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Car Rental in Nepal: the Cultural Epicenter of the Himalayas
Mountain lovers of all kinds – from luxurious travelers to hard-core adventurers – will have their desires thoroughly fulfilled by Nepal, where outdoor exploration and accommodation go hand in hand. Despite its small size, Nepal is a country of extremes, as the subtropical lowlands at 100 meters of elevation change dramatically to mountain peak after mountain peak over 7000 meters. Each level of elevation promises a new adventure for visitors. Be at your most independent and hire a car to fully discover this phenomenal country. Whether you plan on exploring the region around Kathmandu, or trekking beyond, such as on the five-hour drives to Chitwan National Park or Pokhara, car rental provides you the most authentic and intimate look at Nepalese life and times.
The best time of year to visit the foothills and mountains of Nepal is just after the monsoon season from October to December, though if you’re planning on undertaking longer mountain expeditions while in Nepal, April to June is a better bet. Do note that many roads are impassable during the monsoon season from June to September.
Nepal is an incredibly diverse country, as is evident by the number of languages spoken by its inhabitants. While Nepali is the major language of the country, many Nepalese speak a different first language at home. Hindi and English are also widely spoken as a third or fourth language throughout the country. Still, it’s well worth your time to pick up some basic Nepalese terms to help you navigate during your stay.
The currency is the Nepalese rupee, which is pegged to the Indian rupee at a rate of 1.6 Nepalese rupees to 1 Indian. If you’re arriving from India, note that 500 and 1000 rupee bank notes are prohibited in Nepal.
If you’re arriving by air, you’re most likely to land at the Tribhuvan International Airport just outside of Kathmandu. Kathmandu is the best – and likely only – place for you to pick up a rental car and driver. Roads in Kathmandu are very congested at almost all times of the day, so plan some extra time into your travels as you leave to explore Nepal’s breathtaking landscapes. Automobile hire is by all means the best way to make the most of your visit, as some of Nepal’s most incredible sights are not accessible by public transportation.
Driving in Nepal
Cars are almost always rented with a driver in Nepal, which is often a very positive thing, as road conditions are poor. Whether you hire a car and driver or find a way to self-drive, navigating Nepal by rental car is an independent and affordable way to discover this incredible country.
- Traffic proceeds on the left-hand side of the road in Nepal. Cars are overtaken on the right.
- Priority is given to cars entering roundabouts, so be prepared to brake or yield while navigating busy traffic circles.
- While the speed limit in Nepal is typically around 80 km/h, this is rarely enforced, and the quality of the roads requires that most automobile traffic proceeds at around 40 to 50 km/h. Plan to drive slowly for the length of your stay!
- Particularly in Kathmandu, roads are very congested during business hours.
- Use your car horn like a local to help alert other drivers about your presence and intentions.
- Parking can be a challenge in Kathmandu, so if you are planning on visiting the city via car, double-check that your hotel offers parking before you book a room.
- International driver’s licenses are only valid in Nepal for 15 days, at which time you need to apply for a temporary Nepali license.
- The minimum driving age is 18.
- Only Indians can enter Nepal without a visa. Most other foreign nationals can enter Nepal by purchasing a visa whose cost depends on the length of their stay when they arrive. US dollars are the most accepted currency for visa purchase at all points of entry.
- Travellers accustomed to access to electricity 24/7 will need some adjustment in Nepal, where power is often available to residential and urban areas only a few hours a day. If you’re dependent on electricity for work or travel needs, double-check accessibility with the hotels in which you’re planning to stay.
- Travellers planning to self-drive in Nepal should double-check the country’s access to fuel before finalizing any plans. It’s possible you could be left with a dry tank and no access to petrol in the country.
- Renting a car with four-wheel-drive is advisable throughout your travels. It is almost unheard of to cross into Nepal with a rental car, as the car’s owner has to be in the car with proof of registration and insurance at the time of border crossing.