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How to Tour Nepal on a Budget

Last Update: March 27, 2020

Set high up in the mighty Himalayas, Nepal is a country of high, snow-covered mountains and dense tropical forests full of beautiful creatures. By most western standards, Nepal is a cheap place to visit, although prices are starting to creep up thanks to the increase in the tourist trade in the country. If you use budget accommodation, take the local buses, and trek independently, then it is possible to tour Nepal on around US$40 per day. There are few places that you can get in for free, or with just a small donation, although many of the best value choices are a little more expensive.

Plan a budget tour to Nepal Plan a budget tour to Nepal

Traveling through Nepal on a budget is still possible, although things have changed somewhat over the last few years. Since the 1970s, Nepal has been a paradise for backpackers and budget travelers. With hotels from as little as a dollar a day, and fifty-cent meals, you could easily get by then on five dollars a day. Now, things are more than a little different. With the addition of entry fees to almost everything, permits, visas, National Park fees, and an increasing number of boutique hotels, traveling through Nepal can seriously hurt your wallet.

However, there are still ways around these huge expenses, and you can still get by on a budget, just not one that is as low as the 1970s. And it is good to remember that Nepal is still an impoverished nation, so it is advisable not to push the local vendors to the max when bargaining for a good deal.


Getting to Nepal can be done in one of two ways; either you fly in or you cross the border overland from India or Tibet, China. However, there are not many direct flights from the inter-continental international destinations, so connecting flights are the best option. And there are many budget airlines that fly to other countries in Asia, where you can get a cheaper connecting flight. There are great budget flight options within Asia as well, such as cheaper flights from Bangkok, Kuala lumpur, New Delhi, Guangzhou, Manila, and Hong Kong. So if you are backpacking in any of those countries, it is worth getting a budget flight direct to Kathmandu.

 Taking flight to Kathmandu, Nepal Taking flight to Kathmandu, Nepal

If you are planning to travel overland to Nepal, the best starting point is from India. If you are coming from China, through Tibet, you will only be able to cross into Nepal on a package tour, and India is the only other country with an overland border to Nepal. Traveling overland from India to Nepal is a very old backpacker’s right of way. Where it used to be a grueling 30-hour journey on buses, trains, and rickshaws, now it is simple to just jump on a bus in New Delhi and ride it straight to Kathmandu.

You can opt to travel to Nepal from the other parts of India, and enter through either the Sunauli Border or the Raxaul/Birganj border into south Nepal, or into East Nepal from Darjeeling, through the Panitanki border, although it is not always guaranteed to be open.

Insider Tips: With the opening of Gyirong Port (the new Sino-Nepal Border) on Aug.30,2017, it becomes much more convenient for tourists to travel between Lhasa and Kathmandu.


Fortunately, Nepal is full of cheap, budget accommodation, and not all of it involves squat toilets and very cold showers. However, where there used to be a gamut of cheap guest houses in the outskirts of Kathmandu, they are now being bought up and turned into big hotel chains and the new boutique hotels that are popping up everywhere. Backpacker hostels offer dorm accommodation for around 400-500 rupees a night, and for just a few hundred more you can get one of their private rooms, if available.

 Freak Street Freak Street

Within Kathmandu, the cheaper places to stay can be found in Thamel, Paknajol, and Freak Street, and while there are rooms available online for as little as five dollars, you may also be charged commission rates on top. If getting there with no idea of where you will stay is an issue, you can book a couple of nights online in advance, and then find somewhere cheaper once you get there.

 Pokhara Pokhara

In Pokhara, the budget accommodation has moved to the north of Lakeside, to a place known as “Happy Village”, where you can find really cheap dorms and rooms. In Lakeside itself, you can still find a few budget rooms for around ten dollars just east of the main strip.

 Chitwan Chitwan

Chitwan is popular with package tours, but there is some really good cheap accommodation available on either side of the main strip. Avoid the package tours and just get the local bus there. Lumbini has also become more of a tourist hotspot, especially during the Buddhist festivals. However, there are still a lot of cheap rooms along either side of the Lumbini Bazaar.

Food and Drink

Meals in Nepal are also refreshingly inexpensive, except in Kathmandu. With the huge increase in tourism in the country, restaurants aimed at foreign customers are popping up, and charging western prices along with it. But, if you can avoid them, then eating in Nepal is relatively cheap. However, unless you are very hard-core, and are used to it, stay away from the street food. Unlike in many other Asian countries, Nepali street food is known to be dodgy, and spending the remainder of your stay in the toilet is not going to be pleasant.

 The street food Nepali food

However, there are many places that provide good, wholesome, cheap food, as long as you steer clear of the tourist restaurants. Thamel and Lakeside have some nice, friendly, family-run cafes down the side streets, where you can get a good meal for a low price. And even Chitwan has some nice little cafes and eateries where you can get filling meals for less.

 The street food Nepali food

Safe, cheap dishes in Nepal include Dal Bhat, Chow Meins, Momos, Naans, Samosas, etc. If it is deep fried, make sure it is freshly cooked when you eat it, and if you like to eat meat, stay away from the mutton, it is not usually as fresh as pork. Bakeries are a favorite haunt for budget travelers to Nepal, as they often reduce the price of any leftover breads at the end of the day. You may find you will have to queue for it though, so hunt out some of the small, local bakeries, which are often a lot cheaper.

 Nepali tea Nepali tea

Trekking on a Budget

Trekking in Nepal on an organized tour can turn out to be rather expensive, but it is possible to do it on a budget. Some of the best tips for trekking on a budget are:

1. Avoid many of the big online tours, as they are normally expensive, especially after the add-ons that you will often not notice when you booked. Go for a local, qualified guide.
2. If you have never been trekking in Nepal before, hire a guide. Trekking alone could leave you lost, and it is worth the extra to hire a good guide, rather than the cheapest one, as they will be able to tell you more about the mountains, lifestyle, and culture. Choose your guide carefully, and interview more than one to compare their experience and rates. Always hire a guide you are comfortable with.
3. Get travel insurance. Not having travel insurance means that if you get lost or suffer a fall, rescue will cost you upwards of US$5,000. Plus other fees that may occur, such as hospital bills, etc.
4. Do not risk your life to save a few dollars. Make sure you spend enough time in Nepal to acclimatize before you go off trekking at high altitudes. Altitude sickness can be a killer, and your life is not worth the cost of an extra day acclimatizing to the altitude.

Top Places to Visit

While many of the top attractions in Nepal were once free to enter, many now charge entrance fees, and prices have been rising rapidly over the last ten years. Fees are not really that high yet, but when you realize that the fee is to enter a public area, then it is often annoying to tourists. One way of saving money visiting sites is to take the public buses, which cost very little to travel around on, and you get the added bonus of getting to see more of the Nepali culture along the way.

Kathmandu Durbar Square

The cost of entrance to the Kathmandu Durbar Square has recently gone up to around 1,000 rupees, and many feel it is overpriced for what is, essentially, a public square. Moreover, the guards on patrol can sometimes be quite aggressive. If you are staying for a while, you can get a Durbar Square Pass from the municipality office when you buy your ticket, which includes everything inside in one.

 Kathmandu Durbar Square Kathmandu Durbar Square

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

The entrance fee here is around US$15, which is high for a public square in Nepal. However, it does offer more value for money than anywhere else, and covers a very large area, with lots to see and do. One advantage is that the ticket counter will stamp your ticket for admission for the entire length of your visa, as long as you keep your passport on you at all times.

 Kathmandu Durbar Square Kathmandu Durbar Square


There is no entrance fee for Panauti, but there is a small fee for the stunning Indreshwar temple area. The whole area is incredibly well maintained and preserved, in comparison with many sites in Nepal, and is great value for money.

 Panauti Panauti


The fee here is only around 250 rupees, so well worth the cost. The stupa was completely renovated in 2016, so it is proof that the entrance fee is being well used there. There are dozens of small side streets into the stupa, and each has a small ticket counter that opens at 7am every day.

 Boudhanath Boudhanath


There is a large fee of 1,000 rupees to get into the site. This does not include entrance to the main temple, which is off-limits to non-Hindus. There are, however, large parts of Pashupatinath to the east that few tourists visit, which is well worth a wander around to see. Pashupatinath and Boudhanath are close together, and you can actually walk from one to the other.

 Pashupatinath Pashupatinath

Wanna plan a budget tour to Nepal? No worries, our travel experts have handpicked the most popular itineraries for Nepal budget tours. And our helpful travel consultants are ready to offer you the one-stop service whenever you need. Just tell us your plan and we'll take care of the rest!

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