The benefit of traveling as a couple is we can both research things to do. Because we come at it different ways, we often discover things that we would have missed on our own. Sarah has done this backpacking gig before, when she was 19 and with a few less $$$ in the bank. As such, she became quite familiar with ‘free’ walking tours.
Sarah found a free walking tour offering to guide tourists around Kathamdu. Shiva, the owner/operator is a government registered tour guide and is also qualified to take treks. He runs he free walking tours twice a week, and I suspect these are a loss leader, and good advertising for his guide business, Himkala.
Kicking it off
The tour started outside the Garden of Dreams, which was handy being right next door to the Himalayan Java Coffee Cafe, which serves the best coffee we’ve had in our travels to date.
Shiva was waiting with a small sign, so he was easy to spot. We waited five minutes for others to arrive and as luck would have it, the tour today was just us and a young American woman who had just returned from Everest Base camp.
The tour was run at a pace that suited everyone. There was certainly time to chat amongst ourselves between landmarks. Sarah took the time to learn a bit more about Shiva and his family, while Andrew took the chance to take in our American friend’s experience of base camp.
What we loved
Getting out walking and stretching our legs with a guide to help us explore!
Sarah’s touched briefly on the tour, but we wanted to give Shiva a bit of a plug. He was very knowledgeable about Kathmandu, Newari culture, Nepalese tradition and where this blends with the two main religions of Nepal (Hinduism and Buddhism). We also loved his approach. Shiva proved to be very flexible and was happy to change the tour to suit where we wanted to see. He even saved us 2000 rupees by warning us that we would miss seeing the living goddess, Kumari after getting to Durbah square too late. We were impressed by Shiva’s excellent English and were delighted that he was happy to answer all of our questions.
If we had more time, would have happily have hired him as a guide for a trek. Andrew is keen to return to Nepal for a trek one day and will definitely seek Shiva out. If you’re planning a trip sometime soon, check out everything Himkala offers.
Obviously, ‘Free’ Tour guides don’t work for nothing. They rely on tips from their guests. We were more than happy to line Shiva’s pockets with a few Rupees.
Have you been on any good walking tours, free or paid? We’re in Thailand now, followed by Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia shortly and we’d love to hear your tips. Hit us up in the comments below, on Facebook or Twitter.