Quick Tips on Navigating Kathmandu and Money Matters

Navigating Nepal is a very human-centric process. Everything involves haggling and rarely are there set guidelines.

Navigating Kathmandu

  • Buses. Ridiculously cheap. Generally fixed prices, depends on the conductor/driver if they will charge you the normal price or double it (coz you’re a foreigner). You can board at designated terminals, where they will just have hundreds of buses and you’ll have to ask people which bus goes to where. They will also tell you a time, but adjust that by at least half an hour – time is more flexible here. There are tourist buses that charge significantly more, but if you are taking a bus for longer than an hour, I’d say it’s worth it.
  • Taxis, jeeps and everything else. Can be more expensive than the taxi in Tokyo if you don’t haggle. My advice is that you ask your hostel how much the normal rate is, and peg it at that. Accept that you’ll have to pay twice the normal rate (which is not expensive), and things will be tolerable. However, some will charge you five times or more the normal rate, which is why you need to know how much it should be. Random note – I find this interesting, because the way I see it, the Nepalese will not steal from you, but they will rob you to your face. Or, just good old capitalism.

Money matters

  • Getting Nepalese Rupees (NPR). The best way is to exchange your own currency in Kathmandu, at Nabil Bank for the best rates. To get a feel of what the current rates are, you can check their central bank as most businesses peg theirs to it. There are plenty of money changers, but Nabil Bank has a better rate (not sure about the other banks).
    • ATMs are an alternative, but know that they have a limit of around NPR30,000 per withdrawal. Even if it is NPR50,000, you will be losing money with the transaction charges – both locally and in your own card.
    • Credit cards are a no no. Fake bills are not much of a worry, but credit card theft is. Do not give your credit card to anyone, based on some blogs I’ve read. When I was there, there were few options to use credit card, so it’s not much of an option either way.
  • I think an easy rule is that for things with set prices (e.g. entrance fees, domestic flight tickets), there is a different price for tourists and locals. Some are free from locals (or South Asians), but comes with a fee for tourists. Some are by default doubled for tourists. Don’t be surprised if they are tripled or more. Basically, prices are not fixed and are decided when they look at you and how well you haggle.
  • Theft is surprisingly NOT a problem. I was worried about it, but in my experience and research, theft is pretty rare (not zero, but rare).