Updated on June 5, 2020 by Asher Fergusson
After having lived in Nepal for quite some time, I definitely wish I had packed a little differently before moving. To help you out, here’s a list of what to wear in Nepal, as well as what you should buy or rent there, what you should leave at home, and answers to some FAQs about traveling in this amazing country.
What to Pack for Nepal – 17 Essentials
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8) Neck Wallet
9) Travel towel
11) Backpack or daybag
12) First-Aid kit
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Other packing list items for Nepal
Steripod toothbrush cover
Nepal Power Adapter
Travel toilet paper
Lonely Planet Book
What to buy or rent in Nepal
Planning on trekking? There are certain items that are much easier to buy or rent in Thamel once you’ve arrived rather than schlep them all the way from your place of origin.
What to wear in Nepal
Open-toed shoes that dry quickly are recommended for the monsoon. If you’re trekking, you’ll want to bring quality hiking shoes. Cheap shoes are easy to purchase in Kathmandu and other larger cities and towns, but the large-footed among us should know that it can be quite hard to find properly sized footwear.
Generally speaking, women should avoid very tight and revealing clothing out of respect for the country’s conservative views. It is advisable to avoid wearing leather when visiting temples. At most temples, you would be required to remove your shoes, so choose a pair like espadrilles which are easy to put on and take off. Most activities in Nepal involve exploring, and that usually means walking, trekking and hiking. Trust me: your feet will thank you for investing in a pair of good hiking shoes, and breaking them in with a few short hikes before you travel. You can wear them with leggings and a t-shirt dress for your outdoor excursions, or for more intense trekking journeys be sure to bring seasonal gear like hooded rain or down jackets, hiking pants, and tops.
During the warmer months, you could go for a couple of short sleeved, t-shirt tops and a few patterned pairs of harem pants for daywear. Cover up your skin with enough sunscreen (higher elevation means higher risk of UV exposure) and get yourself a wide-brimmed packable straw hat. Round off your day look with bohemian bracelets and retro-round sunglasses.
For evenings you can certainly dress up a little, but it’s not common for people to dress up too much even for going out. I recommend against heels of any kind – they’re dangerous on the terrain and simply not necessary.
Men’s fashion in Nepal is not really a thing, to be honest. You’ll see lots of jeans and very few pairs of shorts. It’s not that they’re prohibited, it’s simply a matter of cultural observation. Many men in Nepal would rather wear a shirt instead of a t-shirt, but in the city, you can still get away with a slightly longer Bermuda shorts and a polo shirt. When visiting religious sites and temples, you might want to wear longer cargo trousers for instance, and a pair of cotton loafers.
For the colder months in Nepal, you can team up your hoodies with mid-length parkas and slim-fit chinos for hitting the bar scene in Thamel or Kathmandu. This look can easily be adapted for a day version, simply by wearing your hiking shoes and a slightly less formal down jacket. However, if you are keen on taking on the Annapurna, you’ll get the job done in joggers or hiking slacks and a hooded outdoor jacket for those freezing temperatures that drop by 6-degrees Celsius for every 1,000 meters you gain in altitude. Even in the middle of winter, there are still plenty of sunny days, so be sure to bring along your baseball cap and sunglasses.
Nepal generally has very consistent weather. Monsoon begins in late May or early June and goes through until late September or early October. The coldest temperatures are generally in mid-November through mid-February, and the hottest ones are in May. However, temperatures can vary greatly depending on where and when you’re traveling, so it’s best to check ahead of time! If you’re going to be in the mountains at higher elevation, you’ll want to pack warm layers no matter what time of year you travel.
SPRING – Mid-February, March, April
Springtime in Nepal brings occasional showers and rains. The days are mild, and new vegetation sprouts all around. Temperatures in the lowlands tend to be warmer, while areas at higher altitudes enjoy moderate temperatures.
As always, packing for this season depends entirely on your location. At higher altitudes, men might want to pack long-sleeved t-shirts, hoodies, and a pair or two of shorts for warmer days. Ladies can opt for leggings, t-shirts and a warmer sweater for when temperatures drop. Temperatures average between 61°F and 73°F (16°C to 23°C).
SUMMER – May, June, July, August
Summers in Nepal are quite warm. You will find that the hot, dry days are more comfortable than the wetter, more humid ones that fall under the monsoon period. In the southern parts of Nepal, like Terai, summer temperatures can exceed 98°F. In the more mountainous regions, summers are far more temperate.
Should you be heading out in the evenings, expect some thunderstorms to accompany the sunsets as you head out for a traditional dal-bhat-tarkari dinner. Bring along your foldable umbrella and lightweight rain jacket when walking about town. Remember to bring along a cheaper pair of shoes that you can wear to temple visits (you are required to take your shoes off before entering temples and expensive shoes might go missing). It’s advisable to cover your knees and shoulders, too, so bring along a light scarf for the warmer months to help cover your arms and chest when needed. Temperatures average between 75°F and 95°F (24°C to 35°C) depending on the region.
FALL – Mid-September, October, November
Fall is usually the busiest time of year in Nepal, and is when tourists flock to the county to make the most out of the glorious weather and outdoor excursions. This is the season to embark on a trekking journey that promises mountain views and crisp air.
Packing for this season requires a bit of planning, but you can get away with mostly summer clothing that includes a few warmer garments for nightfall. Temperatures average between 59°F and 75°F (15°C to 24°C).
WINTER – December, January, February
Snowfall at higher elevations occurs from time to time, and it will remain frosty due to the colder temperatures at elevated heights. Avoid trekking at high elevations during the winter unless you have a great guide and the proper gear. Days offer plenty of sunshine, but you will definitely need to cover up more at night. Winters usually last until February, with very little rainfall, but you will find that the western parts do have more rainy days than the eastern parts of the country.
Packing for this season requires warmer packable down jackets, long johns, thick socks, hoodies, and perhaps even scarves. However, you will need to consider your itinerary and whether or not you will be trekking at higher elevations. In winter, if you do visit places like Lumbini (the birthplace of Buddha) you will need warmer and more supportive shoes, but it’s vital to plan ahead: you might want to wear a cheaper pair of shoes for temple visits. There have been times when visitors would return to the shoe cabinet, only to find their shoes gone – this is not always the case, but it’s important to be aware of this.
Should you find yourself without a pair of shoes, make your way to the nearest street trader for a pair slips-ons like loafers. Temperatures average between 48°F and 54°F (9°C to 12°C) depending on the region.
It’s strongly advisable to wear more conservative clothing when visiting any temple or sacred space. Avoid skimpy, revealing outfits that expose your knees, cleavage and shoulders. Men can get away with a t-shirt, but it’s better to pair your trousers with a long-sleeved tee-shirt.
Meals: Most people don’t dress up much for dinners in Nepal, so don’t worry about getting fancy with your clothing. Do make sure to look decent, though! There are a number of 5-star hotels in Kathmandu (like The Dwarika’s Hotel) where you can wine and dine to your heart’s desire, should you prefer something a little nicer than standard evening fare. Even for those, just dress appropriately for the weather and look put-together and you’ll be just fine.
Outdoor Excursions: In Nepal you’ll find endless trekking up and down the likes of Annapurna, Manaslu, Langtang, and Everest. You can also enjoy jungle safaris and other exciting adventures. Dressing for outdoor trips requires garments that allow for easy movement. For ladies, breathable t-shirts and leggings will do just fine, while the gents can get away with running shorts and t-shirts in the summer. However, if you decide to stop at a temple, remember to cover up. In the colder seasons, you’ll find that your hikes, cycling, and trekking will usually warm up your body naturally, but do keep a lightweight, foldable jacket and versatile hiking trousers handy.
Volleyball: The Nepal government issued a statement on the 23rd of May 2018 declaring volleyball the national sport of the country. The NVA (Nepal Volleyball Association) is headquartered in Kathmandu and represents Nepal in the Asian Volleyball Federation, as well as the Federation Internationale de Volleyball.
Because of these newer developments, you can enjoy volleyball, cricket, football and other sports in cities and smaller towns. Games are hosted in most public spaces where larger corwds can be accommodated. For these events, keep it as casual as possible, but again: as a woman, you might want to avoid very revealing clothes. Men can wear t-shirts or longer shorts that hit the knee during warmer months.
What NOT to take to Nepal
Here and there, you’ll find foreign women wearing strappy tops and short skirts. You won’t necessarily get the stare-down from locals (the people of Nepal are very welcoming and hospitable) but they are very conservative as a nation. Out of respect, its better not to wear revealing pieces while visiting temples and holy shrines. In the summer, if you are wearing t-shirts, you may bring along a scarf or a dupatta, which is the more localized version of a scarf designed to cover up while praying. Men should play their part too. You’d do well wearing either breathable linen trousers to temples with a longer t-shirt.
However, when trekking, locals are not really offended when seeing travelers hiking up hills and mountainous areas in shorts. Unless you are staying at a 5-star hotel or intend to visit one for dinner and drinks, avoid dressing up. Even when heading out to live music venues, bars, and clubs, you’ll find that trends call for a more casual approach.
FAQs about travel in Nepal
1) Is the tap water in Nepal safe to drink?
As a general rule, the water in Nepal is not safe to drink. It is particularly dirty in Kathmandu and other large urban areas. Nicer restaurants will give you filtered water to drink with your meal; use your judgement as to weather or not it’s safe to consume. If you’re not sure about your water quality, use a water filter like a LifeStraw or chlorine tablets to purify it.
2) What is food like in Nepal?
3) What are some basic safety precautions in Nepal?
As with anywhere, it’s better to travel in a group than alone, and better to avoid walking alone at night. Kathmandu is generally a safe city, but beware of pickpockets and nightlife scams, particularly in the Thamel area. Avoid eating street food and drinking tap water. Political tensions are still high in Nepal after a ten-year civil war that ended in 2006, and political demonstrations are common; do not join these.
4) Do people in Nepal speak English?
In Kathmandu, most people speak at least a bit of English, and most people employed in the tourism sector speak English as well.
5) How much money should I budget for Nepal?
Your budget in Nepal will vary greatly depending on the way you travel. A budget trekker traveling alone will pay about $25 USD per day for a guide, plus about $20 USD per day for food and accommodations. In Kathmandu, you can find a decent guesthouse in Thamel for $10 USD a night. A meal in an international restaurant costs about $4-$8 USD; a local meal can be had for as little as $1. Local buses around Kathmandu are about 20 cents per ride; a taxi ride across the city at rush hour, however, can be as much as $6. Admission to the biggest temples in Kathmandu is anywhere between $2 and $15. A solo traveler in Kathmandu who wants to enjoy the sights, travel by taxi, and eat at international restaurants should budget approximately $40 per day, but that can easily be cut down by eating at cheaper restaurants, avoiding the more expensive temples, and taking public transportation.
6) What’s the best way to travel around Nepal?
For getting around Kathmandu, taxis are the easiest, but are much more expensive than local public transport. Unless you can convince your driver to use the meter, expect to haggle a price!
7) Should I tip in Nepal?
Restaurants will often have a 10% service charge automatically added to the bill. If not, you can leave a few rupees, but a large tip is not necessary. Do not tip taxi drivers.
8) What should I know about Nepal before going there?
Most foreigners last heard about Nepal because of the catastrophic earthquakes that shook the country in April and May 2015. Nepal, which has the second-lowest GDP in Asia ($1300), was devastated by the quakes, which killed 9,000, injured 22,000, and displaced 3.5 million. The earthquakes also destroyed priceless centuries-old temples and other religious sites. Two years later, the country is still very much in the process of recovery, with millions still living in corrugated metal shacks.
A good place to start learning about current events is the Nepali Times (nepalitimes.com), an English language newspaper published weekly in Kathmandu. Forget Kathmandu by Manjushree Thapa provides a fascinating look into Nepal’s political history, particularly the civil war that killed an estimated 13,000 people between 1996 and 2006.
9) Do I need a visa to visit Nepal?
For most passport holders, tourist visas for 15, 30, or 90 days ($25 USD, $40, and $100 respectively) can be acquired upon arrival at Tribhuvan Airport in Kathmandu or at Kakadvitta, Birgunj, Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj, and Gaddachowki on the India-Nepal border. Indian nationals do not a visa to enter Nepal. The tourist visa can be extended, for $2 USD per day, for up to 150 days in a calendar year.
10) Are there ATMs in Nepal?
There are plenty of ATMs in Kathmandu and Pokhara; however, do not count on an ATM being available in smaller cities or towns.
11) What is the best time of year to visit Nepal?
12) Does Nepal have good internet and phone connection?
Wifi is readily available in Kathmandu, Pokhara, and most other larger towns, and even smaller towns oftentimes have cell phone service. It’s unlikely that you’ll have wifi or cell phone service while trekking, however. I recommend buying a SIM card upon arriving in Nepal, so you don’t have to depend on wifi to communicate, and of course travel equipped with a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
13) What vaccinations are recommended for traveling in Nepal?
The United States Center for Disease Control recommends that all travelers have their routine vaccinations up-to-date before they travel to Nepal. They also recommend that most travelers take Hepatitis A and typhoid shots. Depending on where you will be traveling, you may want to research getting Hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, rabies, and yellow fever shots as well. Note that you can get some of these shots (often at a fraction of the price) at the CIWEC clinic in Kathmandu.
14) How can I be respectful of local culture and religion in Nepal?
Nepalis are generally welcoming, friendly, and glad to help foreigners get around, so return their kindness and be a respectful guest during your stay!
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