Himalayas Travel Information
Local time is GMT +5.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round two and three-pin plugs are used.
Nepali is the official language. English is spoken in all major tourist areas.
Travellers arriving from infected areas require a yellow fever vaccination certificate. Malaria is a health risk between June and September in the low-lying areas of Nepal, including Chitwan National Park, but not in the common trekking areas. Travellers should consult their doctor about whether malaria prophylaxis is necessary. Outbreaks of Japanese encephalitis occur annually, particularly between July and December, and vaccination is advised. Vaccinations are also recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid. Those who will be in contact with animals, especially bats, may want to consider a rabies vaccination as well. Cholera outbreaks occur and food and water precautions should be followed. Untreated water must be avoided; visitors should buy bottled water or purify their own. When trekking it is preferable to treat river water rather than leaving a trail of plastic bottles behind. Purifying water with iodine is the cheapest and easiest way to treat water. Altitude sickness is a real risk for trekkers: many people suffer from altitude sickness above 8,202ft (2,500m); if symptoms persist it is wise to descend as quickly as possible. The standard of care in hospitals varies, but there are traveller's clinics in Kathmandu and numerous pharmacies in the major towns. Medical insurance is essential, and should include air evacuation. All required medications should be taken into the country in their original packaging and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing what they are and why they are needed.
Restaurants and hotels may add 10 percent to bills in which case no further tip is required; otherwise a 10 percent tip is customary in places that cater to tourists. It is customary to tip guides and porters on treks. Elsewhere it is not customary to tip, but gratuities are always appreciated.
There are safety concerns in Nepal following the 2008 elections, when it became a secular republic. Demonstrations and public gatherings should be avoided, as there is still a high risk of violence. Due to previous bomb attacks and shootings in public places, including the main tourist areas of Kathmandu, Pokhara and Lukla, as well as on popular trekking routes, visitors are warned to be particularly vigilant. Tourists have been involved in several violent incidents with foreigners targetted in recent attacks in the Thamel district of Kathmandu. All are advised to be cautious after dark and to stay in a group if in the area at night. There have been incidences of violent robbery against trekkers and there is an armed Maoist presence on many of the major trekking routes who demand a 'tax' before allowing trekkers to pass. Trekkers are advised to stay on established routes and walk in a group or with professional guides. Foreigners have been attacked in the Nagarjun Forest Reserve just outside Kathmandu and visitors are advised to be cautious in the area and to travel in a group.
Nepal has numerous cultural practices that are unusual to foreigners. In the tourist areas there is a high degree of tolerance towards visitors, but away from these places foreigners should be sensitive to local customs. Never accept or offer anything, or eat with the left hand. Do not eat from someone else's plate or offer food from one's own. Women should dress conservatively and cover as much as possible. Permission should be sought before taking photographs, particularly at religious sites. Public displays of affection between men and women are frowned upon.
The Nepalese are warm and friendly, and business tends to be conducted with a combination of formality and sincerity. Much time is given to small talk and socialising. Handshakes are fairly common, though one should wait to see if greeted with a hand, or a namaste - a traditional greeting of a small bow accompanied by hands clasped as if in prayer. Visitors should return the greeting as it is given. Dress tends to be formal and conservative, with suits and ties the norm. Titles and surnames are usually used; the elderly in particular are treated with great respect and the word 'gi' is added after the name as a polite form. Punctuality is important, although it may take some time to get down to business, and negotiation can be a long process. English is widely spoken and understood, though discussions in Nepali may occur between locals within a meeting. Business hours are usually 9.30am or 10am to 5pm Sunday to Thursday (closing at 4pm in winter). Saturday is a holiday.
The country code for Nepal is +977, and the outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the UK). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)1 for Kathmandu and (0)41 for Pokhara. Two mobile phone operators provide GSM 900 network coverage in the main cities and towns, but this does not extend to the summit of Mount Everest! In the main tourist centres of Kathmandu and Pokhara there are internet cafes on every corner.
Travellers to Nepal do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or the equivalent in other tobacco products; 1 litre of alcohol and perfume for personal use. It is illegal to export goods that are over 100 years old.
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