Are you in doubt whether is it safe to travel Nepal? The short answer is ‘Yes.’
You may have heard countless stories of petty theft and travel scams from the most popular countries in South Asia for backpackers and travelers alike. The locals and ex-pats may have warned you about the incidents and tipped you on how to stay safe. So, let’s address it- is it safe to travel to Nepal? Here’s the deal-
If you don’t put yourself in a position where people can take advantage of you and keep your wits about you, you will have the experience of your life.
In this article, we have drafted the expert’s advice on how to be safe while traveling in Nepal. But before that, let’s get to know a little more about this beautiful nation.
Nepal has topped the list of best destinations to travel in the world by Forbes and Lonely Planet in 2017. According to the data published by the Nepal Government in 2018, Nepalese tourism saw one million-plus visitors — that’s 134.5% more than there were 10 years ago!
The tourism industry has been working hard to stand tall after the violent earthquake that rattled the nation in 2015. Thanks to the combination of efforts of the government, local businesses, and natives. They are successful to manage to be back and back with a bang with the record number of tourists in recent years.
Nepal, apart from being gifted in terms of cultural and natural heritage, is also cheap and easy to navigate. And as long as you follow your instincts and the guidelines, you will be totally fine and safe to travel to Nepal.
To help you stay safe, here are a few tips you’ll want to keep in mind in no particular order:
- 1. Make Sure Someone Knows Your Itinerary
- 2. A Lot of Research
- 3. Don’t Trek Alone
- 4. Packing List
- 5. Carry Cash
- 6. Learn Common Courtesy
- 7. Staying Healthy in Nepal
- 8. Buy travel insurance
- 9. Drug Possession Laws in Kathmandu
- 10. Book Flights Ahead
- 1. So, is Nepal Safe for Solo Travelers?
- 2. Is Nepal safe for Solo Female Travelers?
- 3. Is it Safe to Take a Taxi in Nepal?
- 4. Can You Drink Tap Water Nepal?
1. Make Sure Someone Knows Your Itinerary
It’s always a good idea to leave your travel itinerary with someone you trust. Let someone know where you’re meant to be at the exact date and time. Emails and phone calls are the best ways to communicate your travel plans, including the hotel booking details, flight numbers, and the ETA and other necessary outlines of your trips. There are many remote locations in Nepal where the phone network or wifi may not be available. Include notations in the details when you expect to be in or out of range as well.
In the event that things go south, you’ll have someone who can act immediately to aid and assist, which may be vital for your survival, especially against natural causes.
2. A Lot of Research
Although it’s self-explanatory, we still want to focus on a few extras while traveling in Nepal. Avid research will provide you with a better understanding of the situation and will prepare you for any circumstances.
One of the best ways to do research is to use our best friend on the internet- Google. Go for phrases like- “Is it safe to travel to Nepal?” Or “Any new changes in policy for tourists in Nepal?”. Getting to know travel restrictions, bans, immigration laws, and safety tips will always be helpful.
In cases of natural disasters, civil unrest, or other emergencies, your embassy will be able to assist you. So check your government website for more information, and know-how to reach them. And note the important phone numbers in case of emergencies.
Note: Dial 100 for Emergencies- That’s 911 for Nepal!
3. Don’t Trek Alone
With the exception of a few popular trekking routes in Nepal, you’re strictly advised to hit the road in a group. If you’re a backpacker traveling alone, you would want to hire porters and travel guides. There are many restricted areas in Nepal where the law forbids you from trekking alone. This applies to all travelers. Trekking in groups is advised especially to those who have moderate to low experiences in high altitude treks.
Traveling in a group gives you a lot of advantages over solo tours. The guides would be helpful in arranging accommodation, itinerary, weather information, and the extras along with accurate information on the particular location you’re interested in.
They are helpful mainly during mishaps, unforeseen situations, and medical emergencies.
4. Packing List
Layering is the key to conquer your ultimate adventure in Nepal. Being a geographically diverse nation, Nepal boasts a hot and humid climate in the south, warm and temperate on the hills and freezing cold in the north where mountains lie. So you need to pack based on location, the weather, season, and most importantly, altitude.
The rule of thumb- the higher the altitude, the more the layering. Bring thermal shorts or trousers, a fleece jacket, and a light down jacket with a hood or down vest. The temperatures in the mountains will reach below the freezing point every night. The accommodation facilities will not have a heating system. So your clothes are the only life support at those temperatures.
If you’re traveling below or around 3500m, pack clothes that are light, with fast-drying fabric and good breathability.
Your backpack can make or break your dream of completing the trek. Pack too few items, and you would miss out on the essentials. Pack too much and you would have a difficult time carrying them around (unless you’re hiring a porter). So, pack smart!
5. Carry Cash
Many places – including other major cities beyond Kathmandu – either don’t accept credit cards or have a minimum transaction amount. For this reason, it’s a good idea to stock up on enough cash to get you by.
Although ATMs are available all over the country, many of them are routinely out of order. Therefore the best way to cash out would be to visit one of the exchange agencies located in Kathmandu. Also, note that not all international debit cards are supported by the ATMs in Nepal. The amount would be given out in Rupees and they come in 100, 500, and 1000 Rupee notes.
Your trekking route may not have any ATMs along the way and even if they do, they are usually out of stock. So it’s always recommended to carry enough cash when traveling.
Note- Traveller’s check is rarely accepted in Nepal.
6. Learn Common Courtesy
Even just a few Nepalese phrases can help you make some new friends, build trust, and get help if needs be. ‘Namaste’ with a smile and joined hands like those on Buddhist prayers will get you immediate attention, followed by ‘Sanchai Hunu Huncha?’ which roughly translates to ‘How are you?’. It’s always a good idea to download Nepali on Google Translator so you have it offline as well, just in case.
Similarly, being a spiritual epicenter of Hinduism and Buddhism, there are some cultural norms you’re supposed to follow. Touching someone’s head is considered very rude. Also, you don’t want to rush in a river or lakes in your bikini in trekking trails. Kissing or PDA is generally considered not appropriate and is frowned upon in Nepal.
Oh, and about tipping in Nepal!
There is no minimum suggested tip at restaurants, cafés, or pubs. While it isn’t mandatory or a part of everyday routine for locals, it’s certainly respected and appreciated.
That brings us to some idiosyncrasies in Nepali people. Using chin to point at an angle to show direction, moving their heads to imply ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, referring to the word timepass and chill as an expression for anything that is frivolous, vaguely silly, killing time, and a guilty pleasure are some of the most common ones. Don’t be surprised if they call you Dai/Bhai (brother) or uncle, those are the terms generally used for non-relations. The locals find it more endearing than calling you, Mr. Bob.
7. Staying Healthy in Nepal
Standing at 4,600 feet above sea level, the capital city is the gateway to the high altitude trekking routes. The popular destinations reach as high as 18,380 feet and the average height looms around 13,000 feet in major trekking routes.
At such dizzying heights, the temperature frequently drops below zero and the wind chills are unimaginable. That coupled with less amount of oxygen in the air, AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) is a common health issue. If you are a beginner or have limited experience, you should take the time to acclimatize to the conditions.
Make sure to pack some Diamox (Acetazolamide) before your trip and start the medications as per the instructions from guides. Give yourself plenty of time to rest and acclimatize before you start exploring the higher altitudes. Also, carry all the extra necessary medication you’re on from your country. Bring medical or vaccination certificates if needs be to ensure you’re safe to enter and travel to Nepal.
The tap water may not be safe to drink in many places. We suggest you use cleaning agents which are described in FAQs below.
8. Buy travel insurance
It’s always better to be safe than sorry. And this makes more sense here while trekking in remote locations in Nepal than anywhere else. In case something goes south, you want to be sure someone has your back and you’re covered. Travel insurance helps you fund your medical treatments, take care of your belongings, and rescue operations chiefly during mountaineering and high altitude climbing operations.
It’s smart to get insurance coverage before setting off for the airport in your country. But if you haven’t done it already, worry no more. Kathmandu offers you with the varieties of packages you can choose from according to your needs.
9. Drug Possession Laws in Kathmandu
Once known as a paradise for hippies for being the last destination on the Glorious Hippy Trail, Nepal has changed a lot.
The possession and consumption of grass are illegal and is forbidden by the new constitution of Nepal. You may not get shot by the police for possession, but it is a serious crime to be in possession of even very small quantities of them. Prison terms for drug offenses can be up to many years and it can take up to a year to even appear before a Judge for sentencing, although it’s not so common.
Additionally, if you involve with these drugs here, it increases your chances of getting into trouble. Possessing drugs here is illegal, and you don’t want to end up in a Nepali prison. Also, getting in prison will take away that privilege to travel to Nepal the next time.
10. Book Flights Ahead
Being a country full of mountains and highlands, along with unpredictable weather, the cancellation of flights is very common. During winter seasons in high altitudes, the fog covers up the whole area leaving very less visibility for the planes to the land. It is the main reason for flights being canceled. This will be a huge issue if you’re traveling on a tight schedule. So, we advise you to spare a couple of days between the completion of the trip and tickets back home.
So long as you are extra cautious, try not to do anything illegal, and stick to the guidelines, we assure you will have a safe and enjoyable time in Nepal. You should not ever put yourself in a position where people can take advantage of you. That pretty much guarantees the safety of any visitors and ranks Nepal among the safest countries to travel.
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1. So, is Nepal Safe for Solo Travelers?
Generally speaking, Nepal is a safe destination for solo travelers. However, if high altitude and restricted areas are your goals, then you’re better off with a partner or a group. The travel agencies will hook you up with a team of other travelers and you will not need to look for one yourself.
2. Is Nepal safe for Solo Female Travelers?
Statistically, Nepal is one of the safest countries in the world for female travelers. The sexual harassment cases are unheard of in years, there have been no registered cases on crime against female tourists and the number of solo female travelers is on the rise.
Dressing modestly, not wandering around the backstreets late at night and not being drunk or drugged, using your common sense, and being aware of local customs. And Voila! You’re all good and perfectly safe to travel to Nepal!
3. Is it Safe to Take a Taxi in Nepal?
Self-driving cars are almost non-existent and you would not want to jump on the limited ones available. Even for an experienced driver, the use of opposite lanes, ignorance of rules, poor driving skills of local drivers, and bad road conditions are going to be a hassle. That leaves you with two choices- public bus, or taxis. Public buses are cheaper, but usually, pack and it would be hard to communicate about your destination as the buses are rarely marked with numbers.
Taxi is the way to go! And taxis are safe in Nepal. The rides around the evening and night time are quite expensive compared to those during the day. However, they are, in general, moderately priced and very safe.
4. Can You Drink Tap Water Nepal?
No. Water supply system in Nepal is not well organized and is often contaminated from the very source. This is the reason you should not drink tap water in Nepal. Apart from major cities, many remote parts of Nepal are yet to connect to the supply system and depend upon local water bodies for drinking water. Although Nepalese do not have a choice there, you do.
Always carry purification tablets when you’re going on a trek. Bottled water is available in almost every teahouse, and you can opt for boiling if you rent an apartment in the cities.
Before we wrap up the article, here are some ‘honorable mentions’ for your safety!
- Nepalese have a thing called ‘Nepali Time’ that things happen in. So don’t stress yourself over delayed flights, late pickups, and getting behind schedule.
- Carry hand sanitizers and toilet papers, they come in handy, big time.
- Haggling is very common and expected. So counter offer the sellers after they quote you.
- People will expect you to take your shoes off before entering temples and monasteries. Failure to do so might make others feel disrespected.
- There are no red right areas in Nepal, and anything that has to do with sex tourism is considered illegal. For any other scenario, remember the slogan, ‘No glove no love.’
Nepal performs strongly in the Personal Freedom and Safety & Security index. This ranks Nepal as one of the safest destinations to travel for all types of visitors from all around the globe. Also, with the lowest crime rate in history, political stability, and a high number of tourists every year, Nepal also boasts as one of the most traveled destinations for westerns. So, feel free to pack your bags, get a ticket and fly to this wonderland without having to fear about safety to travel to Nepal, a few precautions and basic instinct is all it takes to finally tick your dream vacation off from your bucket list.