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9 Things To Pack For Nepal

“The mountains are calling and I must go,” said John Muir, and while he was referring to his research in the mountains of North America, i'll permit myself to tear this quote from its original context and paste it neatly into this article. And to add insult to injury, i'll use an imaginary eraser and an imaginary pencil and change the whole shebang to this:

“The Himalayas are calling and i must go.”

Of course there are many reasons to travel to Nepal. Cultural sites and exotic cuisine and extreme sports and slowing down and many other things are on that list, but my list is short: The Himalayas are calling. Now, as you might suspect, this ordinary woman with the most ordinary levels of fitness and endurance and an extreme aversion to extreme sports have no ambition AT ALL to conquer any one of the 8 peaks among the 10 highest in the world on offer in the Nepali Himalayan ranges. Sometimes i think it would’ve been wonderful if those dreams were in my heart, but they’re not. That doesn’t mean that the Himalayas don’t draw me closer as if it were a candle and i the helpless moth.

A decade ago someone invited us to go to Bhutan with him, and That-Man enquired where on earth that was, to which came the reply: “It’s in the Himalayas.” “We’re in!” was That-Man’s reply, and that was our first step towards the roof of the world. We had to fly through Kathmandu to get to Bhutan, and along the way we were overawed by the mountains.

This part of Creation is truly something that takes your breath away. Between Kathmandu and Paro you fly past Mount Everest, and we pondered the fact that so few people in the whole wide world would ever have the privilege to see the highest place in the whole wide world. Even though it’s almost 9km above sea level, you have to catch at least 3 airplanes from South Africa in order to get this close to it. If you were to climb it, you’d have two options: From Lukla in Nepal or from Tibet in China. It would take you weeks to come close to the foot of the mountain, and months to reach the top (without the obvious wagon load of gold bullion you’d have to pay and the lifetime of mountaineering experience you’d had to have ticked off the list beforehand.) But it does seem that the view from the top is priceless. To stand on a peak from which everything else is lower and from where you can see the curve of the horizon, with the clouds way down below your feet, must be indescribable.

i digress. Please forgive me. What i'm hoping to share with you is how to pack for a visit to Nepal.

Obviously, it all depends on when you’re planning to visit and which parts of the country you plan to see.

In answer to the first question: Nepal lies in the northern hemisphere, which means that summer is from June to August, winter from December to February, and spring and autumn fits in around March to May and September to November, respectively.

Secondly, Nepal is divided into three broad regions according to terrain, which also divides the country by climate. In the south, the plains have a subtropical climate, with extremely hot, humid summers, and temperatures remaining quite comfortable during winter months. The middle is where the foothills of the Himalayas raise from the plains. Here the winter temperatures are mild during the day and cold at night, summer is still hot and humid, and spring and autumn is mild with occasional showers. In the northern parts, the Himalayas create a cool summer and freezing winter, with spring and autumn somewhere in between.

Therefore, before you pack, keep in mind your destination in Nepal, as well as the season you’ll be visiting.

Here is a list of things we’d consider, although we realise that you might want to add some items or find that some of these wouldn’t be necessary for you.


1 Passport and Visa

Check their immigration website to be sure that you don’t need to apply for a visa before you leave. Citizens from many countries (including South Africa) don’t need to apply for a visa beforehand, but will be granted a visa on arrival at the airport in Kathmandu. There are some exceptions to this rule, however, so we advise that you get the correct information before you travel.

2 Clothes

Take enough clothes according to the season you’ll be travelling in. During spring to autumn, be prepared with some rain gear and/or umbrella. As a rule of thumb, we always take a warm jacket along wherever we go. If you’re planning on doing some hiking or trekking, you’re welcome to refer to our article on what we packed for the Annapurna Circuit. Don’t forget to pack a swimsuit, as you might find a hot spring along the route.

Laundry services are usually available in guest houses and hotels, or you could do you own washing. Keep in mind that in summer months it rains daily, and during winter months you might need more time for the clothes to dry. Tumble dryers are not a common appliance.

Informal clothes are acceptable in all but a few establishments, so pack for comfort.

Breathable outerwear and thermal underwear is recommended in winter, as well as for those who’ll be tackling high altitudes.

Although Nepali people will not say anything in most cases, it’s always considerate no to wear clothing that’s too revealing. Feel free to cover the shoulders, knees and décolletage, and in this way show your respect to the people whose home you’re visiting.

If you’ve left something at home, don’t fret. Clothing is some of the most affordable items available in Nepal, although usually not in very large sizes.

3 Shoes

Comfortable walking shoes are the only option, as you’ll be spending most of your time walking, especially up- and downhill or stairs.

The Asian practice of outside shoes and house shoes are alive and well in Nepal. Before you enter a home, you’ll be expected to take off your shoes so as not to bring in the dust and whatever else into the house.

Therefore, it’s advisable to bring an extra pair of house shoes along. It’s also useful to have a pair of flip-flops for the bathrooms, which are washed thoroughly, leaving the floor and everything else soaked.

During winter months, either a warm pair of slippers or some thick socks will do the trick.

Once again, shoes, flip-flops and slippers are available at extremely reasonable prices everywhere.

4 Toiletries

Your usual list of toiletries should cover most of what you need. Add a bottle of sunscreen (throughout the year) and good mosquito repellent (in warm months), and you’ll probably have all you need.

Everything from soap to shampoo, conditioner to roll-on, toothpaste to toilet paper is available in supermarkets. However, if you prefer a specific brand, it’s better to bring it along.

5 Medicine

Pharmacies are scattered throughout cities and even small towns often have a pharmacist. Medicine is cheap and, in most cases, available without prescription. Therefore we rarely bring along any medicine.

However, if you’re on chronic medication or need to use a specific brand of medicine, bring your own supply of those. Chronic medicine might only be available if prescribed by a local doctor, and most medicines in Nepal are generic brands.

As a rule of thumb, when you travel with medicine, pack it in your cabin bag and carry a doctor’s prescription with you. Also, check restrictions on medicines you may take along for every country you’ll be passing through en route to Kathmandu. (For example, in some Middle Eastern countries, you’re not allowed to bring anything that contains codeine, which is found in such common medicines as cough syrup.) Consult the immigration and/or customs websites of such countries for more information, or contact the local consulate for such information.

A first aid kit is always recommended.

6 Electronics

Camera, charger & memory cards (If you’re a photographer – amateur or professional – you’ll know what to pack)

Mobile phone & charger

Head lamp (for unexpected load shedding and walking in the dark)

7 Snacks

Although many US and European snacks (Snickers, Reese’s, M&M, Oreo, Lindt, Cadbury’s, Lay’s, Hershey’s, Pringles, Haribo, Toblerone, etc.) have found its way to the shelves of supermarkets in Nepal, it costs a pretty penny, so choose before you leave: do want to travel light and spend extra money on those snacks, or do you want to save money and pack more?

South African snacks are not available, though. Rusks, chutney, biltong, Sally Williams, and such things will not be found in the shops, so choose: do you want to take it along or cope without it for a few weeks?

8 Money

In the cities you’ll find ATMs, which means that you’ll be able to withdraw money in Nepali currency once you’re there, but here are a few things to consider:

• You’ll probably need money for your taxi when you arrive.

• Nepali ATMs have a daily limit on withdrawals ranging from 10,000 to 35,000

Rupees, depending on the bank.

• ATMs charge at least 500 Rupees per transaction, excluding the charges from your

bank back home for international withdrawals.

• You’ll need to inform your bank that you’ll be using your card overseas before you


• You’d likely have to increase your withdrawal limits at your bank before you leave.

We’ve found that exchanging our local currency for US Dollars, Pounds or Euros at home, and then exchanging it for Nepali Rupees when we arrive in Kathmandu, to be the least hassle. Exchange a few dollars at the counters in the airport building in order to pay for your taxi (should be 5-10 dollars, depending on the vehicle), as well as a second taxi to take you to a money changer in town. The rates in town are more favourable than what you’ll receive at the airport. Insist on a receipt for the money you exchange, as you’ll need it to exchange your Rupees for dollars again before you leave. You could also change smaller amounts every few days if you prefer.

We have never been robbed in Nepal, but we advise that you keep your valuables locked up in your room, and that you take care when walking in busy streets and markets, as you would do at home.

9 Something from home

Nepali people welcome foreign visitors and are extremely curious about your home, so bring along some postcards, a few coins or notes, and even photos of your family. They love to see where you live, learn about your food and hear what you do when you’re back home. You have come to see the world, and you can easily share your corner of the world with them in some small way.

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