Visa, packing, planning.

 Citizens from most of the countries don’t need to obtain a tourist visa before traveling to Nepal. Of course you can get one earlier on, but It’s not a problem if you won’t, as it is available on arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport and at some land borders, depending on your traveling plans. I got mine at the airport, though the queue was very long (2h to wait), and I was really tired after a long fly, I still wouldn’t get in to trouble of getting one before in embassy. The requirements are: valid passport for at least 6 months when submitting  your application, fee to pay and passport-size photos. You can pay in pounds, euros, dollars or Nepali rupees at the airport. 17091402_1284047035007687_1901932474_oI`ve heard that there are way more currencies you can use to purchase one, but on a safe side better to have one of the main 4, I mentioned. Try to make it as smooth as possible. Trust me, you will be dying to lay on hotel`s bed asap, not to be stack at the airport. Prices for tourist visas are: 25.00$ for 15 days single/multiple entry; 40.00$ for 30 days single/multiple entry and 100.00$ for 90 days single/multiple entry. If you wish to stay for more than 60 days, you can extend your stay up to 30 days by applying to the Nepalese Department of Immigration at Kalikasthan in the capital or in immigration office in Pokhara. It is very important to have a valid visa in your passport to be able to exit Nepal. If your visa will expired, you will have to arrange an extension at the Department of Immigration before your departure. Regarding the photos, you should bring two passport-sized photos with you (some pages say just one, and that came to be a true in my situation). Well, I was prepared, and I’ve had them, but I witnessed loads of people who forgot to bring them. They were allowed to enter anyway, but It might be also due to the fact that the photo machine was broken at the time I was there. Probably is still broken till now.

 Packing.  It really highly depend on activities you’re planning to do in Nepal. In Kathmandu Valley is usually very hot, as the area is not that elevated, so I would suggest to pack loads of summer stuff. Make sure to have loads of space, as it is highly possible that you will buy loads of clothes there too. But if you are planning to do some hiking, you definitely need a very warm waterproof clothes and a good hiking shoes. Very good backpack is essential for trekking and all long-term trips in general. Get also a rain cover to protect your stuff in. Check information about monsoon season (June – September), as it can help you to prepare better. Also this time of a year can be hazardous in the rural areas, especially in western Nepal. Monsoon rains cause flooding and landslides that can make your journey difficult and can make some areas unable to reach. Take care and check access routes before. Most of the last base camps are at more than 4.000 m high, so the weather there can be unpredictable. I am not a trekker, so I can’t share many tips with you, but there are loads of good blogs about it. Always use sun block (SPF20 or higher) and sun glasses.

   Hotel. There are loads of places to stay in Nepal, as it is a backpackers mecca. You don’t have to book before arriving, but that can help you to save the time looking around for a place you like most. They are all very affordable and comfortable, usually with the breakfast included. I paid for mine around 6-7£ per night, and that was with private bathroom. I remember only in Nagarkot I paid 20£ per night, but I wanted a hotel with the very best view to be able to spot Mt Everest from there.

   I consider Nepal, and Asia in general, as a very safe place. There’s a a very low rate of serious crime in Nepal. Of course, like everywhere else, you should always be careful, and you should watch out for pick-pocketing and bag thieving in buses, hotels, hostels and in all touristic areas like Thamel, Sanepa and Kupondol in Kathmandu. They are really overcrowded which makes it ease to still from you. As usual take care when walking around at night after midnight. Though, main ares are always busy, I think it’s better not to wonder around alone. Robberies are more likely to occur in the evening in poorly areas.  Don’t carry much of cash with you. Keep valuables in a hotel safe or locker if possible.

Few days in vibrant Kathmandu

  It’s amazing how well I always knew what kind of areas in the world I would love to see in the future. Nepal was on my list as a very first country to visit since I was very young. Something was always telling me that it is probably one of the most fascinating and astonishing places in the world. What I wasn’t sure about was wonder if I will ever be able to go there. Fortunately, I did get a chance to visit this truly diverting land with the highest mountain range in the world. I wasn’t mistaken at all, as I found there everything I always image I would discover. Even that I was in Kathmandu during the earthquake, it didn’t change my experience in any way. I witness how Nepalese truly helped each other during and after the disaster. For this, and loads of other reasons, I consider Nepal as a small Asian country with the big-hearted people.

Landing in Kathmandu and getting around

  When it comes to the international airport, it is probably one of the oldest and smallest I’ve ever seen, but then the size makes it easier to find your way around. I arrived in April from not so warm Europe, so the heat struck me straight away. After 2 hours in the long queue to get a visa, I was finally able to see the other side. I picked my bag from the floor somewhere, and I left, happy and glad it didn’t get missing. Stepping outside, I quickly spotted how overcrowded and chaotic this city is. This helped me to make a quick decision on not trying to work out how buses run, but just to take a taxi. The situation on the road can be really shocking for someone who has never been in Southeast Asia before. The jam, noise, unclear driving rules and no traffic lights makes you wonder how on earth Nepalese getting around on a daily basis there. The car or motorbike can drive everywhere where it fits, even through a tiny tiny streets, so better have your eyes around your head.  Watch out also for what locals transport on their motorbikes or bikes, as It can be something four times of a vehicle size, so be aware of the situation around you to avoid being knock down by it. I wouldn’t recommend walking while listening to your music either to avoid any accidents. I would definitely suggest to get your accommodation in Thamel. It is the most touristic area in Kathmandu. I am always trying to stay away from this kind of places, but there is just way different. You can meet loads of amazing backpackers, trekkers, travelers and volunteers to talk to, to share your experience with. Locals are very friendly too, so you definitely won’t get bored or lonely there. Shops and restaurants are on every possible corner, but always have cash with you. It’s very unlike to pay by card, maybe just in posh hotels and restaurants. Also if you will see a cash machine, use it. There’s not so many of them around. Some of them may not work and some may not accept your card. I’ve had a Visa and MasterCard, and I wasn’t always able to use the first one, but with the second I’ve had a better luck. 

 

Food

  Try to sample as many new things as you can. For me everything was very delicious and packed with wonderful flavors. It is a heaven for Asian cousin lovers, like me. People who sell meals on the street really mastered their cooking skills. They make it very local, very unique, always fresh, and usually made in front of you. I have to add that I’ve met few travelers that complained about experiencing some stomach problems after, but not me. So maybe try to find a golden line between cleanliness and vibe of authentic local street food. Momo`s are definitely must eat there. They are very traditional and delicious, and you can have them with many different fillings and sauces. I am from Poland, and they do remind me of our dish called pierogi. I wonder if that’s how they came to us through the Russia first.  Apart from them, rice and noodles are probably most popular. It’s like a fusion of Indian and Chinese food. They all come in good vegetarian range too. If you like a late meal you will get even a better choice, as loads of street stands are open only in the evening.  It’s good to have a supper around that time, as you will meet loads of travelers around. The only problem there is lack of the streets light, so visibility depends only on shops and restaurants neons. It could be a problem sometimes, as often on some streets, I’ve had to walk in total darkness….alone…brrr.

 

Transport

  If there are loads of things you want to see in one day, hire a motorbike. It really is very cheap, around 10£ for a day, and can save you loads of time. You can get a bike too, but it can be difficult to ride it on all these small streets full of people. Otherwise, not much for me to say about public buses in capital as I haven’t used it at all, relying just on my private transport – my legs. However, three main bus station are present with buses that connects cities and towns in Nepal. All a little bit chaotic, but by keep asking you should eventually find the one you need. No worries if you will take a wrong one, everything is worth seeing in Nepal :D. More or less, Nepalese are good with English and always happy to help! First bus station (also called the Kathmandu Bus Terminal, or simply ‘new bus park’) is located at Ring Road, Balaju. It is basically for all long-distance buses, including the one to Pokhara and destinations in the Terai. Kantipath bus station (if you can call it like that, as buses are just parked on the side of the street) seems less confused (but still a bit!), and is located very close to the Thamel area on Tridevi Marg Kantipath, the main road running north-south at the junction where the Garden of Dreams is. There`s not so many buses leaving from there, so it makes it easier to find your way around. I took my bus from there to Pokhara that leaves everyday around 7 am. You do not need to book in advance, but can be busy sometimes, so you may, just for the peace of your mind. This bus station is only in use early morning. Later in the day there is zero buses around. Green Line Bus station is a private company that provides better comfort at higher price. Usually they operate minivans with aircon and included meal. Terminal can be found at Greenline bus park opposite the Garden of Dreams on the edge of Thamel.

 

  If you are looking for some trekking experience or any other trips, you can find all you need in Thamel that is packed with agencies. You can book your bungee jump, see some caves, discover the area around Kathmandu Valley, book a plane to see some of 8000 high peaks. I did buy few, but they all been cancelled after the earthquake. Especially I am sad that I`ve missed a fly around the Himalayas. If you have a few spare days, go to see the Chitwan National Park, a World Heritage site since 1984. Its is a jungle with rich range of fauna and flora species, also a Bengali tiger. Loads of Nepalese, I’ve met, were pointing this wildlife area as a number one to see. You can stuck up on proper gear too there. If you like a good brand staff, they are a little bit cheaper in less touristic areas.

  For more about what to see in Kathmandu please click here, otherwise pack your back, book your fly, and off you go!

Bolivia

Amazing Bolivia

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My route: Uyuni-Potosi-Sucre-Cochabamba-La Paz-Copacabana.

Bolivia is, and probably always will be, one of the most diverse, colorful and amazing county I have ever visit. I felt in love with the landscape, people and atmosphere as soon as I crossed the border on the desert between Chile and Bolivia. It was one of 17th countries I visited during my six months backpacking trip through South and Central America up to Mexico. Even planning this trip at home I already knew it will be my favorite destination, the one I will remember forever, and it happened to be one indeed.  In this section I will quickly tell you about my experience, but my main goal is to give you, especially I am targeting solo female backpackers, as many tips as possible and to give you an overall look at prices, transport and food.


Few words to start.

      Probably the hardest thing to deal with in Bolivia, and pretty much every Latin country, is zero to minimum English speaking people around. I have to admit that it was hard at times with my limited Spanish. I even felt like Italian sometimes with all my extra gesticulations I was using. That’s right Italians…you do that! You really have to learn basics to travel around; otherwise you may miss or lose on loads of things around you. Thought in most hotels, hostels receptionists speak English, it’s not guaranteed and remember, they are not going to be with you everywhere.  But here’s something to cheer DSC_0023.JPGyou up, Bolivia is one of the cheapest places in South America, I think only Paraguay is cheaper, so enjoy……  If you need a new clothes-buy them, that’s the place to get them. Don’t waste your time in the hostel kitchen to cook, you can get an amazing main meal for 1£, usually with drink and sometimes even with the soup.  Trips are very affordable too, even that I prefer always to do everything on my own, I bought few and I was very pleased with them, plus I met other travelers too. Prices are depending on season, agency and your negotiation skills, but let’s say one day trip to the jungle can cost 20-30 £, including all meals, transport, guide.  Ha…almost forgot how important negotiation is. Try to do it if possible, especially with travel agents, you can always get discount. I never done it while buying food or meals, simply as It was cheap already and I was even paying more, just as I felt they deserved it from us, tourists. But hey…do what you want!

       Transport, well when it comes to transport you wallet is happy, but your back not so. Buses are cheap as hell, but that reflects on the comfort you get. There is not much choice around too, well..loads of companies, but with the same standard buses (as of Feb 2016). No need to look around too much, check just few to get the cheapest price (they don’t differ that much neither) and buy a ticket.  Average bus ride for 8h will cost you no more than 8£. In 80% there will be no toilet, or there will be one, but permanently closed to public view :D. Don’t cry, bus driver will be stopping very often, next to the toilets, restaurants and shops to stuck up on food. Your intake and outtake will be well taken care of on the road. You don’t even have to go to the shop; there will be loads ofCSC_0050.JPG colorful ladies in the bus to sell all kind of food and drinks. From hot meat, corns (my fav, miss them with all my heart), vegetarian or meaty delicious pastry to nuts, all kind of fruits, and sweets. Try pastry, they are all homemade and extremely delicious!!!  Anyway, even that I mention how uncomfortable buses can be with minimum recline chair, there will be nothing more amazing and beautiful than what you will see through the window on the road. Landscape is just breath-taking…you think you are getting from A to B, but what you’re really doing is having an amazing cheap trip thought the Andes, valleys and jungle.

Now few worlds about city transport. Don’t hesitate to take a taxi if you need one. It’s very very cheap, but always remember to agree on the price before getting in. For example 5km will cost you around 1.5-2 pounds. Buses and minibuses are way cheaper, difficult to get your head around, but once you master it, just go for it! For example in La Paz, you will be shock how they do run, but they always have a destination shown on the front window and they do go to the main “backpacker interest” places, so chill out.  From minibus you can get off where you want and get in, where you want, just wave your hand or tell the driver to stop. They will cost you around 0.20£.

       Hostels and hotels are very cheap too.  Usually I was paying max 5£ per night. In one of the best Hotels with balcony and view on Titicaca lake in Copacabana I paid 20£, oh well I needed that. There is loads of places to stay around…I mean looooads. It is a backpacker land, so you will not look for too long to find a place you like. Bolivia is elevated, so the temperature range tend to be the lowest in South America, that’s why in most hostels you will get a hot water, so enjoy till last, as in other countries that’s like a rare pleasure.

At the beginning of my trip (in Brazil, Argentina and Chile) I was using a booking.com, but I quickly discovered that I am just paying more, as of booking.com fesses, so do look yourself or look online and then just go there. There is hardly any hotel, hostel that is fully booked.  As I said its loads of them, especially in the city canter and near all bus stations, so you won’t end up walking with your backpack for too long.

Maps.me. Please do get a maps.me app. It saved my life many many times. You can use maps with no internet connection and even, as because it uses a GPS, it will show you your location in most of the places. Plus it has hostels, shops and all places of interest on it, witch make it easier to find your way around.

       Food in Bolivia is like a dream. I loved it a lot, I guess I still do and sometimes I have these wet dreams about it, but it’s not a culinary side, so I will DSC_0275.JPGspare youDSC_0280.JPG writing much about it, however it’s cheap, homemade, delicious and it’s available on every corner. Always go to the big markets (Mercado) to eat. Everything is there and usually (in every place I visited so far was like that) is divided in sections with fruits, vegetables, meat, clothes (but not everywhere), cosmetics and food areas. Oh public toilets are there too. Well to be honest they are very dirty, smelly and not nice in general, but please don’t act with your nose up. It is a third world country, people live in this condition and often don’t have a choice. Think how lucky and fortunate you are and, damn, don’t show your ignorance to them. Don’t be an idiot.  Well anyway, coming back to my favorite topic, please do visit Mercado and try the food there. Its amazing, different and very very cheap,  as I wrote above, the average price for the main meal and drink is 1£. Though it’s not much of vegetarian range there, you can find something anyway. Otherwise you can have a delicious meat (chicken, beef) with salad and rice or potatoes. Pasta is very popular too! The most amazing thing is that you will eat with locals. They are all very nice and they will always talk to you. I really would like to highlight places like that, as usually I was the only traveler there and that gave me the chance to truly experience life of Bolivians and atmosphere.  Don’t be scared and don’t listen to that bullshit about food poisoning, upset tummy etc. For the whole 6 months (and trust me I ate the cheapest street food, sometimes even sitting on my ass on the street) and I’ve never ever experience anything like that!!  Be brave and don’t behave like from royal family, but if you are like that, then Bolivia is not definitely for you!!

Amigos.  Girls, now you can relax, finally. There will non to minimum harassment form Latinos in Bolivia towards you. It’s very interesting about that place and I still don’t understand why. I think Nicaragua and Salvador are on the top of the list, when sometimes I was wishing I could just give them a good old face palm. But let’s take it, enjoy it and walk around without unwanted attention.     At the same time I felt like Bolivia is the safest place too.