Nepal Travel Tips: Ethics and Etiquette
Travelers are always on the look out of less frequented, un-trodden and wilderness areas for their trip. We usually receive requests from our clients that they want to go off the beaten paths and want to avoid popular touristy areas. But those less frequented or un-trodden areas no longer remain pure. Litter and cultural pollution soon erode visitor appeal and more important, indigenous lifestyles dependent upon a delicate natural balance vanish forever. Responsible tourism is a more sound investment where everybody wins.
Garbage disposed by mountaineering expeditions push up to form a new mountain of garbage! Instead of Lungta prayer flags, toilet papers used by trekkers swing in the air. Forest suffers enough from local demands. Trekker's food and lodging needs further add the problem.
In Nepal, eco-tourism has been a popular phrase to mean outdoor adventure travel. Green or eco-trekking practices are sound measures such as carrying out or disposable of garbage and burning no wood on the trail. High Asia Tours and its staffs are strictly committed to eco-tourism and adhere to the conservation policies of the government and also request for your cooperation.
Do Not Litter
Please carry all your trash including toilet paper, unless you thoroughly burn it on the spot to your campsite, lodge or hotel for proper disposal. Our crews designate separate places for biodegradable and others (i.e. bottles, tins, plastics, foil, batteries etc.) which should be packed out to Kathmandu or the next refuse pit. As fires are considered sacred, don't put trash in the flames until the cooking is done and always inquire first.Take batteries back to your home country for safe disposal.
Our crews set up the toilet tent at least 50 meters (150 feet) away from any water source. Where toilets are not available, pick a spot away from water and religious sites. Bury all excreta. In the cities and en route, public toilets are hard to find so be discreet and keep away from holy sites.
Biodegradable Washing: When bathing or washing clothes near streams, use biodegradable soaps and a pan for rinsing. Toss soapy water away from the stream.
Sanitary napkins and tampons should be wrapped well and packed out after use to maintain hygiene.
Cook with Kerosene
If you are camping, request that cooking be done on kerosene or gas, not wood. If you're stuck using wood, reduce the amount by using iodine to treat water rather than boiling it. Choose lodges that use kerosene or fuel efficient stoves, such as the back-boiler which heats water while food gets cooked. You can also reduce firewood consumption by ordering the same food at the same time as others. Solar Heated Showers: Limit your hot showers to those heated by solar energy, by hydroelectricity or by back-boiler method.
Bring adequate clothes rather than relying on lodge hearths for heat and never ask your trekking staff for a bonfire. See that porters will be provided shelter, clothing and shoes for high altitude treks, saving wood otherwise burned to keep warm. Use established campsites: encourage your trekking staff to camp in established campsites and to leave no trace: no trash, no tent trenches, no fire pit and a toilet pit filled in to look as it did before digging.
Do Not Disturb
Avoid creating new trails across switchbacks, meadows and in high fragile areas. Make sketches or take photos rather than collect flower, plants and seeds. Do not purchase items made from wild animals' skins or furs. Take care while walking through farmland and always stay to the uphill side of livestock on trails.
Dress and Attire
Baggy pants or calf-length skirts with a loose top are appropriate trekking and touring wear for women. Men should wear a shirt at all times. Men's knee-length hiking shorts are fine for trekking but not when visiting temples, monasteries or homes. Nudity is particularly offensive. Whether bathing in a stream or at a village tap, men should wear shorts or underwear, women can wrap in a loongi (sarong) and douse themselves as the village women do. Only sport a swimsuit if well secluded from village eyes. Public affection is likewise frowned upon.
Artifacts and Antiques
It is illegal to export anything older than 100 years. Please do not take any religious objects (prayer stones, statues, temple ritual objects, prayer flags, etc.) away from sacred sites and discourage others from doing so.
Most Nepalese don't mind being photographed, but some do so it would be better to always ask first, especially if photographing ceremonies or elderly people. Paying for a picture reinforces a hand-out mentality. Try instead to establish a friendly rapport with a few words or gestures.
Do not give candy, pens, trinkets or money to children but instead donate to a school, monastery or hospital. Nepalese give a few rupees to the handicapped and religious mendicants; you can do the same.
Bargain for souvenirs and trekking services but respect posted prices in restaurants and lodges. Ask around to establish a fair price: paying too much adds to inflation and paying too little denies the merchant of a fair return.
- To show appreciation and respect, use both hands rather than one when giving or receiving something, even money.
- Remember not to point on anyone or anything but use a flat extended hand especially to indicate a sacred object or place.
- Among Hindus, avoid touching women and holy men but the traditional palms-together "Namaste" greeting is preferable.
- Don't eat with your left hand (unless you are left handed).
- Try not to step over or point your feet at another person, a sacred place or a hearth.
- Remove your shoes when entering a home, temple or monastery (and leather items in Hindu temples) and avoid smoking and wearing scant dress in religious settings.
- Do not eat from a common pot and avoid touching your lips to a shared drinking vessel.
Tipping is a newly accepted custom in Nepal. Hotel, restaurant, touring and trekking organization staff members often make up for relatively meager wages with tips. But it should only be with an intention of rewarding good work. Don't tip for short taxi rides in town or any service person you've bargain with. Groups might give a reasonable amount per day to a tip pool to be divided among the staff, generally relative to rank for a good service.
Even if you are an experienced medical practitioner, it is not wise to give medicine to a sick Nepali during the trek unless you can watch his or her reaction. Most Nepalese have never been exposed to western medicine and may react unpredictably. Encourage villagers to wash cuts with soap and boiled water and to see their closest clinic for medical treatment.