For years it has been my personal mission to give tourists the best information I can about Nepal travel. It is easier as a “transplant” to Nepal (my husband is Nepalese, and I am American) for me to see the things that would seem a unique and even startling to a Westerner arriving to Nepal for the first time. Of course, many seasoned travelers who arrive to Nepal from India, Sri Lanka, or the Middle East may be less sensitive to the differences of eastern and specifically Nepali culture. None-the-less, for those new to the wonders of Nepal, I would like to recommend you come with an absolute sense of adventure! This is how you will most enjoy your stay when things seem, well, just down right bizarre. But here are a few things I can tell you, just to prepare you for Kathmandu:
1) It’s DIRTY… with a lack of organized taxation and postal addresses in Nepal, things like trash pick-up are nearly impossible for a city like Kathmandu to manage, so expect piles of trash along the road waiting to be burned and don’t be shocked to see it in the river. I will not pretend it’s not heart-breaking to see our holy rivers filled with rubbish, but this is the current reality. Unless you have some ideas to solve the problem, no sense in going on and on about it when you cross a bridge in your taxi or on the bus; you’ll just seem like a patronizing “khuire” – tourist.
2) STRIKE! – Yes, there are these annoying “bandhas” (closures, strikes, protest) which result in EVERYTHING being closed down anywhere from 1 – 5 days. So, taxis, buses, cars and motorbikes are not allowed to drive on the roads, restaurants are not supposed to open (but you can eat at your guesthouse or lodge), and stores and offices must close. You could actually be stuck if you are in Kathmandu, so embrace a good book and the new friends you have made and BE FLEXIBLE. If you were scheduled to depart on a trek or rafting or climbing, your trekking agency will adjust your trip for you. As a tour and travel company, we deal with this all the time in Nepal, so we know how to handle these disruptions. If you are already trekking in Nepal, say Everest Trek or Annapurna Trek, you are unlikely to be affected by a strike. They like to keep them in Kathmandu, where the government can feel the full effect.
3) CULTURE DIFFERENCE — big difference! Yes, we are all human, so there are some truths of the human condition which are unchanging, but don’t assume you know what they are… you might be surprised! What is acceptable for you, something like maybe nudging a person with your toe if your hands are full, or patting someone on the head, are big No-Nos here. Ditto goes for hugging upon meeting, touching someone else’s spouse (no matter how innocent your intent), wearing revealing clothing, talking loudly in a home, wearing your shoes into a home or temple, touching food with your left hand or giving something with your left hand, and on and on. If you need more info., do some research and read my blog post about What to Know Before You Go to Nepal.
4) SAFETY — How safe is Nepal? Well, that is subjective. Growing up in one most violent nations in the world (check the global violent crime stats if you question this) and still enjoying it 99% of the time, I would have to say Nepal is about the same. You have to be smart, like anywhere. Rio de Janiero is an amazing city, you should GO and enjoy, but don’t leave your brain at the baggage check-in of your home airport. Same goes for Nepal. Most people who travel in Nepal will tell you the people are supremely friendly and charming and the scenery is spectacular. All of the is true. BUT don’t get distracted by the sense of peace and spirituality you feel on your Himalayan trek and forget that 1) there is inherent danger in any outdoor adventure, so be prepared for that and 2) remember charming does not always equal well-meaning. DO NOT TREK ALONE. Don’t do anything you would not do at home. If you were in the wilderness, alone, miles and miles (or km and km) from any town or people and you came across a stranger, wild animal, or perilous terrain — what would you do? Nepal has many, many opportunities for desolation, so go with a group or at least a friend. Likewise, in Kathmandu or any where you travel or trek in Nepal, there is safety in numbers and please protect your belongings.
OK, these are just a few basic tips. I am happy to lend specific advice. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org