Perfect place to pick up everything you need for a trek.
Kathmandu is a vast dust bowl in the middle of the Himalayas at an altitude of 1400m above sea level.
Tourist hotspots are few and far between because the real Nepal adventure begins when you leave Kathmandu and head to the mountains or national parks. Read our how-to guide for Everest Base Camp. Nevertheless, use your time wisely and you can pick up some trekking bargains as well as seeing a temple or two.
All tourists will naturally be pulled towards the pedestrianized shopping district of Thamel with iconic prayer flags lining the streets. This area is complete with hundreds of outdoor adventure stores fulfilling all of your trekking needs, including an abundance of knock off ‘The North Face’. They sit side by side many bakeries and western restaurants selling pizza and burgers. You almost feel like you are not in Nepal.
However, if you are off trekking and need to buy some clothing or equipment this is the place to go. Here are some top tips so you walk away with what we want.
1. Haggle. Don’t ever take the first price so be ready to haggle otherwise you will get ripped off. You can usually knock almost half off the price depending on the item and the seller.
2. Shop around. Some of the prices vary dramatically for the same items depending on which shop you go to. Don’t buy from the first shop, there are plenty more so shop about. For example, we were quoted between 80-150 rupees to hire a sleeping bag per night.
3. Check for quality. There are many types of down jackets, the majority of the cheaper versions have been made in Nepal and vary in quality. Don’t buy from the first shop you go into, use your bargaining power and get the best item for you.
Thamel can suck you in with its shining shops and western foods. So we say, step out of this tourist bubble and see some of the real city. Most places are within walking distance so no need to pay for a rickshaw.
Things to do
Visit the Monkey Temple
The Monkey temple also known as Swayambhunath Temple is a Buddhist Temple around 30 minutes walk from Thamel. The temple is at the top of a hill, so there are a fair few steps to climb but it’s all part of the fun! The monkeys flying through the trees provide a good distraction on the way up.
The temple dominates the area with tourists spinning the many prayer wheels for good fortune. Unfortunately, it is over-ran by cheeky monkeys and souvenir shops which take away from the tranquility and spirituality. Nevertheless, it does offer great views over the whole city.
Foreigner Fee: 200 Nepalese Rupees
If you didn’t want to pay you can still enjoy the monkeys and the surroundings as ticket is only required for the temple at the very top of the stairs.
Durbar Square was heavily affected by the earthquake in 2015. Many of the temples are now being propped up by scaffolding. It is 1000 rupees (around $10) to enter the site so quite pricey as far as attraction costs go. The money is said to support the reconstruction fund to preserve the buildings however some reports say that it cost the same price even before the earthquake. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site that is on the site of former Royal Palaces. It’s a huge site with many temples, shrines and courtyards.
Foreigner Fee: 1000 Nepalese Rupees
We would recommend a very cheap omelette shop which is right by the entrance to Durbar Square. You can get a two delicious omelette sandwiches and two chai for 100 rupees. Bargain! A local, friendly Nepalese family who run the shop are always pleased to see foreigners dining at their small, cosy cafe sat beside local workmen.
Where to stay
An international hostel with sister branches in Europe is a relaxed and welcoming place to stay. The staff are really friendly, helpful and can answer all your travel and trekking questions.
Rooms vary from mixed dormitories for 4, 6 and 8 persons with shared and ensuite bathrooms as well as private rooms. All rooms are very clean with comfortable beds and a bedside lamp!
A nice touch to this hostel is the top floor common room with projector to screen films and a huge bookcase. Outside on the roof is a large hammock to chill and take in the views of the city. There is also a restaurant attached with outdoor seating serving both Nepalese and western foods.
PRICE: 700 rupees for a dormitory with shared bathroom. 800 rupees for a dormitory with ensuite bathroom. Private rooms cost around 1500 rupees
NOTE – Book early if you are travelling in High Season. It’s a very popular hostel.
How to get there
Fly to Kathmandu airport or cross the border from India.
Read our Visa on Arrival blog for more information.