Whether you’re going to see the majestic Himalayas or just to enjoy a new cultural experience (and a lot of momos), Nepal is high on many a traveller’s bucket list. There’s so much to see and do, it’s no wonder the south Asian country welcomes many adventurous tourists each year.
Whether you’re just planning a quick trip, or you’re looking to make Nepal your new home, having an understanding of the country’s money is extremely important. You need to know how to manage, save and spend it, and this guide will help. Read on to find out what you need to know.
Nepal’s currency is the Nepalese rupee.
|Names and Nicknames||Rupee|
|Symbols & abbreviations||रु, Rs. (plural), Re. (singular)|
|1 NPR||One NPR is divided into 100 Paisa|
|NPR coins||रु1 and रु2 coins are common. 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 Paisa and रु5 and रु10 coins exist, but are rarely used.|
|NPR banknotes||रु5, रु10, रु20, रु50, रु100, रु500 and रु1000 notes are common. रु1, रु2, रु25 and रु250 notes exist but are rarely used.|
Occasionally, vendors in Nepal will accept currencies other than NPR, like euros or US dollars (though note that some denominations of Indian rupees are illegal to carry in Nepal, so avoid this currency).³,⁴ But this is by no means guaranteed, so it’s a good idea to always have a small amount of NPR with you at all times. Only change small amounts at a time, because it can be difficult to convert NPR back into another currency.
Exchanging money in Nepal is pretty straightforward. Here’s what you need to know:
The most difficult part of exchanging money in any foreign country is getting a fair exchange rate. The best rates will probably come from:
- A Nepalese ATM
Banks outside of Nepal won’t have Nepalese rupees since it isn’t a freely convertible currency.⁵ There will be many exchange desks throughout Nepal where you can convert your home currency into NPR, but your best rates are going to come from withdrawing cash from a Nepalese ATM. Just be aware that your bank may charge foreign transaction fees for using your card to make an overseas withdrawal.
If you do decide to go with an exchange service, be aware that they mark up exchange rates to make a profit, so it’s smart to use an online currency converter to compare rates and see if you’re getting a fair deal.
If you decide to go the route of bringing your home currency to Nepal to exchange for NPR, make sure you bring bills that aren’t worn, torn or tattered, as they’re unlikely to be accepted by exchange counters if they’re even slightly damaged. Conversely, make sure the NPR bills you’re given are free of damage, as some less reputable exchange services may offload worthless damaged notes on foreigners, leaving them high and dry when local merchants won’t accept the bills.
Withdrawing NPR from a local Nepalese bank account will give you the best rates of all, so if you have a friend or relative who has a local account, see if they’d be willing to have some money transferred to their account ahead of time and withdrawing it for you to use.
If you use a service like TransferWise to transfer the money, it’ll be converted at the mid-market exchange rate, with no markups like banks and traditional exchange services tend to have. Your transfer will only cost you a small, fair transfer fee that’s spelled out upfront. TransferWise is also fast, safe and secure.
Another option is a TransferWise borderless multi-currency account, which allows you to hold, manage, send and receive money in dozens global currencies all at once — and that includes NPR. It’s free to transfer money into your account, and outbound transfers are inexpensive with no markups or hidden fees.
Traveller’s cheques are a thing of the past in most of the world, and that includes Nepal, where they’re becoming increasingly difficult to exchange.⁶ Generally, you’re better off using a debit or credit card than traveller’s cheques.
Shops, restaurants and hotels fairly widely accept major credit and debit cards throughout Nepal.7 Although, In smaller towns and smaller merchants, cards may not be accepted, so always carry some cash. Never leave your debit or credit card unattended with anyone.
When using a credit or debit card in Nepal, you may encounter a “helpful” service that offers to convert transactions into your home currency for you onscreen. This service called, Dynamic currency conversion (DCC), actually allows the local bank to set its own exchange rate, which is generally much poorer than the mid-market rate. Always choose to view transactions in the local currency instead to avoid losing money with these hidden fees.
Let your home bank and credit card providers know when and where you’re traveling, or you risk having your cards shut down for what may look like fraudulent activity.
ATMs are common in Nepal’s larger cities, though it may be tougher to find them in smaller towns, especially ones that accept international cards.⁷ Use these tools to help:
Always remember to choose the local currency when withdrawing from a Nepalese ATM, or you risk being charged a marked-up exchange rate.
Nepal is home to a number of popular retail banks. Some you might encounter are:
Siddhartha offers personal deposit accounts and loan services for customers all over Nepal.
Founded in 1937, Nepal Bank Limited is truly a local institution. It offers various deposit accounts, loans, cards and online/mobile banking.
Tourism is a major industry in Nepal, so you’re in good company if you decide to pay this country a visit. And knowing how to manage your money while you’re there will make for a stress-free trip. Good luck, and safe travels to Nepal!
All sources accurate as of June 8 2018
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