As per usual I’ve tracked my expenditures and will share my Nepal trip cost here. Nepal is usually a very cheap place to travel. But there are a few places and things that can snag tourists, adding to the overall cost.
Kathmandu is generally more expensive than other towns. Trekking is generally more expensive than hanging out in the cities. And the touristy areas are definitely way more expensive than places off the beaten path.
Yay, it’s time for some numbers! All prices are converted to US dollars.
Total Nepal trip cost
In total we spent $3689.27 while in Nepal for the two of us. This includes the cost for the visa and travelers insurance, but not the airfare to get to and from Nepal. I’ve decided to stop including airfare in these country cost calculations, since ticket costs are largely dependent on your departure location and date.
We spent 90 days in the country, which was the longest visa we could easily get. That puts us at $41 per day for both of us, or $20.50 each per day.
Nepal packs so much amazing things to do and see for such a tiny country. Three months wasn’t enough time for us – we’ll definitely go back for more.
Flights to Nepal are usually expensive
Nepal has one small international airport in Kathmandu. It’s the only choice if you want to fly. Not many airlines fly there and the prices reflect that lack of competition. It is fairly easy to fly to India and then take a bus if cost is a concern.
We had the luxury of freedom to choose our departure date and were able to find a reasonably priced flight into the country. On our way out we didn’t do quite as well as we changed plans at the last minute.
Trekking is Nepal’s biggest draw for many people, and the whole reason we were there. There are many styles of trekking, and depending on where you want to go and what you want to do the costs can be very cheap or very high.
I’ll cover trekking costs in another article, since pricing can vary so much depending on what you do and where you go.
Life in the cities and towns is cheap
When in the cities the costs don’t really add up to a whole lot. There are lots of opportunities to spend money, but every transaction is so small that doesn’t add up to much. More often than not we actively tried to spend in as many places as possible- we were playing mad money.
Most things are pretty inexpensive. Stuff tends to be of very low quality, although there are passable clothes manufactured in Nepal. We bought a plug adapter for $0.60, a few post cards for $0.10 each, a pair of flip flops for $2.50 and a $10 pair of pants for me. We bought a number of handmade souvenirs we’ll ship to friends and family just to help keep Nepalese people employed.
Food and beverages
Dal bhat is the staple meal eaten in most of the country twice a day. Rice, vegetable curry, lentils and some pickles – it’s pretty good. For about $1.80 in a restaurant you can get all you can eat, $2.50 fetches a meat version.
A plate of chow mein or a bowl of noodle soup costs around $0.80. Fruit is around $1 a kg, or $0.50 a pound.
Tea is $0.20 to $0.50 a cup, real coffee is a tourist commodity at $2.
Beer is around $2.50 for a big bottle.
Even the more upscale restaurants are pretty cheap. One night we took three teenagers we met to a feast at a very fancy restaurant. We stuffed ourselves and the bottomless pit teenagers, but in total for the five of us it only came to $46.
Hotels and guest houses
Hotels are one place where you could spend a ton. There are a number of western brand hotels that charge western prices – hundreds of dollars per night. At that price point in Nepal they better be opulent.
In the tourist trap areas hotel prices are highly inflated – that’s Thamel in Kathmandu and Lakeside in Pokhura. Most places will try to extract as much as they can out of you, they will quote you $50 or $100 for a room that should be way less. But if you look around and you are a good bargainer you can get a good clean and comfortable room for around $15. During busy season hotels will be less willing to come down on the price.
On the other hand, if you get away from the tourist traps things are usually extremely cheap. Good guest houses and hotels away from the main drag are around $10 in Kathmandu and $5 in Pokhura.
Elsewhere in the country choices for hotels are more limited. You probably won’t find any fancy hotels, but what you do find is usually comfortable enough, reasonably clean and cheap. We paid anywhere from $3 to $14 in the other towns we visited.
Again, it’s cheap. A bus ride across Kathmandu is about $0.50, a cab ride across Kathmandu is around $5. An intercity bus ride is $6 or $7.
Watch out for the cabs in the tourist traps and at the airport – they sit around waiting for easy targets. Why work for a living when you can make a day’s wage driving just one unsuspecting tourist?
Nepal is a poor country with too many problems. We donated anytime we visited monasteries, schools, orphanages and other social safety nets. I usually try to avoid giving directly to beggars, as I think it usually does more harm than good, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.
We tried to spread our money around as much as possible. While trekking we would stop and drink tea or eat something pretty much every time we were asked, even if we had just eaten. Eating as charity – I’ve never been so full or well caffeinated.
Most of the handicrafts and clothes we acquired are things we would never normally buy. I consider those purchases a form a charity as well.
Our day to day charity adds up to about $6 per day, or $3 each.
Scams and mishaps
We fell for a few. We also certainly overpaid for a number of things in the beginning of our trip, it’s always hard to tell exactly how much over the local rate we are paying in the first few weeks. But we learn as we go and generally don’t worry too much about it, it’s probably only a dollar a day.
In general, if I’m paying 50% above the locals’ rate I feel ok about it. At 2x or 3x the normal price I feel like I’m getting ripped off. As a white tourist in a poor country I expect to pay a premium. Even though I’m usually paying more than what a Nepalese would be willing to pay, it’s still a good price for me.
There were no significant mishaps to report, although I did get bitten by a dog which probably counts for something.
I’m not thrilled with the state of democracy in Nepal, so I’d rather not give my money to the corrupt Nepalese government. Unfortunately it’s unavoidable and it starts at the airport with the visa fee.
Every national park has a permit or entrance fee. It would be one thing if these fees went to helping the people who live in those parks, or even building infrastructure. But alas, it seems that almost all of it ends up in government officials pockets.
In total $495 of our money went to the man, which is almost $3 each per day. That’s a pretty big scam.
We had emergency travelers insurance to cover any major mishaps. Our plans were $180 for both of us, or $1 each a day.
I got my backpack repaired for about $0.20 which is awesome. The same repair would have been at least $30 and a few days turn around back home. Having hiking boots repaired was $1. Haircuts were $1.50. I commissioned a custom laptop case made with handwoven cloth, which took the lady five days of working all day. It came out really well. She only wanted $10 a day for her labor and the materials.
It’s all cheap
We could have done the trip for much less had we tried. In the cities we traveled pretty comfortably for about $15 a day on average. Trekking is a bit more expensive.
We’re going back for sure.