I spend a substantial amount of the year travelling and working remotely out of different corners of the world and in May 2016 I spent four weeks living and working in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu. Hence, I have decided to write down all key aspects of this city that are relevant for my fellow digital nomads in this post titled The Digital Nomad Guide To Kathmandu, Nepal.
The main co-working space in Kathmandu (and the only one I could find on Google) is called Platform Inc. It is located in the centre of Kathmandu about 10 minutes from the tourist area Thamel. It’s a clean and cosy space with enough desk space area for the number of members they have. In the month I was there I have never seen more than 6 or 7 people working there on any particular day. The internet connection there is fantastic and the staff is very friendly and accommodating. Platform Inc offers hot desk space, a meeting room, a break out area and free coffee and tea. Fee for one month is NPR 10,000 (around $100) and a day pass costs NPR 1,000. I enjoyed working from there for the month I was in Kathmandu.
The only real downside of this co-working space is that it is only open from 10am to 5pm. Due to Kathmandu’s power shedding schedule (about half the day there is no electricity in Kathmandu) Platform Inc uses back up generators to sustain the co-working space. However, they are not able to offer longer opening hours than 10am to 5pm.
Outside of Platform the wi-fi is pretty horrendous in most places. A popular hot spot for visitors in need to wi-fi is the Himalaya Java Cafe in Thamel. However, just uploading word document on Slack can take quite a while so it is far from ideal as a work place for those requiring a good connections. There are various other cafes in and around the tourist area Thamel with wi-fi varying from bad to really bad. Even sending a photo via WhatsApp can be challenging at times. So be warned! 😉
Local Start-Up Scene
Given the difficulties start-ups face in Nepal (bad internet connectivity, daily power shedding, lack of resources, lack of funding, etc.) the scene is very small. At Platform Inc I met a people who were active in big data, education and graphic design. I was also told that the local tech scene is mainly focused on web and app development and some e-commerce. While I was in Kathmandu there was only one start-up event (on big data), which happened on the first day I was working at Platform so I was still settling in and didn’t partake. Hence, unfortunately, I was not able to meet more local entrepreneurs and freelancers during my month in Kathmandu.
Health, Fitness & Spirituality
The main reason why visitors enter Nepal is to go trekking and hiking. The Himalayas are a beloved destination for mountaineers and one of the most scenic places on earth. In Kathmandu the most popular fitness activity is yoga. There is a wide range of yoga studios offering classes for all skill levels. The one that I visited charged NPR 700 ($7) per session.
If you are interested in spirituality, meditation and buddhism you can also spend time in one of the various nearby monasteries. For example, Kopan Monastery, on the outskirts of Kathmandu offers private stays and meditation courses. There are also many temples to visit in and around the city and you will encounter buddhist monks walking all around the city and occasionally playing on their smartphones while sitting in cafes.
If you want to meet other nomads, trourists and travellers the area to stay in and to go out in the evening in Kathmandu is Thamel. In Thamel you find a range of cafes, restaurants, shops, tour guides, hotels, hostels, guest houses, bars and a few clubs. Most people you will meet in Thamel are trekkers and backpackers. There are also a few ‘dance bars’ where you encounter the seedier side of Thamel, although they are not as in your face as they are in other parts of Asia.
Costs (per month)
Guest House (incl breakfast): £$260
Co-working space: $ 100
Food, drink, transport and miscellaneous: $450
Total (excl. flights and internal trips) ~ $850
Coffee tends to cost between $1 to $2. Beer at a bar or restaurant around $3 to $4. A glass of wine $3-$5. Standard meals range from $1.50 to $5. Althought, just as a word of warning, not everyone stomachs the food in Nepal well. Regardless of whether you spent $1 or $5 on the meal.
I would say you can live on $10 a day if you really need to budget. I ended up spending a little more than that on average.
However, if you make your way to Nepal you should visit other places than just Kathmandu. I visited Buddha’s birthplace Lumbini for a weekend. While Pokhara is another ‘must see’ destination for travellers coming to Nepal. A bus to Pokhara from Kathmandu costs $8.
The biggest cost in Nepal are the flights. I flew from Kuala Lumpur to Kathmandu for $150 one way with AirAsia, while my flight back to London cost me $360. Hence, while the cost of living in Kathmandu quite low, once you add the flights it becomes a little less attractive for nomads and location independent entrepreneurs who are still building their businesses and need to budget a little tighter.
Meeting locals is very easy in Kathmandu. Everyone speaks English, especially in and around Thamel and Nepalese people are generally very friendly and hospitable. I made friends at my hotel, the co-working space and at a restaurant where I spent most of my evenings working and dining.
Due to the opening hours of the local co-working space and the all around poor internet connectivity, I would not recommend Kathmandu as a place to stay if you really want to ‘crush it’ in business. There are much better cities for that, such as Penang in Malaysia for example. Personally, I didn’t get as much work done while in Kathmandu than in the months prior when I lived in Thailand and Malaysia. Instead, given the circumstances, I decided to take things slower, worked a little less and focussed on other areas of my life a little more during my stay in Nepal.
Therefore, if you want to take it easy for a few weeks, experience a new culture, meet new people, go hiking/trekking or do a monastic retreat at one of the buddhist monasteries I would highly recommend visiting Kathmandu (and Nepal in general). Is it a good spot for remote workers and location independent entrepreneurs though? In my humbe opnion it is not.