7 fears you may have about visiting Nepal - and why you should go anyway
When we were planning our recent travels to Nepal we weren't quite sure what to expect (and were admittedly, a little nervous!) given the recent earthquake and fuel crisis.
What would visiting Nepal be like now? Would we be safe? Be able to move around easily? Would it be 'too soon', or would we be in the way of the rebuilding process? As we met other travellers throughout the country, we realised they'd all harboured similar fears about visiting Nepal - but decided to push them aside to come anyway.
It turns out every single one of our concerns were completely unfounded: Nepal is getting back on it's feet again, and it's just as beautiful and friendly as it ever has been. In fact, not only is Nepal open for tourism again, it needs tourists now more than ever and all they want is for you guys to go back to Nepal in 2017!
Having spent 6 weeks falling in love with this amazing country, we've put together a few of the most common fears we've encountered - and why you should just push right past them and visit Nepal this year!
7 FEARS YOU MAY HAVE ABOUT VISITING NEPAL, AND WHY YOU SHOULD GO ANYWAY
#1 I'M SCARED TO TRAVEL TO NEPAL SO SOON AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE
Last year's earthquake was the epitome of heartbreak and devastation. Over 8,000 people died, hundreds of thousands were injured, buildings and whole villages were reduced to rubble in a minute. Not a single person in Nepal remains unaffected by this tragedy.
But what you have to understand is that time didn’t stop for Nepal when the earthquake hit. They’re an extremely resilient and spiritual people and the rebuild began straightaway. Most of the main tourist area, Thamel, emerged unscathed, and affected tourist areas (such as hiking trails) were repaired and reopened within 4 months of the quakes.
In the six weeks we spent here, we honestly barely noticed any evidence of quake-related damage - save for some of the durbar squares under renovation and a few changes to our hiking trails.Then there’s the exceptionally friendly, welcoming, and generous locals who do everything they can to make sure you’re looked after as a visitor in their country. Overwhelmingly, we realised it was so safe, open, beautiful, and as welcoming as ever. What’s more, because tourism hasn’t really picked up again yet most of the tourist areas are quieter than normal, which is a huge benefit for your sightseeing!
The original earthquake was bad enough. The lack of tourism in the country 12 months later is like a second earthquake for the Nepali people. Please guys, book those tickets!
Read next: Nepal now - the only thing missing is you
KEEP READING: OUR COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO KATHMANDU
#2 ISN'T IT REALLY HARD TO GET AROUND IN NEPAL BECAUSE THERE'S NO FUEL?
Late last year, tension between Nepal and India came to a head during the five-month fuel crisis during which land-locked Nepal was cut off from India's fuel supply (their source of import) for a bunch of reasons that are politically-rooted and complex.
We heard horror stories of people having to queue for petrol for three days, buying off the black market at exorbitant prices, and local buses being so overcrowded that people climbed on roofs. We expected the worst, but were surprised to find that the crisis seems to have resolved itself mostly.
Honestly, you won't have any troubles travelling around Kathmandu or the rest of the country at all! Just be mindful that petrol prices are still higher than usual, so it pays to be considerate when haggling prices with drivers.
Read more: Our complete Nepal travel guide - what to see, do and know
#3 MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY DON'T THINK IT'S SAFE TO TRAVEL THERE
Sometimes your loved ones - the same people you hope will be excited for your upcoming travel plans - aren’t quite as excited about your travel plans as you are.
Our amazing, well-meaning friends and family were a little uneasy about us travelling to Nepal so soon after the earthquake and the fuel crisis. While their concerns about our personal safety, shaky infrastructure, and the risks of another disaster were totally understandable, we were only in the country for a day before we realised that most of them were unfounded; if you didn't already know what Nepal had gone through in 2015, you'd almost not even click that it happened when walking around it today.
Unfortunately, recent global events have shown that crime exists everywhere in the world and generally bad things can happen anywhere; Paris, London, Thailand, Japan, Belgium, Turkey, Sydney, large cities, small country towns, you name it. We used to live in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD, and every now and then there’d be late night alcohol-fuelled stabbings in the street we’d walk to work each day.
What we’re trying to say is that you can be at risk of danger in your own home town, just as you can travel for months (as we have) without a single thing going wrong. Don’t do yourself the disservice of missing an amazing experience just because someone else isn’t comfortable with it!
#4 IS NEPAL DANGEROUS? BECAUSE MY BEST FRIEND'S SISTER'S UNI MATE HAS TRAVELLED TO SOME OF NEPAL'S NEIGHBOURS AND HAD SOME ISSUES there...
Every country is different, no place on earth is 100% safe, and as a traveller you do immediately become more of a target for those who would swindle you.
That said, Nepal is an extremely different place to any of its neighbours, and we felt exceptionally safe. We’re talking about a deeply spiritual place, and an exceptionally warm, generous, and friendly people. Nepali people passionately believe in the concept of karma, and that whatever actions or thoughts they put into the universe will be received back to them by the universe. Time and time again we encountered genuinely warm hospitality from locals - and it's one of our favourite memories from there!
Of course, bargain well, dress more conservatively (cover those shoulders and knees, ladies!), always remain vigilant about your personal safety and don’t walk around flashing expensive gadgets or jewellery - all the usual safety tips! Overwhelmingly though, our experience was that you're 1000 times more likely to be bailed up by someone wanting to practice their english or just chat than you are by someone wanting to cause you harm!
KEEP READING: NEPAL NOW - THE ONLY THING MISSING IS YOU
#5 WHAT IF I DON'T LIKE nepalese FOOD?
There’s nothing worse than turning up in a country for the first time, eager to sample the local fare and realising that actually you kinda, sorta, really, can’t stand the food there. Here’s a secret: This actually came true for us in Myanmar. We tried really freakin’ hard to get into the food there, but honestly, we just couldn’t get past the fermented shrimp paste and mustard leaf in just about every single dish.
Thanks to our Myanmar experience we were more wary than usual when it came to the standard of meals in Nepal. Looking back, all that worry is funny now, as the food in Nepal is exceptional - both local and western versions!
Tourism is a big deal in Nepal, which means there’s a lot of effort put into making quality meals. We tried (and loved) a great deal of local food - Dal Bhat, momos, tomato pickle, various curries, samosas, pakora, to name only a few! - and ate more delicious Cordon Bleu and apple strudel in Thamel than either of us have probably eaten in our lives.
#6. I’VE HEARD KATHMANDU IS A PRETTY BIG SHOCK TO THE SENSES
Google Kathmandu and chances are you’ll find an article describing a huge culture shock smack to the face that this crazy chaotic city will deliver you. It’s true, Kathmandu is big, smelly, noisy, and busy at a level that’s almost indescribable.
But just under the surface of all this chaos is the scent of incense, the taste of brilliant food, the smiles of locals as they pass you, and the awe-inspiring sight of hundreds of temples. Nepal is a deeply spiritual place, and there’s a certain vibe in the city that you really have to feel to understand.
It’s a sensory overload, and it’ll probably amaze you and overwhelm you at different times. Take your time to explore at a pace you’re comfortable with, try to just ‘go with it’ and be open to whatever the chaos brings. If it all starts to feel too overwhelming, head somewhere like the chilled out lakeside resort town of Pokhara for a few days to recharge.
#7 I LOVE ALL THE ELECTRONIC GADGETS, AND I HEARD THERE ISN'T MUCH ELECTRICITY OF WI-FI IN NEPAL?
Ah yes. Electricity is definitely a rare luxury in Nepal. The sheer volume of people in the country, ongoing political tensions, and various landslides or floods over the years since 2006 means that the availability of electricity has nowhere near matched demand. The result? Daily scheduled rolling power blackouts.
As travel bloggers, we kinda need a lot of power to charge our various phones, cameras, laptops, power packs etc, and when we first arrived we’d get about 5 hours of broken charging and wifi total during the day. It was barely enough to keep our laptops powered and all our batteries recharged before it’d spontaneously switch off again. Never fear! We soon learnt some workarounds that absolutely saved us.
Most hotels will list their scheduled power out times, so you can plug things in and leave them while you’re out so they charge in the meantime. Generally the power is also on at night (silly, right?!), so you should be able to charge most devices overnight. Bring some spare rechargeable battery packs for emergencies!
Some hotels and restaurants have backup generators and will allow you to plug in your stuff there as well.One of Thamel’s best kept expat secrets is the Himalayan Java Cafe and Mahabir Centre for Nepal Connection (right next to each other in Mandala Street, Thamel) - both of which have all-day charging stations and super quick internet. Plus, the frappes and chicken salads at HJC are heart-eyes emoji worthy. You’re welcome.
At the end of the day, the lack of electricity and wifi really isn’t a big deal - you’ll realise pretty quickly that everyone just gets on with things, and it means that you’ll spend more time exploring than with your nose in your Facebook feed.
#BONUS - I DON'T SPEAK ANY NEPALESE...
OK we totally get it, the possibility of not being able to converse very easily with the locals, read what’s on your menu, or get around the country - language barriers can be a daunting and tricky part of travelling.
Worried about visiting Nepal because you don’t speak a word of Nepalese? Don’t worry, neither did we! Even after we’d been travelling there for 6 weeks we’d only picked up the very basics of essential phrases and words. So how did we survive?
Most Nepali people have basic english, and almost everyone who works in the tourism industry has a strong understanding. We didn’t run into any major difficulties communicating with people at all. That said, learning a few key phrases will go a long way to breaking the ice with the locals - they were thrilled when we made the effort to speak a little Nepalese!
Is there something else worrying you about visiting Nepal?
Or perhaps you've been there recently and want to share your experience? Tell us in the comments below!
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