Standard voltage is 220V. Pack a worldwide/international travel adaptor to cover all destinations, that will allow you to use a hairdryer, electric shaver, charge a mobile phone or Ipod etc in Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan.
It is recommended that you be vaccinated for Tetanus and Polio, if you haven’t had a booster in the last ten years. Food and waterborne diseases are more common, so we recommend vaccinations for Typhoid (valid 3 years) and Hepatitis A (validity varies). You are also advised to take anti-Malarial medication. This information is intended as a guide only as reccommendations can change, so please contact your local healthcare provider, several weeks before travel.
Only drink bottled mineral water which is readily available and make sure the seal is unbroken. Avoid salads which may be washed in unhygienic water.
Weather conditions in Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan vary considerably in different regions due to the significant range of altitudes so the following information is just a general guide.
June to September is monsoon season, during these months it is very hot and rains almost every day. October to November is much drier with pleasant temperatures in the daytime and good visibility - perfect for trekking. Winter - December to February tends to be mild in the daytime but can become very cold at night especially in the mountains. January is the coldest month of the year. March to May is very warm, with occasional showers. The annual temperatures peak in May just before the monsoons begin.
Weather conditions vary greatly in different regions of Tibet. Central Tibet is generally mild from April to November, making it the best time to visit. Due to the high altitude it is rarely scorching, but the suns rays are very strong. From December to February/March it becomes very cold and temperatures regularly drop below freezing, travel during these months is not advisable. Tibet does not have a typical monsoon season, but May to September are the months with the highest rainfall (which mostly occurs in the evenings).
The monsoons in Bhutan are from June to September with heavy rains and high humidity, it is hottest in the south. Autumn from October to November is generally sunny with some snow at higher elevations. Late November to early March can become very cold with frosts throughout much of the country. Late March to April is very dry with pre monsoon showers starting in May.
The Nepalese Rupee is a fully convertible currency and there are plenty of
money exchanges in Kathmandu. The Bhutanese Ngultrum, is on par with the Indian Rupee and both are used in Bhutan. Foreign currencies can be changed at the airport and in banks. However as atms are sometimes not working and banks not always available, we advise that you bring a fund of money with you, preferably US dollars. Visa and AMEX are accepted by the bigger hotels and business establishments mostly confined to the bigger towns like Thimpu, Paro. In Tibet, money can be exchanged at the Bank of China in Zhangmu, Shigatse and Lhasa. The hotels also have exchange facilities. Credit cards may accept in some places.
The national dish of Nepal is Daal Bhaat Takaari (lentils, rice and vegetable curry) which can be found in a range of flavours and is often served as a main course for lunch and dinner. For many people in Nepal this is the only dish they eat! It often varies in quality, being excellent in one restaurant and bland in another. Nepali food has Tibetan influences especially in the mountains where a traditional diet consists of soups, potatoes, pasta and toasted flour. You will also find Indian food in Nepal, such as Roti (bread) tandoori meats, masaala and kofti. Kathmandu is renowned as the budget eating capital of Asia with tourist restaurants selling a wide variety of Western style fast food including chips, steaks and pizza. Noodles are available everywhere and ideal for a quick snack, the Nepali name for them is chao-chao.
Tibetan food consists mainly of barley, meat and dairy products. Staple foods include; Yak butter which is refined from the milk of cattle and goats and 'tsamba' which is made of roasted barley, ground with flour and mixed with a little tea, butter, curds and sugar to add flavour. 'Tubo' is a common evening dish; a type of gruel made from dried meat, tsamba and wheat flour. Tibetans are limited to only being able to eat things that grow at over 4000m, which means vegetables are very scarce and people in the higher altitudes eat a lot more meat instead. In winter beef and mutton is cut into strips and air dried in order to preserve it, it is then barbequed or eaten raw.
In Lhasa there are numerous restuarants and noodle places serving national dishes and also Indian, Western and Nepali cuisine. A tasty speciality are 'momos,' which are tiny steamed or fried dough parcels containing meat or vegetables.
Bhutanese food is very simple but delicious and each region has its own specialities. Most meals consist of meat (Yak, chicken, pork or beef) and vegetables, which are accompanied with rice, and chilies feature in almost all recipes. A popular dish is Ema Datshi which is simply made of cheese and chilies; it's tasty but very hot! Tibetan specialites such as momos and noodles are also popular in Bhutan and western food is becoming more prevalent in cities.
The Kathmandu Valley is heaven for shoppers, with a host of craft outlets selling locally made handicrafts, stone idols and statues of Buddhist and Hindu deities. There are also beautifully designed brass pots and vessels available. Jewellery shops sell gold, silver, white metal and semi precious stones, as well maala (the traditional necklace worn by women in the Himalayas, which is made of gold with strings of glass beads) at very reasonable prices. If you are more interested in clothing there are delicately embroidered Kaftans, Pashminas made of goats wool, Kashmiri Shawls and Tibetan robes. You can also pick up inexpensive leather jackets.
Whilst trekking there are traders dotted along the trails selling everything from down jackets, waterproofs, jumpers, hats and socks at very reasonable prices, so there is no need to panic if you haven't packed enough! It is advisable to pack light and simply buy extra clothing en route if needed.
You are expected to barter for your goods in Nepal and the process is always very lighthearted. Most traders will speak English in tourist areas but if you can learn a few words in Nepali you may get a better deal!
Shopping in Lhasa is a popular tourist activity and Barkhor Street Bazaar is the best place for it. In Barkhor there are lots of stalls, selling a wide range of goods including; Yak wool jumpers, silver ornaments, jewellery and handicrafts. Tibetan incense is a good souvenir, Tibetans use it to worship Buddha and drive away evil spirits. Thangkas (religious scrolls) are also very popular, the higher quality ones have a hand-painted image (rather than printed) in the middle, with very detailed backgrounds. The quality of Thangkas can vary dramatically, so take care when purchasing one.
It is a good idea to buy any practical items you may need in Lhasa before you travel to more remote towns. There are departments stores which will supply all of your everyday goods. In the markets, small shops and stalls, you should barter and generally try to cut the asking price by 50 percent!
The handicraft industry is much smaller in Bhutan because there aren't as many tourists but there are plenty of shops in Thimphu (the capital) which sell a range of goods including wooden bowls, handmade paper, jewellery, masks and thangkas. Bhutan is renowned for it's brightly coloured and boldly designed stamps, so it's paradise for stamp collectors!
The Bhutanese do not generally barter for products and a fixed price prevails. Bartering is often seen as offensive so it's best not to try it.
Tipping is not a natural part of many Western cultures but it makes up a significant proportion of many peoples wages, especially in third world countries. It is very important to tip your guides, drivers and porters (if you are trekking). You will find tipping advise on the Go Guides for each tour. On the tours in this section, we do not collect a tipping kitty but have given a guide to how much you will need to allocate for tips throughout the tour. Tipping is an entirely personal gesture so the amounts given are just to be used as a guide.