Finding a place to sleep is hardly ever a problem in Nepal, although only the established tourist centres offer much of a choice. Prices vary considerably, depending on where you stay and when. You can pay anything from a couple of dollars per night in a trekking lodge to more than $350 in a wildlife resort, but guesthouses, where most travellers stay, typically charge between $5 and $35.
Outside the high seasons (late September to mid-November and late February to late March), or if things are unusually quiet, prices can drop by up to fifty percent: the simple question “discount paunchha?” (“any discount?”) will often do the trick. Note that official tariffs don’t generally include the government and service taxes (13 percent and 10 percent respectively); rates are usually quoted as “plus plus”, meaning both need to be applied. Offers made on the spot at ordinary guesthouses, however, are generally all-in – make sure you check.
Most places have a range of rooms, from budget, shared-bathroom boxes to en suites with a/c and TVs. Single rooms are usually doubles offered at between half and two-thirds of the full price. Hotels and guesthouses take bookings, and reservations are often necessary in the busy seasons, during local festivals or if you’re arriving late at night.
Off-the-beaten-track lodges are aimed at Nepali travellers, and are usually known as “hotel and lodge” (confusingly, the “hotel” bit means there’s somewhere to eat). Some are reasonably comfortable, but more often than not you’ll have to settle for something fairly insalubrious. Stark concrete floors, cold-water showers and smelly squat toilets are the rule, though you’ll rarely pay more than Rs350. It’s a good idea to bring your own sleeping-bag liner to protect against bedbugs and lice, and earplugs to block out the inevitable noise. In the Terai, try to get a room with a mosquito net and a working fan (or a/c).
This is not to say that Nepali lodges are to be avoided. Often the most primitive places – where you sit by a smoky fire and eat with your hosts – are the most rewarding. Trekking lodges on less-travelled routes (see Trekking Accommodation) can take this form, though there are some remarkably comfortable ones out there too.
Many tourist-oriented places to stay in Nepal call themselves guesthouses. This category covers everything from primitive flophouses to well-appointed small hotels. Most places offer a spread of rooms at different prices, and sometimes dorm beds too. By and large, those that cater to foreigners do so efficiently: most innkeepers speak excellent English, and can arrange anything for you from laundry to trekking/porter hire.
Despite assurances to the contrary, you can’t necessarily count on constant hot water (many places rely on solar panels) nor uninterrupted electricity (power cuts are a daily occurrence, though some establishments have generators). If constant hot water is important to you, ask what kind of water-heating system the guesthouse has – best of all is “geyser” (pronounced “geezer”), which means an electric immersion heater or backup.
All but the really cheap guesthouses will have a safe, and the smarter places sometimes have security boxes in each room.
Kathmandu and Pokhara have their own tourist quarters where fierce competition among budget guesthouses ensures great value. In these enclaves, all but the very cheapest places provide hot running water (though perhaps only sporadically), flush toilets, foam mattresses and clean sheets and blankets. Elsewhere in Nepal, expect rooms to be plainer and scruffier. Most guesthouses also offer some sort of roof-terrace or garden, a phone and TV. They’re rarely heated, however, making them rather cold in winter. Rooms in most budget places cost Rs300–1000, and standards vary considerably; the cheapest options often have shared bathrooms.
Mid-range guesthouses (for lack of a better term) are increasingly popular. Rooms tend to be bigger and come with a fan (or even a/c), and often a phone and TV. Toilet paper is provided in the bathrooms, and the hot water is more reliable. The better ones will provide a portable electric heater in winter. Expect to pay Rs1000–3500 for a double room of this sort. Most mid-range guesthouses quote their prices in dollars, though you can pay in rupees and sometimes even with credit cards.
It’s hard to generalize about the more expensive hotels and resorts. Some charge a hefty premium to insulate you from the Nepal you came to see, while others offer unique experiences. Prices for international-type features begin at around the $50 mark, but you should expect to pay in the region of $100 a night or more for a genuinely classy place. This guide also recommends several smaller resort hotels that offer something unique, like a breathtaking view or historic building. Jungle lodges and tented camps inside the Terai wildlife parks are typically the most expensive options of all, charging $250 plus a night.
A growing number of programmes enable visitors to stay overnight in private homes in traditional villages far from the tourist trails. Village stays (also called village tourism or homestays) offer a unique opportunity for comfortable cultural immersion, and could become a good way to disperse visitors and spread the economic benefits of tourism into rural areas. The idea is that a tour operator contracts with a whole village to accommodate and entertain guests; rooms in local houses are fitted with bathrooms and a few tourist-style comforts, host families are trained to prepare meals that won’t disturb delicate Western constitutions, and a guide accompanies the guests to interpret, if necessary.
There are numerous village tourism programmes, including one in Chisapani, southeast of Pokhara near Rup Tal, run by the reputable Pokhara-based Child Welfare Scheme (w fursekholafarmhouse.com), and others that can be organized in and around Tansen and Bandipur. A few language institutes and other organizations in Kathmandu and Patan also organize homestays with families in and around the valley; try ITC (t 01 441 4490, w itcnepal.com) or Nepal Face to Face (t 01 552 8688, w nepalfacetoface.com).
While tourism is a key part of Nepal’s economy, it doesn’t always have a positive impact on the country. The Responsible Travel Nepal initiative provides Nepali tourism companies – hotels and resorts, trekking and adventure companies, travel agencies and so on – with training and support to encourage them to ensure their activities and management practices follow sustainable tourism principles. Crucially, it emphasizes the business benefits of adopting these principles, helping the companies to build links with operators and travellers, improve their marketing work and expand their businesses. Responsible Travel Nepal’s website (w rt-responsibletravel.com) provides information about the companies participating, and is a useful first port of call when planning activities in Nepal.