Several months have passed since my Nepal trip in November and I’ve been wanting to write about my experience, but life gets busy and there’s never enough time to just sit down. I am currently on an 8 hour flight to Japan – which is perfect for writing what will probably be a series of long posts.
Why did I want to go to Nepal? I’ve been asked this a lot. Several reasons. Upon seeing the news about the devastation from the 2015 earthquakes, I wanted to somehow help even if it may only make a minor impact. I also have always been curious about Nepal – to me it seemed to be a place of mystery, spirituality and adventure. While researching potential volunteer projects I could join, I came across a blog post about a yoga trek – which sounded amazing. I never thought I could be much of a trekker – I never really enjoyed bush walking as a kid, have terrible flat and wonky feet, and didn’t think my body would cope with all the walking. But I thought combined with yoga, I might be able to manage. So it was decided, this was my challenge for the year – volunteering and trekking in Nepal!
From my 4 weeks in Nepal, I thought of a few handy hints for anyone planning a trip:
- Expect the unexpected in Nepal. Flights are always delayed – there was not one flight that I was on that wasn’t late. We also saw our luggage left behind on the tarmac as we departed, it was put on the next flight thankfully. It can be absolute chaos at the airport – so find your inner zen, breathe, and be prepared for delays. Tip: Bring a good book and snacks!
- Know which side of the plane to sit on for beautiful views of the Himalayas, you might even see Mt. Everest! From Australia to Kathmandu – sit on the right side. From Kathmandu to Phaplu – sit on the left side. From Kathmandu to Pokhara – sit on the right side. And of course, vice versa on the reverse flights.
- Watch: Sherpa – the movie documentary; and Walking the Himalayas doco series. Sherpa gave me an insight of the reality up on Mt. Everest and the challenges the Sherpas face. I loved this movie – so even if you’re not going to Nepal, it’s an amazing movie to see, definitely an eye-opener. For those who don’t know, Sherpa is a term for an ethnic group in Nepal, and they’re not all porters. And not all porters are Sherpas. I watched Walking the Himalayas on my return from Nepal – it brought back lots of wonderful memories… and definitely memories of the challenges of trekking too! You probably will develop a girl- or man-crush on Levison Wood. I did.
- You can apply for your visa on arrival (it is cheaper to do so). Fill out your visa application online and print them out before getting to the airport. This will save you time at the airport and if you need to renew, save you one lineup at the immigration office. Visas are for 15/30/90 days.
- Get a sim card or two in Nepal (if you need to be contactable). I was MIA for a week, needless to say my parents were a bit worried when I didn’t check in, especially as I was travelling solo. Nepal Telecom has better reception in the mountains, whereas Ncell is good for the city and more affordable. It is easy to get recharge cards for either at the many teahouses in the mountains. But if you can do without – even better! It’s nice to unplug, disconnect and be with nature.
- Bring several copies of your passport photos (Tip: get photos taken at Australia Post, for a small extra charge they will email you a digital copy). You will need them for sim cards, visas, trekking passes or just to stick them up at base camp teahouses on your trek. 😉
- Travel insurance – if you are trekking, make sure your travel insurance company will cover evacuation at the altitude that you are trekking to (not many do). Tip: Email them to confirm this, especially if the T&C’s are not very clear, and this will ensure that you have it in writing. At the time of my travels, 1Cover was affordable and had suitable coverage for evacuation at 4250m.
- Tipping. As Australians we don’t often tip back home, so I always find it awkward not knowing the appropriate amount to tip. Nepalese rely heavily on tips – so tip generously. After checking some online forums, the general guide was that as a group, the guide is tipped 20-30USD/day and porters tipped 12-20USD/day. We chose to tip our guide and porters the same amount.
- Learn a few words in Nepali. Although English is widely spoken pretty much everywhere, it’s always polite to learn at least a few basic phrases when travelling in another country. Namaste (hello/goodbye); Dhanyabad (thank you); Ho (Yes); Hoena (No).
If you are considering going to Nepal – I urge you to just go!! Even if you aren’t much of a trekker, there is plenty of sightseeing you can do. There are also plenty of shorter treks or even day treks you can do. Believe me, it is worth it for the views. Usually after a month away from home, I am ready to leave, but this time I was truly sad to leave Nepal. The beautiful landscape, the serenity of the mountains and the humble people stole my heart. ♥
Have you been to Nepal? Do you have any handy tips?
Keep an eye out for my next post on the yoga trek!