Thamel is a small but bustling backpacker town located in the heart of the capital city, Kathmandu in the Himalayan country of Nepal. Thamel is situated at an altitude of around 4750 feet above sea level.
To reach Thamel, there are multiple options to take a bus, which is the most economical but at the same time, it’s important to keep in mind that this will consume a lot of time. The second option is to hire a taxi which is faster but at the same time costly. The third option is to hitchhike and make your way to the town.
Thamel is roughly a 20-minute taxi drive from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu or about a 15-minute drive from the city bus station. Both will cost approximately NPR 500.
Once in Thamel, the best way of getting around is on foot. Thamel consists of a network of small lanes and bylanes which are flooded by hawkers and street vendors. While wandering around the streets, you’ll be fascinated by what’s being sold from prehistoric fossils to modern-day hiking and trekking gear.
An important thing to keep in mind while exploring the lanes is to beware of the touts who will come and try to sell you hashish (a cannabis drug). Especially from late afternoon till midnight, you’ll be approached by not less than half a dozen such offers. The Hashish sold in Thamel is very seldom authentic and most of the times mixed with other substances. Remember that possession or consuming such drugs is an offence in Nepal and can lead to a heavy fine or imprisonment.
While in Thamel, an absolute must do is to explore the cafes and restaurants. For a town which is less than 500 meters in radius, the place has endless eating options. The food options are so many that if you plan on eating one meal from each place, it will take you around three weeks to complete only the featured good places.
There isn’t much to do in Thamel in terms of tourist attractions. The only place worth seeing which is in close proximity to the town is Durbar Square and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The place has an entry fee of NPR 500 to visit the monuments. The Durbar square is totally worth visiting but make sure you don’t go there over the weekend or on a national holiday.
Shopping is another interesting thing to indulge in while in Thamel. There are loads of shops selling everything from woolen wear, fridge magnets, clothes, jewellery and honestly the list is never-ending. When you are shopping there is always something new to discover and put your hands on. Remember bargaining is the key while shopping in this flea market. Whatever cost is mentioned to you pay not more than 50% of that number.
When it comes to accommodation, Thamel has endless options. Ranging from home stays and hostels for backpackers and budget travellers to luxury hotels which cater to the needs of the family travellers and couples. It’s best to get accommodation close to the center of Thamel or in the buffer area around the entry lanes. This will help reduce the walk to enter the bustling area of the town.
Thamel is made for backpackers and that’s evident from the bustling nightlife of the place. There are numerous clubs, lounges and pubs in and around the tiny lanes of Thamel. Some of them are basement party places while others are roof top cafes. Weekends are the perfect time to go with the flow and enjoy an evening where you can let loose. Have some fun before you start your expedition around Nepal.
Two things that you will notice at every nook and corner are travel agents and money exchange centres. It’s a bustling town tailor made for backpackers and trekkers from around the globe.
The best season to visit Thamel is from March to June and from September to November. This is when the place is at its prime for people to move around without much difficulty. Light woollens are recommended even in summers since the night temperature changes drastically as compared to the day time.
If your planning a visit to Nepal, make sure you keep at least a couple of night if not more for Thamel. The town is the kind of place which will grow on you and as time passes you’ll start to like the hustle and bustle of this Kathmandu suburb.
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