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Practical information / Visas

Money
Except in Solu Khumbu and on the Annapurna treks, changing foreign money is likely to be very difficult if not impossible. Bring enough money for the whole trek and don’t count on being able to change Rs 1000 notes except in Namche Bazaar and Jomsom

ATMs
Standard Chartered Bank has ATMs in Kathmandu and Pokhara; you can get cash advances on both Visa and MasterCard 24 hours a day, though travellers have reported that these machines don’t take cards that run on the Cirrus system. Other banks, such as the Himalaya Bank, also have ATMs but some only accept local cards. Using an ATM attached to a bank during business hours will minimise the hassle in the rare event that the machine eats your card.

Cash

Major international currencies, including the US dollar, euro and pounds sterling, are readily accepted. In Nepal the Indian rupee is also like a hard currency – the Nepali rupee is pegged to the Indian rupee at the rate of INRs 100 = Rs 160. Be aware that INRs 500 and INRs 1000 notes are not accepted anywhere in Nepal, apparently due to forgeries.

Changing money

Official exchange rates are set by the government’s Nepal Rastra Bank and listed in the daily newspapers. Rates at the private banks vary, but are generally not far from the official rate.

There are exchange counters at the international terminal at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport and banks and/or moneychangers at the various border crossings. Pokhara and the major border towns also have official moneychanging facilities, but changing travellers cheques can be difficult elsewhere in the country, even in some quite large towns. If you are trekking, take enough small-denomination cash rupees to last the whole trek.

The best private banks are Himalaya Bank Nepal Bank Ltd and Standard Chartered Bank. Some hotels and resorts are licensed to change money but their rates are lower.

When you change money officially, you are required to show your passport, and you are issued with a foreign exchange encashment receipt showing your identity and the amount of hard currency you have changed. Hang onto the receipts as you need them to change excess rupees back into hard currency at banks. You can change rupees back into hard currency at most moneychangers without a receipt.

If you leave Nepal via Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport, the downstairs exchange counter will re-exchange the amount shown on ‘unused’ exchange certificates. Official re-exchange is not possible at any bank branches at the border crossings.

Many upmarket hotels and businesses are obliged by the government to demand payment in hard currency; they will also accept rupees, but only if you can show a foreign exchange encashment receipt that covers the amount you owe them. In practice this regulation seems to be widely disregarded. Airlines are also required to charge tourists in hard currency, either in cash US dollars, travellers cheques or credit cards, and this rule is generally followed.

Credit cards

Major credit cards are widely accepted at midrange and better hotels, restaurants and fancy shops in the Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara only.

Branches of Standard Chartered Bank and some other banks such as Nabil Bank and Himalaya Bank give cash advances against Visa and MasterCard in Nepali rupees only (no commission), and will also sell you foreign currency travellers cheques against the cards with a 2% commission.

The American Express (Amex) agent is Yeti Travels in Kathmandu. It advances travellers cheques to cardholders for a standard 1% commission.

Money changers
In addition to the banks there are licensed moneychangers in Kathmandu, Pokhara, Birganj, Kakarbhitta and Sunauli/Bhairawa. The rates are often marginally lower than the banks, but there are no commissions, they have much longer opening hours (typically from 9am to 7pm daily) and they are also much quicker, the whole process often taking no more than a few minutes.

Most licensed moneychangers will provide an exchange receipt; if they don’t you may be able to negotiate better rates than those posted on their boards.

Visas
All foreigners, except Indians, must have a visa. Nepali embassies and consulates overseas issue visas with no fuss. You can also get one on the spot when you arrive in Nepal, either at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport or at road borders: Nepalganj, Birganj/Raxaul Bazaar, Sunauli, Kakarbhitta, Mahendranagar, Dhangadhi and even the funky Kodari checkpoint on the road to Tibet.

A Nepali visa is valid for entry for three to six months from the date of issue. Children under 10 require a visa but are not charged a visa fee. Your passport must have at least six months validity. Indian nationals do not require a visa. Citizen of South Asian countries and China need visas but these are free.

You can download a visa application form from the websites of the Nepali embassy in Washington, DC (www.nepalembassyusa.org) or London (www.nepembassy.org.uk).

To obtain a visa on arrival by air in Nepal you must fill in an application form and provide a passport photograph. Visa application forms are available on a table in the arrivals hall, though some airlines (like Thai) provide this form on the flight. To get a jump on the immigration queue, you can download the visa-on-arrival form from www.treks.com.np/visa. A single-entry visa valid for 60 days costs US$30. At Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport the fee is payable in any major currency but at land borders officials will probably require payment in cash US dollars; bring small bills. Only single-entry visas are routinely available on arrival, though you may be able to score a multiple-entry visa if you ask.

If you have already visited Nepal during the same calendar year the visa fee is the same but you’ll only get a 30-day visa. Much of the time you spend in the visa-on-arrival queue is waiting while officers scour your passport for previous entry stamps. It’s worth knowing that if you stayed longer than 15 days in Nepal and are planning a second visit within the same calendar year, your second 30-day visa should be free.

At Nepali embassies abroad it’s possible to get a multiple-entry visa (US$80 or equivalent), which gives you multiple trips into Nepal for a year, with each stay valid for 60 days, up to a total of 150 days in any calendar year. Multiple-entry visas are useful if you are planning a side trip to Tibet, Bhutan or India. You can change your single-entry visa to a multiple-entry visa at Kathmandu’s Central Immigration Office for US$50.

If you are just planning a lightning visit to Kathmandu it’s possible to get a free nonextendable three-day transit visa at Kathmandu airport, as long as you have an air ticket out of the country within three days.

If you stay in Nepal for longer than the duration of your initial 60-day visa, you will require a visa extension. Transit visas are nonextendable.

Don’t overstay a visa. You can pay a fine of US$2 per day at the airport if you have overstayed less than 30 days (plus in theory US$3 per day between 30 and 90 days and US$5 per day for over 90 days). If you’ve overstayed more than a week get it all sorted out at Kathmandu’s Central Immigration Office before you get to the airport, as a delay could cause you to miss your flight.

It’s a good idea to keep a number of passport photos with your passport so they are immediately handy for trekking permits, visa applications and other official documents.

Visa extensions
Visa extensions are available from immigration offices in Kathmandu and Pokhara only and cost US$30 (payable in rupees) for a 30-day extension. You get a 30-day extension whether you are staying for an extra day or an extra 30 days. A multiple-entry visa extension costs US$80.

Every visa extension requires your passport, money, photos and an application form. Collect all these before you join the queue. Plenty of places in Kathmandu and Pokhara will make passport photos for you and there are several pricier instant-photo shops near the immigration offices.

Visa extensions are available the same day, sometimes within the hour. For a fee, trekking and travel agencies can assist with the visa extension process and can usually save you the time and tedium of queuing.

You can extend your visa up to a total stay of 120 days without undue formality. You should be able to get a further 30 days extension but you may need to show a flight ticket proving that you are leaving the country during that time period, since you are only allowed to stay in Nepal for a total of 150 days in a calendar year on a tourist visa.

You can get up-to-date visa information at the website of the Department of Immigration (www.immi.gov.np).

The visa fees chargeable for the citizens of the countries which charge fee higher or lower than the fees prescribed under sub-rule (1) shall be based on reciprocity.
Fees to be levied while issuing tourist visa by the Mission or entry point:
US Dollars 25 or other convertible foreign currency equivalent thereto for 15 days multiple entry visa.
US Dollars 40 or other convertible foreign currency equivalent thereto for 30 days multiple entry visa.
US Dollars 100 or other convertible foreign currency equivalent thereto for 90 days multiple entry visa.
Not withstanding anything written in clause (a) and (b), no visa fee shall be applicable to the passport holder of member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) for 30 days .

Fees to be levied for renewal or regularization of tourist visa
Nepalese currency equivalent to 2 US dollars per day to renew the validity of tourist visa.
In case where request has also been made for the facility of multiple entry, just valid for the renewal period an additional amount in Nepalese currency equivalent to U. S. Dollars 20 to the fee as referred to in Clause (a).
In regularizing visa of any foreigner stayed without renewal of validity of the tourist visa, Nepalese currency equivalent 3 US dollars per day shall be levied in addition to the normal amount to be paid for renewal of the validity of visa as per these Regulations.

Foreigners, who have already been overstayed more than 150 days without renewing the tourist visa shall be levied the fees referred in clause 2(c) and penalty amount as referred to in section 10(4) of Immigration act in addition.
Not withstanding anything written in clause 2(a), the period of visa fee shall be levied, for the purpose to renew tourist visa for up to15 days if the visa be of a period less than 15 days and as referred to in clause 2(a) for more than this.

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To all Aaradhana Teams! Its been an absolute pleasure to meet you all and I am very greatful for your hospitality and all the help I have received during my stay in Nepal. I hope you will continue this …

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Karen , Norway
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