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Last updated : Nov 2009
Kathmandu Shopping
Kathmandu Shopping Guide - TravelPuppy.com
Kathmandu, Nepal's capital, is a good place to do the shopping, particularly if it is your last destination before leaving Nepal. There is just about every kind of handicrafts available in or around Kathmandu. Normally products will be cheaper than where they are originally made, but competition makes the prices low in Kathmandu. The majority of metal, wool, wood and "Tibetan" products are made in the valley anyway.


The capital, Kathmandu boasts one of Asia's largest concentration of English-language bookshops, and browsing them is one of the Kathmandu's main forms of nightlife and many stay open untill 10.00 pm. The bigger ones include: Mandala Book Point, Kantipath - here you can find a good selection of reference, fiction and maps; Pilgrim's Book House, Thamel, north of the Kathmandu Guest House - has extensive reference sections on all things Nepali: religion, mysticism, travel, health, language, development; also maps, postcards, paper, cassettes, incense, supplies; Walden Books, in Chhetrapati is good for fiction, both new and used.

Cameras, film and film processing

Kathmandu offers fairly low prices on consumer products. Cameras and accessories are around 50% less than what they are in Europe and in North America. Therefore, if you are thinking to purchase any gear for your trip, you might wait till you get here. New Road is the place to shop - there are at least a dozen small camera shops in and around the Bishal Bazaar. The selection is patchy and some models may be obsolete. If one shop doesn't have what you're looking for, they'll send a guy down the street to get it from another shop that does.

Film in Kathmandu is cheaper than in Europe, or about the same price as in North America. As for film processing, many of labs in Thamel and on New Road offer same-day service. They usually do a good job on prints, but unreliable when it comes to slides. Have important photos processed outside Nepal if possible.

Clothing and fashion

Thamel and Freak Street have a wide range of shops that sell jackets, wool sweaters, mittens and socks, and are amongst Nepal's best shopping areas. Just steer clear of the cheap garments, which fall apart at the seams. Inescapable around here are kit bags, caps and other items with Tibetan rainbow fringes. Hardly fashionable, though many tourists lap them up, are T-shirts and ready-made clothes; watch out when you wash them because the cheap fabrics shrink and the colours run. Tailors, found inside the same clothing shops, are skilled at machine embroidering designs.

Scarf's and Shawls made of pashmina, the Nepali equivalent of cashmere, are cheapest at Indrachowk. Topi, the caps that Nepali men wear the same way Westerners wear ties, are sold around Asan Tol. Sari material can be found in New Road and around Indrachowk. Other traditional textiles are sold in the nonprofit stores.

Some boutiques in Durbar Marg and Lazimpath sell designer fashions with a Nepali flavour, in silk or other natural materials. A few include: Chrysalis, Thamel South; Kee, Chhetrapati; Mandala, Tindhara (off Durbar Marg); Nepalese Handloom Silk, J.P. School Road; Oriental Creations, Makhan Tol; Rage, Durbar Marg; Yasmine, Durbar Marg.

Contemporary crafts

Nepali craftsmen are producing an ever-expanding range of contemporary crafts that change traditional materials or motifs to foreign tastes. These include the amazing forms of dhaka and other textiles, beautiful handmade paper products, Maithili-style paintings and papier-mâché items, toys, dolls in ethnic dress, ready-made clothes, woolen, leather goods, batiks, scented candles, and ingenious articles out of bamboo and pine needles. Most of these innovations have come from a few income-generation projects supported by aid organizations, although many products are now widely imitated.

Many shops in the tourist areas claim or imply that they are outlets for women's skill-development programmes. There's no doubt that they employ women but the question is, on what terms? The following shops represent local nonprofit organizations that adhere to fair-trade principles. For a better selection of outlets, visit Patan's "Fashion Row".

Mahaguthi, Durbar Marg (just north of Hotel de l'Annapurna) and Lazimpath. Aided by Oxfam, it funds a home for destitute women; mainly textiles, jewellery and other gift ideas.

Nepal Woman Crafts, Naksal (near Mike's Breakfast). Traditional handmade paper and paper products.

Sana Hastakala, Lazimpath. Woollens, dhaka and other textiles, also toys, ceramics and paper.

Fine art

Artists in the capital are beginning to create more individualistic works, normally in watercolours. Shops in the tourist quarters sell traditional street scenes and ethnic portraits. Kathmandu also has a growing number of fine-art galleries. These include: Bamboo Gallery, Panipokhari (opposite the American Embassy); Indigo Gallery, at Mike's Breakfast, Naksal. Hosts temporary shows and has a permanent display of interesting non-standard thangka and paubha and other indigenous fine art; Nepal Association of Fine Arts (NAFA) Gallery, Naksal (daily from 10.00 am to 3.00 pm except Saturday; Rs75). Exhibits of contemporary works by Nepali painters and sculptors; October Gallery, inside the Hotel Vajra, Bijeshwari; Siddhartha Gallery, Baber Mahal Revisited. Temporary shows by Nepalis and expats.

Traditional souvenirs and curios

Visitors will not have to go far to buy a khukuri knife as street vendors and shops sell them wherever there are travellers, and there are several shops in Thamel dedicated exclusively to them. Brass sets of bagh chal, Nepal's own "tigers and goats" game, are also as common. Shops and stalls between Indrachowk and Asan sell all types of household brass ware. Small shops in Thamel, Chhetrapati and Khichapokhri (located south of New Road) sell traditional Nepalese musical instruments, while hack minstrels peddle sarangi (traditional fiddles) are available around Thamel and cheap bamboo flutes are sold in Durbar Square.

Sellers in Basantapur Square and Thamel flog an array of Tibetan-style curios. It is all interesting stuff, but most of what is claimed to be silver, turquoise, coral or ivory is fake, and none of it is antique. If it is, have the vendor clear it with the Department of Archeology. Gold and silversmiths in the old city produce fine ethnic jewellery; tourist shops sell cheaper but more wearable ornaments, normally made with white metal. Gem dealers are clustered chiefly at the east tip of New Road. The ideal place to buy traditional glass beads is the Pote Bazaar, located near Indrachowk.

Embroidered bags and boxes of Nepalese tea, found in many shops in the tourist areas, make good gifts. Incense is also exotically packaged and quite cheap and dozens of varieties are available at street stalls and in shops. You can also find many types of essential oils, relatively inexpensive saffron and other spices.

Some handicrafts, though widely sold in Kathmandu, are better bought elsewhere in the valley. Metal statuettes are a Patan speciality, wood carvings are best in Bhaktapur, and papier-mâché masks, puppets and pottery are all better represented in Thimi and Bhaktapur. Kathmandu carpet sellers offer some good deals. Before you buy, check out one of the many factories in the Kathmandu Valley or around Pokhara.

Many boutiques sell identical ranges of Kashmiri style handicrafts, predominantly expensive silk carpets, chain stitch tapestries, and cheaper items made out of papier-mâché, leather, soapstone and sandalwood. The owners of these shops are particularly good at fleecing unwary tourists. Equally unrelated to Nepal are the Afghan and Rajasthani tribal clothing and mirrored textiles sold in some places.