Sandwiched between Asia’s two major giants – China and India, Nepal is a sovereign, independent Himalayan Kingdom (lying between latitudes 260 and 310N, and longitudes 800 and 890E. Nepal is the country of amazing extremes, which is surrounded by Tibet, the Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, in the north, and India in the east, south and west. Covering a total area of 147,181 sq. kilometers, the country’s ecological zones run east to west about 800 kilometers along its Himalayan axis and 150-250 kilometers north to south.
Geographically, the country is commonly divided into three regions – Himalayan region, Hilly region and Terai region. The Himalayan region that covers 20 per cent of the total area ranges between 4,000-8,848 meters. The region has 8 of the world’s 14 highest mountains above 8,000 meters. The Hilly region covers about 63 per cent of the total area and ranges between 800-4,000 meters. Similarly, the Terai region is the lowland occupying 17 per cent of the total area.
Nepal has tremendous variation in climate from cool summers and severe winters in north to sub-tropical summers and mild winters in south. Nepal has mainly four seasons:
1) Spring : March – May
2) Summer : June – August
3) Autumn : September – November
4) Winter : December – February
For every 1,000 meters gain in altitude, an average temperature drop of 60 Celsius occurs. The temperature of Kathmandu Valley rises to an average 320 Celsius during the summer and reaches around 00 Celsius during the winter. The temperature during the winter also rises 150 to 200 Celsius during the day time. In Terai region, the temperature can reach up to 440 Celsius during the summer season and the winter temperature range from 70-230 Celsius.
The total size of the population is 26,494,504 (20011 census) with an average annual growth rate of 1.35%. The life expectancy at birth is 66.16 years and the literacy rate is 65.9%.
The Nepalese population is comprised of about 102 ethnic groups speaking over 123 languages. The major languages of Nepal are Nepali, Maithili, Bhojpuri, Tharu, Tamang, Newar, Magar, Rai, Awadhi, Limbu and Bajjika. Though, there exist numerous dialects, Nepali is the national language, spoken and understood by the majority of the population. Many people in government and business offices speak English as well.
The overwhelming majority of the Nepalese population follows Hinduism. Buddhism is the second largest religion that’s been followed while Islam stands on the third. Mundhum, Christianity and Jainism are other minority faiths.
1) The form of greeting in Nepal is ‘Namaste’ performing by joining both palms together.
2) As a mark of respect, shoes are taken off before entering someone’s house, temple, shrine or any religiously and culturally sacred place.
3) Food or material that has been touched by another person’s mouth is considered impure and, therefore, is not accepted unless among close friends or family.
4) Touching something with feet or using left hand to give or take may be considered inauspicious.
5) Women wearing skimpy outfits are frowned upon especially in the rural parts of the country.
6) Some Hindu temples restrict to enter non-Hindus as a part of the tradition.
7) Leather items are prohibited in some temple areas.
8) Walking around temples or stupas is traditionally done clockwise.
9) The photograph should be taken after receiving permission from the person owning the object or the person him/herself in order to avoid the conflict.
10) Public displays of affection are considered scandalous.
Nepal has Constitutional Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy. The country has an independent judiciary and free Press.
Nepal’s standard time is 5 hours 45 minutes ahead of the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
Left-hand Traffic (LHT) System
Major towns have electricity and the voltage available is 220V/50Hz. Power cuts are frequent; however, most major hotels are backed up with their own generators. A voltage stabilizer is essential if you have sensitive equipment such as laptop, computer or television.
Landline and mobile phone services are available, having network coverage all over the country, except some rural Himalayan places. The Nepal Telecommunications Corporation is the national service provider while there are other private service providers too. Hotels and private communication centers also provide long distance telephone and fax facilities.
The internet is widely accessible in Kathmandu. There are countless Internet Cafes and communication centers in the valley and can be found in other parts of the country as well though in less numbers. Wi-fi services are also provided at many hotels and restaurants.
There is also The Central Post Office for the postal service which is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Friday. The counters open till 4 p.m. and provide stamps, postcards and aerograms.
Government offices are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Thursday in summer (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in winter). On Fridays, they open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Most business offices like travel, trek and tour agencies are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Friday. Embassies and international organizations are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Most shops open at around 9 a.m. and close at about 8 p.m. and are usually closed on Saturdays.
Foreign Currency and Credit Cards
Payments in hotels, travel agencies, and airlines are made in foreign exchange. Credit cards like American Express, Master and Visa Cards are accepted at major hotels, restaurants and shops. Remember to keep receipts of every transaction that may be needed to change leftover Nepalese currency before leaving the country. However, only 10% of the total amount may be converted by the bank. ATM is widely in use in Kathmandu.
Major banks, hotels and exchange counters at Tribhuvan International Airport provide foreign exchange service. Exchange rates are published in English dailies such as The Himalayan Times, The Kathmandu Post and The Rising Nepal.
The Nepalese currency is called ‘Rupee’ which is often written NRs or NPR. Nepalese currency notes are found in denominations of Rupees 1000, 500, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1. Coins are found in denominations of Rupees 5, 2 and 1. One rupee is equivalent to 100 paisa.
Health care services are available at the government as well as private hospitals in Kathmandu and other cities outside the Kathmandu Valley. In the countryside, primary health care services are available.