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10 Things You Should Know Before Travelling to Nepal

This adventure was made possible thanks to The North Face Canada and Vans Canada.

A trip to Nepal is an experience that will be forever etched in your mind. Contrary to popular belief, it’s possible to go trekking on your own, without having to join an organized expedition.

From the moment I set foot in the small alleys of Kathmandu, I knew that this was the beginning of an amazing adventure! Everything was so different, inspiring, unique and unlike anything I’d seen before. It was like travelling through time! After four years on the road visiting 50+ countries, it made me wonder why I hadn’t visited Nepal instead of other destinations I’d travelled to.

If Nepal is on your radar, I hope you’re ready to be floored by what this country has to offer. To make your life easier, I’ve compiled a list of things that you should consider before heading there.

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📸 @nomadicemilie

10 Things You Need to Know Before Your Trek in Nepal

1. DIY With No Guide and No Porter

Believe it or not, joining an organized group with porters is not necessary for a trip to Nepal. It’s possible to do some of the most popular treks independently whether you’re going to the Everest region or the Annapurna. Nepal is dotted with lodges that offer accommodation and food to travellers.

You don’t even have to pitch a tent because you can find teahouses all along the main trekking routes. Teahouses may have started off as simple shops where weary travellers could rest their feet, but now they offer food and accommodation with a glimpse of a local’s life. Now the only thing left to decide is which trekking circuit you want to explore first and then go!

2) Download the Free Maps.me App for Directions

The Maps.me app will improve your life like never before. First, you need to download the offline map of the country, Nepal in this case. Most trekking routes will be indicated on the map. While you’re on the road, just turn on the location services from your phone to know the distance you’ve travelled, the remaining distance until your next stop and the elevation. On top of that, many lodges and restaurants are well marked on the map. Don’t take any unnecessary risks and make sure to get a paper map in Kathmandu as a backup if ever your phone’s battery dies.

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Photo: @nomadicemilie

3) Purchase a Solar Charger Before Leaving

During the trek, many hotel establishment and restaurants will offer to recharge electronics for $2–5/hour. It can add up pretty quickly and become quite expensive. Nepal can sometimes be very cold, but the sun will always shine. Many travellers hook their small solar panel on their backpack while they’re hiking. Talk about a brilliant idea!

4) Arrive at the Airport With Some USD or Euro

When you arrive by plane to Nepal, you can already see the scenery of the Himalaya, the highest mountain range in the world. It’s magical! Maybe you can use this magic on the one ATM outside of the airport that doesn’t take foreign bank cards. Annoying, I know! A taxi in the direction of Thamel (the touristic hub in Kathmandu) costs about $5 USD … which I didn’t have! Thankfully, the cab driver offered to stop at an ATM in Thamel so that I could retrieve some money while he patiently waited. I wouldn’t “bank” on all cab drivers being so sympathetic though, so it’s best to come prepared.

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Photo: @nomadicemilie

5) Buy a Mask When You Arrive

Through all of its majestic beauty, Nepal can be extremely dusty. Whether you’re in the heart of Kathmandu or in the mountains, you’ll notice that roads are covered with very volatile dust. This results in many travellers contracting severe respiratory infections. Nepal is sure to take your breath away, but don’t let the dust take it away too! As a precaution, wear a mask or a scarf over your face.

6) Find a SIM Card for Your Phone

In Nepal, you can make phone calls and have access to the Internet for mere peanuts. All you need to do is to find an official Ncell shop, bring two copies of your passport and two small photos. It’s probably a good idea to have these ready before you depart. They will activate your account and guide you to the best plan available. It’s absolutely worth it!

7) Don’t Brush Your Teeth With the Tap Water in Kathmandu

I’ve been on the road for a long time now and I’ve never applied this rule anywhere. I always thought that tourists were overreacting with tap water. Actually, I was under the impression that brushing your teeth with tap water was helping your body slowly get used to the bacteria in the country you’re visiting. When I found out that even locals in Katmandu never brush their teeth with tap water because of how contaminated it is, I realized that the water is probably really dirty and that I needed to change my ways a little. Seriously, apply this rule: in Kathmandu, only rinse your mouth with bottled water.

Vue Katmandou - Voyager au Népal : 10 choses à savoir avant d’y aller - Nomad Junkies
Photo: @nomadicemilie

8) Get Your Shopping Done in Kathmandu

As you go further away from Katmandu, prices of goods start increasing drastically. Insignificant little things could end up costing a fortune. Make sure that you have everything you need before you set off.

Buy All the Generic Medicine You Can in Thamel

Visit one of those sketchy-looking pharmacy to stock up on ibuprofen, cough lozenges, rehydration packets, lip balm and Diamox (or whichever generic version they have against altitude sickness). Also, you’ll want to go hard on Band-Aids of all shapes and sizes for potential blisters. Trust me, you will NOT regret this!

Stock Up on Stuff at the General Store

Stay away from empty calories, as tempting as it may seem, like chocolate or granola bars. Instead, buy big packages of dehydrated meat (or jerky), peanut butter, canned tuna and cookies with nutritional supplements. It’s a good time to purchase toilet paper, soap and individual packs of shampoo. These items will all cost 3 to 4 times more the moment you leave Katmandu. Don’t skip out on the necessities!

Assess Your Need for Trekking Equipment

For trekking equipment, the best is to buy all the technical gear at home before leaving (clothing, sleeping bag, hiking boots, etc.). In my case, I had a 50L backpack (Banchee model from The North Face) and clothing from the Summit Series collection (The North Face) such as a Gore-Tex Shell and a down jacket.

If going home before you embark on your trek is not possible (let’s say you spontaneously decided to go to Nepal while lazing on the beach in Thailand), you have other options. You can buy or rent trekking equipment in Katmandu. However, be aware that most of them are knockoff versions of popular brands; it will do the job, although not the best quality. You can try asking guides or locals to help you locate shops that rent out genuine trekking gear, but make sure that you do your own inspection of all of the gear first.

Sommêt Everest - Voyager au Népal : 10 choses à savoir avant d’y aller - Nomad Junkies
Photo: @nomadicemilie

9) Don’t Rely on Your MasterCard

Personally, I have no preference when it comes to credit cards… It’s not my thing and I don’t know much about them. I’ve always travelled with my MasterCard all over the world. This time, I should’ve really carried a Visa card as well. For reasons that I ignore, in Namchee Bazaar, the only three ATMs only accept Visa cards! Namchee is the last village where you can withdraw money before a couple of days of trekking until reaching the Everest Base Camp.

Imagine my reaction when, after trekking for 10 days, I’m halfway on this adventure towards Everest’s Base Camp and I’m unable to take money out to continue my journey! What am I supposed to do, turn back around?! I finally managed to find a foreign exchange office who was more than happy to charge me 10% commission for a cash-out. I took out $300 USD with an extra $30 service charge … yikes! This hurts my backpacker’s budget.

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Photo: @nomadicemilie

10) Insist on Getting a Blanket for Sleeping

Up high in the mountains, it can get pretty cold in Nepal, plus the rooms are not heated. As a Canadian, we might tolerate the cold better, but we don’t normally sleep at a temperature of -10 inside our houses. Some Tea Houses won’t automatically provide blankets to their guests. Even if you have a warm sleeping bag, an additional blanket will warm you up by a few degrees. Don’t be shy to ask at the reception and insist on getting this blanket if you need to!

Bonus: Don’t worry about accommodation. There are two high seasons in Nepal: October/November and March/April. This shouldn’t keep you from having the trekking experience you’ve always dreamed about. If the lodges are full in high season, you can always ask them to sleep in the communal room. Not only is it common practice to do so, but it’s also the only heated place in the lodge!

Nomad Tip : check out Agoda to find the best deals on your accommodation in Nepal

Now that you’ve had your fill of inspiration and advice, all that’s left is for you to do is to book a flight, pack your bags and live out your amazing, Nepali adventure!

Here are a few items that we recommend for your adventure in Nepal:

Emilie Robichaud
Emilie Robichaud
Je suis accro au mode de vie nomade! J’ai quitté ma zone de confort pour voyager à temps plein. Mon tour du monde sans fin compte plus de 71 pays et ça continue! Le voyage, c'est un style de vie et un état d'esprit!
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