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Nepal Culture and Customs

How Not to Be Mistaken for a Tourist in Nepal

Understanding Nepalese culture and the traditional way of life is an important aspect of responsible tourism, which is the kind of travel we want to practice and encourage you to do the same. When you travel to Nepal, embrace and respect their customs, which may be as simple as washing your hands and mouth before dining, or making sure your shoulders are covered. By mirroring local traditions, you are showing that you value their way of life and you're helping to build a sustainable relationship between yourself as a traveler and the local people of Nepal. Here are a few pointers to get you on your way, and of course your guides will be by your side to help as well.

group everest base camp


When it comes to food and drink

  • Only eat off your own plate and never use your knife or spoon to serve food off a communal plate.
  • When drinking from a communal cup or jug, pour the water straight into your mouth without the cup touching your lips. It's a bit tricky but makes hygienic sense, worth knowing just in case you misplace your water bottle!
  • In Nepal, your left hand is used for personal ablutions, so use your right hand to eat or pass around food. 
  • As in any country, wait to be served. Nepal is a very laid back country when it comes to time (to put it politely), so patience is most definitely a virtue!
  • It's customary to leave your shoes outdoors when dining in someone's house. But it's OK to keep shoes on in the tea houses.
  • Plastic bottles are causing horrific problems in the Himalayas where they litter the mountains. Please play your part in stopping this problem escalating even further by not purchasing plastic water bottles, and instead reusing your own bottle, or refilling a water bladder (such as a Camelbak).

When deciding what to pack

  • Nepal is a conservative society, so short shorts, sleeveless tops and other revealing items of clothing are not suitable for women or men. Alas, nudity is also very much unacceptable - so no bare chests either please! This is important throughout Nepal, including on the trails, where you'll need to wear long trekking pants and a t-shirt to cover your shoulders. Not a bad idea in terms of being sunsafe either.

Good old manners

  • As with anywhere you travel, a few simple greetings can go a long way. Only, in Nepal they might be slightly different from what you're used to! People in Nepal rarely shake hands, instead they prefer the "namaste" greeting, which is when you place your palms together in prayer position. You can do this wordlessly with a slight bow as "namaste" means "I bow to you" in Sanskrit.   
  • If you want to give your guide a hug at the end of the trip (and we're sure you will!) that is absolutely fine, but remember, public displays of affection between men and women are best kept brief, or even better kept in private.
  • Don't be shocked if you see many Nepali men hand in hand. This is quite normal in Nepal and doesn't carry any sexual overtones (usually).
  • If you give or receive money use your right hand and touch your right elbow with your left hand, as a gesture of respect (although I can understand if you would think it sounds like a game of Twister - best to practice beforehand!).
  • This is something that travellers come across all the time - when you ask a local something, like for directions, even if they don't know the answer they'll want to give a positive response - rather than saying they don't know. So if you are given the wrong information, it could be through fear of dissapointing you. In these situations, always try to remain cool, calm and collected because raising your voice or shouting is very much frowned upon in Nepal. 

Taking that special photo

  • The rule of thumb if you're hoping to photograph someone is always ask first and respect the wishes of the people you are asking.
  • The other place to be mindful of is at temples and monasteries, some of which prohibit photography. But don't worry, in our experience Nepal has proven to be the ultimate photographer's dream. Dark blue horizons against majestic towering peaks, with faded prayer flags in the foreground - who could ask for more!
  • If you'd like to take a picture of sadhus (holy men who travel from place to place), it is customary to give baksheesh (a tip). 

 


Buying souvenirs and fair trade

  • Always try to be aware of the threat to local wild and endagered species through the purchase of products made from materials such as fur, shell or bone. We recommend not purchasing these products.
  • Also, try to shop at places that support fair trade. With a population dominated by rural poverty, fair trade can really make a difference by investing in sustainable materials, providing further education, avoiding child labour and giving decent wags to artisans. See the guide to Kathmandu for some ideas of where to buy fair trade products.

 

If you have any questions about any of these customs and travel tips please give us a call and we'll be happy to provide further advice or elaboration.

Trip Reviews

  •   4.74 out of 5 (from 226 reviews)

    EBC 2017 Trip

    What an amazing experience! There was so much more to the trek than was advertised. The immersion into the Nepali culture was unexpected and a delight. DK and his crew are professionals! They kept us safe and got us across across the finish line. We had a blast while we were doing it. I can not say enough about our porter team too! What a terrific group of men. Whom ever does your hiring should get a raise. Keep up the awesome adventures.
    Jim Lauer Review Image
    – Ohio, United States
    EBC, May 2017
  •   4.74 out of 5 (from 226 reviews)

    EBC Nov 2016

    Quit my job, booked my flights and off I went. I had no expectations as I did not have much time to prepare and plan. Perhaps that's what made it an even better adventure. You will be challenged. You will need to dig deep. When things get tough at the higher altitudes, just put one foot in front of another and stay positive!
    Megan Rath Review Image
    – Pennsylvania, United States
    EBC, January 2017
  •   4.74 out of 5 (from 226 reviews)

    Everest Base Camp, Sept - Oct 2017

    Great trip. Elder and Arjun are so great. They make an awesome team and really care about the people on the trip and the people working with them. The Himalayas are too hard to describe and pictures do not do them justice. There is no scale to compare them to when talking about them. You simply have to see it. Oh, Ama Dablam is magnificent. There were times when the scenery literally brought tears to my eyes. In a good way. Kathmandu is an experience for sure, but have mixed emotions about the city itself.
    – Indiana, United States
    EBC, October 2017
  •   4.62 out of 5 (from 248 reviews)

    Annapurna Sanctuary Trek

    Great trip, well organized and guided. Our guide Amanda (Button) and Nepalese guide Shree were a lot of fun to spend time with. They managed the pace of the trek well and all came through with no problems. The weather this time of year turned out to be excellent. I'd do another trip with Active.
    Dick Lester Review Image
    – Washington, United States
    AST, October 2017
  •   4.62 out of 5 (from 248 reviews)

    5 Stars x 3

    I rated this as 5 stars, "Excellent, the trip of a lifetime", but actually that is not totally true. It is actually 1 of 3 trips of a life time. The other two were the AA Jaguar Tour and the AA Condor tour. All three were outstanding and each qualified as a "trip of a lifetime".
    Stan Jacobson Review Image
    – Minnesota, United States
    AST, November 2017

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