As a traveller, sometimes you just want to skip the hyper-touristy activities and chat to the locals, to hear about their lives and learn something new. But, it’s not always that easy when there are language barriers and cultural differences, and when people are just busy going about their daily lives. Here are a few ways to reach beyond those barriers and meet and interact with the locals in Nepal.
Take Nepali language lessons
If you’re planning on staying in Nepal for more than a couple of weeks (it allows foreign travellers to remain in the country for up to five months in any calendar year), it’s worth signing up for language lessons. While it’s easy to get by in Kathmandu with English, Nepalis in rural areas seldom understand or speak foreign languages. Even just mastering the basics will get you a long way as the locals will be appreciative of your efforts to speak their language. Many private teachers operate in the capital and the Kathmandu Institute of Nepali Language offer courses of 1, 4, 12 or 24-week duration.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Nepali is the country’s lingua franca, but it’s not actually the first language of 55% of the population. There are 123 recorded mother tongues in Nepal, from Maithili on the Terai to Sherpa in the Everest region, and many in between. But, it would take a lifetime to learn all of these, so Nepali is a good place to start.
Stay at a homestay
Travellers seeking an alternative to hotel accommodation can instead live in women-run community homestays, giving them the perfect opportunity to interact with a local family, help prepare food and become involved in other household chores. Not only is it a chance to get a unique insight into their neighbourhood, it will also help support women earn an independent income. Many of these accommodation options can be found in Patan, Kathmandu, Panauti (just outside Kathmandu) and a couple of locations near the Chitwan National Park.
Join a festival
Nepal seems to be celebrating some kind of Hindu or Buddhist festival every other week, from Buddha’s birthday to the festival of lights. Tourists are always welcome to observe or participate, but as they are normally quite crowded affairs, full of worshippers going about their business, it’s unlikely that Nepalis will pay much attention to travellers participating in their festivals.
However, there are some notable exceptions. During Holi, the festival that ushers in the warmer weather, foreigners are usually considered fair game for some coloured paint or water bomb fun. During Teej, a festival celebrated by women for the health and longevity of their husbands, foreign women are often forcibly encouraged to join in the dancing and revelry. And participating in Ropain, a rice-planting festival, is good messy fun and is sure to lead to many shared laughs with the locals. Kathmandu-based Social Tours runs organised day trips in June to nearby villages, for some Ropain fun.
Volunteer for a worthy cause
While voluntourism is certainly a contentious topic and travellers should be really careful to ensure that their intentions are not actually doing more harm than good, Nepal is not short of worthy causes. It’s one of the poorest countries in Asia, its economy relies upon remittances from Nepali workers abroad and in 2015, it suffered a devastating earthquake from which many communities have not recovered.
Travellers with specific skills – whether medical, educational, artistic or otherwise – can lend a hand with any number of Nepal- or foreign-based organisations working with the less fortunate in Nepal. Make sure to do adequate research to ensure that any organisation you volunteer with is not merely exploiting you. This is going to be a great opportunity to meet many ordinary Nepali people, both those working within the organisation and those being assisted.
Eat at a local stall
Those with very sensitive stomachs would be advised to skip this one. Otherwise, grabbing a stool and a bite to eat at a hole-in-the-wall frequented by Nepalis is a good way to meet the locals. People will likely be surprised to see a foreigner eating at such a place and be curious to know where you’re from, how you like Nepal and so on. All the better if you know some Nepali language.
Hire a trekking guide and/or porter
If you’re travelling on a budget, it may be tempting to think you don’t need a guide or porter to go trekking in the Himalaya. But aside from the safety issue, hiring one is a great way to get to get to know more about local life in Nepal. Because you’ll be walking with them all day, every day, you’ll have plenty of time to chat. Many trekkers end their trips good friends with their guides and stay in touch long after they’ve returned home. Just keep in mind that while guides generally speak decent English, porters usually don’t.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.