Friday, February 19, 2010

Nepal Trip: Guide Book, Costs, Misc

This is the final post of my 14-day trip to a wonderful country called Nepal.  In this post, I will share with you about our planning, the cost of airfare, trekking, etc. 

1. Airfare

There are limited choices when it comes to airlines flying to Kathmandu from Singapore.  One is Silk Air, the other is Thai Airways.  You may also choose Cathay, but you might have to transit at Hong Kong, which is not going to be very time-efficient if you origin from Singapore.

Silk Air offers direct flight, the cost is around S$1000, plus and minus a bit.  Thai Airways has no direct flight to Kathmandu, you have to transit in Bangkok.  The cost is also around S$1000.  However, if you are lucky and have sharp eyes, you can fish for some good deals at Zuji Singapore website.  For our case, we found that if we set off on 18 Dec, and return on 31 Dec, we could get the tickets at S$724/person, inclusive of taxes and surcharges.  If you just move the dates by one day, the price will be the normal S$1000 plus.  A little bit of research will save you quite a bit of money, and a S$200 saving will expand your spending power in Nepal quite a lot.

2. Accommodation

I will recommend that you book the very first night of your stay in Kathmandu in advance.  If you fly in, the numerous touts at the airport will make you feel dizzy.  If you make an advance reservation, most hotels and guest houses will offer you free airport transfer, as they don't want their guests to be snatched away by others.  It helps to have someone to pick you up if you are in a foreign country for the first time.

Guest houses in Nepal in general are quite ok by backpackers' standard.  No fancy furniture or interior deco, but with basic facilities and reasonably clean. 

3. Trekking

We engaged our trekking service at our guest house.  The total cost of our 10-day trek to Annapurna base camp is US$560, including the airfare from Kathmandu to Pokhara, trekking permits, guide cum porter, food and lodging along the trek, return tourist bus from Pokhara to Kathmandu, etc.  Basically everything is included, except personal expenses such as drinks, extra food, etc. 

We paid our guide cum porter US$100 at the end of the trip as tips.  I think it is considered as not too bad.  My Singaporeans friends told me for the guide, usually the tip is around S$80, while for the porter, it is around S$50-60.   As we combined with a Japanese tourist and his guide 2 days into our trip, so we also paid his guide US$50 for his good work.  That tip amount is above average.

4. Guide Book

I was using a 4th Edition of the Lonely Planet guide book on Nepal, while the current version is the 8th Edition.  Some things don't change, especially the cultural stuff.  The prices have gone up, the political system has changed, but the rest remains about the same.  If you can afford it, get the latest guide book.  However, I personally don't recommend Lonely Planet's guide book, it is confusing and making simple things difficult.  Our Japanese friend uses a simple guide book which is more clearly cut and focused. 

In addition, I highly suspect Lonely Planet has some hidden agenda, as some 'famous' sites mentioned in Lonely Planet are really not that great, and I have doubts on their motives.  One example is Devi's Falls.  It is nothing but just a hole in the ground, but it took up quite a bit of space in Lonely Planet's guide book. 

You can find a complete list of blog entries about my Nepal trip here.

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