Here are a few useful tips that should help the visitor to get around Nepal at ease.
- Arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport: After checking in at the immigration desk, passengers without any dutiable goods can proceed through the Green Channel for quick clearance without a baggage check. If you are carrying dutiable goods, you must proceed through the Red Channel.
- Getting a taxi: There are taxi-drivers, travel agents and hoteliers waiting outside the airport terminal to offer their services to you. While hiring a taxi, be sure not to leave any of your belongings behind. Also, you can hire a taxi by booking inside the airport.
- Respect basic Nepali customs: Take off your shoes before entering a Nepali home. Never leave your shoes or sandals upside down.
- Nepalese are friendly by nature; you may accept a handshake offered by either a male or a female but never offer your hand first to a woman. Instead, you do a ‘Namaskar’ with folded palms. Nepalese men in general, Hindus in particular, avoid touching women and holy men. Although young boys and girls in urban areas mix up these days, public display of affection is still inappropriate.
- Visiting a temple: It is customary to take off your shoes before entering a temple/holy place. Walking around the temples or stupas is traditionally done clockwise. Ask for permission before entering any temple. Avoid smoking inside sacred and public places.
- Taking Photographs: You can take photographs outside Buddhist stupas and Hindu temples and during festivals, but seek permission while taking photographs inside temples or of religious ceremonies. Many people, especially women, might not be willing to be photographed. So, it is always advised to ask for their permission first.
- Dress Code: It is always better to be decently clad when going anywhere. Clothes that are not too revealing are advised for women especially when traveling outside the Kathmandu Valley.
- Currency: The Nepalese currency is the Rupee and is divided into 100 paisa. Banknotes come in denominations of Rs. 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000.
- Card Payment: Major hotels, restaurants and curio shops accept AMERICAN EXPRESS, VISA and MASTERCARD. You can contact the banks for credit card services. There are a number of ATMs in Kathmandu, Pokhara and other big cities of the country.
- Money Exchange: It is illegal to exchange foreign currency with persons and organizations other than those authorized such as banks, hotels and licensed money changers. In order to exchange surplus rupees at the time of your departure, please retain your encashment receipts.
- Food: Most Nepalese eat their meal by hand especially the Nepali food dal, bhat and tarkari. Food that has been eaten from a plate is considered impure and is called jutho in Nepali. So, do not offer food from your plate, nor eat from a common pot, and do not touch a shared drinking vessel with your lips. After a meal of rice, Nepalese rinse their hands and mouths thoroughly and are very particular about the practice.
- Tipping: If a Service Charge is already attached to your bill, as is customary in the restaurants these days, it is not necessary to tip. However, tip 10% to porters, tour and trekking guides, and drivers when covering long distances (expected but not mandatory)
- Shopping: To avoid fakes and being cheated, buy for designer goods at the departmental stores and shopping malls. Exclusive showrooms at Durbar Marg, Asan and Thamel in Kathmandu specialize in handicraft, gems, jewelry and pashmina items.
- Export: It is illegal to export anything older than 100 years out of the country such as sacred images, paintings and manuscripts. Visitors should, therefore, not buy such items. All such items must be cleared by the Department of Archaeology at Ramshah Path near Singha Durbar that they are not antiques before being allowed to be taken out of the country.
- Immunization and health: Although inoculations are not required to enter Nepal, it is wise to protect oneself against diseases such as hepatitis, meningitis and Japanese encephalitis etc. Malaria has been reported in the Terai plains. So take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes. Please notify the authorities or the hotel of any symptoms of bird or swine flu or any endemic.
When in Nepal, eat thoroughly cooked food. Use only bottled mineral water or boiled and filtered water for drinking. Wear a mask when walking in the dusty streets.
Post and telecommunications: Post offices sell stamps, post cards and aerograms. Express Mail Service (EMS) is available at the General Post Office located at Sundhara near the Dharahara tower in Kathmandu
Hotels and private communication centers provide long distance (ISD, STD) and e-mail as well as Internet services. The country code for Nepal is + 977 and the area code for Kathmandu is 01, for Pokhara 061, Chitwan (056) and Lumbini 071.
- Beggars: Avoid giving sweets and money to beggars and children. However, a donation to a school, monastery or hospital would be greatly appreciated.
- Public toilets: Public toilets charge a small fee for their use in some places. But visitors are advised to use the toilets at the shopping malls, stores and restaurants which are cleaner and free of cost.
- City safety: It is safe to take a walk around from morning till late in the evening until the shops are open. You are responsible for the safety of your handbag, back-pack and items such as cameras.