It was so beautiful and picturesque that both Zhou and I voted it “Most Beautiful Country in Africa,” even though we only saw seven African countries. Now stick a few awe-inspiring mountains in the background and you have Nepal.
But you know what – we haven’t even scratched the surface yet. How do I know this?
Today we left the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu and headed for the start of our three-week Annapurna Circuit trek. As is customary for two independent travelers finally beginning the independent portion of their world trip, we learned two lessons today. (1) We overpaid for bus tickets. (2) We overpaid for bus tickets, again.
To get from Kathmandu to Besisahar (also known as Besi Sahar, Besishar and Besishahar depending on which map you read), you must transfer buses one time in Dumree. If you book the trip through a travel company in Kathmandu (and there are more travel companies in Kathmandu than there are horrible movies staring Nicolas Cage), they’ll take care of the transfer for you in their all-inclusive price. The first company we went to could get us the ticket for 400 rupees apiece (just over $5) and the second would do it for 500 rupees each. Living up to our stupid American stereotype, we instead chose to purchase the tickets through our hostel, who then booked the tickets for 450 rupees each. To Dumree. For those not paying attention, that’s only halfway to our destination.
Of course we paid before checking out what was going on, and by the time we realized what had happened it was too late. Fortunately for us, it’s very easy to transfer in Dumree, and when we got off the first bus, a helpful man came right up to us to get us on a cheap bus to Besisahar (much cheaper than “those idiot tourists over there” are paying for their Jeep). For 300 rupees each, we were on our way.
And then we stopped.
And then we were on our way… until we stopped again three seconds later. He had put us on the local bus, which would be picking up and dropping off passengers the entire two and a half hours to our destination. The worst part? The locals on the local bus only have to pay 100 rupees to get from Dumree to Besisahar.
Had we been savvy travelers, I think we could have paid only 300 – 350 rupees each for the round trip instead of the 750 we paid. (And I’ve actually been mistaken for Nepali on a few occasions by the locals, so maybe we could have even gotten the local price if we played our cards right). But since the novice traveler is not all that savvy, the moral of the story is:
When in Nepal, do not use your hostel to book things. Price shop a little and use one of the billions of travel companies on the streets nearby. It will spare you a lot of unnecessary hassle, usually for only a relatively small fee. Also, as cliché as it may be to say this, use Lonely Planet. The book actually saved us from paying an unnecessary 1,000 rupee fee for this circuit. Finally, whenever possible, make your mistakes in cheap countries where you don’t lose as much money.
For the few of you not going to Nepal anytime soon, sorry for the lecture. Here’s a few more pictures from today to make up for it.
Pictures of the Day: Color Accent is back in full force!