If you would show me this article a few years ago, at the beginning of my backpacking around the world, I would probably laugh. My journey through many countries has begun with a lot of uncertainties and surprisingly I have been enjoying this way of travelling. Taken by surprise, without reading much about culture, tradition, rules, norms... My idea was to explore everything with hands-on experience, directly from locals, without having any pre-acquired knowledge. I'm still a more spontaneous traveller, rather than a follower of tourism guidebooks or blogs. However... not as strictly as before. Right now, I appreciate people's suggestions and tips about some places. It doesn't apply to all destinations, but those I somehow feel unsure or simply have limited time to discover.
I have decided to list here some suggestions for travellers in Nepal only because I feel these tips MAY help you to keep your holiday experience smoother and safer. In any way, I don't want to be in the position of the one who knows, because simply I don't know everything, but know something. Therefore I want to share with you this something I know... Not all of the things I have experienced on my skin-likely! But travelling gives you also a million chances to meet other travellers, whose experiences and adventures are your verbal guidebooks.
CHOOSING NOT RELIABLE TRAVEL AGENCY
Nepal is the country dependent on tourism. There are thousands of travel agencies and tour operators within the country. As everywhere else in world quality of them varies. Before choosing the one you want to buy your holiday, sightseeing tour or outdoor activity with, do detailed research. Read the other travellers comments, contact directly the owners, ask questions that bother you. You are paying for their services so your right is to know every detail of their policy. Online websites like TripAdvisor, Facebook pages or the agency private website will provide you with such information. You may also want to see another blog on how to choose the right travel agency in Nepal.
TOO MANY ACTIVITIES IN THE SCHEDULE
Time is precious. So plan your holiday accordingly to your time. If you choose too many attractions to visit in a small amount of time, you may end up in rush, stress and annoyance instead of having a pleasant experience in Nepal. It mostly applies to move from one destination to another. Roads and transportation in Nepal are specifically comparing to other countries, so take it into account. Sometimes the journey takes longer than it is expected due to traffic jams, bad quality of roads, landslides, vehicles and so on. Travelling in crowded busses, waiting in the jam, unplanned stops somewhere in nowhere have also their charm and are part of your journey but if you are tight on your schedule, it may become a reason for unnecessary stress.
Nepali people are known for their welcoming and kind attitudes towards visitors, however... They also want to make their business here, so be careful with the prices and services offered. Check with other travellers the prices they have paid for tours, check online for average prices to visit certain attractions. In Nepal, it is still common that prices will vary for local people and foreigners so be prepared for that. Compare tour offers and again, check feedbacks and services included with specific tour operators.
OVERPAYING FOR GOODS
A very common mistake while visiting Nepal is that people don't bargain. As some of the shops (supermarkets and bigger shops) have fixed prices for their goods, still most of the sellers will expect you to bargain! First of all, read some of the bargain tips and once you land in Nepal, put it in practice, starting from the taxi price at the airport. Depending on the goods you can easily bargain to get half of the price. Just do it with smile and fun, so the process is rather playful game than a situation where you expect to get a lower price. And most important, engage the seller in the conversation. Nepali people love chitchatting, so make the negotiation more personal.
REFUSING HOSPITALITY OF LOCAL PEOPLE
As I have mentioned before, people in Nepal are charming and extremely welcoming. They believe that guest at home is like a God at home and always treat visitors with the highest respect. Accept that and prepare yourself to be invited for a meal, tea and to spend some time with all family. Put your smile on, open your heart, leave all your fears and bias at home and let be taken by the flow of local habits and tradition. Be flexible and feel relaxed, for sure you will enjoy the new experience 200%.
100% TRUST IN PHOTOS ON BOOKING.COM
It is not a rule but happens very often in cheaper accommodation and less touristic places. The presentation of the rooms on the photos may not be accurate with what you will get when you arrive at the hotel. Often they show different standard, setting, facilities than the ones you have paid for. It happens that the owners excuse themselves that the rooms shown on the photos on booking.com are still available but at the higher price. Read the other travellers reviews or just book the rooms that you can cancel for free. Or just research about hotels you like and go there without booking and check the rooms beforehand.
LEAVING ALL BOOKINGS FOR THE LAST MINUTE
Although there is an option last-minute holiday and it is quite good in terms of economic travelling and saving money, however booking the vacation and facilities in advance has also many advantages. While talking about Nepal there is no such thing as a last-minute holiday. Discounts are usually given while there are more people in the group or for regular clients of the agency. So, when planning a trip to Nepal book the holiday in advance, preferably with one tour operator or agency. What gives you the most? Peace of mind! No more worries about hotel bookings, transport, accommodation, food, safety, medical care. Agency will take care of it, so you can have a free head for exploring new environment and activities. This applies especially to holidaymakers who are tight on schedule, want to be organised and use their time effectively.
CHOOSING TOO DIFFICULT TREK FOR OWN ABILITIES
The Himalayas are known as the highest mountains in the world. There are a variety of treks to be chosen from, starting with easy trails to advanced and very difficult treks. Sometimes people forget that most Himalayan peaks are close to 8000m, and their base camps are set at the minimum altitude 4000m. Having experience of hiking in Alps or Pyrenees doesn't mean the same as trekking in the Himalayas! So, be humble and assess your abilities and knowledge before choosing the hike. Or best, consult with a travel agency and go on your first hike with experienced sherpa and porters. Annapurna BC, Langtang, Mardi Himal BC, Pikey Peak or Poonhill are considered as moderate treks and good to start with.
CHOOSING TOO LONG TREK FOR TIME AVAILABLE
Depending on how long is your holiday, you should consider the length of travelling to the starting point of the trek, estimated time of the trek, preferably adding 2 days extra and returning from the endpoint to the city. These all can be done efficiently eg booking private vehicles, choosing flight instead of land transport, checking details of the trip itinerary. For one week holiday, you may choose short treks around Kathmandu Valley, Langtang, Poonhill or Panchase trek. For two weeks you have more possibilities as Annapurna BC, Mardi Himal, Lower Mustang trek, Api BC, Khopra Danda. Three weeks holiday give you chance to trek, for example, Everest BC, Annapurna Circuit, Kanjenchunga BC, Manaslu, Makalu, Island Peak, Upper Mustang or Dolpo.(most likely with your guide or sherpa!)
NOT BEING AWARE OF OWN BODY AND ITS REACTION
This is especially important when trekking in higher altitudes. Being aware of your own body may significantly help to deal with altitude sickness, tiredness, cold and other mountains' conditions that you will be facing. Reading the signs of the body may mean you will need to spend longer time to acclimate, wear warmer clothes or just walk slower.
PREPARING NOT SUFFICIENT GEARS AND TREKKING EQUIPMENT
While you trek on your own the responsibility to prepare equipment lies barely with you. It requires excellent knowledge of how to equip self to be 150% self- sufficient while up in the mountains. It may be just packing a tent, sleeping bag and food. But... What kind of tent? How thick sleeping bag and what type of food to not overweight your luggage and not to starve? Many treks there have tea houses and food served but still, you are expected to have basic trekking stuff, like a waterproof jacket, pants, good trekking shoes etc. Trekking agency staff, guides, sherpas are a great source of information, what to take with you depending on the season.
Hopefully, your first experience of visiting Nepal will be stunning and smooth, with only happy-ending adventures! Take your path to discover the beauty of this country, keep an eye on details (there are many of them!) and use common sense while planning your journey.