Chaotic, messy, loud, colorful, captivating, and completely disorganized!
That was our first impression of Kathmandu as we drove into the city from the airport to our hotel in Thamel. The traffic was all over the place, with people, motorbikes, two-wheelers, taxis, and buses all negotiating tight narrow roads… yet somehow it all works seamlessly!
We completely fell in love with Kathmandu. Yes, it's messy and slightly disorderly, but there's something magical about it that just gets in your skin and makes you quickly fall in love with it.
Kathmandu was our base to start our Himalayan trekking adventures around Nepal. In fact, most gay travelers heading to the city are here for the same reason. The tourism industry here is all geared towards treks to Annapurna, Everest Base Camp, Langtang, Poon Hill, etc. The center of the city is a labyrinth of businesses geared towards trekkers including agencies, trekking clothes shops, hostels, bars, restaurants, and more.
Thanks to the large international trekking community, a small gay scene also thrives in Kathmandu. In this gay guide to Kathmandu, we've put together all our first-hand discoveries of the city's finest gay-friendly hotels, bars, restaurants, and more.
Gay group trek to Everest Base Camp
For the ultimate hiking gaycation, join a gay group trek with Out Adventures to Everest Base Camp. It's a fantastic way to connect with other like-minded fabulous trekkers as you take in all those breathtaking views of the Himalayas. Honestly, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience you shouldn't skip out on!
Is Kathmandu safe for gay travelers?
As a foreigner, absolutely. The tourism industry is such big business in Kathmandu that all foreigners, whether straight or gay, are treated with a high level of respect. As a gay couple, we never experienced any homophobia and only ever felt welcomed by all hotels we stayed in and all locals we met. At worst we were asked a lot – “are you brothers”?
We certainly rate Nepal as one of the most gay friendly places in Asia. However, as with most places across the continent, there is a disparity between the way LGBTQ locals are treated compared to foreigners. Many local gay guys we met told us how conservative Nepali society is. So much so that many guys stay in the closet or lead double lives – marrying a woman in order to please their families. To find out more, read our interview with local boy Tilak about what gay life in Nepal is really like.
Gay friendly hotels in Kathmandu
Kathmandu has a whole bunch of excellent gay friendly hotels to suit all budgets. We tried several and never felt any judgment or unwelcome glances. We've set out below a few of our favorites including a luxury option, a mid-range boutique and the best budget pick.
Kathmandu Marriott Hotel
In a nutshell
- Luxurious five-star hotel
- Stunning infinity pool with views over Kathmandu
- Divine spa for pampering and recuperation
- 2 on-site restaurants and 2 bars
“Opulence darling! We own EVERYTHING!”
…is how we felt when walking into the grand reception area of the Kathmandu Marriott! It's super impressive here.
The Kathmandu Marriott is one of the city's best luxury gay friendly hotels. It's not surprising, to be honest: the Marriott brand is world-famous for making LGBT inclusion a top priority. And we sure felt this as a gay couple checking in – no questions asked about getting a double bed, no weird/nervous looks, everything super smooth!
There's a choice of 214 super elegant rooms, some even with a spectacular mountain view. There's a pool, sauna, and an impressive fitness center. The Thamel Kitchen is their in-house restaurant, which we recommend for getting your first taste of some Nepali culinary prizes – momos, dal bhat and more…
Interestingly our favorite memory about the Marriott was the Spa. Treatments here are divine, which is just what you need after an intense trek – trust us!
Prices at Kathmandu Marriott start from $107 per night:
STAY WITH A GAY LOCAL
Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, avoiding any nasty surprises when you check in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off your first booking.
Kumari Boutique Hotel
In a nutshell
- Charming gay friendly boutique hotel
- Terrace with gorgeous views over the city
- Wooden carvings throughout make it feel like a Nepali home
- On-site restaurant for breakfast and dinner
The place to stay to feel like a goddess!
Kumari in Nepali signifies the living goddess of purity and divine energy – an energy that we certainly felt when staying here!
From the minute you step into the Kumari, you feel like you're entering the home of your long-lost Nepali relatives. The staff really go all out to make you feel welcome. Two blokes rocking up to reception asking to share a double bed? Absolutely no issue or judgment at all!
The overall feeling we got inside is one of modernity. Interiors are sleek with beautiful wooden carving decorations. Our room was bright, spacious and just felt clean – despite Seby chucking his stuff everywhere… he still just doesn't get my frustration with clutter after being together for so many years…
In terms of location, the Kumari is right in the heart of Thamel, which is super handy for trekkers getting ready to head off on their big Himalayan adventure.
Prices at Kumari Boutique Hotel start from $70 per night:
In a nutshell
- Clean, cozy and colorful hostel perfect for budget travelers
- Private rooms or dorm beds available
- Gorgeous rooftop terrace with garden, cafe and bar
- Good location for exploring Kathmandu
Zostel is our top pick for the best gay friendly budget option in Kathmandu. Travelers young and old, straight and gay, all congregate here, creating an exciting atmosphere.
We think this is a particularly handy option for solo gay travelers who not only want to make friends but are also searching for a trekking buddy.
Despite being a hostel, we found the Zostel to be quite classy and upmarket. Despite the price, it didn't feel “cheap” here unlike a few other hostels in Thamel we tried! Location-wise, it's up in the northern fringe of Thamel, just outside the hubbub of the city center. A big plus for us – it's close enough to the center yet nicely located to guarantee a peaceful night's sleep.
Private rooms and dorms are both on offer. They are on the basic side, but for the price you pay, you just can't complain! Our favorite memory from Zostel was the social ambience on the terrace and rooftop area. Here you can enjoy food and drinks while relaxing in the groovy swing seats, looking out at the sun setting over bustling Kathmandu.
Prices at Zostel Kathmandu start from $8 per night:
Gay travel agents
If you're looking for a personalised gay friendly itinerary to Kathmandu and Nepal, our friends at Out Adventures is a fantastic gay tour company. As well as the Everest Base Camp tour we're mentionning below, they also offer a bespoke service where they'll customize and tailor an itinerary according to what you want to see and do. If you're tight on time and want someone to organize everything for you from start to finish, we highly recommend having a conversation with them asap!
If you'd like to join a gay tour group to explore Kathmandu with other travelers, read on!
1. Kathmandu and Everest Base Camp with Out Adventures
This two-week excursion includes plenty of time enjoying the best sights of Kathmandu before embarking on a trek to Everest Base Camp – the ultimate bucket list item! Hiking through the Himalayan mountains and spotting ancient monasteries is just part of this incredible experience. You'll also get to connect with other like-minded gay travelers in a small group setting, who'll soon become fast friends. Your memories of this tour will be just as epic as your photos!
Gay bars and clubs in Kathmandu
The gay scene of Kathmandu is small, but very much alive! There are a handful of gay bars and queer friendly bars mainly in Thamel. We summarise some of our favorites below. Note that whilst these change a lot, we always strive to keep our content up to date via our local gay friends in Kathmandu.
PINK Tiffany is our favorite gay bar in Kathmandu. It's a queer space opened in 2015 by Meghna Lama, a famous Nepali transgender model. By day it's a restaurant but by night it's one of the best places in Kathmandu for the city's queer kids to hang out. We loved it – great cocktails, gorgeous and inspiring people – a fantastic place to connect with the local LGBTQ community!
Open: PINK Tiffany is open seven days a week from midday until midnight.
Location: It's located on Chaksibari Marg in Thamel, in front of the H2O pub attached to Sam's bar.
Fire Club is a straight venue that has a famous gay night on Friday evenings. Most will head to PINK Tiffany first for a few cocktails then come here to dance to Britney and Beyonce till the early hours. The crowd is pretty mixed with everyone from our gorgeous LGBTQIA umbrella. To find it ask for the Reggae Bar (it's famous – everyone knows it in Thamel). Fire Club is located on the first floor just underneath.
Open: Fire Club is open every day from 8pm until 3am.
Location: It's located on Chaksibari Marg in Thamel, a bit further down the road from PINK Tiffany.
Purple Haze is one of the coolest bars in Kathmandu. It's a rock bar with some of the best live music – a mix of rock, grunge, and a few mellow classics also thrown in for good measure. It's not a gay place but attracts a mixed open-minded international crowd. It also has a kitchen serving top-notch food – but it does get busy on weekends, so factor that in if you're going to come here for dinner.
Open: Purple Haze is open every day from 5pm until midnight.
Location: It's located on Paryatan Marg (a side street from Chaksibari Marg) in Thamel.
Tom N Jerry is a laid-back bar attracting an international crowd of backpackers and trekkers. Not gay, but we felt right at home: we even celebrated my birthday here on a Saturday evening in September. It was busy with predominantly tourists and a few locals; no one batted an eyelid when Seby gave me a big kiss to wish me a happy birthday!
Open: Tom N Jerry is open every day from 2pm until midnight.
Location: It's located on Chaksibari Marg in Thamel, in between PINK Tiffany and Fire Club.
Gay Pride in Kathmandu
When it comes to gay events in Kathmandu, the awesome Blue Diamond Society does a fantastic job putting together Pride events. The main one is in August/September, usually coinciding with the Gaijatra festival. It involves a colorful parade making its way through the streets of Kathmandu, which culminates in a solemn candlelight vigil to honor LGBTQ people who died in the past year.
Another awesome Blue Diamond gay Pride event in Kathmandu to look out for is the “Nepal Queer MOGAI Pride Parade” on June 29th. Find out the latest info on the Blue Diamond Society website.
Things to do in Kathmandu
Beyond the sensory overload and mess of Kathmandu, the city is, in fact, rich with many gorgeous temples. There's a grand total of seven groups of monuments and buildings in the Kathmandu Valley that comprise the region's UNESCO listing.
We spent a few weeks based in Kathmandu, which gave us a lot of time to explore the city. However, if you only have a few days, this is more than enough time to hit some of the top spots of Nepal's capital. We summarise below the main ones that we loved and think you just CANNOT miss out on!
Boudhanath, Boudha, or The Great Stupa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the outskirts of Kathmandu. A stupa is a mound-shaped structure that contains relics that are important to Buddhists and is a site of meditation. Bhouda is probably the most famous stupa in Nepal, beautiful to look at, and one of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world. Visiting Boudhanath Stupa is a must-do while in Kathmandu!
Another famous sight of Kathmandu is the Swayambhunath religious complex, which features a stupa, a Tibetan monastery, a variety of shrines and temples. Our favorite part about visiting Swayambhunath is the abundance of cute holy monkeys living in the northwest parts of the site! It's a bit of a hike getting to the top of this spot, 365 steps to be exact, but you're rewarded with beautiful structures, epic views, and cute monkeys frolicking amongst the prayer flags. Totes worth it!
Nepali cooking class
We always make a point to do a cooking class whenever we visit a new country so we can recreate our favorite local meals again once we go home! Nepal has a lot of delicious traditional foods we loved, like the famous momos, yummy dal bhat, and the sweet sel roti pastry. We joined a local cooking class with some lovely ladies who taught us how to make some of the best Nepali dishes, along with lots of laughter and fun!
Perfect for a day trip from Kathmandu is the Chandragiri Hills, which feature incredible views of the Himalayan mountain range including Annapurna and Mount Everest. Luckily it isn't too strenuous getting to the top of this hill as there's a cable car to whisk you to the top where we recommend exploring the Bhaleshwor Mahadev temple, which is believed to grant wishes! What will you wish for?
Day trip to Bhaktapur
If you have time we also highly recommend visiting Bhaktapur, a city near Kathmandu that's known as “the city of temples”. Along with plenty of temples, Bhaktapur is home to a lot of other well-preserved traditional architecture, art, historical monuments, and shops selling magnificent crafts. Visiting is like stepping back in time and seeing what Nepal was like hundreds of years ago.
Where to eat in Kathmandu
Eating out in Kathmandu is so rewarding. Not only is the food delicious (you will never taste two similar dal bhats!), it's pretty inexpensive. We tried several restaurants across the city and have set out below some of our favorites:
Mitho is one of our favorite restaurants for traditional Nepali cuisine that we visited several times during our time in Kathmandu. There's a lovely balcony where you can people-watch while enjoying your meal of delicious momos or dal bhat. They also do Indian dishes like chicken tikka, lassis, and naan bread, as well as a pretty incredible Brazilian chocolate dessert that we are still dreaming about!
Spize restaurant is another wonderful spot for some Nepali momos, but they also serve delicious western and Asian dishes, all for low prices! The staff is equally amazing at Spize, smiley, friendly, and totally charming. This is the perfect choice if you're craving a good burger or some fried chicken along with yummy dal bhat and sherpa beer from the local Nepal brewery!
Seby gets a little cranky sometimes but one surefire way to cheer him up? French food! Luckily the French Creperie Kathmandu exists, serving up mouthwatering crepes, galettes, French cheese, and baguettes. They also have plenty of gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options so no matter what, you'll be able to enjoy something yummy. It's also very cute and cozy, especially the green bike that's always somewhere on display.
Plan your trip
We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own trip to Kathmandu. Read on to find out everything the gay traveler should know before they go.
How to get there: Most travelers to Nepal will fly into Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport as it's the easiest way to get into the country. You can also travel overland from India or China, although some border crossings are only for Indians and Nepalis so it can be a bit of a hassle figuring it out. If you do arrive at the international airport in Kathmandu it takes about half an hour to get into the city center via bus or taxi. We personally always pre-book a private transfer, so we know we don't need to deal with public transport in a new country where we might not understand the language, especially if we're arriving late at night.
Visa requirements: Residents of most countries can apply for an e-visa ahead of time or get a visa on arrival for visits of 15, 30, or 90 days in Nepal. Make sure you check your own personal visa requirements before making plans to visit Kathmandu.
Getting around: The traffic in Kathmandu can be chaotic but luckily the historic center is easy enough to explore on foot. Otherwise, we suggest using cycle rickshaws or taxis to get around, both are inexpensive and available everywhere. Here's a more detailed guide to transport in Kathmandu.
Power Plugs: The power sockets used throughout Nepal are a mix of the standard “Euro” plug and type D which is mainly used in India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. We suggest bringing a universal travel adaptor with you to Kathmandu to ensure you'll be able to use your electronic devices.
Travel insurance: We always organize adequate travel insurance before a trip and heading to Kathmandu is no different. We have been using World Nomads travel insurance for years and would definitely recommend them to others because they provide excellent affordable cover that ensures you will be able to get money back on things like missed flights, lost luggage, illness, or injury.
Vaccinations: It's recommended that all travelers to Nepal have received routine vaccinations for things like measles, mumps, and chickenpox, along with vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, rabies, typhoid, and yellow fever. Make sure you speak to your doctor and check the CDC website for more information before you make plans to visit Kathmandu.
Currency: The currency used in Kathmandu and the rest of Nepal is the Nepalese rupee, which uses the currency code NPR. It's often written as Rs (plural) or (Re) singular. $1 (US) converts to around 118Rs, €1 is worth around 141Rs, and £1 converts to about 163Rs.
Tipping culture: While tipping isn't generally expected everywhere in Nepal, it is a way many tour guides, porters and others working in the hospitality industry make ends meet, as wages are quite low. Some restaurants will include a service charge on the bill, in which case you don't need to tip, but otherwise, we would suggest leaving a five to ten percent tip wherever you experience good service during your time in Kathmandu. Here's a guide with more detail on tipping in Nepal.
Internet access: It is possible to access the internet in Kathmandu, most hotels, hostels, restaurants, and cafes will have wifi except… it's not always the best. Don't expect a super fast and reliable connection here! If you will be needing good access for work then we recommend bringing a portable WiFi device with you.
Online privacy: Internet privacy can be an issue when in Nepal and we've spoken to other travelers who had their credit card numbers hacked while using public WiFi in Kathmandu. We recommend you get a VPN before traveling so you can rest easy in the knowledge that all your online activities will be safe, secure, and anonymous.
Accommodation: We always use Booking.com when organizing our accommodation while traveling as they have the best prices and often free cancellation – which is a godsend when you like to be spontaneous! Their online customer support is also excellent and available 24 hours a day, so make sure you check them out for your own trip to Kathmandu.
Sightseeing and adventure: We also use GetYourGuide to find all the fun things to do and the best tours while in Kathmandu. It's really easy to book activities online and there will always be something you enjoy, no matter your tastes. They also offer wonderful 24/7 online customer support.
When to visit: Spring and Fall (Autumn) are the best times for visiting Nepal so that you can avoid the coldest temperatures in winter as well as the monsoons of summer. However, if you want to travel in the off-season then prices will be lower and you won't have to deal with as many crowds. It's a catch-22!
Gay map of Kathmandu
Here's a gay map of Kathmandu which includes all the gay bars, clubs, hotels, and sightseeing highlights we've mentioned in this post. Use it to plan your own amazing gay trip to Kathmandu!
For more inspiration:
- Read our interview with local boy Tilak about gay life in Nepal
- Find out how to get your Indian visa while you're in Kathmandu
- Make sure you check out our gay India travel guide too
- Find out what it was like traveling through Kerala in India
- As well as why we loved the holy city of Varanasi
- Make sure you also read our interview with India's Prince Manvendra – the first openly gay prince in the world!