We have just spent 3 nights in Sauraha (Chitwan National Park).
We now head back to the Old Town of Patan near Kathmandu …
Patan is the historical name for Lalitpur. It is the third largest city in Nepal after Kathmandu and Pokhara and it is located in the south-central part of Kathmandu Valley. The city received extensive damage in the 2015 earthquake.
As of the 2011 census, it had a population of 226,728. The city has an area of about 15 square kilometres.
It is believed that Patan was founded in the third century BC. Several historical records (including many other legends) indicate that Patan is the oldest of all the cities of Kathmandu Valley.
The city was initially designed in the shape of the Buddhist Dharma-Chakra (Wheel of Righteousness). The four thurs (mounds) on the perimeter of Patan mark its cardinal points (popularly known as Asoka Stupas).
The most important monument of the city is Patan Durbar Square, which has been listed by UNESCO as one of seven Monument Zones that make up the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site. The Square was heavily damaged in the 2015 earthquake.
Patan is best known for its rich cultural heritage: particularly its tradition of arts and crafts. It is called the city of ‘festival and feast’. In Patan, you find fine ancient art, and the making of metallic and stone carved statues.
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 (read more, below). Over time, these exchange rates will change. Please check the current rates.
I started in Sauraha / Chitwan National Park. My original plan was to go to Bhaktapur for 3 nights and, then, Patan for 3 nights.
The buses leave at 8:30am and the ticket costs N$700 if bought at your hotel.
You DO NOT want to go all the way to Kathmandu. To connect to Patan or Bhaktapur, you get off at Kalanki. Kalanki is at the junction of the western highway and the Ring Road. We arrived in Kalanki at 2:30pm. The connection from here to Patan is easier than the one to Bhaktapur. To get to Bhaktapur, walk 300 metres east to the ring-road roundabout.
THE BHAKTAPUR SCAM:
We arrived at 4:15pm. I had already booked my hotel in the Old Town Centre. I walked across the street to enter the Old Town Zone to get to my hotel.
I was stopped and told that I had to pay a US$15 Foreign Tourist Fee to enter the Old Town zone. This is a new ‘municipality’ fee. It is a daily charge … not a 1-off charge. I told them that I had a hotel reservation. It made no difference. I still had to pay another US$15 per day.
I hate these SCAMS. Out of principal, I refused to pay. I told the official exactly what I was going to do:
- Go and find a cafe;
- Sit down and get online;
- Cancel my reservation;
- Find another hotel in another town; and
- Not spend one single dollar in Bhaktapur.
This is exactly what I did.
BACK TO PATAN:
A direct local bus from Bhaktapur to Patan costs N$25. I booked a room in the Durbar Guest House at the eastern end of town centre (see, below). There is no ‘municipality fee’ to get into the Patan Historical Zone.
… but we start at the eastern end of the Old Town:
It is not the most ‘picturesque’ Old Town that I have been to but, I am here now, and I’ll make the most of it 🙂
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 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 in advance to get the best prices on HOTELS. Start looking on BOOKING then HOTELS for last minute deals. A couple should target a maximum of N$1,850 / US$18 per night including Breakfast and N$1,500 / US$14.50 per night without Breakfast.
I asked for and got a room on a lower floor. The room was large and it came with 2 single beds (alas, I booked too late to get a Double). I had problems with my shower (no hot water) on my first night but they fixed this immediately the next day. The (normally N$150) Free Breakfast was a simple omelette, 2x toast, butter, jam, and tea / coffee. The wifi was excellent and fast enough to stream video.
WHERE TO STAY:
Patan is a quaint Old Town but it is not a picturesque one. There are few nice restaurants and almost no bars. To get the best out of Patan, you need to get into the Historical Zone (shaded yellow on Google Maps) and as close to Durbar Square as you want to walk.
SUGGESTION: Why stay in Patan at all? Why not just do a day trip from Kathmandu / Thamel?
Have a look yourself:
EAT & DRINK:
Consumption of beef is very uncommon and considered taboo in many places. Buff (water buffalo meat) 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 (aka a Nepali Set / Thakali Set / Thali Set). This consists of rice and lentil soup, served with a vegetable curry, a popadom, achar, and (usually) Yogurt and Chutney. If you ask for a meat version, you get an additional meat curry.
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!
Patan is not Thamel. Restaurants are not plentiful. You will, also, not find many street stalls.
For N$150 you can get a simple Breakfast of 2 eggs, 2 slices of toast, butter, jam, and a tea / coffee. You can get a plate of Momo or Chow Main for lunch for about N$100.
In summary: Double the ‘Cheap Eats’ prices if you want to eat in a Tourist Restaurant. Otherwise, budget an average of N$150 for a simple Breakfast, N$150 for a simple Lunch with Fruit Drink, N$200 for a simple Dinner (excluding alcohol), and N$25 for a 1L bottle of water.
You won’t find any ‘Happy Hours’. A local 650ml beer in one of the cheaper restaurants will cost N$350.
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 Kathmandu Ring Road encircles the central part of the valley. Connection to Kathmandu over the Bagmati River is provided by a host of road and pedestrian bridges. Private companies operate a number of routes connecting Patan with other places in the valley. Buses, micro-buses and electric tempos are the most common forms of public transport.
If you are coming to Patan directly from the west of Nepal (e.g. Pokhara or Sauraha), you are best to get off at Kalanki and connect to Patan by a local bus. Kalanki is situated at the junction of the Tribhuvan Highway and the Ring Road.
A local bus to Patan from Kathmandu, Kalanki, or Bhaktapur costs N$25.
Since pedestrians and vehicles often have to share the same road, traffic congestion is a major problem in Patan. Walking is the easiest method of transportation within the Old Town area.
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 (a 2.5% fee). Most charge this N$500 even if you only take out N$10,000 (a 5% fee!).
INTERNET / WIFI:
Don’t trust your hotel to provide good wifi in our GRANDPAcking price range. Many hotel reviews say that the wifi is poor.
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.
In Kathmandu, I bought an Ncell Tourist SIMcard (N$250) with a 30 Day Plan (N$650) that included 3GB, 60 SMSs, and 40 minutes talk time. I was also left with a balance of N$38.
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
To avoid the rains, the best time to come is October through April.
WHAT TO DO:
The water conduits, stone spouts, Jaladroni (water tanks), artistic gate ways, Hindu temples and Buddhist Vihars adorn the city. The whole city is said to look like an open museum. Others would say that it is run-down and dirty. It depends on your point of view.
The royal palace has intricately carved doors and windows, and beautiful courtyards adorned with exquisite icons.
During the whole month of May, a chariot festival honoring the deity ‘Bunga Dyah Jatra’ is held in Patan.
To enter the Durbar Square (about 50 sq metres) Temple Complex you pay N$1,000. It is free after 5pm.
Read About – GRANDPAcking Costs if you don’t know how to interpret my figures.
Patan is not really an Holiday Destination so, I have only provided a 7 day budget for comparative purposes. In reality 2 nights is enough.
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$1,223 per night including Breakfast.
I already had the Ncell SIMcard & Plan that I purchased in Kathmandu. I did not need to top it up.
I have allocated 6 days of my 30 day visa cost.
I spent an average of N$814 per day on meals and water.
My COE worked out to be about N$1,901 per day.
COST OF LIVING (COL):
I LIVED to GRANDPAcking standard.
Living Costs: I averaged about N$63 per night on non-dinner drinks … I was on a health binge drinking lots of water.
Entertainment: I spent N$0 on entertainment.
Shopping: I spent N$1,200 on shopping.
In / Out Costs: I spent N$700 on the bus from Sauraha to Kalanki, N$50 on a bus from there to Bhaktapur, and N$1,000 on a taxi from there back to Patan (I missed the last N$25 local bus).
My total COL was about N$2,477 / US$25 per day. This was 48% 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$1,850 per night including Breakfast.
Transportation: There is no budget for local bus trips. I assume that you are here for the Historical Centre and Durbar Square.
Communications & Fees: I have budgeted N$600 for an Ncell SIMcard and 7 day Package. I have apportioned N$2,534 of your two 30-day visa costs.
Food & Water: Your budget averages about N$1,150 per day for 2 people. This is to eat Lunch and Dinner in ‘Cheap Eats’. This includes sharing one 650ml local beer at Dinner time. It also includes water purchased in bulk.
Your COE is about N$3,017 / US$30 per day. This is 59% of your daily budget.
COST OF LIVING (COL):
This leaves you about N$2,110 / US$21 per day. This should leave you plenty to LIVE on … depending on your drinking habits 🙂
Tourist are being targeted with high entrance fees to help pay for the post 2015 earthquake renovations. I, personally, don’t mind making these contributions. However, what is happening in Bhaktapur is nothing short of an official SCAM.
You can do everything that you want to do on a GRANDPAcking budget.
Could you afford to retire here on a GRANDPAcking budget? YES.
Is it a Retirement Location? NO.