Don’t volunteer without having something to contribute with. Many people come to Nepal to volunteer with children in orphanages or other children in vulnerable situations. These children are traumatized and do not need people coming and going, but they need stability. Children at orphanages are also facing many other risks due to voluntourism, like sexual abuse and trafficking. Have a look at UNICEF’s document on voluntourism in Nepal for more information on this matter.
Think twice before you buy souvenirs. Beautiful shahtoosh shawls are woven in the Himalayas from the wool of the Tibetan Antelope, or chiru. The chiru is now endangered as a result of hunting for its precious wool – avoid buying anything made from it.
A high number of Nepali taboos are to do with food – once you’ve touched something to your lips, it’s considered polluted for everyone else. If you take a sip from your own, or someone else’s water bottle, try not to let it touch your lips and don’t eat from someone else’s plate or offer anyone food you’ve taken a bite of.
Know your left from your right – if eating with your hands, use the right one only. The left hand is reserved for washing after defecating. You can use it to hold a drink or cutlery while you eat, but don’t wipe your mouth, or pass food with it.
It’s considered good manners to give and receive everything with the right hand. To show respect, offer money, food or gifts with both hands, or with the right hand while the left touches the wrist.
The Nepalese are a very calm and contemplative people. You may find yourself in social situations that are completely out of your western comfort zone, but it is important to remember that the locals exercise discretion in expressing their feelings, anger and affection towards each other. If you don’t understand something, ask quietly and be patient.
Think before you take pictures. It’s easy to get snap-happy when presented with Nepal’s incredible landscape and lifestyle. Remember, this may be your trip of a lifetime, but it’s their reality, so introduce yourself and ask permission. Whenever possible, it is good idea to ask for a postal address and follow through by sending photographs back to local families.
Nepal is a conservative and god-fearing country. Women should have their legs and shoulders covered and men should wear full-length trousers and tops with long sleeves. The forehead is regarded as the most sacred part of the body and it’s impolite to touch an adult Nepali’s head. Do not stretch your legs in public or point your feet at anyone as feet are considered the lowest and dirtiest part of the body.
Girls in Kathmandu and Pokhara do wear shorts or short skirts, but this is new to Nepal and you run the risk of being seen as sexually available if you do the same
Spitting is normal in Nepal and you will see men, women, and children spitting on the street. The same goes for littering. Don’t pull a local up for these behaviours, but don’t join in either.
Never show affection in public. Although some younger couples hold hands in public, this is relatively new and it is still frowned upon.
When visiting ancient and sacred sites there are a few protocol that are handy to know and easy to follow: don’t climb on ruins, avoid touching any religious object, and when you walk around monuments and temples, do so in a clockwise direction, that is – keep the monument on your right. It is generally not a problem to enter temples, but take your shoes off when you do and don’t take photos while you’re in there
When visiting temples, respect both the place and the people that pray there.Do not throw anything into the fire as it considered sacred and, if for some reason – time of day, particular prayer time – you are not permitted to enter, accept this graciously and ask your guide to ask when might be a better time to come back.
Some Hindu temples and their innermost sanctums are usually out of bounds for nonbelievers, who pose the threat of ritual pollution. If you are allowed in, be respectful, take your shoes off before entering and don’t take photos unless you’ve asked permission.
Though no one will ever ask, a small donation to temple that you’re visiting will be much appreciated. Donations support the operations of the day. Place your donation on the altar, or if you want to make a specific donation look for a donation box.
If you’re granted an audience with a lama at a Buddhist temple or monastery, it’s traditional to present him with a kata: a ceremonial white scarf (usually sold nearby).
If you are invited into a private home for a meal, you can bring fruit or sweets, but don’t expect thanks – it is considered offensive to make a fuss in these situations. Take your shoes off when entering, unless shown otherwise. When the food is served you may be expected to eat first, so you won’t be able to follow your host’s lead. Take less than you can eat – asking for seconds is the best compliment you can give. The meal is typically served at the end of a gathering and when the food is finished, everyone leaves.
Don’t give pens, money, or sweets to the local people you encounter on visits to villagesand it can encourage begging and may be seen to establish a non-equal relationship between tourist and local with tourists being seen as simply ‘givers’ giving to ‘the poor’. Instead, buy local handicrafts directly from villagers and show an interest in their skills. Sweets may seem like an ideal gift for children, but access to dentists is extremely limited to rural dwellers and the last thing you want to give them is tooth decay!
Respect any animals and wildlife you might encounter. Do not feed any animals unless you are specifically given permission, avoid picking flowers no matter how beautiful they may be, do not touch or move fossils, and importantly, don’t stroke dogs – they can be aggressive towards strangers and stray dogs in Nepal may carry rabies.
Hassle by touts is on the rise in Nepal and it’s likely you’ll get accosted at the airport and in Kathmandu and offered drugs, treks and sex. They’re not as aggressive as in India – ignore them and they’re likely to ignore you. If they don’t, ask politely if they’ll leave you alone – do not be rude, as they’ll take it personally.
Dealing with beggars is par for the course in Nepal. Adjust to the pathos quickly – few beggars are bona fide and helping those that are will only encourage those that aren’t. Do not give away medicines either; instead donate them to the destitute at Kathmandu’s Bir Hospital, or at the Himalayan Buddhist Meditation Centre in Kathmandu.
The litter problem in Nepal is growing and has increased with the wider availability of pre-packaged goods. Keep your waste to a minimum – avoid accepting plastic bags from shops and reuse the ones you have, buy additional food from local markets to avoid packaging, take an empty plastic bag with you on treks, so you can pick up any additional litter you might spot and take particularly harmful waste, such as batteries, back to Kathmandu with you.
Marijuana and other ‘recreational’ drugs are widely available in Nepal although totally illegal. If caught in possession, drugs carry huge fines and up to 20 years imprisonment.
My journey led to visits to families, cooperatives, etc. that I had never been able to organize on my own… This was my first group trip ever, and I have traveled extensively… I’m thinking seriously about to travel again and then it’s a no-brainer to use this professional company next time. Really recommended! Good choice not to travel to the touristic areas, and if you travel with Beyond Borders you’re guaranteed something completely different!
Wonderful contact with nature and population in a non touristic part of Nepal during the 2 week tour and hiking. Tour leaders Jenny Adhikari with partner BJ is great, nice, competent and knowledgeable in Nepal’s nature, culture and population. Wonderful friendly local guides on the Trek, where Beyond Borders really seeks to provide good conditions for the local staff.
Just arrived after a trip in Nepal, an experience that is to be forgotten. We have experienced environments, culture and nature with a professional tour of Jenny and BJ. Everything has gone well despite bumpy and almost non-existent roads! Knowledgeable and nice guides make the whole trip.
Great arrangement and knowledgeable and helpful staff from Beyond Borders Ethical Adventures made this 2 weeks trek to a memory for life!
Ulf Larsson, Sweden
Perfect trek with Beyond Borders, Jenny and BJ and their very accommodating and knowledgeable staff. Pretty hard from time to time but with help and happy laughters all 21 of us in the group did it!
Louise Malm Darby, Sweden
If you’re considering going trekking in Nepal, look no further. Jenny, Bijaya and their team are amazing and very professional. We had a great trip and couldn’t be happier. Highly recommended!