Following the earthquake of 2015 and the political unrest that has shrouded Nepal since the early 2000s, one might wonder how safe it is to travel to Nepal or how to travel safely in Nepal. The answer is — of course it is safe. While political disruptions are not unheard of, it is less frequent and more under-control than it used to be. However, like in any other destination, it is wise to take a few safety precautions when traveling to Nepal as well. Here are 5 safety measures that we strongly advise:
Avoid big crowds and demonstrations:
While political strikes and demonstrations aren’t as frequent, it is wise to be well-informed about any possibility of such situations taking place on your tour day, if any. Read or watch the local news, follow updates from your embassy, or gather information from your tour operator and hotel manager before you head out for the day. And while it is a wonderful experience to be part of festivals, especially those revolving around chariot-pulling, it is wise to stay away from the big crowds. There is a thin line between merry-making and a riot breaking out, so be careful.
Don’t trek alone:
As exciting as solo trekking sounds, it is not the best move. This is true also for experienced trekkers who may be traveling with another friend. There have been many cases where independent trekkers have lost lives on popular trails because they weren’t aware of the terrain and the climate. Hence it is advised to arrange your treks with a reputed company that have reliable, professional guides. In any case, it is important to register with your embassy in Kathmandu and to inform kin about your travel plans before heading out into the mountains.
Drink boiled or bottled water:
For health reasons, when it comes to eating and drinking in Nepal, tourists need to take extra care, as it is very easy to catch diarrhea. If possible, drink bottled water only, or ask for hot water when in and around the city. When on treks, take water purifying tablets with you. It is also very easy to get stomach aches from salads and pre-cut fruits. Most restaurants in Kathmandu and Pokhara will claim to wash their vegetables and fruits in iodine water but be wary and eat at recommended and reputable eateries only.
Beware of scams and theft:
While theft isn’t as prevalent in Nepal as it is many other countries, it isn’t completely uncommon for expensive gears or money to be stolen from your hotel room during trek or on the trail. It is thus common sense to not flash around your valuables. However, there is no shortage of scamming here — from mothers (with kids) begging on the streets, to holy men demanding money in exchange of blessings or photographs, and gem dealers offering a win-win deal. Be smart and stay alert!
Traveling by road:
Traveling long distance on public buses and vans in Nepal can be dangerous. Public vehicles are usually overcrowded and run over the speed limit. Due to the country’s mountainous terrain, the roads are narrow and witness frequent accidents that are often fatal. It is highly recommended to avoid traveling on overloaded and overnight vehicles for safety reasons.
Few wrong turns are inevitable when traveling to any country. Nepal is no different. But compared to many South-Asian countries, Nepal is a relatively safe travel destination if you take the right measures and think smart. The stunning Himalayan nation is home to warm, hospitable people who despite being a bit conservative about their way of life, are open to cultures and religions from all across the world. Bon voyage!