Paying in Nepal – Rupees, ATMs and Credit Cards
So you’re ready for your Hardcore Nepal trek or tour. Maybe you planned ahead and booked online, but even so, you may want to have some cash in your own currency or USD to exchange upon arrival.
Nepal’s currency is called the Nepalese Rupee (NPR). You will need to get it upon arrival either at the airport ATM or money exchange counter, or a similar place in Thamel or near your hotel. Get some rupees right away as you will need to to pay for taxis, etc.
Using the ATM – Be warned, you will get charged about $5 USD (or similar) from the Nepal ATM, and probably from your bank as well. So, don’t take out just 1000 NPR at one time, take out 15000 (normal max. limit) at a time to save on all those charges.
Paying with credit card – Most places in the tourist areas of Kathmandu and Pokhara take credit cards, but expect to a 3-5% charge for the credit card processing fee. This is standard practice as the bank charges the merchant this amount to use the credit card machine. Outside of Kathmandu and Pokhara tourist areas, just forget about using a credit card.
Western Union – There are Western Union offices in most of the bigger towns in Nepal. You will need to have identification to pick up money. If you do NOT have identification for some reason, Western Union will allow the sender to place a “secret question” on the transaction that only you would know. If you can answer correctly, you should be able to pick up your money. Currently, you can NOT send money FROM Nepal via Western Union to another country.
Tipping – Leaving a small tip of maybe 20 rupees would be normal to give for a lunch bill at a restuarant, or a bar tab. But when you are trekking or using a guide service, the normal is much more. Guides generally do not get paid a lot ($5 – $15 per day) and they take care of you 24/7 – at least the good ones do. So, you may want to plan on giving your guide $5 – $10 per day at the end of your trip. It is not only extremely appreciated, but much needed. Most guides stay away from their families during the holiest of times in Nepal (Dashain and Dipawali) because peak tourist season coincideds with this. So they truly are making a sacrifice to give you good service.
Bargaining – Merchants expect you to ask for a lower price, unless there is a sign somewhere that says “fixed price” in their shop. Some people as much as double what they expect. Taxi drivers are notorious for telling tourist inflated prices for rides. Sometimes you can bargain at hotels, but they usually list their price. It’s worth a try. Trekking and tour operators tend to be fixed price on most things, but may offer discounts on the off season times, so it is worth asking.