Passports and Visas
Visas are required for entry into Nepal and Bhutan. A passport with at least six months validity remaining at the time of entry and at least one blank page is required.
To obtain a visa upon arrival by air in Nepal, you must provide a passport photograph. The visa application on arrival in Nepal can be a long and complicated process. The Big Journey Company has arranged an assisted visa service for this tour group and we will be met on arrival in the visa area. The Nepal visa fee and immigration assistance is included in the cost of the tour.
Bhutan travel visas are only issued on arrival but must be applied for in advance. We will receive visa approval for the whole tour group before we travel. It is very important that we have your full, up to date passport details as soon as possible to ensure your visa is issued. If you have not done so already, please forward your passport number, issue and expiry date, date of birth and place of birth to firstname.lastname@example.org now.
The Bhutan visa fee and Tourism Development Fee are included in the price of the tour. You will be issued with a visa clearance letter in Nepal before the flight to Bhutan.
The “tipping culture” is deeply entrenched in Nepal and Bhutan- tipping is expected by most people involved with the tourist industry. It is not mandatory but is an important source of income for tourism-related workers.
Feedback from previous tours has led us to suggest an overall tips package for your journey where we would take care of tipping throughout which would include tips at restaurants where the meal is included, your driver, your local tour guide, porters & trek support team as well as hotel and support staff. We will include a suggested tipping amount in your pre-tour email from your Tour Director.
It is essential that you have appropriate travel insurance for this trip. Travel and medical insurance must be arranged before departure. Check with your health care provider regarding the terms of your coverage (or lack of coverage) outside your country, including emergency medical evacuation. Inform them that you will be travelling to Nepal and Bhutan and that you will be trekking at altitude. We recommend that all travellers purchase adequate trip cancellation/interruption, medical and baggage insurance—and carry the details of their coverage on tour. Please make sure you write down important information such as the insurance company’s telephone number and your policy number. Make sure your insurance includes helicopter rescue and evacuation.
The weather and visibility in Nepal and Bhutan in the autumn season (September, October & November) is perfect for touring and trekking. The temperature is moderate during the day with cool mornings and evenings and cooler at altitude (We will mostly be at an altitude above 25,000 metres so we must be prepared for cold weather.) Average temperatures range from 20°C (68 °F) during the day to below zero at night (32 °F and below). Typically in November you will have cold mornings and warmer days and afternoons. If you wear layers of clothing this will help you to stay warm during the cold hours and you can remove your layers as the temperature rises. A sun hat and sun cream may be necessary during the day.
Health and Vaccinations
If you suffer from any form of illness, be sure to have an adequate supply of medication before departing on your holiday and keep this in your hand luggage. You must advise us of any important medical conditions you may have before departure.
Vaccinations are recommended for travel in Nepal and Bhutan. Please seek medical advice before travelling.
We will be at high altitudes on our journey and you may wish to speak to your doctor about how this may affect any existing medical conditions. You might also want to discuss precautions available to you to avoid the inconveniences that altitude causes to some people. The altitude of Kathmandu is 1,370m. The altitude at Thimphu is 2,334m.
Travelling with CPAP or other Medical Machines
Inform The Big Journey Company that you are travelling with such a device as early as possible and well before you travel. This is especially important in places where there may be issues with power supply, such as on safari or small cruise ships. Also,
-Check that you have the correct electrical and voltage adapters for the country and accommodation you are visiting;
-Check with your airline that they allow your device to be carried as additional hand luggage and ensure that your device is easily accessible and properly labelled as medical machinery;
-Always carry a letter from your medical practitioner prescribing its use for you;
-Ensure you have details of your machine separately in case of the need to secure repairs/replacements whilst you are travelling;
-Check with your medical practitioner about the use of tap or bottled water in the event that distilled water cannot be sourced in the country you are travelling to.
Please note, if you require distilled or ionised water, you must inform The Big Journey Company of this at least two weeks ahead of travel so we are able to make preparations with our ground agents. There will be an additional charge for this.
Ensure you carry all your travel documentation in your hand luggage, which also includes camera, reading material etc. The longer flights can be made a little more enjoyable by wearing loose clothing, good comfortable shoes as well as walking the aisles regularly, eating sensibly and drinking plenty of fluids (not alcohol).
Try to get some sleep and upon arrival, most people find they adjust into the local time by waiting until evening before sleeping if possible – this should relieve some of the effects of jet lag.
The weight of the luggage for both Kathmandu- Bharatpur and Pokhara- Kathmandu is 20 kgs and hand carry / cabin baggage is 5 kgs. The cost for extra baggage payable at the airport will be USD 1.00 per kg. Cabin baggage must be no bigger than: 55 cm x 40 cm x 20 cm (20 x 14 x 9ins). One passenger is allowed one piece of cabin baggage. Usual restrictions, including those on liquids, apply on these flights.
What to Pack
Given the variable weather we’re likely to experience as we travel, you will need clothes for warmer weather as well as a warm, waterproof jacket. Pack light and remember the basic essentials: camera and attachments; a good pair of lightweight binoculars; adaptor plugs; toiletries including insect repellent and sunblock; medications and prescriptions; extra reading glasses; sunhat; and notebook or journal. Make sure you have comfortable, well worn in walking boots/shoes for the treks and clothing that can be worn in layers.
Nepal GMT +5.45
Currency and Money
Nepal Nepalese Rupee (NPR) 1 NPR= 100 paisa.
It is easy to change cash and access ATMs in Kathmandu and Pokhara but very difficult in other areas.
Bhutan Ngultrum (Nu) 1Nu = 100 chetrum
Indian rupees are also in common use in Bhutan.
There are ATMs in most towns but it is prudent to get your cash in Thimphu or Paro rather than rely on any of the smaller areas. Make sure you do carry cash to pay for drinks and purchases as cards are not accepted everywhere. For major purchases, some shops will accept US Dollars. Most credit cards transactions carry a 5% surcharge as well as the exchange and other fees charged by banks.
Nepal electricity is 220V/50 cycles; 120V appliances from the USA will need a transformer. Sockets usually take plugs with three round pins, sometimes the small variety, sometimes the large. Some sockets take plugs with two round pins. Local electrical shops sell cheap adapters. Blackouts (‘load shedding’) are a fact of life across Nepal, especially in Kathmandu. Power surges are also likely, so bring a voltage guard with spike suppressor (automatic cut-off switch) for your laptop. Note that power supplies to some rural areas may still be disrupted because of earthquake damage.
Bhutan is a unique country in that it only uses clean and green energy, generated by hydropower. Almost the entire country is well connected with electricity at between 220 and 240 volts with a frequency of 50hz. They use both two and three round-pin plugs. You may need a multi-adaptor.
Nepal is famous as the world's only Hindu Kingdom. However, it is an intricate and beautiful tapestry formed by the interweaving of Hinduism, Buddhism and other beliefs. Religious tolerance and harmony such as is found in Nepal, is perhaps a unique example to the world.
Bhutan is a Buddhist kingdom. About 75% of the population are Buddhist. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the King.
Safety and Security
Use common sense and take basic safety precautions. Keep valuables locked away and don’t wear expensive watches or jewellery, flash expensive cameras, or walk in deserted areas. If in doubt, ask a guide or at your accommodation for safety guidelines.
Telephone Service Nepal has one of the least-developed telephone networks in the world. Most hotels and towns offer public telephones if you need to make a call. It is best to ask your mobile phone network provider about using your phone in Nepal if you intend to do so.
Mobile service in Bhutan is generally excellent. It is best to ask your mobile phone network provider about using your phone in Bhutan if you intend to do so. Most hotels will arrange local and international calls but these can be expensive.
Internet: Internet access is becoming more commonly available in Nepal but regular power cuts and infrastructure can make this difficult. Wi-Fi is available in some locations in Kathmandu.
In Bhutan, the 3G and 4G networks are developing. Some hotels offer Wi-Fi in the lobby.
It may be useful to leave The Big Journey Company telephone number with a key contact at home, so that you can be contacted in an emergency. Our office staff will do their very best to contact you through your Big Journey Company Tour Director in case of emergency.
US and Canada number: 1-855-342-4127
UK Number: 0844 3350 197
Please don’t encourage begging by giving sweets or money to local people who may approach you on the street. Recognized charities often have collection boxes in hotels. We recommend that you make any donations here, where you can be assured that the funds will be properly used.
Pack your patience and good humour alongside your passport! Contrasts between the values and priorities of the international traveller and the local community are an interesting and illuminating part of the travel experience.
How to prepare
The best preparation for days trekking is… trekking! Getting out for hikes and short walks in your home country, even regular walks in the park if you can’t escape to the countryside much, are a good way to prepare. Well worn in walking boots/shoes are a must!