Location: Southern Asia between China and India
Population: 27.8 Million (2013)
Ethnic groups:Chhettri 15.5%, Brahman-Hill 12.5%, Magar 7%, Tharu 6.6%, Tamang 5.5%, Newar 5.4%, Muslim 4.2%, Kami 3.9%, Yadav 3.9%, other 32.7%, unspecified 2.8% (2001 census)
Religions: Nepalese people are mainly divided into two distinct groups, the Indo-Aryans and the Mangoloids (the Kirats). Before 2007 AD, Nepal was regarded as the only Hindu Kingdom in the world. But after that the Government of Nepal has already announced the country to be secular country. The Hindu Temples and Buddhist Shrines are scattered all over Nepal. Nepal is the birthplace of Lord Buddha, Herald of Peace, the Light of Asia. Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians live together in harmony. And other nature worshipers, too, exist here.
Religion: Hindu 80.6%, Buddhist 10.7%, Muslim 4.2%, Kirant 3.6%, other 0.9% (2001 census)
Languages: Nepali 47.8%, Maithali 12.1%, Bhojpuri 7.4%, Tharu (Dagaura/Rana) 5.8%, Tamang 5.1%, Newar 3.6%, Magar 3.3%, Awadhi 2.4%, other 10%, unspecified 2.5% (2001 census) Note: many in government and business also speak English (2001 est.)
Nepal’s dramatic landscapes, kind and generous people and rich cultures will amaze any visitor willing to partake in this travel adventure. The following information aims to provide travellers with a useful overview of relevant topics including basic entry, required immunizations, accommodations, climate, and cuisine.
Nepal is a mountainous and stunningly diverse country with a rich cultural heritage and deeply spiritual roots. Located on the slopes of Himalayas, it borders India to the south and east and Tibet to the north. Eight of the world’s tallest mountains are located within Nepal’s borders, including the legendary Mount Everest or Sagarmatha, meaning ‘mother of the world’.
The snow-capped peaks and staggering heights of the Himalayas give way to the Hills Region or Pahar, where the great valleys of Pokhara and Kathmandu are located. Don’t be deceived by the word ‘hill’; this region includes ranges with peaks reaching nearly 3,660 m/12,000 ft.
The lowlands in the southern regions of Nepal feature a plain known as the Terai, a once tropical stretch of land that extends through India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and is today heavily cultivated and fed by runoff from the Himalayas.
Nepal has around 28 million inhabitants, with nearly 2 million living in the capital of Kathmandu. The population is composed of over 100 different ethnic groups, each with their own mother tongue. The official language spoken among the citizens is Nepalese, but there are many different dialects and languages within the diverse population. English is often used in government and business relations, as well as in private schools as a model of education.
The major religious groups are Hindus, which make up almost 80 % of the population, and Buddhists. Minor groups include Muslims and Christians. Nepal houses a huge number of different cultures. All this diversity reminds us of a melting pot, where customs, beliefs and traditions coexist harmoniously. No matter the ethnic or religious background, Nepal’s population is considered to be warm and hospitable.
The ethnic groups of Nepal are generally located in certain regions. There are four main regions:
Northern Himalayan: Located in the alpine areas, this region is home to the Sherpas, Dolpa-pas, Lopas, Baragaonlis, and Manangis people.
Middle Hills and Valley: This region is inhabited by several ethnic groups: the Magars, Gurungs, Tamangs, Sunuwars, Newars, Thakalis and more.
Kathmandu Valley: Indian natives, called Newars as well as several other groups live and work as traders and farmers in this region.
Terai: This region includes the Tharus, Darai, Kumhal, Majhi and several others. The dialect spoken is Indian-Maithili, Bhojpuri. The livelihood for the majority of the population is agriculture.
Climate and weather
No matter the time of the year, you will find Nepal an incredible country to visit. While winters can be chilly and summers balmy, the climate ranges from tropical to arctic depending on topography and altitude. Monsoon winds blow from the southwest from May to September, bringing rain (the wet monsoon), or from the northeast from October to April (the dry monsoon). In Nepal, seasons are usually well defined:
• Spring (March – May, 16-23ºC/61-73ºF in Kathmandu): Mildly warm temperature in the lowlands; moderate at higher altitudes with excellent mountain views. Flowers blossom in full splendor, including rhododendrons, the beautiful national flower of Nepal.
• Summer (June – August, 23-25ºC/73-77ºF in Kathmandu): The wet monsoon season. The summer days are often hot and humid. It rains almost daily, creating lush green vegetation.
• Autumn (September – November, 15-24ºC/59-75ºF in Kathmandu): Arguably the best tourist season in Nepal: not only as the peak season for trekking and crisp mountain views, but also for local Nepali festivals and events.
• Winter (December – February, 9-12ºC/48-54ºF in Kathmandu): The weather is cool and the sky is clear with occasional snowfalls at higher elevations. Trekking is good at lower elevations. Mornings and nights are cold, but days are often sunny and warm.
Health Tips and Immunizations
Anyone wishing to travel to Nepal must be aware of possible health issues and receive necessary immunizations before the trip. The following section presents a few health tips and the vaccinations required for a healthy stay in the country. These tips should not be a substitute for professional medical advice.
Nepal is home to a large variety of insects that can transmit diseases, from the simplest to the most dangerous. Try to keep skin covered when outdoors. Exposed areas should be protected by insect repellents containing DEET. The use of bed nets is very important if the area in which you are sleeping in is close proximity to, or exposed to the outdoors.
Avoid direct contact with animals, both wild and domestic. They can attack if feeling threatened, which may cause injury and/or transmit diseases. Caution should be exercised if you find yourself in a room with a bat. Bat bites are difficult to treat and a doctor must be sought as soon as possible. Also avoid meat from wild game, especially if sold by street vendors. Lack of proper preparation could mean that the meat carries diseases.
Always carry a list of local doctors and hospitals, especially those that are covered by your health insurance. Should you feel unwell, seek professional medical service so that any disease can be identified and treated immediately.
When travelling to high elevation regions such as the Himalayas, be sure to prepare accordingly, following professional advice concerning apparel, equipment and additional items such as a first aid kit. Altitude sickness is a very common issue and proper medicine should be kept in an easily accessible location.
List of vaccines required prior to travel to Nepal:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Typhoid (highly recommended)
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Malaria (Required, if you wish to travel southern plane land of Nepal)
- Yellow Fever
Accommodation and cuisine
Nepal is an attractive tourist destination since it is home to the Himalayan mountain range and, most importantly, Mount Everest. It was also the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, which draws followers of the Buddhist philosophy and its admirers.
Accommodation in Nepal includes five-star hotels, budget hotels and lodges, available depending on budget and location preference. There are even hotels located near and in the mountains, for the more adventurous visitors. In cities such as Pokhara, tourists can find lakeside hotels where they can enjoy the fresh mountain air of Nepal without risking high altitudes.
There are also many restaurants, ranging from the most luxurious to the simplest, that provide the best of local and foreign cuisines. Nepalese cuisine is as diverse as its people, but several traditional dishes can be found throughout the country. A few of the more popular dishes include the pervasive dal bhat – typically rice with lentils and an assortment of sides, pilau – a Nepalese version of the popular ‘pilaf’ rice dish, and momo – steamed vegetable or meat dumplings. All are delicious examples of a country set between the two highly developed food cultures of India and China. While pizzas, pastas, and other imported comfortable Western cuisine is available, even in some of the more remote locations, the local cuisine is a both tasty and filling option for trekkers.
For those who enjoy outdoor activities, Nepal has several trekking facilities that specialize in mountain excursions. Highly trained and experienced professionals are ready to take tourists to the top of, or close to, one or several of the over 1,310 peaks that dot the Himalayas – including the (sometimes) infamous Mount Everest. This is potentially the most dangerous trekking site in Nepal, so extreme caution and care should be taken in this region, as well as adhering closely to the instructions provided by the guides.
It is possible to enter Nepal by either air or overland. Several airlines offer international and domestic connections. The cost of the airport taxi is included only for international arrivals and departures; however taxi-drivers, travel agents and hoteliers are readily available in the airport terminal. If you choose to travel by overland, use a predetermined entry point and route to prevent getting lost or reaching a prohibited entry point.
It is wise to exchange money or withdraw rupees in Kathmandu, since most villages and treks do not offer exchange services. Please also ensure that you are in possession of all the necessary documents required for safe entry into Nepal.
If you hold a passport to a country of which you are not a resident, please visit the official website for immigration in Nepal (http://www.nepalimmigration.gov.np/).