Living in Nepal as an Expat: 5 years of Life in Nepal as a Foreigner

Nepal has much to offer its visitors and tourists. So much so that some people decide that they want to continue living in Nepal as an expat.

Just as many before me, and many after me, I decided to live in Nepal as a foreigner. I have been living in Nepal as an expat since early 2016. And have lived throughout the country including Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Panauti, Lumbini, Butwal, Kapilvastu, Syangja and Pokhara.

Although it has been extremely rewarding, that has greatly shaped me as a person – I must admit, it is difficult at times, and not for everyone. That being said, depending on where you live in Nepal, life can be very easy, relaxing and full of freedom.

When asked what is it like living in Nepal, I am often bombarded with a million different thoughts, and not sure what to say. If I had to sum it up in just one word, I would probably go with thrilling. 

Depending on how much you immerse yourself into the culture as an expat will directly impact the level of excitement you have on a day-to-day basis.

This blog is an effort to use my last five years of living in Nepal as an expat, to elaborate on what I mean by excitement. And provide information to anyone thinking about living long term in the country, for pleasure or work.

Jaam (let’s go) as they say in Nepali.

What is living in nepal as a foreigner like?

Living in Nepal as a foreigner is not for everyone. However, if you have thick skin, can go with the flow, and are highly adaptable, then you might stand a chance. If you can handle the daily chaos and frustrations of a completely different lifestyle than you had before, you may just find yourself living in paradise.

Five years into living in Nepal as a foreigner, I now enjoy the chaotic-ness, the unexpectedness of everyday life, and the unusual happenings you can find around every corner. This may seem exaggerated, but any day an array of ‘unique’ things could happen.

Some of my favorite are:

  • Losing electricity for the entire day
  • A gang of street dogs barking at a stray buffalo outside your window till 3am
  • Earthquakes that shake you out of your sleep
  • Monkeys trying to fight you and steal your belongings
  • Eating something bad and getting food poisoning

These are some of the low key things that can get under your skin while staying long term in Nepal. These are just the tip of the iceberg, and can even escalate to more severe and unbearable events.

However, for every bad thing that has happened in Nepal while living here, I have experienced a thousand other amazing things. Nepal has a deeply ingrained ‘community’ mentality which brings a sense of belonging to everyone in the country – both nationals and foreigners.

The cliche thing to say is ‘Nepalis are so friendly’! Although this is true, it is much deeper than this. Meeting new people and having a non-intrusive chat (as long as you don’t mind a million questions about your family) is relatively easy, and a common occurrence.

If you are open to conversations and meeting new people, Nepal is a great place to live. Moreover, more times than not, these new connections will become your community, and will take care of you whenever you’re in trouble.

To sum up life in Nepal, I would say it is an adventure that provides you with an opportunity to become a completely new person. A person that has become more comfortable with life and it’s difficulties.

If you are looking for some tips about traveling or living in Nepal, make sure to check out my blog: Travel Nepal Tips: 21 Tips For Traveling in Nepal .

What is the standard of living in Nepal

The standard of living for an expat is going to be completely different than what it is for the majority of Nepalis. With many foreigners living in cities like Pokhara, Chitwan and the Kathmandu Valley, life can be comparable to life back home.

Although it will be comparable, things will be different. For one, you will have to pay a premium for many of the goods and amenities you were used to in your home country. For example, I love cheese – and finding specialized cheese can be very difficult, and expensive. With limited production in the country, I can only find the best cheeses while I am in cities like Pokhara and Kathmandu. And even there it can be difficult to get a consistent supply of it.

To be more exact, Numbeo provides a great round up of living standards in Nepal. The table below is user data regarding different elements of the standard of living in Nepal:

Safety Index62.41  High
Health Care Index57.04  Moderate
Climate Index92.64  Very High
Cost of Living Index25.21  Very Low
Traffic Commute Time Index35.31  Moderate
Pollution Index84.11  Very High
Table showing the standard of living in Nepal for different elements of life

Additionally, Nepal has a quality of life rating of 86.5 which is quite low. In comparison, the United States has a rating of 167.19.

Overall, in terms of standard of living, Pokhara is a million times better than Kathmandu, and most expats would prefer to live there. However, since Kathmandu is the capital city and economic hub of the country, most of the international jobs will be located in the KTM valley. 

The Kathmandu Valley has much to offer and experience for expats in terms of recreation, food, amenities, access to the rest of the country, culture and heritage. However, many people find the living conditions there to not be as good as it can be, too loud, chaotic, and polluted to live there for an extended period of time.

The best case scenario would be to split your time in different cities of the country to get the best of both worlds: access to everything you want, and better standards of living.

Where to live in Nepal?

When it comes to figuring out where to live in Nepal as an expat, there will only be a couple of viable choices. The reason I say viable is because there are only a few cities that will provide everything in terms of food, amenities, activities, and all around good standard of living. However, if an individual can live a very basic life, with limited access to western food or extra curricular activities then anywhere in Nepal is feasible to live in.

Based on my time traveling and living throughout the country, I would recommend the following places to live in Nepal. The table below shows where to live in Nepal, and my opinions on living there.

City PositiveNegativeLiving Score
Kathmandu ValleyKathmandu has everything to offer when it comes to living a comfortable western life: food, entertainment, amenities, fast internet, etc.Pollution and traffic are horrible. The city is less communal, and it may take longer to make a social circle8/10
PokharaClean and beautiful. Lakeside has everything you could want from food and places to relax. Lots of outdoor activities.Most expensive place on the list. Also, once you have done all of the outdoor activities, there’s not much else to do except go to restaurants.10/10
ChitwanHas plenty to offer to foreigners living there. It is the third largest city in Nepal and has plenty of food options as well as entertainment. Additionally, it is home to Chitwan National Park, giving you plenty of ways to enjoy your time. It can get pretty hot here. It may be difficult to find a good apartment or flat for a reasonable price if you are trying to live on a budget. If you are not a wildlife lover, there may not be many activities to keep you busy.7/10
ButwalButwal is an up and coming city that has a lot of investment going into creating new restaurants and activities. I think the city has a lot of potential to grow in the next few years, and it seems to be a ‘young city’ there seems to be a younger average age of residence.Even though I enjoy Butwal, my partner does not. It is extremely dusty and the road conditions are quite bad as of writing this. There is not much to do unless you are creative, and find your niche things to do. Also, it is extremely hot here, so you will need AC to live comfortably. It is quite difficult to find a nice flat or apartment to live in.6/10
LumbiniSecluded and peaceful. You may be the only foreigner staying there long term. There is a strong culture and religious influence, making it a unique place to live.Other than the monasteries and the temples, there is not much else to do. Also there are not a lot of food options, or places to buy supplies if you are looking to buy something more unique. It is also SUPER hot in Lumbini.3/10
SurkhetIf you are looking to be the only foreigner and immerse yourself in what living in Nepal is all about, then Surkhet will be a great place to live. It is a fast growing city that has enough in terms of food options and entertainment to give you a decent standard of life. Living in Surkhet is like living in the Wild West of Nepal! It’s different!Surkhet is nothing like the rest of the cities suggested. There is not much to offer and it can be difficult to travel to and from unless you take a flight. There are less options and can become boring if you are not prepared for a slower way of life that focuses on nature. Will be difficult to find English speakers in the city.5/10
Positives and negatives of living in different places in Nepal as an expat

There are of course a million other places to live in Nepal than these six cities. However, from my time traveling in Nepal, these are some of my go to places to live. Additionally, all of these places I have lived at (except Surkhet – I have only spent a week there) and have enjoyed living in.

My top two choices would be either Kathmandu or Pokhara, make sure to check out my rundown of the two cities, and which one is better to visit and live in.

I have also lived in a village and other small cities throughout Nepal. However, I would only recommend these for people staying short term, or those looking to completely isolate themselves and shed everything related to their old way of life.

Now let’s take a look at the cost of living in Nepal.

How much is the cost of living in nepal?

According to the cost to live in Nepal is USD 385, with it being 195th out of 197 by cost of living. I think that is perhaps low when it comes to the standard of living most people will be looking for. However, as you will see, I have also been able to live in the country for less than half that amount.

That being said, the cost of living in Nepal will drastically change based on where you are living. For example, I have lived in Kathmandu, where I was able to survive off NPR 20,000 per month (roughly USD 150). The money included my rent, utilities, food, transportation and a little bit of recreation.

By no means do I recommend living off that, but it is possible – just a little less exciting than most people would like!

In contrast, I currently live in Pokhara, which has a much higher standard of living and cost associated with it. I live a more than comfortable life on about NPR 80,000 (roughly USD 600). This includes a fully furnished apartment, utilities, food, entertainment, and eating out about two times each week.

  • Pokhara-Apartment
  • Pokhara-Apartment-Bedroom

Depending on your lifestyle, you will be able to comfortably live in Nepal on less than USD 800. If you are a shopaholic, or want to have all services (laundry, a maid, a driver, etc.), you will need about $1,200. I think this amount is more than enough – but I also live a simple life, so who knows!

Let’s take a look at the cities mentioned above when it comes to how much is the cost of living in Nepal. 

City PriceCost of living comfortably for one person
Kathmandu Valley$$$USD 700
Pokhara$$$$$USD 800
Chitwan$$$USD 700
Butwal$$USD 600
Lumbini$USD 400
Surkhet$USD 400
Cost of living comfortably for one person in different cities in Nepal

The table showing the cost of living in Nepal comfortably for one person is based on a moderate lifestyle. This means eating out one to two times a week, while living in a modest flat.

I want to break down the costs even more now, to give an idea of what the overall cost of living in Nepal is.

Cost of living in Nepal:

As mentioned above, a foreigner can easily live in Nepal comfortably for around USD 1,000. But what exactly will this get you?

For example, I am currently living in a fully furnished apartment at Lakeside, Pokhara, paying roughly USD 200. I eat out at least once per week and enjoy recreational activities, and rarely do I spend over $1,000 per month.

To see some of the most common expenses that I incur during a normal month of living in Nepal, see the cost breakdown in the tables below:

RestaurantsPrice in NPR
Meal, Local Inexpensive Restaurant200 NPR
Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course2,000 NPR
Beer (625 ml)300 NPR
Black Coffee / Black Tea45 NPR
Coke/Pepsi (0.33 liter)60 NPR
Water (1 liter)25 NPR
The price of different goods at restaurants in Nepal
MarketsPrice in NPR
Milk (1 liter)90 NPR
Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g)65 NPR
White Rice (1kg)90 NPR
Eggs (regular) (12)200 NPR
Local Cheese (1kg)800 NPR
Chicken (1kg)400 NPR
Fruit – Banana, Oranges, Apples (1Kg)100-300 NPR
Tomato (1kg)80  PR
Potato (1kg)60 NPR
Onion (1kg)60 NPR
Coke (500 ml)80 NPR
The price of different goods at the market in Nepal
TransportationPrice in NPR
One-way Ticket (Local Transport)25-200 NPR (depending on distance)
Taxi Start (Normal Tariff)250-700 NPR (depending on distance)
Gasoline (1 liter)180 NPR
The price of transportation in Nepal
UtilitiesPrice in NPR per month
Basic – Electricity, Water, Garbage2,500 NPR
Internet – 300 Mbps, Unlimited Data, fiber)1,300 NPR 
Phone – recharge card for internet and voice1,000 NPR
The price of Utilities in Nepal
Rent Per MonthPrice in NPR per month
Apartment (1 bedroom) in KTM or PKR20,000 NPR
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in KTM or PKR35,000 NPR
The price of rent per month in Nepal

The prices listed in the tables above are based on current prices in Pokhara. It is important to note that prices for fruits, vegetables and dairy products do fluctuate depending on the season. Moreover, sometimes it can be hard to even find them without going to big super markets like Bhatbateni.

These prices will also be cheaper for local produce if you are living in smaller cities, or in the village setting. However, more exotic items, especially imported goods will be more expensive, and most of the time not even available if you are living in these more isolated areas.

FAQs: Living in Nepal as an Expat

To wrap everything up, I want to highlight some FAQs about living in Nepal. This way I can provide some short and quick information regarding some very important information about staying in Nepal long term.

1. Can foreigners live in Nepal?

Yes, it is possible to live in Nepal as a foreigner. You can live in Nepal on a tourist visa for a total of 150 days per calendar year. If you plan correctly, you can live a total of 300 days in the country without needing to leave. The other way is to get a long term non-tourist visa.

For non-tourist visas there are a few different options, including student visa, business visa, work visa and residence visa (for people retiring in the country). Check out my article on Arrival visa in Nepal: Nepal Tourist Visa requirements and application, for more information.

2. How long can a foreigner stay in Nepal?

Foreigners can stay in Nepal for a total of 150 days per calendar year on a tourist visa. Additionally, if timed correctly, a foreigner could live in Nepal for 300 days straight on a tourist visa. There are also non-tourist visas that can be issued for multiple years.

To be able to live for 300 days straight in Nepal you would need to arrive in the country with less than 150 days till the new calendar year starts. This way, come January, you will be able to apply for an additional 150 days of stay on a tourist visa.

When it comes to non-tourist visas, these are considerably more difficult to get and require sponsorship, for you to start a new business, apply to study at a school in Nepal, or a great deal of savings. To find out more about registering for a non-tourist visa, use Nepal’s Immigration Website

3. How much does it cost to live in Nepal?

To comfortably live in Nepal (Kathmandu) I would recommend at least USD 700 per month. This would include a furnished flat, utilities, food, and some recreation. If you are planning on living on a budget, you can easily get by on $350 per month.

Nepal can be an extremely cheap place to live. If you avoid the touristy areas, cook at home, and budget shop for everything, you can get by on close to nothing. Additionally, moving to a small city or village aways from Kathmandu and Pokhara, you can live easily on a couple hundred dollars.

Want to learn more about how much Nepal costs to live in? Have a look at my blog covering how much it costs to visit Nepal.

4. Is Nepal a safe place to live?

Nepal is a safe place to live with a low crime rate. The most common issues are pickpockets, and sexual harassment. The biggest threat to someone’s safety in Nepal are natural disasters, and transportation.

After living in Nepal for five years, I have had almost zero safety issues. I have had close encounters on public transportation and while driving but that is it.

That being said, I am a male, which has contributed to my overall safety here. I have had foreigner friends who are women that have experienced safety concerns – such as sexual harassment and stalking.

5. Can I settle in Nepal?

You can settle in Nepal, but you will need a non-tourist visa to do so. A non-tourist visa can be a residence visa, work visa, study visa, or business visa. You will not be able to settle long term in Nepal on a tourist visa.

6. Can I work in Nepal?

All foreign nationals need a work visa to legally work in Nepal. The process requires various clearances from government departments, and sponsorship from an organization in Nepal. If you are an expat hoping to find work in Nepal upon arrival, it is illegal and extremely difficult to do so.

It is possible to work under the table in Nepal as a foreigner, but this is not advisable. If you are caught, you will be deported and be banned from returning to Nepal for an extended period of time. Moreover, the wages you will earn working in Nepal will be considerably low.

7. Do I need to know Nepali to live in Nepal?

You don’t need to know Nepali to live in Nepal. A lot of Nepalis understand English in Kathmandu, Pokhara and Chitwan. Even in other cities throughout the country, you should not have any problems getting by speaking only English.

During my travels throughout Nepal, I have rarely seen any issues with people not knowing Nepali. If a foreigner is having trouble communicating to someone, another Nepali, is usually quick to jump in and help translate, or facilitate the conversation. For a deeper dive about traveling in Nepal as an English speaker, check out my article Is English Spoken in Nepal?

Key Takeaways: Living in Nepal as as Expat

So I guess the big question would be: would I recommend living in Nepal as an Expat?

My answer would be yes!

But it’s definitely not for everyone. Living in Nepal as an expat of foreigner can be an extremely difficult thing to do if you are used to a certain standard of living, and access to goods. I have had a great deal of expat friends that have not been able to handle living in Nepal, and have cut their stays short.

Adapting to the culture and way of life here can be difficult. If you are not used to traveling in developing countries around the world, or in a very communal society, you may struggle if you prefer your privacy. 

Another thing to note is that the perceptions in Nepal about foreigners can be difficult to navigate. Whereas, foreigners are expected to look, act and behave a certain way, all while being extremely rich. This can make it difficult to open up and connect with some Nepalis at times. 

All in all, I would recommend Expats to live in Nepal. I especially think the country (specifically, Kathmandu, Pokhara and Chitwan) are great places for remote workers to live longer term. Just make sure that you are ready to break through your comfort zone, have thick skin at times, and be extremely adaptable.

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