Sanitation is not one of the strong points in Nepal. The country has yet to achieve a pollution-free environment. Bugs and unmanaged garbage could turn you off at times. But by following some safety precautions and taking care of yourself, it is unlikely for you to get sick.
In no way should this keep you from enjoying Nepal. I would advise not to get too worried about it or you’ll end up questioning everything.
If you’re planning on trekking (which most likely you are), beware of the possibilities of altitude sickness and hazards that are common at a high altitude. To avoid altitude sickness, don’t rush your way up the mountain. Acclimatization days are embedded in the itinerary, if not, make sure to add a couple of extra days to get used to the air at higher levels.
Before you travel to Nepal, make sure to go through a thorough health checkup. Inoculations are not required to travel to Nepal. However, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, and Meningitis Jabs are advised. All of these are easily available in Kathmandu.
Some of you might turn to Ayurveda and that is completely fine. Just make sure to reach out to a certified Ayurvedic distributor.
Although you might not notice the possible risks from untreated water in Nepal, you have to be mindful of the water you drink. Use bottled water whenever you can. However, only dispose of the bottles in a trash can.
Hotels and restaurants may serve wet glasses/utensils, just make sure you give them a discreet wipe. The tourist’s food places in Thamel generally use clean water, but you might want to be cautious when you start getting around. I’d also recommend you to boil your own water and carry around to save money. Hot drinks such as Tea or Coffee are generally safe.
Nightlife in Thamel is great, I’m not going to lie. However, you carry a risk of getting STDs or even HIV/AIDS through heterosexual contact. Make sure to carry condoms which are readily available in pharmacies. It’s best to bring some from home.
If you visit a hair salon for a haircut or shave, make sure they sterilize the blade that’s being used. Also, do not get piercing, acupuncture, or a tattoo unless you are fully convinced that their equipment is sterilized.
Food poisoning and diarrhea
Diarrhea is common for travelers in Nepal. There’s no need to panic as long as it is mild and is not followed by other symptoms. Give your body a couple of days and it should pass on its own. However, make sure to replace the fluids in your body frequently with widely available rehydration formulas.
If the Diarrhea is followed by vomiting and cramps, then it’s probably food poisoning. Again, it’s the same old story. Keep replacing fluids in your body for 24 to 48 hours. If it lasts more than 3 days, I advise you to pay a visit to the nearest clinic for a diagnosis.
Leeches and animal bites
Leeches are common in thickly vegetated areas in Nepal including national parks in Terai. They are mostly found during the monsoon. Always use insect repellent and long sleeve clothes to protect yourself from them.
In case you get caught by one, do not panic as it’s pretty common here. Locals use a rapid finger flick to get rid of them, but you run the risk of infection by doing so. The same goes for using salt or lighting them with fire. Prevention is your best bet in this case.
On the other hand, animal bites might transmit unwanted diseases or even rabies. If an animal bites or scratches you, immediately wash the wound with soap and water. Use local raksi (alcohol) if you can’t wash it. That will kill any rabies virus on the spot. If you get bitten by an animal, you should immediately get to a clinic at Kathmandu for rabies shots, which might come expensive.
Nepal is behind in sanitation and hygiene. However, that does not mean you should examine every little detail. So as I said, don’t get too uptight about it. Here are some health precautions to take while traveling in Nepal:
- Double-check raw and unpeeled fruits and veggies
- Always wear a mask when traveling around Kathmandu
- Drink bottled mineral water or boil if possible
- Bring a sleeping bag liner or sheets if you are staying at guesthouses to keep your from fleas and lice
- Use insect repellent if you are traveling in Terai
- Sund burn is common so make sure to wear shades and sunscreen
Seek medical help
In case of an emergency, clinics are easily available at all major towns. They are usually joined with pharmacies. Medicines are available without a prescription but make sure to check the expiry date. Most of the medicines are manufactured in India that will suffice your basic needs.
However, if you seek treatments of Western standards, you must visit Kathmandu. There are several hospitals in Kathmandu to choose from. Contact your embassy for the list of recommended doctors. The majority of them speak English. Nevertheless, do not forget to carry cash with you at all times as hospitals require instant payment frequently.
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