Before departing for my trip to Nepal, I struggled to find resources on solo trekking. I had read that Nepal is a safe travel destination for women, but I couldn’t find anything written by single female hikers. I felt apprehensive. Some reassurance would have been nice.
I decided to go for it anyway.
Solo Trekking & Travel in Nepal
Nepal Tourism Culture
It’s deeply ingrained in Nepali culture that tourists are to be treated well. Tourist dollars are a major source of income for both the country and many communities. Nepalis want to maintain their good reputation with foreigners. As a result, you can expect to have a safe and pleasant time traveling in Nepal.
For hikers who are new to international travel, Nepal is a good place to start. It’s easy to find English speakers, and you don’t really need much street smarts to get by here. While shopkeepers in Thamel might try to overcharge you by a dollar or two, it is unlikely that someone will try to mug you or scam you on a large scale. This is a place where it is OK if you get lost and need to ask for help.
I’ve traveled in Nepal for eight months total, three and a half of which were solo. I would have no doubts about going there solo again, and would even recommend it to other solo trekkers.
Solo Female Travel Street Smarts
As a female solo traveler, the main thing I concern myself with safety-wise is men. How do they treat local women? How do they treat tourist women? Are women equals in this country? In Nepal, women definitely aren’t equal. Older generations of women haven’t had the same access to education, and you see far less women working desirable jobs than men. But then there’s hope that future generations will be more equal because you always see just as many little girls in school uniforms as boys.
Anyway, local women aren’t equal, but men generally are respectful towards women who are visiting Nepal. The point I’m trying to make is that Nepal is a safe place for solo women to visit.
If you’re in a city and need directions or help, do yourself a favor and ask a woman. Men will help, but then they usually want to flirt, get your Facebook info, or have a cup of tea with you. Same goes for bus rides. Sit by other women or a family. Once you’re in the mountains, it’s fine to ask for help from anyone. The way of life is much more laid back there.
I’m not saying don’t be friends with men in Nepal. Some of the coolest people I’ve met in Nepal were guides or guest house owners in the mountains. If you meet men on treks who work in the tourism industry and are used to interacting with foreign women, that is a totally different thing than a random guy on a bus or on the street who’s trying to talk to you.
The bottom line is that if you want to travel around Nepal solo it’s totally fine. You can take buses alone and do mostly whatever you want within reason.
Being Smart While Solo Trekking in Nepal
It would be unusual for a Nepali woman to be trekking alone. However, locals are used to foreign women who do what they want. People often asked me if I was alone, and I got the impression that they felt pity or concern for me more than anything else. There were many times I tried to explain that I enjoy hiking by myself.
For men trekking alone in Nepal, no one will even think twice about it. You don’t have much to worry about.
Honestly, locals in the mountains are so chill and relaxed that I usually let my guard down.
Precautions to Take While Solo Trekking in Nepal
- Make it to your destination well before sunset. Know what time the sun goes down, and be realistic with how far you can hike. It’s OK to stop early and fall short of your destination for the day. It is more difficult to spot trail signs and find villages in the dark than in the day time.
- Be conscientious of altitude. Make sure you are well hydrated, fed, and rested. This is the best way to prevent acute mountain sickness.
- Trust your intuition. When people ask if I’m hiking alone, sometimes I have a bad feeling about it and I make up an imaginary hiking boyfriend who is right behind me. Sometimes I tell the truth and say that I’m solo. It all depends on a lot of factors: if there’s other people around, if I’m close to my destination, if the person asking seems normal. Decide for yourself what you feel most comfortable with.
- Let someone reliable know where you’re going. Cell service in the mountains is unreliable, but occasionally works. If your loved ones are worriers, consider getting a SPOT satellite GPS. You can send messages and check in from anywhere.
- If you’re trekking away from the tourist track, be aware that you may be on your own if you get into a bad situation. Search and rescue isn’t a thing. Helicopter rescues are expensive. If you go missing, it might be days before local police start looking for you. Basically, don’t do anything stupid.
Where to Trek Solo in Nepal and Where Not To
It’s fine to hike solo in most tourist destinations in Nepal. This means the Everest region and the Annapurna’s. Those two regions have the best tourism infrastructure and are the most accommodating to foreigners.
Makalu Base Camp is fine for experienced trekkers (there’s two snowy passes that can be tough to navigate, so it’s not for solo first-time trekkers). There are regions of Nepal that are guide mandatory, mostly to protect nature and the way of life. These regions are Manaslu, Kanchenjunga, Upper Mustang, and Upper Dolpa.
Then there’s some places that you should give serious thought to before trekking solo. It would probably be fine to hike in Lang Tang solo during peak season, but do take extra precautious. A few tourist women were murdered and went missing there. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve hiked solo in Lang Tang during off-season before. Something felt a bit off though. It’s not the same as the other friendly mountain regions.
Then there’s really rural regions of Nepal, such as Eastern Nepal, Helambu, and the Far West. I was in those regions with a male hiking partner, so I missed the solo female experience. But I would be wary of going there solo.
Foreigners are just more of an anomaly in rural places. Women especially don’t have as many rights. For example, in parts of western Nepal many communities still banish their women to huts during menstruation. Additionally, the mountains are dangerous in terms of not having much trekking infrastructure or marked trails.
I’m not saying you can’t trek solo in those places. I’m saying that you should seriously consider whether or not you want to.
Overall, Nepal is a very safe place for solo hikers and female travelers. If you’re new to trekking, stick to the more established tourist regions.
Do you trek solo? Are you a female traveler? Have you been to Nepal?