Nepal has one of the most rapidly developing cultures in the world. As the country races towards modernisation many festivals and cultural activities are being adapted to fit into modern life. But many of the old ways and traditions exist in the villages and towns where if you are lucky enough to travel to it becomes helpful to understand a little of Nepali life and customs. On this page it has a few travel tips to make your journey more fun and enjoyable. But please note the Nepalese are some of the most welcoming people in the world and even if you do something that offends them in their culture they won’t say anything because visitors are always honoured guests. But if you try some of the do’s in our list then they understand you know a little of Nepali culture and will welcome you even more.
You will go to many countries before you find people as nice and polite as the Nepalese, they treat all guests, especially volunteers as honoured friends and it doesn’t take long before you are part of the family. Here are a few tips on how to impress your Nepali hosts with your knowledge of their culture. Try them as you go along and you will experience the true welcoming nature of Nepal.
- Take off your shoes while entering a house especially in the farming community as its considered very impolite if you don’t. If needed bring house slippers as its a way of showing respect.
- Wear long sleeves and don’t show to much of your skin. For women it’s better not to wear short skirt or to show the shoulders (to have a scarf in your bag is a good solution if you have to cover).
- Always walk around a Stupa or Hindu temple in a clockwise rotation because its part of both Hindu and Buddhist customs. And in a holy place please remember to show respect to your hosts.
- Say Namaste and join your hands in front of you as this is the traditional way of greeting someone, it shows you have a basic understanding of Nepali culture which goes down very well.
- Always drink mineral water or filtered water as most of the rivers and water supplies are polluted, please remember even if you see a Nepali drinking the water don’t feel its OK to drink. Most have been drinking the water all their lives and are used to it.
- Wash your hands before and after eating because it’s Nepali custom to eat with your hands, please try this because there is a certain way of mixing the rice and curry and putting it on your mouth. Washing hands first is considered clean and after is the right thing to do.
- Save water because there are water shortages in the dry season and even through there are many rivers in Nepal most of this water isn’t safe to drink.
- Share culture with the family, show interest because there is no greater way of becoming a member of the family quicker. By showing an interest you will be in the hearts of your Nepali hosts.
Here are a few things that you should try not to do because in Nepali culture its actually can cause offence. But please don’t worry because the majority of Nepalese understand that we all have different cultures and understand you mean no offence.
- Don’t touch the food you don’t want to eat because in most castes it can not be eaten by anyone else. This is especially true among the older generations. (you will hear the word JUTO, meaning impure).
- Usually, Nepalis don’t share food because of the Juto idea, in some families it happens but is very rare.
- Don’t enter a kitchen without permission this rule really does depend on how long you have been living there. When you become a member of the family you tend to get family rights and enter when you want to. Please remember this varies from caste to caste (for ladies, during monthly periods, it’s forbidden to enter a kitchen or a temple).
- Don’t wear leather in temples because the cow is a Hindu god and is sacred to all Hindus.
- Don’t walk outside at night, most parts of Nepal are very safe but you must remember that there are different dangers here. In the villages you may stumble across snakes and very rarely a tiger in the Terai area.
- Don’t touch people unless you know them, there are different customs in Nepal to other parts of the world.
- Don’t kiss or hug somebody, even your wife/husband in public.
- Don’t step over food or people. Don’t show something to somebody with your foot, it’s an insult.
- Fire is sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists people so don’t throw or put something into it.
- Aspirin (for pain or fever) are always handy to have because the Nepali versions are very big and can be hard to swallow.
- Antihistamines (for allergies of any kind) because Nepal is a different country to your own its always a good idea just in case.
- Insect repellent because Nepal does suffer in the South from mosquitoes who like the taste of foreign blood!
- Plasters and Band-Aids because you never know when you are going to cut yourself and also when you will be asked to patch someone up.
- Scissors, tweezers and thermometer as standard.
- Water purification tablets: Antidiarrheals and a re hydration mixture because you need to be careful eating out – many places do not follow the hygiene standards of the West.
- Disinfectant or antiseptic (for hands and body)
- Eyes drops (helps against the dust)
- Anti-inflammatory medication for muscles and joints
Very few people actually travel with a fully prepared medical kit but please pack a few of the essentials just in case. There are medical centres and hospitals in every major city and town but its always good to have the basics.
What to bring?
People are divided into two groups; those who bring everything on holiday and those who travel light. In Nepal you can buy everything a tourist needs but some of it can be of low quality. We advise you to pack light but bring a few items which will make your trip more pleasant:
- Earplugs (for the plane and dogs barking)
- Face masks (heavy pollution in Kathmandu, You can easily find one there)
- Torch or headlight (frequent power cuts)
- Insect repellent (especially in the Terai)
- Hat, sunglasses, sun cream and lip balm
- Raincoat or umbrella
- Walking / trekking shoes
- A good padlock to close your bag or your room
- Swimming costume (for rafting, kayaking, elephant bathing)
- Sleeping bag
- Swiss army knife