Nepal, home to Everest and the birthplace of Lord Buddha, is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. While you are reading this blog, I can say that you definitely have visited Nepal and probably plan for your next venture to Nepal. For your trip to Nepal, be it for the first time or second or more, here are the 10 things that you should know before visiting Nepal.
1) Dal Bhat and Bare Hand
Dal Bhat is the staple food in Nepal. Dal Bhat literally means ‘steamed rice (dal) with cooked lentil soup (dal)‘. During your stay in Nepal, whether on the hiking trail or the street of Kathmandu, Dal Bhat will be your favorite meal.
Nepalese eat it twice a day. And in case if you see them eat with a bare hand, don’t get bewildered. Most people eat dal bhat with their hands (right hand). Dal bhat with vegetable curries, popadoms, pickles, curds, and meat curry (buffalo, chicken, or mutton) in a metal tray is best devoured with a bare hand. Try it! You will love it. (Note: the left hand is wrong hand for eating dal bhat or any food, in Nepal)
2) Don’t touch anyone with your feet
The feet are considered the most unclean part of the body. So don’t touch anyone with your feet or step over anyone. And if you do (inadvertently) apologize immediately.
3) Namaste is the best greeting
‘Namaste’ or ‘Namaskar’ is the word you will hear everywhere in Nepal. We greet namaste as a sign of polite greeting and a way to start a conversation. You can simply say it or do it, placing your palms together and bowing a little. You can address ‘dai’ for men and ‘didi’ for women to start the conversation – Namaste dai, Namaste didi.
4) Squat toilets are common
Yes. Squat toilets are common in Nepal. While hotels, restaurants have western toilets, you may find squat toilets everywhere. So you better get used to squatting.
5) Haggling is normal
If you want to buy something in Nepal, don’t be afraid to haggle- sometimes ask for half the offered price. But be sure to be respectful. Try out in a couple of shops before buying anything. Keep bargaining until the price drop.
6) No card, only cash
In cities, the atm booths are readily available. There are money exchangers at the airport and the Thamel area. Hotels, restaurants, and guesthouses (majority) in Kathmandu valley, Pokhara and other cities accept electronic cards, but cash is preferable.
But in the Himalayas, no card, only cash. I highly recommend you to exchange money in Kathmandu or Pokhara. Just make sure you have cash before you hit the trekking trail.
7) No McDonalds
This could be no-sad-news for you, but yes, there is no McDonald’s in Nepal. The only reason for it is that Nepal, as a Hindu country, prohibits eating cow-product. You will not find McDonald’s in India either.
8) Right-handed world
Did you know that majority of people in Nepal are right-handed? Left-hand is only used to wipe/clean after defecating- the left hand is considered an unclean hand. We (Nepali) use the right hand to eat, hand-shake, and give/receive things.
9) Shoes outside
If you are entering someone’s house, make sure you put your shoes out. If you are entering a temple or monastery, make sure to keep your shoes outside. If you enter with shoes, it is considered discourteous.
10) Dress etiquette
One of the most important things to know before visiting Nepal is about dress etiquette. If you are traveling to Nepal, make sure you pack decent clothes. You need to dress appropriately. When it comes to dressing, Nepalese are conservative. Nudity is offensive. Always make sure to cover your body up to knees and shoulders. If possible, adorn yourself with Nepali dress. (no bikinis, or any dress that reveals your body)