You have probably noticed that living in Nepal is somewhat different from living somewhere in the civilized world. Aside from the usual things you need to take care of – such as finding dwelling of suitable size and cost, in Nepal you need to solve many other issues. For example, over half of the year, electricity comes and goes, though it mostly goes. Therefore, you have no light, no internet, and no electric devices for up to 16 hours a day. Studying with a candle light is inconvenient and unhealthy for one’s eyes. Second, it is not easy to find rent of the quality and size that suits a family of 2 people.
For our first year in Boudha we found an amazing acclimatization solution. The Rokpa Guesthouse had just opened in Boudha, offering very attractive introduction rates for studio apartments. There was electricity backup, internet and they took care of evacuation of the garbage and of ordering gas and water. It was so convenient to have someone taking care of all these issues for the first year when we were totally new to Nepal. This year the management of the guesthouse, which became very popular, raised their prices, but we already felt confident enough in Kathmandu to set on a solo flight, and therefore we began to look for an apartment for rent.
Looking for rent we tried everything we would normally do in Europe – posted ads on the Nepali internet boards, posted ads in coffee shops in Boudha and waited. Though some proposals came from the ads, the solution that we found to be most effective was to walk around, knock on the doors and ask people. That’s when my newly acquired Tibetan skills showed to be so useful! We found many apartments offered for rent in this manner. But… most of them were more suitable for a family of 10 people rather then for a couple. It took really long time to find something small.
|Small local house with goats on the roof!|
You see, all around Kathmandu there is lot of construction. People are building 4-5 story houses, of which the upper floor usually hosts a puja room, the floor bellow it is intended for the owner’s family and the rest of the house is often offered for rent. The apartments are usually very big, each apartment taking the whole floor. Many apartments we saw had 4-5 bedrooms, 2 living rooms, 3 toilets, dining room and a kitchen big enough to play football in. Some also had 3-4 balconies; just to make sure you have enough space. It was all way too big for us.
Another issue was the really weird space management in some apartments. It was not uncommon to find a huge hallway with a window, followed by a wall, and an entirely dark windowless bedroom behind it. How can you live in a room without a window? Or in many apartments there was a barred gate instead of a wall and a door at the staircase to apartment. Consequently you could hear all that your neighbors do, smell all they cook, and in return, your neighbors would know all that is going on in your place. Very noisy and no privacy whatsoever.
And finally, it was not always easy to get the owners to give us, westerners, realistic price for their property. So you just have to bargain 🙂
As to electricity issue, we solved it buying an inverter battery and a UPS. These devices don’t require installation, all you need is to plug them to the socket in wall, let the battery charge for a few hours, and it’s ready for use. Our battery provides enough power to maintain two laptops, one table lamp and a router for the whole day. It is obviously strong enough to power another bulb or two. Since it keeps the router on, it doesn’t only solve the power issue for computers, but also allows us to have 24-hour internet.
Having moved to our new apartment, we found a solution to ordering ourselves gas and bottled drinking water. Since we live a bit out of the touristy zone of Boudha, where most people speak at least some English, the shop owners in our area speak only Nepali. When we went for water the first time, we went with our landlady. She introduced us to the water and gas shop’s owner, so now when he receives a phone call in a mixture of Nepali and English, he knows exactly where to deliver.
To conclude – it is not very easy to live in Kathmandu on your own. But it is an interesting experience, and there are solutions to most of the issues you will encounter. We were greatly assisted by advice from students and Shedra staff who have lived here many years already. They helped us easily solve many problems which we really didn’t know how to approach. I would recommend beginning your search for a place to rent well in advance and most importantly – whatever happens – take it easy. It’s Nepal!
By Ales, a student from the Czech Republic