Solo female travel in Nepal
By Shanon Wolf
Traveling as a woman in particular countries sometimes feels as if there’s a restriction based upon your gender. This unfortunately can deter you from booking your ticket to a destination that could ultimately change life and your perspective of the world for the better. We are fortunate enough to live in a western society where equality is prevalent but in some countries; it’s not always uniform. From the color of your hair to the clothes that you wear. From the tattoos that you have to the voice you can so vocally orchestrate back home: In some countries; being a woman travelling solo is a much different and eye-opening experience than travelling as a man or in a group. However – never let that limit you.
Firstly; as a feminist and equalist - It has shown me how lucky I am to have the voice that I have. It has shown me just how strong I am and that beyond everything; that I need not be afraid and if you follow your gut - it will always lead the way. Luckily; for those of you women wishing to explore countries rich with culture and beauty such as Nepal – I can say one thing with certainty: Nepal is everything you wish India would be.
A Personal Insight
Stepping out into the bright and dusty morning as I began the first day of my journey in Nepal; I moseyed through the crowded airport doors sweating in my leggings, t-shirt and pashmina in an attempt to hide any exposed skin as slews of people barreled in and out while taxi drivers waved you over offering a ride and smiling as they greeted you “Welcome to Nepal. Where would you like to go miss?”
After having a much needed cigarette; planning my bartering strategy while looking at the currency conversion in my phone; I circled the exit listening and looking around for the price of a taxi; assuming the price would be skyrocketed since I might as well have the text “ $$ TOURIST $$” tattooed across my forehead with my Canadian flag attached to my backpack. (My first assumption before I had even travelled to Nepal was that it would be similar to India – hectic, loud but fascinating and a place where you should have your guard up and that your haggling abilities are indetriment to both your wallet and your life as a traveller.)
To my surprise; instead of the typical 20+ minutes haggling like I had endured in previous countries; in 5 minutes I was in the back of the taxi gazing out the window in amazement and anticipation of what was to come in the following months. First stop: Kathmandu to reunite with my friend Hannah whom I had met for a day in Northern India a year prior; welcoming me into her home with open arms once she had found out I was coming to Nepal. At this point, Hannah had been living outside of Katmandu’s bustling city for a year in a small local village working for an ethical fashion line and I couldn’t think of a better person to see within my first hour of being in a new foreign country. A strong; independent and smart solo female traveller who also knew the in’s and out’s of a country (which is like winning the lottery for a traveller such as myself.)
“If you want a local experience; you’ll find it here where I live.” Hannah messaged me before arriving. “Get the taxi to take you to my work and we’ll walk over to my apartment. I’ll meet you out front” she exclaimed with multiple exclamation marks in her text.“HELLO!!!” we cheered, hugging as I jumped out of the taxi with my backpack still in the back seat. (Something I would never do previously). “I can’t believe how long it’s been!” I shouted smiling from ear to ear.After I had unpacked my things and settled in, Hannah brought out a bottle of local Nepali wine to celebrate and to catch up on the year that we’ve had.
“Just a forewarning…” she laughed. “Although Nepal has a lot of great things; don’t expect much from the wine.” “Wine is wine. I’ll take what I can get!” I chuckled as we clinked glasses and continued on through the night until the bottle of grape flavored syrup was finished. “So! Tell me! Tell me! What’s it like to live in Nepal for this long? How do you like it and be honest! Give me the nitty-gritty; the good; the bad and everything in-between!” I said half drunk and smiling. “Okay! First things first. I was a little unsure of what it would be like to live here for a year after the up’s and down’s of India but I have to be honest; it wasn’t that hard to adjust. Besides having to wear a mask walking around Kathmandu due to pollution and the price of trying to get a taxi at night, I genuinely love it and the country is nothing but magic. I have never in my life met such warm hearted and kind people.” Of course, I should tell you first things first - The FOOD is exceptional and inexpensive – you HAVE to eat momo’s which are huge in Nepal. They will change your life! I’ll bring you to the best momo shop in town tomorrow!” she exclaimed as I cried “YESSSS! I can’t wait!” “So what’s the local transport like? Did you find there to be any issues with communicating with locals here?” I asked further.
Local Transport in Nepal
“Generally speaking; everyone here in Nepal is friendly; if you take a local bus the men will actually stand up to give you a seat which honestly shocked me. They understand personal space and if you’re lost the locals here will go out of their way to help you. They have tourist busses if you’d like extra comfort from one destination to the other, local busses and vans as well as taxi’s. Transit can be a little tricky but manageable. If you want to take a tourist bus to the north, arrive early and you can barter the price with the drivers. You don’t need to buy a ticket beforehand unless you’re in a rush. The local small busses are a tad unclear but just tell them where you want to go and someone will help you to get to your chosen destination.”
Communication in Nepal
“Anyways; I’m sure you’re curious about the language barrier – Lucky for you, the mass majority of locals speak English so it’s very easy to communicate. Even if the locals don’t speak English they will try to find someone who does so they can help you.”“Ah! I’m so relieved to hear all this! Sounds like I choose the best country! Do you have any tips on travelling solo and accommodation? What’s the dress code and how’s trekking here?” I asked again wanting to know the in’s and out’s before I ventured to the great north.
“Nepal is pretty relaxed. Like any country you need to have your wits about you and follow your gut but in all, its safe and I haven’t felt uneasy once. Any foreign town at night can feel scary but I’ve walked home plenty of times at night and never had a problem. Like I said, follow your gut always and you’ll be fine. As for clothing; you don’t need to cover up to the extent that you did in India. You can wear shorts, dresses, tank tops…and they get it – you’re a foreigner. It’s hot in the day and you’re not used to the temperature but of course, it’s best to respect the culture and dress modestly. If you truly feel the need to wear short-shorts and skimpy tops, you can but given that everyone dresses respectfully, you may feel a little uncomfortable in your chosen apparel. The biggest relief after moving here was honestly the fact that people don’t constantly stare at you 24/7. That was like a breath of fresh air…no pun intended” she laughed.
Accommodation in Nepal
“As for accommodation, every town has guesthouses you can stay in and in bigger cities you can find hotels. You can get a private room with a private or shared bathroom – that’s up to you. When you arrive, it’s best to walk around to check out your options as you can find some beautiful places with lovely families who essentially take you in as their own – cooking you meals, inviting you for outings and telling you all about hidden gems. It’s a great way to delve into local culture in Nepal.”
Travel With Tissues & Feminine Hygiene Products in Nepal
“Oh! I should also mention – when it comes to being a woman, although you can find plenty of feminine hygiene products throughout Nepal, just as a backup its best to carry it along with you all the time, as most public toilets aren’t well maintained and lack running water and toilet papers, so it’s best to be prepared for any female emergency!” also read more on Things to Pack while trekking in Nepal.
Trekking Alone in Nepal
As for trekking, I wouldn’t advise you to go alone – simply for a piece of mind and the uncertainty of Mother Nature. The easiest way is to book a guide – you can book easily online at Upeverest.com and actually pay with your credit cards whether you have Visa, Matercard or American Express. I’d also recommend finding someone to go with; its a lot more fun to share the experience with someone. I actually have a friend here who’s working for an NGO who is looking for someone to trek with. You can meet him tomorrow! ” she smiled.
Also; for preparing for a trek; The thrift stores in Kathmandu are a gold mind of goodies for a cheap price and perfect for buying everything you need to do trekking. Genuinely, I’ve never been so taken back by landscape as I have while travelling outside of Kathmandu and I know you’ll love it! There’s so many to choose from so it’s great you’re staying for a few months! Don’t miss the chance to go trekking in Everest, Annapurna, Dolpo, Manaslu, Upper Mustang, Langtang or Rolwaling ! That’s where the true beauty lays. Seriously – do every trek in Nepal you can. It will change your life.”
A week passed by in the blink of an eye in Kathmandu and Hannah’s inside guide to Nepal was spot on. From attempting to take local busses (without asking for help and failing) to a little old Nepali woman walking me 5 blocks to the right bus station (refusing to leave until I was seated on the correct bus, repeating to the driver over and over where to drop me off) to trekking the Annapurna with my new friend in an unforeseen avalanche and eating my way through every hole-in-the-wall restaurant serving up the best chili momos, steamed momos and fried momo’s I’ve ever had – One thing was for sure: I was in love with Nepal, it’s people and it’s unrequited magic you feel every day that you’re there. Four months in Nepal flew by but I’m already planning my next life-changing trek to explore my biggest bucket list - Everest!
About: Shannon Wolf
Shannon Wolf has lived out of a 30L backpack, travelling nomadically around the globe over the last 4 years as a freelance travel writer, photographer with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Shannon’s work focuses on comical yet heart felt first-hand narratives mixed with valuable information for readers to uncover the best hidden gems of each country.
Her objective is to delve into local life as if it was her own and show that jumping out of your comfort zone will reward you with the most beautiful experiences you’ve ever known. Over the years her work has been featured and published both in print and online in various publications across the globe.
Shannon has travelled over 50+ countries, is an avid food lover, adrenaline enthusiast and artist of many calibers. Upon arriving in Nepal in 2017 with a planned 2 month visa, she was captivated by Nepal’s rich beauty – both in landscape, culture and it’s people that an extension was indefinite and her plans of returning to her “home away from home” are right around the corner.
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