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Hiking etiquette in Nepal

A guide to hiking etiquette in Nepal

Hiking etiquette is a controversial issue, believe it or not, because the mountains and trails are shared by all nationalities and all types of people.  What is acceptable behavior in one person’s country may be unaccepted in another.  I am addressing some of the common etiquette issues I’ve found while trekking in Nepal. This article is by no means a comprehensive list, but that of common shared opinions. I hope you enjoy the article and can take away some of the information presented in it.

Hiking Cloths

Nepal is an extremely conservative country. Men generally wear pants and collard shirts.  The women wear kurta suruwals with parachute pants or leggings. However, there is an exception to this. Since the 70’s a lot of people have been trekking in short running shorts and t-shirts.  Though traditionally unaccepted, this has become the norm and is tolerated by most and even preferred by some of the Nepali men.

I saw one women trekking to Poon Hill in a bra, which is not recommended, but nobody seemed to mind.  To me, this is evidence of the impact of the tourism industry.

Greetings between hikers

When you pass people on the trail, either coming or going, please smile and say hello in your native language or the language you are most comfortable with.  I’ve crossed paths with 1,000s of people in Nepal. Most of them will say hello or Namaste, which is fine, but a small percentage of people are unfriendly or hostile.

Some of the excuses if received when I asked about people’s rudeness are headache, altitude sickness, hungry, didn’t hear me, swear words and vow of silence.  The people who had taken a vow of silence either give hand signals that they can’t talk or just nod their head and smile.

Greetings from hikers to Nepali people

I’ve seen some weird things happen between foreigners and Nepali people.  One such occasion happened while I was hiking to Everest Base Camp. My guide and I were going up and another trekker was coming down.  I said hello and smiled, the person completely ignored me then dove at the bottom of my guides feet and kept saying Namaste. My guide walked around and didn’t say a word, except to complain later about how weird foreigners are.

I asked my guide how he preferred to be greeted and he said “Hello! Everyone understands hello.”

Letting people pass

If there is a faster hiker coming up behind you, please step aside and let them pass.  The same goes if you are going downhill and you are about to cross paths with someone coming uphill. Nobody likes being stuck behind someone or pushed aside on a difficult part of the trail.

Tea house etiquette between hikers and owners

In my experience, the owners of the tea houses on the Annapurna Circuit Trek tended to be unfriendly.   A lot of them also over charge. Please bargain with them if you are an independent trekker. If you have a guide, he or she will do it for you.  It is customary and expected for hikers to bargain. Bargaining has huge impacts on future trekkers and the cost of their hikes.

Tea house owners on the EBC trail tended to be more friendly, open, welcoming, and fair. You can bargain with them too, but their prices for food are about what you would expect to pay in Kathmandu.

Langtang teahouse owners were very open and welcoming, but extremely expensive.  You must bargain with them to get good prices on food and a room.

Teahouse etiquette between hikers

This is an interesting situation because the rudest people become friendly in tea houses. Of course, there are exceptions, but in general tea houses have a wholesome campfire setting. Most people stick to conversations related to traveling and hiking, health, and board or card games.

Tipping etiquette

Guides and porters are paid very well for their services, but most of them do expect a tip at the end of the trek. $2 to $5 per day is a fair amount to tip.

You do not need to tip for food, transport, or lodging.

Hiking etiquette miscellaneous

This isn’t specific to Nepal, but if you hike with animals, please do not let them jump on or lick other people.  Also, please don’t let them chase the wildlife.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments.