General Information of NepalNepal is a country of high Himalayan Mountains, artistic monuments, exotic wildlife, and diverse cultures. It is the land where Lord Buddha was born over 2,500 years ago. The country covers an area of 147,181 square kilometers, and stretches 145-241 kilometers north to south and 850 kilometers west to east and is located between India in the South and China in the North. Nepal is primarily an agricultural country. Tourism, carpets and garments are major industries. Tucked away between India and the Tibetan Plateau, Nepal is dominated by the towering Himalayas - a majestic range of snowy giants standing guard over the stunning beauty of our country.Thanks to these huge mountains, Nepal enjoys the widest range of altitude of any country in the world. Altitudes vary from as little as 70m on the Terai plains to Mount Everest's colossal peak at 8848m. As a result, our vegetation zones include tropical, subtropical, temperate and alpine areas.
In these diverse natural environments an incredible range of flora and fauna flourish, attracting nature lovers all year round. Nepal is an ornithologist's paradise, with over 800 species of birds, including storks, pheasants, cuckoos and enormous birds of prey. For those who prefer larger animals, a visit to one of the National Parks could reward you with a sighting of our famous royal Bengal tigers, bears or one horned rhino. You do not have to go far to see the monkeys, many of whom live side by side with the residents of towns and villages!
Neither do you need to go to a museum to find evidence of Nepal's long and fascinating history: it's all around you in the towns and villages that dot the Kathmandu valley and lie hidden in the mountain ranges. Villages where everyday life still follows long established traditions, and where time almost seems to have stood still.
The Nepalese are naturally a friendly, welcoming people. We enjoy meeting people from around the world, and are proud to share our wonderful country with you. Visitors to Nepal often return time and time again, drawn by the stunning scenery, the warm and smiling people, the outdoor adventure and the special atmosphere that pervades the clear mountain air.
Location & Geography: The Kingdom of Nepal covers an area of 147,181 square kilometers, and stretches 145-241 kilometers north to south and 850 kilometers west to east. The country is located between India in the south and China in the north. At latitudes 26 and 30 degrees north and longitudes 80 and 88 degrees east, Nepal is topographically divided into three regions: the Himalaya to the north, the hills consisting of the Mahabharat range and the Churia Hills, and the Terai to the south. Elevations are varied in the kingdom. The highest point is Mt. Everest (8848 m) in the north and the lowest point (70 meters above sea level) is located at Kechana Kalan of Jhapa District. Altitude increases as you travel south to north To the north temperatures are below - 40 degrees Celsius and in the Terai, temperatures rise to 40 degrees Celsius in the summer. During June, July and August, the kingdom is influenced by monsoon clouds.
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Nepali, written in the Devanagari script, is the national language as well as the lingua franca for Nepal's diverse communities. Numerous languages and dialects are spoken in the kingdom, however, only six (Nepali, Maithili, Bhojpuri, Tharu, Tamang and Nepalbhasa) are spoken by more than half a million people. English and Hindi are widely understood in the urban centers and areas frequented by tourists.
CUSTOM & AIRPORTA. Green Channel:
Passengers arriving at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) without any dutiable goods can proceed through the Green Channel for quick clearance without a baggage check. If you are carrying dutiable articles, you have to pass through the Red Channel for detailed customs clearance.
B. Import: Apart from used personal belongings, visitors are allowed to bring to Nepal free of duty cigarettes (200) or cigars (50), distilled liquor (one 1.15 liter bottle), and film (15 rolls). You can also bring in the following articles free of duty on condition that you take them out with you when you leave: binoculars, movie or video camera, still camera, laptop computer, and portable music system.
C. Export: It is illegal to export objects over 100 years old (sacred images, paintings, manuscripts) that are valued for culture and religious reasons. Visitors are advised not to purchase such items as they are Nepal's cultural heritage and belong here. The Department of Archaeology at Ramshah Path near Singha Durbar has to certify all metal statues, sacred paintings and similar objects before they are allowed to be sent or carried out of the country. Handicraft dealers and travel agents are able to assist you in this process. For more information on customs matters, contact the Chief Customs Administrator, TIA Customs Office.
D. Aiport Tax:
Passengers departing form the Tribhuban International Airport are required to pay an airport tax of Rs 1356 per person if going to SAARC (South Asian) countries and Rs 1695 for departure to other international destinations. Domestic airport tax is Rs 170.
A Nepal standard time is 5 hrs 45 minutes ahead of GMT and 15 minutes ahead of Indian standard time.
Nepalese currency is the rupee (abbr. Rs.) which is divided into paisa. Bank notes come in denominations of 1000, 500, 100, 50, 25, 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1 rupees. Exchange rate is approximately US $ 1 = Rs. 70.00
Nepal contains a variety of climatic conditions ranging from the tropical heat of the Terai plains to the freezing cold of the high Himalayan. The mid-hills, particularly the Kathmandu Valley, are pleasant with warm summers and cool winters. Temperatures range between a maximum of 37 and a minimum of 8 degrees Celsius in the plains, 28 and 2 degrees Celsius in the Kathmandu Valley, and between -6 and 16 degrees Celsius in the mountains. The rainy season lasts from June to August.
Maximum-Minimum Temperatures (in degrees Celsius; * rainy seasons)
Absolute extreme temperatures: Bhairawa (max 42-min 5); Gorkha (33-5); Janakpur (42-4); Jiri (28-minus6)
For centuries the Kingdom of Nepal was divided into many principalities. Kirats ruled in the east, the Newars in the Kathmandu Valley, while Gurungs and Magars occupied the mid-west. The Kirats ruled from 300 BC and during their reign, emperor Ashoka arrived from India to build a pillar at Lumbini in memory of Lord Buddha. The Kirats were followed by the Lichhavis whose descendants today are believed to be the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley. During this period, art thrived in Nepal and many of the beautiful woodcarvings and sculptures that are found in the country belong to this era. With the end of the Lichhavi dynasty, Malla kings came to power in 1200 AD and they also con tributed tremendously to Nepal's art and culture. However, after almost 600 years of rule, the kings were not united among themselves and during the late 11th century, Prithvi Narayan Shah, King of Gorkha, conquered Kathmandu and united Nepal into one kingdom. Recognizing the threat of the British Raj in India, he dismissed European missionaries from the country and for more than a century, Nepal remained in isolation. During the mid-I 9th century Jung Bahadur Rana became Nepal's first prime minister to wield absolute power. He set up an oligarchy and the Shah Kings remained figureheads. The Ranas were overthrown in a democracy movement of the early 1950s. Today, Nepal enjoys a multi party democratic system with a constitutional Monarch.
THE PEOPLE, CULTURE & RELIGION:
Nepalese people are mainly divided into two distinct groups, the Indo-Aryans and the Mongoloids. Kathmandu Valley is the spiritual and cultural meeting point of all these groups.
Religious practices are an important part of the lives of the Nepalese people. Mythologies of various Hindu gods and goddesses abound in this country and cultural values are based on the philosophies of holy books like the Swasthani Gita, Ramayana etc.
Women and children visit neighborhood shrines at dawn to offer worship to the gods. Holding plates of rice, flowers, and vermilion powder, they perform puja by lighting incense, ringing the temple bell, and applying tika, a red paste, on their foreheads. Passers by stop at temples and show their reverence to the gods by spending a few minutes praying. Occasionally, groups of men sit near temples playing music and singing hyms until late night.
In Nepal, Hinduism and Buddhism are the two main religions. The two have co-existed down the ages and many Hindu temples share the same complex as Buddhist shrines. Hindu and Buddhist worshipers may regard the same god with different names while performing religious rites.
Though Nepal is the only Hindu Kingdom in the world, many other religions like Islam, Christianity, and Bon are practiced here. Some of the earliest inhabitants like the Kirats practice their own kind of religion based on ancestor worship and the Tharus practice animism. Over the years, Hinduism and Buddhism have been influenced by these practices which have been modified to form a synthesis of newer beliefs.
As a result, visitors to this country may often find the religious practices in Nepal difficult to follow and understand. But this does not prevent one from enjoying the idifferent traditional ceremonies and rituals of Nepalese culture. It is indeed a totally new experience of religious fervor.
Thousands of gods and goddesses make up the Hindu pantheon. Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are he three major Hindu gods who have heir own characteristics and incarnations. Each god has his own steed which is often seen kneeling faithfully outside that god's temple. Symbolic objects are carried by the multiple ands of each deity which empowers them to perform great feats.
Sakyamuni Buddha is the founder of Buddhism who lived and taught in this part of the world during the sixth century BC. The great stupas of Swayambhunath and Bouddhanath are among the oldest and most beautiful worship sites in the Kathmandu Valley.
The spinning of prayer wheels, prostrating pilgrims, collective chants and burning butter lamps are some Buddhist practices often encouithtered by tourists. A slip of paper bearing a mantra is kept inside the wheels so that prayers are sent to the gods when the wheel is spun. Scenes from the Buddha's life and Buddhist realms are depicted on thangka scroll paintings which are used during meditation and prayer ceremonies. Many Buddhist followers are seen performing these practices in Swayambhunath, Boudanath, and at other Buddhist sites around the Valley.
Nepal is a developing country with an agricultural economy. In recent years, the country's efforts to expand into manufacturing industries and other technological sectors have achieved much progress. Farming is the main ecomic activity followed by manufacturing, trade and tourism, The chief sources of foreign currency earnings are merchandise export, services, tourism and Gurkha remittances. The annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is about US$ 4.3 billion.
Eight out of 10 Nepalese are engaged in farming and it accounts for more than 40% of the GDP. Rolling fields and neat terraces can be seen all over the Terai flatlands and the hills of Nepal. Even in the highly urbanized Kathmandu Valley, large tracts of land outside the city areas are devoted to farming Rice is the staple diet in Nepal and around three millions are produced annually. Other major crops are maize, wheat, millet and barley. Besides food grains, cash crops like sugar cane, oil seeds, tobacco, jute and tea are also cultivated in large quantities. Most recently the cardamom is becoming one of the most popular cash crops in the eastern part of the country.
Manufacturing is still at the developmental stage and it represents less than 10% of the GDP. Major industries are woolen carpets, garments, textiles, leather products, paper and cement. Other products made in Nepal are steel utensils, cigarettes, beverages and sugar. There are many modem large-scale factories but the majority are cottage or small-scale operations. Most of Nepal's industry is based in the Kathmandu Valley and a string of small towns in the southern Terai plains.
Commerce has been a major occupation in Nepal since early times. Being situated at the crossroads of the ancient trans-Himalayan trade route, trading is second nature to the Nepalese people. Foreign trade is characterized mainly by import of manufactured products and export of agricultural raw materials. Nepal imports manufactured goods and petroleum products worth about US$ 1 billion annually. The value of exports is about US$ 315 million. Woolen carpets are Nepal's largest export, earning the country over US$ 135 million per year. Garment exports account for more than US$ 74 million and handicraft goods bring in about US$ 1 million. Other important exports are pulses, hides and skins, jute and medicinal herbs.
In 1996, a total of 390,000 tourists visited Nepal, making tourism one of the largest industries in the Kingdom. This sector has been expanding rapidly since its inception in the 1950s, thanks to Nepal's natural beauty, rich cultural heritage and the diversity of sight-seeing and adventure opportunities available. At one time, tourism used to be the biggest foreign currency earner for the country. Nepal earned over US$ 116 million from tourism in 1995.
Nepalese entry procedures change frequently. As of Jan. 2000 you can obtain a 60 day single entry visa at any entry point in Nepal for US $30. It is recommended to check prior to arriving in Nepal what the current procedure is and also to bring at least one passport photo with you if you intend arranging your visa on arrival here. (Carry all necessary documentation in your hand luggage.)
ENTRY POINTBy Air:
Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu.
(3) Belhiya (Bhairahawa)
(6) Jogbani (Biratnagar)
(7) Mahendra Nagar in Nepal-India border
(8) Kodari in Nepal-China border.
The overland tourists entering the kingdom with their vehicles must possess an international carnet.
Medium-weight and easy to wash cottons can be a good choice year round in the Kathmandu Valley. From October to February, woolen sweaters, jackets or similar other warm outfits are necessary. Short or long-sleeved shirts are good March through May. From June to September, light and loose garments are advisable.
MONEY & CREDIT CARD:
American Express, Visa & Master Card are accepted at major hotels, travel agencies, restaurants, carpet and curio shops throughout the country.
Saturday and Sunday are the weekend holidays in Nepal when most government offices are closed. Most business are closed only on Saturdays.
Government offices open from 9 A.M. to 17 P.M. in the summer and from 9 A.M. till 16 P.M. in the winter.
Shopping can be very rewarding and exciting in Kathmandu. There are numerous tourist shops on the main streets and in the hotel arcades brimming with tempting jewelry, statues, and typical Nepalese handicraft. Thangka is one of the best buys in Nepal. Each place has its specialty product, which is unique. Bhaktapur, for instance, is the place to buy pottery. The Traditional Craftsman's Colony in Patan is a famous center for Nepalese handicraft. You may get carved wooden items while at Patan. As for jewelry, buyers can opt for loose gems or custom-made items.
Besides handicraft, Nepal is also a good place for genuine luxury goods. With a host of departmental stores and shopping plazas offering international brand-name products, Kathmandu has become a haven for the serious shopper. Browsers will enjoy the city's numerous traditional markets that overflow with vegetables, fruits and other.
A travel insurance policy that covers theft, loss and medical treatment is recommended. Make sure the insurance also covers the activities that you will be undertaking during your stay in Nepal such as trekking or river rafting.
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