In this blogpost, I’ve shared some information that may help YOU plan a budget for a trip to Nepal.
“Is Nepal expensive to travel through?”, “What kind of budget should I have for a trip to Nepal?”, “How much did YOU spend in Nepal?” – questions along these lines have been coming at me quite often after my recent #Tourof2Kingdoms (a solo motorcycle ride from India to Nepal – watch the videos here).
Budget Trip or Luxury Vacation
At the outset, I have to mention that I strongly believe that the whole idea of a “budget for a trip” is hugely subjective. Eventually, it boils down to personal preferences and standards. For those who expect certain levels of facilities in terms of accommodation and food, trips may be more expensive overall, whereas those who are willing to make do with the basics expenses are correspondingly lower – the typical distinction between a backpacker/budget traveller and a holiday-maker.
Most places in Nepal offer options for all kinds of travellers. The bigger cities like Kathmandu and Pokhara have a multitude of options across budget ranges. However, the “luxury” options become more difficult to find as you travel deeper into the mountains.
In the cities I was able to find simple and clean places to stay at around NPR 800 onward. In smaller towns and villages, costs for accommodation were in the range of NPR 350 to NPR 500 (hygiene standards can drop quite quickly though).
Some of the places where I stayed –
- Kathmandu – Hostel Milarepa (Near Thamel) – Dorm accommodation at ~ NPR 700 per night.
- Pokhara – Hotel Bishram (Lakeside) – Double Room with Shared Bath at NPR 800 per night.
- Kalopani (Mustang) – See You Lodge – Double Room with Shared Bath at NPR 500 per night.
- Kagbeni (Mustang) – Paradise Trekkers Inn – Double Room at NPR 500 per night.
- Nagma (Near Rara) – Chayanath Lodge – Double Room with Shared Bath at NPR 500 per night.
- Rara Lake – Hotel Lakeside – Double Room with Shared Bath at NPR 500 per night.
Food is where you’re likely to spend a bit more in Nepal. Budget meal options usually range between 150 to 350 Nepali Rupees – sandwiches, traditional Nepali Thalis and other simple food. More indulgent meals can set you back by at least 700 Nepali Rupees per person – pizzerias, pubs, bigger restaurants and other similar places.
In more remote parts of the country, even basic meals can cost upwards of NPR 500 per meal. In places like Lower Mustang, a cup of tea can cost NPR 100 or more (~INR 60). The higher cost of raw materials combined with the “tourist premium” makes these places relatively more expensive than the more “connected” parts of Nepal.
Alcohol is very easily available in Nepal – big cities have the familiar names as well as some local beers and the like. In smaller towns and highway eateries usually only the cheaper local brands are stocked. Costs are broadly similar to India – usually in the range of NPR 200 to NPR 600 depending on what you want and where you choose to have it.
Public transport in Nepal is quite inexpensive, but not necessarily very well organised. In the big cities there are several buses and shared taxis/rickshaws available for local transport. For those on a budget, buses and shared taxis are the most viable options for inter-city travel. Some routes (like Kathmandu to Pokhara) have regular connections, whereas the more remote areas (for e.g. Rara Lake or Mustang) might require some waiting and patience. You also might have to pre-book tickets on these routes.
If cost is no bar, private taxis are an easy way to get around the country. Be warned, they are quite pricey, and there is no real “fixed rate”. Everything is based on your negotiation skills.
Nepal does not have any train services.
Nice to see was the fact that entry fee to places of tourist importance are not particularly high in Nepal – this is relative, of course. Overall, it’s unlikely to be a huge hit on your travel budget, unless you’re carrying cameras and film gear that might be charged additionally at some places.
While most of the popular places in Nepal are freely accessible, as you move towards the Himalayas, you might need to procure special permits to visit specific places. While some of these permits are quite affordable, others are hugely expensive. For example, a permit for Lower Mustang costs only NPR 1000 (for Indians), whereas a permit for Upper Mustang costs at least 500 USD. I would recommend finding out about permit requirements (if any) prior to finalising your Nepal itinerary and verifying the corresponding costs so that you can factor these into your trip budget.
Do also read my detailed blogposts about “How to Get a Permit for Lower Mustang”.
For those doing a road trip, the good news is that petrol and diesel are slightly cheaper in Nepal (compared to prices in India). While I was there in June 2019, the price for petrol was around NPR 108 per litre (~INR 60). Fuel pumps are not easy to find once you leave the big cities, so if you’re doing some fun routes, you’re bound to have to buy fuel in black from local stores that stock fuel in cans. These stores add a further mark-up to fuel prices and sell at between NPR 125 to NPR 150 per litre.
Amongst other things, Nepal is known for being home to several adventure/sports activities – paragliding, bungee jumping, microlight flights, helicopter tours etc. Each of these activities can be quite expensive to do, so if you’re on a budget it’s best to skip. When I checked in June 2019 I was told that a bungee jump or paragliding experience usually costs upward of NPR 10,000 and other activities would cost even more. Of course, there are several operators in the market, so you might find better deals, but personally safety is something that you will need to assess for yourself.
The bigger point here is that if you intend to jump or fly in Nepal, you need a substantial separate provision in your travel budget.
How Much did I spend in Nepal?
Over 25 days of travel through Nepal, I spent about INR 40,000 (~USD 550) all-inclusive. A significant part of this money was spent on accommodation since I was travelling alone and technically had to pay for double rooms by myself. That having been said, I had to be particularly frugal on this trip because I had some trouble with ATMs and exchanging money along the way (that’s a separate story that you can read about in my blogpost titled “Can you Use Indian Currency in Nepal?”). Permits, entry fees, customs fees for my motorcycle, local phone recharges etc altogether cost about NPR 8000 which is included in the above-mentioned figure.
Based on my experience, I would say that it’s possible to comfortably do a week or more in Nepal on a budget of INR 30,000/- to INR 45,000, especially if you’ve got your own vehicle or are using simple public transport. If you intend to use private hire taxis it may change your budget by quite a bit. This also does not include any trekking expenses or adventure activities, of course, which would need to be budgeted for separately.
As I said at the beginning, it’s virtually impossible to predict how much a trip to any place will cost another person given the number of variables involved. But, I do hope that this post helps you begin to plan your budget and make a trip to Nepal a reality. Do leave a comment if you found this useful. As always, thanks for reading!