When you think of Nepal, it’s likely that images of its snow-capped Himalayas, ancient temples, and mouth-watering momos come to mind, right?
I’d even bet that it’s unlikely that you think of Nepal as a place to live for a while. (Unless you’re like me!)
But having lived in Nepal for a year, and having recently returned to Kathmandu as a digital nomad, I can say it’s one of the best places for nomads to discover and live in for a few weeks or months.
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I’ll go ahead and say right away that Kathmandu isn’t your typical digital nomad destination; it’s more uncomfortable than comfortable, louder than it is quiet, dirtier than it is clean, and more chaotic than most cities I’ve visited.
But in its thick, polluted air is a swirling, transformative spirit that asks you to travel deeper, seek more, and expand your sense of self and that of the world. And that alone is why you should go.
If you’re an adventurous traveler who can work remotely from anywhere, I’d say that Kathmandu is one of the best places you could visit in South Asia as a serial digital nomad.
Yes, Kathmandu may lack a plethora of cute cafes, stable Wi-Fi, and beaches — all things your “average digital nomad” might search for — but what it offers instead is much more valuable.
Here is (almost) everything you need to know about being a digital nomad in Kathmandu, Nepal!
The Digital Nomad’s Guide to Kathmandu, Nepal
Can You Live in Kathmandu, Nepal as a Digital Nomad?
Digital Nomad Visa for Nepal
Nepal doesn’t have a specific digital nomad visa (yet), but that doesn’t mean you can’t come to the country as a tourist and remote worker.
For short to long-term stays of up to three months, you can get Nepal’s Visa on Arrival.
No need to apply for this in advance, you can get this upon arrival in Kathmandu at the Tribhuvan International Airport.
After disembarking, simply proceed to the visa counter (before immigration) with your filled form (which you can do at the on-site kiosks or online at this URL), and pay the associated visa fee which varies depending on how many days you wish you stay in Nepal:
- 15 days — $30 USD
- 30 days — $50 USD
- 90 days — $125 USD
I would recommend staying at least one month in Nepal as a digital nomad, but 2-3 months would be even better.
There are simply so many wonderful things to discover about life in Nepal, and like a good wine, it’s best savored slowly.
As you’ll see, there is so much to do in Kathmandu (and in the country) that a short stay won’t be sufficient to strike a good balance of work and discovery/travel.
Do you need health/medical insurance in Nepal?
You should definitely equip yourself with nomad medical insurance, for example from SafetyWing, before you jet off to Nepal for a few weeks/months.
Healthcare and public hospitals in Kathmandu are not fabulous, and, hopefully, you’ll not need to visit one, but in case you need emergency care or treatment while traveling in Kathmandu, there are a few private hospitals that are considered the best such as Norvic, Mediciti, Grande, or Om.
I have had my SafetyWing nomad insurance since 2018 and I’ve never canceled my subscription. It costs $40/4 weeks and I’m happy to pay it for extra peace of mind in case of an emergency abroad.
Even if medical costs are cheaper in a country like Nepal, out-of-pocket costs can quickly add up.
A hospital visit to treat gastrointestinal upset would be worth taking the insurance.
Signing up takes less than five minutes and you’re covered immediately once you go abroad.
Is Kathmandu the best place to live in Nepal for nomads?
I may be biased since I’ve spent a year living in Kathmandu, but I do think the capital city is the best place in Nepal for digital nomads.
The alternative choice and the most popular place to visit (besides Kathmandu) for travelers and foreigners is the lakeside town of Pokhara.
Pokhara is known for being a calmer, backpacker’s oasis compared to Kathmandu, as it has plenty of cute cafes, hostels, and clubs/nightlife.
It’s also the jumping-off point for trekking in the Annapurna region (Annapurna Base Camp, Poon Hill, Mardi Himal, Annapurna Circuit treks, etc.,), hence its popularity.
Certainly, you could live elsewhere in Nepal as a digital nomad if you wanted to, but I don’t think it’s reasonable or feasible just yet due to the infrastructure, healthcare, and basic amenities or creature comforts that nomads typically search for.
However, that said, if you are eager to adventure off the beaten path and discover remote village life across Nepal, then I recommend lodging and traveling between different homestays in Nepal.
Cost of Living in Kathmandu as a Digital Nomad
I just got back from spending one month in Nepal and my expenses, according to my little Excel sheet, totaled roughly $1200 USD.
That includes all accommodation, food/drinks, activities/attractions, trekking costs (at a reduced rate for business purposes), transport, and even a few miscellaneous costs (like getting two tattoos!).
Of course, your costs may vary drastically depending on your activities, lodging, and where you choose to visit. But I’m fairly happy that this is all I spent (and I wasn’t on any tight budget).
Truth is, and as is the case with almost anywhere, Kathmandu can be as cheap or as costly as you’d like.
Here is a quick look at costs in Kathmandu (please note prices vary):
- Temples and attractions for foreigners — 1000 Rs / $7.5 USD for reference
- Moto taxis across Kathmandu one-way — 200 Rs / $1.5 USD for reference
- Cab taxis — typically 400 Rs +
- Cup of coffee or milk tea — 100+ Rs
- Food in a nice cafe — 400 to 800+ Rs
- Local food price — 100 to 300+ Rs
- A nice meal for two — 2-3k Rs
- Beer — 550+ Rs
- Bus ticket to Pokhara or Chitwan — 800 to 1100+ Rs
- Private tour guides — 500 to 2000 Rs
Best Areas to Stay in Kathmandu
Kathmandu is quite a massive, crowded city and I totally get the angst of choosing a place to stay!
If you are an adventurous nomad who enjoys more local stays than being in the “touristy downtown” then I would recommend not staying in Thamel.
I’d recommend Thamel for short hotel stays or for first-timers in Kathmandu.
That said, if you’re seeking to stay put for a few weeks then it’s definitely cheaper (and I’d argue even safer), to stay outside—or better yet, on the outskirts of—Thamel in the more local residential neighborhoods such as Chhetrapati, around Naya Bazaar, or Patan (which is actually in Lalitpur, not Kathmandu), or Boudhanath or Kapan.
The year I lived in Nepal, I lived in a local neighborhood in the eastern part of Kathmandu called Dhumbarahi, which was just on the inside of the Ring Road — the massive, polluted road encircling Kathmandu’s center.
In my last, most recent month in Nepal, I decided to stay in the neighborhood around the Boudhanath Stupa (Rhamhiti) which was a 20-minute moto-taxi ride from Thamel. And yes, while it was far from the “rest of Kathmandu” I’m so, so glad I chose to stay near Boudha.
Boudha is easily one of the more peaceful places to be in Kathmandu and I got to learn heaps about Kathmandu’s large Tibetan community while staying there. The locals I met and became friends with from staying “outside of the center” was amazing.
In truth, I rarely went into Thamel because nowadays it’s so crowded and full of potential scammers.
Sure, Thamel has good boutique hotel and hostel options, and is nice for shopping or going out to eat or clubbing at night with friends, but other than that it’s not where you’ll find loads of authentic, local restaurants or experiences (there are exceptions, of course!).
Renting & Finding a Place to Live in Kathmandu
Finding a place to live in Kathmandu can be tricky, as you’ll need to balance your budget and expectations/comfort.
If I were searching again I’d look for a place that’s simple but efficient with western toilets, solar shower water, Wi-Fi, safety/security, and a good neighborhood with nearby cafes and services like laundry.
My number one tip for finding/renting an apartment abroad is to rent locally through local Facebook groups.
But since Airbnb can be more affordable in places like Nepal it can be worthwhile to stay for shorter stints and thus have the freedom to travel around the country versus staying in Kathmandu for several months.
Airbnb is also ideal for establishing a relationship with the homeowner, who you can then ask about renting monthly off the platform for a fairer, local rate.
Since I only had a month in Kathmandu—with a trek in the Langtang Himalayas and a trip to Chitwan in between—I decided to find lodging via Booking.com and Airbnb and ended up staying for 2-3 weeks in a cozy homestay/hotel/cafe near Boudhanath called Ananda Treehouse.
I used it as my base and kept extending my stay each time I returned to Kathmandu, and it was a perfect set-up for me as a solo female traveler in Nepal.
Youth/backpacker hostels aren’t much my style anymore (I enjoy my private room!), but due to their cheap nightly rates, you could easily book 1-2 weeks in different hostels in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Community, Wi-Fi, and group activities are easier to join in places like hostels rather than boutique hotels.
For stays between 60-90 days, I’d probably rent one month at a time and keep my plans open and flexible.
Please be a responsible traveler and be careful not to pay more than necessary as a digital nomad with a higher income.
Getting Around Kathmandu
Once you settle in, the cheapest way to get around Kathmandu is via local buses and little truck rickshaws. But that way is not the fastest, nor most comfortable.
Luckily, Kathmandu now has a couple of ride-share apps you can use (similar to Uber/Lyft).
- Pathao — The best ride-share app in Kathmandu for hiring moto-taxis and cabs. It’s also an on-demand/delivery service app. Expect a 20-25 minute ride across the city to cost around 200 Rs for motos and 400 Rs for taxi cabs.
- inDrive — Less popular, but can be cheaper as you can negotiate the price. It’s not worth it in my opinion though because you’re not protected in case of an accident as you are with Pathao.
Note that you need a Nepali number / SIM in order to register for these services, but it’s so worth it. Ncell SIMs are easy to pick up from the airport or anywhere in Kathmandu.
Also, it’s good to know that Pathao drivers will call and ask you to confirm your pick-up location (even if it’s showing on the map..). If they don’t speak English, you can hand the phone to a shopowner or someone nearby to help you. I did this multiple times! 👌
Lastly, when using this service, please verify/confirm with your driver before hopping on the moto.
PS — If you don’t use the apps, you can still hail a cab but you will need to negotiate a bit harder to get a fair rate.
Working Remotely from Kathmandu: Reality vs Expectations
Kathmandu has better services and amenities these days than it did when I lived there years ago, but it’s still as unpredictable and chaotic as ever.
That said, while it’s definitely doable to work remotely from Kathmandu, it’s not as “equipped” for remote workers as some other digital nomad hotspots in Asia.
For example, even though there are some great cafes for working online, there is always something to adapt to: lack of outlets, intermittent Wi-Fi, electricity cuts, loud road noise, getting there, etc.
Sure, it’s not perfect, but being adaptable is rule number one when wanting to be a digital nomad in Nepal.
Kathmandu Coffee Shops with Wi-Fi
You’ll find numerous spots in Thamel where you can whip out your laptop, but there are many more hidden and scattered cafes around the city.
The best strategy is to scout out which cafes are in your neighborhood, depending on where you choose to stay.
In Thamel, my favorite cafes with Wi-Fi for remote working are:
- Masala Beads
- Himalayan Java Coffee (Mandala Street)
- Mitho Cafe Resto
- Cafe Mitini
- Arabica Beans Coffee
Obviously, because I spent most of my time around Boudhanath, I discovered quite a few cafes there that (in my opinion) are some of the best in the city.
✨ Search for accommodation around Boudha here ✨
Ananda Treehouse, for example, has the coziest cafe on the ground floor which is perhaps the nicest place I’ve found to do quiet work. However, space is limited so it’s best not to stay too long to allow guests to come and dine.
Malaya Cafe is another absolute favorite of mine for dining out, but for remote working it’s less convenient as it’s mostly outside and with few outlets. If you go, go with your electronics fully charged and on a nice day, and plan to have brunch or dinner there too.
Uptala Cafe is also a good choice in the area, but it gets crowded. It’s run by the monastery and is a very popular place among foreigners and locals for brunch and its Saturday market. The cafe is also outside but with a bit more outlets and tables.
Coworking Spaces in Kathmandu
I didn’t have the chance to go in person to any of the coworking spaces in Kathmandu, but if I did, I’d check out Work Around first.
There seem to be other cool coworking spaces in development, but Work Around has the best atmosphere and is already established.
The monthly rate for a shared spot costs 4500 Rs and 16000/month if you need a private space.
What to Do & See as a Digital Nomad in Kathmandu Valley
There is so much to do and see in Kathmandu as a digital nomad!
Not only do you have all the historic and cultural wonders of Kathmandu City, but you also have the ancient Newari kingdoms of Lalitpur and Bhaktapur that you can explore plus myriad outlets for nightlife, day trips, outdoor adventures, and more.
Kathmandu might be the chaotic capital of Nepal, which to some may be unattractive and polluted, but you can’t deny it has incredible attractions and sights to see, including seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The seven World Heritage Sites of Kathmandu are Pashupatinath Temple, Boudhanath Stupa, Swayambhunath, Changunarayan, Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, and Bhaktapur Durbar Square.
As I mentioned, not only does Kathmandu have incredible landmarks in the city, but thanks to it being relatively central in the country, it also affords many opportunities for exploring other parts of the country.
Nepal is most certainly—and perhaps above all—a spiritual, adventurous destination for digital nomads. 🙏
You can go hiking in the hills of Nagarkot around Kathmandu, trekking in the Langtang Himalayas, or wildlife watching in the jungly national parks of the Terai lowlands.
Kathmandu has an eclectic nightlife, too, for the nomads among us who enjoy going out from time to time!
From the Purple Haze Rock Bar (my favorite) to the massive Lord of the Drinks club (ranked the 49th best club in the world) to numerous international backpacker bars, if you’re searching for a fun night out on the town, you’ll find it!
Safety for Digital Nomads in Nepal
Nepal might be one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, but it’s not correlated to its safety as many people might automatically assume.
I understand that I have a bit of bias—or perhaps just a bit of luck and a deeper understanding of the country seeing as I’ve spent a year there—but I’ve felt safer in Nepal than in most countries I’ve traveled to.
Even as a solo female traveler (who stands out with long blonde hair and a fair complexion), I’ve always felt safe and taken care of by the locals of Nepal.
Yes, at times, I felt uncomfortable and there were some people (in particular, males), that made me feel uneasy and afraid.
But I’ve come to learn that most of the men who approached me were just curious and wanted to know what I was doing in Nepal. Whenever I’ve asserted myself, and said “no,” they’ve mostly said okay and left, and some even apologized for having bothered me.
That said, despite some uncomfortable encounters, I’ve not felt unsafe living and traveling in Nepal.
I try to always practice “staying safe” by not wandering in precarious places alone at night, choosing my interactions intuitively, and leaving situations where I feel uneasy.
Nepal is for sure a wild, chaotic, and unpredictable country to travel in, but the Nepalese and Tibetan locals are some of the kindest people in the world. They are delighted to welcome you into their home and share their culture(s) with you.
For females especially, you just need to be aware of yourself and take care of your personal space, watch out for/avoid scams, and know how to carry yourself with confidence.
Final Tips Before You Move to Kathmandu
If this will be your first time in Nepal, I’d recommend a short-term stay initially.
Actually, it would be best to keep your plans open and flexible because your time in Kathmandu will either urge you to prolong your stay or quickly book the next flight out of the country.
Honestly, your experience can go both ways, and the spirituality of Nepal will clue you in rather poignantly if you should stay or not.
In other words, Nepal has a way of changing and challenging you.
I think for most travelers it can be a difficult country to visit (emotionally), as you’ll encounter lots of pollution, garbage, overt poverty, corruption, sick street dogs, etc.
Some find, for example, the cultural differences between the concept of “personal space” and overall cleanliness/hygiene can be difficult to adapt to.
✨ As I’ve said before — and have discussed with other international travelers and digital nomads visiting Nepal (whether for yoga training, a trek, or just out of adventurous curiosity) — Nepal isn’t exactly an easy place to relocate to or visit long-term, but it’s so incredibly worthwhile. A personal transformation is almost guaranteed.
If you’ve been on the fence about spending some time traveling around Nepal or living in Kathmandu for a stint, I hope my nomad guide has shed some light on what it’s really like to live and travel there.
Of course, if you have any lingering questions about traveling in Nepal (as a solo female or not) or nomad life in Nepal, please don’t hesitate to reach out!