Local Wisdom

Food and Water The water supplies in Nepal are all contaminated - there is no safe drinking water from taps or streams. The better hotels all have private water purification systems, but they occasionally fail. Bottled water, called mineral water here, is safe, as are soft drinks, beer, tea and coffee. Ice in the best hotels and restaurants in Kathmandu is probably safe, but be skeptical about ice elsewhere. On trek we will have boiled water for you, and you can purify water from local sources.

The water rule goes for all food items which have not been cooked and which may have been washed in contaminated water. You should avoid raw fruits and vegetables except those which you can peel. Oranges, for example, are perfectly safe, but grapes are not. You should be suspicious of salads and garnishes everywhere. All cooked food is safe, provided it is still hot.

Part of the fun of traveling is eating, and so don't let these warnings scare you too much. Be very careful about the water, and eat whatever looks interesting.

Visas
Visas to enter Nepal can be obtained at the Nepalese Embassy in Washington, DC, or at the Nepalese Consulate in New York City. Both places accept mail orders - your passport, application with photograph, SASE, and visa fee. Registered mail in both directions is recommended.

Visas are also issued to arriving passengers at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. The fees are the same (payable in US currency only), but the queue moves a bit more slowly than the "tourists with visas" queue. You can fill out your visa application while you are waiting in line. If you get your visa on entry, remember to bring a passport-sized photo.

Visas can be extended in Kathmandu easily. Just remember to take care of this, if necessary, before you go on trek. You'll need a passport-sized photo for a visa extension.

A Visa Application Form and Visa Instructions are available for you to download here (PDF file).

Trekking Permits The Nepalese government issues trekking permits for travel outside Kathmandu, Pokhara, and the Bardia and Chitwan National Parks. Police checkposts throughout the country check these permits periodically. When you travel with Friends in High Places, we get your Permits for you, and pre-pay National Park and conservation area permits and fees. All you need do is remember to bring two passport-sized photos with you.

Taxis
Travel by taxicab is cheap and easy in Kathmandu city. If you are going out of town consider paying the cab driver to wait, as return taxis are less easy to find. 

Taxicabs have black license plates. They all have meters, but at night or very busy times you may find the meter is "broken". Then you will have to bargain. In these situations the asking fare will be at least twice the meter rate, so do the best you can. If you have to bargain, you are better off setting the price before getting into the taxi. No tip is expected, but it's nice to round the fare up if the ride was good. 

International Air Flight Reconfirmation
We'll take your homeward-bound tickets and reconfirm the flights while you are on trek. This is particularly important in Kathmandu, where outbound flights are heavily booked and many airlines require a reconfirmation stamp or sticker on the ticket itself at check-in time.

Changing Money
You should exchange currency at banks, your hotel, or legitimate currency changing shops only, and get an exchange receipt. You may be asked to show all your receipts in order to reconvert rupees into dollars when you leave the country.

You will get the best rate at banks, with most hotels also giving fair rates. Changing shops charge a hefty commission on top of a mediocre rate. You need your passport to change money.