17 Top Nepal Packing List Items + What NOT To Bring (2017 Update)

What should I bring on my trip to Nepal?

With Nepal’s towering Himalayas and age-old temples, it’s no surprise that so many people have this small South Asian country on their travel bucket list. Between its dozens of treks, Buddhist and Hindu religious sites, and delicious food, travelers young and old fall in love with Nepal each year.

I’ve lived in Nepal for eight months now, and I definitely wish I had packed a little differently before moving here. To help you out, here’s a list of packing essentials for 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.


1) Travel insurance – Even the most experienced travelers can’t always predict or prevent trouble while traveling. Medical emergencies, thefts, and other unexpected urgencies can really wreak havoc on your travel plans and budget, but having travel insurance can alleviate much of the stress – the most experienced travelers never travel without it!
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2) LifeStraw – Since much of Nepal is without safe drinking water, this self-filtering straw can save you when bottled water isn’t available. When you’re taking part in any activity at high elevations (as is the case with most parts of Nepal) it’s vital to be well-hydrated. Simply submerge one end of this straw into a drinking source (like a creek if you’re camping) and drink through it as you would a straw – the filtering agents within the tube take care of the rest! Also check out the Katadyn pocket water filter if you’ll be doing serious hiking off the beaten path.
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3) Nepal Power Adapter – Nepal mostly uses plugs from India (Type D) and from Europe (Type C), so it’s a good idea to bring a Type D adapter and a universal adapter along with you to make sure you’re able to charge all of your devices without any trouble.
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4) Universal Waterproof Phone Case – We take our phones everywhere. They’re our links to the world, and to the information we need while traveling, so we have to keep them safe. This case is simply unbeatable. It’s sturdy, waterproof and dust-proof, and still allows for use of your touchscreen and camera. With a price tag under $10, it’s quite a steal as well!
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5) Women’s and Men’s hiking shoes – Most of the activities that Nepal has to offer involve exploring outdoor areas, and good hiking shoes that are already broken-in will save you back and leg pain from hiking in regular tennis shoes or other less sturdy shoes. These ones are good quality, well-rated, easy to break in, and not very expensive.
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6) Female Urination Device – This device may sound strange to some, but with Nepal’s distinct shortage of Western-style toilets, it can make urinating much easier, and less messy. This one comes with sanitizing wipes and a sanitary carrying bag to help keep your toilet experiences safe and comfortable.
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7) Activated Charcoal – New foods, new climates, and just the physical exertion or traveling long distances can really upset your digestion. Add to that the more exotic street foods you’re likely to try, and you may find yourself with traveler’s diarrhea. These capsules deliver activated charcoal which absorbs any toxins in your digestive tract so that you can get back to normal as quickly as possible.
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8) Water bottle with built-in filter – Much like the filtered LifeStraw, this water bottle with a built-in filter can be a life-saver when you’re trying to beat dehydration. It’s a good size to carry with you so that you’ll always have a supply of filtered, drinkable water on hand.
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9) Travel towel – Some accommodations may not provide towels, and if they do they are unlikely to live up to your standards for cleanliness and softness. Bringing your own travel towel can make drying off much easier and reliably cleaner, plus it’s quick-drying so you know it’ll be ready the next time you shower or wash up.
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10) Passport pouch – It’s always a good idea to have a safe method of carrying your money, cards, and passport with you. Those are items you may need while out and about, but you won’t want them to be on display or unsecured at the risk of having them stolen. This pouch allows you to carry those items compactly and discreetly under your shirt while still keeping them accessible to you when you need them.
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11) Backpack or daybag – While you’re out and about you’ll still need to keep certain belongings with you, and a lightweight hiking backpack or daypack is better than a shoulder bag or tote. If you’re camping at all, you’ll definitely need a good backpack to carry your gear and daily necessities.
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12) First-Aid kit – I never leave for a trip without one. Most injuries that you get while traveling can be fixed using the basic tools included in first aid kits, and you don’t want to take your chances that you’ll be able to find the right materials there should something occur after you arrive.
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13) Sunscreen – Higher elevation means higher risk of UV over-exposure and sunburns. Be sure to stay on top of sunscreen application just as you would at the beach. You’ll enjoy your Nepal adventure much more if you’re not suffering from the sting of sunburn and fatigue from exposure.
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14) Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger – This device is a recent favorite, and for good reason. It’s small, portable, easy to use, and charges my devices flawlessly and quickly even while I’m on-the-go. Just charge it while you’re already in your accommodation and bring it and your USB cable(s) with you so that you’ll never be caught with a dead camera or phone battery.
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15) Virtual Private Network (VPN) – Most people are familiar with the benefits of being able to browse the internet anywhere, and that’s what a VPN does. However, did you know that using your own VPN also adds a crucial extra layer of security to your internet usage? My financial information was recently stolen electronically while traveling, and if I’d been using my VPN (which activates with a simple touch of a button) I wouldn’t have had that problem.
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16) Packing cubes – These storage containers are ideal for packing a full suitcase in an organized and tidy way, and they ensure that you’ll always know exactly where to find each of your items, even when you move them from your suitcase to your daybag or vice-versa.
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packing-cubes

17) Rain jacket Women’s and Men’s – Nepal does have a rainy season and rains are not uncommon outside that season as well. Getting caught unprepared in the rain can leave you cold and wet, which is especially bad if you’re day-tripping or trekking. Carry a lightweight, compact and foldable rain jacket with you so that you’re never unprepared.
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Other packing list items for Nepal


 

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.

1) Sleeping bag
2) Down parka
3) Wool sweater
4) Wool hat
5) Scarves
6) Hiking sticks
7) Books
8) Most other hiking gear is cheaply and readily available for purchase!

What to wear in Nepal


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.
If you’re traveling in the Tarai (plains) region of southern Nepal, it will be fairly warm year round. As a general rule, though, it’s good to dress in layers and to carry a scarf (for extra warmth and/or to protect your face from city dust!)

In terms of style of dress, responsible travelers will note that Nepal is a culturally conservative country. Even in relatively cosmopolitan Kathmandu, men and women cover their shoulders and knees. Avoid tight, revealing clothing. For women, the color red is quite popular — wear it if you want to blend in a little more!

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.

What NOT to take to Nepal


1) 🚫 DON’T PACK expensive jewelry: This is a logical one: the likelihood of your jewelry being lost, damaged, or stolen far outweighs the pleasure of wearing it while traveling. If you’re missing wearing your jewels, check out Kathmandu’s shops; there’s quite a lot of nice jewelry available, and for fairly cheap prices.
2) 🚫 DON’T BRING expensive, unnecessary electronics: Unless you ABSOLUTELY NEED to travel with your expensive laptop, headphones, and iPad, leave them at home! Just like jewelry, the risk of breaking or losing these items or having them stolen most likely far outweighs any benefit you’ll get from traveling with them.
 
3) 🚫 DON’T TAKE heavy books: You don’t need the extra weight, and you can easily bring a lighter and not-especially-expensive Kindle. It’s also good to note that Kathmandu’s book stores are plentiful and fun to explore!
4) 🚫 DON’T PACK a full-sized towel: They’re bulky, slow to dry, and heavy. You don’t need to take up valuable space in your suitcase – bring a travel towel instead. It dries quickly, folds compactly, and is highly absorbent.
 
5) 🚫 DON’T TAKE leather: Nepal is a predominantly Hindu country, and observant Hindus do not consume beef or wear leather products since the cow is a sacred animal. Wearing leather products on the street is typically fine, but one should absolutely not wear leather products into temples or other sacred spaces.
6) 🚫 DON’T BRING very tight or revealing clothing: In Nepal, people generally cover up much more than folks in the States, Europe, and Australia do. Leave your tank tops, shorts, and miniskirts at home, and take the opportunity to pack some of your more modest clothes you may not wear very often otherwise.
 

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?

In Nepali, the word for food is khaanaa — which is also used to describe dal bhat, or lentils and rice, the staple food in Nepal. Most Nepalis eat dal bhat twice a day, and you should make sure to partake of this hearty, delicious dish while you’re in the country. Momos, a Tibetan dumpling, is another local favorite. Vegetarians will find many options. Kathmandu has a variety of international cafes and restaurants, and you can easily find good quality cuisines from all around the world (with one glaring exception: where’s my Mexican food at?). Trekking tea houses have a standard menu of dal bhat and other carb-heavy specials like pasta, chow mein, and pizza. In villages, you’ll be limited largely to dal bhat and chow mein.

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.

In terms of transportation, I highly recommend that you avoid overcrowded buses between cities; Nepal is full of high, narrow, curving mountain roads, and it’s better to invest in a (slightly) more expensive ticket for a comfortable, safer ride. In Kathmandu, make sure you look both ways before you cross the street, since traffic is chaotic and unpredictable.

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.

Private schools are often English language, while public (government) schools conduct their lessons in Nepali. You’ll find that younger, middle-class Nepalis almost always understand and speak basic, conversational English.

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?

Flights are much more expensive (and much faster) than travel by bus, so consider your budget and schedule and plan accordingly. For example, traveling from Kathmandu to Pokhara is $8 and takes about 8 hours on a tourist bus; flying costs $100, but takes only 25 minutes. Whatever you decide, I do not recommend traveling at night or on crowded buses.

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.

Fewer foreigners know about the tumultuous politics of Nepal, which is still in the early years of its democracy. 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?

Late September through mid-December is the best time to visit Nepal; at that point, the monsoon rains have petered out, the land is green, and the skies are the clearest they will be all year. The second best time to visit Nepal is mid-February through April, although the skies are hazier. If you’re planning on trekking at higher elevation, avoid the winter months (mid December through early February), when there can be a lot of snow. Would-be trekkers should generally avoid the monsoon season between June and September, with its torrential downpours, washed-out roads, and abundance of leeches.

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?

As with anywhere, it’s best to follow the example of the locals. Remember that Nepali culture may be more conservative than the one you grew up with, so observe and ask questions. For example, it is unusual for Nepali couples to touch in public (some younger couples in Kathmandu will hold hands, but even that is not very common). However, friends of the same gender will often link arms or hold hands on the street.
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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