Here are a few tips that should help the visitor get around the country at ease.
ARRIVAL AT TRIBHUVAN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
After checking in at the immigration desk, passengers without any dutiable goods can proceed through the green channel for quick clearance without a baggage check. If you are carrying dutiable goods, you must proceed through the Red Channel.
GETTING A TAXI
There are Taxi-drivers, Travel agents and hoteliers waiting outside the airport terminal to offer their services to you. While hiring a taxi, be sure not to leave any of your belongings behind.
RESPECT BASIC NEPALESE CUSTOMS
Take off your shoes before entering a Nepalese home. Never leave your shoes or sandals upside down.
Nepalese are friendly by nature; you may accept a handshake offered by either a male or a female but never offer your hand first to a woman. Instead, you do a ‘Namaskar’ with folded palms. Nepalese men in general, Hindus in particular, avoid touching women and holy men. Although young boys and girls in urban areas mix up these days, public display of affection is still inappropriate.
Always use the right hand to give money or a gift to someone including a shopkeeper. Do not point your finger at a person or an idol/image/statue. Also it is discourteous to sit with your feet pointing at people or at religious objects.
VISITING A TEMPLE
it is customary to take off your shoes before entering a temple/holy places. Walking around the temples or stupas is traditionally done clockwise. Ask for permission before entering a Hindu temple as entrance to some temples, such as the Pashupatinath in Kathmandu, is prohibited for non-Hindus. Avoid smoking inside sacred and public places.
You can take photographs outside Buddhist stupas and Hindu temples and during festivals, but seek permission while taking photographs inside temple or of religious ceremonies. Many people, especially women, might not be willing to be photographed. So, seek their permission first.
It is always better to be decently clad when going anywhere. Clothes that are not too revealing are advised for women especially when travelling outside the Kathmandu valley. It is best, if briefs, shorts & bare shoulders and back are avoided.
The Nepalese currency is the Rupee and is divided into 100 paisa. Bank notes come in denominations of Rs. 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000. Coins are of 10, 25 & 50 paisa and 1, 2, 5 & 10 Rupee denominations.
Major hotels, restaurants and curio shops accept AMERICAN EXPRESS, VISA and MASTERCARD, JCB card. You can contact the banks for credit card services. There are ATMs in Kathmandu, Pokhara and Other big cities of the country.
It is illegal to exchange foreign currency with persons and organizations other than those authorized such as banks, hotels and licensed money changers. In order to exchange surplus rupees at the time of your departure, please retain your encashment receipts.
The Indian Rupee, US Dollar, Euro, Canadian Dollar, Pound Sterling, Swiss Franc, Japanese Yen and Chinese Yuan are widely accepted in the banks here.
Most Nepalese eat their meal by hand especially the Nepali food dal, Bhat and Tarkari. Food that has been eaten from a plate is considered impure and is called Jutho in Nepali. So, do not offer food from your plate, nor eat from a common pot, and do not touch a shared drinking vessel with your lips. After a meal of rice, Nepalese rinse their hands and mouths thoroughly and are very particular about the practice.
Hindus and Buddhists don’t eat beef, although restaurants and hotels serve beef to the tourist.
If a service charge is already attached to your bill, as is customary in the restaurants these days, it is not necessary to tip. Otherwise, tip 10% of total tour price. Porters, tour and trekking guides, and drivers when covering long distances expect a tip. Bellhops can be tipped modestly.
To avoid fakes and being cheated, buy for designer goods at the departmental stores and shopping malls. Exclusive showrooms at Durbar Marg, Asan and Thamel in Kathmandu specialize in handicraft, gems, Jewelry and pashmina items. Local handicraft items are good buys in Pokhara, Chitwan and Lumbini.
It is illegal to export anything older than 100 years out of the country such as sacred images, paintings and manuscripts. Visitors should, therefore, not buy such items. All such items must be cleared by the Department of Archaeology at Ramshah Path near Singha Durbar that they are not antiques before being allowed to be taken out of the country.
IMMUNIZATION AND HEALTH
Although inoculations are not required to enter Nepal, it is wise to protect oneself against diseases such as hepatitis, meningitis and Japanese encephalitis etc. Malaria has been reported in the Terai plains. So take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes. Please notify the authorities or the hotel of any symptoms of bird or swine flu or any endemic.
When in Nepal, eat thoroughly cooked food. Use only bottled mineral water or boiled and filtered water for drinking. Wear a mask when walking in the dusty streets.
POST AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS
Post offices sell stamps, post cards and aerogram. Express Mail Service (EMS) is available at the General Post Office located at Sundhara near the Dharahara tower in Kathmandu, and at Themel, Basantapur and airport postal counters in Kathmandu. Airmail of parcels of up-to 10kg and surface mail of up-to 20kg can be booked at the foreign parcel counter of the main post office in Kathmandu.
Hotels and private communication centers provide long distance (ISD, STD) and e-mail as well as Internet services. The country code for Nepal is +977 and the area code for Kathmandu is 01, for Pokhara 061, Chitwan 056 and Lumbini 071.
Avoid giving sweets and money to beggars and children. However, a donation to a school, monastery or hospital would be greatly appreciated.
Public toilets charge a small fee for their use. But visitors are advised to use the toilets at the shopping malls, stores and restaurants which are cleaner.
It is safe to take a walk around from morning till late in the evening, until the shops are open. You are responsible for the safety of your handbag, back-pack and items such as cameras.
Possession and use of drugs carry heavy penalties in Nepal; including long jail terms, and are, therefore, to be strictly avoided.
Electricity in Nepal is 230 volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second. A voltage converter is needed for a device that does not accept 230 volts at 50 Hertz.
Cats and dogs must be accompanied by a health and rabies certificate from a veterinarian.
The main precaution that needs to be taken while trekking is not to go up too high too fast. Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is caused by thin air at high altitudes starting from 2500 meters upwards and many even lead to death. So the body should be given enough time to acclimatize.
If you suffer from initial symptoms like headaches, shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea, inability to sleep, swelling of the face, hands and feet and loss of appetite, descend to a lower elevation immediately and seek medical help. Helicopter rescue service is available, but it is expensive. So comprehensive travel insurance is advised to cover emergencies like helicopter rescue and medical treatment in the event of an accident on the trail. It is also advisable to carry a small medical kit and torch-light while trekking.
The Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA), a non-profit organization, seeks to prevent casualties from AMS. It operates an information center at Thamel (Sagarmatha Complex) where visitors can attend talks on mountain sickness and learn about trekking, safety and related matters. Twice a year, it operates a small aid post in the Khumbu village of Pheriche at an altitude of 4280 meters during the trekking season by volunteer doctors. A permanent aid post in Manang is manned by volunteer doctors of HRA. HAR has published various pamphlets concerning mountain safety and are available in English, French, German, Hebrew and Japanese. For further information please contact with agency.
Trekkers’ Information Management Systems (TIMS): In a bid to control illegal trekking operations and ensure the safety and security of the trekkers in the general trekking areas, Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN) have made it mandatory for trekkers to sign up for the trekkers’ Information Management System (TIMS) Card from April 1, 2010. TIMS cards are available from the NTB office, TAAN office and government registered trekking companies in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Under the new rule, all visitors who go trekking through a trekking company must pay US$ 10, and free individual trekkers (FIT) must pay US$ 20 per trekking route per person per entry. These amounts are payable in equivalent Nepalese rupees. Part of the collection will go into maintaining the trekkers’ database and in the rescue of trekkers in need of emergency services. The fund will also be spent on infrastructure expansion, conservation and maintenance of existing trekking trails. For further information please contact with agency.
OTHER PRECAUTIONS TO BE TAKEN
Do not trek alone. Trekking with a guide from a registered agency is the greatest security.
Do not display your cash or expensive items. Always lock your room and baggage.
Drink water that has been boiled or iodized only. Always wash your hands before eating. Do not eat unpeeled fruit or vegetables unless they have been thoroughly washed.
Villagers might not be used to seeing visitors from abroad. So don’t mind if your are being stared at Just smile and enjoy.
Show decency in dress and avoid any show of public affection.
Do not litter the trail with trash. Pack all your bottles, tins, plastics, foil, batteries, etc. so that they can be disposed at the nearest disposal site or carry them to your campsite, lodge or hotel. Likewise, sanitary napkins and tampons should be properly disposed. Be a responsible tourist and use local products to avoid can food and the use of plastics where feasible.
If you are camping, request that cooking be done on kerosene or gas, not wood. Limit your hot shower to those heated by solar energy or hydroelectricity.