Getting a Nepal visa – the first step before you step into Nepal

Nepal is one of the few countries where visa can be obtained easily and free of hassles. Since tourism is a major income source, the government has maintained its policy of granting visas to the immigrants at any of the entry points to Nepal. The issuance is virtually unconditional, unless your passport is on the verge of expiry, you hail from one of the restricted countries or something fishy is linked with your travel. The immigrants of these 11 countries (3 from Asia and 8 from Africa), however, need to obtain a visa prior to their arrival in Nepal, which are: Zimbabwe, Somalia, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Swaziland; Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.

The department of immigration or the offices thereunder is responsible for regularizing all visas, except diplomatic and official visas. All tourists except Indian visitors are required a visa for their admission and stay in Nepal. The visa cost is free for the South Asian (SAARC) countries. You can get your visa issued at the International airport(Kathmandu), one of 6 entry points at southern border or an entry point at the northern border. The essentials for obtaining visa are a valid passport with at least 6 months of validity period remaining and a lucid passport size photograph. The visa fee is acceptable in US/Aus/Can/Singapore/HK dollar, UK pound sterling, Euro and few other foreign currencies. Nepalese and Indian currencies are not acceptable.

The tourist visa is granted for a maximum of 150 days in a visa year, including the extension. Visa year is equivalent to a full 12 months. The costs of visas according to duration are: US$25 for 15 days, US$40 for 30 days and US$100 for 90 days. Children under 10 year are exempt of visa fee. Visa extension can be extended up to a duration not exceeding 150 days per visa year. The prices of visa extension are: US$ 30 for a period of 15 days or less and US$2/day for the period exceeding 15 days. The visa extension is sanctioned by the immigration office of Kathmandu or Pokhara. You may also have your visa regularized before coming to Nepal via diplomatic agencies of your country by filling up and submitting the visa application form. Apart from the visa fee, you need to make separate payments for the trekking, mountaineering or access to the regulated areas.

Though obtaining a Nepalese visa is easy, a tourist should keep in mind few things and abide by the regulations, the breach of which may lead to deportation or penalty or both. A tourist visa doesn’t allow the grantee to engage in any business or work in Nepal, with or without salary. Counterfeit information furnished, if found, is not tolerated which may lead to the cancellation of the visa. The fill-up forms and detailed information regarding the visa to Nepal can be found on the official website of the Department of Immigration, Nepal.

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Muktinath – Where Hinduism Meets Buddhism at a Picturesque Himalayan Landscape

Buddhist temple in MuktinathWith snow-clad mountain on the background, the beautifully adorned 3-tiered temple of pagoda style may give impression of a complete Hindu shrine. But, the Buddhist prayer flags fluttering with one side attached to strings that embroider the shrine will make you reconsider your last opinion. Yes, this is Muktinath- the pilgrimage for the Hindus as well as a sacred place of the Buddhists. The holy abode situated at the base of Thorang-la Pass, one of the favorite places of High altitude trekkers, represents a perfect paradigm of centuries-old understanding between the two religions. The main temple houses the statue of lord Vishnu which is also revered as Aalokitesvara – the deity of compassion by the Buddhists. Apart from the main temple there is a remarkable coexistence of other Hindu temples (Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha) and many prayer wheels and chortens (stupas) in a common religious platform.

The history of Muktinath dates back to around 15th year from the start of 19th century when a queen of Nepal initiated the construction of the temple. Muktikshetra, the site of Muktinath, is considered by Hindus to be the place of salvation as is its literal meaning in Sanaskrit. According to a legend, the Hindu god of creation Brahma made an offering by lighting fire on water. Surprisingly, the phenomenon attesting this Hindu legend –flame of natural gas that is believed to be burning from the eternity can be witnessed inside a Buddhist monastery, namely Meber Lakhag Gompa. There are nunneries to the left of the temple. There is also a Shiva temple surrounded by Vishnu, Ram and Ganesh temples which is the only all-Hindu shrine of the site. The monastery at the entry of the complex is Sangdo Gompa which was once a residence of monks and who, as told by the villagers, performed Lama Dance during Lhosar. The complex apart from seating the religiously important temples and stupas is known for being the site of spiritual practice by Hindu as well as Buddhist yogis in the past. Guru Rinpoche or Padmasabhava who is credited for bringing Buddhism to Tibet had meditated here on his way to Tibet whose footprints are still preserved in the site. Similarly, an 18th century Indian yogi Swaminarayan had undergone a severe penance whose monument rests at one of the spots.

The yard of Muktikshetra consists of 108 water spouts, each with the shape of a boar-head, from where ice-cold water emanate. These are believed of delivering salvation if shower is taken from each. The devotees baring themselves in such a cold air and running quickly bathing from one faucet to the other with the chilling water is fun to observe. The Tibetan identify Muktinath as Chuming Gyatsa who probably coined the title after those water spouts (Chuming Gyatsa = 100 waters in Tibetan). A large number of religious visitors throng at Muktinath during the Poornima (full moon) of August-September, which is an auspicious day for the Hindus. For those interested in tribal festivals with horse-race, the propitious time to visit is during Yartung festival which is marked by open gambling (still illegal in Nepal ), horse-race , joviality, alcohol and much more. For the rest, any time between April-May or October-November is the best. The recently constructed handsome gate, shops run by the nuns, poplar trees at the altitude of more than a dozen of thousand feet, a peculiar Chorten with strange sounds said to heal ear diseases are also the attractions of Muktinath worth mentioning.

The accessibility to Muktinath has become much better with the construction of road, though many trekkers consider that the excavation has rather hampered the long-preserved and exotic significance of that route. However, you have plenty of options to reach Muktinath – either by trekking, flight to Johmsom and a short trek or directly via jeep ride. Whatever mode you opt, you can make your Nepal stay memorable simply by paying a visit to the Muktinath – a pilgrimage located at the spectacular Himalayan setting, a focal point of the Annapurna trek, an ideal conflation of Buddhism and Hinduism and much more.

If you want your Muktinath trip to be organized in an ideal manner, then you can take the next step and fill out the inquiry form and get FREE travel info.

Mindfulness in the lap of Himalaya

Life can only take place in the present moment. If we lose the present moment, we lose life. ~ Gautama Buddha

Right Mindfulness has been described by the Buddha as one of the seven factors of enlightenment. This can be achieved through insight meditation (popular as ‘mindfulness meditation’ in the west). Unlike the concentrative meditation that leads to short-term bliss or attainment of psychic powers, insight meditation helps the practitioner to attain wisdom and free herself from the worldly suffering. In today’s world we are exposed to a good many things but sadly, not all of them are good enough! These in turn produce incessant thoughts and emotions leading not only to psychological disorders like stress or anxiety, depression and schizophrenia but also somatic diseases like high-blood-pressure, heart-disease etc. The monks, hermits and yogis who undergo a secluded or monastic life are able to guard such thoughts as they are less exposed to the thought-provoking agents. Unfortunately, we cannot live a life like that in today’s busy world and a quick-fix that can help us pause our thoughts for even an hour without side-effects or other costs hasn’t been discovered yet. Insight meditation, nonetheless, is an appropriate answer to the problem which requires/costs nothing but an orientation from a mentor and a commitment to apply what you learnt in daily life. Separate hours/day for meditation is also not compulsory since you can practice this meditation later while walking, eating or even trekking!

Yoga meditation at sunsetVipassana is the Theravada approach to mindfulness meditation. A very noble aspect of this practice is that you don’t need to convert into Buddhism to practice Vipassana and the mentor never urges you to do so during the practice. One thing you should keep in mind is that Vipassana meditation is not to motivate you to follow an austere life or forsake worldly attachments AND NOT to cure your disease (although some report of this positive side effect). But instead, the meditation helps you to recognize yourself in the spiritual sense, your purpose of the world and bring an overall transformation in yourself. Besides, many scientific studies have revealed the progressive effect of this meditation in concentration, anger management, anxiety alleviation and so on. These results depend upon your dedication, perseverance and belief.

In Nepal, the birthplace of Shyakyamuni Buddha, Vipassana sessions are conducted by few spiritual institutions. The most popular and the oldest one open to general people including foreigners is Nepal Vipassana Center. The spiritual quiet assembly is a 10 days-long meditation session in the foothills of Shivapuri, a place away from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu.

The 18-days spiritual program also includes 8-days Kathmandu-Pokhara-Chitwan tour package. These include sight-seeing of temples, museums and monasteries around Kathmandu; Jungle safari in Chitwan National park and tour to the beautiful town of lakes- Pokhara. The meditation will commence on the 8th day after you have become somewhat acquainted with Nepal and Nepalese culture, heritage, wildlife and other tourist attractions, with a completely novel vibe.

However, if you don’t have enough days for the complete tour package and want to customize your trip or you want to modify the itinerary by including only one of the three cities (Kathmandu, Pokhara or Chitwan) Or you just want to participate in the meditation program, we shall adjust the package in accordance to your requirement.

A spiritual journey into yourself is waiting for you to make your first stride. If you think it’s the right time, Why not fill up the inquiry form and get free information about this unparalleled undertaking of self-transformation?

Pokhara – city of lakes and caves

Pokhara, by its name, means a city of lakes and ponds, as there are numerous beautiful lakes where you can boat and literally drown your sorrows. And these lakes aren’t the only thing to blow your mind in Pokhara.

Pokhara is the second largest city of Nepal after Kathmandu. It is just at a distance of 200 kms from the capital city, and is easily accessible. There are numerous tourist buses, micro buses and local buses that take passengers in and out of Pokhara every day. Just five hours drive from Kathmandu, and you end up in a completely different place, with a completely different landscape and an entirely different feel from the buzzing hubbub of Kathmandu.

Pokhara is the home to numerous lakes and caves, a modern yet welcoming city life and not to mention, a plethora of peaks of the Himalayas. The lakes in Pokhara include Fewa Lake, Begnas Lake, Rupa Lake, Gude Lake, Neurani Lake and Maidi Lake among many others. The peaks than can be closely observed from Pokhara include Dhaulagiri, Annapurna I and Manaslu as these are within 30 miles from the city, and all of these peaks are more than 8,000 meters high. The city is also the gateway for trekking to the Annapurna Circuit. The notable caves here are Bat Cave, Mahendra Cave and Gupteshwor Cave among others.

There are two major notable hilltops in Pokhara that serve as a perfect getaway, the World Peace Pagoda at the southern shore of Fewa lake and Sarangkot, a beautiful hill at the north-west part of Pokhara. The newest attraction of Pokhara is Paragliding. Now you can paraglide from Sarangkot over the famous Fewa Lake and land at the bottom of the city. Other adventure sports in Pokhara include canyoning, base diving, kayaking, mountain biking and rock climbing.

One of the tourist attractions in Pokhara is Lake Side, a small part of the city famous for its ultra-modern restaurants and night clubs. Lake Side is the place to be if you want to experience the night life of Pokhara. There are numerous pubs, clubs and discos here to give you the taste of nightlife of Pokhara.

Words are not enough to describe the amount of fun you can have in Pokhara, the only way to experience the city is by going there and receiving what delights it has to offer. So, have Pokhara on your top list of places to travel when you are in Nepal.

If you want your Nepal trip to be organized in an ideal manner, then you can take the next step and fill out the inquiry form and get FREE travel info.

Volunteering in Nepal

Scenery to rival anywhere else on Earth, a breath-taking gamut of culture and ancient tradition, palette-expanding cuisine, a land of adventure and a people of gentle grace await those willing to open their minds to Nepal. Prepare for your senses to be captured forever on a trip not to be forgotten. Nepal is home to most of the world’s largest mountains, including the renowned Mount Everest, Nepal is home to a lifetime of outstanding sights, sounds and varied experiences, from lowland jungle safari to snowy Himalayan peaks.

Why Nepal?
Nepal is also home to some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the world, people who have little access to basic services like healthcare, education or road transport, whose lives are dependent on agriculture, food deliveries on the mule train and unsustainable foreign aid. It is estimated that 60% of Nepal’s growing population of 30 million are living in poverty. Nepal has higher levels of child malnutrition than its South Asian neighbours, weaker health facilities and also appalling adult-literacy. About 71% of adults are illiterate – one of the lowest rates in the world.

What’s the Need?
Years of political unrest and civil war have left their mark on Nepal in the form of a gaping hole in the country’s infrastructure – educational standards are low, attendance lower. You will find that the sort of placements and volunteer opportunities on offer cover the following areas:

▪ English Teaching & Educational Training
▪ Child Care & Orphanages
▪ Fund Raising & Grant Writing
▪ Medical / Healthcare & Hygiene
▪ Construction & Manual Labour
▪ Environmental Education
▪ Community & Youth Empowerment

There are a wide range of opportunities in Nepal for those willing to donate their time. But be prepared to pay large sums of money for these chances. Volunteering in Nepal through a volunteering organisation will more often than not mean paying anything up to, including and even over $350 – $3500 USD for varying durations of time – but often in the range of 4-6 weeks.

Do Your Research
An internet search of ‘Volunteering in Nepal’ will result in many hits worth of volunteering organisations, volunteering opportunities and more than likely, pictures of happy/destitute children vying for your emotions. There are many horror stories available on the internet about unscrupulous volunteering organisations that charge inordinate fees for what they claim will be the experience of a lifetime, then leave you stranded at the airport with no word ever heard from them again. There are stories of children living in ‘orphanages’ under excruciatingly awful conditions, set up simply to attract foreigners’ money – money which will never benefit anyone other than the crooks running the show.

Unfortunately there are a seemingly endless string of ‘orphanages’ – and new ones springing up every week – in Nepal that may or may not be legit and/or to the benefit of the children living there. The moral of this story: Do your research. It doesn’t talk 10 minutes of your time to enter the name of the organisation you are curious about in a popular search engine and read up. Look for online forums where people might discuss their previous experience with this organisation, be thorough, spend some time weighing up the available opinion from other’s experience and decide for yourself.

Responsible Volunteering
If you are considering donating your time and money to an organisation in Nepal, or anywhere for that matter, you might find the following guidelines useful.

1. Research the impact of the organisation.
How does the organisation define success? How do they measure success? What are their goals? What failures have they experienced and how have they learned from these failures?

2. Check out the management and transparency of the organisation.
Ask to see audited financial statements, receipts of donations and goods bought with these donations, ask for references from past donors. You could check out the reputation of the organisation in the local community – as they are more likely to understand the intricacies of the impact they make than other donors/volunteers.

3. Think about the sustainability of what the organisation does.
Are they affecting change? Is what they do a band-aid solution or are the underlying issues being addressed?

4. Ensure the organisation is locally-run and agendas are negotiated not imposed.
Ask about ownership and decision making lines, who is in charge? Try and meet with them – do you trust them? If you don’t trust them you might feel like you can’t trust the whole organisation.

5. Be sure volunteers are not taking away local jobs.
Is a volunteer the best person for this role? Who will perform this role when the volunteer(s) leave? Will your input leave the organisation with more gaps or a greater dependency, or with a greater capacity to solve these problems in the future?

6. Question any organisation diverting extensive resources towards catering to foreigners.
Whose needs are being served best in this organisation? What are the motives for this organisation to take volunteers?

7. Think about the impact of a foreigner doing that role.
Are Volunteers’ roles designed to reinforce the roles of local staff? Are volunteers is managed and supervised by a permanent member of staff, not the other way round? Is speaking English taking precedence over other, more important skills?

8. Question any organisation that lets un-vetted volunteers work directly with children.
Why is a volunteer doing that particular role instead of another member of staff? Whose interest is being served? Would this be allowed in your country? What kinds of background checks does the organisation do on the volunteers? What kind of training is given?

9. Question any organisation that allows volunteers to do anything they would not be qualified to do at home.
Would you be allowed to do this job at home? Would the organisation put a local person with the same skills you have in the role they are offering you?

10. Ensure that a volunteer is not too big a burden on the organisation.
Will providing the necessary supervision or support for the volunteer actually distract staff from the main mission of their organisation? Are paid staffs taking time out to instruct volunteers?

Nepali people always welcome visitors to their country, just be sure you are there for the right reasons. Do the job that helps the most, not the one that is most exciting. Good luck and work hard!

*The above guidelines were originally developed by PEPY Tours in Cambodia.
~ This article is compiled by Rory McCormick for

Nepal: Remittance as Business

The sharp rise in the number of people working abroad in the past two decades has seen with it a major rise in the amount of money coming into Nepal via remittance companies. Nepal’s history of migrant employment originates in the early nineteenth century when Nepalese soldiers began working for the British army. In the following decades, hundreds of thousands of Nepalese worked for the British and Indian armies and currently, over 60 thousand Nepalese are working in the Indian Army and other government institutions in India. According to the National Planning Commission (NPC), the number of overseas workers has grown, on average, by 30% in the last few years. There are now an estimated 1.2 million Nepalese working in 40 countries, excluding India.

The financial streams generated by those working abroad are substantial, and it is clear that migrant workers’ remittance is a strong source of income for Nepal. It is estimated that in 2004 money transferred from migrant Nepalese reached Rs.100 billion (official and unofficial channels) – making it a bigger source of financial gain than tourism and all exports combined. Workers remittance is now considered a backbone of Nepal’s economy. According to a study by the Department of International Development (DFID), the value of foreign remittance from migrant labourers could be equivalent to 25% of the official gross domestic product (GDP).

Remittance income is playing a vital role in the economic growth of Nepal, and the rush in remittance has led to a surplus foreign exchange reserves. Remittance through official channels rose from Rs. 65.5 billion in 2004/05 to Rs. 209.70 billion in 2008/09. Plus, the share coming through the official channels has increased. For example, while in 2004/05, just 27% flowed into the country through official channels as opposed to 73% unofficial, but in 2009/10 almost 90% entered through official channels.

Today, the process of money transfer to Nepal from abroad has become much more efficient and hassle free. EasyLink Pvt. Ltd, first licensed remittance company registered in 1999 to operate money transfer business in the country. Then after the door had open for all national & international companies to transact this business. There are now 52 remittance companies including big international names like Western Union and MoneyGram, transferring money from all over the world into Nepal Since 2001, the flow of remittance into the country has grown at an annual pace of 15% – 20%. It is expected to continue this way as the number of people going abroad in search of work is increasing day by day. Remittance market studies show that approx. 40% of the total inward remittance to Nepal is collected within the Kathmandu valley.

As well as the international players – Western Union and MoneyGram, – the major remittance businesses in Nepal are the Himalayan Bank, International Money Express, NABIL Bank and the Bank of Kathmandu. The Himalayan Bank brings in almost $20 million USD per month and International Money Express (IME) brings almost $12 million USD per month. Western Union is handling 18,000 remittance transactions per month with a 30% increment p.a. and an average amount of $700 USD per transaction.

Sending or receiving money via remittance companies is simple, secure, reliable and more often that not – extremely quick. Massive improvements in transaction time mean that money sent to from abroad can be picked up in Nepal 10 minutes later. Remittance businesses are playing an increasingly large role in the economic development of Nepal. They are contributing to economic growth and development that benefits the people of Nepal.

Tansen Palpa – stunning places to visit and rich natural beauty

Tansen, the headquarters of Palpa district, is an ancient hill town that lies at an altitude of 1350 meters above sea level. Palpa is a district in the Lumbini zone of Nepal. According to legends, the name Tansen comes from Magar language that means northern settlement. It is a typical Nepali town with a multitude of fairs, festivals, religious and cultural events.

Tansen is easily reachable through Siddartha Highway, and lies between Pokhara and Lumbini. Tansen, most probably, is one of the best hill stations of west Nepal in terms of its location and climate.

The climate of Tansen is very pleasant, and is fairly mild all year round. Apart from the excellent weather, there are a numerous places to visit in Palpa. Srinagar Danda (hill) is one of such places. This wonderful hill offering the magnificent panoramic view is at a height of 1650 meters. The hill is covered with dense pine woods that add to its splendor. The forest comes to life in the rhododendron blooming season. Rhododendron is the national flower of Nepal that blooms in spring, making all of the forest turn red. This hill sees a huge number of visitors all year round. Besides, the hill also is the best viewpoint for watching the sunrise and sunset. The hill also offers a majestic view of the Himalayas, and not to mention, Tansen bazaar.

Tansen Durbar, an age old palace and the administrative center of Palpa district is also worth paying a visit. The palace is said to be built by Pratap Shumsher built in 1927 AD. A famous public square called Sitalpati is also one of the popular tourist destinations.
Besides its beautiful places, Palpa is also renowned for a few articles that you could bring as a souvenir. Dhaka, the most famous of them, is a Nepali hand woven fabric that is acclaimed nationally and internationally as well. It is used in making Nepali caps, shawls and purses. Other articles include Karuwa, a traditional water pot made of bronze.

For those who want to taste the authentic Nepali culture, Palpa could be the best destination. The place hosts a number of melas (fairs) like Maghe Sakranti Mela, Satyawati Mela, Pravas Mela, Lalpati Mela and Rambha Pani Mela. All these fairs are conducted at different times in a year, and no matter when you visit there, you might be lucky enough to get a glimpse of one.

Stunning places to visit, rich natural beauty, a serene and calm environment along with the age old culture and architecture of Palpa is not be missed by anyone visiting Nepal. So, if you are in Nepal, take a few days out and pay a visit to this beautiful and tranquil place. The memory of pleasant Palpa is bound to remain in your heart.