Nepal has both Buddhist and Hindu traditions, with a rich history that is unique and captivating. There are massive Hindu temples to explore, along with small but beautifully crafted Buddhist monasteries. Located as it is, between the peaks of the Himalayas and the Ganges plain, Nepal has a long history of yogis and wandering ascetics. The country has a wealth of sacred sites and natural wonders for travellers to experience. The Durbar Square in Bhaktapur is a renowned historical site, often called a living museum. This UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site contains several historical monuments, including the 55 Windows Palace, which dominates the square. A statue of King Bhupatindra Malla stands on one of its columns, offering prayers.
Nepal is home to Shree Pashupatinath temple, called the “Temple of Living Beings.” This is the largest Hindu temple in the world. Located on the banks of the Bagmati River, northwest of Kathmandu. This is a religious and sacred site, visited by many pilgrims on a daily basis, and is working example of ancient architectural beauty. Changu Narayan Temple is thought to be the oldest Hindu temple in Nepal, thought to be at least 3,000 years old. Designated a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, it displays the two-tiered pagoda architectural style associated with the Kathmandu valley, as well as a plethora of carvings and decorations surrounding the main shrine.
Lumbini is believed to be the birthplace of Siddhartha, who later became Lord Buddha. In the year 250 BC, the Emperor Ashoka decreed a stone pillar be erected at the site to mark the birthplace of Buddha. A UNESCO Site, Lumbini is very much a religious scared space to explore. Nepal is under the strong influence of Buddha, and it is deemed to be the land of peace and serenity, with happy friendly people. For many years, Nepal itself has been considered a very sacred place for visitors.
UK: You will need a visa to enter Nepal. To apply for a visa in the UK, contact the Embassy of Nepal, 12A, Kensington Palace Gardens, London, W8 4QU (telephone: +20 7229 1594 or 6231 or 5352). A Nepali visa is valid for entry for three to six months from the date of issue.
USA: A visa is needed. If you will arrive by air, either apply for a visa at a Nepalese embassy or consulate before travelling or purchase a tourist visa upon arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. For an online visa application form, see https://online.nepalimmigration.gov.np/tourist-visa. Note that obtaining a visa on arrival may take several hours.
Nepal has conservative attitudes towards clothing, especially in temples and monasteries. Men are expected to wear a shirt in public, and long trousers are generally felt to be appropriate (shorts would be fine on trekking trails). Women are expected to wear longer skirts, and have their shoulders covered. Trousers are becoming more acceptable. Girls in Kathmandu and Pokhara wear shorts or skirts, but this is relatively new and not fully accepted. Generally, looking well-kept and clean shows respectability, and poorly-groomed visitors might receive less courtesy.
Gestures for yes and no differ in Nepalese culture from our western ones. Agreement is shown by tilting the head slightly to one side and then the other – very close to our no, signalled by shaking the head. No is signalled by holding a hand, palm out, and swivelling the wrist. Pointing is done by using chins, not with fingers. Touching food can be problematic and contact with the lips can been seen as polluting (jutho). Is someone is kind enough to offer you a sip from their water bottle, or you want to share your bottle with them, try not to let the bottle touch your mouth.
In the same vein, don’t take food from someone’s plate or offer to share any food you’ve taken a bite of. The left hand in Nepal is traditionally for washing after using the bathroom, so is seen as tainted. If you are eating with your hands, remember to use the right one only. When giving or receiving items, use your right hand. Respect is shown by touching your right wrist with your left hand while proffering goods or a gift. The forehead is felt to be the most sacred part of a person’s body, so it’s seen as impolite to touch someone's head. The feet, in contrast, are thought to be unclean – do not rest your feet on tables or chairs, and try to not direct the soles of your feet towards anyone.
Nepali. The official language of Nepal is Nepali (around 45% of the population speak it) and Maithili is the second most spoken language in Nepal with around 10% of the population speaking it. The 2011 national census listed more than 120 Nepalese languages.
In Nepal, tipping is expected by most people involved in the country's tourism industry. While not mandatory, it is a very important source of income. However, most large hotels already include service charges in the final bill, therefore, it is not necessary to tip. If a service charge is not included in the total, 10% of the bill is perfectly acceptable for a tip.