Nepal is a country filled with adventure, culture, incredible food and even more incredible people. It’s a land made for those seeking adventure, thrills and wilderness. So it’s no surprise so many of us end up feeling the pull of Nepal at some point. As much as the country is beautiful, it is still very much developing and with that comes health related issues that many travelers will experience. Staying healthy in Nepal means more adventure, more thrills, more experiences and less time in bed. We’re here to give you some tips to help you beat the bugs, and stay fighting fit on your adventure!
1. Drinking the Water in Nepal.
The tap water in Nepal is not friendly and is definitely not safe to drink! When traveling to Nepal it’s best to stick to bottled water. Hotels in Nepal will often provide one or two bottles of water in your room for free per day. Topping up your water is easy, bottled water is found in most shops, small vendors and street sellers for as little as 15 rupees. Make sure when buying a bottle of water it has a secure plastic seal around the cap, if not don’t buy it as it’s likely to be a reused bottle. When out hiking, whitewater rating and camping it can be harder to get clean water. Don’t drink directly from the rivers and streams, instead boil or drop a few purification tablets in the water before drinking.
Being smart with water is one of the best things you can do to keep you healthy in Nepal and making sure you drink enough of it will combat dehydration. Hydrated and healthy ensures an uninterrupted adventure!
2. Keep up your daily routine in Nepal.
I know, I know. You’ve come to Nepal to get away from the daily routine, to shake things up and try something new. The only routine we ask you to keep is your basic hygiene. It will help avoid common illnesses such as diarrhea and vomiting or ‘travelers sickness’. This is particularly important when on an expedition through the whitewater rivers of Nepal, as the effects can be debilitating. Wash your hands with soap and hand gel after your activity, before you eat and of course, after the toilet. On expedition trips and in many areas of Nepal, drop toilets are used so leave your shoes on the outside of your tent, put them in shoe bags and wash your hands after handling the soles, just to be sure! Think about bringing environmentally friendly and biodegradable soaps for showering in the rivers and waterfalls. This will help keep the rivers free of pollution. If you do start to feel ill or you notice changes in your toilet habits, speak to your guide!
3. Malaria: A Myth or Reality in Nepal.
If you plan to head down into Terai area (south of Nepal such as Chitwan) you will need to take precautions and seek medical advice before travelling and take anti malaria tablets. If you plan to ride the whitewater of the Sun Koshi, you may need to take malaria tablets. Otherwise Nepal is relatively free of Malaria, especially in the northern regions. It’s still a good idea to wear longer trousers and tops in the evening and use mosquito repellent to keep the bites at bay!
4. Bites, Cuts and Grazes in Nepal.
Expeditions and adventure often involve getting a little dirty, getting off the beaten track and doing something incredible. So it’s not surprising to come out the other end with a few cuts, grazes and in Nepal, bites. Carrying a first aid kit with you is essential, if you’re on tour, your guides will have one. Clean up cuts and grazes and if needed plaster them up to keep out infection and keep them clean. Try not to scratch bites as this will often lead to them getting infected which can result in pain and discomfort. If you keep them clean this will ward off infection, keeping you fighting fit for the next adventure!
5. Street food: There’s safety in Numbers
The basic rule of food anywhere is, if it’s not busy it’s probably not good. Just like at home, you’re unlikely to eat in an empty restaurant because you know the good ones, are ones which have people in them. The same applies to street food in Nepal. Look for the vendors that are cooking fresh, serving regularly and using fresh looking food (i.e. not leftovers). If it’s meat, dairy or fish have it cooked in front of you, make sure it’s warm and not been sitting out in the sun with the flies. Buying fruit with a skin is fine but fruit without make sure to wash in clean water before chowing down on it. Taking care over what you eat and how it is cooked is the difference between staying healthy in Nepal or experiencing travelers diarrhea and food poisoning. If worried drink plenty of fluids and talk to your guides.
6. Ice, ice baby
There’s nothing better than cooling off with a cold, refreshing drink. In Nepal it’s important to remember if you can’t drink the tap water, you probably shouldn’t pop the ice in your drinks. Many places in the main cities of Kathmandu and Pokhara will have signs to say the ice is made from bottled water, in that case it’s fine to have in your drink. If not, avoid it as it’s likely to be water from the taps. If in doubt, take the ice out!
7. Fresh vs Cooked.
There will also come a point somewhere on an expedition where you start to miss fruit and vegetables. Some people even believe the most refreshing thing to eat in the heat is a salad, it’s weird but true! It’s important to think about where you are before chowing down on a fresh salad. Have the vegetables been washed in river or bottled water? Can you see into the kitchen? Have they been sitting out all day in the sun? Has the knife that cuts them been used for meat to? Generally it’s a good idea to avoid fresh vegetables in most places. Why not have them stir-fryed with some noodles? It might be a warmer dish but it still includes those vegetables you’ve been craving and will keep your body happy.
8. Air Pollution in Nepal.
How long can you hold your breath? Ah we kid! You wont need to do that but it is worth noting that in the major cities of Nepal, especially in Kathmandu the air pollution is pretty high. For those that suffer from Asthma and other lung problems it is essential to carry your inhaler with you. Belching exhaust fumes, open fires and heat all make it a hard air to breathe and it isn’t uncommon to experience sore throats, coughs and colds. Chest infections is also a common illness in Nepal. Buying a face mask will help keep some of the fumes and dust out of your lungs, we highly recommend them. You can buy paper ones from as little as 10 rupees to cotton reusable masks for 50 rupees. Once out of the cities the air is clear and coughs, colds and asthma will clear up.
9. The Weather in Nepal.
Travel in Nepal means traveling through different seasons at the same time. The higher you go the cooler it gets, the lower you go the hotter and often, more humid it gets. It’s essential to pack right for what you’re doing and have something for each environment. It can be hot and humid during the day but when the sun goes it can get cold so it’s important to have layers available. Your body will adjust to the new environment quickly and 16 degrees in the morning may have started off hot, but you may find yourself chilly as you time goes on. Ensuring you have the right clothes will help ward off colds and keep you healthy. Also sticking to your hygiene routine, washing off the days sweat and keeping clean will work wonders.
10. Beware of the Dogs in Nepal.
They might look cute and fuzzy, act friendly and interested but many dogs in Nepal are strays and carry some nasty diseases. Rabies is common in Nepal so it’s best to avoid stroking dogs, cats, cows and other animals found in the countryside or the streets of the city. Wash your hands after interacting with animals and if you do happen to get a bite or a scratch, it’s best to visit the doctor to minimize any risk. Rabies injections are available to get before you travel to Nepal and we would recommend seeking medical advice about Rabies before travelling to Nepal.
11. Never leave home without Travel Insurance!
Bonus Point! Travel in Nepal is epic, we love the country, the people and the food but we are aware it’s a third world country and that illnesses, accidents and problems can happen anywhere. We never leave home without travel insurance and you shouldn’t either. Infected cuts, chest infections, bites by dogs can all land you in the doctors or hospital and without travel insurance, you’ll be paying the bill. River and Soul Adventures has partnered with World Nomads and we highly recommend them. They not only cover you for the basics but they specialize in cover for those who love adventure and this is often hard to find with other providers. So give yourself a safety net and let someone else pay the bill when you’re ill!