Between travel groups telling you how easy it is to travel to Europe for a month on a 10-euro budget, and social media influencers claiming they 'quit their jobs' (what jobs?) to travel the world, things on the travel front can get just a little bit frustrating. Everyone seems to be talking out of their behinds about how easy it is to roam the globe, but when push comes to shove, you find things in real life just a teeny bit more complicated.
All those thoughts crossed my mind when I started thinking I need to get on a plane and start seeing the world outside of my country. I’d never done that before and I had no idea where to start. I convinced a friend to tag along, and we set a budget in the range of 12,000-13,000 EGP (around $700), including flights, accommodation, food, and leisure activities. The next logical step was finding a country with a simple enough visa process, and within our budget range.
After long deliberations and bumps with other visa processes, we settled on Nepal – an easy, hassle-free visa process was essential; we needed one that wouldn’t force us to buy plane tickets before applying, as that was a huge risk for us. Nepal’s visa had all that, and it was for around just 450 EGP! The visa was issued one day after we applied, and we were ready to start financially planning our trip.
THE BASIC COSTSZostel Kathmandu
First, we booked the flights for around 7,100 EGP (round trip), which was the cheapest price around then. That meant we’d have to endure two layovers, three different planes, and 18 hours of being in the air – but saving 4-5 thousand EGP was worth it. A plane ticket now for two weeks would cost between 7,800 and 8,220 EGP. After that, we booked four different hostels (with an accumulative cost of around 1,300 EGP – yes, less than a night in Gouna) in three different cities over the span of the eight days we were there.
First hostel we stayed at in Kathmandu was called Zostel Kathmandu (rated 9.1 on Booking.com), and if you search right now, a bed in a dorm there would cost around 130 EGP/night. The place was awesome, had delightful hosts, and was in the heart of Thamel – the capital’s tourist and cultural hub. When we came back from our trip across Nepal, we stayed for the final two days in a different hostel in Kathmandu, called Fireflies Hostel, which was also very good, though not as clean as the Zostel, but they served delicious breakfasts for low prices and had a wonderful roof overlooking the city. One night/person in a dorm at Fireflies costs 70 EGP in today’s rates.
View from the Pokhara guesthouse
The most expensive place we stayed at was our guesthouse in Pokhara, which currently costs 370 EGP/night for a single person room, or 450 for a double room. The place had a majestic view of the Phewa Lake in Pokhara as well as the Annapurna mountain range. It was a family home run by two brothers and their spouses, and it was so cozy and delightful we didn’t want to leave. The one night we spent between Kathmandu and Pokhara was in Chitwan in a delightful little ecolodge called Evergreen, which was environment friendly and had a serene ambience and tranquillity to it – possibly because it was in the middle of national park. A night at Evergreen ecolodge is currently 90 EGP.
Accommodation aside, once we stepped out of the airport in Kathmandu, we hailed a taxi driver –– more like he hailed us –– and he offered us a ride to the hostel downtown. It cost us 800 rupees –– around 8 USD –– and we had to exchange rupees at the airport for dollars; be careful though, the rates at the airport are higher, so don’t exchange much money.
The driver also offered to take us to someone to give us free info on what to do in the country. We reluctantly agreed, putting aside our Egyptian mistrust of others, and went to the guy, who turned out to be the driver’s brother. The tour guy asked us a few questions about where we’re going, and accordingly started doodling an eight-day tour for our stay. It included bus tickets between the three cities, a private taxi as our tour in the capital for a day, another private tour in Pokhara to take us on a hike up a mountain, and paragliding tickets, including the car rides to and back from the mountain from which we jumped. All of this was for $200. Naturally, by the end of the trip, we found out that the guy had hustled us and got a huge profit out of each clause. The bus tickets he charged us for were $7 not $15, and the paragliding was done for $60-70 by local offices in Pokhara, while he charged $120. So, word to the wise, don’t be as gullible as we were and find the prices yourself without any help from any “free info desk” as the driver/brother/accomplice so aptly put it.
At The Monkey Temple
Our first day in the country we spent exploring Thamel and roaming around. The second day, our expensive tour began with a private car to take us to any temple we want. We started off by going to the monkey temple, an ancient religious architecture atop a hill in Kathmandu. We paid the entrance fee, which is around 200 Nepalese Rupee, and started wandering into the temple early in the morning. We kept roaming from temple to temple, and exploring the streets of the city, and at night we laid back in the hostel, talking to absolute strangers and just enjoying being in the presence of people of different backgrounds, with not much expenses incurred after our morning ride in town.
Sunrise at Chitwan
Our trip to Chitwan didn’t have any extra cost except the dinner we paid for at night in the ecolodge. Then came Pokhara. We spent three nights there, and it’s by far the most beautiful place we’ve visited in Nepal. The first night we strolled down the city, and found ourselves in a blues/rock bar who were playing some Beatles and were pretty awesome. We only paid for the drinks, which were remarkably cheap – a beer was around $3.Shanti Stupa Temple, which was free.
On the second night, we went to an awesome cinema experience. You pay an entrance fee of around $4, then walk into an outdoors cinema under the starlight, where drinks and food are delivered to your seat –– I ordered a pizza for roughly $10. The entire experience had excellent value for the money paid.
Paragliding in Pokhara
Our last morning in Pokhara was the paragliding trip, which we paid double for, and it was truly one remarkable experience. You can go paragliding there now for around $60 or $70, including the car ride up the mountain and the CD they give you with all the photos and videos with you up there, dangling from a parachute.
We went back for the final two days in a different hostel in Kathmandu, and we were planning on buying a few souvenirs before we go. Now, up until that moment, from the flights to the occasional meals we had (we didn’t eat out all the time, we had packed some canned foods to save money), all the way through bars at night and paragliding and other activities, everything was still well under our initial budget of 13,000 EGP. In our final two days in the capital, something unexpected happened. The souvenirs were lovely, and the handmade products were just too tempting. I bought pashminas for pretty much every female friend I had, plus specific souvenirs for all my family members. If it had stopped there, things would’ve been fine, but on the last day we discovered Kathmandu’s commercial district, with all the brands and stores you could ask for, but for half the price you get in Egypt! Before we knew it, we each took out our credit cards and started acting like a pair of rich white girls from Beverly Hills; by the end of the two days, the credit cards were maxed out, and our bags were full. Totally worth it, though; imagine getting a pair of Adidas shoes for 800 EGP, AFTER devaluation!
Bottom line? Nepal is one of the most budget-friendly destinations you could ever visit – if you have no plans for shopping. Pro tip: leave the credit cards at home.