Nepal is a great travel destination for women, either travelling solo or with friends. The people (read: men) are generally very respectful, and are not prone to staring or making annoying comments, as often happens throughout the world. There are usually designated seats for women at the front of public buses, and even if there aren’t, you will often find that men, young or old, will stand up and offer you their seat. (What your feminist principles make of that is up to you!) Even when special provisions aren’t made for women, you will find that Nepali people are very helpful, and will ensure that you have a good, safe stay in their country.
Here are a few tips for travelling in Nepal that will be especially useful for women travellers.
Although it’s certainly not necessary to cover every inch of exposed skin, it’s a good idea to take your cues from local women when deciding what to wear. Aim for full trousers/leggings or a knee-length skirt or shorts (or longer), as well as tops with short or long sleeves (rather than with spaghetti straps). Avoid clothing that shows cleavage. A long tunic that covers your backside, with leggings underneath, is a good outfit for any time of year. If going out at night to a bar or club in Thamel, wearing a shorter dress or skimpier outfit generally won’t attract much attention, but you’ll probably feel more comfortable in the daytime covering up a bit more.
If you don’t follow these guidelines, it’s unlikely that you’ll experience any actions or speech that is too untoward, but you might get a few stares. In Kathmandu or Pokhara you will see women wearing all kinds of outfits. However, in the countryside it is rare to see anyone in anything other than modest dress. For the sake of cultural respect and your own personal comfort, err on the side of modesty.
Travel with tissues and feminine hygiene products
In Kathmandu or Pokhara, you may find bathrooms in restaurants and hotels that provide toilet paper, but you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t. Once you’re out of the city, it’s very rare to find any public toilets with paper. Bring some pocket tissues with you, or learn the hand and water method! As for feminine hygiene products, it’s a good idea to bring what you need from home. Pads and tampons are freely available in Kathmandu and Pokhara, but not necessarily elsewhere. Plus, some women have reported allergic reactions to the chemicals used in tampons sold in Nepal.
Don’t go trekking alone
This piece of advice applies to men as well as women. Trekking solo is never a good idea, because if you fall and injure yourself, you will require help. Also, weather conditions can change rapidly in the mountains, and with nobody else to look out for you, there is a greater risk of mishap. Taking a guide is ideal, but even just trekking with a partner or in a group is better than going solo. For women, Nepal is not a dangerous place to trek, but occasionally women have gone missing while trekking alone (as have men). Better safe than sorry.
Don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel that someone is harassing you
This is unlikely to happen because, as mentioned above, the majority of Nepali men are respectful towards women in public. But in case you feel that someone is following you, or getting too close on public transport, don’t be afraid to speak up and tell him to leave you alone. Nepali people generally avoid outright confrontation, so it’s likely that they will be shamed into leaving you alone if the attention of other people is drawn. Getting the attention of older women is also a good tactic, as they will usually have no qualms putting someone in their place and protecting another woman!