As the home of Himalayan Mountain Ranges, Nepal has been a dream place for trekkers and climbers altogether. Every year, tens of thousands of trekkers visit Nepal just to lay their footprints in the Himalaya soil. This annually-increasing numbers contributed to the development of tourism in Nepal.
In Kathmandu, Thamel has long been a hub for travelers, tourists, trekkers, and climber. Outdoor gears can be found at an interval of few stores, with different pricing and products. Cheaper ones can be found at the border of Thamel, in Chhetrapati Chowk for instance.
In Pokhara, trekking gears are literally everywhere on the streets. Himalayan country, huh.
Let’s dive in. Here’s what you must know before shopping in Kathmandu.
Know How to Differentiate Between Genuine and Fake Products
While most of the gears sold in Nepal are fake or pirated products, most of the time they can hold on and do their job well for one long trek.
The Nepalis with The North Face jackets (pirated, of course) there were like: “Sir, Gore-Tex, Gore-Tex. Waterproof.”
Uhh, are you kidding me?
There is a genuine The North Face outlet in Thamel if you’re interested. It’s slightly more expensive than what you find in the West though.
However, it’s still an essential skill to differentiate between fake and genuine products in Nepal. It’s easy. Most of the stores, if not all, in Thamel streets, sell fake and pirated products.
But fake products don’t mean they suck. I personally recommend buying those cheap products from the locals for non-technical gears, like towels, hats, socks, masks, gloves, etc. You get the idea.
Even trekking poles sold in local stores are durable. I bought my pair of poles for Rs900, and it lasted 2 weeks for my Annapurna Circuit trek in monsoon season. It still remains intact.
Anything that is easy to mass-produce does not really make much difference when it comes to fake or genuine products. What matters is quality and durability.
Check out my ultimate guide for backpacking Nepal.
Learn to Negotiate
Negotiate is a golden skill for shopping in Kathmandu and the whole of Nepal. Technically there is no fixed price in entire Nepal. Anything from gears to taxi fares, you have to fix a price quote with the dealer. A lot of travelers were not aware of this and got scammed, unfortunately.
Negotiating is a deep art, I haven’t mastered it. Not even close actually. And negotiating works slightly different in every country. Here are some tips that I think may help you.
Don’t be afraid to walk in a store, and ask about the gears that caught your attention. Step in, grab it and have a good look at it. At this time the dealer may quote you a ridiculously high price.
To get the approximately standard price, cut the price offered to 60% or even half. The dealer will say “No, not possible.”
Yes, they don’t say “impossible”.
Then start from there. The actual price is usually around 75% of the quoted price by the dealer. While you might feel awkward to just reject and leave, it’s your call but I will choose to tell them I’ll come back later.
I got my pair of trekking poles for Rs900, which is the price of ONE trekking pole quoted by the dealer. I was lucky and blessed for the trekking poles were durable enough. It was the first store I stepped in in Thamel. I bought it because it really sounded like a great deal.
Check out the best time to visit Nepal in this article!
Survey the Price and Compare
Do the same thing above in different stores, and you will get the average standard price. The fun part is that most of the stores sell similar stuff. Some are newer than others and some fancier.
The funny part is you may get a great price range for the same item. Rs900 and Rs1800 for the same trekking pole?…
Nahh, I’ll pass.
I’ve found that the stores recommended in the travel guide books are usually more expensive. But they are not usually better. They basically just sell the same things. Just take them as ordinary stores, and compare with other stores as usual.
Once you get the average price, you will know which store to go back to.
Check out these safety tips while traveling in Nepal!
Shop Outside of Thamel
Thamel is a tourism-concentrated hub, which makes sense for all the high price tags you see on the streets. It’s where every traveler goes for shopping in Kathmandu city. You don’t have to be one of them.
Most people do not realize that, once they get out of Thamel, the same items can be dreadfully cheaper. This is more obvious when you compared pharmaceutical stuff, like water purification tablets and Diamox (high altitude medicine).
If you are trying to save money on gears, walk in the direction of Chhetrapati Chowk. Once you are near there, start visiting the stores. You will notice the great price difference. If not, keep on walking until the price sounds sweeter to you.
Here are some examples of my own experiences for your references.
Water Purification tablet (iodine tablets): Thamel – one tablet for Rs25; Chhetrapati Chowk – 50 tablets for Rs225.
Trekking hat: Thamel – Rs1200; Chhetrapati Chowk – Rs550.
You might also like this slow-paced paradise for post-trekking rest at Bandipur.
Be Like a Boss, Say “No, thank you”
“No, thank you” is arguably one of the most used words in Thamel by foreigners. Almost every shop owners, taxi drivers, trishaw cyclists to illegal drug sellers will ask if you want to buy their stuff.
It’s easier to ignore them but I prefer to reject with a smile.
Store dealers in Thamel can be annoying. Deadly annoying. It doesn’t mean I hate them for their persistence, they have to make a living, right?
But it also doesn’t make sense to buy something overpriced just to contribute to the local economies.
Wrapping It Up
Shopping in Kathmandu can be fun most of the time. Interacting with the local communities, learn the way of life there. This is something we will still remember years after leaving the Himalayan country.
Feel free to check out 10 Best Places to Visit in Kathmandu You Should Never Miss if you’re planning a trip there!
Have you ever went shopping in Kathmandu? What’s the best moment you had? Share them with me below! I’m looking forward to your sharing.