Travelling to Nepal for the first time? Read on, dear traveller. Visiting a foreign country can become a challenging experience if you are not familiar with it. From the moment you step foot at the airport to your last day, you may find yourself in a situation you wish you had been prepared for. Especially silly, easily avoidable problems. That’s why today I want to share with you some Nepal travel tips to help you jump in the plane fully prepared and with confidence.
NEPAL TRAVEL TIPS FOR BEFORE YOU ACTUALLY TRAVEL
Here are some things you need to do at home. It’s called research and you should always do it for every country you intend to visit. And that’s my number one Nepal travel tip. I know you know that, but sometimes we get lazy and need a gentle-ish reminder.
Getting a visa to Nepal is pretty easy*, you can either get it upon arrival or apply for it online. Bring cash in an internationally accepted currency (like Euros or US Dollars) to pay for your visa at your arrival at the airport. Requirements and costs may change so make sure you do your homework. Check here for more information on visas.
*I am talking from the point of view of a privileged European who can travel to most places with my passport. You should always research visa information before you plan any trip.
If you are in big cities like Kathmandu or Pokhara you may be able to pay certain services with a credit card and even in dollars, for example, hotels. However, make sure you always carry with you Nepalese rupees, especially if you head into small villages.
Like explained above, bring some cash in your own currency to pay for your visa and a taxi into the city (no ATM at the airport). You can exchange money at the airport but it gives you the lowest rate.
Once you get into Kathmandu, there are plenty of money changers or even banks where you can exchange your money. If your credit card doesn’t charge you a fee you can also use ATMs. Again, these are widely available in big cities but not in small villages.
Pro tip: If you’ve got spare Indian Rupees from a previous trip you can totally use them in Nepal for the same value as the Nepali rupee.
If you are thinking about visiting different areas in Nepal, make sure to allocate some extra time in case unforeseen circumstances delay your trip. Weather can easily become a problem, especially during the end of the low season when the monsoon is still kicking. Avoid planning the best activity on the day of your arrival into a new city or you might run the risk of not being there on time. During our stay in Nepal, we were delayed on two occasions. One of them was our flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara, delayed because of low visibility. The other, the drive from Pokhara to Chitwan, where we were stuck in a traffic jam for hours due to a landslide.
National and local festivals naturally enhance the cultural experience of any place you visit. Nepal has a myriad of festivals taking place in almost any month of the year and let me tell you, they are so colourful! Don’t forget to add this to your research and plan ahead to make your vacation days match a festival. A few of the most important festivals in Nepal are the well known Holi Festival or Festival of Colours, Women’s Only Festival, Lohsar or Tibetan New Year.
NEPAL TRAVEL TIPS TO IMPLEMENT WHILE VISITING THE COUNTRY
These Nepal travel tips also need to have been thought of at home but can be easily fixed once you are in Nepal.
Nepal’s climate varies greatly depending on the region you are visiting and the time of the year. Whether you go to the mountain, the jungle or both, make sure to check the weather forecast for temperature and precipitations. If you forget, it’s no big deal, you will still have a chance to buy what you need in Kathmandu or Pokhara where there are plenty of speciality shops to cover your (mostly trekking) needs. Indulge yourself with all the North Face knock offs.
In regards to everyday attire, Nepali people don’t normally go bare shoulder despite how hot it can get. If you decide to wear spaghetti straps or very short pants you may find yourself standing out in the crowds, although locals will not say anything to you. In any case, if you want to visit some religious areas you need to be dressed appropriately. I made the mistake of not looking up this information and brought a lot of tank tops, so I had to wear a light scarf over my shoulders more often than not. One of my most recurrent travel tips is to carry a scarf with you, it is a very versatile piece of clothing that can serve multiple purposes.
I visited Nepal at the very end of the Monsoon period and stayed in the subtropical climate area. My preferred attire to walk around the cities were wide pants and blouses and closed shoes. For hikes in the rainforest I always wore long hiking attire (damn those creepy, climbing leeches!), including socks.
Going on a trek? I can’t give you much advice on this, since my last multi day trek (not in Nepal) was 9 years ago. One thing though, make sure that you break in your walking shoes before you get to Nepal, or anywhere for that matter.
Guided visit or tours
This depends entirely on your budget, but I totally recommend you get a guide for at least 1 day in Kathmandu or any of the Durbar squares. In fact, I am regretting what I just said. Just get a guide. If you have saved for an entire trip to Nepal, you can totally add a one day tour to the budget. Not only does a guide enrich your cultural experience, but you are also creating job opportunities for locals.
If you decide to book a private guide (you totally should), check what the expectation is about tipping. Trek tours usually expect a tip that goes from 10 to 15% both for guides and porters. I would say it is the same for professional guides. It’s hard to know because I am married to an American and he will tip for everything, so check with the company or ask around to be sure.
TIPS RELATED TO HEALTH AND SAFETY
Remember that Nepal is a third world country. Things that seem normal and readily available in your country might not be so in others. These Nepal travel tips are extremely important for your wellbeing within the country; and while there are certain things that we cannot stop from happening, it is better to be prepared rather than sorry.
Of all the Nepal travel tips, this one is possibly the most important, Drinking tap water is not safe in Nepal. Avoid it at all costs and use previously boiled water or bottled water. Not only should you avoid drinking it but also brushing your teeth or eating raw vegetables and fruits that may have been washed with water. If you are going on a trek think about investing in a water purification bottle.
First Aid Kit
Honestly, I always bring a little bag with some medicine when I travel, but I have to modify it a little depending on where I am travelling next. Nepal and trekking in the mountains pose some challenges and you need to be prepared in case you feel unwell. Whether you purchase medicine at home or in Kathmandu, make sure you have some stuff for potential sickness like:
Traveller’s diarrhoea. Be mentally prepared for that possibility and bring something with you that could help mitigate the symptoms.
Trek ailments. bring some blister treatment and band aids, lozenges in case you get the Khumbu cough, Diamox (prescription) for altitude sickness and dehydration packages. You will likely go with a group tour so they probably have you covered.
If you are going to the Terai region (where Chitwan is located) from April to October, it is a good idea to bring mosquito repellent. There are mosquitos that carry diseases such as Malaria or Encephalitis B. If you are going there for a short period of time, chances you get infected are really low, but it doesn’t hurt to bring repellent with you (or to buy it in Kathmandu).
Needless to say, but I will still say it: get travel insurance.
Ok, now you have a ton (well, just 8) travel tips to prepare that awesome adventure in Nepal. Being acquainted with a few facts about the country will go a long way and hopefully will make your experience more enjoyable. I hope you found this list helpful, and if you think I missed anything important, please let me know.