ARTICLE FOR SOLO TRAVELLERS
Article by Marissa Nolan
Founder of Gone Far Beyond
“Yoga retreats and treks in service of local communities”
*Written for UpTrekker, April 2018
Read time: 5 minutes
This article is important not matter which country you travel to.
My passion for the Himalayas began six years ago as an independent female traveller visiting Nepal for a trek in the Annapurna mountain range. Little did I know then how Nepal would become my home, my inspiration and my workplace as a therapist and social worker. Today, I lead treks and retreats throughout Asia, including Nepal, offering life-changing experiences that raise money to empower local people in extreme hardship.
If you are wary or nervous about traveling alone, I understand because I was once in your position. The unknown can be scary but please don’t let it stop you. Nepal has a dramatically safer, lighter, friendlier, welcoming and more relaxed feeling than India for example.
Nepal is one of the safest countries in the world for women travelling solo and serious problems are rare. Even in remote areas the locals attitude to foreign women in curious and inquisitive and not threatening.
At the same time, observing these simple and practical tips for visiting Nepal and trekking in Nepal can ensure your trip is trouble-free. These suggestions come from my years of travelling independently and leading expeditions in Nepal.
Guidelines for visiting Nepal:
· Be respectful, flexible, resourceful, open-minded and responsible.
· If you don’t understand something or need help, ask for help or clarity.
· Airports and cities are often confusing at night. Always arrive with at least a few hours of daylight to find your hotel.
· Book your accommodation in advance and use a travel guidebook for recommendations.
· If your accommodation is not working for you, change hotels.
· Do not stay in a hotel room you cannot bolt or latch from the inside.
· If something upsets you, it’s important to reach out and talk with someone.
· Let people know where you are, what you’re doing or where you’re going.
· Be cautious about staying out late, drinking and walking home at night.
· Do not be somewhere that you have no reason to be.
· Double check any information or prices you are given. If information or prices don’t sound right, check it out elsewhere.
· Don’t feel pressured into buying or doing anything. You have the right to say “No, thank you” and remove yourself from any situation.
· Don’t keep all your valuables/money/cards on you or in the hotel. Split them up.
· Other cultures can challenge your beliefs or views. Take time to reflect and be open. Things that are normal in your country may not be in Nepal.
· Have respectful boundaries with men at all times so as to ensure that any friendliness is not taken as a romantic or sexual invitation.
· It is important to dress modestly (covering shoulders and thighs), especially if visiting temples. This will avoid any unwanted attention from men who may have mistaken ideas about western womens’ ‘promiscuity’.
· The quality of fresh food in Nepal is good but food hygiene is an issue for foreigners. Most restaurants aimed at tourists know about food safety and use purified water. To be on the safe side, ensure food is well-cooked, drink and brush your teeth with only bottled water, and only eat fruit that can be peeled.
· Nepal has its own pace. Be patient. Nepal will teach you to slow down, smile and appreciate the precious and priceless things is life. This is the Nepali way.
Guidelines for trekking in Nepal:
· Trekking season is from September to December and from February to May. Some areas are to be avoided at certain times due to dangerous weather conditions. Check this with your agent before planning your trip.
· Never trek alone. Hire a guide. This will add to your experience, keep you safe and they can take you to the best places and sometimes arrange better teahouse prices.
· Book your guide through the Uptrekker online guide marketplace.
· You can find guides to speak your language, such as: Chinese, German, French, Spanish etc – although they can be booked out in high season. In any case, English is spoken widely by trekking guides and throughout tourist areas.
· Have your own room whilst trekking. There is usually no reason to share.
· Carry a mobile phone with a local phone number and topped up with credit. There is phone signal in most hiking regions in Nepal.
· Have your hotel and trekking agent’s phone numbers saved into your phone.
· If any person makes you uncomfortable, be very clear and direct and communicate your concern by letting someone know.
· If any issues arise at anytime whilst trekking, contact your agent or Uptrekker immediately.
· Any misconduct is taken very seriously by hotels and agents. Please let them know if any issues arise for you.
· Do not pay your guide in full upfront. Either give them a deposit or pay them at the end when you return.
· Make sure to pack according to the region, trail and season relevant to your hike.
· Have your own travel insurance that covers trekking in Nepal and includes international medical evacuation.
· Ensure your hotel and/or agent know when to expect you back and how to contact your agent.
· You can message friends or make Facebook posts along the way so everyone knows where you are.
· While trekking a lot of the food you will encounter is home cooked. Most is fresh and delicious. If you are unsure, you can opt for boiled eggs, peel-able fruits and pancakes or roti in order to avoid anything that might be cooked using local water.
· It is essential to drink only bottled water in Nepal or to use water purification tablets where bottled water is not available.
· A light pack and worn-in hiking boots are the secret to a happy trek. Hiring a porter is also an excellent way to lighten the load on your hike.
Visitors to Nepal are usually hikers, para-gliders, hippies, yogis, volunteers, researchers, adventurers, writers, backpackers and everyone in between. The tourist trail in Nepal is a well-worn one with literally hundreds of other solo travellers just like yourself. I promise that once you come to Nepal you will be planning your return.