1. Beware of the Yaks
Especially if you are trekking, you will often come across groups of yaks. To be specific, a group of yaks are known as a herd (Had to Google that!) Anyway, ensure that you always stand uphill of them. Yaks have poor sight and hearing so often they may bump into you unintentionally and you certainly don’t want them nudging into you when you are standing downhill of them!
2. Don’t travel without the required vaccinations and medicine.
It is important that you let your doctor know of your intentions before travelling to Nepal. It is likely that he/she will have a long list of your vaccination history and will be able to advise you on the essentials before your trip. If you are planning on taking any medicines whilst you are there, then acquire them in your home country. Even though Nepal has pharmacies, you will not find a substitute to your usual medicines. In some pharmacies they may not even speak English, so you may get something completely different to what you ask for.
3. Don’t get ripped off
Whilst it is great to boost the economy and do your bit for the communities in Nepal, it is also expected that you haggle. Markets and stalls will often offer you a higher price with the expectation that you will negotiate them lower. If there is something specific that you want to buy then it may be worth doing abit of research into the correct price to pay before making your purchase. I came home with some heavily negotiated yak wool slippers which I still use to this day!
4. Do not allow poor hygiene to ruin your trip.
Even the most hardened travellers get sickness and the trots (Diarrhoea) in Nepal. It is just one of those things. The main cause of infection is poor hygiene in food or contaminated water and the main danger with diarrhoea is dehydration. Soda water, black tea, water are good ways to help you replace lost liquids in your body. There are also tablets you can take, but best to speak to your doctor about that one! I always like to carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer in my pocket which I use quite frequently. This combined with a freshen up with baby wipes in the evening usually keeps my trip free from any hygiene problems. Of course when there is an opportunity for a shower, I will always take it! It might also be worth mentioning that the excrement from yaks fall directly onto the trails, get mixed up with the dust and then they flick it up into the air with their feet. Make sure you allow the yaks to pass you and then allow a little bit of space from them. You certainly don’t want to be breathing in excrement dust!
5. Do not drink fresh juice on the streets or unboiled water
Ok, so we all know not to drink unboiled or unpurified water, so I’m sorry if this one sounds a little patronising. However, here are a few important reminders that are worth knowing: - Drink only bottled water and ensure that the bottle cap is sealed and unbroken when you purchase it. - Ordered a can of coke or other soda? You might want to drink it from a straw. Often cans and bottles are stored in a basement or a storage unit on the streets. Although it keeps it safe from humans, it can still be accessed by the local rats who can sometimes urinate on them! - If bottled water is not accessible, then ensure your water is purified, boiled or filtered using specialist tablets or equipment.
6. Reconsider your meals when trekking in the mountains
If you are like me then you will love a meal that consists of meat, some form of carbohydrate (Usually sweet potato, pasta or rice) and a load of greens. When in the mountains you may want to turn completely vegetarian. I am no nutritionist, but I’m sure your organs will thank you for the rest from meat for a few weeks. Anyway, like most things, meat is transported on the backs of porters to the local tea houses and villages. Often the meat can be in a rucksack on the porters back for days, in the baking sun, on the dusty yak excremented trails. As I’m sure you know, this can then lead to a huge build up of bacteria on the meat, making it unsafe to eat. Another point to consider are salads. Ensure the water that is used to clean the salad is safe. By this I mean that it is purified or been cleaned with boiled water.
7. Do not leave your hotel without its phone number and address
Kathmandu is a maze of streets, markets and narrow alleyways. Its incredibly easy to get lost. Even for travellers with the best sense of direction! Your hotel name alone is simply not enough to get you back to the right place, for example the ‘Trekkers Hostel’ and ‘Trek Hostel’ may be located at different sides of the city and someone that you may ask for directions could get confused and send you the wrong way. If you do get completely lost, then you can jump into a licensed taxi and show the address and phone number to your driver.
8. Avoid using your left hand to give gifts
Nepalis very rarely shake hands. You are much better off giving them the Namaste greeting (Hands together in the prayer position). This greeting will go a long way with the locals as it is a sign to greet and show respect. On the topic of respect, when giving or receiving money, use your right hand. Apparently, the right hand is seen as clean and the left one used for unclean activities such as cleaning. For those of you planning a trip to a religious area, ensure you walk clockwise around Buddhist Stupas (Bell shaped religious structures). Again, this is seen as a sign of respect.
9. Don’t forget your loo roll!
I will keep this one short and not so sweet…. There is nothing worse than rushing to the toilet (or behind a rock if you are in the mountains) to find that there is no toilet roll. Sometimes the call of nature can come when we least expect it. It is always worth having a toilet roll in your bag just in case.
10. Don’t expect too much from the internet
The internet in Nepal can be slow (especially when in the Himalayan mountains). Infact, here is a fun fact for you; Nepal is the second slowest country in the world in terms of internet speed. Rumour has it that Libya gets the number 1 spot for this. Just to add to the exceptionally slow speed, Nepal often gets power outages. So if you want to access the internet, it may be worth looking into a local mobile sim card.