Rested on the laps of Himalayas, Nepal after all this time still remains a subject of fascination to the rest of the world. From the never-ceasing attraction of Mount Everest, to the stories of mythical Yeti, the massive earthquake of 2015, the worshipping of a living Goddess, and the hundreds of thousands of temples, Nepal is a treasure trove of experiences that is hard to find anywhere else. And so, if you find yourself buying an air ticket to Nepal, here are 5 things you should know before you get on that flight:
- Power up with dal-bhat: Dal-bhat is the staple diet in Nepal, eaten twice a day almost every day. Found in almost every restaurant across the country, chances are that you will end up eating it at least once. If you want to go authentic, do as the locals do and eat it with your hands. You may use fork and spoon, but do not eat with you left hand —it is a big no-no. Besides dal-bhat, also expect to eat momo, a kind of dumpling that is next to Nepal’s national food. And if you thought you will have to miss all things international in Nepal, you couldn’t be more wrong. Kathmandu and Pokhara has one of the best concentration of restaurants offering excellent international cuisines, from Japanese to Italian, German, French, and more. Well, one thing is for sure — you won’t go hungry in Nepal.
- Follow the social etiquettes: Join your palms together like in prayer, bow down a little and say ‘Namaste’ — that is how you greet in Nepali. That is also the go-to formula to say goodbye. This is your first step to learning Nepali etiquettes and there are many, but the one you need to be most aware about is public display of affection (PDA). While a friendly hug is acceptable, kissing in public is not cool. Another thing to be mindful of is your clothing; dress appropriately especially in rural settings and religious environment. This means no very short shorts and revealing tank tops!
- Expect crazy roads and pollution: Traffic in Nepal can be insane at times, especially in Kathmandu. The streets are filled with cars, buses, trucks and motorbikes zipping pass left and right. There is little care for traffic rules and lesser for pedestrians. Expect to be a bit scared and overwhelmed as you make your way through the streets of Kathmandu. There are zebra crossing but vehicles rarely stop to allow people to pass. We suggest you be careful and follow the locals. Following the earthquake and reconstruction work, there is also a sand-storm of dust in Kathmandu roads these days. Always carry a scarf or a mask when you head out on the streets.
- Prepare to squat and to take probiotics: It is not uncommon for tourists in Nepal to experience a mild diarrhea during the first few weeks. Often known as traveler’s diarrhea, it is caused by change in food, contaminated water, weather and other factors. And it is not a pleasant experience whatsoever. Hence, it is recommended that you take probiotics to prevent the entire episode. Speaking of which, you should also know that most toilets in Nepal are the traditional squat-style. While you will find the western style to do your business in most hotels in Kathmandu and other major cities like Pokhara, it is not all guaranteed. Prepare yourself and carry a roll of toilet paper with you everywhere you go too!
- You don’t need to tip: Tipping isn’t a culture in Nepal. Most Nepali restaurants add a 10% service charge to the bill which is counted as tips, so you don’t need to pay any extra. It is however a different setting when you are in the mountains. Tipping the porters, or tea houses, and perhaps your guide is a good idea though. After all, the possibility of you reaching high up in the mountains is slim without them.
A trip to Nepal is an experience unlike any other. Whether the trip goes as planned or not, it is bound to be unforgettable. If there is one all-covering thing you should know before coming to Nepal, it is to expect the unexpected and to go with the flow.