By Linda Ris
A Digital Nomad Guide to Living in Kathmandu, Nepal
Kathmandu is an upcoming destination in the digital nomad community for its cheap living, great outdoor opportunities and its vibrant expat community. After the earthquake the country had to recover and with it came some major improvements: Internet connectivity has reached levels similar to many places in Asia such as Bali and the Philippines. Power cuts have been brought down to a minimum. And more and more places have started up co-working and living places that suit the digital nomads’ needs.
In this digital nomad guide to living in Kathmandu I’m going to cover all the essential knowledge that you’ll need to set up shop here including accommodation options, internet speed, co-working spaces and networking opportunities. For the latest Digital Nomad Kathmandu news become a member of the Kathmandu Digital Nomads Facebook Group.
Kathmandu is a place that is alive with positive energy and is moving forward. Despite being in one of the most poor countries in the world, what Kathmandu has to offer is quite unique:
Here in Kathmandu there is a certain energy that screams at Digital Nomads to come, discover and contribute. Already there are six co-working spaces, 5 community and culture centers, coffee shops and many different kinds of accommodation for a suitable price.
If you are renting an apartment and plan to work from home, personal broadband installation is readily available. There are a number of providers who will get you a fast and reliable connection up and running within a few days for around 20 euros per month with a max of 50 mbps. Because it depends on which area you are in as to which provider you are covered by, your best option is to just ask your landlord or estate agent. Most people I know in Kathmandu are currently using Worldlink.
You best option, is to work from a coffee shop or co-working space, particularly if you are wanting to upload or download anything. You will get free Wi-Fi in hotels and serviced apartments but it may be a little slow depending on your needs. It can be a bit of a hit and miss. Of course you are sharing the connection with others so it will be slower if more people are using it.
A Visa to Nepal will last you a maximum of 5 months per calendar year. You can get a three-month visa upon arrival at the border for 100 dollars. For a two-month extension you go to the Department of immigration which will take a couple of hours. Fast and simple compared to lots of other Asian countries! If you want to stay longer than that, be prepared to encounter a lot of bureaucracy and frustration. Your options are, in level of difficulty in acquiring: Study Visa, Marriage Visa, Business Visa and Work Visa. Read more about a study visa here.
Depending on how long you are planning on living in Kathmandu there are a couple of different options. There is no housing shortage although prices can go up or down depending on the season (the tourist season of March-June and September-November tends to be more expensive). The best you can do is to start in a hotel or Airbnb. It’s even possible to book a cheap Airbnb and then negotiate a longer time of stay. Hotels, guesthouses or homestays can also let you stay for a long time period. Once there you can start finding a room, studio, apartment or house, which can start from 100 euros a month for a room. Many places are advertised on Facebook pages such as Kathmandu Expats or the KTM KTM google group newsletter. Another more local “Gumtree” kind of website is Hamrobazar. Through the advertisements on Hamrobazar you can get in contact with various brokers. Be aware that you always have to bargain on the apartment and brokers can very much hitch up the prices for their own benefits.
There are three areas where most foreigners tend to live and these areas suit different types of foreigners needs:
Thamel area tends to have cheaper accommodation, where in Patan there has been a recent influx of house rental prices. If you want more value for money, move away from this area. For example: for 300 dollars a month you can have a simple Nepali style 2 bedroom place in Sanepa, a decent more western place in Thamel and a luxury place somewhere outside of these areas. For 500 dollar you can get a big decent/luxury villa outside of these areas, a decent 2 bedroom place in Sanepa and a luxury 2 bedroom place in Thamel.
Prices can still vary a fair bit for rental properties depending on how long you are renting for, the location and type of property you are after and your bargaining skills. Bear in mind that once you have agreed to renting a place you are usually in charge of general maintenance and repair. So a better idea is to agree with the landlord that he makes the necessary repairs before you move in.
Bills might not be included in your rent. These can be 20 euros per month for electricity, up to 60 euros a month if you have air-conditioning.
Taxi’s aren’t exactly expensive but they will add up over time if you live further away from the central areas. You will pay around 2,5 euros for a 15 to 30 minute ride. If you live in the central area a simple bicycle or just walking could be all you need. If you need to travel around some more, you can rent or buy a motorbike but the amount of bureaucracy that comes with buying one might not be worth your time. Renting is a bit more expensive than other Asian countries. Also the quality and traffic safety of the roads is not too great, so if you are inexperienced in biking, don’t even think about it. A combination of taking taxi’s, cycling and walking might be safer and cheaper and is what most foreigners who stay within the 5 month visa tend to do.
It’s really easy to get a SIM card in Kathmandu, you can readily pick them up from the airport or many small shops dotted around the city (you can generally recognize them from the Ncell banners) Getting a SIM card is quite a bureaucratic procedure. Have a copy of your passport ready and a pass photo. You will also need to fill out a form including fingerprints. The SIM cards are usually free and you can buy credit from the shop. For 5 euro you can get 3 GB, 600 minutes and 1200 sms with NCell valid for a month. Download the Ncell app to see the packages. There are lots of providers but popular ones are Ncell or Nepal Telecom.
These are located in various places around the city and tend to suit different types of nomads needs. Some are bright, clean with many desks and high ceilings, while others are more laid back and have a garden with more hangout and creative spaces. Check out the map below for one that suits your needs. Prices tend to go from 2 euros a day to 30 euros a month.
These are three of the most popular ones:, There are also many coffee shops all around Kathmandu that have decent connections where you can work for a few hours for the price of a couple of coffees.
Bicalpa Art Center
An art and community place with a nice coworking garden and restaurant, a monthly art market and in the evening there are often bands playing or movies showing.
This is a social eating, drinking and working coffee bar and restaurant. Suited for working if you do not mind the social chit chat around you.
The Platform Inc
A dedicated hot-desking space in a bright friendly office with super-fast internet. Daily and weekly membership is available. Check out the café downstairs for some of the best food, music and coffee this side of town.
Top of The World Cafe
A cosy café with aircon in summer and heating in winter. Lots of plug sockets, decent internet, excellent cake. What more does a digital nomad need?
Quirky coffee shop with incredible coffee - situated above a yoga center, next to a bouldering wall, under a gym and next to a jazz conservatory. Great if you have good battery life.
Friendly café that is also a social enterprise working to prevent exploitation. One of the few places nearby where you can get non-sugary and non-cafinated drinks. Accomodation also available in the Five14 b&b above.
Well facilitated, spacious and modern coworking space. Lot’s of Nepali startups as well.
The only program available now in Kathmandu is one that combines your Digital Nomad work with volunteering. You volunteer a couple of hours per day and get to stay in a house with other volunteers with a host family and an office. For more information have a look at the Volunteer Society Nepal website.
Kathmandu already has an established expat community due to all the NGO’s that work here. This means that there are plenty of opportunities to meet other like-minded people in Kathmandu. Be sure to join the friendly Facebook groups ‘Kathmandu Digital Nomads’ and ‘Kathmandu Hang Out’ to see which events are on.
Kathmandu Digital Nomads has recently set up a weekly co-working event. Then there are some social community hubs that organize regular movie, debating or social evenings. Read more about them here. Another idea is to see if you can join a local NGO and help them, meeting new people and join in with their efforts to make Nepal a better place is a way to make friends and do good at the same time. A random pick of examples of local NGO’s are Volunteer Society Nepal, Disaster Hack, Herb Nepal and Maya Universe Academy. Idealist.org is a free platform where many NGO’s post vacancies for volunteering.
The cheapest way to eat in Kathmandu is at the plentiful local ‘hole in the wall’ restaurants, where you can eat for as little as 1 euro. If you prefer western food, there are many options, but quality and prices vary. If you are a vegetarian or vegan there are lots of choices as well as Nepali food has lots of vegetarian options. In Thamel and Patan area you can find Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian and many more international restaurants. Alcohol prices tend to be quite expensive compared with the food prices, with beer costing around 4 euros in a bar for a 0,66 liter bottle. The top ten on Tripadvisor generally gives a good idea of where to go if you want the best dining places in Kathmandu. Otherwise just ask around and try for yourself!
The big supermarkets, usually Bhat Bateni and Big Mart, sell western and local produce. Bhat Bateni is also a warehouse with different floors for household items, furnishings, electrical appliances and clothes an shoes. Ideal for your first household items shopping!
There are many gyms and fitness studios available in Kathmandu but there is a big difference between the local gyms with basic equipment and expat oriented gyms, with good equipment and western prices. Some even come with spa’s and massages included, for 300 euros a month. The pump and Nirvana Wellness Centre are considered good gyms. There are also a lot of yoga studios that also offer retreats, such as Pranamaya.
Because you are out of the city and into the hills in no time, Kathmandu offers a lot of hiking, running and mountain biking options. There are trailrunning events almost every week and you can join walking groups or get a guide to get out of the city and start hiking. There is also a running and social drinking group called Himalayan Hash House Harriers that sets a trail outside of the city every week, followed by drinking a beer or two. Not for the faint hearted! You can also join mountain biking or motor clubs that go for morning or weekend rides in the valley. The bicycle shops Single Track and Bike Station have informal mountain biking clubs.
Then there are plenty of massage places offering a whole range of relaxing treatments throughout Kathmandu for less than 10 euros a massage.
With such a vibrant and diverse community comes lots of entertainment options. There are two areas to go out in the evening, with Thamel having the most and best nightlife.
Get lost in this huge amount of café’s, shops, clubs restaurants and hole in the wall drinking places. Go from one bar to another and find live bands, reggae bars, rooftop hangouts and greasy clubs with bad dj’s. Sometimes you sit on a rooftop terrace and when the power goes out there is a huge cheer of surprise coming from everywhere. Expect a mix of cheap travelers, sporty mountain climbers celebrating their last conquest, the occasional hippy from the 70s, elite Nepali’s and dreamy yoga girls all mixed up and getting more and more cheerful as the night continues. Start with a hookah pipe at the Shisha Terrace, then get an awesome mojito at the Bar Bar Black Sip, continue to the House of Music and pass the Del a Soul Bar end up in one of the worst and last clubs that stays open: Club OMG. There is now way I can describe all the places there and each person discovers and makes friends in one bar or the other. Although it can get pretty rowdy, Kathmandu isn’t a late city and even most bars are closed by 12pm due to strictly enforced regulations. There are some clubs that are open till late and then even later some underground bars behind shutters to be found that are open all night, but be careful of police raids as they’re against the law.
These are a couple of places with live music that are good to start with:
House of Music
Good quality live music where the owner often brings in new local talents or even (small) bands from abroad. The open mic nights are intimate and with a diverse range of music, spoken word and jamming together. Also don’t miss the Holi party when you are in Kathmandu.
The Bar Bar Black sip
If you like the good cocktail, this is the place to be. Krishna will mix you any cocktail you like and you won’t be disappointed. Expect to make new friends in no time spending an evening at the bar here.
The Shisha Terrace
Grab a seat, order a beer and a shisha pipe and enjoy the (loud) live music over the clouds of smoke and a great mix of Nepali and foreign crowds. This is obviously the place to be and your beer is never empty.
Del A Soul
With some rasta guys on the dance floor, eclectic music by the dj and a balcony that looks out over the most busiest streets of Thamel, this is the place where you feel the crazy vibes of Thamel the most.
Take the steps up into an intimate kinda treehouse hangout and enjoy a relaxed vibe with the occasional live band. This a place that can be your regular Friday night catch up and chill out.
Patan has some mellow nightlife that generally entails listening to live bands while sitting in a garden for a beer. Moksh is a nice place to go with the occasional movie or music night. Then there is Nexus Culture and the BAC Art Café for more community events in the evening. You can read more about them here.
The Labim shopping mall has a new cinema with one or two of the latest English films. It also has a couple of restaurants and some international shops. Step into the mall and forget where you are, because it can be any place in this world.
Nestled between the mountains, Kathmandu is also a perfect location for exploring the surrounding areas on your ‘off’ days. There are a couple of nice resorts and nice villages to hang out in and enjoy the fresh mountain air. Such as Nagarkot, Namobuddha and Dulikhel. Read more about them here.
Just a couple of things to note