5 dos and don'ts for visiting Nepal

Nepal is a beautiful and beguiling country but there's plenty of traditions and local customs to be aware of. Here's how to make friends and not foes on your trip
Unidentified Holy Sadhu men with traditional painted face, blessing in Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu. Photo: Shutterstock
Unidentified Holy Sadhu men with traditional painted face, blessing in Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu. Photo: Shutterstock

Unidentified Holy Sadhu men with traditional painted face, blessing in Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu. Photo: Shutterstock


Do:

1. Take an international multi-plug adapter and voltage adapter

You may come across several different plug point types in Nepal. The most commonly found are either two or three round prongs (not the flat prongs as in the USA). Nepal is 220V and 50HZ, so if your electronic devices are 110V and 60HZ then you’ll need a voltage converter as well.

2. Change all Nepalese currency before departing

It’s illegal to take Nepalese currency outside of Nepal, as well as this it’s a restricted currency. For both reasons, you should change back any Nepalese currency you have before heading home. The most common way of doing this is at Kathmandu Airport, where you can exchange in return for most major currencies eg. £, $ and €.

It’s important to keep your original receipts from when you obtained Nepalese currency (note, this includes cash withdrawals from ATMs), as you may be asked to produce these when exchanging. This is to confirm that you did not exchange currency on the black market (eg on the streets of Kathmandu). If you don't have your original official receipts, you may not be able to exchange back.

3. Carry a torch/flashlight with you at all times

Even in the capital city, Kathmandu, the supply of electricity is not reliable. Power cuts occur frequently throughout the country, both in the daytime and at night without notice. Consequently, any lighting can go off suddenly, plunging everything into total darkness. Many shops and most hotels have back-up generators of their own, however, the switch to back-up power can take several minutes. Our advice? Always be prepared.

4. Support the Non-Plastic initiative

Just like in the UK the issue of single-use plastic bags and plastic bottles is a big problem in Nepal (arguably worse as a poor country like Nepal doesn’t have the same means to tackle waste disposal). In the Himalaya, the issue is even more acute due to remoteness. For example, the Everest region is only accessible by either flying into Lukla and then many days trekking, or even longer trekking from the road-head at Jiri. The amount of plastic bottle waste from tourists buying bottled mineral water is staggering.

You can help by drinking water from your own water bottles* and carrying a re-usable bag with you. To find out more, visit:
www.plasticfreehimalaya.org

* Most trekking lodges can provide safe drinking water and your guide will also advise you on safe drinking water sources.

5. Insist on taxi’s using a meter

It’s quite probable that at some time (particularly in Kathmandu) you’ll want to take a taxi. If you do, ensure that the driver uses the meter. Note that the fare is usually double after 10pm.


Mark is Insight Guides' local expert in Nepal and can help you plan a hiking adventure. Request a trip itinerary now


Crowded traffic jam road in Kathmandu city. Photo: ShutterstockCrowded traffic jam road in Kathmandu city. Photo: Shutterstock


Don’t:

1. Touch someone's head

Realistically, you don't go around patting people on the head back home but it's important to be aware of the cultural differences here. In Nepal, as with many Asian nations, a person's head is sacred, so touching is an absolute ‘no, no’.

2. Give money to beggars

Begging in Nepal is not as common as it is in India. However, in a country where half the population lives on just $1 a day, tourists are seen to be very wealthy and fair game to a minority who will beg for money. Don't encourage this behaviour by giving money to anyone begging, even the cute little children asking cheekily and cheerfully for “one rupee”. There's also no need to be rude to beggars though. A firm but polite ‘no’ or simply ignoring them is usually sufficient.

3. Drink tap water

Whether you’re in a 5-Star Deluxe Hotel in Kathmandu or a simple teahouse in the Himalaya you should never drink the tap water. Most places will provide safe drinking water. If in doubt, ask your guide.

Remember not to make the common but easy mistake of rinsing your toothbrush (after cleaning your teeth) with tap water either.

4. Buy or use drugs

Cannabis/marijuana grows wild in Nepal: it's literally a weed. But it’s still illegal to use it here.

Nepalese jails are very, very unpleasant places: be sensible and make sure you don’t end up in one.

5. Dress scantily

The Nepalese are still traditional and conservative in the way they dress. To avoid embarrassment on both sides, we recommend that you respect this, by not wearing revealing clothing or sleeveless tops while visiting Nepal. Shorts are acceptable, but they should reach to just above the knee and be modest. For women, it is preferable to wear trousers or a long skirt.

While Kathmandu is a little different, the ‘anything goes’ acceptability is mostly restricted to the Thamel area. Remember that the more remote you travel, the more this advice should be heeded.

While you're trekking, you may just find that dressing respectfully helps with those memorable cultural encounters you’re hoping for. Being inappropriately dressed is a sure way of closing that particular ‘door’.


And finally... a “Do & Don’t Combo”

DO treat yourself to Insight Guides: Nepal. You’ll learn so much more about the fascinating history and culture of the country. And DON’T forget to take it with you on your visit to Nepal.


Mark is our local expert for Nepal and has created trips covering trekking in the Himalaya to family adventures. Browse trips here

How to prepare for your trekking trip to Nepal

Nepal features as one of 17 Asian destinations to visit this year. Find out why here

Looking for an alternative destination? 20 places to travel in 2016