In this guide we will tell you all about travelling in Nepal on a budget, including what to see, where to stay and how to get there.
Nepal is a budget traveller’s paradise. Nepal has everything from wildlife spotting in the jungle, trekking in the mountains to relaxing with a beer by Pokhara lake. The locals are super friendly and the food is tasty and cheap. Perfect!
With a population of more than 1 million people, Kathmandu can a bit overwhelming when you first arrive – it’s pretty dusty and chaotic. But Kathmandu also has plenty of cheap authentic local food, great guesthouses and plenty of sightseeing to offer. It’s also a great base for organising your Annapurna or Everest Base Camp trek. If you only have a couple of days in Kathmandu, we recommend checking out Boudhanath, Swayambhunath, the Garden of Dreams and wandering around Thamel for a few hours.
TRAVELATOR TIP: Kathmandu’s air quality is pretty average, so wear a scarf or bandanna to wrap around around your face to keep the dust out.
Chitwan National Park
Visiting Chitwan National Park gives you the chance to track tigers, rhinos and elephants in the jungle on foot, and float down the river in a canoe amongst the crocodiles. It is a bumpy 7 hour bus ride from Kathmandu to Sauraha, the village closest to Chitwan National Park, but it is worth the trip! Most guesthouses in Sauraha can arrange excursions in and around the National Park. Expect to pay between US$75 to US$150 per person for guided excursions in the park.
TRAVELATOR TIP: Skip the elephant rides and the elephant orphanage – this is just elephant tourism that will make you depressed.
Everest Base Camp
It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see the highest peak in the world on foot. The scenery is spectacular, the sherpas incredibly kind and the lodgings comfortable. You can do the trek on your own staying in lodges each night, but if you’re not confident hikers (like us!) then hiring a guide and porter is quite affordable. If you have a moderate to good level of fitness, the trek is definitely achievable but be alert to the signs of altitude sickness. Check out our guide to choosing your trekking company or going solo.
TRAVELATOR TIP: If you have time add the Gokyo Lakes trek to your itinerary. It’s another 3-4 days with a challenging trek over the Cho La pass, but it is far less crowded than the normal EBC route and the scenery is fantastic. It was tough but we loved it!
An awesome spot for relaxing after a strenuous trek, Pokhara has a laid-back lakeside feel. Honestly, it’s hard to get motivated to do much other than chill out in the cafes and drink beer by the lake, but if you’re feeling motivated there is plenty to do – Poon Hill, Sarangkot and the Gurkha Memorial Museum is just a start. It is a top paragliding destination, and there are some lovely day hikes. There are plenty of trekking gear shops and travel agencies to arrange your Annapurna trek too.
TRAVELATOR TIP: Head lakeside around sunset for some great value happy hour deals.
Where To Stay
We stayed in some great value places in Nepal. Here are our favourites:
- Kathmandu – Elbrus Home – Amazing free breakfast, super friendly owner and no pressure to buy tours.
- Chitwan National Park – Evergreen Eco Lodge – Run by an ex-jungle guide, Evergreen offers good value jungle trekking and canoe trips and is a great place to meet other travellers.
- Pokhara – The Mountain House – Probably the best value guesthouse we stayed in Nepal. Super cheap, friendly owners and nice new bathrooms close to the centre of town.
Momos are a delicious type of Nepalese dumpling that comes with a range of fillings, such as buffalo, veggies, pork or chicken. Momos can be deep fried, steamed or pan fried – pan fried are the best! They are very cheap and filling, so a great budget option. Warning: be careful of momo juice dribbling on your clothes!
Sherpa stew is a tasty soup mix of meat, veggies and thick pasta. It’s a staple on the EBC trekking route, as it’s cheap and provides plenty of energy for weary trekking legs. The lower altitude the more veggies you will get as everything has to be carried or airlifted in. By the time you hit 5000m above sea level, it’s mainly potatoes and pasta!
Dal Bhat like a curry tasting plate – you usually get a vegetable curry, lentil soup, rice and pappadums, but sometimes even more. The best part? It’s bottomless! You will keep getting free refills until you can’t possible stuff any more in your mouth.
Your guesthouse will be able to organise bus tickets and transport to the bus station (if necessary). Tickets range from US$7-$25, depending on how fancy the bus is. Be warned: the roads are dangerous, delays are common and the cheap buses are very basic. We came to loathe these journeys with a burning passion!
Domestic flights are available via travel agencies. A flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara will set you back around US$100. Weather delays and cancellations are common. The Kathmandu Domestic Airport is also a complete dump – take snacks and a book to keep you busy in case of delays!
Getting In and Out
Most people fly into Kathmandu International Airport – there are numerous airlines that fly here but AirAsia and Indigo are some of the cheapest options. We flew from Delhi with IndiGo for around US$60 each.
You can also catch the India-Nepal Friendship Bus Service from Varanasi. This trip usually takes well over 12 hours. You can also take a train from Varanasi to Gorakhpur, then bus/jeep to Sunauli followed by another bus to Kathmandu.
USD$80 per day (for two people) will get you comfy private rooms, mid-range local transport and tasty local food. If you want to do a guided trek to Everest Base Camp with a porter, expect to pay at least USD$160 per day (for two people), including flights to Lukla.
Best Time to Visit
The best time for trekking in Nepal is March to May, and September to November. Winter trekking (December to February) is freezing, and summer (June to August) sees heavy monsoonal rains making many roads impassable.
Yay for transparency! This page contains some affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through a link on this page, we get paid a small commission. Don’t worry – you don’t pay anything extra! And we promise that we only recommend places that we have truly enjoyed staying at.