“If traveling were free you’d never see me again”. Since you will see me again, money matters a lot while travelling. Actually, with increasing number of people travelling to all corners of the world, it is not destinations and time that is the limiting factor, but money. And knowing how to be smart with what you have will go a long way in expediting your next vacation. But before you even start thinking of saving, you need to first budget yourself.
Nepal has facilities that caters to a range of pockets and palates. You could come to Nepal on a private jet, stay at Hyatt, go around in an S-Class Benz, chopper to Lukla and spend your nights at luxury lodges. Alternately, it is also possible to overland into Nepal at Raxaul, take a rustic Tata bus with loud Hindi music to Kathmandu, open a stall in the Saturday Market near Thamel, take another local bus to Jiri and spend your nights at homely lodges.
And here we present a brief guide to budgeting, saving, bargaining in Nepal.
There are various websites to find, compare and book hotels in Kathmandu and Pokhara. Trip Advisor and agoda, the two worldwide leaders are also the big players in this game in Nepal. As a rough guide here is the price range in various places in Nepal:
|Kathmandu||USD 10-300||Eat & Stay as per your convenience at budget|
|Pokhara||USD 10-200||Eat & Stay as per your convenience at budget|
|Everest Trek||USD 30-225||Eats where you stay deal|
|Annapurna Circuit||USD 10-215||Eats where you stay deal|
|Annapurna Base Camp||USD 10-45||Eats where you stay deal|
For details of going around in Kathmandu please see Transportation. Here we list the rates for travelling outside Kathmandu:
|Kathmandu to Nagarkot||Taxi||NPR 2500|
|Car hire||NPR 3000*|
|Kathmandu to Dhulikhel||Taxi||NPR 1950|
|Car hire||NPR 2600*|
|Kathmandu to Pokhara||Bus||NPR 700|
|Kathmandu to Chitwan||Bus||NPR 700|
|Kathmandu to Besisahar||Bus||NPR 900|
|Pokhara to Nayapul||Taxi||NPR 1800 – 2200|
|Car hire||NPR 13000|
|Kathmandu to Lukla||Flight||USD 163|
|Pokhara to Jomsom||Bus||US$ 112|
(*) – Indicates that car hire is for four hours only – after which additional NPR 400 will be charged per hour.
The thing about saving is that it is not the same as penny-pinching. If you become too obsessed with saving, you will not enjoy your vacation as much as you would like to. So sure spend smartly but don’t push it too much. Also, it is perfectly fine to pamper oneself once in a while. That said here are a few tips to save you some money in Nepal:
a. Small Tea Shops and Tandoori Restaurant:
Small tea shops and bakeries that you will see around Kathmandu are perfect to get a quick bite for cheap. There are also tandoori restaurants which serve a good portion quick and cheap. Tandoor restaurants get their name from the baking oven they use to cook their delicious bread, naan. Order 2 of them along with Dal Fry (fried lentil gravy), Aloo Dum (Spicy potato curry) and Chicken curry for a belly buster. And here is the best part- that meal is going to cost you about two dollars!!!
Someone summed up the status of Momo perfectly, “Momo’s are to Nepalis what Burgers are to Americans”. The love affair of Nepalis with the Nepali styled dumpling allows them to have Momo’s every day without any loss in its appeal whatsoever.” The law of Diminishing Marginal Utility simply does not exist here. A plate of Momo typically consists of 10 pieces of Momo and depending on particular shops the sauce can be vividly different: from a broth like consistency, to thick pastes. Beware of spice levels as tolerance levels of westerners are dangerously low to remain unconcerned about the sauce. The biggest attraction of all, momo’s can be found anywhere in Kathmandu and in restaurants of all levels. A plate of Momo can cost anywhere between NRs. 70 – 250. When in Nepal, do like the Nepalese do!!! if you can’t figure out what to eat, eat Momo, default dish of an uncertain Nepalese.
c. Mandala Street:
There are various fast food joints on this street that serve quick and good food at a bargain. There are Middle eastern, Greek and various other joints here and some of them have outdoor seating. Since motorized vehicles are not allowed in this street, it is a great experience to munch on your falafel while watching the world go around. This street is especially pretty during the evenings.
d. Bed and Breakfast (B&B):
Such lodging system is getting popular in Kathmandu with increasing number of volunteers coming to Nepal. There are a number of such facilities in Thamel and Jhamsikhel area and they are great for their homely environment, close-knit culture and reasonable prices.
The number of people who come to Nepal all primed and prepared to bargain is simply staggering. And a handful of them take it to rather annoying levels even for the locals. At other ends of the spectrum are people who think bargaining is insulting to the merchant and would rather pay the quoted price. That not only reinforces the concept of the naive or arrogantly rich westerner, but take the fun out of the transaction.
Knowing where to bargain and where not to and ways to deal the winning will help you become a savvy traveller here in Nepal.
a. How to bargain?
- Never lose your cool and get angry or irritated. Take it as a friendly joist rather than a street brawl.
- Dress for the occasion. Fancy suits, expensive watches and large cameras will not help.
- Ask around to get a feel for the price. Decide on a mental price depending upon how much you want the thing and estimation of market value.
- Pretending to be insulted is all part of the game. Don’t fall for it.
- Point out defects to the shopkeeper no matter how small and even if it doesn’t really matter to you.
- If you can live without the thing, walk away. Chances are the shopkeeper will call you back and give the stuff at your price.
- Remember the bit about keeping it casual, friendly and cheerful.
b. Where to bargain?
- Taxis and Rickshaws
Bargain real hard with taxis and go gentle on the rickshaw guys. See our chapter on transportation for more details on cabs.
You will certainly fancy antique stuffs like statues, khukuris, beads and thankas. Be ready to bargain at outlets that offer these stuffs. Chances are the smaller shops have the exact same stuff and will usually cut you a better deal. One of the better places to buy these stuffs is at Kathmandu Durbar Square where the things are on display not in shops but on wooden planks. Best of luck for bargaining while shopping in Nepal.
- Trekking gear and other clothing
Thamel is a haven for cheap knockoffs. And while they will not be as great as the deal, there are good fakes and bad fakes and prices of both are highly negotiable. Before anything check out the zippers, straps and elastics meticulously. And even if you like what you see don’t show that glee just yet. Look around, bargain, and take home the stuff for cheap. However, we strongly suggest to stick to the branded outlets for such things as boots, gaiters and jackets.
c. Where not to bargain
- Hotels and Restaurants
No elaboration needed.
- Lodges along trekking trails
Prices are very reasonable. Also please don’t throw in that bit about free room either. It is getting really old and most lodge owners increasingly find this really annoying. Some of the well run ones might even show you the door.
- Branded Product Outlets/Large stores
The people who work at such corporate outlets do not have the authority and the guy who could cut you a deal will never do it. It is as simple as that.