Lodging in Kathmandu
Staying in Kathmandu
You’ve probably heard of horror stories from friends and travel buddies about the horrible time they had staying in some dump of a hotel in a faraway land. Especially likely because people wouldn’t really boast of staying in a nice room with clean sheets and no cockroaches. Let me start by saying – you get what you pay for.
Kathmandu has a range of hotels catering to everyone from the most destitute backpacker to the tourist busloads of comfort seeking elderly vacationers. The first choice of travelers is definitely Thamel, the tourist heartland of Kathmandu. It’s full of bars and live bands, bakeries, book shops, travel agents, coffee shops, fast food joints, fancy restaurants, strip joints, beggars, drug peddlers, convenience stores – you name it, Thamel’s got it. Everybody here speaks the tourist language, and you can get anything you need conveniently.
For your basic room, ask your cabbie from the airport to take you to a cheap hotel in Thamel. Or you might want to get off in Thamel and walk around, looking for signboards which advertise the rooms you’re looking for. If you’re an experienced traveler, you’ve probably already got the hang of it. If not, the just look around, ask a few reception desks. These small guest houses abound in Thamel, and you can easily get hold of one. Basic rooms can be had for about 10 USD, if you’re lucky with running hot water and free wi-fi. Tourist season in Nepal starts around mid September, so you might want to book early to avoid disappointments.
Nepal is all set to celebrate Visit Nepal Year 2011, where it is targeting more than 1 million visitors to come and visit the country. The tourism board is worried whether the number of hotel rooms is enough to accommodate this number, and is toying with the idea of home stays, where you put up with a local family and enjoy a bit of the local culture as well. However, nothing has been fixed till date, so you’ll need to check local listings before planning on a home stay.
For longer stays, especially for volunteers and expats, you can consider renting a flat for the duration of your stay. Fully furnished flats, with TV, Internet connection, and kitchenware can be had from about 250 USD to 1000 USD, depending on the location, size of your flat, length of stay and of course, the exchange rate.
If you’re in the mood to splurge, star hotels in Kathmandu give you a taste of the good life at prices unimaginable in the western world. Start from a three star hotel for extra crisp sheets and clean bathrooms. Move up the ladder and splurge on five stars to enjoy the pool and spa facilities. Prices will range in the 100 – 200 USD range, depending on the hotel and season.
Take it up a notch and really pamper yourself with a stay in one of the resorts around Kathmandu. If you’re a golf enthusiast, I’d recommend a weekend at the Gokarna Forest Golf Resort, tucked away in the edge of the valley with an excellent golf course where deer from the nearby forest come to nibble at the greens. Resorts are especially recommended for those who’re just back from a particularly arduous trek in the Himalayas. They’re the perfect place to relax those tired muscles and put on the few pounds you lost along the route.
Nepal is currently going through an acute electricity shortage, and in the winter season when the rivers run dry, scheduled blackouts can occur up to 12 hours a day. Restaurants and bars generally have some kind of electricity backup, but basic hotel rooms might not. However, star hotels will also have generator backups, so if you’re paying for luxury this won’t be a problem. Be prepared to enjoy life without electricity if you’re not paying extra for it. But its not that hard, getting adjusted to the dark. Enjoy some live acoustic music in a friendly bar, make new friends, and your vacation will be a blast.
Though Nepal went through a bloody civil war and the political situation is unstable, violent crime, especially those directed at tourists, is almost unheard of. That said, be on the lookout for pickpockets and scam artists who might easily swindle you out of your belongings with a smile. Use the hotel safe deposit box, and don’t leave valuable electronics like your camera or laptop lying around unsupervised. It is not common for belongings to go missing from your room, but don’t take chances.
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