Full country name:   Kingdom of Nepal
Area:   147,181 sq km
Population:   23 million s
Capital city:   Kathmandu (pop 700,000)
Language:   Nepali (also called Gurkhali)
     
Click on the Map for larger view
People:   Various ethnic groups, including the
Bhotiya (which include the Sherpa),
Khas, Kirati, Magar, Newari, Tharu,
Tamong and Tibetans
Religion:   90% Hindu, 5% Buddhist, 3% Muslim
Government:   Democracy
Prime Minister:   Girija Prasad Koirala

Economic Profile

GDP:   US$25 billion
World GDP ranking:   120th
GDP per head:   US$165
Annual growth:   7%s
nflation:   I8%
Major industries:   Agriculture, textiles, minerals and tourism
Major trading partners:   India, Singapore, Japan, USA and Germany

Visas

All foreign nationals (except Indians) require visas. Single-entry tourist visas are issued for up to 30 days and can be extended for a maximum of three months. They permit travel around the Kathmandu Valley, Pokhara and Chitwan National Park in the Terai.
Trekking permits are required if you intend striking out from the main roads; they can be obtained from immigration offices in Kathmandu and Pokhara.

Health risks

Altitude sickness, hepatitis A, malaria (low-lying areas only), meningococcal Meningitis (Kathmandu Valley region) and typhoid

Time:   GMT/UTC +0545 hrs.
Electricity:   220V, 50 Hz (when available)
Weights & measures:   metric
Tourism:   255,000 visitors

Accomodation

If you stay in rock-bottom accommodation and survive on a predominantly Nepalese diet, you could easily live in Nepal on less than US$15 a day. If you prefer to stay in comfortable lodgings, eat in tourist-oriented restaurants and take the occasional taxi, your living costs are likely to be between US$20 and US$40 a day. On an independent trek between village inns, your living costs are likely to be between US$10 and US$15 a day, as long as you don't indulge in too many 'luxury' items, like beer and chocolate.

Relative costs:

budget meal:   US$2-3
restaurant meal:   US$7-10
budget room:   US$5-15
mid-range hotel room:   US$15-35
     
Currency:   Nepalese rupee

There are effectively three exchange rates in Nepal: the rate set by the government's Nepal Rastra Bank, the slightly more generous (but still legal) rate set by the private banks, and the even more generous black-market rate set by carpet shops and travel agents. The daily Rising Nepal newspaper lists the Nepal Rastra Bank's rate, which is a useful reference point. Exchange rates and commissions can vary quite significantly so shop around.

When you change money legally, you are issued with a Foreign Exchange Encashment Receipt showing the amount of hard currency you have exchanged. If you leave Nepal via Kathmandu airport and haven't spent all your rupees, you can exchange up to 15% of the amount shown on these unused receipts back into hard currency.

Major international currencies such as the US dollar and pounds sterling are readily accepted, and the Indian rupee is also considered a 'hard' currency. Outside the Kathmandu Valley, it may be difficult to use large-denomination Nepalese notes, so keep a decent portion of your money in small-denomination notes. If you're trekking, take enough small-denomination cash with you to last the whole trek.

Tipping is becoming fairly common in upmarket restaurants in Kathmandu, so leave around 10% of the bill if service was good. There's no need to tip in cheaper establishments or to tip taxi drivers. Porters on treks, however, should be tipped around Rs 100 per day. Bargaining is commonplace in markets and tourist shops, but treat it as a form of polite social discourse rather than a matter of life and death.