We have just spent 5 nights in Pokhara.
We now head for Lumbini …
It is a Buddhist pilgrimage site. It is the place where Buddha was born. Lumbini was made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997.
Lumbini is 4.8 km (3 mi) in length and 1.6 km (1.0 mi) in width. The holy site of Lumbini is bordered by a large monastic zone in which only monasteries can be built, no shops, no hotels, no restaurants.
It is separated into an eastern and western monastic zone, the eastern having the Theravadin monasteries, the western having Mahayana and Vajrayana monasteries. There is a long water filled canal separating the western and eastern zones, with a series of brick arch bridges joining the two sides along the length. The canal is serviced by simple outboard motor boats at the north end which provides tours.
The holy site of Lumbini has ruins of ancient monasteries, a sacred Bodhi tree, an ancient bathing pond, the Ashokan pillar and the Mayadevi Temple (where the supposed place of birth of Buddha is located). From early morning to early evening, pilgrims from various countries perform chanting and meditation at the site.
The currency in Nepal is the Nepalese Rupee (or the ‘NPR’). I will refer to them as N$s. At the time of writing, the wholesale exchange rates were:
In reality, you won’t get these rates. Expect to have to pay 3%-5% in fees. Over time, these exchange rates will change. Please check the current rates.
We left late at 9am. The seating was old but adequate. These are meant to be ‘Tourist Buses’, but it doesn’t stop them picking up locals along the way for extra cash. Expect the aisle to become full. Expect someone to be leaning on your seat (and / or you) along the way.
We changed buses in Siddharthanagar. 30 minutes later we arrived at Lumbini Bazaar. It was 5:15pm.
We start on Vishnupura Road southeast of the Maya Devi temple. We walk up to Lumbini Bazaar, check out the side roads, and finish up on Market Road.
Market Road is the heart of town.
This is what GRANDPAckers can expect to find at short notice in early November:
PLEASE NOTE: HOTELS usually display prices INCLUSIVE of TAXES. But many search sites (like HOTELS) don’t provide a ‘private bathroom’ filter, so be careful with some of the cheap hotels and make sure that you read the room details. HOTELS competes with BOOKING by selling their hotel allocations well in advance. They do so by offering discounts. At short notice, they tend to have few options left.
AIRBnB / HOLIDAY RENTALS:
PLEASE NOTE: Other sites (such as Homeaway, FlipKey and VRBO are also worth a look). However, these types of accommodation options are not very popular in Pokhara / Nepal. Be careful with AirBnB: they usually add on a ‘service fee’ and / or a ‘cleaning fee’ during the booking process which can significantly increase the nightly price.
GRANDPAckers will easily find accommodation within our price range. Start looking months in advance to get the best prices on HOTELS. Look on BOOKING for last minute deals. A couple should target a maximum of US$14 / night including Breakfast and US$10 / night without Breakfast.
My fan only had 1 speed: fast! My toilet was broken: I had to flush it with a bucket. I had grasshoppers living in the bathroom (though not in the bedroom). There was no hot water in the shower. The wifi was only good enough for text messaging.
WHERE TO STAY:
SUGGESTION: Keep away from the main roads: Taulihawa Road and the Temple Complex ring road (they get very dusty from the traffic on the dirt roads). You can stay anywhere in the Lumbini Bazaar area.
Have a look yourself:
EAT & DRINK:
Consumption of beef is very uncommon and considered taboo in many places. Buff (meat of water buffalo) is very common. Consumption of pork was considered taboo until a few decades ago. The chief lunch / snack for locals and visitors is mostly Momo or Chowmein. Momo is a type of dumpling stuffed with a buffalo, chicken, or vegetable mixture.
The staple food of most people is Dal Bhat. This consists of rice and lentil soup, generally served with a curry, a popadom, achar, and (usually) Yogurt and Chutney.
PLEASE NOTE: In the corner shops, there are often Tourist Prices and Nepalese Prices. If you don’t know the latter, they will try and charge you the former. A typical example is a 1L bottle of water: Nepalese price N$25, Tourist Price N$40. TIP: The correct price is usually printed on the bottle!
There are plenty of Cheap Eateries in and town. You will also find street vendors selling snacks; a small vegetarian Samosa costs N$15.
For under N$200 / US$2 you can get a simple Breakfast of 2 eggs, fried savoury potato, 2 slices of toast, jam, and a tea / coffee. You can get a plate of Momo or Chow Main for lunch for about N$100.
In summary: Budget an average of N$200 for a simple Breakfast, N$150 for a simple Lunch, and N$200 for a simple Dinner.
In a supermarket, a 750ml bottle of local rum will set you back N$1,600. A 2.25L bottle of Coke / Pepsi costs N$210.
In summary: Western-style alcohol is relatively expensive in Nepal. If you want an alcoholic drink with your meal, the meal price more than doubles.
The India border town of Sonauli in Maharajganj district is 1 hour drive from Lumbini and Nautanwa railway station in India is just a few kilometres away. The nearest big city is Gorakhpur, which is about 100km and is 4 hours drive from Lumbini.
ATMS seem to be limited to N$20,000 per transaction and they all seem to charge a standard N$500 fee for the privilege.
INTERNET / WIFI:
Don’t trust your hotel to provide good wifi in our GRANDPAcking price range.
There are 3 main prepaid providers in Nepal: NTC, Ncell, and Smart Cell. The first 2 are recommended if you plan to get out into the countryside.
To get the SIMcard I needed my passport (which they scanned) and a passport photo. The man in the store filled in the detailed application form for me. He, then, took my thumbprints to finalise the form. I guess that there is a very good reason for the service providers to protect you so stringently from SIMcard theft / fraud 🙂
I walked out of the store with a working phone and immediately downloaded the Ncell Nepal Mobile App. The App has an English option. With the App, you get easy access to your Plan status. You also get ‘App-only’ special offers and discounts.
My Ecuadorian Smartphone is not fully compatible with Nepal frequencies. I have never managed to get better than an H+ signal. Other tourists were able to get 4G.
HEALTH & SAFETY:
I got online and bought a 1-year WorldNomads Backpacker Policy for US$565. I don’t need all of the ‘bells and whistles’ that go with the more expensive policies. I, fundamentally, just need Medical and Personal Indemnity Insurance. Read more here.
There is no need to feel unsafe here but, as usual, don’t make yourself an easy target.
There are a lot of smokers here (more so than you will find in Western Europe) – not a surprise when a pack of 20 costs as little as N$80. Smoking is common in bars and restaurants.
WHEN TO GO
Try to visit in winter (November to February) when the skies are clear and the temperatures are moderate.
WHAT TO DO:
VISIT THE TEMPLE COMPLEX:
Lumbini has a number of older temples, including the Mayadevi Temple. Various new temples (funded by Buddhist organisations from various countries) have been completed or are still under construction. Many monuments, monasteries and a museum, and the Lumbini International Research Institute are also within the holy site. Also, there is the Puskarini, or Holy Pond, where the Buddha’s mother took the ritual dip prior to his birth and where he had his first bath. At other sites near Lumbini, earlier Buddhas were, according to tradition, born, then achieved ultimate Enlightenment and finally relinquished their earthly forms.
Entry to the Temple Complex is free but you pay N$500 to enter the Maya Devi. Given the distances involved it is, probably, better to rent a bicycle for the day. I rented one from my hotel for only N$150. Within the Temple Complex, don’t ride your bike on the brick paths (there is an N$1,000 fine).
WALK AROUND THE LOCAL VILLAGES:
This is a pleasant walk and the locals are genuinely happy to see you.
I was invited back to a family home for a cup of tea and some snacks. The whole family came to talk with me.
Read About – GRANDPAcking Costs if you don’t know how to interpret my figures.
Lumbini is not really an Holiday Destination so, I have only provided a 7 day budget for comparative purposes.
My costs are broken down into:
- Cost of Existence: The basic costs of just being there;
- Cost of Living: The additional costs that make being there fun.
COST OF EXISTENCE (COE):
I EXISTED to GRANDPAcking standard. My accommodation averaged N$1,100 / US$10 per night.
I already had the Ncell SIMcard & Plan that I purchased in Kathmandu. I did not need to top it up in Lumbini.
I have allocated 3 days of my 30 day visa cost.
I spent an average of N$398 / US$3.50 per day on meals and water.
My COE worked out to be about N$1,260 / US$12 per day.
COST OF LIVING (COL):
I LIVED to GRANDPAcking standard.
Living Costs: I averaged about N$0 / US$0 per night on drinks.
Entertainment: I spent N$660 visitig the Temple Complex.
Shopping: I spent N$620 on shopping.
In / Out Costs: The bus from Pokhara costs N$800.
My total COL was about N$1,785 / US$16 per day. This was 32% of my daily budget.
COSTS FOR 2 GRANDPAckers:
Again, costs are broken down into Cost Of Existence (COE) and Cost Of Living (COL).
COST OF EXISTENCE (COE):
Accommodation: I have booked you into something at N$1,500 / US$14 per night including Breakfast.
Transportation: There is no budget for local trips. I assume that you are here for the Temple Complex.
Communications & Fees: I have budgeted an Ncell SIMcard and 7 day Package. I have apportioned your two 30-day visa costs.
Food & Water: Your budget averages about N$1,150 / US$11 per day for 2 people. This is to eat Lunch and Dinner in Cheap Restaurants. This includes sharing one 650ml local beer at Dinner time. It also includes water purchased in bulk.
Your COE is about N$2,772 / US$26 per day. This is 50% of your daily budget.
COST OF LIVING (COL):
This leaves you about N$2,711 / US$25 per day to LIVE on. This should leave you plenty to LIVE on … depending on your drinking habits 🙂
Could you afford to retire here on a GRANDPAcking budget? YES.