Nepal for Family Vacations
Nepal is an amazing destination for trekking and adventure sports, but how is it for families with children? The short answer is ‘great.’ Depending on the age of the children, it will just take a bit more research and planning. Nepal has advantages over many other budget places. Although the weather is on the extreme side at the lower and higher elevations, it is mild in the middle. Statistically, it’s one of the most polluted places, but once you get out of the metro areas you’ll find it quite nice. Even when people do not speak a word of English they are so happy to see us visiting their village they will help you however they can. Just about everyone you pass and make eye contact with will stop, fold their hands in prayer position and say, ‘Namaste.’ If there is a small child or even infant they will help the child to fold their hands for ‘Namaste’ to the tourist. It’s really heartwarming.
A few years ago a French family with two preschool boys and two mountain bikes with children’s seats inquired about staying in another of my landlords’ apartments for a week at the end of their holiday in March. Well, that was in November or so and I knew I’d never see them again. I felt sad for the impending disaster they would surely experience. Sure enough, they showed up in March. They were all fine and having a great time.
Planning will help you so you won’t have to micro-manage due to all the unknowns. There are a few extra steps of planning when you bring kids, but it can be worth it in the end. The tips below are for traveling with children to Nepal, but may help in many Asian and South American countries, as well.
Bringing the Kids!
One of the best reasons to bring the kids with you to Nepal is that you can get a nanny to help you with your children for a very small amount. Girls in this society are raised from an early age to be caregivers, so you have plenty of help wherever you look and they genuinely want to assist. Everyone is taught to respect guests.
Hurray Up and Wait!
Consider a possible delay around every activity, so don’t finalize an activity until you are sure you are ready for it. If you need to cancel on a group trek or adventure sport, you are not likely to get a refund, so don’t pay until you must. Even if the company cancels due to weather or lack of enough customers, getting a refund will take a lot of time and energy. Unless you have a credit/debit card just for online purchases only, don’t charge anything to a card. Just take from the ATM as needed and pay in cash.
Traveler Common Sense
- Start early enforcing good hygiene habits, even before you leave home. Children bite their nails, put things in their mouths and do a host of other dangerous things. Get them into the habit of washing their hands thoroughly and educate them on the life of germs.
- If you get separated you will need to make sure your children don’t go with the wrong person. Create a secret word for your children so they know if a stranger was really sent by you to help them. This can be just as importantly for adults to know who to go with.
- Bring a hard copy of a picture of each of your children. If they become separated you could easily be somewhere without electricity. It’s getting much better in Nepal, but the electricity can be out for up to a week at a time if a major repair is needed.
Be Prepared if You Get Lost!
- You should have a mobile phone for each person. You can find them here in Kathmandu for under $20 for an old style, not-smart, flip-phone. However, you cannot rely on this, so have a plan in case you get separated. One simple plan is to have everyone return to the last place they remember being together. Even in Kathmandu, mobile phones don’t always work. Another thing that might help is to take extra business cards from the guesthouse. Most guesthouses have a map on the back of the card and someone will answer the phone to be able to help.
- If you are traveling with young children write your mobile number on your child’s arm in case you get separated.
- Baby formula is available here, as are Baby Wipes, disposable diapers and such, but if you need a particular brand you may be in trouble.
- A travel grinder to make baby food from table food would be a great thing to bring.
- Do not bring a stroller. The streets are way too crowded and rough.<.li>
- Benadryl, used for allergies and bee stings is not available in Nepal, so be sure to bring some if it’s something you tend to use.
- If you or one of your children have a peanut allergy please be advised that peanuts are served everywhere and the cook will not understand that a dirty pot reused after peanuts or peanut oil can be serious.
- Food is quite spicy in many parts of Asia and few understand that a little bit is too much sometimes. Check to see if they will let you share the kitchen at your guesthouse. They may even let you teach the cook a new recipe.
- You can buy mac and cheese in a box, sweetened breakfast cereal and chocolate bars at the large supermarkets. There are several Walmart-like department/grocery stores throughout the Kathmandu Valley, but be sure to stock up before you go to the rural areas.
Traveling in Nepal Rural Countryside
When you go to see a UNESCO site, such as Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple) make sure there is somewhere to eat nearby. You might think that since it’s a tourist site there will be somewhere to eat. Sadly, that isn’t always the case. If you watch the attached video about this UNESCO site you’ll see a good example of this.
Swayambhunath-Monkey Temple: A Bargain Priced UNESCO Site.
There are usually other sites in the area to see. As in the example here of Monkey Temple, it would be best to go to the park at the bottom to see how the kids will like it and enjoy that area, then go have lunch across the street and finally see the nearby museum.
You will want to log the tourist police number into everyone’s mobile, 1144. You can download the app, as well. Although you would ordinarily need to dial 01 before numbers that start with anything but 9, you don’t need to add the zero and one for this number. The Nepali police continue to impress me. They are helpful and kind, so don’t be afraid to call them. If you need a translator or have any kind of question you can call them and find someone who speaks English.
Clothing in Nepal is very cheap. There are many knock-offs that you’ll want to take home, so if the kids have any warm clothing they cannot wear anymore it can be a great learning experience for them to find a child for their clothing. Used children’s books are also great to bring.
Take it Slow
Staying for an entire week at a guesthouse will save you money, but don’t book for an entire week online. One of your biggest hurdles is the food issue. If the kitchen isn’t clean or they don’t have anything on the menu that the kids will eat, you can easily find another guesthouse nearby. If the food is good and the place is acceptable you can negotiate for a weekly rate. They actually prefer this so they can save money on the booking commission. Often, they will allow you to share the kitchen on a limited basis.
There is a unique stone available in Nepal, alum or Fitkiri. You can ask your guesthouse manager where to find it. Let your children pick out the perfect stone for themselves and have them use the stone prior to each meal. Just put a drop or two of water in the palm of the hand and rub the stone around. This stone is used in water purification and deodorant; it’s safe for external use. Nepali use this for toothaches, sore throats and as an astringent that barbers use after shaving someone. The idea is that if each child has their own stone they might be more likely to keep their hands clean. This is important as dirty hands are biggest reason for illness.
Dangers in Nepal
Nepal does have its dangers; I don’t mean to mislead you. The traffic is horrendous. There is barbed wire around parks sometimes. I’ve seen cockroaches in the cafe at a skin hospital. Don’t expect to have everything perfect and sparkling clean in Nepal unless you have a fair amount of money for your holiday. I made one video on what to expect from a guesthouse room for under $20 and we’ve done some other videos on guesthouses around Nepal to show the bargains you have find and I visited a friend in a guesthouse recently that was so clean, well decorated and beautiful I would not have believed it if someone had told me and prices started at only $45.
The people of Nepal are world renown for being friendly and kind. Your children will learn so much from their experience, you will just be amazed. On a more practical note, I would worry more about the germ issue than anything else in Nepal. The people here still think the common cold comes from the change in weather, not from a virus, for example.
I know it sounds challenging just thinking about meal time in a developing nation like Nepal, but each of these challenges can be dealt with by thinking things through in advance. It is such a bargain destination you can circumvent just about every disaster by paying a bit more, hire someone to bring you something in a hurry or even just explain how things work in Nepal. Not only will you be able to have the money to go ‘first class,’ but you’ll be able to have a bit left over if you compare dollar to dollar over just about anywhere on the planet.
So, as a family, what are your goals? If it’s to take some photos, see some stuff and then go home to life as usual, then maybe Nepal isn’t the best place for you this time. But if your idea is to have an experience that will allow your family to grow together, share in a unique culture and broaden and deepen your meaning to life then I know Nepal is just waiting for you and your family to come.