Thinking of backpacking Nepal alone? My friend Michelle from Full Time Explorer has kindly written this amazing guest post sharing all of her inside information to help you navigate this incredible country solo.
Nepal is a country that everyone’s heard of, but few people really know about. It’s famous for being home to the tallest mountain in the world, Mt. Everest. But, there’s so much more to this little country than meets the eye. Nepal has 126 different ethnic groups and 123 languages, making it one of the most diverse countries to visit.
The official language of Nepal is Nepalese, but many people speak English, making it easy to communicate.
Nepal is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve been to, with views that literally take your breath away. The people are kind and welcoming and love sharing their culture with visitors which is ideal for tourism. On top of all of that, a lot of the country is unexplored by tourists, so it’s easy to get off the beaten path.
Backpacking Nepal Alone
Top things to do in Nepal
If cities are your thing, I’d recommend Pokhara, Kathmandu, and Patan. Each has its own vibe and its own list of things to do and see. If you are looking for a spiritual escape, head to Lumbini which is the birthplace of Buddha. For National Parks, head to Chitwan and Bardia where you can see Bengal tigers and one-horned rhinos.
For a bit of adventure in Nepal
I’d recommend checking out the never-ending list of adventure sports. You can go bungee jumping, waterfall abseiling, and white water rafting. Those who like being in the air can try paragliding, helicopter tours, or a superlight flight. One of the amazing things about Nepal is that most of these experiences are affordable even if you’re on a budget.
If being in nature is a top priority
Then you can go for a hike or a trek in the Himalayas. The most popular treks are the Everest Base Camp Trek or the Annapurna Circuit. There’s also a plethora of other trails that are lesser known included Langtang, Manaslu, Dhaulagiri, Kanchenjunga, and more. Nepal is home to 8 of the 10 highest mountains in the world, so it’s the perfect place for mountaineering.
Need help planning your trip to Nepal? Check out the travel route planner by RoutePerfect.
Nightlife in Nepal for Solo Female Travelers
Nightlife in small towns is almost nonexistent. In cities, however, there are tons of options. In Kathmandu, I’d recommend Buddha Bar for a low key night out and Déjà Vu for a full club experience.
For live rock music, head to Purple Haze. If you’re the quiet type, go for a walk through Durbar Square (UNESCO World Heritage Site) at night. It’s free to enter after sundown and the temples are lit up with candles scattered around.
How to get from the international airport to central Kathmandu
At the moment, the only international airport in Nepal is in the capital city of Kathmandu which makes it a hub for transportation. Getting from the airport to Kathmandu city center can be intimidating, so I highly recommend paying a taxi 700 rupees to take you where you need to go.
Local transportation is incredibly hard to figure out. Even my local friends don’t understand it, so it’s best not to attempt it as soon as you land.
There are local and tourist buses that take you to other major cities in Nepal. There are also plenty of domestic airports for those who prefer to fly within Nepal. Buses from Kathmandu are extremely affordable, but take almost an entire day to get anywhere due to poor road conditions.
Airplanes often have delays but only take a couple of hours once in the air.
Transport in Nepal
Getting around Kathmandu and other major cities can be overwhelming. The easiest way to get around is on foot. I tend to walk everywhere, and I always feel safe. That being said, not everyone wants to walk down dusty streets, so the second best option is a taxi.
Taking taxis in Nepal
Are taxis safe in Nepal? Yes, taxis are safe, but drivers will try to rip you off when negotiating the price. It’s best to walk to the main road to get the price down. Being on a back road might take the driver twice as long to get where you’re going, so the price is higher. Note that a “night charge” is not a thing no matter how many drivers pretend it is.
There’s also no such thing as a “morning charge” or “middle of the day charge.” Use Google Maps to see how far the ride is. A half hour shouldn’t cost more than 500 rupees. 15 minutes will cost around 300 rupees. A short distance should only cost 100 rupees. Being friendly and speaking a few words of Nepalese will go a long way with negotiating.
Using Tootle App in Nepal
There’s an app called Tootle in Nepal that is commonly used (think Uber for motorbikes). It’s easy to use but comes with a lot of risks. Motorbike accidents are very common in Nepal, and the death toll for road accidents is very high. I don’t say this to scare you, but getting on a motorbike with a stranger is a risk. Drivers are required to wear helmets, but no one else on the scooter is. That means, no one will provide a helmet for you. I personally don’t use this app, but my local friends do.
Traveling by bus in Nepal
If you can figure out the bus system in Nepal, it’s an amazingly cheap way to get around. Bus stops are shown on Google Maps. If you stand by one and look lost, chances are, a local will be kind enough to help you. Ask the people standing there which bus to take, and they will generally help wave down the correct one and push you on. Then tell the person in the doorway of the bus collecting money what your stop is, and they will usually wave to you when it’s your turn to exit. A bus ride costs 15 to 20 rupees depending on the distance.
Hotels and hostels are abundant throughout Nepal, but I highly recommend staying in a homestay whenever possible. This way you get to see local life, meet a family and experience an authentic version of Nepal. Homestays rarely have websites, so it’s best to ask around when you arrive in Kathmandu.
Where to stay in Kathmandu
If you are looking for budget hotels in Kathmandu I prefer Thorong Peak Guest House and Milarepa Hostel. In Pokhara, I like Hotel Forest Lake Backpackers Hostel and Hotel Silver Oaks Inn. Outside of the cities, I generally ask other tourists or locals for recommendations. Most locals have a friend with a homestay that they are happy to share with you.
You’ll stay in Tea Houses which are basic hotels. You can’t make reservations for these since they don’t have websites. During peak season, it’s best to trek early in the day so that you arrive early and can secure a spot at a good one. During the offseason, it’s very easy to pick and choose where you’d like to sleep.
Safety tips for solo female travelers in Nepal
Nepal is one of the safest countries I’ve visited. I tend to walk around at night by myself and am very trusting when I’m there. I’ve never once been in a dangerous situation as far as people go. That being said, there are bad people everywhere, so it’s still good to keep your guard up.
As a woman, it’s good to be aware that Nepali men can be extremely flirty. I’ve also had the unfortunate experience of being hit on by several married men who claimed to be single. This is NOT every Nepali man, nor will it happen to every girl who visits. I’ve never felt in danger in these situations and when asked, they have backed off and been respectful. But, I do think it’s important to mention since it’s happened to me a few too many times.
Common Scams in Nepal
The most common scam involves powdered milk. A mother or young child will ask you to buy them groceries to feed their baby or family. They choose powdered milk because it’s the most expensive item in the store that can be returned. Later, they return the food for cash. I’ve met several people who fell prey to this scam.
Can you drink the water in Nepal?
Water is not potable, so it’s very important not to drink tap water. If you are trekking, you’ll need water purification tablets. In major cities, restaurants will most likely use filtered water. It’s good to be cautious, but 98% of the time, the water served in restaurants is actually bottled, boiled, or treated, so it is potable. You don’t have to buy water bottles everywhere you go. It is safe to brush your teeth with the tap water, just don’t swallow it.
Environmental dangers in Nepal
The most dangerous part of Nepal is environmental. Pollution in cities is a major problem, so it’s best to buy a face mask. On trekking routes, there are landslide-prone areas, so it’s good to have a certified guide who is familiar with the route. Altitude sickness is also a risk when going above 3,000 to 4,000m, so I would recommend travel insurance (with helicopter evacuation).
Nepal is such a magical place to visit. As a woman, it’s one of my favorite countries in the world, and I love how safe I feel when I’m there. I’ve actually had strangers stop me at night and offer to walk me home just in case I didn’t want to walk by myself. When I’ve been lost, people have offered me a cup of tea along with directions to get back to the main road.
The country is full of culture which hasn’t been lost. I’m always amazed at how many people are willing to teach me about their culture. I’ve had the privilege of living in Nepal part-time, and I’d highly recommend it to any solo female traveler who gets the chance to go.
Michelle | Full Time Explorer
Michelle ditched the hustle and bustle of New York City life, strapped on a backpack and started to travel through Asia. Read about what it’s like to trade five-inch stilettos for squat toilets at Full Time Explorer.
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