20 essential travel tips for Nepal

Nepal is a beautiful and beguiling country but there are plenty of traditions and local customs to be aware of. Here are 20 essential travel tips for Nepal.
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

Updated: 25 July 2023

Nepal is a beautiful and beguiling country but there are plenty of traditions and local customs to be aware of. Here are 20 essential travel tips for Nepal.

The information in this article is inspired by Inside Guides Nepal - your essential guide for visiting Nepal.


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.

Tangled wires hanging on electricity pole above Kathmandu city street in Nepal. Photo: Shutterstock

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.

At night on the outskirts of the tourist district Tamel in Kathmandu. Photo: Shutterstock

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:

* 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

6. Buy travel insurance

It’s worth taking out insurance before travelling, to cover against theft, loss and illness or injury. Before paying for a new policy, however, check whether you’re already covered: some all-risks home insurance policies may cover your possessions when overseas, and many medical schemes include cover when abroad.

A typical policy usually provides cover for the loss of baggage, tickets and – up to a certain limit –cash, as well as cancellation or curtailment of your journey. Most of them exclude so-called dangerous sports unless an extra premium is paid: in Nepal this can mean whitewater rafting, trekking(especially above 4000m) and climbing. 

7. Be aware that you need a visa

All foreign nationals except Indians needa visa to enter Nepal. These are free (for thirty days) for nationals of other South Asian Area Regional Cooperation(SAARC) countries: Pakistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh. All other nationals have to pay for them.

Tourist visas are issued on arrival at Kathmandu airport and official overland entry points. At the former, queues can be long, so you may prefer to get one in advance from a Nepali embassy or consulate in your own country. Otherwise, have a passport-size photo at the ready; you can also savetime by filling in an online application in advance, on which you can attach a digital photo. 

At the airport, you can pay the visa fee in US dollars, euros, pounds sterling or other major foreign currencies. At overland entry points, officials tend to demand US dollars or Nepali rupees.

8. Book trekking permits in advance

It is no longer necessary to have a trekking permit to visit the most popular trekking regions, but you will need the TIMS card, which amounts to much the same thing. You’ll have to pay national park entry fees for the Annapurna, Everest and Langtang areas. A handful of remote regions are still restricted, and require permits to enter.

The TIMS card is supposed to help the government know if anyone goes missing and to keep an eye on rogue companies; it’s also a modest tourist tax. 

On organized tours it will be arranged for you by the agency. Independent trekkers can get their card from the Tourist Service Center offices in Kathmandu and at the Nepal Tourism Board in Pokhara or through TAAN, the Trekking Agencies’Association of Nepal, which has offices in Maligaon, Kathmandu, and Lakeside, Pokhara. 

You’ll need your passport and two passport photos – the latter easily and inexpensively obtained in Thamel and Lakeside.

On this Inside Guides trip to Exclusive Everest, you will trek in the Everest region of Nepal's Himalayas, absorbing spectacular views at every step, including Everest rising above the Nuptse Ridge, Lhotse, the iconic peak of Ama Dablam and other Himalayan giants too. 

Trekking in Lantang, Nepal. Photo: Shutterstock

9. Consider buying a local sim card

Mobile phone coverage is now found across the country, even in some trekking areas. You can generally use foreign SIM cards in Nepal, but it is far cheaper to buy a local one: Ncell is currently themost popular network, though it is not the best choice when in the mountains. 

When you buy a SIM (from Rs99) you’ll need to take photo copies of your passport and visa, and a passport photo; it can take up to half an hour to process. “Touristpackages” are available quickly and easily at Kathmandu international airport, and this is generally the best place to pick up a SIM, although you do still need to present an ID photo.

10. Bargain at street shops

You’ll inevitably pay over the odds for things at first, and it may even feel as if people are charging you as much as they think they can get away with ,but that’s hardly a market principle exclusive to Nepal. Bargain where appropriate, but don’t begrudge a few rupees to someone who has worked hard for them.

Selling fruits on the street in Kathmandu. Photo: Shutterstock


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’.

Nepalese sadhu man meditating on the street of Kathmandu. Photo: Shutterstock

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’.

Spining praying wheels. Photo: Shutterstock

6. Use your left hand for eating or passing things

If eating with your hands, use the right one only. The left hand is reserved for washing yourself after defecating; you can use it to hold a glass or utensil while you eat, but don’t wipe your mouth, or passfood with it. 

It’s considered good manners to give and receive everything with the right hand. In order to convey respect, offer money, food or gifts with both hands, or with the right hand while the left touches the wrist.

7. Touch Hindu nor Buddhist sacred objets

Major Hindu temples or their inner most sanctums are usually off-limits to nonbelievers, who are a possible cause of ritual pollution. Where you are allowed in, be respectful: take your shoes off before entering, don’t take photos unless you’ve asked permission, and leave a few rupees in the donation box. Try not to touch offerings or shrines. Leather is usually not allowed in temple precincts.

Similar sensitivity is due at Buddhist temples and monasteries. If you’re granted an audience witha lama, it’s traditional to present him with a kata (a ceremonial white scarf, usually sold nearby). Walk around Buddhist stupas and monuments clockwise.

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Bowls with donated money at the Swayambhunath temple in Kathmandu. Photo: Shutterstock

8. Eat directly from a common pot

Probably the greatest number of Nepali taboos are to do with food. One underlying principle is that once you’ve touched something to your lips, it’s polluted (jutho) for everyone else. 

If you take a sip from someone else’s water bottle, try not to let it touch your lips (and the same applies if it’s your own). Don’t eat off someone else’s plate or offer anyone food you’ve taken a bite of, and don’t touch cooked food until you’ve bought it.

9. Eat beef

The cow is considered a sacred animal in the Hindu religion, which is the main religion practised in Nepal. The locals believe that cows are sacred and hold a special connection with the divine. Hence, eating beef in front of Nepalis is considered highly disrespectful and offensive to the religious beliefs of the majority of the country's population.

Holy cows and pigeons in Durbar Square, Kathmandu. Photo: Shutterstock

10. Get angry in public places

In Nepal, politeness, modesty and maintaining harmony in communication are generally valued. Public displays of anger may be seen as inappropriate and disrespectful to others.
Also, Nepali society places great emphasis on maintaining social harmony and avoiding conflict in public places. Anger can disturb the peaceful atmosphere and lead to misunderstandings or embarrassing situations.

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.

Ready to head off on your next adventure?

Our local travel experts can plan wonderful solo trips for you. Simply get in touch to let us know your ideas for the trip and when you would like to travel. 

We will then create a personalized itinerary especially, which you can amend until you are totally happy with every detail before booking. Browse our existing itineraries for inspiration, and keep in mind that all of our planned itineraries can be tailored to meet your specific needs.

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