Welcome to Kathmandu!
Once considered to be the lost and fabled realm of Shangri-la, Kathmandu, Nepal, is now a large city of a million people and one of the biggest tourist hubs in Asia. Travelers from all over the world, from all classes of society, come to Kathmandu to experience life in the mountains and to try and climb the legendary Everest. In Kathmandu, the elevation is the way of life: from the mountain air to the quality of its experiences.
The city consistently ranks as one of the top destinations for travelers, not only in Asia but in the world, and with its rich 2000-year-old history, religious, cultural festivals and amazing views everywhere you go, it is easy to understand why so many people venture here. This guide will help you be a worldwide local in the land of Shangri-la.
Worldwide Local Tip: Get familiar with the customs of the country. Nepal is a devout country with a large Hindu and Buddhist population. Modesty is important especially in the way you dress, so avoid clothes that are too revealing.
Navigating the City
Getting around town is simple but not always necessarily easy, and a worldwide local knows that if you’re going to explore a city, you have to know your way around. The city is technically walkable, but with a lack of infrastructure, there are a lot of potholes, open sewage, and other things you’d generally want to avoid. Hiring a rickshaw is a fun and easy way to get around from any of the hotels in Kathmandu. Negotiate a price beforehand and make sure to tip. There are apps available (Tootle & Pathao) that work like Uber but operate with motorbikes instead of cars. Taxis are, of course, another viable option and are commonly found in tourist areas.
Worldwide Local Tip: When using a taxi, make sure that the driver is using the meter. Also, be sure you see them turn it on and it stays on for the duration of your trip. If the driver refuses to use it, simply tell them if they don’t turn it on, you won’t pay, or find another taxi, as they are easy to find. If everything goes smoothly, it is customary to tip your driver.
Religious Landmarks in Kathmandu
Kathmandu is home to many temples, so many in fact, you probably won’t have time to see them all; so why not check out one of the most unique ones. The Swayambhunath Temple, one of the most famous Buddhist temples, is home to hundreds of monkeys. Sitting at the top of a hill in Kathmandu, the temple is quite an uphill walk with 365 stone steps. The hundreds of monkeys live on and roam around the premises and are believed to be holy. Unfortunately, some of the temples didn’t survive the 2015 earthquake, but it’s still worth seeing, as you can enjoy the Kathmandu weather and admire the view of the city from the top.
Worldwide Local Tip: If you’re into learning more about the temple and its position in Buddhist Nepalese society, get a tour from a resident monk. You’ll learn about the religion, take part in a chanting lesson, and participate in a ceremony. The price is about 200 Rupees (about 2$ USD), so make sure not to mess around too much with the monkeys.
A Must-Visit Neighborhood
A worldwide local knows to go where the locals go and witness the locals’ way of life. The Thamel district is a great place to spend an entire day. There are lots of local shops around offering goods from souvenirs and trinkets to delicious street food. The area can feel frantic and busy at times, but it has managed to retain much of its old-world charm, with Tibetan prayer flags lining the streets and rickshaws thundering by. Pick up a souvenir thangka, jewelry, or hand made bronze crafts.
Worldwide Local Tip: As the sun sets, Thamel starts to have other businesses pop up. The streets glow with the lights and sounds of Kathmandu restaurants, bars, and pubs, that not only cater to tourists but locals as well. Bar hop around the neighborhood and take in some live music and tasty drinks.
Have an Unbelievable Time in Kathmandu!
Kathmandu is a place where many tourists have been before, but a worldwide local knows how to see it up close and personal. Nepalis are friendly people willing to help show the beauty of their country. Don’t be afraid to show some appreciation back!