Nepal is a small country nestled between two giant nations: China and India. Even though it’s small in size, the identities carried by Nepal are beyond imagination, the people, culture, travel destinations, mountains, and whatnot. Nepal offers once in a lifetime travel opportunities to its travelers and visitors.
And in this post, we’re here with the important things that you need to know as a traveler visiting Nepal. The things range from basic greetings to food and drinks to culture and sensitivity issues as well.
Let’s get started!
1. Basic Greetings
Nepal is a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country. There are more than 126 ethnic communities and 123 languages are spoken here. The Nepali language is the most common language spoken all over the country. ‘Namaste’ is the most common Nepali greeting, which means salutation and valediction. You’ve to slightly bow your head and join your hands together while saying ‘Namaste’. It is the most basic word you should learn while traveling to Nepal. The Nepalese feel warm and respected when you utter this word.
Similarly, Newari language is widely spoken around Kathmandu Valley because of a larger population being under the very ethnic group. Newar people are also one of the oldest people residing in the valley. High influence of Hindi (Indian Language) among Nepalese people since the childhood, Hindi language is understood by many people and also spoken.
Further Reading: Basic Nepali Words and Phrases for Travelers to Help You Get Around
English is a secondary language in Nepal but a lot of people especially the shopkeepers around Bhaktapur, Basantapur, Patan, Pokhara and Thamel areas do understand the basics. “Hello”, “Good Morning”, and “Goodnight” are some of the most commonly used English Greetings used by Nepalese People.
2. Dress and sensitivity
Dhaka Topi/Bhadgaunle Topi is a typical hat worn by Nepalese men that signifies a sense of national pride. Similarly, Nepalese women wear Gunyeu Choli. These are culturally significant as well. But slowly, the modernization is taking over and these clothing has been a part of cultural shows only.
As a foreigner, you’re expected to be sensitive while choosing what to wear. For instance, while visiting the temple areas, you’re supposed to cover your knees and shoulders. Nepalese people are yet to come out of the stereotypical bubble of judgments on the basis of dresses and external appearances. So make sure you won’t be trapped in the judgments of Nepalese people on the basis of your clothing.
Besides maintaining decency, the clothing is highly determined by the climatic conditions. If you’re trekking/hiking to the mountains, it’s very cold up there. Carrying warm clothes such as down jackets, hats, gloves, thermals, trousers are considered to be mandatory.
Similarly, if you are traveling to the plain Terai areas such as Chitwan, Janakpur, Lumbini, you can visit there with t-shirts, pants, cap, and a wind stopper.
3. Sneezing/blowing in front of people is considered rude. So is Farting!
In Nepali community, it is considered rude to sneeze/blow your nose in front of people. Similarly, farting in public is also considered offensive. However, you can avoid people and clear your coughs, blow your nose and fart or go to the toilet for these purposes.
Sounds weird? That’s how it is.
4. Public Display of Affection is not expected
Smooching and public display of affection can be very uncomfortable for the general public in Nepal. And in the village areas, it’s even more offensive to the people as they are not used to such things.
Instead, avoid these gestures in public and save it for later.
Simply greet everyone with “Namaste” and respect the social etiquette of Nepal. In Rome, do what the Romans do.
5. Nepalese are Hospitable People
Nepalese people are one of the most hospitable people on the planet. There is a popular saying in Nepal, which says ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’. The meaning of this saying is treating the guests as gods.
Nepalese welcome and treat their guests with their warmth, smiling faces and with all their hearts.
And in the rural parts of the country, the commercialization is simply overtaken by the hospitality and people are driven to serve more than earn.
6. Caste System and Superstition Exist in Nepal
Caste System is prevalent in Nepal. Originally, the caste system came into its existence on the basis of work division. But later on, the people modified the culture and people from some castes are considered to be untouchables.
The so-called higher caste people treat others as low-caste people (who are also regarded as untouchables).
The Untouchability is declared as illegal in Nepal by the constitution of Nepal. And the positive change is slowly getting into the process. Inter-caste marriage is increasing these days.
Moreover, there are superstitious practices widely followed in Nepal. Practice such as Chhaupadi is popular in the mid-western and far-western part of Nepal. Chhaupadi is a practice in which a female during her menstrual period is kept in a shady/small cowshed like house. She is banned to get outside and see the male members of the family during the entire 4-5 days of menstrual bleeding.
The government of Nepal has already declared this practice to be illegal. Still, the practice is being followed in many areas of those parts of the country.
7. 1$= NRs. 113
Nepalese Rupees (NRs.) is the official currency of Nepal.
1$ is equal to NRs. 113 (subject to change on a daily basis).
There are plenty of ATMs around the city. Also, there are shopping stores and restaurants, which accept payment through a card.
8. Nepal is a cheap and affordable travel destination
Nepal is a cheap travel destination and that’s one of the important reasons why it witnesses millions of visitors every year.
One very important reason for Nepal being cheap and affordable to many people in the world is because of its exchange rate.
Normally a cup of tea costs NRs. 50 ($0.5), a meal costs around Nrs. 300 to 400 ($3-4) and cost of a simple dormitory room is about NRs. 400-500 ($4-5). On average, the cost of a person living in Nepal is around $15 per day.
If you’re visiting the rural parts of the country the cost is lessened to a great extent.
9. Nepal is a paradise for trekkers and Mountain Climbers
Nepal is blessed with high altitude mountains, lush green forests, high hills and fast flowing rivers, serene lakes among many others. With these tangible assets, Nepal is a perfect destination for trekking, adventure sports and mountain expedition.
Thousands of travelers come to Nepal to summit the world’s highest peak i.e. Mount Everest and also the other mountains which are elevated at around 8000m. Some of the popular ones include Nupste Mountain, Lhotse Mountain and Mount Ama Dablam (regarded as one of the best mountains in the world in terms of scenic beauty).
Similarly, trekking is another important income generating factor in the lives of mountainous people. Some of the most famous trekking of Nepal are Everest Base Camp Trek, Annapurna Base Camp Trek, Mardi Himal Trek, Mustang Trek, Thorang Pass Trek, etc.
The trek guides are commonly called Sherpa. Originally, Sherpa is an indigenous community of Nepal popularly known for their mountain climbing skills.
In order to go to trekking, trekking permit is required. For your safety, trek with a guide or in a group. There are numerous examples of trekkers losing their way and getting lost. Some of them even have lost their lives. Trek responsibly and be aware of the risky behavior you’re about to make.
Further reading; Thrilling Adventurous Activities to do in Nepal.
Also be concerned about altitude Sickness and Acclimatization. The higher you reach, the more chances of getting altitude sickness. Ascend slowly and steadily. That’s the key.
10. Food and drinks
Dal-bhat-tarkari is the national food of Nepal. Daal- lentil soup, bhat- steamed rice and tarkari- vegetable curry is regarded as the main meal in Nepal. Because it is consumed twice a day, people commonly have a saying ‘Dal-bhat power 24-hour’.
Similarly, Momo (flour dough wrapped with fillings of veggies/meat and served with spicy soup) is another popular food in Nepal. Chowmein, local street foods such as Lassi in Asan Area are getting popular among the tourists as well.
You have to try Newari cuisine available around Basantapur, Patan, and Bhaktapur areas as the Newari people have whole lots of foods to offer. Aila is surely one of them. It is local alcohol prepared by the distillation of fermented rice or millet.
Further Reading: Nepalese Foods and Drinks
We don’t have McDonald’s here in Nepal.
Did you know? Most of the people in Nepal eat not with the spoon and fork but with their hands, washed.
11. Most of the Nepalese are born Hindu
More than 80% of the people (as per the census of 2011) follow Hinduism. And undoubtedly a majority of the people are Hindus by birth.
In recent times, a lot of people are changing their religion. They’re turning into Christian and some into Buddhism as well.
Regardless of the religion, we follow, we’re HUMAN in the first place, isn’t it?
12. Not Every Hill is a mountain
Being in a country with flatlands, it is obvious to consider every hill as a mountain. But that’s not the truth.
For the very basic understanding, hills are steep with green forests and are not difficult to climb. Similarly, the ones covered with snow can be regarded as mountains. But not all of them are mountains because, during the winter, even the hills are covered with snow.
13. Saturday is a weekend
In Nepal, there is only one day, which is considered as weekend and it is Saturday. Normally, people go out for refreshments, movies, clean themselves, and wash their clothes and take rest during that day.
14. A country full of UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Nepal is a country full of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Out of 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites enlisted in Nepal, 7 are inside Kathmandu Valley. Sagarmatha National Park, Chitwan National Park, Lumbini, Boudhanath Stupa, Swayambhunath Stupa, Pashupatinath Temple, Patan Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Basantapur Durbar Square and Changu Narayan Temple are the UNESCO World heritage sites enlisted.
These places require you to pay an entrance fee. There are plenty of fake tourist guides around these UNESCO World Heritage Sites and so avoid them. They’ll start explaining about the temples and be nice to you for some time and later on, they’ll demand you for some money for their time and effort. You can simply ignore them and move on.
15. Nepal is recovering from Earthquake
Nepal witnessed 7.8 magnitudes devastating earthquake in 2015. And it was the second biggest earthquake in its history after that of 1934 (the magnitude of that earthquake was 8.1).
Thousands of people lost lives and 14 districts out of 75 (now it’s 77) were severely affected. Slowly and gradually the resilient people are getting onto their feet and Nepal is now safe to travel again.
16. Kathmandu: The City of Temples
Kathmandu is commonly known as the city of temples. You can find a temple or two in every nook and corner you pass through. In Hindu mythology, it is believed that there are more than 33 crores (three hundred and thirty-three) gods. With the motive of pleasing these deities, the inhabitants of Kathmandu Valley did their parts building temples.
In Hinduism, worshipping is an integral part of daily lives. The people worship twice a day (early in the morning and during the evening). The temples are not just to please the gods but also an example of giving back to the community.
While you’re visiting the temples, you have to consider a few of these moral rules:
- Remove your shoes/sandals before entering inside the temples and monasteries.
- Always navigate towards clockwise direction around the temples.
- Some of the temples are only permitted to the Hindus and Buddhists. Make sure you check them before entering inside.
- Taking photographs might be prohibited.
- Keep your voice low while walking along the temples.
- Maintain decency with your clothing; covering knees and shoulders.
17. Kathmandu is one of the most polluted cities in the world
Kathmandu is badly polluted. Air pollution in Kathmandu is at rising making it one of the most air-polluted cities in the world along with Delhi and Beijing.
Bagmati and Bishnumati rivers, even though considered to be holy in Hindu religion are severely polluted water sources. It is same with the noise and trash.
18. Kathmandu and Pokhara are load shedding free cities
Amidst all the troubles we’re facing, one of the biggest impacts witnessed by Nepali people in the recent time is getting away from power cuts. Kathmandu and Pokhara have already been declared as load shedding free cities.
More of the hydropower projects are under the process of completion and the whole country is soon to be load shedding free. What seemed to be a dream-like statement before 5-7 years before is turning into a reality now. A huge thanks to the man behind the success; Mr. Kul Man Ghising!
19. Tap water is not safe to drink
Unlike any other developed countries in the West, drinking tap water is not safe here in Nepal. You can buy a bottle of Mineral water for NRs. 20-30 ($0.2- 0.3). Water offered in the restaurants is mostly drinkable.
As a foreigner, it might be dilemmatic but most of the local people in the hill and mountain areas do drink water from stream and river. However, it’s not recommended to drink the water from those sources for your own safety.
20. There are no Public Toilets around the city
So make sure you go to the toilets while you’re in your hotel and during the meal times in restaurants. Also in the toilets, you won’t find toilet papers. So, be sure to carry toilet papers along with you. Also, carry Hand Sanitizer with you all the time.
21. Public Transportation system sucks
The public Transportation system in Nepal is cheaper than you expect but sucks in many other ways. It is more crowded and infrequent. The traffic is heavy and takes quite a lot of time to reach the destinations.
The taxis are more expensive and for a foreigner, the drivers will try to ask more than the usual price. So make sure to bargain and have prior information regarding the places and normal prices charged. It helps you in many ways. Sarathi Cab is getting popular these days. They’re more reliable, safer and charge you the fair amount of money.
For the longer rides, tourist buses are comfier and they drive safely as well.
22. Adidas might not be the real Adidas!
Adidas might not be the real Adidas and you read it real. Placement of logos of the popular brand such as Nike, The North Face, and Adidas among others is pretty common here in Nepal. After hearing the price, you might be surprised and intend to buy them. But be careful not all that glitters is gold. You might easily get cheated on.
23. Nepal has more festivals than 365 days in a calendar year
Yes, you read it true. There are more festivals than the total days in a calendar year. It is mainly because of the fact that Nepal is diverse in terms of religion, culture and ethnic backgrounds.
Further Reading: Festivals of Nepal
Festivals such as Dashain, Tihar are of religious importance and are celebrated by Hindus. Similarly, festivals such as Bisket Jatra belong to the tradition of a particular old valley. And, a particular ethnic group celebrates Festival like Chhathh.
24. The Internet is slow!
Nepal ranks as the country with second slowest Internet in the world. Libya ranks the first. With the growing number of Internet companies and increased competition, it is getting better these days. However, the Internet might run out any time in between. The mobile phone data is faster and more reliable. A downside, it’s very costly.
25. Make sure you have travel Insurance and vaccinations
It is imperative to have travel insurance while traveling not just in Nepal. Because the uncertainty is the only certainty that we can predict, isn’t it?
So why not get insurance and make the travel more safe and secure? Get a travel Insurance and travel freely to any part of Nepal without any hesitation.
Similarly, it is important to have vaccinations. Some of the recommended vaccines are Hepatitis A, Typhoid, and Meningitis.
26. Nepal is the only country with a non-quadrilateral shaped flag. Nepal was never colonized until now.
Nepal is the only country in the world with a non-quadrilateral shaped flag. The red color in the flag signifies the symbol of victory and bravery. The bordering blue color in the flag symbolizes peace and harmony. The moon represents the serenity of the Nepalese people, shade and the cool weather in the Himalayas. The sun represents the heat and warmth of the Terai Region of Nepal.
Similarly, Nepal has always been an independent and sovereign nation. British had tried to colonize in the past but they were bravely fought back by the Gorkhalis and denied.
27. Nepal is celebrating Visit Nepal Year 2020
The Tourism Board of Nepal has introduced Visit Nepal Year 2020 in 2015. Earlier, it was supposed to be held in 2018 but due to technical difficulties, it was postponed to the year 2020. In the year 2020, the Tourism Board of Nepal is expecting more than 2 Million Visitors.
Ranging from the biodiversity of birds and endangered wild animals to Practicing Yoga and Meditation to Volunteering to Cultural heritages including World Heritage Sites to Trekking and Mountain Climbing to Hiking and Bicycling, Nepal is all set to you welcome you all for the once in a lifetime experience.
Welcome to NEPAL!!!