I understand that buying bus tickets or tours from travel agencies is going to be more expensive than buying from the source. They need to get theirs as like the rest of us. However, many travel agencies get too greedy. We didn’t use them very often, but we did need one to get bus tickets for Bardia. The other travel agents were charging 400-500 rps more than Swissa. Swissa was always on time for everything they said they would do, but more importantly, they were always honest. They didn’t try to upsell us on our bus, and they gave us an honest opinion about Bardia. We had other friends who used them and were very happy about their service as well.
Some days you want fruit. Some days you want a cookie. Some days it’s ice cream, and some days it’s cake. If you want all this, mixed in a bowl chances are you are stoned and should go to Cookie Walla. Most items on the menu revolve around the same theme: get a bunch of deliciousness, and put it in a bowl. My favorite is the king: chocolate syrup and condensed milk sprinkled on top of a brownie/cake thing stacked on top of ice cream, stacked on top of bananas, stacked on top of crushed cookies. All this for 200 rps. Go there, you won’t be disappointed.
A cheap place for your yogurt or yak cheese fix.
There were some days when Robin and I ate dinner early. After looking at the time we realized that we would have to wait another hour before 50% off time at Mandap Bakery. What were we to do? Head over to the Cheese and Yogurt Place of course. Here you can get a tasty and healthyish cup of sweet yogurt for only 25 rps and some vacuum-sealed yak cheese to eat with the rolls you got from Mandap bakery the night before.
Between preparing for our treks and applying for our Indian visa we spent way more time in Kathmandu than we would have liked to. Fortunately, it is a very cheap city with a climbing gym so we were just able to keep entertained while we were here. While we were here India was withholding fuel so many of the restaurants were closed or had limited menus. Despite this, we found several places to eat amazing food on the cheap. There are also several tourist sites to check out and you could easily spend and afternoon wandering the alleys and people watching.
One of the more honest trekking shops in Thamel.
I did most of my gear shopping at Shonas, but I did a bit here in Holyland. The family here is very friendly. Like Shonas, they are honest about what was genuine and what was knockoff. They also give good advice. Unlike Shonas, they are not fixed price so you have to do a little bit of haggling. They had a few items I needed that Shonas did not, a certain battery that I needed for my steripen (CR 123) and hiking boots. They didn’t have any boots that I wanted so I went to the Northface store for that, but the batteries they sold at a good price. My suggestion to get everything you can first at Shonas then to go here for anything else you missed.
Robin and I are usually all about finding the cheapest lodging that satisfies the most basic human needs, but we stayed here before and between treks so that we could do our treks without knowing our stored luggage would be safe. This place is very comfortable and is a good value for the money. The beds are comfortable with soft mattresses and warm down comforters. It comes with a huge breakfast, which consists of two eggs, two pieces of toast with butter and jam, banana porridge, a glass of juice, and a small pot of coffee or tea. It is very clean, and has a guard so it is also safe. The manager, Saput, is very knowledgeable of Kathmandu as well as the popular treks since he used to be a guide.
Avalon House has a few negatives. First, there is much cheaper lodging to be found. Second, the wifi there is not very good. There were often times when too many people were using it and we were unable to even connect. Also, the showers are solar powered so if the weather is cloudy, the water won’t be hot. After three weeks trekking in frigid, high elevations the one thing we wanted most was a hot shower and the shower we got was pretty damn cold. Finally, there are a lot of dogs in the area including a huge German shepherd next door that bark all night and early morning so the second thing we wanted, a good nights rest, we couldn’t get either.
All in all, Avalon House is a good place to stay for a few days before and after a trek, but if you plan to be in Kathmandu for a long time (like waiting for an Indian visa) and are on a limited budget, then you might want to stay elsewhere.