I am embarking on my first photo expedition, we set out to Nepal in March. Is there any specific advice regarding the country i should be aware of, any tips anyone can offer?
Many thanks for your time and I look forward to reading your advice, happy holidays James.
Quite a lot of advice actually...
For a poor third world country Nepal is well developed for tourism with good infrastructure. Of course you won't expect the plush hotels and nice clean roads. Kathmandu can be owerwhelming on your first trip, but for a photographer it offers amazing oportunities. The question is how much time you have and what you want to do? Is it nature (mountains etc) that you are after? Is it cultures? Is it both?
You can easilty spend a week in the Kathmandu valley and you'll have a lot to do. I would suggest at least 3 days, and don't miss Baktapur, Swayambunath, KTD's Durbar Square, Patan, Boudanath, and perhaps Dakshin Kali on a Saturday. For the last one you need not to be squeamish.
Like everywhere, you need to look after you gear, and have your money on your body. But Nepal is far safer than most other tourist destinations (New York and London included...). Just take the usual common sense precautions. Keep your camera gear in a bag while in transit (bus stations, domestic airport, etc), and don't be ostentatious. If you go in maoist controlled areas, you will need to pay some "donation" or "tax". Provided you do that, and don't make to much of a fuss you will be quite safe. Apparently on some stretches of the popular treks (you won't encounter maoists everywhere), the tax is 500-1000 rupees, something like 7-15 USD. But I understand that lately they will charge US citizens about double than that. No tourist has been harmed as yet by the maoists, and they have a stated policy of not harming tourists. I have trekked in Nepal 5 times, last time in April 2004, and along with thousands of other tourists, hand a grand time every time. It is an amazing place.
If you want to go to the mountains, it all depends on where - what type of trek, for how long and how high.
Than there is the Tarai (lowlands) with their own specific nature and cultural atractions.
I was standing in a bookshop in Clapham Junction, South London last weekend and i saw the Lonely Planets 'Trekking in the Himalayas' handbook, so i picked it up and had a quick look through some maps to Namche Bazaar from Lukla (a little trek i want to do) and the detail was fantastic, i stood and read through the book for about half an hour (maybe should have bought it but i didnt!) but if you'd like a pocket sized guide about the treks on offer, Lonely Planet (on this occasion) have got it spot on.
Two month tourist visa's are available on arrival at Kathmandu airport.
Plenty of cheap guesthouses in the Thamel backpacker area. Kathmandu is hip and funky enough with a fascinating blend of Hinduism & Buddhism.
Pokhara up in the mountains is really quite something. If you fly from Kathmandu to Pokhara, you'll see mountains reaching way above the clouds.
Lumbini down near the Indian border, is the exact birthplace of Lord Buddha. The various Buddhist countries have built temples there.