A Ten-Point Guide To Navigating Nepal's Quirks With Wit And Wisdom

Welcome, fellow travellers! Are you ready to explore the breathtaking beauty of Nepal? Before you embark on your journey, let me share with you some wit and wisdom to navigate the quirks of this enchanting country.

1. Beware of the Yaks

First things first, let's talk about the Yaks. These furry creatures are a common sight while trekking in Nepal. But don't let their fluffy appearance fool you; they can be a force to be reckoned with. It's important to remember that yaks have poor eyesight and hearing, so if you're standing downhill from them, you might just end up as a bowling pin. So, unless you want to be the star of the next viral video, make sure to always stay uphill from the yaks. Oh, and a fun fact, a group of yaks is called a herd. Yes, I had to Google that too.
I have right of way, no?

2. Don’t travel without the required vaccinations and medicine.

Your health is of utmost importance when travelling, so make sure to inform your doctor of your travel plans well in advance. Your physician will have a long list of vaccinations that you may need, depending on your medical history and the areas you will be visiting. Trust me; you don't want to end up spending your vacation hugging the toilet bowl! Also, if you are planning to take any medicines while in Nepal, be sure to carry them with you. Don't rely on finding the same medication there. You might end up with some unrecognizable pills that might turn you into a walking zombie. Plus, some pharmacies may not even speak English, so it's best to be prepared. By the way, if you're travelling from the UK, the NHS Fit For Travel website is a fantastic resource.

3. Don’t get ripped off

While supporting the local economy is important, don't fall prey to overpriced souvenirs. Market vendors may try to inflate their prices, but don't be afraid to negotiate for a better deal. In fact, it's expected that you haggle in Nepal! But before you start bargaining, do a bit of research on the appropriate price range for the item you want to buy. You don't want to end up overpaying for a souvenir that you can get at a lower price just a few stalls down the street. I still remember the time when I haggled for a pair of yak wool slippers, and let me tell you, they were heavily negotiated! But I still wear them to this day, and every time I do, I remember my epic adventure in Nepal.

4. Do not allow poor hygiene to ruin your trip.

Let's face it; even the most experienced travellers can fall ill to the dreaded trots (diarrhoea) in Nepal. It's just one of those things that can happen, but don't let it dampen your spirits. The main cause of infection is poor hygiene in food or contaminated water, and the main danger of diarrhoea is dehydration. So, make sure to drink plenty of fluids like soda water, black tea, and bottled water to replace lost liquids in your body. There are also tablets you can take, but it's always best to consult with your doctor before taking any medication. Speaking of hygiene, carrying a small bottle of hand sanitiser and baby wipes can be a lifesaver. I always make sure to use hand sanitiser frequently and freshen up with baby wipes in the evenings to avoid any hygiene issues. And here's a pro tip - the excrement from yaks falls directly onto the trails, gets mixed up with dust, and then gets flicked into the air by their feet. So, make sure to give the yaks some space when they pass, and avoid breathing in any excrement dust.

5. Do not drink fresh juice on the streets or unboiled water

Cooking Nepal
Cooking up a snack, on the Everest Base Camp trek
First things first, let's get the basics covered. Drink only bottled water, and make sure the bottle cap is sealed and unbroken when you purchase it. It might sound obvious, but trust me, you don't want to risk getting sick by drinking contaminated water. Now, here's something that might surprise you - even cans and bottles of soda can be contaminated if they are stored in basements or street storage units. Local rats might access them and, well, you don't want to know what they might leave behind. So, if you're enjoying a can of soda, it's best to drink it with a straw. If bottled water is not accessible, then ensure your water is purified, boiled, or filtered using specialist tablets or equipment. Don't take any chances when it comes to your health!

6. Reconsider your meals when trekking in the mountains

Vegan food in nepal
A classic vegetarian dish in Nepal
When you're trekking in the mountains, it might be a good idea to go completely vegetarian. Trust me, your organs will thank you for the break from meat for a few weeks. Here's the thing - meat is transported on the backs of porters to the local tea houses and villages. It can be in a rucksack on the porter's back for days, under the baking sun, on dusty yak-excrement-covered trails. As you can imagine, this can lead to a huge build-up of bacteria in the meat, making it unsafe to eat. Another thing to consider when it comes to food safety is salads. Make sure that the water used to clean the salad is safe. This means that it's either purified or cleaned with boiled water. You don't want to risk getting sick because of a contaminated salad.

7. Do not leave your hotel without its phone number and address

Kathmandu is a maze of streets, markets and narrow alleyways. It's 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 on 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 for most tasks

In Nepal, shaking hands is not a common form of greeting. Instead, you'll be much better off using the "Namaste" greeting - hands together in the prayer position. This gesture shows respect and is a great way to greet the locals. When it comes to giving or receiving money, make sure to use your right hand. In Nepali culture, the right hand is seen as clean, while the left hand is used for unclean activities such as cleaning. So, using your left hand to give gifts or receive money might come off as disrespectful. And for those of you planning a trip to a religious area, make sure to walk clockwise around Buddhist Stupas - bell-shaped religious structures. This is seen as a sign of respect and is an important cultural tradition.

9. Don’t forget your loo roll!

I will keep this one short and 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

But how will I send the selfies back? On this rest day, on the Everest Base Camp trail, the whole village had lost internet due to windy weather
The internet in Nepal can be slow (especially when in the Himalayan mountains). In fact, 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.

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