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General Information  

Passport and Visa
All visitors to Nepal except the Indian nationals must hold valid passports and visa. Single entry tourist visa can be obtained from the entry points of Nepal or from the Royal Nepalese diplomatic mission abroad. US$ 30.00 is required for single entry visa for 60 days and US$ 50.00 for multiple entry. No visa charge for one day. Tourists can extend their visas at the Department of Immigration, Nepal Tourism Board Bldg., Bhrikuti Mandap, Kathmandu (Tel: 4222453, 4223127, and 4223590) and the Immigration Office in Pokhara (Tel: 521167). Indian nationals are obliged to produce one of the identification papers e.g. Passport, Voters Identification Card, or Ration Card if s/he has to fly to Nepal/India.

People
Nepal has a population of 22 million, made of different races and tribes, living in different regions, wearing different costumes, and speaking different languages and dialects. The Gurungs and Magars live mainly in the west. The Rais, Limbus and Sunuwars inhabit the slopes and valleys of the eastern mid hills. The Sherpas a live in east Himalayan region up to an average altitude of 4570m. The Newar is an important ethnic group in the capital valley Kathmandu. There are Tharus, Yadavas, Satar, Rajvanshis and Dhimals in the Terai region. The Brahmans, Chhetri, and Thakuris are spread over regions of the Kingdom.

Language
Many different ethnic groups have their own languages or dialects. Nepali is the official language of Nepal. Almost all the educated community in the cities can understand and speak English as well. Hindi is also widely understood and spoken.
Religion: Nepal is the only Hindu Kingdom in the world. Nepal is the birth place of Lord Buddha. Hence Hinduism and Buddhism are two major religions of Nepal. Majority of the Nepali are Hindu 90%, Buddhist 7% and other 3%. There is no distinct between Hinduism and Buddhism in Nepal. Both play a vital role in lifestyle of the Nepali people.
The Caste System: The caste system is still intact today but the rules are not as rigid as they were in the past. Because of western education, contact with foreigners, media, and modern communications, people are progressive in many aspects. In 1962, a law was passed making it illegal to discriminate against the untouchable castes. Hence all castes are equally treated by the law. Education is free and open to all castes.

History
Nepal has a long glorious history. Its civilization can be traced back to thousand of years before the birth of Christ. A Hindu-Buddhist culture flourished in the Kathmandu valley by the 4th century A.D. In the Middle Ages many small principalities were established. The Gurkhas, one of these, became dominant in 1768. In 1816, after a war with the British, Nepal adopted a policy of seclusion from foreign contacts. Internal power struggles led in 1846 to the dominance of the Rana family, which controlled the country until 1951. Under the Ranas, Nepal was isolated from foreign influence, and there was little economic modernization. Nepal was granted independence in 1951 and a limited constitutional monarchy was established. After a brief period of democracy (1959-60), political activity was banned. A form of party less government, the Panchayat system, was set up (1962), with executive power resting in the king. This system was narrowly approved (1980) in a national referendum. In 1990 protests led to the abolition of the Panchayat system and the reestablishment of democracy and a constitutional monarchy. Long influenced by India, Nepal has recently developed closer ties with China. During the past 40 years Nepal has diversified its economy and developed a basic infrastructure with Herculean efforts.

What to wear
Medium-weight and easy-to-wash cottons are a good choice year-round in the Kathmandu Valley. From October to February ,woolen sweaters, jackets or similar other outfits are essential. Short or long sleeved shirts are comfortable for March to May. From June to September, light and loose garments are advisable. Down quilt jacket and under trousers are recommended for high altitude trekking.

Vegetation and Wildlife
Nepal possesses some of the most outstanding bio-diversity in the world, ranging from sub-tropical Rain forests to Alpine deserts. There are more than 6000 flowering plant species in Nepal. There are several native plants which are originated in Nepal. Himalayan Rhododendron is the most famous one.

Wildlife
Nepal has 30 species of large wild animals and approximately 180 species of mammals .The one horned rhinoceros, Royal Bengal tiger, crocodile, snow leopard, red panda, Himalayan black bear, and many other wild animals are found in the forests of Nepal. Nepal has 840 different species of wet-land, migratory and residential birds.

Foreign currency regulation
Nepalese currency can be purchased at foreign exchange counter at the airport. Foreign currency exchange counters of different banks, authorized moneychangers are found in most tourist area of various cities. Foreign currencies must be exchanged only through the banks or authorized moneychangers. The exchange rates of the foreign currencies are announced in the daily newspapers. Foreign visitors other than the Indian nationals are required to pay their hotel bills and air tickets in foreign currency. Indian rupees are not accepted from any nationals except Indian or Nepalese. As per Government regulation Indian 500.00 or 1000.00 bank notes are not accepted in banks, hotels, and markets.

Cultural shocks and a few tips

  • The Nepalese people are friendly and hospitable by nature and the tourists in general will have
    no difficulty in adjustment.
  • Visitors must take off the shoes to enter Hindu temple or Buddhist shrine or your host's room. In
    fact, a pair of open sandals is more convenient and comfortable while visiting the temples and
    stupas.
  • In some of the temples, entrance may be prohibited for the non-Hindus.
  • Leather articles are also prohibited inside the temple precinct. It is better not to touch offerings
    or persons when they are on way to shrines.
  • Beef is strictly prohibited among the Hindus. No female animal is killed for food.
  • Walking around temple or Stupa is traditionally done clockwise.
  • Generally in Temples, Stupas, Monasteries, and monuments photography is allowed but it is
    better to seek permission first.
  • It is better to be decently clad when visiting any place. Sun and beachwear is not ideal when
    roaming around the city or village. Brief shorts, bare shoulders and backs may not be
    appreciated. One need not to be stiff, and overdressed but just comfortably and decently
    covered.
  • Do not be offended if a Nepalese lady hesitates to shake hands. In Nepal, people and specially
    the ladies, do not normally shake hands when they greet one another, but instead press the
    palms together in a prayer-like gesture known as "Namaste".
  • Do not use your spoon, fork or a hand being used for your eating to touch other's food, plate,
    cooking utensil, or the serving dish. Do not eat from other people's plate and do not drink from
    other people's bottle or glass. It is considered soiled by the Nepalese.
  • Public displays of affection between man and women are frowned upon. Do not do something
    that is totally alien to our environment.
  • Remember it when a person shakes his head from left to right, he means "YES".
  • We are hard on drug abuse; trafficking and possession of drugs are taken as serious offences.
  • Cheap charity breeds beggars but does not solve their basic problem. Therefore, do not
    encourage beggary by being benevolent.

Festivals and calendar
Nepal has more festivals than the number of days in a year. A festival is always a meaningful and memorable event in the life of Nepalese people. Every festival has some purpose to serve. From bringing in the rain to honoring the dead or averting calamities, every festival has something spiritual about it. Festival is a way of life in Nepal. With the number of festivals that Nepal has, it is one of the best ways to understand and appreciate the Nepalese ways of life. The date of Nepali festivals are according to the lunar calendar. Hence the date of festivals varies from year to year. The list of festivals is as follows:

April - May
Nepali New Year
Bisket: Festival of the God Bhairab in Bhaktapur. Four days of colorful parades and processions
Mother's day
Rato Machhendranath: The festival of Lokeswar, one of the patron Gods of Kathmandu. A 40-foot tall chariot with the God's image installed is pushed and pulled through the streets by hundreds of worshippers.
Buddha Jyanti: Celebrating the birth of Lord Buddha
May - June
Kumar Sasthi
A celebration of the birth of the Hindu warrior God Kumar marks the beginning of the rice planting season. It's also celebrated by groups of boys who indulge in stone throwing fights.
June - July
No major festivals in the worst of the monsoon season.

July - August
Ghanta Kharna: A festival commemorating an ancient victory over a particularly malevolent devil, Gathemuga. Mock funerals are held and figures burned in effigy.

Gunla: A Buddhist Lent or Ramadan-like holy month of penance and pilgrimage, climaxing in a rollicking celebration.
Naga Panchami: A festival devoted to the snake gods, who most Nepalese believe ruled the Valley before the coming of people.
Janai Purnia: Tthe festival of changing of the sacred thread which every Brahmin caste Hindu male wears around his torso.

August - September
Gaijatra: A festival to the sacred cow. Among other symbolisms of the cow, cows are believed to lead the souls of the dead to the underworld; and on Gaijatra Newar households process around an ancient path believed to mark the city walls of times past, in honor of recently deceased members of their families. It's also a carnival celebration with practical jokes - something like Mardi Gras combined with April Fool's day.

Krishna Asthami: Celebrating the birth of the Hindu God Krishna.
Father's Day
Tij Brata - A woman's' festival . Worshippers undergo fasting and penance and seek good fortune and long life, and a ritual purification of self. The three (or four) day celebration ends with a great feast.
September - October << TOP>>
Indrajatra - This festival officially begins with the raising of a 50-feet tall ceremonial pole at Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square in Kathmandu. A weeklong traditional display of old images of Akash Bhairavs is one of the highlights of this festival. The ceremonial pulling of the rath (chariot) of the Kumari, the chariots of Ganesh and Bhairav accompany the Virgin or Living Goddess.
Dasain: The biggest and most widely celebrated national festival in Nepal, usually falls in early October. It begins with Ghatsthapana. Of the two full weeks of celebrations, the 8th, 9th and 10th are the most eventful and auspicious days. The main deity worshipped during Dashain is Goddess Durga. On the 9th day, thousands of devotees visit important Durga temples to worship her. The tenth day is climax day. People visits to seniors for Tika (blessings). The ministers, high ranking officials, general public queue to get Tika from their Majesty in Royal Palace.

October - November
Tihar: It is also known as Diwali or Deepavali, is the festival of lights in Nepal. The celebrations continue for five days. It is an annual festival celebrated in the bright blue days of autumn. The festival begins with the worship of crows, followed by the worship of dogs on the 2nd day. On the 3rd day, Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, is worshipped. On the 5th day, one's own soul is worshipped. Sisters also worship their brothers on this day. This is called Bhai Tika, and is a great day and the grand finale to Tihar.

November - December

Indriani Puja - Festival of the Goddess Indriana and of the carious mother goddesses which protect each village in Nepal.
Sita Bibaha Panchami: Celebrating the wedding of the Goddess Sita and the God Ram with mock wedding processions
Dhanya Purnima: A full moon festival celebrating the end of the rice harvest.
Mani Rimdu: It is one of the most fascinating High Himalayan Buddhist festivals observed every year, usually in November. Tengboche, the world's highest monastery located in Solu Khumbu district of Nepal, is the focal point for the celebration of this festival. The main attraction of this festival is the various masked dances of religious significance.

December - January
Seto Machhendranath - A cleansing ritual for the White (seto) Machhendranath, a counterpart god to the Red (rato) Machhendranath who's chariot procession is in April-May.

January - February
Losar: It is one of the greatest festivals of significant importance to the Sherpas and peoples of Tibetan origin. It is celebrated every year in February. The focus of this festival centers around the celebration of the Tibetan New Year. Many fascinating rituals and celebrations may be observed in Boudha and in Tibetan settlements such as the Tibetan Refugee Camp at Jawlakhel, Patan.

February - March
Shiva Ratri - The all day and all night festival of the great God Shiva. << TOP>>
Holi - a rowdy festival of "colors", in which participants douse themselves (and sometimes unwary onlookers) with colored powder and liquid, and generally have a great time.

March - April
Ram Nawami is a big day for the Nepalese Hindu. It is celebrated in the honor of the great Hindu King Ram, and takes place around March. The main deity to be worshipped on this occasion is Goddess Durga. The holy Hindu scriptures say that Ram was able to kill his archenemy, Ravana, the dreaded demon, by the blessings of Goddess Durga. This day symbolizes the victory of virtue over vice, or of good over evil.
Ghodejatra: A horse festival, celebrated with coach processions, horse racing, and military displays on the main parade ground in Kathmandu.

 

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