Why I went:
I had our young daughter for the past two years for Thanksgiving, and in 2017 her father asked me if he could take her ‘back home’ to visit his family for Thanksgiving. The thought of not having her for Thanksgiving hurt. But I said yes. There I was, with ten days without my daughter. I did what anyone in my situation would do; I went to Nepal. The question I got asked the most was, “Why Nepal.” To this day I struggle with giving an honest answer. It simply sounded exotic. I didn’t know much about that region, and I wanted to learn. I like areas known for natural beauty and that yield archeologically significant sites. I knew my dollar would go far in Nepal (I didn’t realize how far until I arrived. $1 equals about 100 Nepalese rupees) and I wanted to go someplace I would feel safe as a woman traveling alone. I felt safe in Nepal. There have been reports of solo female travelers that were attacked on the outside of the valley, but in my personal experience, I would feel safe suggesting to any female to travel solo in Nepal (assuming common sense is present. I didn’t wander past my hotel too late; I didn’t drink in excess, I always made sure someone back home knew where I was going and with whom, I booked my tours through reputable companies, etc).
Overall, Nepal did not disappoint. The people were the friendliest I have encountered in the world. The food excellent and the UNESCO world heritage sites were in abundance. Traveling alone, I never felt lonely. Restaurants had waitstaff that eagerly chatted with me. Everywhere I turned I met fellow solo tourists that were eager to engage in conversation. If you are looking for an adventure, Nepal is the place to do it!
Getting There and Back:
When prepping for Nepal, you will want to have local currency before you travel. I like to do my currency exchanges in the US. Some of the banks I asked do not exchange Rupees. I ended up going through Wells Fargo. Also, there are different Rupees, make sure you get the Nepal rupees and not the ones from India.
You will need a visa. You can get a visa upon arrival at the Kathmandu airport. The lines have been recorded to be fast and painless—and long and chaotic. It depends when you go and what time you arrive. Getting the visa in advance is an option and can save time. I did not opt to do this because to do so you have to mail in your passport. I heard rumors if you don’t do the paperwork correctly, no one notifies you and your paperwork and passport just sit on a desk. That was too nerve-wracking for me. I did the Visa on arrival. To make this go more quickly, go online and fill out the paperwork and print it out. Get a passport photo before you head to Kathmandu and have this all on hand. You will need American cash (oddly they do not accept Nepal rupees) as well. If you have all of this ready to go, you can skip the most extended line which is the electronic kiosk.
I flew China Southern there. It was just over 33 hours of travel time from San Francisco. If you read that and thought, that is too long—this trip is not for you. If you want to travel to the most beautiful and fascinating places in the world, if you want to live a life of adventure—you have to work for it. I had a 10-hour layover in Guangzhou, China. I could have made the trip without the long layover, but that would have added $1000 to the total cost of the trip. I afford my lifestyle but cutting cost where I can.
On the way back I flew China Eastern and had a 9-hour layover in Kumming, China. Now that sucked. The airport was shut down as we arrived in the middle of the night. I had read that somewhere, was a hotel within the airport. When I tried to get help, in broken English, I wasn’t able to locate the hotel and was forced to sleep on a bench in the middle of the airport. It was so cold. At one point an old lady cozied up to me— I didn’t even flinch it was so freaking cold. But it’s all part of the journey. Between the two airlines, in my opinion, China Southern was nicer. The food was better on China Southern, and the staff was more helpful. I flew into San Fransico with a fantastic experience that I will hold onto for the rest of my life.
Click here to read Nepal Part Two : Full Day Kathmandu