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Nepal

Begin your ultimate adventure

Below you will find comprehensive information on all things Nepal. You can search what activities you can do, the best times of year to travel, what you need to bring with you, how to stay healthy and even how to negotiate visas and airports in the country. We hope that this provides a comprehensive guide to help you get the most out of your adventure, but if you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact us via our "contact us" page.

We have set this guide out to follow a logical chronology, beginning with what you can do before you even leave your home country, then progressing onto your time in Nepal and finally your journey home.

The obvious place to start your adventure is by deciding what you want to do with your time in Nepal. At first glance this might appear to be a pretty easy question to answer, but dig a little into what is possible in this country and you’ll soon find yourself at a loss at where your priorities lie.

Let’s look at some of the things you can do:

• Trekking

• Mountaineering

• White water sports • Paragliding

• Canyoning

• Rock Climbing

• Jungle Safaris

• Survival Workshops • Bungy Jumping

• Mountain Biking

It doesn’t really matter about your experience levels for the majority of activities in Nepal, because the country has a very good guiding and instruction set up these days. Most of the activities above (with the possible exceptions of mountaineering and white water kayaking) can be experienced with very little prior experience, if any, as long as you find a good guide to help you along your journey.

Another key consideration that will help you on your way is time. The amount of time you have or are willing to spend in Nepal will probably be the biggest determining factor in what you can do in the country. For example, if you only have a few days, then some small activities in and around Kathmandu (you’ll be surprised how much is on offer just outside the `Capital) would work best.

Having a week will allow you to visit Pokhara for a short trek in the Annapurna region, as well as some rafting and paragliding if you are keen, or you could go to Langtang to escape the big crowds.

In additional to treks and climbs, you could start to look at the longer white water rafting and kayaking expeditions on rivers like the Sun Kosi and the Kali Ghandaki.If you have 2 or more weeks then the big treks come into focus. Think Annapurna Base Camp, Annapurna circuit, Everest Base Camp and even Kanchenjunga are possible. You are also entering the realm of some of the smaller mountaineering peaks.

Perhaps your goal while in the Himalaya is to completely disconnect from your everyday life. This might include not only getting away from the internet, but also immersing yourself deep into Nepali culture and life. If this is something that appeals to you, then speak to your travel partner (aka your tour operator) about the possibility of homestay trekking. Not all companies can provide this, but those who understand the need to build sustainable itineraries for the places you will visit will be very happy to help you out here.



This is one of the most asked questions by our clients; and it’s a very important consideration when planning a trip to Nepal. The answer is not clear cut, and depends on both the activities you want to do, as well as the region you want to visit. Read on to get a clearer picture.

Nepal is affected by the annual monsoon that sweeps across the Himalaya and Indian sub-continent. The monsoon is caused by a temperature difference between the Indian Ocean and the land mass in India and Bangladesh. During the summer months (June to September) the land heats faster than the ocean, and as a result air over the land tends to have a lower pressure than that over the water. Air from the ocean rushes inland to fill the natural void created, bringing with it a lot of moisture. As the air moves over India and into Nepal, it reaches the Himalaya. This massive natural wall pushes air up high and cools it, creating condensation, that flows back across Nepal, India and Bangladesh, and falls as torrential rain.

Ok, Enough of the Science. When do I go?

So what does this mean for your trip? Well, this monsoon hangs around between late May and early September. We can’t be certain exactly when it starts and stops, so late September to Early May is generally accepted as the best time to Trek in Nepal. There are exceptions to this rule, and some months within this “sweet spot” are better than others. Let’s look a little more in- depth at what this means.

Which months are best to trek?

By far the most popular months that adventure enthusiasts visit the Nepal Himalaya are October and April. The monsoon has normally ended it’s torment by October and it is also still warm in the foothills from the summer. April is on the flip side. It’s just before the rains and is warm again after the winter. Of course, the compromise is that you will be with a lot of other people following similar dreams as you – some people love this as it brings those who may not otherwise meet, together; while others may want a little more peace and quiet.

How about traveling in winter?

The winter months of December and January are actually an excellent time to visit; if you can handle the cold! This is Nepal’s winter and even Kathmandu, at about 1,500m high gets chilly. However, this is also the driest time of the year, and clouds are almost unheard of. The advantage of this is that views on many of the treks are stunning and perfect. Another added bonus is that the trekking routes are much more quiet, meaning you have the wonders of the highest mountains on Earth almost to yourself.

What kind of temperatures should you expect in the winter? Well, on Mountain Quests’ last Christmas trek, Annapurna Base Camp in late December, we had temperatures of up to 20 degrees during the day, and it was only after the sun went down that the mercury dropped below freezing. The minimum night time temperature was -7 celsius at 4,100m. This was remarkably warm. You can expect lows of around -15 celsius in December and January at Annapurna Base Camp at the extreme. This may sound cold, and it is! But it’s at night and you’ll be tucked up in your guest house with down jacket and sleeping bag by this point. Come prepared and winter gives you a lot!

Nothing to do from June to September?

It’s well known that Nepal isn’t the best place to visit during the monsoon months of June to September, but there is one gem of a destination in the country that is in its prime during this period. Upper Mustang, north of Pokhara, is a stunning and unspoiled Buddhist enclave that used to be a kingdom in it’s own right. Buddhism is still practiced in its purest form by the monks of this area and very few tourists go there, due in part to cost and time required to get there.

But if you are willing to make the effort you will be rewarded with unbelievable scenery and Buddhist culture seen almost nowhere else on Earth. The end of May is still the best time to go though, as then you will witness the Tiji Festival, a 3 day extravaganza of Buddhism played out in front of you.

What about other activities?

As we mentioned in the previous section, there is a lot more to do in the Himalaya than just trekking. The two big alternatives are mountaineering and white water sports.

For mountaineering, ideal times to make an attempt vary from mountain to mountain, so do some research and speak to your guiding company.

For white water sports, depending on how committing you want the river to be, you want there to be lots of water. Two things cause water to be in the rivers; melting glaciers and rain!

The glaciers melt the most when it is warm of course, so the summer (June to September) is an obvious time to consider. But at this time it is also raining, meaning that the rivers can be wild. Most rivers will be un-runnable for August and September, due to the massive volume of water, bringing with it debris that can puncture rafts and make kayaking too dangerous.

A compromise therefore needs to be made, between big rivers and safety. This compromise tends to fall between April and June and September to November. The seasons for rafting go a little further into the summer months, to take advantage of the extra water volumes. It is fine to raft any other time of the year (apart from the very wild summer months) but expect less water and in the winter, colder conditions. Your rafting guiding company will be able to advise you on each individual river and the best times to raft or kayak them.

That wasn’t a simple answer

We did warn you, but it’s not too hard to work things out. Just match the information to the activity you are doing and things will soon fit into place. Happy planning!

We’ve already briefly discussed what is on offer for you when you go to Nepal, but not in any great detail. We feel that it’s important to look in more detail at these now, so that when you decide on your final itinerary, you are aware of what to expect, without losing any of the excitement and anticipation of course.

Chapter one lists some of the major physical attractions in Nepal, but it is by no means an exhaustive list. We have left out some of the less time and skill consuming activities, such as paragliding and bungy jumping from the following discussion, because to be honest (unless you are doing a paragliding course) these activities do not require much explanation. We’ll discuss the major activities, along with what you will need to enjoy them, and what to expect along the way.

Trekking

This is, by far, the biggest draw to the Himalaya for not only clients of Mountain Quests, but for people who travel to this part of the World in general. The sights, the physical challenge, the unique culture and the escape to the wilderness are all major draws. So what should you expect? Well, in the vast majority of the treks there are no roads. While this might be bliss for you to hear, it dramatically affects your trekking experience, in a positive way we believe. Because there are no roads, everything along the trail must be carried either by human or animal. Donkeys and yaks are a common sight when in the mountains, as well as porters, many of whom are carrying loads you never thought possible on a human’s back. This means that development and amenities in the mountains are severely limited. Tea houses (the places you will stay each night on a normal trek) are small and basic, with rooms that you will generally share with one other person on a twin share basis, with washrooms separate and away from the room. There will typically be a large dining area, that is cosy and with a warm fire at night, where you will meet other trekkers and locals, all eating and relaxing after a long day trekking. Although basic in amenities, tea houses tend to be reasonably clean, and the food is often of a much higher quality than you might imagine. But don’t expect any luxuries. These are places to rest and refuel before your next day.

The trekking trails tend to be very well trodden and distinct, with steps built in to steep sections using rocks and stones. On less well-trodden paths in regions not visited by many tourists, the trails will be less easy and with a lot more mud on them. There will often be several villages of varying size along the way on a typical day, all selling tea, soft drinks and even alcohol. They are great places to relax for a few minutes after several hours trekking, before heading on.

Expect many steep sections, both up and down. After all you are in the Himalaya! Also expect your legs to ache a little, especially when going down. Get yourself into good physical shape before your trip, so that you can enjoy it better. We will be discussing how to train later in this book.

The rewards of a trek are enormous. You hear it all the time, but it really is true that the views are unbelievably stunning. You will also come back with a strong sense of having achieved a difficult physical task, with renewed confidence in your physical ability. Finally, but in many ways, most importantly, you will have discovered new cultures, witnessed new ways of life and met many incredible people who will stay with you for the rest of your life.

Mountaineering

We won’t dwell on this subject, as the vast majority of mountaineers tend to be self-sufficient, with years of wilderness experience. This book is targeted at the first-time adventure traveller, so may not be so helpful to people who have travelled extensively. Having said that, we do get many questions from people who have been trekking and have caught the mountain bug, asking us the next steps to mountaineering.

The good news is that the Himalaya, and Nepal in particular, is a great place to start learning new skills required to climb. The Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA - www.nepalmountaineering.org), in conjunction with the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN - www.taan.org.np) have earmarked a whole array of mountains that they deem accessible for beginners. This should be taken with some caution, as not all of the so-called “trekking peaks” are straight-forward, so you should consult with your adventure travel company before choosing the right peak for your skill level.

There are also various mountaineering courses being run all over the World, to help teach you the skills you need to begin your journey on expeditions. Mountain Quests has developed one in the Everest region of Nepal, which is lead by mountaineering guides with international qualifications (IFMGA) and will teach you all the basics required to get started in high altitude mountaineering.

White Water Sports

The Himalaya is one of the best places on Earth for white water rafting and kayaking. Nepal alone has nine rivers to choose from, all being fed by monsoon rains and melting glaciers.

It is also a very versatile sport in this part of the World. You can go on a 1 day beginners run in a raft, with no previous experience (perfect as an add-on to a trek) on exciting, but not really wild rapids, or you can go on an 8-10 day, 270km expedition on the Sun Kosi, recently voted by National Geographic as one of the 10 best rafting journeys in the World. The rivers are graded between 3+ and 5+ (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Scale_of_River_Difficulty) and you can find one that suits your needs and skill level.

On a one-day trip with a well-run company, you can expect a thorough briefing on the banks of the river before you head out, and they will provide wetsuits, helmets, life jackets (PFDs) and a paddle. You should wear shoes or sandals that you can secure to your feet (to prevent cutting your feet on rocks). A good company will provide food before you go out, so that you are full of energy. Remem- ber to have a change of clothes and a towel waiting for you at the end of the river run so that you can get dry and relax.

For multi-day expeditions things a slightly different. You’ll have the same equipment but you will most likely be doing longer days, so fitness will be important. Your shoulders, arms and back should be able to endure long periods of paddling. You will also be sleeping either in local tea houses (similar to the ones on a trek) or camping on the banks of the river with a bbq and a few drinks. This is an incredible experience, as often you will be a long way from any towns or roads and in a very peaceful environment.

All meals on the river are normally included but you will need warm clothes for the evening as well as snacks should you wish.

It is possible to progress from easier rapids onto harder rivers during the course of your trip. Consult with your travel company on the best way to go about your trip. Budget anything from a few days to 2 weeks, and remember, you can easily combine a rafting expedition with trekking or canyoning to have some variety.

Mountain Biking

The opportunities in mountain biking in Nepal are endless, as well as very varied. You can go as a novice (although you need to know how to at least ride a bike!) or as an accomplished professional, and you’ll be challenged either way. In terms of time, you can go for a few days, or for weeks on end. Single track or gravel roads, mud or rocks, high altitude desert or jungle... It’s all possible.

It’s also possible to either take your own bike or rent one while in Nepal. Many airlines now allow bikes to be taken as checked in luggage, but it’s best to check before booking your ticket.

There are many bike bags on the market now, which allow you to safely transport your bike in the hold of the aircraft. If you are not willing to take the risk with an expensive bike (please look to seek insurance beforehand if possible) your travel company should be able to rent one to you for a small fee. Don’t expect full suspension, top of the range disc brakes and composite frames though. By deciding to save some hassle and rent, you will lose some of the bells and whistles you might be used to. It’s a compromise.

Mountain biking trips can be wild and in the wilderness, or on establish paths, staying at tea houses along the way. When you speak to your adventure travel company they can guide you on the best fit for what you are looking for.

Mountain Biking trips can be combined with other activities, such as rafting and trekking also. The options are endless really, making these trips really special.

Canyoning

Typically canyoning adventures in Nepal last for 1 to 2 days. They are great as additional activities on a trip, helping you to see yet another side to this incredible country. In Nepal canyoning takes the shape of abseiling (rappelling) down waterfalls on ropes, wearing protecting clothing and wet suits through glacial meltwater. Some of the abseils could be as long as 40 meters, but you will be guided throughout. It’s not as wild as it may initially sound, but could be a challenge for those of you with a fear of heights.

It’s an awesome activity to break up a trekking trip, or a great way to get to know other members in your group, if you’re not traveling with people you know.

The water will be cold, similar to rafting, but you will be constantly moving as well as wearing wet suits, so it shouldn’t be a big issue.

Paragliding

Paragliding is probably the sport that allows us to most closely mimic winged flight by our airborne friends; the birds. Both courses as well as one-off tandem piloted flights are possible in Pokhara, Nepal and your instructor will be a Western-trained pilot using good quality gear.

Paragliding involves you sitting in a harness below a curved wing (foil) that uses both forward momentum and thermal currents to allow you to fly up as well as down, allowing people to stay airborne for hours in the right conditions. In Pokhara you will have the backdrop of the Himalaya as your view, and you will eventually land (normally after 20-30 minutes) right next to the beautiful Lake Phewa.

Although it might initially look like an adrenaline sport, after experiencing it I would liken it more to a calm zen-like experience, after you overcome the initial excitement of take off. A great way to finish a trek before heading home.

We have mentioned other activities in previous chapters, but they are more periphery to the main ones described here. Please speak to your adventure travel guiding company who will be able to further explain what’s on offer.

There is a famous saying amongst travelers to Nepal stating:

“You go to Nepal the first time for the views. You go the second time for the people”

and by this, travelers mean that the first time they went they were drawn by the stunning beauty of the Himalaya, but when they were there they really fell in love with the amazing people in Nepal, which is what draws them back over and over.

I am no exception to this adage. The first time I travelled to Nepal, to Everest Base Camp, it was to see Mount Everest, but i have been back an additional 20 times because of how I feel in the country whenever I am there.

The people of Nepal are as varied as they are kind. The culture is governed by a “Caste” system, which, to someone unfamiliar with South Asian cultures could be seen as a collection of tribes. It is far more complicated than that however, involving complex social and religious elements, some of which are quite controversial in modern Nepal.

The overwhelming impression most people get when meeting Nepalis, irrespective of caste or religious background, is that they are some of the most kind and welcoming people on Earth. This despite Nepal still being one of the poorest countries on Earth.

Kathmandu is a melting pot of people from all over the country. Some are originally from the city and many are from villages scattered all across the country. Many young Nepalis are heading to the cities to look for a better life, away from the very basic farming villages in which they were born. Life on Nepali farms is hard and most farms are subsistence, meaning that they only grow crops and animals for personal consumption, with nothing being sold and no wealth being generated. In Kathmandu the lucky, educated and resourceful people may be able to work in what we in the West would see as conventional jobs such as in offices or in the tourism sector. Others will work in factories or construction and then there are many who are unable to find work at all.

But despite this, people in Kathmandu are very willing to offer a helping hand to tourists, without ripping people off while they do it. Of course there are street sellers hoping to sell their gifts to people walking by, but they are not as aggressive in achieving a sale as you might expect. You should remain vigilant about your belongings, like you should anywhere in the World, but it is very rare for a tourist to feel unsafe anywhere in Nepal.

Women should try to travel with others, again sticking to their tried and tested travel tactics, but you shouldn’t feel concerned or worried when walking around. Most areas for tourists are busy and well lit until 10 to 11pm and hotels tend to be staffed at all times (unless you go for the low end accommodation options).

Once out of the city it all changes, but only in (in my opinion) a positive way. Along the trekking routes people will not be asking for handouts. They will be getting on with their daily lives. Along the more establish trekking routes there may be donation stands for local schools, or for help in maintaining the paths. They are not aggressive and they are trustworthy. I make a point to help with small donations along the way when I am trekking.


People will be more than happy to chat to you as you move through the villages, explaining how they live and what they might be doing as you go past. There will be varying degrees of English being spoken, but your guide will normally be able to act as a very good translator. Speaking to the locals and better understanding their way of life is a huge part of a trek, so don’t miss out on it.

Religion and Etiquette

What do you think of when you combine the words “religion” and “Nepal”? If you are like me then Buddhism will be screaming out to you (although many Buddhists do not call it a religion - but this debate is not in the scope of this book). After all, Siddartha was born in Lumbini and be- came Buddha after his journey to enlightenment. But depending on which stats you look at, Buddhists account for as little as 9.5% of the population of Nepal. Over 80% are indeed Hindu, and Hinduism is embedded into Nepali culture. So what does this mean for you?

It means that you get to witness some incredible festivals, temples and acts of devotion that you see in very few places on Earth. 3 extremely important pilgrimage sites are in Nepal; Pashupatinath in Kathmandu, Manakamana on the road to Pokhara and the Barahi Temple on Lake Phewa in Pokhara.

All three sites are visited by thousands of Hindus from across the World every year. Should you wish to visit (and you should), please abide by the rules and customs of the sites (of which there are not too many - only Hindus are allowed in certain areas and shoes should be removed in some areas) and you will have an incredible and eyeopening experience.

Although only less than 10% of the population are Buddhist, there are some very important sites in Nepal that pilgrims visit. In Kathmandu the three most important are Bouddha Stupa (the World’s second largest stupa), Kopan Monastery and Syambunath (aka Monkey Temple). All are very beautiful, adorned with thousands of prayer flags and visited by pilgrims, monks, nuns and lamas.

If you are a photography enthusiast, you’ll find numerous opportunities to capture incredible images at all the sites mentioned above. Follow the rules and ask before photographing people and you’ll come home with images that will stay with you for a lifetime.

We’ll discuss these places more in our “city guide” section.

Make sure you take time along your journey to understand the people you meet a little better. There is no better way to understand what makes a country the way it is, then to speak to its people. They will give you great insights to the history, culture and political landscape of Nepal, as well as guiding you in the best food to eat and where to visit. Enjoy getting to know the locals.

This is the most asked question we get at Mountain Quests; and rightly so! Having the right clothes and equipment makes an adventure much more enjoyable at the minimum and in a worse case scenario, will save your life. In other words, don’t take this section lightly!

We have discussed a varying range of activities that you can do on your trip in Nepal. Each activity requires different clothes and equipment. Going through each and every thing you need for each and every variation of your trip will leave you thoroughly bored. So we won’t do that. Instead, we’ll discuss what we feel are the essentials to take on a trekking-related adventure, where you will be staying in tea houses. This is by far the most popular type of trip we facilitate for our clients, so we’ll focus here.

Essential Gear

HIKING BOOTS

I guess this all depends on what you will be do-ing in Nepal. Let’s assume you are going to be in the mountains for at least a week. This will help as a guide to what you should pack. Number 1 on your list should be a good pair of hiking boots. There are so many options and varieties around these days that it’s very hard to know where to begin. For a trek of a week or more you really should be looking at “rough trail” boots. These are typically made from a fabric upper with water resistance in the form of Gore-Tex or equivalent. They provide ankle support in the form of high sides and a good solid, “grippy” sole. The laces should be tightened in a way that the foot in locked in place and not able to slip, but not so tight that it becomes comfortable. The toes should not touch the front of the boot, otherwise coming down hill is really going to be a pain – literally! The heel should not move around else you run the risk of blisters. Our personal favourites are Salomon, but there are plenty of other brands out there that can meet your needs. For more information seek direct advice from your friendly assistant at your local ad- venture shop. Oh, and don’t forget to wear a pair of good trekking socks when you try your boots on. These are essential and you don’t want to turn up in Nepal with your shiny new boots, only to find they don’t fit well with your great hiking socks.

BLISTER PLASTERS

Every hiker’s saviour! These literally save you from having a terrible trip due to blisters. We’ve all been there. We buy great boots, walk around in them in the city for a while and everything feels great. Then we hit the hiking trail and on day 2 of our 8 day epic disaster strikes! Well if you toss a pack of these into your first aid kit and crack them open at the first sign of discomfort, you won’t be hobbling to the next guest house. We love Compeed, but there are other brands on the market that will also help.

FLEECE MID LAYER

Absolutely essential to regulate your body temperature, a fleece is a mid-weight jacket/pullover hybrid that is often lightweight and quick dry. Always kept in your day pack, they are great for when you’ve decided to take a rest after an hour or two’s hiking and you need a break. Of course, you are warm when trekking, but cool down quickly (especially over 4,000m) when you stop. The fleece helps prevent you from getting cold and therefore from getting ill, in the mountains.

So many brands now sell them. Take a look at North Face for some examples.

WINDPROOF/WATERPROOF JACKET

You’re in the mountains, so chances are it’s going to get windy and possibly wet. Even if you travel in the dry season you’ll be reaching for your waterproof jacket at some point. These beauties keep you dry when it rains and warm when the wind is howling. They don’t come cheap, but you’ll be wishing you spent the cash if you decided not to bother with one. Use it on top of all your other layers to keep the wind and rain off. Try to find one with vents under the arms. These are typically made by adding zips to that area. It really helps with ventilation, as they will warm you up fast, especially if you are moving.

HEAD TORCH

Forget one of these and you’ll be fumbling for your water, toilet paper, watch, glasses and any other essentials you may need in the middle of the night. There is generally no power in the guest houses you’ll be staying in at night, as

most places in the Nepal Himalaya operate on solar power.

WATER BOTTLES/CAMELBAK

So Nepal is in the Third World right? They won’t be concerned about sustainable living right? WRONG! The Annapurna region of Nepal is now a plastic bottle free zone. The national park authorities have banned bottled water. A great, great move and one which means you now need to carry your own reusable bottles or Camelbak so don’t forget!

THERMALS AND DOWN JACKET

If you are going on a trek of more than a few days, chances are you’ll be going to a reasonably high altitude. This means cold! Especially at night. a good thermal base layer (a layer that you wear against your skin and designed to keep you warm) is essential at night, as the guest houses tend not to be artificially heated. A down jacket is very good at keeping you warm. It is like wearing a sleeping bag as a jacket. They are generally filled with Goose feathers, and are excellent and keeping you warm at night, while relaxing in a guest house or watching the stars outside. They vary greatly in cost and quality, so there is something for everyone. We love Rab

SUNSCREEN AND SUNGLASSES

Absolute essentials. When the sun shines it gets very bright up there, especially if you are near or on snow. In extreme cases the reflection of the sun on the snow can cause a condition called “snow blindness” which is the retina’s over- exposure to light. The other issue is sun burn, so make sure you have a strong (factor 50+) sunscreen to keep your skin healthy too.

I don’t think we have to go in-depth on this one. You are going to one of the most beautiful places on Earth. You are going to want to remember it!

We could go on and on and suggest more and more things. If you book your trek through a reputable agent then a full gear list will be provided for your journey to Nepal. Mountain Quests pro- vides all their customers with full advice on what to purchase and why.

What gear to pick up for your trek in Kathmandu

As you can see, going on a trek in Nepal of any significant period of time requires quite a bit of gear. Prices will soon add up. The good news is that you can rent some gear in Kathmandu, in order to ease the burden. The following can be rented quite easily and at low cost:

• sleeping bags

• walking poles

• down jackets (sometimes and only for longer, higher altitude treks)

• trekking boots

It is also easy to find things like hand sanitizer, toilet paper, snacks, water bottles, walking poles, head torches, gloves, trekking pants and tops and maps all over the Thamel district of Kathmandu. This is the main tourist hub of the city and you will literally come across hundreds of shops.

One Last Thing to consider for your Nepal Trek

MONEY! Yes, we all need it for whatever we do. It’s very important that you carry US Dollars, Pounds Sterling or Euros with you on the flight to Kathmandu. When you arrive, if you have not got a visa in advance, you will need to buy one on arrival. The airport only accepts these currencies (not even Nepali Rupees) so make sure you carry about $100 or equivalent for this. Visas start from $25 (as of January 2013) so make sure you have enough cash on you.

Of course other activities, such as white water adventures or mountaineering require a different or more embellished kit list, which your adventure travel partner should provide to you when you book with them. If they do not then insist upon one as it is extremely important for your trip.

There are several examples of kit lists at the end of this book, for your reference.

Most airports around the World have a standardized approach to immigration procedures these days. Kathmandu, however, works slightly differently.

The difference between Kathmandu and other airports is the process of obtaining a visa on arrival. In most countries obtaining a visa on arrival (if you are eligible) is an easy process, requiring a short wait in line, followed by a stamp on a spare page in your passport. In Nepal, however, you will need to fill out the following:

• A landing card
• A visa application form, submitted along with a cash payment

Neither of these forms are giving to you during the flight and we can’t tell you why not, but this is the way it is. As a result, there is normally a bit of a rush from seasoned travelers to Nepal to get to immigration first so that they can fill the forms early and avoid the bedlam.

The process, although slow, is an easy one. These days there are visa application points that scan your passport and pull most of the data they need directly onto an application form. You will need to manually enter a few pieces of information, such as where you are staying and your email address. Once this is completed you will receive a token. You will then pay for your visa before lining up to obtain it. If it is not busy the whole process can take as little at 15 minutes.

All tourist visas are issued as multiple entry.

Nepal is a very open country in terms of issuing visas on arrival. As of February 2014 the only pass- port holders requiring a visa in advance are:

Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Somalia, Cameroon, Liberia, Ethiopia, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Syria

And the process for passport-holders from these countries is to either visit or send their passport to their nearest Nepal embassy or consulate to obtain the visa.

Due to the chaotic and very manual process of issuing visas at Kathmandu, I would recommend applying for your visa in advance if you are traveling in a large group or if you want to skip the queues at the airport, as there are counters for those of you with a visa already in your passport. This tends to cut down waiting time from sometimes over an hour down to just a few minutes.

The running joke amongst tour operators offering adventure in Nepal is that the worst part of your trip will be Kathmandu airport. Once through immigration you can relax and enjoy your time in this incredible place.

One last piece of advice - almost every company operating as an adventure travel partner for you in Nepal will provide a company representative to meet you in arrivals at Kathmandu. Like the rest of the airport experience, arrivals will not be what you are used to most likely. Arrivals is essentially the street outside the terminal, with many taxi drivers and hotel salesmen waiting to encourage people into their hotels/taxis. Your meeting person should have a board with your name on it, or a board with their company name on it, so that you can easily find them.

I hope this section helps make your immigration experience as painless as possible.

It’s well and good planning your dream adventure, getting there safely with all the right gear and having an awesome guide to make your trip safe and exciting, but getting sick could ruin everything! And there are many ways to get sick in the Himalaya if you don’t take basic precautions to keep yourself in good shape.

The most common types of illness while you’re in the mountains, or even in Kathmandu are:

• food and drink related (i.e. stomach)

• altitude related (lungs and head)

• virus related (i.e. coughs and colds)

The good news is that all of these types of illnesses can be kept at bay with some basic precautions. No matter how careful you are, you may succumb to bad luck, but it’s best to give yourself the best opportunity to stay healthy. I’ll discuss some of the things to do and be aware of while in Nepal in order to keep your body in great shape to enjoy your adventure.

Before you Travel

You should be thinking about your health before you even land in Kathmandu. This means eat well, make sure you have lots of healthy food, packed with vitamins, sleep well, exercise well and stay fit, and last but not least, visit your doctor for advice on vaccinations.

Take a look at the following website for good vaccination advice for Nepal:

http://www.traveldoctor.info/vaccinations/nepal.138.html

I won’t go into the details of vaccinations as I am not a doctor, but suffice to say it’s a very important consideration before heading off. Give yourself at least a month before you travel to see your doctor, as some vaccinations take time to start working.

In Kathmandu

Nepal is a poor country, and in general, restaurant hygiene standards shouldn’t be assumed to be up to those in developed countries. Having said that, there are now a lot of very good restaurants in the Capital, serving really good quality and clean food.

This doesn’t mean that you should not take precautions. I tend to go by the following rules in Kathmandu:

1) Only eat hot, freshly cooked food. This ensures pathogens have been killed

2) Avoid salads or fruits unless you can peel the fruit yourself (e.g. bananas and oranges) - you can't be sure how the fruits and vegetables have been washed

3) Avoid ice in drinks - again you cannot be sure of the origin of the ice

4) Only drink bottled drinks that have sealed caps or metal bottle tops - this includes water. Water dispensers are also fine.

5) When showering avoid ingesting the water

6) When washing teeth use bottled water to wash the brush and your mouth

7) Use hand sanitizer before meals and snacks

In short, only put things in your mouth that you can trust.

In The Mountains

My personal view is that food is much cleaner along the trekking trails than it is in the cities. That said the same precautions should be applied as in Kathmandu. No salads, only fluids who’s source you trust, hand sanitizer before meals etc. There are some additional things to consider when trekking though.

Shoe laces - it might sound strange at first, but your shoe laces could get you in a lot of trouble. The trekking routes are used by a lot of pack animals, as well as by humans. Animals are less concerned about where they relieve themselves (usually) and your shoe laces could get covered in all sorts of stuff you want no where near your mouth. Therefore, if you tie your laces be- fore a meal, or take your shoes off when resting at lunch, get the sanitizer out!

The toilet - oh the toilets in the mountains are something no one ever forgets. These days, on the popular trails, there are plenty of western style toilets to be found now, but there will come a time when you come across the dreaded squat toilet. Actually, in my travels i have come

to realize that it’s only really the West that isn’t accustomed to the squat toilet.

Anyway, I digress. The squat toilets tend to be quite dirty, most likely due to us Westerners not knowing how to use them. I won’t go into de- tails. Just make sure that you keep yourself clean, use sanitizer and be aware of dirty shoe laces.

Altitude Sickness (AMS)

The bigger health issue in the mountains though, is altitude sickness. Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) effects everyone eventually, but the severity of its effects and the altitude at which these effects come into place are different for everyone. There is no pattern for who gets sick and who doesn’t either, so it is hard to predict. There are very clear symptoms of this issue though. They include:

• Lack of appetite, nausea, or vomiting

• Fatigue

• Dizziness

• Insomnia

• Pins and needles

• Shortness of breath upon exertion

• Nosebleed

• Persistent rapid pulse

• Drowsiness

• General malaise

• Swelling of hands, feet, and face

• Diarrhea

Your guide will always been assessing you (although you may not know it) and will inform you when altitude will start to become an issue. Some people start feeling its effects as low as 2,000m, but most people begin to notice it at 3,500m or higher.

The most important thing is to listen to your body and be honest with yourself and your guide. Altitude sickness should not be taken lightly. Ignored it can become a killer, but well managed and it shouldn’t get worse than some headaches and a temporary loss of appetite. Don’t obsess about it or worry too much. Just be aware of it.The way to look at your trekking pace is to think about the slowest rate at which you would walk normally, and then slow it down by another third. It may feel painfully slow when you first do this, but the result will be that your body will not be put under physical stress, allowing it time to adjust to the higher elevations.By far the best way to avoid serious altitude issues is to combine a lot of fluids with taking things slowly. A rule of thumb for water is that for every 1,000m higher than 3,000m, you should add an additional 1 litre of water on top of a base amount of 2.5 litres for ladies and 3 litres for men. That means that at Everest Base Camp (5,380m) a man should be drinking around 5 litres of water a day, while trekking.