turn. The good, bad, and ugly.

Barbara of Hole in the Donut is a sucker for street food in Laos. In Luang Prabang, you have to find the right spot though…

In Bangkok, Thailand, Brian Spencer discovers that it’s not a mall, it’s a lifestyle complex.

From LegalNomads, here’s a great rundown on the Many Sides of Amman, Jordan. You should especially check out this store photo, which is just priceless.

Gadling has  nice post on the 50th anniversary of the first Sherpa school built by Sir Edmund Hillary’s Himalayan Trust in Nepal.