Tips for survival in Kathmandu

Customs in Nepal and Kathmandu
Understanding and acknowledging customs in any country is essential to get the most out of your journey and experience, especially in Nepal. 

How to address people in Nepal.

“Namaste” (nam-ah-STAY) – hello, and goodbye it’s a pleasant greeting, that will make everyone smile. I love saying to everyone, it brings me to a feeling of finishing a yoga session. Namaste! 

Dhanyabaad meaning thank you, however in Nepalese society the word is not as commonly used as “Thank you” in western society. Dhanyabaad is reserve for something very important or an occasion that really deserves it. In Nepalese culture it’s not common to thank people for doing their jobs, unless they have gone out of their way to help you. So do not say “thank you” to the taxi driver, he is only doing his job. Namaste will work.

Food Etiquette in Nepal

Interesting, different culture different eating habits, Nepalese way is definitely a different way. 

Food and drink touched by the lips or tong becomes “Jutho” (impure or polluted) you cannot give it to anyone else or return it to the pot. 

Don’t share your water bottle with a Nepalese as he/she will pour water into their mouths never touching the container.

Nepalese don’t take food from another’s plate, respect this custom and do the same, sharing food is not part of their custom

Don’t put more food on your plate then you can eat (Nepalese believe that food should be respected and not thrown away)

Eating Manners

Nepalese eat with their right hand and use their left to drink water. In general they don’t use their left hand while giving or receiving things, the left hand is considered to be inauspicious and ritually impure as it is used in cleaning after defecating.

They wash their hands and mouths before and after eating.

Talking is not common while eating.

In traditional Nepalese household the male are served food first while the woman often eat in the kitchen or at the table after the male are finished. As a guest, western woman would generally be served with the man but should be sensitive to traditional customs and not invite Nepalese woman to the table.

Don’t Touch and Don’t Step Over
Don’t touch a person especially while they are performing a Puja (worship), he or she can’t continue Puja without purifying themselves by taking a shower. 

Don’t touch a person’s head, Nepalese people consider the head as the most sacred part of the body, don’t even pat children on their head.

Don’t touch the feet, nor point the soles of your foot at another person, it is considered an insult. When you seat make sure that the bottoms of your feet are not pointed at anyone.

Don’t step on or step over anything written, newspapers, magazines or books.

Don’t step over people or food, as they believe that god dwells in every person and in food as well.

Relationship Between Man and Woman
Nepalese man and woman do not have any physical interaction, no holding hands, no hugging and no kissing in public. Man and woman do not even touch each other; they keep a certain distance from each other. 

Physical interaction between same sex like holding hands and linking arms is very common and does not indicate a homosexual relationship.

Quite opposite from what we are used to.

Nepalese people dress very conservatively and appreciate the same consideration in their visitors. Man can wear shorts in big cities only for a casual wear. It is not appropriate to wear shorts while attending official functions and temples. When a man wears shorts he is still considered as a lower class person.

Woman should never wear shorts especially in the villages and mountains, wearing a long skirt will afford you a more respectful treatment. In general in Nepal skimpy shorts, sleeveless tops and going braless is frowned upon. Not obliging to their customs might result in uncomfortable stares. 

So cover up ladies and gents.

However keep your eyes out for the older ladies who wear the traditional Hindu attire and their bellies and “love handles” handing out. I find this a bit ironic.

How to Avoid Getting Sick in Kathmandu
All water in Nepal is unsaved to drink unless it has been boiled, this includes bottled water. Despise claims of purity almost all brands of bottled water have been found to be contaminated. Iodine drops or tablets added to water kill most disease causing organisms.
So boil all water before drinking. 

Safe drinks to drink is hot tea, including milk tea and all recognizable soft drinks like Coca-cola, Sprite ets.

Absolutely! Do not brush your teeth with tap water. 

All food should be cooked and eaten hot. All raw fruits and vegetables should be avoided unless you peel them yourself. Soaking raw fruits and vegetables in iodized water for 20 minutes after washing them will protect you from most diseases.  

Yogurt is considered safe if no fruit or water has been added. You should avoid Lassi, a fruit and yogurt drink.

Taking precisions will minimize chances of getting sick and diarrhea but it will not guarantee it. Some people take acidophilus and Nutribiotic grapefruit seed extract to help maintain intestinal health. 

Of course use your judgment, don’t buy meat or street food that has been out in the sun all day. During the summer the food will spoil much quicker. 

Switching to veggie options might be a good idea for the time spent in Nepal. 

The air in Kathmandu is very polluted due to heavy traffic and lots of dust. Most people visiting Kathmandu for few weeks or less have no problems. People with allergies or asthma might suffer and might “attack”. Make sure to be prepared with your medications if this is you. 

Due to the poor air quality we are more vulnerable to respiratory illnesses including colds, flu and bronchitis and sinusitis. Brining your anti-pollution masks with a carbon filter will be a smart move. 

There are many pharmacy’s in Kathamndu, for the most part you will be able to get all medications you need, some medication might be even cheaper in Nepal then back home. Antibiotic for stomach bugs are easy to get and are quite cheap.

It’s also good to have vitamins, and Zinc with you, as the change of climate, elevation and food might lower your immune system. 

Recommended immunization and vaccinations for adults
Hepatitis A and B
Japanese B Encephalitis 
TB skin test
Meningitis A&C

Getting Around in Kathmandu
By Taxi
Taking a taxi is often an exercise in negotiation. Some taxis have installed meters, while others you can agree on a price. When negotiating always bargains as most of the time they will double the price. If the taxi driver gives you an outrages price and refuses to budge simply try another taxi. 

Walk away 100 meters from touristy places to avoided scamming taxi drivers. 

Act like you live here, get into a taxi tell a driver where you wish to go and leave it at that. The taxi driver who regularly is not servicing the tourists will turn on the meter and drive. Night rates are higher. 

20 minute ride should cost NRs. 150-250 and 40 minute NRs 250-350.

Tempos are white three wheeled electric vehicles

Micro-Buses are minivans that can carry 10-20 passengers. They are an inexpensive way to get around. Make sure to bring some sort of cover as the car pollution and road dust can get pretty instance. 

Cycle rickshaws– suitable for short distances they are slower then taxies and not necessary cheaper, but useful traveling from Thamel to the new road or Durbar Square or from Thamel to Lazimpat.

Safety in Kathmandu
For the most part Kathmandu is very safe, but if you are at the wrong time at the wrong place things can happen. 

Keep an eye out in crowded busses, there are master pick-pocketers on the busses. We know few people who fell victims to their skills.. 

If possible keep your passport and personal belonging locked up with the hostel, hotel reception desk.

Don’t walk around with lots of cash, passport and credit cards. Only take what you need.

Make several copies of your passport and visa, keep them in several different locations, as well as online.

Did we miss anything? Please share any additional tips you have.