In this blog you will find all about the Journey to Nepal. My travels, what I did as a volunteer, where I stayed, details about the country and all my best tips to travel, eat, sleep and volunteer in Nepal.
The situation in Nepal
Nepal is the Asian country with the highest population living in poverty. Nepal has a BBP of 452 dollar a year (>2 dollar a day) and is stated the 15th poorest country in the world. The country is part of South Asia. Nepal is a very religious country but the religions are divided: 80% Hindu, 10% Buddhist, 5% Muslim, 4% Kirant and 1% Christian. You’ll find most sights and religious practices being either Hindu or Buddhist.
Their religion is a powerful tool to stay positive and believe in life and a bright future. Their fairly poor situation will not be stated by the behavior of Nepali inhabitants. They are extremely friendly, helpful and positive towards tourism. They speak very well English 90% of the time, as kids are education in two languages (Nepali and English) and the country trades with India mainly.
The country is known for it’s incredible Mountain views, hikes, strong religious pilgrimage, meditation and spirituality.
Visiting the country as a tourist supports the economy and the wealth of Nepali inhabitants, especially if you focus on buying, eating and staying local. Nepali people work very hard for their income and are thankful for everything extra they receive. Spending your money here is a good thing to do. Make sure to focus on giving it to the right purposes.
My voluntary work
I went to Nepal to make a difference, to help out as much as I could. In order to do so, I reached out to small organizations who are situated in Nepal and could use some help. I found the organizations through the website of the Consulate of Nepal (TIP!). I helped out in multiple ways, by spending my time volunteering, by creating awareness online (through writing, photography and video) and by portraying the good acts of kindness. Financially I supported as many local businesses as I could and I picked my hotels based on purpose. Next to that I donated a gift (cheque) of €50,- euro in Nepali rupees to the Children home.
The Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre, just outside of the Kathmandu city centre is a treatment centre for stray dogs, focusing on humane treatment. This animal shelter is a beautiful small organization which makes a big impact for both the animals and the city. They welcome volunteers for multiple purposes and timeframes.
Read my blog about my visit at the KAT-centre for more details
De Straatkinderen van Kathmandu is an organization who runs the children home ‘Tiom Laura Marinka’, just outside of the Kathmandu city centre in the area of Bouddha. This children centre is fully financed by Dutch gifts and provides ninety children with a home, food and education. This organization which makes an incredible impact as these children were mostly saved from the streets, from violence or from abuse. The children are provided with a careless and save life and they are truly happy here. The organization welcomes volunteers for long-terms only (starting from 1 month up to 6 months). On their website you will find more details about it.
A true dream-stay when you visit Chitwan National Park in Sauraha. This lodge is so beautiful, high hospitality and service as they treat you with such kindness and above all – your money is spent on supporting local developments such as The Sapana School and Women Empowerment Projects. $$
I visited this guesthouse while I volunteered with the street children of Kathmandu and was very pleased to see this place. It’s run by a Dutch and Nepali couple, combining the Nepali hospitality with the modern European standards. They offer a home-style guesthouse which is fully focused on sustainability and on giving back. They work with Solar Power, avoid plastics, recycle and organize monthly clean-ups. They offer a comfortable and cozy stay close to Bouddhanath (a must-see in Kathmandu) with modern rooms and facilities. The guesthouse has multiple terraces and a garden. There is a library to lent books, a restaurant and laundry service. The owners also run a trekking-company so these activities can be easily arranged. They are also able to give you a lot of extra information on sustainable traveling in Nepal. The rooms are very well priced, starting from €14,- euro a night. $
I personally haven’t been here, but an American lady I met, told me about this place. This hotel is part of the Roadhouse group with multiple concepts in Nepal and India. Their hotel has a high standard with lots of comfort in a boutique style building, reminding you of the lifestyle of the 17th century. It’s located in the middle of Thamel and includes all high refinement. $$$
As some of you read my blogs before, my favorite dish of Nepal became Palak Paneer – a spinach curry with Paneer cheese. And at Mitho, I ate it first when I fell in love with this dish. The place is modern and cosy, attracting a lot of European travelers. Nevertheless, their menu is traditional with Nepali and Indian dishes. Their prices are very good and the food simply delicious! I personally went here twice for dinner, but it would also be a perfect spot for coffee’s, lunch or working.
Kaiser Cafe in The Garden of Dreams – dreamy coffee place
This place is unlike any other place in Kathmandu. The beautiful Kaiser Cafe is positioned in a static European style garden-house, looking over the Garden of Dreams. This place is perfect for a calm coffee and to read a book. But they also host (intimate) group dinners. Kaiser Cafe offers a continental menu in an atmospheric setting, just seconds away from the hectic life of Kathmandu. They offer good coffee with a range of cakes to add to your coffee-break. Likeee!
*side-note: to enter Kaiser Cafe you’ll need to pay entrance of the Garden of Dream (R200 / € 1,50)
This cozy boho courtyard cafe in the middle of Thamel was a discovery by accident, but one of the best places I’ve been in Kathmandu. They offer lounge seats, relaxed music in the background and good food & coffee’s. For me, this was the ideal place to wake up and work in the morning. It’s not crowded and the people are relax in this perfect hidden gem. The garden is very green and dreamy. They are open all day to lounge and to eat and they have a nice cocktail-menu too;-)
Roadhouse is an American-style restaurant- and hotel company offering multiple concepts in Nepal (Kathmandu, Pokhara, Lalitpur) and India. I visited the restaurant Mezze by Roadhouse in Kathmandu and had such a nice experience. This rooftop restaurant has an amazing terrace (looking towards the Narayanhiti Palace) and beautiful inside seating, complimented with a open kitchen and long bar. Their kitchen offers a Mediterranean cuisine, rich in flavours and pretty-looking plates. I found the ambiance amazing, the food delicious, staff super friendly and I could work here very well (quick wifi and good tables!)
I fell straight in love with this authentic place. This is a eco-hotel ($$) and organic restaurant with a green approach (they grow their own vegetables, work with energy saving systems, avoid plastics, they compost and they avoid excessive energy consumption. I personally loved the old building and the hidden garden where you feel peaceful the moment you step in. As this place lays in the busy area of Thamel, its the perfect spot to calm down, have a coffee or lunch, or do yoga. Their restaurant offers traditional Nepali, Indian, Chinese and Thai cuisines.
Other good options for food/ coffee/ working in Thamel, Kathmandu:
OR2K – Relaxed spot with good food! Lots of vegan options and great prices
Yin Yang – Thai restaurant with delicious traditional dishes. A bit more pricy but still very doable. The restaurant has a cute outdoor and is perfect for groups or to bring (business) relations
Jatra cafe – In this place I experienced the fastest wifi of Nepal. Uploading a vlog on Youtube can be done quickly here;-) Relaxed bar with good traditional food and drinks. Not full of ambiance though.
Sarangi Restaurant – Vegetarian restaurant (delicious options) with a good rooftop bar. This restaurant is a social enterprise, empowering local communities with their profits in various projects. Love that!
To choose on the menu:
Vietnamese cold coffee (Electric Pagoda had a good one)
Vegetable Pakoda (perfect appetizer of fried veggies)
Samosa (also appetizer; potato-filled pastry)
Palak Paneer (spinach curry)
Paneer Butter / Tikka Masala
Vegetable Momo’s (traditional and a must try!)
Dal Bhat (The traditional meal)
Bhaktapur: I would definitely recommend all of you to visit Bhaktapur, as this is such a heritage close to Kathmandu. Walking around the city of Bhaktapur makes it possible to travel time, enabling you to see a true Nepalian traditional city. Bhaktapur has long been the capital city of Nepal. The city did experience damage from the earthquake, so some construction work might be there when you visit. To go to Bhaktapur, you can either book a tour with a group (which means a mini van and driver – costs €18,- ) or you can take a local bus from Ratna Park (costs around €0,30 one way). To enter Bhaktapur you pay an entrance fee of R1000,- and you can stay here all day (or even book a hotel).
Swayambhunath Stupa: This Stupa in Kathmandu is known as ‘Monkey Temple’ for its tremendous amount of monkeys here. This stupa is situated on top of a mountain, overseeing the city. To get there, be prepared for lots of stairs. When you enter the side, as a tourist you will pay R200,- I visited the stupa around 18:00h and got on top around 18:30h which gave me the most beautiful view. The sky colors so beautiful and its not as warm or crowded as throughout the day. Just be sure to be down again before it’s fully dark (depending on the time you travel here).
Bouddhanath Stupa – This is the biggest Stupa in Asia and definitely worth a visit. It’s a beautiful building and the stupa is surrounded by a cute square and multiple shops, restaurants. You can visit this place for free.
Pashupatinath Temple – Some like it, some don’t. But I would definitely recommend to go to Pashupatinath. This Hindu complex is located north-east of the city and a 30 minute walk from Bouddhanath. This place is very impressive and religious, as cremation ceremonies take place along the Bagmati River. This happens publicly, so every visitor can witness the cremation. You will also see a lot of elderly visitors. They arrive here to find shelter for the last several weeks of their lives, to meet death, be cremated on the banks of the river and travel their last journey with the waters of the sacred river Bagmati, which later meets the holy river Ganges. Hinduists from every corner of Nepal and India are arriving here to die. They believe that that those who die in Pashupatinath Temple are reborn as a human, regardless of any misconduct that could worsen their karma. To either the side of Pashupatinath (multiple areas) costs you R1000 (around €7,50).
Tips concerning travel, money etc.
To get cash from an ATM: I recommend Nabil Bank ATM. They reason why? They will give you more Rupees. Because most ATM’s will only give-out max €70,- in Rupees with a transaction fee, while Nabil Bank is able to give you up to €350,- with a transaction fee at once. This avoids you having to go to the ATM every two days. They have multiple ATM’s in Thamel and are like telephone-booths, very save.
Traveling is fairly easy here. I traveled by foot, by bus and many taxi’s. I arranged most taxi’s and my bustrips through the reception of my hotel, as they know the area and save drivers best. They are happy to help you. But asking on the streets during daytime works fine as well.
If you prefer Vegan menu options, in Nepal you’ll be satisfied. Almost every bar or restaurant offers vegan options on the menu as it is fairly popular here.
Souvenirs can be bought everywhere and they have an enormous variety.
Be prepared for a lot of dust. The streets are extremely dusty in Kathmandu and therefore many Nepali were masks. I personally didn’t wear one during my stay, but I can tell you my nose, ears, clothes, shoes and bag were extremely dusty! Rather not bring whites (clothes, bags, shoes) and bring some wash detergent to keep your clothes fresh.
To avoid food poisoning, I ate only vegetarian. It worked for me, I never felt unwell or anything. And in Nepal it’s easy with their meatless options. It doesn’t give you any guarantee, but meats are hard to be kept fresh here. Next to not eating meats or poultry, I tried to not eat raw vegetables such as lettuce, cucumber or tomato. The water they was these in, might make you sick.
My journey was build around voluntary work, as I chose Nepal as a destination to really make a change. Nepal is known as one of the poorest countries in the world, but Nepal is also a very friendly country and a country were women can travel solo. I flew from Amsterdam to Istanbul to Kathmandu with Turkish Airlines. I stayed in Kathmandu for 10 days in total, in hotel Mum’s home and later in AI Boutique hotel. Both were recommended for their good wifi, good beds and proper breakfast. I can fully agree as both stays were good and the services excellent, I just missed some ambiance. That’s why I recommend other places in my tips above. In ten days time I did voluntary work three days: one day at the KAT-centre and two days at The Tiom Laura Marinka Home. One day I visited the workshop of A Beautiful Story, the Dutch jewelry brand that has a fair-trade production in Nepal. The other days I worked, I did side seeing in Kathmandu and I visited Bhaktapur. I split my stay in Kathmandu with Chitwan in between, where I stayed two nights and three days. I went to Chitwan on day six with the bus – taking me seven hours. I arranged the bus through the reception of my hotel. I got back with the same bus – also in seven hours on day ten. The bus-tour to Chitwan goes through mountains and was a good experience with tremendous views. It costed me R1000 (around €7,50) one way. In Chitwan I stayed at the Sapana Village Lodge, which was a dream. Here I also worked, wrote a lot and I did a jeep-safari in the jungle park. I arranged my tour with the hotel, costing me R3500 (around €25,-) and they brought me and picked me up.
I traveled mainly by foot, by taxi and by bus in Nepal. All were fairly save and easy to access. I went to Nepal on a budget and was willing to enjoy the traveling as much as the destination, therefore I took multiple slow transportation options. Most taxi’s got arranged by the reception of my hotel, same goes for the bus. To walk, I got myself a map and a good sense of direction;-)
Budget: I targeted my travels on a budget of €1.500,- and ended up spending €1.400,- Nevertheless, it really depends on your activities and your plane ticket. As I worked a lot, I limited myself on activities and therefore spent less than average. I assume traveling by plane to Pokhara, taking a one-week hiking tour, will come with a different budget. My daily spent contained stay (including breakfast), lunch, dinner, a snack, entrance fee’s and taxi’s and was about €50,-
My Personal Experience
Overall my experiences in Nepal were great! People are so friendly, the food so tasteful and the country extremely beautiful. But above all, Nepal was REAL. Of course some areas are dirty and poor, but that is the true face of the poorest country of Asia. It’s inadequate with their situation. But the real face of Nepal is friendly and loving, the heart of the people speaks louder than their situation can tell. I’ve seen sad and beautiful things here, together it makes Nepal a destination you can’t truly describe – you have to experience.
I just would like to encourage all of you to visit a poor country like Nepal, because your visit – irrelevant of what you do – already supports the local economy and that’s such a good thing. On top of that, you will experience a different form of pure beauty.
Beautiful experiences, but did nothing bad happened?
Yes, some negative things happened to me as well. I got scammed with a touristy ‘trick’ into buying an expensive souvenir, I got faced with inappropriate male attitude, I got attacked by street-children on drugs during night time and I’ve been in taxi’s at night driving through areas that were unsafe (feeling terribly scared). I got a huge delay on my way back, which costed me a day.
But through all of it I was ok and got stronger, more confident. I learned about my limits and got a lot of tips for you to avoid anything like this happening to you;-)
Vlogs of Nepal
Interested in some video material? Watch my two travel-vlogs of Nepal.