My love affair with Nepal began when my brother moved there for a year back in 2005. I can remember receiving emails from him where he would describe the friendly locals, endless Momo’s and beautiful artworks. I always knew it was a must see for me, even if I had to go it alone.
As I arrived in Kathmandu, following what I would call an uncomfortable (but super cheap) flight (uncomfortable due to the lack of free movies, eatable food, and useable bathrooms) I was instantly excited. Moving through customs and the gentle shrug from a group of airport locals playing cards instead of checking luggage, I had arrived!
Here is a small tale of my adventure, and few tips if you’re planning a Nepalese adventure of your own.
I planned my trek in the Annapurna region, picked for its greenery and for being slightly less intimidating through my eyes than Everest (im not sure that’s true though).
If you’re travelling alone, I would recommend booking your trek before you arrive in Nepal. Booking through a company while I was still in Australia (I used Melbourne based Trek Climb Ski) meant the guide who took me was by far the friendliest and most respectful of a single female on the trail out of any of the guides I interacted with.
There were countless stories along the way of solo woman telling me they felt uncomfortable with the guide they were with. If you are travelling on a group tour though, that's a different story, as the one on one time would be limited.
That being said, if (and when) I return to Nepal, if I was with a group of friends or chose a trek with more people in the group rather than going solo, I wouldn't have an issue booking locally. Safety in numbers!
As a solo female traveller, I had loads of criticism before heading off to Nepal on my own. Friends were shocked and confused, and family were worried.
The hustle and bustle when you arrive at Kathmandu airport at midnight is a little overwhelming, but incredibly exciting. There are tour groups, singles, couples, locals, animals and all walks of life.
Just like when travelling anywhere in the world on your own, as long as you're sensible and have common sense - you'll be fine. For example:
The tap water and river water in Nepal is unsafe to drink so trekkers have a choice between bottled water, purification tablets or boiling water. Most guest houses I stopped at along the way provided boiled water at a price (but cheaper than bottles), so make sure you have a few metal drink bottles to fill up. Using boiled water is more environmentally friendly than purchasing bottles.
If you do buy bottled water make sure the top has not been tampered, as there are a few water sellers who fill empty bottles with tap water.
Remember to also avoid food that may have been washed in contaminated water or drinking anything with ice in them, as the ice may have been made from tap water. Anything that has been cooked though will be fine to eat.
I love food. So despite the fact that most people suggested I should avoid all meat and my usual gluttonist ways while in Nepal... I ate everything! Dal Bhat, mutton and vegetable momos, water buffalo, chicken curry, yak cheese. I could start eating dal bhat everyday in my Sydney life. I love how every place made it differently with different levels of spice and heat. Same goes for the momos.
A lot of people I've spoken to have become sick from the Nepali food, but as I didn't get sick, my advice is - if you eat spicy food at home, you'll be fine in Nepal. It's the water you need to look out for.
Take walking poles! I thought I was too fit and cool for walking pole, but I was wrong. The impact on your knees and your toes while walking down hill is excruciating. I lost 2 toe nails while in Nepal and im sure that could have been avoided if i’d listened to advice from other shopping trekkers gathering supplies in Kathmandu.
If you’re wondering how fit you need to be to trek in Nepal, don’t listen to what people tell you as everyone is different. I didn’t train for my trek at all, smoked, drank and partied up until I got on the plane and the trek was a struggle for me - although not impossible. I would consider myself a naturally active person and this certainly was a challenge, but pushed me in a good way.
I met a guy in Kathmandu who was running twice a day in 2 hour lots with a 15kg backpack in preparation for the same trek I was doing. Yes, that intimidated me. But I was fine, I took it slow, stopped when i wanted to and drank plenty of water.
That guy completed the trek in less than HALF the time that I did, but that's not to say he enjoyed it more!
Nepal is everything I could have hoped for. The sounds, smells, hustle and bustle. It’s the perfect destination for any solo traveller, just like any destination in my eyes. Just do your research, and keep the small notes on the outside.
Kate Hoffman was an Editorial Producer at World Nomads. She lives for all things travel and food. Follow her on twitter @Hoffkate.